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Chat with Lawrence school board member Craig Grant

August 2, 2006

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Lawrence school board member Craig Grant takes readers' questions.

Moderator:

Hi. We're about to begin our chat with Lawrence School Board Member Craig Grant.

Craig Grant:

Good to be here today.

rhd99:

Mr. Grant, with the elections results of yesterday's primary, are you convinced that the Legislature will finally wake up & start funding education properly? Thank you.

Craig Grant:

I wish I could say yes. However, there were moderates defeated and some moderates were elected. Until the general election results are in, we won't know what the Legislative' philosophy will be.

wegener:

Craig,I am very distraught over the proposal to add 1.728 mills to the district's property tax levy. If this should pass, it is possible that my house payment could increase $150 per month. Over the last 3 years my house payment has increased 2 times and I have to tell you I'm not thrilled about the possibility of it increasing again. How much does the School Board think Lawrence resident's can afford to pay for? If everything continues to increase, I guess my family will have to consider moving out of Lawrence. Any thoughts or other options on school financing you can recommend instead of a property tax levy?

Craig Grant:

The Legislature gave our local school district only one option- the local mill levy -- to fund our school district programs for next year. No one is thrilled about raising taxes -- expecially elected officials; however, we must pay our employees a competitive wage and fund other important programs of our district. I am sure the district board will keep mill levy increases to as low as possible and at the same time give the district adequate money to run programs for children.

consumer1:

Good afternoon and thanks for taking my question. Is information available to the public on exactly where and how money is spent or distributed, by the school board? how much money actually goes to the class room and how much for office furniture at the administration building? For example when a tax increase is passed, it there an itemized list of how that money is used?

Craig Grant:

The district publishes a budget and there is a budget hearing before we pass the budget. It indicates the general areas of expenditure for the district and certainly is available to the public. I can say that over 80% of our budget is tied up in salary items, certified, administrative and classified staff, all who give services to the students.

Craig Grant:

I know that the traffic pattern dificulties have caused hard feelings among the different groups near Lawrence High School. Anytime that there is the appearance of not being treated well by anyone, I think the best way to solve the situation is to continue communications. I believe that any of our board members would be happy to come visit with neighborhood groups to try to understand where they are coming from. Certainly coming to the board with concerns is another option. I certainly would be glad to come to a meeting to discuss problems.

Moderator:

The district has called a special meeting tonight to discuss the budget for the upcoming school year. Please explain what's expected tonight, and now that the local leaders have a clear funding picture from the state, how close is the board to finalizing a spending plan?

Craig Grant:

tonight the board will have a study session on the budget from 4:30 until about 7. At 7, the board will go into session to decide whether or not the board will use the new "cost of living" portion of the school finance law. The resolution will just indicate that we are desiring to use some or all of the provision. It will not say an exact amount. On August 14, we will pass a budget resolution for publications which will give the exact amount that the district is proposing for 2006-07 school year. There will be a hearing on September 11 for public input and the board will pass a final budget that evening.

commuter:

The technology bond issue was passed a year ago. The school district still charges a technology fee. Is the fee going to go away or is it just a revenue enhancer for the district?

Craig Grant:

The technology bond was for hardware and wiring costs for the district. The technology fee is for software costs that need to be updated each and every year. I can't say how long the fee will continue; however, many on the board would like for all fees to eventually be reduced.

Moderator:

You chatted briefly about legislative races from Tuesday's primary elections in your opening response -- what are your thoughts on how the State Board of Education primary shook out?

Craig Grant:

I am extremely pleased about the results of yesterday's election. Taking back a moderate majority on the State Board was a goal for the group I have been working with since last January. I believe the children of the state will be much better off with a moderate majority. Our work isn't done yet; we must work in the general election to widen the majority on the state board.

cjk1215:

1. If you raise the mill levy what good will it do to give the teachers a raise if the majority of it goes to pay the mill levy increase? Since the city is also exploring the same idea what appears to be a good idea in reality
probably will not put much money if any into the teachers pockets. If there is anything left an increase in health benefits will offset any significant gain. 2. Is the board really interested in improving teachers salaries or just playing politics?

Craig Grant:

I believe that the board really does want ot improve teacher salaries. Our teachers work very hard and deserve better pay. We are not competitive with the district we compete with for quality teachers. If we can afford to give a teacher a $1000 raise and increase his/her property taxes $17 a year on his/her house, I think that will be a real raise. We have already agreed to cover the increased cost of a single membership in the health insurance. We are trying to do something significant for our teachers.

Moderator:

We have time for one more question this afternoon.

Moderator:

Will the school board increase the district's local option budget to 30%? If so, in what ways will the additional funds be used?

Craig Grant:

If I were to guess, I think we will increase the local option budget to 30%. That is essentially the only tool we have been given to increase our budget to meet ongoing costs like increased salaries.

Moderator:

Thanks for chatting with us today, Craig.

