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Archive for Friday, February 26, 2010

District mulls some savings suggestions

Group says schools not using all their money wisely

Sunset Hill second-grader Miles Mosher, 8, right, points out some of his work hanging in the school’s hallway Thursday, during parent-teacher conferences. From left, with Mosher, is his teacher, Michele Duncan, his mother, Suzy Green, his stepfather, Casey Green, and his father, Matt Lewis.

Sunset Hill second-grader Miles Mosher, 8, right, points out some of his work hanging in the school’s hallway Thursday, during parent-teacher conferences. From left, with Mosher, is his teacher, Michele Duncan, his mother, Suzy Green, his stepfather, Casey Green, and his father, Matt Lewis.

February 26, 2010

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$5 Million School Budget Gap

As part of its $5.5 million savings plan, the group Save Our Neighborhood Schools proposes to:

• Stop using the general fund on student materials items, such as calculators, science and math kits and workbooks. Savings estimate: $1 million.

District: Revenue from student fees won’t cover all materials expenses, and administrators don’t recommend increasing fees.

• Charge $400,000 this year and next year in administrative overhead to the Lawrence Virtual School.

District: Recommends saving $223,970 to stop absorbing virtual school administrative costs. Additional charges are under review.

• Only retain learning coach positions that receive federal funding to save $420,000.

District: Current cut options for board members include reducing three full-time positions for learning coaches to save $160,905. Board president Scott Morgan has said he supports a cut to learning coaches.

School closings on the line in Lawrence

With a $4 million budget deficit growing to $5 million, the likelihood of school closings seems to be increasing.

Amid the $5 million budget crisis, Lawrence school administrators say the district is considering some ideas from a group opposed to closing schools, but not all of them are workable.

The administration disagrees with increasing fees — that total $112 for elementary students and at least $162 for secondary students — to try to raise revenue for certain student materials such as calculators, science and math kits and workbooks.

“Fees in Lawrence are pretty high, and they’re pretty comprehensive,” Superintendent Rick Doll said.

But Alee Phillips, a member of Save Our Neighborhood Schools, said the district is relying too much on its general fund for student materials expenses and not tapping enough into fee-funded accounts that had balances going into the year.

The group has proposed the district can save $1 million if it stopped charging its materials to its general fund, but Doll said that savings estimate is too high and that fees won’t cover all of those instructional material expenses because the district can’t commingle its funds collected from fees for textbooks and student materials. “If your fees going in aren’t covering your expenses, then your fees aren’t right,” Phillips said.

As of July 1, 2009, the district had an $888,190 balance for textbooks, most of which is being saved to adopt a new elementary math book. It also had a $493,087 split among instructional materials and technology materials. Doll said the district still needs to tap into the general fund to cover material expenses each year. Otherwise it would provide fewer materials or look at cuts.

But Phillips said based on past budgets, the district should have enough money with adding revenue from this year’s fees to cover student material expenses for this year and next year to free up savings in the general fund.

Even though administrators oppose it, the group has proposed a fee increase to raise $200,000 for student materials. Phillips said private fundraising could supplement fees for low-income students.

Comments

kummerow 4 years, 11 months ago

"See all of the group’s ideas and the district’s response at LJWorld.com"

You can see all the Save Our Neighborhood Schools ideas at THEIR website.

http://www.saveourneighborhoodschools.com/

jackson5 4 years, 11 months ago

The school district raises property taxes every year to pay for capital outlay projects. In 2008, they asked us to vote to raise the local option budget to 31%. Loveland ranted on TV a month ago about "Mr. and Mrs. Underfunder in Topeka who do not provide enough support for schools." But now this same group of tax-increasers says they won't consider a small fee increase of $20/student. Do they want to raise income or not? They need to get their story straight on this.

A fee increase only applies to the parents with the ability to pay because those on free and reduced lunches have the fee waived. However, the tax increases they support apply to all and I assure you that the state and the government are not so generous in waiving taxes for those on low income.

A fee increase for those that can pay is much more fair than a tax increase!

commuter 4 years, 11 months ago

Sure lets raise fees to cover the costs. When will the fees go down??? Never.

Sure Algee we can charge all of the money next year but ina a year or two, where will we find the money for new textbooks??

