Archive for Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Education budget cuts very likely, lawmakers say

‘There is going to be some pain all the way around’

Maggie Wiseman, a sixth-grader at Woodlawn Elementary school, center, uses an Interwrite Tablet to complete a prime factorization exercise while projected on a screen at the front of her class Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2008. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday that budget cuts to public schools and higher education were possible as the state faces an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall. At left is Woodlawn sixth-grade teacher Haley Bruns.

Maggie Wiseman, a sixth-grader at Woodlawn Elementary school, center, uses an Interwrite Tablet to complete a prime factorization exercise while projected on a screen at the front of her class Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2008. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday that budget cuts to public schools and higher education were possible as the state faces an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall. At left is Woodlawn sixth-grade teacher Haley Bruns.

January 6, 2009, 12:53 p.m. Updated January 6, 2009, 5:12 p.m.

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State education funding cuts likely

Lawmakers will try to save school funds, but it will be tough. Enlarge video

In a town where state education funding is a major lubricant for the entire economy, Lawrence leaders should be watching the Kansas Legislature nervously this upcoming session.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday that budget cuts to public schools and higher education were possible as the state faces an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall.

“There will be severe cuts in many programs,” state Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, told a crowd gathered for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Priorities Breakfast at Maceli’s in downtown Lawrence. “To stand up here and say anything else, would be — at best — misleading.”

Brown went as far to say that cuts in education funding were likely, given that K-12 education funding is the largest single part of the state’s budget.

“If we don’t talk about making some cuts to the big program, then we will be making monstrous cuts to other programs,” Brown said. “I think we should expect cuts across the board for education.”

In Topeka, House Speaker-elect Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, also said education funding may be reduced for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“There is going to be some pain all the way around,” O’Neal said as he prepared for the legislative session that starts Monday. State revenues have coasted downhill along with the national economy, causing an immediate shortfall of at least $140 million and a possible deficit of $1 billion in future months.

O’Neal said 60 percent to 65 percent of school funding goes to the classroom, with the remainder being administrative expenses that can be trimmed.

“There are ways to cut administrative costs and noninstructional dollar costs that we just haven’t had a reason to do before,” he said.

Lawrence school Superintendent Randy Weseman disagreed, saying even costs for support services and administration go toward the job of teaching children.

Much of the costs of education are tied to teacher salaries, mandates from federal and state governments and services such as nurses and counselors in schools, which people have come to expect, Weseman said.

Bottom line, Weseman said, is that he expects to see cuts in school funding and would prefer to find out about it sooner rather than later for planning purposes.

“The sooner we all know something, the better job we can do,” he said.

In addition to possible spending cuts, O’Neal said the Legislature may consider slowing down the phase-in of tax breaks that have been approved in recent years.

Democratic lawmakers said they would fight against education cuts, but conceded it may come to that.

“We’re going to try not to have that happen,” House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said of education cuts. “But the budget is made up largely of funds for K-12 education and for the universities, and when you are facing a billion-dollar shortfall, you have to look at everything.”

Davis said he did not see the possibility of increasing taxes as a way to address the budget shortfall.

“I think that is probably going to be something that is off the table, given the state of the economy,” Davis said.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ budget office has already recommended a $114.4 million cut to higher education. On public schools, Sebelius has said she will try to hold their funding harmless.

About 75 people attended the chamber event, which gives leaders from the city, county, school district, universities and the chamber opportunities to express priorities to the local legislative delegation.

As usual, the top priority expressed by the local groups was support for education funding. Other priorities included funding for transportation projects, support for economic development activities, and allowing local governments to maintain local control.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said she picked up a slightly different message from the leaders who attended the chamber event than she has in past years.

“Last year, the message was do no harm,” Francisco said. “I think the message this year may be: ‘Do some good.’”

— Statehouse reporter Scott Rothschild contributed to this report.

