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Chat about the Lawrence School Board race with Marlene Merrill

March 14, 2007

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

Lawrence resident Marlene Merrill, chairwoman of the Lawrence Arts Commission, retired in 2003 after 12 years as director of assessments for the Lawrence school district. She is now a research and testing specialist for Kansas City, Kan., public schools. "I have a strong interest in public education and I have a very strong interest in supporting our community," Merrill said.

Moderator:

Hello. Thanks for joining us today for our first chat with a Lawrence School Board candidate, Marlene Merrill. I'm 6News anchor/reporter Deanna Richards. Marlene, thanks for being here today.

Marlene Merrill:

Thanks for the opportunity to chat today on-liine.

hawkperchedatriverfront:

Hello Marlene. A very simple question. USD 497 spends over 1/2 of the property tax revenue in Lawrence and is the 2nd largest employer that pays no real estate taxes. The question to you is: What are your plans to reduce the budget of USD 497 if you are elected or are you going to propose to spend more?
thanks, the "hawk"

Marlene Merrill:

The financing for public schools is determined each year by the Kansas Legislature and that funding is primarily property tax revenue. And as the 2nd largest employer you know that about 80% of the school district's budget is for personnel costs. I believe that the school board needs to question the need for and the benefits to be gained for any programs that are included in the budget. The board must be fiscally responsible. Further I believe that the board needs to work with state legislatures to develop for school alternative sources of revenue.

birdstone:

Marlene, where do you stand on the recent debate regarding the board's decision to support mandating all teachers at Sunflower become ESL certified? Do you think it's ethical to make teachers undergoe more that 500 hours of unpaid training to recieve a raise that won't begin to pay dividends for more than 13 years? (here's the math: 15 credit hours x 3 hours per week x 16 weeks per semester plus a min. of 3 hours of course prep per week for a total of 480 hours--this figure does not include the 3 hours of intership the teachers would have to complete. The salary "bump" for having the certification amounts to about $62 a month. Assuming teachers SHOULD receive a rate of $20 per hour for thier time, they will have about $10,000 of their time invested in this training, it would take a teacher 13.4 years to recover their initial time investment if the training is unpaid.)Is this fair? Would you accept such terms as part of a "fair business deal?"

Moderator:

Let's break this one up. Where do you stand on the recent decision to support mandating all teachers at Sunflower (and Schwegler) become ESL certified?

Marlene Merrill:

The number of students in Lawrence needing English as a
Secong Language service continues to grow and likely will double within the next 5 years. This is happening all over the country not just here in Lawrence. In order for all students to grow academically they need appropriate services and teachers who understand the learning needs of ESL students. I agree with the decision to mandate that all teachers in the building become ESL certified when that school becomes an ESL site. It is in the best interests of all their students.

Moderator:

Continuing with our multiple part question... Do you think it's ethical to make teachers undergo more that 500 hours of unpaid training to recieve a raise that won't begin to pay dividends for more than 13 years?

Marlene Merrill:

According to the story in yesterday's Journal World, the district is proposing to pay for the coursework that teachers will be required to take. This seems fair because not only does the district/school benefit but so does the teacher gain skills that increase their employability.

blackwalnut:

What are the advantages of all-day kindergarten? Who would benefit, other than parents who wish taxpayer-subsidized all-day child care? I believe many children are not ready for all-day school at age 5. We used to say kindergarten was preparation for school, but now, preschool is preparation for kindergarten! As a parent and taxpayer, I can think of better uses for education dollars. Obviously I am opposed to this.

Marlene Merrill:

Full-day kindergarten provides students with the school readiness skills they need to be successful learners. Research has shown that students who have had full-day kindergarten show greater academic skills when achievement is measured when these students are in 3rd grade and again in 8th grade.

As a society, as employers, as parents we need all students to learn a high level of academic skills so that they will graduate high school and become productive workers. Full day kindergarten provides students with the foundation they need to be able to do just that. Full day kindergarten is cost effective and is less expensive than providing remedial programs later on in school.

Moderator:

Those are all the questions we've received so far. Marlene, can you tell us a little bit about some of the issues you're focusing on in this campaign?

Marlene Merrill:

One of the ideas that I believe the school board needs to address is No Child Left Behind legislation. This coming year this law comes up for re-authorization. The good thing about this law is its belief that all children can learn and be successful. The part that needs to be changed in my view is how accountability is measured. Right now in Lawrence is a school which received a commendation for outstanding percentage of students being proficient in Reading and in Math but at the same time was denied AYP status (Adequate Yearly Progress for school accreditation) because one sub-group of their population did not achieve enough. The school board needs to advocate with the state and Federal legislators to approve a law which provide a fair way of showing growth for all students. Secondly Congress needs to fully fund this law.

Marlene Merrill:

I believe the school board should ask the district to evaluate several programs to determine if they are effective and meeting the needs of students. Gifted services is one program. Another program is how well the high schools are meeting the needs of students who formerly would have attended the Alternative High School.

Marlene Merrill:

One last position I would like to explain. School district are funded by the state legislature using property tax revenue. I believe that the school board could work with the city and county commissioners as well as the public and our state legislatures to develop alternative revenue sources for schools.

I also believe that the school board needs to do a better job of explaining the school budget and school programs to the public. Schools need to invite the public without children and retired citizens into the schools so they learn what is happening and understand where their tax money is going.

Moderator:

Well, that about does it for us today! Thanks again for joining us, Marlene.

Marlene Merrill:

Goodbye and thanks for "listening".

Comments

blackwalnut 7 years, 9 months ago

No Child Left Behind has no redeeming value and needs to be cancelled, completely.

It unduly burdens the schools and puts constraints on teaching that do not benefit the children. It reduces education to a numbers game.

Kansas should opt out of NCLB.

prioress 7 years, 9 months ago

Kansas should opt out of NCLB.

Perhaps, but it could cost up to $300,000,000 to do so. That's less than a penny in sales tax to make it up; wanna play ball?

blackwalnut 7 years, 9 months ago

I wonder if people recognize that NCLB costs the Department of Education more than the federal government pays them.

Talk to any teacher. If you find one who believes NCLB is a good thing for the kids or the educators, it will be the first one I've heard of. And I work in education.

States should opt out, one by one, until the feds recognize NCLB for what it really is: an effort by the neocons to constrain and shame public schools, and an excuse to starve them.

blackwalnut 7 years, 9 months ago

P.S. I'd gladly pay the penny in sales tax, though I recognize others might not.

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