Even though the SONS group did all of this work, they do not understand that they do not have ot deal with the choices on a day to day basis. The administration has to deal with the cuts. Is the SONS group willing to wait longer to talk to administrator about issues with their child, if the cut the number of administrators???

commuter 4 years, 11 months ago

You are right, the fees are not right. how many people do not pay fees because they are on free or reduced lunch???? So the rest of the parents must pick up the tab for them right?? Algee please feel free to cut a big fat check to the district for these people who do not pay fees but use the textbook and student materials.

commuter 4 years, 11 months ago

You are right, the fees are not right. how many people do not pay fees because they are on free or reduced lunch???? So the rest of the parents must pick up the tab for them right?? Algee please feel free to cut a big fat check to the district for these people who do not pay fees but use the textbook and student materials.

James Hicks 4 years, 11 months ago

It sure is easy to sit back and nit pick over the decisions the people on the firing line ( School Board) have to make. Why didn't all these people with all the answers run for a position on the board. You had your chance, live with the decesions the elected people make!

conservative 4 years, 11 months ago

If the save our schools crowd doesn't want to close any schools then they are right that fees are the answer. They can be found in the form of a benefit district for the smaller schools. Since the argument against closing schools is that they are valuable for individual neighborhoods then those neighborhoods won't mind paying the extra taxes to keep their school open. And before you cry out that it is the responsibility of the entire community to educate our children, i agree with you. However the smaller schools are costing up to 2000 per student more to operate. If you want to be selfish and demand YOUR neighborhood school stay open then pony up the money, if not stop decreasing the money available to educate the students at the other schools.

Mr_Moderate 4 years, 11 months ago

Negotiating in the newspaper is no way to address a budget crisis, but that's what the USD497 administration has gotten us into. Every other major school district in Kansas has created a broad public committee to advise the administration. Only one--Lawrence's USD497--is running a totally non-transparent, completely closed process. The District didn't even make public its actual expenditures until last week. So the Save the Schools group is forced into offering ideas by press release.

See how different it is in Manhattan, where the school district has created a community committee to suggest ideas:

http://www.usd383.org/view/article.aspx?articleId=c25fc175efac4d76827bd7d2af4087be

Topeka, too, created an open, transparent public committee, which has ranked cuts (the first school closed is #41 on the list):

https://www.topekapublicschools.net/about/budget.xhtml

jackson5 4 years, 11 months ago

Spending per pupil: $5377 average for each jr. high student. $5224 average for each high school student. $4082 average for each elementary school student.

USD497 receives about $5200 for each student; $4012 from the state and $1200 in local option budget funding.

So currently, the elem. schools are subsidizing the upper grades and the administrative overhead. Why are the cuts directed at the elementaries? Are they trying to bring the cost per elem. school child down to $3800? The elem. schools are already the most "efficient" ones in the district.

See cost summaries at http://www.usd497.org/AboutUs/MeetTheSchoolBoard/Agenda/2009.10Archives/documents/20100202StudySession/QuestionsAndAnswersRev2.pdf starting on pg. 4

walkthehawk 4 years, 11 months ago

jhks--for those of us who actually believe in representative government, it makes complete sense that individuals or groups would bring their worries, and their ideas, to their elected officials. This doesn't mean that everyone with a concern should have run for school board him/herself. Sharing one's own priorities with the officials one helped to elect is part of democracy, as are community dialogue and healthy debate. "Shut up and deal," on the other hand, more rightly belongs to totalitarian regime.

SONS--and those with other viewpoints--are totally within their rights in their advocacy on this issue.

Cindy Yulich 4 years, 11 months ago

Conservative -- excellent post!

"Since the argument against closing schools is that they are valuable for individual neighborhoods then those neighborhoods won't mind paying the extra taxes to keep their school open."

"If you want to be selfish and demand YOUR neighborhood school stay open then pony up the money, if not stop decreasing the money available to educate the students at the other schools."

