Archive for Tuesday, January 12, 2010

School options

January 12, 2010


To the editor:

My child attends Cordley Elementary School and I’m writing regarding the recent talk of school closings. Before a school is closed, every other pocket of money needs to be examined to find creative means of filling the $4 million deficit. While the recession and budget crises are temporary, closing a school will have a permanent impact on Lawrence and the neighborhoods surrounding that school.

I understand some of the older buildings need updates. Capital outlay funds are available for such updates. Deferred maintenance costs can’t be used as a reason for closing any of Lawrence’s elementary schools.

Lawrence only has neighborhood schools. The people who live here, particularly on the east side (according to Dr. Doll anything east of Sunset Hill), like the idea that their children attend smaller schools within walking distance from home. East Lawrence schools are serving the very population the school board claims as their No. 1 priority outlined in the district’s goals: “Raise achievement for all students while closing the achievement gaps.” The evidence is clear: That is what the smaller “east” side schools are succeeding at.

This is a burden that should be carried by the entire community, not just residents east of Iowa street. I understand teachers and administrators will be terminated no matter what decision is made. I understand that redrawing the boundary lines (in conjunction with increasing class size and, yes, laying off teachers) may not be popular, but isn’t it better than closing a school? Lawrence is one community.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

According to USD 497 the budget is for $5,500,000 dollars a month or $66,000,000 a year or thereabouts.

November 30, 2009

FROM: Dale M. Dennis, Deputy Commissioner of Education

SUBEJCT: Base State Aid Per Pupil Comparison

We have been requested to provide a computer printout (SF0015) which compares the computed general fund budget based on a base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) of: $4,400 (same as 2008-09); $4,218 (amount upon which USD budgets were adopted for 2009-10 school year); and $4,012 (BSAPP following allotments).

As of a November 2009 PDF file: The state will be providing somewhere between $68,893,880($4400 per student),$66,556,666($4218 per student) or $63,910,759($4,012 per student).

$4400 per student is what the state should be furnishing.

USD 497 has $7,000,000 in at least on of the their "stash" contingency funds. In reality using the low number number $63,910,759 USD 497 may only need to pull approximately $2.1 million from their contingency fund of $7 million to cover the school year. According to numbers contained in the PDF file down loaded from the state.

As I see it in reality there is no need to shut down any school this year. The problem is a temporary situation. AND the courts may well order the state to cover the court ordered per pupil amount which I believe is $4400 = $68,893,880.

The State of Kansas also has a rather large set of contingency funds it could pull from if ordered to do so by the courts.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

Contrary to popular belief children are not invincible and will be impacted by this move.

Property owners in the area will lose 10% of property value by this decision according to Kirk McClure. Property owners cannot afford this, the city and county cannot afford to lose the property tax dollars and obviously USD 497 cannot afford to lose tax dollar revenue.

Who is Kirk McClure?

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973.

Other thoughts:

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

USD 497 needs a long term solution to maintain the image of USD 497. Closing schools and enlarging class size will not do that.

Here is one solution:

Teacher Salary Support

The average cost of educating our USD 497 children is averaged by overall cost divided by total number of students.

Langston Hughes is bursting at the seams so I'm told and maybe so is Deerfield …still.

Just maybe some of those parents would not mind having their children taught at New York School? Or children from any one of the existing schools could choose New York School?

And USD 497 should put that expensive piece of property back on the market that was just purchased for $1.76 million(more than $22,000 an acre). That was not a smart buy and our existing buildings need rehab work. That money would be better spent on existing buildings.

Kookamooka 8 years, 5 months ago

Trim the fat at the top! No school district (unless you have 30K kids like Olathe) should have TWO Human Resource directors, one for classified and one for certified. I know districts that did away with their H.R. Dept completely to save money. That doesn't hurt the students in any way. And shouldn't the FIRST goal be to not hurt the students?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

USD 497 is receiving more than $6,000 per student by way of Topeka.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 5 months ago

Well my child does NOT attend Cordley Elementary School, and neither do 95% of other families' kids. We should not allow a recalcitrant minority to dictate important budget decisions, especially in a time of fiscal crisis.

And the not-so-subtle class warfare reference, "This is a burden that should be carried by the entire community, not just residents east of Iowa street," is pathetic.

jafs 8 years, 5 months ago

How about they simply close the school your children attend instead, STRS?

It seems as if you don't have a problem with one area of the city bearing the burden.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 5 months ago


If it's the fiscally responsible and necessary thing to do, by all means. The decision to close Cordley is not based on East vs. West. It's a matter of per pupil expenditures and building costs.

weeslicket 8 years, 5 months ago

i have no idea how all this will turn out. the school board will do whatever the hell it wants to.

however, i do think it's disingenuous of these folks to say the cost per pupil is driving the decision making.
since cordley is the example in this letter, it may suprise some readers that cordley is actually smack in the middle of per/cost measures for elementary schools in town.

i also think the board has been disingenuous in they have made no effort to build/renovate the very schools they are discussing for closing.
if they wanted elementaries of a certain "more efficient" size, then why haven't they built the needed classrooms on these existing sites. they had money for 4 new ballfields, and are looking to purchase more land (to the west?), but can't build the schools they say they want in central, east and north lawrence.

very poor leadership for a very long time at usd497.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

Merrill- Do you have any work information on Kirk McClure?? Has he worked anywhere outside of a university? It would be nice to know.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 5 months ago

Here's a question about Kirk that I'd like to know: does he do his political work using his state resources (ie: phone, computer, email account)? It would be a terrible thing if someone was violating state law and wasting our tax dollars by using state resources to inject himself into local politics.

