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Archive for Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Slow to act

While state legislators dawdle, local school districts are forced to move ahead on their budgets without knowing how much money they will have in their coffers.

May 10, 2006

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As they continue to struggle with a school finance package, Kansas legislators should be more aware of the problems they are creating for school districts across the state.

Although Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and the Kansas State Board of Education both have said that all-day kindergarten should be a top target for increased school funds, Lawrence school board members were forced Monday night to drop any planning for such a program because they didn't know whether funds to support it would be available this fall. The only way to make sure the district could afford the full-day program is if Lawrence parents were willing to pay $240 a month to have their children in it. When a survey showed not enough parents were willing to pay the fee, the district was forced to drop its planning for next year.

Even if state legislators agree on a funding package that would support all-day kindergarten, it probably will be too late for most districts to implement the program this year. Uncertainties about state funding also affect any number of other issues, including teacher salary negotiations.

It's not like legislators haven't been fully aware of the school funding issue for months. Almost nothing has changed in the financial or political picture since the beginning of the session. It's hard to understand why legislators are willing to put off school funding decisions until so late that local districts are forced to try to outguess lawmakers in order to complete their budgets.

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