Comments

LogicMan 6 years, 6 months ago

"some cuts to the big program" (K-12)A necessary thing to do this year, but hopefully can be restored within a year or two.

overthemoon 6 years, 6 months ago

so how on earth did any of us get educated without electronic blackboards??? computers for every kid? Sure, I see the value, but you can teach the same concepts without all the gizmos. No? I think we are actually creating an entire generation of well entertained but minimally educated young minds.

llama726 6 years, 6 months ago

The problem isn't that the administrators don't want to spend that money on education (teachers, equipment for the school), it's just the massive amounts of bureaucracy which only allow for that money to be spent on facilities.JackRipper, I'm not sure if you've ever been to a school district meeting or any budget meetings, I have been to a few myself. The problem is, you get X amount to be spent on the nuts and bolts and Y amount for "facilities." Amount "Y" can be influenced by local contributions, amount "X" is provided on a "fair" basis (it's not really fair, it clearly favors growing districts rather than steady or even slightly shrinking ones). You pretty much have to spend all of X (have to hire reliable staffing and invest in the education) and you can either spend all of Y, or it is absorbed back into a general facilities fund and used elsewhere.So, while the schools are able to build new athletic facilities as well as remodeling sections of the school, they can't hire teachers because that fund is not allowed to be used on that, since it would provide an unfair advantage to districts with more population or cash.It's quite stupid, if you ask me. Get rid of the bureaucracy.You know, our economy is suffering. It seems foolish to drive up the cost of higher education while weakening our overall education system. In Europe, a student graduates with little to no debt with their 4 year degree. In the US, we graduate with around a year's salary of debt even if we work throughout college (which greatly decreases the odds that we finish college) and spent at least 5 years of our lives making up that debt. Europe's economy is struggling like everyone else's, but it's worth pointing out that there is definitely a higher foundation for individual success there than here, which is not good news for the future of this economy.

Citizen 6 years, 6 months ago

"...a sixth-grader at Woodlawn Elementary school, center, uses an Interwrite Tablet to complete a prime factorization exercise while projected on a screen.. "I don't know what an Interwrite Tablet is, but I bet it is more expensive than a big chief tablet, or a chalkboard.

whatatown 6 years, 6 months ago

logrithmic---"Of how bout the 6-laning of highway 59 so Walmart can get its trucks from Ottawa to I-70 just a bit quicker". Could the reason of expansion possibly be due to the fact that Hwy 59 is one of the deadliest highways in the state? I believe that explanation provides more accuracy than your Walmart conspiracy theory.

deskboy04 6 years, 6 months ago

How much does the food service director make?

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years, 6 months ago

Part of the solution is a graduated tuition scale for families that can afford to pay the real costs of their kids' elementary and secondary education. When a wealthy family sends their five kids to government schools on the backs of those low-income property tax payers who have no children, something is VERY wrong with the system.

salad 6 years, 6 months ago

Pouring more money into the district will only benefit administrators, edu-crats, the bloated overhead. More money does NOT equate to more results. Certainly the teachers don't see any of it. Jettison the district administration and let teachers just do their jobs. Regardless, it looks like the district will have to learn to live within a budget like everyone else does...or look for another hike in property tax next year.

SpeedRacer 6 years, 6 months ago

How about returning to a post Labor Day start date? Also, the Dems promised to eliminate NCLB...won't that save the state some big bucks? According to my kid and his friends, they are eating cardboard (though in smaller portions) for lunch now...that should have saved a lot of money.

Mike Yoder 6 years, 6 months ago

FYI - The Interwrite Tablet was the teacher's. Students don't have them. They were taking turns with the tablets to complete a math exercise on a projected screen for the class.

Sigmund 6 years, 6 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says… "Plenty of money for sports stadiums and football fields though."Completely agree. There is plenty of money wrong priorities.

Shardwurm 6 years, 6 months ago

Sports is probably the one thing that does more for a child than any other single subject 'taught' by our 'expert' teachers.You want priorities? How about Reading. Writing. Math. Cut school to 4 hours a day. Get rid of the superfluous topics. Anyone who thinks their child is getting 8 hours of instruction a day doesn't have a child in school. If they're getting 2 out of 8 I'd be shocked.What you're paying for right now is a bloated daycare system run by self-righteous thieves who think the parents don't know what goes on in the classroom. Let's put cameras in all the classrooms and allow parents to log on from the web at any time to see what's going on. Something tells me your teachers would balk at that one.

Sigmund 6 years, 6 months ago

Shardwurm (Anonymous) says.. "Sports is probably the one thing that does more for a child than any other single subject 'taught' by our 'expert' teachers."Sports is important and I tend to agree except do we really need two new sports stadiums? By the way I'd even be happy if they taught Basic Economics. Hell I'd be happy if they taught Home Economics.

avoice 6 years, 6 months ago

llama726 had the most intelligent and helpful post in this blog. SettingThe RecordStraight is absolutely right. Why do we tolerate subsidized education for the wealthy? It's like all the other ways we subsidize those who don't at all need it. Then we complain about giving funds to those who really do need it. Unbelieveable! Sliding scale payment is absolutely the most fair way to provide the best education for everyone.Shardwurm (and those who agree with Shard): Do you think a solid sports background is appropriate training for doctors? Engineers? Architects? Chemists? I truly believe that it's exactly our nation's preoccupation with everything sports/competition/leisure that has undermined real learning, expertise and problem-solving in the real world, where you have to know more than a little about physics, mathematical theory, history (as in learning from thousands of years of human error), and communication (as in the ability to speak and write intelligently). Sorry, but sports does nothing to provide any of these important skills.

