Letters to the Editor

School support

January 13, 2010


To the editor:

When my daughter was in school at New York Elementary 15 years ago, the principal came to me and said the wooden school sign needed to be replaced. Could I put in a stone sign? We put a stone in place, and every morning, I’d walk my child to school and carry my mallet and chisels and I’d carve on the stone for 15 to 20 minutes. It was decided that the date that the school began should be on the sign. I went to the history museum and learned that the school was the second school established in Lawrence in 1869.

In those years, we fought for our school and won. The battle to keep was not waged only by the East Lawrence Neighborhood, but by the community as a whole. I can assure you that in 1869, there were budget crises, just as there were in the 1990s, just as there are now, just as there will be 15 years from now, 50 years from now. The importance of neighborhood schools was evident to our founders and does not change.

I implore every person in Lawrence to come to the support of every school in our city and, at this critical time, when the money-counters point fingers at the bottom line, we say, as a people, our neighborhood schools are who we are. There is no bottom line to define that. We stand together and give the support that each school needs and we strengthen our neighborhoods, rich or poor alike. This is who we are.


SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Ramberg's attempt to inspire.

Sorry, but those villainous "money-counters" require a more objective analysis, and they should not be swayed by those anchored to sentimentality and nostalgia. To do the right thing, even when unpopular, is what we expect from our government in times of fiscal crisis.

forreal 8 years, 5 months ago

STRS, what the letter seems to be asking is just the same thing you suggest, "do the right thing". It seems to me after reading the research on the efficiency neighborhood schools brings to the lower SES students, that the right thing is for the money-counters to continue to invest in these buildings. Perhaps, when the newer schools were built out west, and they moved the district boundaries just a little further west to appease the money counters they should have had the foresight to see that they would have to pay for it in the future. Well, now is the time. So, in your quest for practical and unsentimental choices, I think you can agree that keeping all schools open is the best choice for Lawrence at this time. There are other ways to close the deficit AND maintain all the successful schools in the city. I challenge your superb ananlysis on this topic to think of some better solutions.

four11 8 years, 5 months ago

Karl is not being sentimental as you say. He is eloquently pointing out that when something is needed in this community- the creative citizens of Lawrence make it happen! AND- that is what we need right now--- more people committed to EVERY SCHOOL-- at the grassroots level to come up with solutions and sacrifices to this crisis. The right thing isn't to slash and burn what we have-- the RIGHT thing is for us all to contribute to the solution---so that every child can go to his/her neighborhood school.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 5 months ago

Thank you four11, My feelings exactly! My grandkids are at Prairie Park but I'd hate to see another elementary school closed. Education is the ONLY way out of poverty. No closed schools!!!

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 5 months ago


First of all, you and I are taxpayers, so we're the real money counters. I don't want my sales taxes increased by a full percentage point - as has been proposed. Property taxes are already sky high, so that's a bad option. Let's agree that increasing taxes when unemployment is north of 10% is the last thing we want to do. Besides, the government already takes enough of our treasure.

Also, given the quality of instruction at all Lawrence elementary schools, the slightly longer walk to the next closest schools might not be good for shoe leather, but it will help the state's budget for years and years and years to come. That's why I stand by my earlier comment; given low enrollments and high staff expenditures at some Lawrence elementary schools, consolidation is a reasonable consideration, even in good economic times.

Given the numbers, I do not think keeping every school open makes sense.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 5 months ago

" slightly longer walk"? Are you for real? I'd like to see you walk from 9th and New York to Kennedy or Prairie Park. Those will be the only schools left on the east side if they close New York. And would you be able to walk a group of 5-year-olds also?Not everyone can afford to pay for the school buses and even fewer qualify for the free ride. Got any solutions?

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 5 months ago

The $840,00 spent per year (just on salaries) at Kennedy would go a long, long way toward that problem. And there are plenty of rural and suburban kids who travel much further to their elementary schools.

