The Lawrence school board president says it’s unlikely board members will reopen talks of closing schools if the district has to consider deeper budget cuts for next school year.
“I think it would be far more productive and better for the long-term health of our community, of our schools and most importantly of our kids, if we stick to that idea of having a task force where we can discuss what we want our facilities to look like,” Scott Morgan, the board president, said Monday.
Kennedy School Forum
As part of the recent cuts, Lawrence school board members voted to move the Early Childhood Family Center from East Heights, 15th Street and Haskell Avenue, to Kennedy School, 1605 Davis Road. A total of 130 half- and full-time students attend the early childhood program.
Administrators are considering a boundary change that would move students who live in the northern part of Kennedy’s district into New York School, 936 N.Y., as a way to accommodate the increase in students at Kennedy.
Board members have been invited to participate in a public forum about the impending changes at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Kennedy’s gymnasium.
Two weeks ago, board members agreed to cut $4.6 million for next school year without closing any elementary schools. They did opt to close the East Heights Early Childhood Family Center and move those pre-kindergarten programs into Kennedy School.
Board members agreed to appoint a community task force to study the district’s older and smaller elementary school buildings in case the district has to make more cuts for 2010-2011.
Jessica Beeson, a member of Save Our Neighborhood Schools, said one of the selling points of Morgan’s compromise was that the district and community would spend more time studying and planning the makeup of the district. Board members are also considering whether to move ninth-grade students up to high schools and sixth-graders into schools with seventh- and eighth-graders.
“We’d like to come a long way together by then,” Beeson said.
Board members have warned the district might need to make deeper cuts than $4.6 million if the Legislature doesn’t pass a tax increase.
House Republican leaders presented a plan last week that would short the Lawrence district another $1.68 million, but proponents said the bill would allow districts like Lawrence to raise local property taxes to add revenue.
Morgan said if Lawrence faced an additional $1.68 million in cuts, board members would likely look at cutting more teaching jobs and deeper into student support services.
He said he did not support the House plan, but if it was approved, Lawrence would need to enact a 5-mill increase for next year to keep from cutting deeper. He also said the plan raises questions about equity in school funding across the state after Kansas went through a major school finance lawsuit in the last decade.
A mill is $1 in property taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. For a $200,000 home, an increase of 5 mills would mean about $115 in new taxes.