District: Vocalize concern for change
With the Basehor-Linwood School District 2009-2010 budget already affected to the tune of about $1 million and possibly another $900,000 by Gov. Mark Parkinson's public education cuts, Superintendent David Howard is urging community members to speak out.
At Monday night’s USD 458 Board of Education meeting, Howard told the board and audience the state might be cutting an additional $300 from base state aid, which would bring the aid per pupil to a little more than $3,700. The $300 decrease would cut Basehor-Linwood’s 2010-2011 budget by approximately $906,120. Such a base state aid amount had not been seen in the last 20 years, Howard said.
From his discussions with a few Kansas senators and representatives, Howard said he gathered legislators were receiving little feedback from constituents regarding budget cuts, particularly those affecting public education.
“They’re saying their issue is ‘We’re not hearing from people, so evidently it’s not painful enough,’” Howard said.
Howard told the board members and audience members to write local legislators to start positive discussions about combating or reversing damage done by the cuts made thus far.
“E-mail is not as effective as a handwritten or typed letter,” Howard said. “We need to try to get the public engaged because this is not good.”
To plan for probable future cuts, Howard said he wanted to form a committee in the coming months that would be comprised of staff, faculty and board members. The committee would formulate ways to offset losses.
Other superintendents in the area are also trying to prepare for more budget cuts, Howard said, looking at the possibility of eliminating seventh- and eighth-grade athletics, along with some bus routes and elementary art classes.
“I hate to even say this, but increasing class sizes is also being discussed,” Howard said.
Among Howard’s frustrations with the budget crisis, he said, is the state’s lack of strategies to increase revenue.
“There seems to be a real feeling out there, in fact I spoke with one legislator who said you can’t raise taxes in a recession,” Howard said. “But then I said back, ‘Well, when is a good time to raise taxes? You don’t want to raise taxes when the economy is good, you don’t want to raise taxes when it’s bad. Nobody wants to pay more taxes, however people still want services.”
Also on Monday night, the board:
• Discussed taking donations through the Basehor-Linwood Education Foundation for the district’s health and wellness facility.
• Heard an ACT update from Basehor-Linwood High School Principal Sherry Reeves. From 2005 to 2009, the high school’s students had composite scores ranging from 20.6 to 21.5, and had a range of scores from 19.9 to 21.2 in English, from 19.8 to 20.9 in math, from 21.1 to 22.1 in reading and from 21.3 to 21.3 in science. The state composite scores during those years ranged from 21.7 to 21.9. Reeves said she and the high school staff and faculty were formulating ideas on how to improve those scores.
• Presented the high school’s new driver’s education curriculum for a first reading.
• Presented a policy that would make USD 458 a smoke-free district for a first reading. The subject was addressed at the board’s last two meetings, and this policy, if approved, would prohibit smoking inside and outside all schools, gyms and buses and on athletic fields.
• Presented an amended policy for attendance outside the school district. Howard said he wanted to amend the policy to make exceptions for students with extraordinary circumstances. The policy currently allows students to attend school in Basehor-Linwood if their parents work in the district, the student has completed their sophomore year of high school, someone other than the student’s parents is their legal guardian or if a contract is in place for building a house inside the district. Howard used the example of two siblings, one a freshman and one a junior, whose parents divorce. If the students have to move away from the district to live with one parent, the freshman child would not be allowed to attend school in the same district as the junior.
• Heard a construction report from Chris Claflin. The middle school’s construction has been delayed because of inclement weather, and some areas of the building have sustained frost damage. Claflin said fixing those spots shouldn’t interfere with the school’s projected August opening.
• Approved, 7-0, to allow Level 4 Engineering to seek bids for renovation of the high school’s track and football field. Both the track and field have been deteriorating and are in need of repair, Howard said. The district is looking at the cost of replacing the track entirely and putting turf down on the field.