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Letters to the Editor

School challenges

February 17, 2010

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To the editor:

My husband took the headline in last Thursday’s Lawrence Journal-World (“Lawrence Schools Foundation offering donors chance to help with district’s budget troubles”) as a direct challenge. He began contacting all of the families we know in Lawrence to pledge funds needed to keep our schools open. The response has been overwhelmingly positive; nearly all families that he has spoken with immediately agreed to pledge funds to prevent harmful cuts to meet the district’s budget deficit.

While I certainly view this as a positive development, as I started thinking more about the families who so quickly agreed to donate, I realized that all of these families have children attending schools facing the risk of closure. Many families across the district are concerned about the impact of district budget cuts on their children’s education, whether through increased student-teacher ratios, larger class sizes, a reduction in enrichment programs, or school closure. Rather than just families concerned about closure, I believe that all of us need to respond to the budget crisis our district is facing.

I challenge the school district to let us know precisely how much we need to raise to ensure that schools can remain open, student-teacher ratios don’t increase dramatically and programs don’t face deep cuts.

And I challenge families across Lawrence, families with children in all 15 elementary schools, to pledge funds to preserve not just our schools, or certain neighborhoods, but the quality and character of our town.

Leslie Newman,

Lawrence

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

There is $7,000,000(million) in one rainy day fund as we speak according Supt. Doll in a public meeting.

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wolfy 4 years, 2 months ago

Very logical, logical_parent.

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logical_parent 4 years, 2 months ago

Imagine if all the lottery funds, passed by voters originally to fund education, had not been reallocated by our legislature for other purposes! Regardless, our district has enough "unencumbered funds," combined with funds allocated for "other expenses" and "misc. expenses" to weather the present storm, but for unexplained reasons has chosen not to. Why no explanations? Why not just release these rainy day funds? Quit complaining about the rain and spend the money! It's raining!! Additionally, a small tax on something that effects a large portion of the populous, thus impacting large numbers in a small way, but earmarked solely for education, is in order. The legislature should move immediately to do this. The legislature could also amend the Capital Outlay Funds statutes to allow for expenditures of these funds for operating expenses in "extraordinary budgetary circumstances," such as we presently have. Our district is flush in that account, especially if the liquidate the $1.7M land purchase they made irresponsibly in Nov. '09. Why hasn't our SB joined with all similarly situated to lobby our legislators to do just this? Why haven't our legislators done this on their own?

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mom44 4 years, 2 months ago

Thank you very much Ms, Newman. A couple of weeks ago, out of curiosity, I grabbed a calculator and divided $5 million by 10,000 ( student population of USD 497). That comes to $500 per student.. Interesting to think about. That's less than $2 per day per child.

I was at the last school board meeting and estimate that 90 percent of the conversation/ comments from community members focused on possible school closings, when figuring, at MOST that would save $600,000.

So considering that there is $5 million that needs to be cut, that's at MOST 30% of the budget.

What about the other 70%?

And sadly, closing schools or NOT...... class sizes are bound to increase, which is NOT equal in all schools. Our school is over capacity as it is.

Not to mention the numerous other crappy possibilities.

So thanks for reminding us that this is MUCH MORE than the possibility of schools closings that we are (or should be) concerned about.

Thanks, too, rivercitymom. Hopefully our family will be able to attend the march on March 16th.

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wolfy 4 years, 2 months ago

Solomon,

"Quality" and "character" are in the eye of the beholder. Sure, we might have potholes. But we also have a rich tapestry of cultures woven into our neighborhoods, and much of that is because of our neighborhood schools.

The thing that defies all reason to me is that the school board is acting as if closing neighborhood schools is ipso facto cost effective. Theoretically, I guess, we might be able to achieve some economies of scale if we shutter schools. But where is the analysis of the tangible and intangible costs associated with new transportation demands, flagging parental involvement, diminished community engagement, lower property values, etc.? The only evidence I've seen is from the last budget crisis -- We closed schools and costs went up, not down.

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rivercitymom 4 years, 2 months ago

A teacher passed on this info to some junior high parents and I don't know much more: there is a "Support Kansas K-12 Education" group on Facebook, planning a rally at the Statehouse on March 16, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. That is the Tuesday of Spring Break.

Nothing wrong with private donations, of course, but none of us should forget that the Kansas Legislature is required, by law, to fund the public schools.

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Eybea Opiner 4 years, 2 months ago

The "quality" and "character" of our town?

What character are you talking about? The homeless begging for hand outs on the street?

What quality are you talking about? The pot hole filled streets that never get totally fixed?

The so-called quality and character of Lawrence is largely a myth.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

A budget outline prepared by parents from all USD 497 schools: http://www.saveourneighborhoodschools.com/budget-outline/

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An interesting document outlining "administrative services expenditures" some of which need explaining: http://www.saveourneighborhoodschools.com/documents/

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

The state government should authorize USD 497 some funding sources of their own such as local user fee to assist with medical insurance and school fees etc etc.

Our paid for school buildings are worth millions upon millions upon millions in tax Dollar savings. Building larger schools will not save tax dollars

It is more apparent than ever that school districts are needing additional sources of funding. Teachers deserve salary increases and decent health insurance. Our legislature is not a reliable source although by law it is a state responsibility.

Neighborhood schools are good for Lawrence absolutely. No Lawrence neighborhood wants to be without an elementary school within the neighborhood. Lawrence has spoken out on this issue numerous times.

Local property owners cannot afford a 10% loss in property value due to the closing of a school. USD 497 certainly cannot afford to participate to lose that revenue so why do it?

There are families that which cannot afford two cars or bus transportation. Therefore walking and/or bicycling become the modes of choice.

How do we solve this problem for the long term?

Two revenue sources could be made available:

  • online state wide sales tax dedicated to public schools ONLY for academics is a reasonable source.

  • a local source to help fund USD 497 medical insurance, salaries, and perhaps school fees. This could become available as a dedicated City of Lawrence USD 497 user fee: http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2003/mar/teacher_salaries/

Of course these mechanisms will only be supplemental.

All USD 497 schools benefit. Perhaps experienced USD 497 teachers will stop fleeing to Blue Valley as well.

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