Letters to the Editor

Not broken

February 12, 2012

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To the editor:

As the deadline for the Central and East Lawrence Consolidation Working Group’s recommendation looms, neither the Lawrence school board nor the district administration has offered a clear explanation for why this exercise is necessary in the first place. For many reasons, the working group’s charge makes little sense:

• Research consistently shows that smaller elementary schools achieve better academic outcomes, particularly among low-income and at-risk students like those found in large numbers in east Lawrence.  

• The school board recently released $1.15 million from the district’s contingency fund. Even with this expenditure, $3.6 million will remain in the contingency fund at the end of June. Clearly, the school district is not in dire financial straits.

• While the current school funding formula rewards districts for building new facilities, school finance reform is currently a hotly contested issue in our state and the formula may change in the near future.

• Closing existing schools to build new facilities is financially and environmentally wasteful.

• According to the data provided by the RSP consulting group, school closures in east and central Lawrence will disrupt students throughout the district.

When members of the working group approached the school board for clarification on their task, they were told to “think beyond capacity issues … and find ways to meet the needs of all students in an equitable way with particular focus on student achievement.” What better way to equitably meet the educational needs of our community than by not “fixing” what isn’t broken?

Comments

EllaAsks 3 years, 2 months ago

AMEN, SISTER. What more needs to be said for the working group to agree with this? At next Monday's working group meeting, group after group should echo this, and state that their charge is not reasonable, feasible, or even applicable. The group has been extremely committed and done excellent work, but this is the only logical conclusion. Rally around this, working group members, no matter WHICH school you represent! The lunacy and false urgency of chopping elementary schools is over. Don't fear the fate of your school a few years down the road.The new board and the community as a whole are through with this divisive mantra. Stop building coaltions and using political and professional sway to preserve your own school, no matter the cost. Put an end to this group's charge. Then, and only then, can we put this "crisis" to rest and begin to have real and productive dialogue about how we can improve our schools to benefit all of our kids.

PJenkins 3 years, 2 months ago

I don't have kids in the school system, but I agree completely. Did anyone see the LJW article on home sales plumetting? Happened to be right below the mega realignment of elementary school boundaries the district's consultant RSP was laying out. It would have been fitting if the editors had drawn an arrow between the two articles. What's one of the first things you look at when a house is for sale? The school your children will attend. Should Lawrence put an asterisk by school attendance for the next ten+ years? This needs to be said. Many realtors I know say people are delaying buying until this is resolved. The consolidation group can take a bold step toward establishing solidarity and trust in the future of our neighborhoods by rejecting the charge to play out what consolidation might look like. It's vicious and "divisive" and should be snuffed out. Now.

KrampusLawrence 3 years, 2 months ago

It would be nice if the Journal World or Channel 6 actually reported RSP's finding. Unfortunately the report was buried by the administration and (some members') School Board's rallying cry to close schools.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

Excellent letter.

WE are USD 497 Stakeholders!

To maintain a superb system parents must remain active which means we cannot allow school boards to dictate what will be. As taxpayers we are also the most important stakeholders who elect school boards to carry out our wishes not the other way around.

Our founding fathers wanted to insure Democracy for our country. Benjamin Franklin created the public library, the purpose being no citizen will be secluded from public knowledge. He also founded the public school, the purpose being no citizen will be without a basic education.

Voters and taxpayers are the primary stakeholders no matter what. Always let the voters decide how reckless or not we wish to be.

Before spending or asking for additional tax dollars to build or repair buildings USD 497 best wait until they know what exactly is transpiring in Topeka. Our existing buildings can be rehabilitated over a 3-4 year period on current property tax dollars which is a respectful approach.

USD 497 taxpayers need to think of nurturing our teachers which has not been adequately addressed in some years. Some kind of a pay increase method may need to be a matter for consideration should the legislature open those doors.

Kookamooka 3 years, 2 months ago

Here, here! Larger schools result in overcrowding and overcrowding can result in negative behaviors. Nobody really wants this. Why do they keep coming at us?

classclown 3 years, 2 months ago

"Nobody really wants this. Why do they keep coming at us?"