Shardwurm 4 years, 11 months ago

Close schools and fire teachers. It's the best way. Kids won't suffer and we'll get rid of the dead-weight. It's time to put an end to the charade the Education Industry has been playing on us.

pz5g1 4 years, 11 months ago

The SONS' proposals, as pointed out by Doll, are not all doable and only push the pain down the road. The administration is planning (as realistically they should be) for school spending to grow very little over the next few years, maybe even decline more. They know they need to make cuts that will save money year-after-year, not just this one year.

flux 4 years, 11 months ago

Nothing like a little father stepfather time.

bd 4 years, 11 months ago

Wow, isn't it grand having the new$$$$$$$$$$$$$ sports facilities now???????

Blessed4x 4 years, 11 months ago

toe (anonymous) says...

"Teachers must take pay cuts."

I don't believe this is the answer. I'm gonna put on my old man hat here and say "Back in my day..."

Back in my day we didn't have so many teachers. The gym teacher in elementary school was your regular teacher. There weren't interpreters, teacher's aids or para's wandering each class room. I'm amazed at how many teachers are on duty when I go in to pick up one of my children. In my entire elementary school, we had 5 teachers, one for each classroom (grades 1-4) and a music teacher (part-time). That was it. My sister-in-law works at a school where there is a special ed teacher per 2 students that require the assistance. My sons have their primary teacher, typically one or two paras/aids per class, PE teachers, music teachers, teachers for gifted students and "needy"students and on and on. Teachers are everywhere. Not working in the field, maybe all these teachers are necessary and I'm just full of it, but I really do think that many of these positions could be eliminated.

Back in my day we didn't get hardback textbooks till middle school. We worked from the old "smelly" mimiographed copies from the one workbook the class had. You know the copies, the ones that always came out purple around the corners and smelled like a mad scientist had been using them in an experiment. The "lucky" kids got to go down to the office and crank the drum to churn out the copies. Holy cow! Am I that old?

It seems to me that there are always cuts that could be made. As someone eluded to earlier though, I also believe that the high school/middle schools end up with the lion's share of money and the elementary kids get left holding the bag. My wife organizes the teacher's wish list every year for the elementary school our two youngest sons attend. We use this to get a list of items that are needed for each classroom out to the parents so they can fill the many voids that are left by the school district. As a family we routinely spend around $100 per class that our children are in purchasing snacks, pens, pencils, any item that the teachers require (this year we bought a couple of flash drives), games, books, etc...

So I guess my ramblings come down to this: spend the money from the state/local govs intended for the elementary schools on the the elementary schools, try to pare down the overall number of teachers (come on! taking the class out to play kick ball is blast! who needs a PE teacher?) and the parent's need to pony-up and support the schools in what they truly need (once the schools start acting responsibly with the money they have). Drop some common sense into the equation.

kugrad 4 years, 11 months ago

"Old Man" Blessed4x, I'm not disagreeing with everything you said, but your sister-in-law must not work in the Lawrence Public Schools, which is what is being discussed here, because there is NO school in this district staffing 1 special services person per 2 students, never has been, and never will be. There may be a behavior-disordered classroom where the number of students rises and falls throughout the year that might temporarily have a high staffing number, or perhaps an autistic student needing close supervision (and don't these students deserve to have their needs met?), but there is NO WAY the school wide special services staffing in Lawrence is even close to one person per 2 students. If you want to argue the point, identify the school. It just isn't so, never has been so, never will be so.

four11 4 years, 11 months ago

CONSERVATIVE SAYS....."If the save our schools crowd doesn't want to close any schools then they are right that fees are the answer. They can be found in the form of a benefit district for the smaller schools. Since the argument against closing schools is that they are valuable for individual neighborhoods then those neighborhoods won't mind paying the extra taxes to keep their school open. And before you cry out that it is the responsibility of the entire community to educate our children, i agree with you. However the smaller schools are costing up to 2000 per student more to operate. If you want to be selfish and demand YOUR neighborhood school stay open then pony up the money, if not stop decreasing the money available to educate the students at the other schools."

