A grass-roots fund-raising effort is in the works to help Lawrence public school students pay new fees.
Rosy Elmore and Jackie Ferguson, who both have children in Lawrence schools, are co-chairwomen of an as-yet unnamed organization that intends to target its financial appeal to every corner of the district.
Many details remain to be worked out, but the duo said Thursday there was a solid commitment to start a need-based program to make sure no Lawrence child was denied a chance to participate in academic and extracurricular activities.
"It's important for their development," Elmore said. "And if you keep kids busy, they are less likely to get in trouble."
Ferguson said the goal was to make certain Lawrence schools continue to produce well-rounded graduates.
"The whole thing makes for a better person in the long run, whether it's sports, band or drama," she said.
The school board adopted new fees and increased others to raise an additional $850,000 this year. That action was combined with $3 million in spending cuts. Teachers received a 5 percent raise in compensation.
A new $50 "participation" fee at the core of the group's campaign is required of all junior high and high school students involved in sports, cheerleading, pom squad and scholars bowl. Board members also initiated a $25 "co-curricular" activity fee for high school students in band, orchestra, choirs, debate and forensics. Junior high school students pay a $15 co-curricular fee for those activities.
Other fees for enrollment, textbooks, instructional materials, computers and field trips were put in place.
Collectively, these fees added hundreds of dollars to the cost of many families' sending their children to school in the district.
Elmore said the group would likely tackle fund raising from two angles.
It's possible they will organize an event perhaps a silent-auction and dinner to bring in donations from boosters. That money could be applied to assisting students with participation and co-curricular fees.
Meanwhile, a communitywide coin-collection project is being considered to raise cash to help students with the other fees. People could donate pocket change toward such a fund, Elmore said.
"I really feel like people in this community want to take care of our own," Elmore said.
Ferguson said the organization's other goal was to educate the community about the challenges of funding public education in Kansas.
That will include getting people more involved in the political process in Topeka, she said.
"They're (politicians) saying one thing and doing another," Ferguson said. "It's easy to sit back and complain, but we want to organize people and get them proactive."
Elmore added: "People are upset now. Now is the time to look at our legislators. Maybe they need to be educated."