President Bush's goals of reducing illiteracy and the number of high-school dropouts are nothing but commendable, local school officials said this morning.
However, they said, schools should not be expected to meet new goals without new dollars.
Lawrence school board member Maggie Carttar said schools have to deal with lawmakers who are "constantly asking for more and not giving adequate funding."
"And one thing that is frightening is the governor's economic package," Carttar said.
Carttar said she feared that Gov. Mike Hayden's proposal to roll back property taxes to 80 percent of their 1989 level could leave the local school district strapped for cash.
JOHN TACHA, a fellow board member, expressed similar sentiments about the district's ability to implement new programs.
"We have people who are willing and intelligent enough, but it's going to take more money. You kind of get a Catch-22," Tacha said.
Fortunately, the board members said, Lawrence public schools already are well along the way to meeting some of the goals that President Bush discussed Wednesday night in his State of the Union speech.
Bush said he would "look for ways to help make sure kids are ready to learn, the very first day they walk into that classroom.''
Carttar said the district already was doing that with its developmental first-grade program, or D-1, as district officials refer to it. The one-year program is for kindergarten graduates who aren't quite ready for first grade. After successfully completing D-1, the students then enter first grade.
THE ALL-DAY kindergarten program that is being piloted in several local elementary schools also helps prepare students for first grade, Carttar said. And there is the school's breakfast program, which provides about 300 elementary students with nutritious breakfasts before school each day, Carttar said.
Bush said another goal should be to raise the high-school graduation rate to at least 90 percent by the year 2000.
Bob Taylor, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the Lawrence district currently has a dropout rate of 3.5 percent.
"But if you have anybody dropping out, it's too much," he said. "We continue to look at reasons why people are dropping out."
Tacha said the district's proposed second high school could help with the local drop-out rate. By moving ninth-graders to the bigger high-school facilities and having only grades seven and eight in the middle school, teachers would be able to give more individualized instruction to middle-schoolers, he said.
"I THINK kids going from elementary school to junior high don't always get the kind of guidance and help they would like to have," Tacha said. As for the president's goal of reducing adult illiteracy, Tacha said that many adults in the community have benefited and continue to benefit from courses offered by the Continuing Education Program.
"I've always thought that a community should make use of school buildings in the evenings and the summer," Tacha said.