Archive for Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tough choices

Recent Lawrence school board decisions will make it harder for some local students to graduate and for many others to take driver’s education.

February 11, 2009


Being a school board member isn’t an easy job, especially during financially uncertain times like these.

Everyone understands that difficult choices have to be made, but a couple of recent decisions by the Lawrence school board could have a negative impact on our community and its young people.

At their Monday meeting, board members again discussed the decision to eliminate the secondary education program at the Lawrence Virtual School. The decision, school officials said, was prompted by financial considerations and enrollment declines in the program.

Of about 100 students currently enrolled in the secondary program, only 18 live in Lawrence, so perhaps it will be easy enough to accommodate those students at Lawrence High School or Free State High School. It will be unfortunate, however, if those schools are unable to meet the same special needs as the Virtual School program.

When the school district decided several years ago to close the Lawrence Alternative School, the Virtual School was offered as a viable option for students who had been unable to thrive in a traditional school setting. Without the Virtual School, secondary students will lose an important option.

Another issue discussed at Monday’s meeting was an additional increase in the fee charged for students to take driver’s education. Cutbacks in state funding for the program prompted the district to raise the fee last month from $120 to $200 per student. After news of further state funding cuts, the board voted Monday to raise the fee to $225 per student.

Granted, driver’s education is not an academic core subject, but when it comes to life skills, what’s more important that trying to ensure our young drivers are fully educated about traffic laws and operating a motor vehicle? It’s a matter of not only their own safety but also the safety of every other driver and pedestrian with whom they come in contact (hopefully, not physical contact).

Almost doubling the price of driver’s ed is certain to reduce student participation in the program. According to district officials, at least 200 students must enroll in the program to justify offering it. If the district discontinues the program, a private company likely would step in to take up the slack but probably at an even higher cost.

Again, we realize there are no easy choices here, but making it harder for even a few local youngsters to graduate from high school or a whole lot of youngsters to become better drivers seems like a step in the wrong direction.


avoice 8 years, 11 months ago

Why is it that everyone wants to offer justification of what should not be cut, but no one seems bold enough to offer an alternative cut? Perhaps because no one wants to be the "bad guy" who defends his own pet projects while brutally slashing the budgets of others' pet projects? Do across-the-board cuts start to seem more rational when no one can bring themselves to decide what budgets to cut? Something has to be cut, people. We can't whine our way out of this like children trying to get our parents to give us everything we want for Christmas instead of just half the list. Let's grow up, bite the bullet, realize that budget cuts do mean real sacrifices. Let's sacrifice what we can, live with it, and move things forward. Down the road, we may have enough money to put everyone's favorites back into the budgets.

davidsmom 8 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence kids can still take driver's ed. as an elective? The Shawnee Mission Schools dropped this somewhere around the year 2000. Not that it's a worthless elective, but somehow, the kids still learn to drive on schedule without it. I'm sure NCLB had something to do with dropping this course, because the money needed to be diverted to core subjects and supplementary instruction for at-risk students.

Robert Rauktis 8 years, 11 months ago

We need two football stadiums...that's what we NEED. It develops character.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.