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Because some other city has done it?

Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

USD 497 pays $1.73 million or $23,000 per acre for 75 acres of unimproved land. This is a bailout. Not only that if new housing gets under way nearby a new public school makes the housing worth more money. Can we say taxpayers got duped again?

Does anyone believe at this moment in time that unimproved land would bring $23,000 an acre? $1,000 per acre for school property would have been the right price. Duped again!

By donating East Heights to the Boys and Girls Club that was a sweet $7-$8 million donation plus USD 497 is still responsible for building maintenance according to the most recent budget. Yes USD 497 is not in dire straights but rollin in the dough.

Dan Eyler 3 years, 2 months ago

As a taxpayer, I refuse to pay up another penny for teachers or schools until some form of parents rights to use those tax dollars to decide for ourselves what and where is the best school for their kids and grand kids. That school can be private, public, religious or home school but to be convinced that only public schools have all the answers for educating our children is the real injustice. Education will improve when the public schools system is made to compete for the dollars. I am pretty certain that public schools will achieve smaller class sizes as hundred of parents move to a school of choice that promotes their values and the services they demand for their children. Many in the public schools are not searching for a better solution but a way to hold onto the dollars. Everyone knows that when public schools begin to compete for educational dollars we will see true improvement in our efforts of educating our kids. The public school system is like the post office, out of ideas, out of money, cutting work days, poor morale and ever so slowly withering on the vine regardless of how much money the government provides. The worst part is public schools really don't care and are not willing to launch the life boats to save the kids and crew. It's amazing that teachers don't understand economics 101. Public schools compete with no one and therefore they have no reason to improve in ways that will meet the educational needs of our children. Would the average teacher be satisfied if Lawrence only had a Sears store or do they also like having Kohls, Penny's, Target, Walmat, and Weavers to buy their work clothes? Would teachers be happy with only Dillons to shop for groceries or do they like the options and savings of Hy Vee, Checkers and Merc ads as well? Schools are no different. Sears is folding their tent because they cannot compete. There is no one size fit all industry and this includes schools. You can put all the lipstick you want on public schools, they will not improve until they learn to compete for taxpayer dollars and admit that public schools are not the only source of truth. What are you afraid of?

deec 3 years, 2 months ago

I think you are saying you are in favor of vouchers, publicly funded religious schools, and charter schools. Students in voucher and charter schools perform the same, or worse, than students in regular public schools. Funding religious schools violates the constitution.

kochmoney 3 years, 2 months ago

Except for the part where evidence says you're completely wrong on the idea of "competition" improving education. Public and private schools have similar outcomes when compared by socioeconomic status. Charters are more likely to do worse than they are to do better.

Oh and the part where you'd take my taxpayer money to pay for your religious education without open admission, accountability, and standards - which means government intrusion into your religious education, and neither of us actually wants that. Plus it's unconstitutional.

Go take your religious deification of free market to an ALEC meeting where it belongs.

Mike Myers 3 years, 2 months ago

Go ahead and not pay your taxes. Let's see how far that gets you. Why do you hate America?

Ragingbear 3 years, 2 months ago

hey i speel gusd finnne. Y u thunk no ed..ed..edu..book smrts so impor...impor...Vote Bush! Jesus, derpa derp!

Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

There is plenty of competition within the USD 497 or can we say plenty of choices within the school district. The district is usually aware of those families which have made other choices. Competing forces are no secret in the USD 497 district.

Public schools do not receive funding for the children that are enrolled elsewhere.

I will say that that in the past 10 years the USD 497 school board has been reckless in their spending and are guilty of NOT maintaining taxpayer owned property when the need arose. Seems like they chose to take the demolition by neglect path which makes me think some of the board members may also be slum lords.

Overall public education is a best bang for the buck under fiscally responsible management as well as academically inclined leadership. That which should include substantial involvement in the arts: music/dance/art and design/drama.

The school district certainly needs a Vo-Tech stand alone campus. After all the market for college grads is flooded with nowhere to go except deeper in debt. Developing a trade is quite valuable.

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