Our schoold district does not have luxury maintaining the status quo.

majiktami 8 years, 5 months ago

one solution that I have heard is re-drawing the boundaries. There will need to be another school built, on the west side, within a few years. Right now the west side schools are bursting at the seams. Re-drawing boundaries would lighten the load on the west side schools, and increase the population in the east side schools. Increasing class size saves money on the east side, and reducing class size on the west side is sure to help the teachers and students. maximize what we have!

four11 8 years, 5 months ago

It is not the "fault" of New York school that is has low enrollment-- that happens because those with the power made sure it happened--by creating more schools further and further West without taking into consideration filling the existing schools. This neighborhood should not have to pay for that "mistake" or "planned obsolescence" !!!! I have heard from parents whom have tried to get a transfer to New York from the overcrowded Deerfield--only to be denied!

I am disgusted by the turning of a blind eye on the existing neighborhoods for the new and shiny--sure it is wonderful and I am glad these west Lawrence kids have a neighborhood school,
cut administrative costs, cut full time principals to part time principals, lower the athletics budget, come up with some creative ideas people.
STOP asking us to believe this garbage of charts about how much it costs to educate a child at NEW York School--- doesn't matter how you spin it--- the data may be there---but, you can make a case against anything---WHAT CAN WE DO TO FIX IT!!!! WHAT KIND OF SACRIFICE CAN WE ALL MAKE??????

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

What kind of sacrifice can we make?? My children went to a smaller school here in Lawrence and it was shut down- probally the best thing for my kids. They had more opportunity, the teachers were able to do challenge them more, and the kids in their classes were challenging them.

Remember kids can adapt. Maybe it is the parents are having too hard of a time adapting. It would be great to be able to wlak to a neighborhood school but sometimes life is not fair and is great in theory. Communism is great in theory but people screw it up.

I listen to parents and other peoples comments and there were very few people who gave the board and administration ideas. It would be refreshing if any of the people who spoke out for keeping New York and Cordley open would have stated they would pay more themselves to keep it open.

GardenMomma 8 years, 5 months ago

Now that's an interesting concept, to redraw the boundaries so that the west side schools have population shifted to the east.

I wonder if the board looked into that?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

At one meeting it was said that larger Lawrence schools cost about $3800 to educate each student. Whereas one smaller east side schools cost about $6000. USD 497 has been receiving more than $6000 per student by way of Topeka.

Apparently larger schools are not spending the money provided to educate those students which provides about a $2200 surplusX300 Langston Hughes students = $660,000 surplus. Moving those surplus funds to 125 New York School students provides another $5,280 per student which in reality reduces the cost of educating New York Students to $800.

Again in reality USD 497 receives $6000 per Student no matter how many students are in what school. USD 497 receives $750,000 annually to operate New York School for 125 students. Teachers are likely being paid $29,000 to $40,000 a year ….. not a great deal of money.

There is no way USD 497 is losing money. Lawrence is not losing money because New York School has the ultimate class size for so called lower income at risk neighborhoods.

Also bear in mind USD 497 has been encouraging retirement of tenured teaching staff over the past several years thus reducing the cost of operation substantially.

Want to raise money? Sell the extravagant USD 497 admin building? A real estate deal that never should have happened.

Sell the admin building to help offset the cost of running all of the new athletic facilities. How much does that increase the cost of operations?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

Here is a possible tool to save the day. USD 497 needs to be thinking long term until the Kansas legislature does a 180.

Would you favor a sales tax increase to provide more money for Lawrence teacher salaries? 80% of 5,198 participants said yes! This number 5,198 is an extremely high response for any JW poll.

Why not organize around saving teacher salaries and the quality of USD 497? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2003/mar/teacher_salaries/

This and boundaries are two very good solutions.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

Redrawing boundaries is a good start. The district has a boundary committee and I bet that most of those people do not have the balls to totally redraw the boundaries.

A couple of years ago, i know someone who was on the committee. Her sole purpose for being on the committee was to change the boundary so her kids don't have to go to Central but go to West.

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