BaxterC 6 years, 6 months ago

"Sigmund (Anonymous) says…Marion (Marion Lynn) says… “Plenty of money for sports stadiums and football fields though.”Completely agree. There is plenty of money wrong priorities."Exactly, the district needs to rethink it's priorities. Here's a few:Stop spending money on excess fields, as I understand it, all that is needed is lights at LHS on their fields, similar to the lights FS received recently but not LHS. If that. I think we will all live without these fields as they have in the past. It is unfortunate LHS must drive their teams to other places to practice but shouldn't this money be spend on more necessary things such as, oh maybe, books? worthwhile teachers? or dare I say the students in need of that money to further their basic eduction? However, I wonder what the students think. Maybe they agree with this? Why do we STILL not have student representatives at the district do stuff about this? They should have a say!

llama726 6 years, 6 months ago

Baxter, see my above comments regarding the red tape on education funding please. I don't think people really understand the situation.

llama726 6 years, 6 months ago

Jack, what's your background to provide educational analysis? How much of our society's change is the fault of education, really? It's parents, dude.

AjiDeGallina 6 years, 6 months ago

There is a reason the USA trails most western nation and is even outranked by some developing countries in education, we do not consider it a priority.It is well proven that every dollar in education saves money in the future, lowering poverty, increasing public health, increasing a more productive work-force, lowering crime. It is a shame our lawmakers can not reflect that savings in their planning.

deskboy04 6 years, 6 months ago

How many administrators make over $100,000 a year in USD 497?

texburgh 6 years, 6 months ago

As usual, ignorance reigns supreme. Let's set a few things straight:1. Capital outlay funds (the bonds we voted on) can only be used for capital improvements - buildings, renovations, and, yes, sports facilities. They can't be used for teacher salaries or staffing.2. The sports facilities are being built with capital outlay funds, not state funds for instruction. I too am against the building of these sports facilities (because we voted for the money for academic facilities; they're using "leftover" money for sports) but stopping the sports facilities will put not one more dime toward academics or teacher salaries or class sizes. It would not be legal.3. Technology is not bad. Just because a "big chief" tablet was good for us back in the 50's and 60's doesn't mean it is good for kids today. Kids today - if we want to be competitive in a global market - must know how to utilize the latest technology. Yes, we could put off some purchases but our schools and our kids need that technology.3. Roads in Kansas are not funded entirely through a different tax source. There are some taxes dedicated solely to highways but not enough just as some taxes (a state-wide 20 mill property tax levy) are directed solely to schools but it's not enough. The roads argument is a legitimate line of thought - even if you disagree with the author's premise.4. Schools are economic development. Companies locate where they can get a good workforce. Lousy schools; lousy workforce; lousy economy. Did you ever wonder why the high tech industries are where they are? If it was low taxes and warm weather, they would all be in Alabama or Mississippi or Louisiana. They aren't. They are looking for an educated workforce. 5. Spending on education is an excellent way to boost or stimulate the economy. Every dollar spent on education in Kansas is reinvested in the Kansas economy. A large majority of the money spent on schools is in salaries. Those salaried people can't be outsourced to India or China or Mexico. They live in Kansas and they spend their money in Kansas. Cutting school funding means fewer people working and less money going back into the economy. Think of the money school employees spend in Kansas. Now reduce it. Is that good for the economy?6. Finally, the ONLY thing that the state is constitutionally obligated to fund is "the educational and vocational interests of the state." Now we have to do a lot more - like good roads, public safety, and social and rehabilitative services - but schools are a constitutional mandate.

jayhaitch 6 years, 6 months ago

I wonder how much the legislators are planning to cut their income?

llama726 6 years, 6 months ago

Jack, education is very different today than it was 100 years ago. I don't know what else to tell you. I don't think it's just funding, I think it's usage of funding, I think it's parents (and I don't mean parents dont understand it... but parents go to a teacher and say 'MY kid can't be failing, MY kid is smart, etc' but they don't sit at home and make their kid do homework or even make them turn the TV off. Why? Probably because they are working more hours than ever before.I don't know the answer, I just know the problem has more pieces and components, and these blanket ideas of "WELL WE NEED LESS / MORE MONEY AND WE NEED TO HOLD TEACHERS ACCOUNTABLE." It's just stupid.

