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Lawrence school board candidate Tom Hartley to chat with LJWorld.com readers

March 27, 2009

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

Vying for one of three open seats, Lawrence school board candidate Tom Hartley will take questions from LJWorld.com readers on Friday, March 27 at 3p.

Moderator:

Hello and welcome to our online chat with school board candidate Tom Hartley. I'm K-12 education reporter Lindsey Slater and I'll be moderating today's chat. Remember that questions can be submitted during the chat, so keep them coming! Thanks for joining us today, Tom.

Moderator:

We already have a few reader questions, so we'll get those going.

DanaAB:

President Obama's education plan allocates more money for charter schools. In your view, what is the role of charter schools in public education and do you support them?

Tom Hartley:

Charter Schools have traditionally fourished where the public school system is failing. We don't have that here in Lawrnece. Also - for a charter schools you have to look at them proposal by proposal. No one proposal is the same. By and large though - I don't think that charter schools are what Lawrence needs to improve our overall district. The Dept. of Education reports that 1 in 10 fail. That seems like a big risk to me.

4getabouit:

If you could change one current practice of Lawrence Public Schools, what would it be?

Tom Hartley:

That's an easy one for me. If I could change one thing today it would be the use of portable classrooms at elementary schools. The portable classrooms that are used at many of the elementary schools were originally designed to be temporary structures that accomodated class size anomolies. Many of them have been in use for 10 to 15 years and have basically become annexes. These structures weren't designed to be used for as long as they have been, they are a sustainability nightmare, and they cause increased safety issues for students. We need a facility plan that improves our elementary schools to be able to accomodate the students we have, and a plan that will allow for future growth.

gdiepenb:

The school district will be going through a leadership transition in coming months with a new superintendent and some new principals. How do you see the school board's role now during this time of change if you are elected?

Tom Hartley:

We're going to have a good balance of institutional memory with the current school board members as well as an influx of new ideas and vigor with the incoming members. I think this will play out well with a change in the administration. Typically, as with any government entity, any type of change is implemented incrementally. With a fresh administration, and a large part of the board being "freshmen" I think there is a good chance that we can look forward to new ideas and develop the district quickly.

Raider:

Tom,

It seems that the current superintendant and school board have no concern for the average taxpayer. They continue to overtax property owners with complete disregard for whether or not we can afford it.

What will you do to reduce expenditures and relieve the enormous amount of pressure that is on property owners who are paying the exhorbatant amount of school taxes? Do you foresee the SB lowering the mill levies? Why or why not?

Thank you,

Tom Hartley:

Well, Raider, unfortunately taxes are the price we all have to pay to live in the type of society we want for our children. The taxes that are invested in public education though are the best tax dollars we can ever spend. They ensure that we have vital, healthy, growing economies and communities - while making sure that over time the education of our populace increases. I can't commit to making strides to lower current mill levies - what I can promise is that I will work to ensure that every tax dollar invested in public education is spent in the most responsible and productive way possible.

Moderator:

You spent time as the Douglas County Democratic Party chairman. Do you think this would be an asset for you as a school board member?

Tom Hartley:

Being involved with the County Party let me interact with individuals across the county and hear a myriad of viewpoints on a broad range of issues. If being the County Party Chairman taught me anything - it's that listening and finding concensus is possible if you are truly committed and diligent. That above all will serve me well on the School Board.

Moderator:

The budget is obviously a huge topic for this school year and the coming years. What's your outlook on the budget, including potential cuts and the potential influx of federal stimulus dollars?

Tom Hartley:

I thought this might come up. ;-) It's important to note that when the budget issues began being debated in the current legislative cycle, there were those on the fringes calling for up to 20% cuts in education funding. That would have resulted in approximately $1000 per student being cut from the USD 497 budget. Needless to say - that made people sit up and take notice. Quite frankly a lot of people began wringing their hands a bit prematurely when those numbers were floated. The most recent figures put the number at $33 cut per student - before any federal dollars come into play. Look at it this way - if you're household budget was $4500 per month and it was suddenly cut by $1000, you would immediately have to make drastic and significant cuts in your standard of living. Take the same $4500 budget and cut it by $33. Not nearly as impactful. It's for this reason that I've been workign to allay many concerns about the budget. Are we going to take a cut - yes. A small and manageable one though. Several of the candidates have attempted to make a lot of hay out of the budget cut - but the plain truth of the matter is that we are in a much better position that many people realize.

Moderator:

We have a question from a reader that asked you about taxes earlier that wants you to go a little more in depth.

Raider:

Thanks Tom. I was considering voting for you until you completely skirted my question. You didn't address it at all. HOW will you work to ensure these things? WHAT types of things will you do? WHAT are some of your ideas? WHERE can cutes be made to take the burden off of property owners? OVER HALF OF MY PROPERTY TAXES ARE SCHOOL TAXES AND I DON"T EVEN HAVE KIDS! YOU ARE TAXING US TO DEATH!

Tom Hartley:

I believe you are referring to Raider. To be a bit more plainspoken about his original query I can say this - property taxes are how we pay for education across this country. We simply don't have another mechanism to raise the kind of funds needed to operate a public school system - which is constitutionally mandated. I can say that I completely supported the increase in the local option budget last year - as did the plurality of voters in Lawrence. This may put me at odds with Raider's view, but it's just honestly where I stand.

Moderator:

We've got one last question for you, Tom.

thoughtpolice:

What do you think makes you the most qualified candidate among the seven running for school board?

Tom Hartley:

Great question, Thoughtpolice. I certainly don't have the objectivity to make that determination for any of the voters out there but speaking for myself I can say several things. I've demonstrated my committment to service both politically, with my work with the Democratic Party, and apolitically, with my work as a member of the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence. No organization in Lawrnece serves more youth on a daily basis than the Boys and Girls Club - with the exception of USD 497. Ensuring that our children have the best education, and in turn the best prospect of a life better than our own, is about the highest goal a parent can aspire to achieve. I've got three kids in the Lawrence School System right now - and if I had my choice - I wouldn't have them anywhere else. What makes me best qualified is a combination of my experience and the simple fact that I've got a lot of skin in the game.

Moderator:

Thanks for being with us today, Tom. Remember to keep checking back to LJWorld.com to check out our election coverage and all of our chats with school board and city commission candidates.

Comments

Tricky Gnosis 5 years ago

Well, he pretty much sewed it up for me here... I won't be voting for him. He starts from the premise that taxes are inherently good rather than inherently burdensome, and that my money is fundamentally society's (that is, the government's) first and mine second. No thanks. I want someone who respects my time and effort.

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macon47 5 years ago

since only 1/2 of our property taxes are going to usd497, and it isnt enough i guess we should just be paying more that half ?

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