Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mitchell concerned about Legislature’s short-term funding

March 30, 2005


The Kansas Legislature appears close to a deal that would raise funding, for a year anyway, to public schools. John Mitchell, however, is not comforted.

"It concerns me we have a one-year funding proposal that doesn't have long-term money in place to pay for it," said Mitchell, one of three candidates for the three open seats on the Lawrence school board.

Plans considered in the Legislature would increase school funding by more than $100 million. But the proposals don't offer any new sources of money, and they would last only for a year.

"The board may be faced with hard decisions again," Mitchell said.

Mitchell is familiar with Lawrence schools and the hard decisions that officials have faced in recent years.

He helped lead the campaign for the bond issue that failed in spring 2003. His wife, Pamela, teaches second grade at Deerfield School. He is chief of compliance and enforcement for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Bureau of Waste Management.

Lawrence has closed three elementary schools in recent years, and the district has raised fees for student participation in other programs. Mitchell said further cuts in the district's budget would be hard to find.

"That's a decision I'd hate to have to deal with," Mitchell said. "But if we do, we're looking at whole programs.

"They've talked in the past about significant changes to music programs, arts. I don't necessarily agree with those ... but we've got to do the things that are mandated by the state and federal governments. Some of the frills and extra the district has taken pride in would be on the table."

Date of birth: Oct. 22,1952Lived in city: More than 30 yearsFamily: Pam, wife; Taylor, daughter; Matt, sonOccupation: Chief of compliance and enforcement for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Bureau of Waste ManagementPolitical experience: Helped lead the campaign for the school bond issue that failed in spring 2003.Church: First PresbyterianIssues: Revive the school district's all-day kindergarten programs in poorer areas of town; improve communication with district patrons; improving pay to hire and retain good teachers

Mitchell supports passage of the two bond issues up for approval by Lawrence voters next week. Those bonds, totaling $63 million, would pay for the reconstruction of South Junior High School, renovations of other schools and upgrading of computers and technology throughout the district.

"Certainly, a new South Junior High is needed," Mitchell said. "There are problems with the existing structure that can't be addressed economically any other way without replacing the building."

And he said he thought passage of the bond issues would be one of the biggest matters the board handles in the near future.

"I am anticipating the bond issue will pass this time around," he said. "Certainly if it does, oversight and decisions related to all those projects will be something the board will deal with for at least the next couple of years."

Advance voting has already begun in the school board and bond elections. Election day is April 5.

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