Even if state funding for K-12 schools increases again next year, there never is enough money to fund every program or fill every need.
But as local officials consider their budget priorities for the coming year, they should give favorable attention to a program that puts mental health professionals into the Lawrence schools to help youngsters deal with a variety of problems.
WRAP, operated by Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, stands for Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities. The program was initiated in Lawrence's high schools in 1997 and expanded within a couple of years into the district's four junior highs and its elementary schools. During that time, the WRAP program has come close to extinction more than once because of funding concerns. Through grant funding and other efforts, however, the program has continued to function in Lawrence.
Now, however, another grant is coming to an end. To make up for the funding loss, the WRAP program is asking the local school district, as well as the city and county commissions, to come up with about $800,000 to keep it alive. It's not a small amount of money, but it's a good investment in Lawrence's future.
One of WRAP's initial focuses was to deal with truancy at Lawrence high schools. The goal was to connect with youngsters who were falling through the cracks and help them work through whatever issues were keeping them away from school. Whether it was problems with parents, problems with teachers or just bad attitude, WRAP counselors helped students look at their situation in another way and, as the name notes, seek "alternative possibilities" for their lives. Unfortunately, it was discovered that many younger students also were dealing with difficult issues, and the program was expanded.
Students and their families have offered many testimonials concerning the positive impact of the WRAP program. One parent dramatically told the Lawrence school board this week that her son's relationship with a WRAP worker saved his life. Teachers, who either don't have the time or don't have the training to help students handle every problem, also welcome the efforts of WRAP workers. The success of the program has drawn national attention.
Supt. Randy Weseman said this week that the WRAP program is only one of many great grant programs that eventually are "going to want to be picked up." That's what grants are all about. They provide seed money to develop new programs that might never be tried without that funding. Then programs have to find other funding sources. It's survival of the fittest; only the best programs can, or should, be retained.
WRAP has proven its worth by helping students deal with a whole range of problems that get in the way of their being ready to learn and prepare themselves for useful lives. It's one of the programs that deserves to be incorporated into the Lawrence school district's long-range strategy.