With Lawrence school district leaders at least discussing the possibility of a seeking approval for a future bond issue — members of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force are moving closer to recommending one — I noticed that at least one other district in the state is moving in the opposite direction.
In Wichita, district leaders actually are putting the brakes on a $370 million bond issue approved by voters back in 2008.
Blame the economy.
“This does not mean we are changing the bond plan at this time, but pausing so we can re-evaluate everything,” Wichita Superintendent John Allison said, as reported in The Wichita Eagle. “When you look at the economic aspects around which the board plan was considered, that’s changed dramatically.”
It certainly will be interesting to se how Lawrence leaders balance economic realities with future needs. Task force members have been meeting for months, coming up with ways to improve education within dwindling financial means.
Talk among task force members has included possibilities for consolidating schools into new ones, and making major upgrades to others.
Whether such plans gain support from the Lawrence school board, and then, ultimately, from district voters, remains to be seen.
A consortium of more than 270 private colleges and universities has outlined changes — and their tax implications — to some popular vehicles for college savings.
The organization, called the Tuition Plan Consortium, is a not-for-profit organization financed by participating schools and managed by a subsidiary of OppenheimerFunds Inc.
According to the consortium, here are applicable changes to the Economic Growth Tax Relief Recognition Act, listed by topic or program:
• Coverdell Education Savings Account extension. This savings plan, sometimes known as the IRA for education, can be used for higher education as well as elementary and secondary education. Benefits set to expire at the end of 2010 are now extended through 2012. These benefits include a $2,000 annual contribution limit, the ability to include elementary and secondary school education as qualified expenses, and the option to take tax-free distributions from the account and claim an education tax credit in the same year.
• Limiting “Qualified Technology Expenses” for 529 plans. Before the 2011 changes, computers, other similar technologies and Internet access were considered qualified expenses for 529 plans. The new rules no longer allow those expenses to be funded by a 529 account without penalty. However, if a college requires students to have a computer in order to attend, technology will be included as a qualified expense. It pays to double check.
• Estate-tax exclusion now reinstated. For 2011 and 2012, the estate-tax exclusion will increase to $5 million or $10 million for a couple, giving wealthier parents and grandparents additional motivation to help boost college savings accounts since contributions can now reach up to the $65,000 allotted annual gift-tax exclusion amount.
A certain greetings card company with major operations in Lawrence is rolling out a new card service, with designs on capturing more of the market for classroom Valentines.
Hallmark Inc. says it has expanded its Personalized Greetings Collection to include “Customizable Classroom Valentines.”
“Valentine’s Day is about celebrating all types of love, not just romantic love, so Hallmark is excited to share a product that can help Moms cross one more thing off their to-do list while enjoying the moment with their kids,” said Camille Lauer, Hallmark innovation leader. “In turn, kids can celebrate the holiday with cards that have their personal touch.”
I’m not saying they’re the way to go, but — if nothing else — it’s fun to sneak a peek at the potential offerings. And going with custom cards certainly is more pricey than opting for more generic SpongeBob, Phineas and Ferb or other popular character-driven Valentines.
— The First Bell e-mailbox is always open: firstname.lastname@example.org.