Letters to the Editor

School priorities

October 22, 2009


To the editor:

Let me get this right. The Lawrence school district approved funds for two sports stadiums to be built ($400,000 each) and yet Superintendent Rick Doll discusses teachers not having items they need (Journal-World, page 1A, Oct. 19)? What’s wrong with this picture?

I assumed children went to school to be educated, not to play sports in luxurious facilities. After reading Chuck Woodling’s description of the Free State facilities in his Oct. 20 column, I was disappointed. I understand some of the funds for Free State came from a private donor. Fine. But to me it seems like it’s a matter of “keeping up the with Joneses” and perpetuating a misconception of what is really important in life.

I know sports are important to a lot of kids. Playing a sport does benefit our youths in several ways. Realistically, how many kids are going to play sports professionally? Or even in college? Yet every child needs a solid education. To my way of thinking, the priorities are turned around. It’s quite unsettling.


mom_of_three 8 years, 8 months ago

Here we go again.
The facilities at LHS are far from extravagant. I haven't been to Free State, but of course, a private donor makes a big difference. The sports events came out of different different fund. it could not be used for teachers. The budget for Lawrence schools has been messed up for a while. Several years ago, when the state cut the school budget, school fees almost tripled. Then after a year or so, a lot of the budget money was given back to the schools by the state, but the fees were not reduced. No one really said why. But hopefully, a new super can work it out.

ferrislives 8 years, 8 months ago

That's because the Lawrence School District is greedy mom_of_three. They did the same thing with the bus system. That's why a lot of people don't trust them to do right by the parents of children attending their schools. They made a promise a few years ago and didn't keep it.

If they changed the fees back when they reached better circumstances, or when they received money from the state or federal government, then they would probably be seen in a better light. But since they've chosen to be greedy and renege on their promise to change things back once they received those funds, they are SOL when it comes to parents trusting them at their word.

wysiwyg69 8 years, 8 months ago

100% with you Susan.,, Athletics do teach to a certain degree, but, I think schools are there first for classroom education.

GardenMomma 8 years, 8 months ago

Suppose this:

You have two buckets of water - one is nearly full but can only be used to water your garden and one is almost empty but can only be used to drink from.

Now, you are dying of thirst and there isn't enough water in the drinking bucket, but there's plenty in the garden watering bucket.

So you water your garden and the crops bloom and grow and they look just great but you end up parched and weak all because you couldn't water your body.

In times like this, move some money around. Isn't it a matter of priority? What's really more important? New sports facilities or quality education?

Probably every family has recently made changes in their budgets, weeded out unnecessary expenses and moved money from one "bucket" to another. Why should the school district be unable to revamp their budget monies?

Cindy Yulich 8 years, 8 months ago

GardenMomma has posted an excellent illustration of what the district is faced with. School finance regulation prevents the district from moving facilities/capital expense "water" (money) into the bucket for operating funds "water". It's not common sense but it's reality.

mom_of_three 8 years, 8 months ago

If they could have moved the money from one pot to another, I would have wanted them to do that, too. I have only a few more years of school fees and then its on to college.
BUT I am glad they built the facilties. LHS is very basic - the football team, soccer team, the band and I imagine PE likes it.
I think there are private schools who focus on entirely academics and nothing on athletics. I would hate for a public school to do that. And athletics do add value, besides bragging rights. We have student athetes getting scholarships to great schools, athletes with high gpa's, I have to add. I am hoping my student athlete is as lucky. And even if they didn't get a scholarship, they would still play for the fun of the sport, the commaderie, and school pride. As mine has told me, there is nothing like hearing someone chant your name.

thelonious 8 years, 8 months ago

I am not against high school athletics per se, and certainly want our high schools to have decent facilities, but any way you look at it, spending millions on two (!) new football fields at the same time that you cannot keep all of your teachers and employees and have other holes in your education budget (!) is simply not defensible. Certainly the timing was atrocious, if nothing else.

We, as a nation, as a society, as individuals, need to get our priorities straight. These stadiums, unfortunately, come across as misplaced priorities.

Jimo 8 years, 8 months ago

It isn't clear to me that Rischer understands the difference between operating budgets and capital budgets. Regardless of anyone's opinion about these two stadiums, they are one-off, long-term projects. They have little to do with the annual operating budget.

It also isn't clear to me from this letter exactly what these items teachers need are. I do find it unlikely that they are needed for student outcomes, however, which is the only need that concerns me. Educational spending has a rapidly diminishing marginal return on measurable student learning. Our childrens' stagnant educational progress is hardly due to a lack of funding.

mom_of_three 8 years, 8 months ago

Jack, Some kids who are not academically successfull in high school (average, lets say) flourish in college. Those same kids do not qualify for academic scholarships but they may be gifted in a sport, music or arts, which allows them an opportunity to go to college for free or a reduced rate, where their talents in the classroom really shine. Taking away sports and arts could be taking away opportunities.

mom_of_three 8 years, 8 months ago

And considering how well some of the student atheletes are doing, I don't think sports is a big distraction.
Oh, but you want to use the sports money on academics. Well, hopefully, it would make up the difference for those kids who moved out of the district so they could play for their high school team. And not all high school athletes play for club teams. some play for the fun and enjoyment.

mom_of_three 8 years, 8 months ago

And I think the high schools who do not have sports teams are called private schools. Wouldn't high school be boring without sports teams?
Yep, it sure would.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

The public was not necessarily in favor of PLAY which is what USD 497 superintendent and board spent $20 million school tax dollars on to provide... in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce. School officials acknowledged such in the LJW. It is a mystery to me how this kind of spending will ever payback the USD 497 tax payers.

