Letters to the Editor

Shield students

February 18, 2010

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To the editor:

If you have concluded that school closings are inevitable, I have an idea. Organize a petition in your community and volunteer your own neighborhood school for closure. If the budget crisis is becoming divisive, maybe it’s because it seems that everyone who says that closure is necessary is talking about someone else’s school. This is far more than an administrative decision; it disrupts the fabric of a community, and sends us on a declining spiral. Closed schools lower property values, which reduces the tax base. You say you are cutting costs but end up with less revenue. In any case, you are exchanging smaller schools that have proven effective for larger settings, which the research tells us are inferior at the elementary level.

We are one district, in this crisis together. Let’s agree that we will spread out any truly necessary sacrifices as fairly as we can. For example, if the state has reduced funding per student by 10 percent, why have we not shortened the school year accordingly? Most importantly, let’s shield the kids from cuts where we can. To share administrative and support staff on a “circuit” between schools a few blocks apart like West and Hillcrest may be inconvenient, but it is far less disruptive than uprooting hundreds of students.

There are plenty of smart people in Lawrence who are motivated to help. Open up the budget and get a community task force working on it. Don’t close schools. We can do this.

Comments

Stephen Roberts 5 years, 5 months ago

Ben - a good LTE in general but I have a couple of questions.

  1. You state closing schools reduces lower the property value, why when Riverside closed did my property taxes and property value go up?? Please help. If there is a way to have sound research that I can present to the county to reduce my value of my house, I would like to get it.

  2. If small schools are more effective, why did the school district stop building them?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Not that many make big bucks after years of injuring their shoulders, knees and ankles. Why not take a look?

The money has been found now let's make it work!

Meanwhile with $7,000,000(million) in a contigency fund plus this budget suggestion: http://www.saveourneighborhoodschools.com/budget-outline/

and

trim some more here: "Administrative Services Expenditures" http://www.saveourneighborhoodschools.com/documents/

plus some effort on these suggestions:

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/

it seems that USD 497 can nip this in the bud and be more efficient as a result.

Lawrence is a growing family community not a community that can afford to close down valuable assets. Buidling larger more expensive schools does not save taxpayers money but would increase our cost of living.

==================================================== East Lawrence is growing by way of new families moving into east Lawrence and/or current families having children. Retaining and maintaining existing assets such as schools has been considered fiscally responsible for at least two hundred years…. down right frugal if you will.

*East Lawrence is not a dying farm community. Instead it is a growing neighborhood community. Home to restored and new housing.

*East Lawrence is an attractive neighborhood. The residents CHOOSE the east side for a variety of reasons:

  • East,and Old west Lawrence are the choice neighborhoods for restoring old beautiful homes.

*Eastern Lawrence is about old growth trees,character of housing, easy walking or biking to most destinations like downtwn KU and our public schools.

  • East Lawrence has Weavers, Browns Shoe Fit,Dillons, downtown hardware store,D&D tire shop,Liberty Hall,City Library,Senior Service Center, used goods such as the antique mall/Fun and Games,Bay Leaf,Kring's, Waxman Candle,Foot Print,Mass Street Music, a Cottins Hardware,Chiropractor on 23rd, very nice parks and the new hike and bike trail These are but a few of the wonderful attractions to East Lawrence.

  • East Lawrence is not dying and is home to many many many college graduates and “common” laborers aka diversity.

  • Eastern Lawrence received many thumbs up by urban consultant Placemakers for our:

  • Home designs
  • layout of neighborhood streets
  • proximity to neighborhood schools
  • sidewalks - a walkable neighborhood community
  • proximity to dowtown

Closing schools is wasteful thinking. Let’s work this out sensibly.

kugrad 5 years, 5 months ago

Commuter, good questions. I think I can answer them.

The Riverside area is an area that has experienced a lot of growth in housing. IMO, they could easily build a school in that part of town and fill it. But with regards to property value, more building makes for higher comps and higher property values. This isn't the same in every neighborhood, especially older ones. I am no expert in this area, but a couple professionals from KU with expertise in this area testified before the school board about the 10% drop figure in established neighborhoods, so I am inclined to believe the research they cited.

As for #2: Schools built in more recent times had two goals that may not have been considered in the past - 1) Accomodate the anticipated growth in the area, since they are built where housing stock was rapidly increasing and 2) The district had learned, as schools across the country were becoming larger due to larger population, that there were efficiencies of scale. When you look at a district like Blue Valley where the schools are a uniform size at about 450 students, you must remember they built the district from the ground up. It wasn't closing old schools, just building new ones as the community grew rapidly. This is much different from Lawrence's situation. That being said Commuter, I don't think the research will show a school of 250 is any better than one of 150. It is when you get into Blue Valley type numbers that costs, not students, are being put first. In research, small schools are typically, but not always, in the 2 section range.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

"1. You state closing schools reduces lower the property value, why when Riverside closed did my property taxes and property value go up??"

The Lawrence "boom town economy" kept property values artificially inflated in order to pay the bills of a new high tax dollar bedroom community, a situation that demands inflation inflation inflation to support itself.

Since Bush destroyed the economy Lawrence can no longer justify inflated property values aka tax increases. In very recent times we have seen user fees take some serious hikes(tax increases) in order to make up the loss.

Meanwhile the money has been found to save our schools.