The problem is not that these schools are inherently more expensive to run-- New York for example has the "cost per pupil" nonsense at a higher rate because of the veteran staff that is employed at NY-- these teachers will not be cut anyway-- they will be moved to other schools-- so that argument just doesn't fly. And, if the boundary lines were redrawn for the New York neighborhood that did not include an industrial park(?) then that would be more fair-- take a look at the map the way the lines are drawn-- the district has drawn us right out of the "competition" so to speak. The framing of this conversation is a big problem!! New York doesn't cost more to run -- and FYI-- my taxes went to pay for Langston Hughes...that new school that did not exist 15 years ago.....so I have to pay more so that the new kids in town can go to a neighborhood school... is that fair??.....YES it is in fact fair. It is common sense -- if some wants a neighborhood school on their side of town-- you cannot argue that one is right and one is wrong--sorry!

conservative 4 years, 11 months ago

The small schools have the costs of a principal, secretary, etc that are the same number as the schools that have 3 and 4 classes per grade level. That is ongoing yearly salaries that will be gone if you close the smaller schools.

volunteer 4 years, 11 months ago

I'm shocked to read Mr. Moderate's assertion that Lawrence does not have a "stakeholder" committee poring over the budget trying to find areas to cut that are least harmful to the students. If he is correct, this is outrageous.

One hears whispers, which online Board minutes appear to confirm, of a district whose faculty/citizen/administrator budget committee discovered several months ago some superintendent pay shennanigans. Pay for unused vacation days without prior Board approval or something.

The point is, don't let the Administrators be the only ones examining the budget. Of course they would prefer not to let the sunshine in; of course they will tend to minimize possible cuts in central office Administration, and favor other types of cuts instead.

four11 4 years, 11 months ago

Whilst that maybe a point of argument-- CONSERVATIVE, but it is completely inappropriate to make one area of town, one school pay the price-- that is just not right. The planning this district has made has only planned for more sprawl further and further from the core of the City. And, it needs to stop-- the budget crisis has only shown light onto the very poor planning that has been going on. And, it is very contentious to make the core of the city pay that price.
And, your answer still does not go toward answering that question-- is it fair for us to pay for these new schools with no care to repercussion to the existing school. Our "throw away" society has led us down this path....and it is not sustainable for the long run. I am confused by some talk about SONS budget as a band-aid that kicks the problem further..... I don't see that when I look it over. I think the district is responsible for creating that scenario.....

And, what the district has managed to do is split us all down the middle so that we are attacking one another.....they and the legislature are responsible for this mess. And we have to pay the price.

four11 4 years, 11 months ago

Also-- to that end --Conservative--- once again--- the district drew the lines that way--- so NY is forced to only have the number of students there....look at the map-- if boundaries were redrawn -- NY could take on more students and share the burden that way....the numbers could level out......

jackson5 4 years, 11 months ago

Commuter - you points about excess overhead are valid. However, the worst culprits are the high schools, not the elementary schools.

For example, FSHS has about 1000 students and 4 principals making $442,000 in salary and benefits. LHS has about 1000 students and 4 principals making $404,000 in salary and benefits. That works out to be one principal for every 250 HS students. The district's proposed school closings move the elementary schools towards one elementary principal for 400-550 K-6 students. Why is that principal/student ratio the goal for the elementary schools but not the jr and sr highs?

The same applies for clerical help - the high schools have a clerical ratio per pupil that currently exceeds that of the elementary schools. However, the proposed cuts fall more heavily on the elementary schools which will make the inequities between upper and lower schools' support even greater.

windex 4 years, 11 months ago

Blessed4x, Back in your day, we didn't have No Child Left Behind.

puckstah 4 years, 11 months ago

Planning???? Long -range planning that our district and SB have done? Where? They seem to be running amok with their own sense of planning - reactionary planning. At the public forum at Southwest Jr. High, Mr. Morgan suggested floating a bond in 2-3 years that would be for elementary schools.....REALLY? Where is this planning? Where is the community input for this? According to the School Board website "We represent YOU!" I don't think so...

Jon Jambor 4 years, 11 months ago

Drop all sports, arts and "social studies" programs. Concentrate on math, science, english and critical thinking.

Tracy Rogers 4 years, 11 months ago

Ya think maybe there's a few more discipline problems in the higher grades than the elementary grades? That's the main reason for more admin in the upper grades.

Tracy Rogers 4 years, 11 months ago

Not to mention all the supervisory duties that principals have in the upper grades. Typical workday for most is 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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