Archive for Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Funding woes could mean tough choices for school district

March 6, 2002

Regardless of what decision the Kansas Legislature makes regarding education funding, local educators will have tough choices to make when planning for the next school year.

In the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville School District that could mean cutting as many as eight teaching positions.

The cuts would be necessary because the Bonner Springs School District could lose as much as $400,000 in state funding because of decreasing enrollment

Although the situation isn't expected to be as serious in the Basehor-Linwood School District, educators are concerned because there has been no indication on what the Legislature's decision will be.

In recent months, the Legislature has considered many options dealing with school district funding.

Previous proposals have included decreasing per student funding by $158 per student, increasing funding per student by $20 or standing pat with the current $3,780 per student tag.

It appears that anything less than an increase in student funding could have consequences for the Basehor-Linwood School District.

"If we stay put where we are, we're still cutting into the quality of programs," said Cal Cormack, Basehor-Linwood School District superintendent. "If we don't get new money, we're going to have to cut programs anyway."

Cormack said an increase in utilities as well as a 12 percent rise in teacher health insurance would cost the school district more money than the previous year.

The rise in health insurance alone will cost the school district approximately $52,000, Cormack said.

"As the budget tightens up, we would be unable to do quality things," he said.

"We could opt for a higher pupil- teacher ratio," he added.

In most cases, the school district prefers to keep class sizes under 30 per classroom.

That line of thinking is already being tested at Basehor-Linwood High School, where another math teacher is needed to help keep class sizes small.

Adding that need to the need for another music and reading teacher equals a tough decision for administrators.

"That's the dilemma," Cormack said.

A potential decrease in funding or staying put at the current per pupil price is just as dire when considering the new students the school district is expected to receive.

According to school district figures, there are upward of 1,000 new students expected to enroll in Basehor-Linwood schools in the coming years.

These students would live in homes currently being developed or homes that are expected to be developed in the future.

Should those students enroll in Basehor-Linwood schools, new facilities would have to be built, meaning the school district would have to push for a bond issue to gain funding from the public.

The state would pay only 30 percent of the building costs, school district officials said.

Also adding to the funding woes is that the school district is already at a 25 percent Local Option Budget, the highest percentage allowed under state law.

All told, there are many administrators and educators keeping close tabs on the legislative sessions in Topeka.

"The perception is that we would have to cut out frills," Cormack said. "They're not frills; they're real concrete programs that have an impact on the educational experience."

Cormack pointed out the Basehor-Linwood School District is not in as bad a shape as some other districts but the problem persists regardless.

"It's more serious than the public believes," he said. "This could impact schools in a significant way."

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