Laurie L Folsom 8 years, 5 months ago

gl0ck0wner: While I don't necessarily agree that we HAVE to keep all of our current elementary schools, having a knowledgeable academic share his expertise is NOT political. Just because someone earns a paycheck from the state doesn't mean their opinions are strictly political. Sounds like a way to silence someone who makes a point you don't like. Who WOULD you like to hear from? Other than yourself that is.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

I am not trying to silence Kirk McClure I want to know more about his experience. Understanding his experience will help me evaluate what he is stating.

Laurie L Folsom 8 years, 5 months ago

As I said I was referring to gl0ck0wner's post.

letsgetwise 8 years, 5 months ago

strs- I have so many times agreed with your opinion, I was surprised at your responses on here. There really should be more to this decision than cost per pupil. Having a neighborhood school (if at all possible) I believe is a complete benefit to everyone. If kids can be educated, and a small setting is amazing, and believe they are worth something to the community then they're going to be better citizens and want to put something back into the community when they're adults. I'm not talking all the politically correct diatribe out there, I'm just saying the kids' future lives are more than cost per pupil. We must live within a budget, my household certainly does, but if one of my children is needing help (lets say health-wise) and it takes money out of my budget, all of us have to adjust somewhat for that child's welfare. If as a school district we are the parent (so to speak) then sometimes all of us "family" need to readjust to help one member out. Now, I know that oversimplifies much, and I'm truly not pulling at heartstrings, but come on...your kids don't go there, so you have no responsibility? My kids don't go there either, and I can see why parents would be asking for different solutions.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 5 months ago

If they close Cordley and New York, that leaves Kennedy and Prairie Park for the East side kids. Those 2 schools are pretty close to each other but pretty far away from most of the east side. I'm already heartbroken that they closed East Heights a few years ago. As a former Edgewood resident, I remember how lucky I felt to have that grade school close enough for the kids to walk. I watch a lady who walks from there to Kennedy every morning with her small one and it breaks my heart that a 1st grader would have to walk that far in this cold. Her mother has no other options.

BadLlama 8 years, 5 months ago

The previous lawsuit against the state took years to come about. Doesn't matter if the schools take the state to court again because A.) the state has no money (hence why taxes are going up); and B.) even if the state had money, the case will spend years wrapped up in legal issues. Any verdict declaring the "unfunding" unconstitutional wouldn't help for a number of years.

This is not a "short term" problem. Schools are already bare-bones across the state and many will have to consolidate. There are some districts in western KS that have one school district (with one elementary school and one middle/high school) per county--and will STILL have to consolidate across county lines. These are communities that are literally centered around the schools, and closures of these schools many times will mean the decline of the entire city. Imagine having one elementary school, one middle/high school for two or three counties. Lawrence is not the only city with this problem--it's everywhere. Lawrence does not have it as bad as some other places do. Everyone is closing schools, everyone is suffering.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 5 months ago

"vvmama (Anonymous) says…gl0ck0wner: While I don't necessarily agree that we HAVE to keep all of our current elementary schools, having a knowledgeable academic share his expertise is NOT political."

So you believe Kirk is a disinterested party without a political agenda? It sure seems like that isn't the case.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

I am disappointed. Has anyone who wants to keep the smaller schools open stated they will pay more in taxes for this??

McClure, Merrill, any of the parents??

mr_right_wing 8 years, 5 months ago

it seems like every time there's a need for any athletics they have a bake sale, a car wash, etc. Why not do that for your particular school? If you had mobilized people quickly you could have gone around shoveling snow to raise $$$ for your school! The tax money just isn't there so you guys are going to have to get creative!

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

The most recent input for athletics was approximately $20 million USD tax dollars in 2008-2009.

When is the last time that type of effort was placed in curriculum update/development?

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 5 months ago

"merrill (Anonymous) says… blah blah athletics blah blah"

Merrill: how many unfortunate children of yours attend Lawrence school district schools?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

It doesn't matter whether or not my children or anybody's children attend public schools.

The fact that my tax dollars do help fund public schools which I consider a best bang for the tax buck is what matters. Would I pay a sales tax that supports teaching salaries and reducing school fees? Absolutely.

Education pays back the tax payers.

Two of our children did attend USD 497 public schools during their high school years.

Our oldest did good and is a graduate the Kansas City Art Institute. Had intern employment before graduating and was hired full time upon graduation

Our second oldest is still in college. All of children are excellent students.

As a tax dollar savings to taxpayers all new housing developments should come with land for schools,parks and fire departments provided by the developers. Why? Because developers are creating the need not me the taxpayers. Schools,parks and fire departments help sell homes thus large profits(homes never pay back the taxpayers).

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