Archive for Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Budget-balancing cuts sent to board

Committee avoids recommendations on sixth-grade band

April 9, 2003


The Lawrence school district's budget committee couldn't choose Tuesday between eliminating sixth-grade band or dropping art, music and gym instruction for kindergartners.

In the heat of a battle about formation of the 2003-2004 district budget, the committee left that powder-keg decision to the school board.

"How to figure out which priority you're going to put them in is difficult," said Joe Snyder, budget panel member and Free State High School principal.

The tug-of-war between the $231,000 "specials" program for kindergarten students and the $220,000 instrumental music classes for sixth-graders highlighted the agony of budget-cutting decision-makers.

On Monday, the school board will consider the committee's findings before putting its own mark on a priority list of more than 150 cuts that get into every corner of the district's operations. The board is shopping for $4 million in cuts. Its list likely will be finished April 28.

Part of the package could include closure of East Heights and Centennial schools.

The budget committee tried to help the board Tuesday by prioritizing $366,000 in cuts to sports and after-school activities.

Members of the panel grouped three dozen options, ranging from elimination of junior high school cheerleading to dropping funding of the Model United Nations program.

Dozens of assistant coaching positions at the junior high and high schools are on the chopping block.

If adopted in full, all eighth-grade sports would be eliminated with the exception of track and wrestling.

Austin Turney, the board's vice president and a member of the budget committee, said placing reassignment of junior high and high school athletics directors near the bottom of the $366,000 list could spark a political backlash.

"People are always hounding us for administrative cuts," Turney said.

The committee agreed to check the school board's interest in exploring possible savings that would come from lengthening each school day and reducing by two or three the number of days on the annual school calendar.

Wayne Kruse, a budget committee member and president of the Lawrence Education Assn., said teachers might embrace a longer work day if it meant cutting costs in a way that saved jobs of librarians or nurses.

Other committee members are interested in researching more radical options, including a four-day school week and year-round schooling.

Turney said he would be reluctant to support big changes in the school calendar unless financial and academic carrots were "large and juicy."

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