Tuesday March 22, 2011: Read transcript
LJWorld.com asked James Clark five questions about issues facing the Lawrence school board:
1. Where, specifically, in the district's budget would you look first to make cuts to offset anticipated declines in state funding? Where would be the last?
Extracurricular activities, particularly those with low participation rates, including consolidating schools for those particular activities. Reducing classroom teachers if it would significantly increase class sizes, especially in elementary schools.
2. What is the best way to "close the achievement gap" in schools?
If I knew that answer, I could be selling it to large city school systems, or at least have a lofty position in academia. Clearly, those schools with lower test scores need more support, both in school and out.
3. What would you include in a proposed bond issue?
A bond issue during this time of financial crisis, will have to be very focused to pass. Targeting its benefit to all segments of the school system, and community, should be part of that, showing a benefit to the greatest number. Obviously, if there are conditions in some schools involving health, i.e. asbestos, ADA compliance, they should have priority.
4. How would you increase public participation in district decision making?
School issues seem largely left to parents and education professionals. Involving business groups and community groups, including neighborhood associations, in such decisions as curriculum development and changes in physical plants impacting surrounding neighborhoods might help.
5. If you could send a tweet — that's 140 characters or less — to legislators in Topeka on behalf of the Lawrence school district, what would you say?
Not a realistic question. Legislators representing Lawrence are very supportive of Lawrence schools, including the University of Kansas, consequently such a "tweet" is not necessary for them. As for other legislators, particularly in leadership positions, a "tweet" from Lawrence is likely to have the effect of waving a red flag in front of a bull. If I were to wave such a flag, it would be to point out that economic growth requires an educated work force, which requires a greater investment of resources, including state funding.