However it would be best it no new neighborhoods were created. If they are builders need to put forth property for parks,fire department,schools,LPD and other infrastructure at no cost to we the existing taxpayer. Then all of the people who move into that new neighborhood, that the majority of Lawrence people do not want, should have a special NEW NEIGHBORHOOD TAX to support itself.

rivercitymom 5 years, 5 months ago

Merrill:

Maybe the money has been found to save our schools -- for a year! Just where is the school district supposed to come up with $5 million a year after they spend the $7 million in contingency? What if they get slapped with a major lawsuit or there is a disaster that takes a few mill to fix?

Further, Merrill, most of us townies have nothing against East Lawrence. I love East Lawrence. I just got tired of partying KU students smoking pot in front of my kids. And picking up their beer bottles, cigarette butts and used condoms out of my yard.

And this letter. Expecting a junior high principal to also cover a nearby grade school (and BTW, Sunset Hill is next to West, not Hillcrest), that is absolutely nuts. Junior High principals attend every single concert, sporting event, parent meeting, enrollment meeting, site council meeting, fundraiser . . . and elementary principals do the same, all on top of a very full and long day at school. How could one person cover both schools?

There is no way I am FOR closing schools. But I also am adament that we keep fine arts, student leadership opportunities, etc., in the secondary curriculum. Talk about losing some kids ... cut those opportunities and we'll see some lost kids!

mr_right_wing 5 years, 5 months ago

I still am remembering the LTE that suggested the OPTION of contributing your tax refund to your local school district. How many of these folks who are screaming "the sky is falling!!" would give every penny of their refund to USD#497?!

Jessica Beeson 5 years, 5 months ago

Dear Rivercitymom-

Please get off your high horse! I’ve lived in ‘East’ Lawrence neighborhoods for over 30 years. Have I heard a few parties taking place—sure. Have I picked up a few beer cans out of my yard—sure. However, to categorically characterize East Lawrence as a pot smoking, beer and sex party is so unbelievably ludicrous! Any decent point you were trying to make was lost the second you attacked an entire side of town. There are families over here too—happy and healthy ones—with safe children. Spare us all your judgments!

areyousure 5 years, 5 months ago

Shortening the school year doesn't help a lot with the largest budget expense - payroll. Teachers are paid to teach XX number of hours. That number of hours is mandated by the state. Whether school is held on longer but fewer days a week or longer days but fewer weeks, the teachers will get the same salary. It would probably cut the payroll expense for those who are hourly and would not be working as many days like paras, janitors, lunchroom personnel. District staff and , I believe, some school support staff work all year round regardless of the number of teaching days.

Whatever cuts are made, the students will be affected. They are the ones who use the counselors and the nurses. They are the recipients of the services whether it is a principal being shared by two schools or when there is less personnel to keep the library open.
Their education experience is impacted by far more than just the number of teachers, classrooms or school buildings.

Which is better - more buildings, less services or less buildings, more services? How much money would be saved if a district wide pay cut of 5% would happen? Is the teacher's union willing to do their part to keep services and buildings open?

rivercitymom 5 years, 5 months ago

Cordley mom:

I was not attacking East Lawrence. Sorry it came off that way. Like I said, I love East Lawrence, just got VERY tired of the college kids. Guess I have read Merrills "East Lawrence" cut and paste one too many times and it put me over the edge!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Good points river city mom:

Closing schools certainly will doing nothing long term no way. Closing schools the previous round did not save the taxpayers money.

Building larger elementary schools to replace already paid for schools will not save taxpayers money.

So let's trim some fat from the top in addition to what some very smart parents found aka about $5million.

So what about long term:

  • online sales tax dedicated to public school education academics that which would include fine arts, student leadership opportunities, etc., in the secondary curriculum.

  • a local source to also help fund academics and 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/

Closing schools is wasteful thinking. Let’s work this out sensibly.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

Merrill didn't even bother to delete his first sentence from another post before spamming it to here. He's slipping.

Jessica Beeson 5 years, 5 months ago

Rivercitymom-

Thank you for your second post. I believe we all want what's best for our kids.

Stephen Roberts 5 years, 5 months ago

Merrill - Do you pay use tax for your online purchases if sales tax is not charged?? Why not. You are supposed to but you would rather save your money instead helping reduce the state's budget problems.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

commuter,

I wonder about the Constitutionality of "use taxes". How is a state entitled to get money simply because someone decides to shop in another state?

It seems a little questionable to me.

At the same time, how is it that interstate purchases don't involve sales tax of some sort?

The whole thing is a little funny.

Quiet 5 years, 5 months ago

I propose a lottery system in which each household is randomly assigned to one of Lawrence’s elementary schools. The assignment would be independent of the student’s address so that students, even if they move within the district, will not change schools, and it would thus prevent parents from manipulating their address in order to enroll a student in their preferred school. Each elementary school would be filled to an equal percent capacity until all students were distributed. Once this redistribution of students was achieved, the board would randomly select a school to be closed and would then redistribute, once more, the students from that school.

This solution would mean that every student would face the same chance that her school would be closed. It means that every neighborhood would have the same chance of losing a school entirely, which means every neighborhood would face the same risk of property devaluation and would lose the protection against drug dealing and registered sexual offenders that a school provides for its neighborhood. It means that we would all lose our neighborhood school, as most of the students at any given school would no longer be made of up residents of the neighborhood. It means all students would face the reality of being separated from their teachers and friends. It means all teachers would lose their students. It means that the learning of all students would be disrupted. It means that every student would face an equal chance of being bused across town or having to walk up to 2 ½ miles to his school. It would also eliminate disparity in educational opportunity and in carrying the public burden. We would all pay the price that the school board is now asking only some of us to pay.

If these sacrifices seem too much to ask of all of Lawrence’s schoolchildren, they are too much to ask of any of Lawrence’s schoolchildren.

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