Comments

Sigmund 8 years, 4 months ago

Nothing is too good for kids and there is no waste in the current budget. Please feel free to take all of my income to support your lifestyles. Nobody, least of all teachers, should ever have to live on the same salary, face a layoff of administrative personnel, or have to work 10 or even 11 months to support themself. I can always work 50 hours a week 12 months a year so that you don't have to. Rents and housing are so affordable already here in Lawrence and I am usre an increase of $150 per month will have little impact. Thanks for being there and caring so much about kids and not your own lifestyles!

usaschools 8 years, 4 months ago

Sigmund, Studies have shown that the average teacher works more hours per year than the average American worker. To imply that teachers loaf while you work is not only arrogant but also ignorant. Teachers worked on virtually the same salary for almost a decade (there was only a 3% increase in dollars put into the salary schedule for approx. a decade prior to last year's increase). I would challenge you to locate the waste in the school budget and VERY specifically describe the amounts, why these expenditures are a waste, and your alternative solutions that provide the same level of services. While many feel the district is top-heavy with administration, I am still waiting for someone to actually name unnecessary administrators (not disliked, un-needed) whose jobs could be eliminated without disruption of services.

It is easy to toss out the old sophisms that you repeat, but much more difficult to back them up with any facts.  I don't believe that you can actually do so in this case.

Sigmund 8 years, 4 months ago

Please provide those studies so that I can be educated. Please provide a link to a detailed AUDITED budget and many more people than I will take a look. To suggest that teachers work for less (wages, health and retirements benefits) and more hours (days, months, hours) than the working families that pay teacher salaries is insulting.

Many people would be less skeptical if Kansas implemented some method of rewarding good schools and teachers and ridding us of bad schools and teachers. Vouchers come to mind even if it was limited to just the public schools. The fact that the NEA opposes any reforms to reduce costs and increase productivity, let alone measure teacher perfromance, is very telling and your personal insults of my intelligence tells me I have hit a nerve.

Unions have been bad for US automakers and GM will eventually go bankrupt, how will we ever rid ourselves of bad schools and teachers? I honestly believe that if the NEA had its way it would bankrupt the state and our kids would be no better educated.

usaschools 8 years, 4 months ago

Sigmund, You simply cannot support your position, so you ask me to do your research for you.
You wrote one of the most ridiculous phrases I have ever read, "To suggest that teachers work for less (wages, health and retirements benefits) and more hours (days, months, hours) than the working families that pay teacher salaries is insulting" and then think you have any credibility?
It is not insulting to suggest that teachers work more hours than the typical worker. This is simply a fact.I did not say they work for less, I said they work LONGER. Many people work extra hours, teachers are not the only ones, but teachers ARE in the group that work above average hours (as measured in an entire YEAR, not just the school year). I made NO personal insult regarding you. I simply stated that I don't believe you can support your argument with facts. You go on to write this rather absurd paragraph,

" Unions have been bad for US automakers and GM will eventually go bankrupt, how will we ever rid ourselves of bad schools and teachers? I honestly believe that if the NEA had its way it would bankrupt the state and our kids would be no better educated."

I fail to see how the first part of the first sentence has much to do with the second part. Do you have any FACTS as to how many "bad" teachers plauge the system? As for the NEA wanting to bankrupt the state, I wonder if you could provide any factual evidence of this? I wonder if you have any idea at all what the NEA actually does? In Kansas, without a DOUBT, the KNEA is the NUMBER ONE advocate for improvement in public education. You cannot name one other group that has done more for children in our schools.

Of course, KNEA is really a group of smaller, local organizations. A common misperception about NEA is that they have any control over the many small locals in each district. This simply isn't true. The membership of each local determines their policies. Your attack on NEA is essentially saying that teachers themselves are just greedy and don't care for children and are only in it for the money. If you really believe that, you need to become better informed. Spend a week volunteering in a local elementary school and see for yourself how absurd this line of thought is. Reaching the length limit, continued next post

usaschools 8 years, 4 months ago

As for the budget, why don't you do your own work and simply go to the district office and get a copy of the budget. Since the numbers DO add up, and the amount of money coming in is a known quantity, I think you will find nothing hidden. Your suggestion of an audit is clearly to cast doubt on the credibility of the budget, a budget you are unfamiliar with yet criticize. However, I have news for you, simply looking at the expenditures is not going to give you enough understanding or information to find waste.

My original challenge still stands: Name the programs that are waste, name the expenditures that are waste, describe the alternatives that are good for kids. You can't do it because you don't know what you are talking about. You ALREADY made the claim, now you suddenly need information provided by me to back up your claim?

Sigmund 8 years, 4 months ago

You claim the budget and studies support your argument, I am simply asking you to produce them. I don't think I'm being illogical or overly rhetorical to suggest their might be waste and incompetence in a large beauracratic government union, it is not unheard of you know.

In any event it is not I that propose a huge tax increase to support alleged under funded schools. If I remember correctly it is up to the proponent to support their position. Simply saying it is so, insulting the intelligence of those that dare to have questions, or attempting to diminish my sincerity in doing what best for kids isn't particularly persuasive.

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