In response to a bleak and confusing funding future for schools, the Goessel school board agreed at its March 9 meeting to call for a public election to increase local taxes designated for the local option budget.
Superintendent John Fast explained the options under consideration in the Kansas Legislature. Even though some legislators claim schools will not lose money, the reality is that schools will lose money with any of the options, and the tax burden will be increased on the local level.
Fast said one option is an allotment proposal that would cut $20,630 from Goessel?s school budget. Another is a ?block grant? proposal that would erase the allotments and would lock in financing for two years, with no increase in funding even if enrollment continues to climb.
Either way, funding cuts are inevitable. Fast described the situation as a ?freight train rolling down the tracks,? crushing whatever stands in its way.
He said the situation is difficult to explain to the public since the Legislature vacillates between block grants and allotments.
The best option is raising the local option budget. Goessel?s LOB is currently 30 percent, but school districts will be forced to the 33 percent level. A public vote by district patrons will be required to increase the LOB, which Fast called ?extremely important.?
Fast said it took 50 pages of paperwork to prepare for the May 19 LOB vote. The public will receive more information about voting as it becomes available.
Fast said the next two years will be a challenge, although wealthy school districts will not have trouble.
Board chair Dan Miller said, ?We will maintain a high quality of education.?
Board member James Wiens has gone to Topeka and has written letters to legislators about school finance issues and about school board elections.
Turning its attention to another matter, the board listened to a report from David Sheppard, Marion County Special Education Coopera?tive director. He said MCSEC provides services from birth to age 21, which is a blessing for the county.
?We have our own infant/toddler program,? Sheppard said, noting that the county has a goal of identifying county students for special education before they are school age.
This school year, Marion County has 398 students with disabilities and 47 gifted students, as of the Dec. 1 count, compared to last year?s 381 students with disabilities and 45 gifted students.
?Our population of students is growing,? Sheppard said, making it hard to reduce funding. ?We don’t have much discretionary budget.?
Sheppard said it takes four times as much money to educate special education students compared to regular education students. State funds for MCSEC is ?down? $21,000, Sheppard said.
Board member Kyle Funk asked what percentage of Marion County students are in special education. Shep?pard said 20 percent.
Sheppard said KLASS services are in Hillsboro now but had been in Marion previously. The Oasis school continues in Marion and serves 16 to 26 students who cannot attend regular school because of behavior. The Oasis school helps them work on social skills and helps them transition back to a regular school.
While serving on a state committee, Sheppard learned that children are becoming more behaviorally challenged; behavior issues are increasing. Interven?tions at a later age cost more than at a younger age, he said.
Sheppard told the board that a county teacher is trained in the area of autism, and plans are to expand that program. The autism team consists of teachers, therapists and school psychologists.
Also, support systems are set up in regular classrooms, and there is help for classroom teachers before students are referred to special education. Autism continues to increase, he said.
?Every year we look at our programs and quality of services,? Sheppard said. ?We hope we are an asset to all the students in the county.?
Fast complimented Sheppard for his work and for going to every school district in the county. Likewise, Sheppard complimented Fast and other building administrators for their work.
In other business:
? voted to accept the resignation of Matt Cole as assistant football coach. He has accepted a new job in Florida.
? listened to a Parents as Teachers report from director Lori Soo Hoo. She said the PAT program serves children from birth to age 3. PAT provides information on development, what to expect, what is normal, and what is not normal. Hearing and vision screenings are also available.
PAT offers personal visits, developmental screenings, social connections, and resource connections. Soo Hoo said that PAT hosted 20 events last year.
?We do something in each community,? she said.
Last year, PAT served 106 families in Marion County, with a total of 135 children. According to Soo Hoo, the cost to the school is reduced when the need for intervention is caught early. Fast thanked her for the ?outstanding project? that supports Marion County.
? heard about state funding cuts for the PAT program. Soo Hoo said she has sent e-mails and letters and has spoken with legislators in person. Goessel?s share for PAT is $4,725, based on school enrollment. The board approved the PAT funding.
Soo Hoo said this amount is $897 higher than last year because PAT lost $30,000 of its funding for next year. Soo Hoo thanked the board ?for believing in children.?
? heard a construction report from Chad Henson of Loyd Builders. He said the parking lot is the last major project. He talked with the board about drainage, lighting and type of surface to use. Henson said work is still being done on the ventilation system for the shop and paint booth.
? heard that elementary students attended a performance of ?Miss Nelson is Missing? in Wichita, paid for by box-top funding.
? heard of recent sports and music accomplishments from Scott Boden, junior high/high school principal.
? heard from Boden that the ?extended school day? has been positive for students who struggle to complete assignments and remain eligible for activities. Boden said that participation ranges from two to seven students a day.
? approved policy updates including licenses, hazardous waste, workers compensation, training and telephones.
? voted to allow Rachel Boden to rent space at the grade school for preschool.
? heard The Learning Consortium report from board member Darla Meysing. She reported ?business as usual.?