Public Said NO to new sports facilites: http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

What was kept quietly in the closet was a poll revealing the school district has more important issues in which that reckless spent $20 million could have been applied. Yes our schools are in need of $16.5 million worth a rehab. Yes the sports facilities money could have been applied to the capital improvement rehab issues.

Public said yes to rehab of OUR schools: http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

I speculate the city powers that be,including those behind the scenes, are wanting to reinvent another failed "boom town" economy to further flood the residential and retail markets both of which are unfriendly to residential and retail owners across the board. Bedroom communities are unfriendly to taxpayers because they have no means by which to support themselves thus constant increases in taxes,user fees etc etc.

Taxpayers need to revolt against reckless decisons such as this at all levels of our tax spending government bodies. At least ask for a public vote on ALL future spending. It is my feeling that taxpayers are more fiscally responsible thinkers.

Jimo 8 years, 8 months ago

Jack, thanks but if it were up to me we wouldn't spend a penny on sports. But you and I have been out-voted (probably 20:1). I don't think spending to build 2 stadiums for students and the community once in a century or so is something outrageous or a luxury. (Don't get me started though on a public play, ur, athletic center, or public golf courses!)

The practical point here is it does not follow that this spending causes a diminishing operational budget or that these "needs" are actually needed to achieve educational goals. It seems to me that we are long past the point where additional budgetary dollars help absent fundamental reform to the educational process.

Jenny Morgison 8 years, 8 months ago

GardenMomma - I like your comment. But there are concerns for doing it either way. It sounds so simple to just transfer everything over, but legislation doesn't allow it.

Just a thought: If you are able to put all the money (capital outlay) into the General Fund, what is going to happen to the facilities? Not just the sports fields, but the classrooms, buses, desks, lockers etc. Those moneys set aside for improvements and maintance will now be going into raises.

Don't get me wrong, Teachers deserve raises, but if they see a huge pot of money transferred they are going to ask for a even larger raise. Most are conscious of the situations of state finance and are reasonable, but others will really push the issue.

mom_of_three 8 years, 8 months ago

So you, jack, don't want to get rid of all the outside activities, just sports.....
hhmm...keep the arts (which I think there should be more of) but get rid of sports.
yep, still boring for a lot of students, and still losing opportunities for college for others.
I would have been bored to tears in school if I did not have a friday night football game to look forward to or a basketball game. Marching band might have been non-existent or extremely boring, not playing in front of a home crowd. I was a great student in school, and yet, it was nice having that excitement surround the friday night game, and half time. All work and no play makes a lot of dull jack and jills.
Whatcha got against sports, Jack? never mind, I know, they spend money on it!

mom_of_three 8 years, 8 months ago

why scholarships for playing a game? because colleges give them. Why do colleges have sports? probably to attract donors. and there are high school kids who play for the love of the game, too.
And I do get it, you numnut, that arts are a part of learning, but I read your initial post that sports were distracting, and should be outlawed. School is for learning. Well, what does arts get you? It's not chemistry, is it? Just taking what i thought you were saying and applying it across the board.
You read what you want, and twist what you want, so there is no talking to you. I am glad there are sports teams in schools, and band, and cheerleaders, etc. School has something for everybody, and I think that is the way it should be.

BigAl 8 years, 8 months ago

I am SOOOO glad that I don't live in Jack's world. Life is too short. Sports, school pride, pep rallys, cheerleaders, bands, mascots, school colors etc... are all a part of growing up and bringing communities together.

People like Jack will never understand. It's a shame that life has to be so dark for people like him.

Sulla 8 years, 8 months ago

mom_of_three: You are the archetype why we need breeding permits in this country. I mean that wholeheartedly.

Crank out them Jocks and Cheergirls, all ye American guys and gals! Yee Haaa!!usa!usa!usa!

seth5792 8 years, 8 months ago

Wow, someone has some serious issues.

Jack I take it high school wasn't a fun time for you.

Get off the soapbox, sports raise money. If it wasn't for folks paying to attend the games, you wouldn't have half of your artsy-fartsy crap.

George Lippencott 8 years, 7 months ago

lawrencemom2 (Anonymous) says…

And why can we not change the reality and spend money where it gets what we need

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 7 months ago

Marion. The education expert.

Got those attorneys hired yet to help your architect fraud, err... friend, Maude? They were going to fall out of the trees I seem to recall.

honestone 8 years, 7 months ago

mom-of-3 is back as she does any time a sports and money issue comes up. Why do I think MO3 is not just a mom of three but you are intimatly involved in the sports programs and/or married to one. The money is a different color..too bad. I hope the Board say this when they come begging for new money to fund the programs they didn't fund because the money was a different color. No more handouts.

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