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Archive for Tuesday, September 12, 2006

District taking aim at fees

School board seeks to reduce costs for busing, some classes

September 12, 2006

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Put the brakes on busing costs and cut back on fees for optional classes.

The message Lawrence's school board gave to Supt. Randy Weseman on Monday night was pretty clear - they want to roll back some of the fees parents have to pay each year.

School board members told Weseman they want him to bring them some information soon on how much it would cost to erase some of the fees charged for optional classes such as photography or art.

And they want him to look at putting the brakes on fees for the school district's "pay-to-ride" busing program that costs some parents thousands of dollars a year.

"If we get figures on that and we get numbers we can plug into a budget process, I think those would be two good areas to start," said Sue Morgan, board president. "I think it's going to be partially a numbers game."

Weseman asked the board to consider beginning a process to roll back over a number of years about $1.2 million to $1.3 million now collected through fees.

Parents with several children in schools have complained to the board that they're socked with fees running up to several hundred dollars.

Weseman had said the board might be able to reduce several fees over the next few years, with the goal of eliminating all or most of them.

"I think we'll find out a lot," Weseman said. "We may discover we can do this faster than we think."











School fees

The following is a summary of anticipated fees for Lawrence public schools for 2006-2007: ¢ Textbook rental: $72 ¢ Instructional materials: $15 ¢ Technology fees: $10 ¢ Transportation activity trips: $15 ¢ Supplemental Fees (secondary only): $50 ¢ Course fees for classes such as art, photography, industrial arts: Varies. ¢ Athletics participation fees: $50 ¢ Parking fees: $10 ¢ Activity ticket: $25. ¢ Pay-to-ride: $240 per year.

Transportation cap

The pay-to-ride plan currently costs $130 a semester or $260 per year per student, with no maximum cap on cost per family.

Weseman said the district could consider rolling that back next year to put a cap on how much a family would pay.

For example, he said one proposal might be to charge $100 per semester for the first child, then $50 per semester for the second child, with additional riders from the same family riding free. The total cost would then be $150 per family for a semester or $300 for a year.

Morgan and other board members told Weseman they were interested in eliminating fees that might be keeping some students from taking certain classes, such as photography or art.

Some parents can't afford the extra fees of those programs, so their students don't enroll, Weseman said.

Morgan said the district will work with parents who can't afford to pay for such programs.

However, Weseman said parents shouldn't be put into such a situation where they have to ask for a fee waiver because they can't afford it.

Other issues

In other action, the board:

¢ Unanimously approved a contract with Lawrence's certified staff that provides 8 percent more funds set aside for teacher salaries.

Under the agreement, which was also ratified by the Lawrence Education Assn., teachers would get an average 8 percent pay raise, with some getting more and some getting less.

Kelly Barker, the LEA's chief negotiator, said the contract was approved "overwhelmingly" by local teachers.

"I think it's a satisfying outcome for all of us," said Morgan. "It's well-deserved."

The school board also approved pay increases for classified staff and for administrators. Weseman said the total amount going to those groups was about 7 percent, with some getting more and some less.

The board also increased the amount per day it pays substitute teachers, from $82 to $90. The board also provided year-end stipends for those substituting more than 50 days a year.

¢ Heard a report from Lee Fuller, DLR Group, about the status of all the construction projects going on throughout the district funded by $54 million bond issue approved in April 2005. Fuller showed photos of construction in progress and explained that all of the projects were on schedule and under budget.

The projects include $31.9 million to raze and rebuild South Junior High School and improve Broken Arrow School; $16.7 million to add 35 junior high classrooms - six at Central, 16 at Southwest and 13 at West - modify or build gyms, and expand Southwest's cafeteria; $5.4 million to renovate locker rooms and science labs, build a new entrance to the east gym and add space for three science labs at Lawrence High School; and add labs for welding and other courses at Free State High School.

Fuller has a Web site that provides updated information on the 2005 bond issue at www.2005bondprogramconstruction.com/.

"It's refreshing to have projects that are in budget and on time," Morgan said.

Comments

OfficeGirl 8 years, 3 months ago

I thought school was supposed to be free. I'm older but I remember them making a big deal about it when I was a kid in KS and do not remember when/how it changed into what it is today. Did they quit charging a textbook rental fee and just change it into other 'fees'? Many parents can't afford these fees and there are not waivers available for all activities/classes. When a child can't take a class or go out for sports due to the inability of their household to shell out the money for all of the fees--that's when education becomes uneven, unfair and those that have can and those who do not have cannot. UNFAIR. Kind of like the 2 high schools that are supposed to be equal.

Bone777 8 years, 3 months ago

"unfair and those that have can and those who do not have cannot. UNFAIR."

Life is not fair.

junco_partner 8 years, 3 months ago

Where do you think the money is going to come from if they remove these fees? From the tax payers, that's where. I for one am sick of how much of my tax dollars are used for funding schools. I don't mind paying some for this purpose but it's getting ridiculous! These fees should come from the parents, Period! The parents are the ones who should have to shoulder the burden. They are the ones who chose to have children, just like I chose not to have any. Put the responsibility where it lies.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 8 years, 3 months ago

"life is not fair"

But we should at least attempt to give everyone a level playing field in their youth, especially for a public school education. Otherwise, we move closer and closer to a caste system.

Kudos to the school board for doing the right thing here.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 8 years, 3 months ago

junco, you miss the point like many others who advocate your position. If our society does not believe in making sure that each child is able to have a quality education, regardless of their economic means, what do you think would happen to that society in the long term? We cease to be a land of opportunity. Kids whose parents can't afford school end up in a downward spiral / welfare state / criminals.

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