Archive for Monday, May 7, 2012

School priorities

The Lawrence school district’s willingness to dip into its savings to fund other programs undercuts its contention that it must put off considering teachers’ salary proposals.

May 7, 2012


Did the Lawrence school district think its teachers weren’t paying attention when the school board voted on April 22 to spend about $2 million to add teachers and programs?

Just two weeks later, the district’s negotiator told teachers that the district couldn’t possibly discuss teacher compensation packages until it knew how much state funding it would receive this year.

What’s wrong with this picture? School board members didn’t think it was necessary to see what the state funding picture would be before committing to large budget increases for staff and programs, including the extension of full-day kindergarten and the addition of 21 teachers to reduce class sizes. But now they are telling teacher negotiators they have to wait for state funding decisions before considering possible teacher raises.

The fact that board members were willing to use money the district had accumulated in its cash reserves on additional programs and teachers more or less confirms the contention of the Lawrence Education Association negotiators that the district has money to spend on increased teacher salaries. Many funds held by school districts are restricted for specific uses, but it seems that at least some of the money being directed to hiring 21 new teachers could be directed to salary increases, if that were the board’s priority.

The overall funding picture for schools in Kansas is uncertain and relatively bleak. In fact, Superintendent Rick Doll warned board members that current state funding levels would make it impossible to sustain the addition of programs and teachers for more than two or three years.

Lowering class sizes and extending full-day kindergarten to the entire district certainly are positive moves. Perhaps using some of the district’s savings to kick-start those programs now will make them easier to sustain financially later on.

It also is vital that the district have a strong corps of teachers who are paid well enough to want to stay in their jobs. If the district doesn’t feel it can commit to a long-term salary increase, local teachers already have suggested the idea of one-time bonuses that wouldn’t add to the salary base.

Even under the best circumstances, the district probably can’t afford to spend $3 million to fully fund the teachers’ initial salary request. Nonetheless, as the district allocates funds for various program and staff changes, it needs to make sure that teacher salaries are a continuing priority.


4getabouit 1 year, 11 months ago

Dave "Koch" Trabert. The Big Woopee Cushion! All hot air.


weiser 1 year, 11 months ago

Just give the kids a diploma, then buy them a house.


Dave Trabert 1 year, 11 months ago

FYI, USD 497 has one of the largest cash reserve buildups in the state, having gone from $5.3 million in 2005 to $33.1 million last July. Those numbers do not include cash set aside for capital projects, debt service or in federal funds.

Details on carryover cash reserves for USD 497 and all other districts can be read and downloaded at You can also see that their Current Operating Ratio (cash in current operating reserve accounts divided by that year's current operating costs) grew from 6.4% for the 2006 year to 28.7% for 2011. It is likely even higher for 2012. FYI, this data is only available on KansasOpenGov.


tbaker 1 year, 11 months ago

Before anyone gets in a big hurry to have government take more money from citizens to spend on "education? perhaps some simple research and analysis needs to be done by the school board. How about a nice briefing illustrating what a great job additional funding would do raising test scores? Lowering the appalling drop-out rate? Increasing the number of 9th graders that actually graduate on time? Did they illustrate how current per-student costs are producing equal to or greater than academic performance found in similar measures of private school performance? Did they provide a single performance metric to justify additional funding?

Of course not.

All anyone has to do is a brief examination of per-student funding over the last 40 years and compare that to graduation rates and academic performance. You'll quickly see that on a per-student basis, funding for public schools has steadily increased, while acedemic performance has steadily decreased.

The most recent NAEP assessments indicate that less than one third of U.S. fourth graders are proficient in reading, mathematics, science, and American History.

•More than half of low income students cannot even demonstrate basic knowledge of science, reading, and history. •U.S. eighth graders ranked 19th out of 38 countries on mathematic assessments and 18th in science. •U.S. twelfth graders ranked 18th out of 21 countries in combined mathematics and science assessments.

Public schools should stand or fall on performance, or the tax payers should be given the option to take their tax money and spend it on sending their children to a private school that out-performs the public school they are currently forced to use. After all it is about the children, not the politicians or the teachers union.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Never vote republican again. it's best for USA economics,your retirement program,public education,higher education and jobs.

The problem: republicans have been eliminated from the party by the likes of Brownback and his money supplies such as:


Michael LoBurgio 1 year, 11 months ago

How Much Will Brownback’s Tax Plan Cost You?

Governor Brownback is missing the point. If he wanted to cut taxes for EVERY Kansan he would be pushing for property tax relief.

But he doesn’t want to cut your taxes. His idea of a tax cut will actually cause your tax bill to go up.

And it comes at the expense of the schools that you and families in your community depend on. It puts even more of our most vulnerable at risk. It means state workers won’t see a decent paycheck any time soon.

Contact your legislator today and tell them to support tax relief for ALL Kansans. Tell them to focus on property tax relief, and to forget about Brownback’s income tax cuts that will cost most Kansans more than they pay today.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Where was the author when $20 million USD 497 tax dollars was being blown on PLAY instead of maintaining taxpayer owned property aka school buildings?

And this:

To the editor:

School Priorities

Let me get this right. The Lawrence school district approved funds for two sports stadiums to be built ($400,000 each) and yet Superintendent Rick Doll discusses teachers not having items they need (Journal-World, page 1A, Oct. 19)? What’s wrong with this picture?

I assumed children went to school to be educated, not to play sports in luxurious facilities. After reading Chuck Woodling’s description of the Free State facilities in his Oct. 20 column, I was disappointed. I understand some of the funds for Free State came from a private donor. Fine. But to me it seems like it’s a matter of “keeping up the with Joneses” and perpetuating a misconception of what is really important in life.

I know sports are important to a lot of kids. Playing a sport does benefit our youths in several ways. Realistically, how many kids are going to play sports professionally? Or even in college? Yet every child needs a solid education. To my way of thinking, the priorities are turned around. It’s quite unsettling.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Another method that could be employed would be to stop voting republicans into office! They have long long long term history of NOT supporting public education. Easily documented.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

How many ways are at the disposal of USD 497 to make the existing elementary school buildings solve our problems? Save $3 million on bussing? USD 497 budgets $4-4.5 million to bus students.

Yes USD 497 budgets $4-4.5 million to bus students. The district is charged at a daily rate depending on how many students use the transportation.

Would parents be willing to find other means for getting students to school IF it meant keeping all the schools open,teachers employed and retaining important subject matter/programs?

Think car pooling,family members, The T ,walking and biking etc etc etc.

USD 497 said it needed $3 million in 2011. Are WE USD 497 taxpayers willing to come up with $3 million? Laying off teachers is not the answer.

Public school students use the T as we speak. Can the T provide service to some parents for less money? How many ways can the T assist USD 497 parents.

IF 75% of students were no longer bussed: 75% of $4,000,000 = $3,000,000 (million)

75% of $4,500,000 = $3,375,000

This bus service was not put out for bid to the best of my knowledge. Although the numbers were compared to what other districts were paying. Is this the best we can do?

USD 497 must assume that Brownback will reduce spending on public schools in favor of vouchers supporting “religious” private schools.

Saving three million dollars annually on bus service may be necessary


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 11 months ago

? what is this all about? could it be stated in 3 sentences?


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