MyName 6 years, 6 months ago

Jack:>Yes, the education dollars stay here, well except for when hiring recruiting agency from other states but if our taxes weren't so high I'm sure we would also spend a good part of the money here too. We pay roughly 9.6% of our income to state and local taxes (http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxdata/show/455.html). This is pretty much the same as it's been since the late 70s, and right at the national average. So if the relative percentage is the same, how can you say that taxes are "so high"? How much lower can you make it before it's even noticeable? Having the state budget would only give you a 5% raise and probably lower the quality of life in your city in state by a substantial amount.>With a lot of help from the teacher lobby we now are forced to fund at a level one consultant group said we should be doing it at. That is a little dingy because throwing money at the problem which needs serious reform isn't going to get us anywhere. You haven't even identified the problem. You say that we should be sending more people to trade schools, but the reality is that, while there are a ton of good jobs in manufacturing, the reason we're moving stuff overseas is because the average American factory worker is paid $20 an hour and the average Chinese factory worker is $1 an hour. You have to either be very specialized and skilled to keep a good manufacturing job, or you have to be in an industry that can't get outsourced.

MyName 6 years, 6 months ago

Jack (again):>Using your logic since KU is here in Lawrence wouldn't we have all kind of high tech jobs here if an educated work force is all companies are looking for in a city?We do have alot more high tech jobs than we used to, but the definition of "high tech" is changing even as we read this. 15 years ago, there were alot fewer people whose job involved them working at a computer screen than there are now, but that kind of job is no longer considered "high tech" anymore. You're right that the people who teach are not out there in the "real world", they're just trying to do the things that people who study education are telling them to do. The problem in this country is that we're moving away from an economy that builds things and into an economy that does things for people. Our schools are set up to try and train people for a factory job, or an office job, or for college. But the factory jobs are going to be either outsourced or highly specialized to the point where there's a ton of competition for them. The office jobs are becoming increasingly computerized because that's the most efficient way to do them. And as you said before, not every student can or should go to college. Not because of intelligence, necessarily, but because so many people are sick of learning about things like Ancient Western Civilizations and they're ready to just go to work. We're still trying to figure out what the next big area of the economy is for those people and until we do that, what we try to teach them in schools isn't going to matter as much.

Sigmund 6 years, 6 months ago

DETROIT -- A Detroit elementary school is asking for donations of toilet paper and light bulbs to keep their school functioning.http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/18430596/detail.html#-Maybe once the new stadiums get built Lawrence can do the same thing. The schools are properly funded. In fact the new Kansas Supreme Court Justice won a court case insuring that last year and Lawrence voters have consistently voted for more taxes. Any suggestion they can't handle a 5-10% cut in funding without harming education or that there is no waste is ludicrous.

notajayhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

avoice (Anonymous) says… llama726 had the most intelligent and helpful post in this blog."Why do we tolerate subsidized education for the wealthy? It's like all the other ways we subsidize those who don't at all need it. Then we complain about giving funds to those who really do need it. Unbelieveable! Sliding scale payment is absolutely the most fair way to provide the best education for everyone."Um - since the taxes that fund the education system are already based on how much you make and how much you own...

Sigmund 6 years, 6 months ago

Most wealthy people pay more in property and income taxes (which pay for the state and local funding of schools) and then throw that away and pay for private schools for their kids where they are actually educated. Too bad there is no voucher system to allow the middle class to do the same.

Strontius 6 years, 6 months ago

"Too bad there is no voucher system to allow the middle class to do the same."A voucher system would make the situation worse, not better. Every time one is proposed, it takes no time to shoot it down for its many flaws. The public school system could be made much better if people actually wanted to fix it. Everyone complains about it, but no one is willing to actually devote themselves to solving the problem.

notajayhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

"Every time one is proposed, it takes no time to shoot it down for its many flaws."The primary flaw being that public schools would be forced to become competitive with private schools or lose funds, and the first option is about as likely as Hades being the next expansion team in the NHL. So by all means lets keep throwing money at inferior education options rather than allow kids to have a chance to go to better schools.

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