Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2007

Schools, commissioners clash on payment plan

Neither side wants to pay for the continuation of successful truancy-reduction program

September 13, 2007

Leavenworth County and public school superintendents in the county continue to bicker over how to pay for the truancy-reduction program.

County commissioners on Thursday met with Juvenile Services Director Bob Doyle to discuss future funding for the program.

The program has been funded by a federal Title V grant and subsidized by matching funds from the county. The third and final year of the grant begins in October.

Doyle said the amount needed for the 2007-2008 school year is $45,300, but it hasn't been decided if the county or the five area school districts should pay.

Doyle told commissioners he was awaiting response from all of the five school superintendents besides Tonganoxie after the commission sent letters dated May 17 and Aug. 1 requesting "that the districts take over the cost to maintain the program."

He submitted a breakdown of what each school district's share of the cost would be based on enrollment population and usage.

The Lansing school district, which has had the highest usage with 90 students involved in the program since 2005, would be responsible for $16,308. Basehor-Linwood USD 458 would pay $9,966; Easton USD 449 would pay $9,060; Tonganoxie USD 464 would pay $6,795 and Leavenworth USD 453, which has a truancy officer and only refers a few students to the program, would pay $3,171.

Despite requests for payment, the commissioners and local superintendents still disagreed on who was actually responsible for the program.

"The legal responsibility lies with the schools and the school boards," Commissioner Clyde Graeber said. "It's not our (the county's) problem."

Contacted Monday, Lansing Superintendent Randal Bagby said, "There is no statutory authority for school districts to do that. : By statute, the county is the one responsible for truancy issues."

According to Kansas state statute, schools are required to inform the courts when a student has had six or more unexcused absences, Doyle said.

He said the program has led to a 97 percent increase in homework completion and a dramatic decline in absences.

In a May 17 meeting, Doyle explained that the program he crafted is more preventative than punitive.

"I think it's valid enough to be carried on."

Graeber agreed the program was "absolutely outstanding."

"It is something to really be proud of," he said. "That's why I don't understand why the school boards won't do what's mandated, apparently, by state law."

Tellefson emphasized the school districts' capability of paying for the program.

"We got beat up for our (the county's) mill levy," Tellefson added. "Our mill levy's at 28; some of the school district's are at 48, 53 mills."

Bagby acknowledged the program contributes positively to area school districts.

"They do good work. : If we could find the money," he said, but added, "There's lots of good causes to throw money at out there, but our budget's pretty tight and is governed by statutes."

Bagby said they'd have to do something cooperatively.

Tellefson acknowledged the county had some responsibility to continue the program.

"When it is to the benefit of our community, it's partially our responsibility," he said. "I'm willing to contribute to this endeavor, but : (the school districts lack of response) tells me that they don't really care about it at all."

Doyle said he would continue to pursue funding for the truancy reduction meeting at a superintendents meeting scheduled for later this month.

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