February 5, 2016

USD 231 shouldn’t blame state for financial woes

Blaming the legislature for USD 231’s poor cash position is like blaming your boss for an increase in your credit card interest rates because your salary has been stagnant. Quit living beyond your means.
In this economy, everyone has to cut back; public entities are no different.
According to an article in the Topeka Capital-Journal, “Gardner-Edgerton, a fast-growing district of about 5,200 students in Johnson County, had the rating on its general obligation debt reduced from AA- to A+ in late March “due to the deterioration of the district’s nonrestrictive cash position to $0 from $3.3 million.” The article quotes a report by Standard and Poors, a Dallas-based credit rating company.
The writing has been on the wall for school districts statewide: slow state aid payments, a legislature that can’t focus on school funding and a sluggish economy.
In fact, a report to the USD 231 board in March last year by then-finance director Eric Hansen, predicted a cash shortfall or nearly $573,000 by year’s end 2011 and about $1.1 million, not including 2012 expenses, within 18 months.
But rather than cutting back, the district, in essence, went out and got another credit card in the form of nearly $72 million in debt, narrowly approved by voters, to build new schools and athletic facilities. Because of the credit rating decrease, interest and insurance on the debt may increase.
While we agree the state legislature with the help of the state Supreme Court has made a muck of school funding, and we believe education is the backbone of our culture and should adequately be funded, we also believe in accountability of tax monies.
It seems finally the district’s administration is taking steps to cut expenses, but at what cost to the education of our students? We wonder at a board that would provide early retirement incentive for 12 experienced teachers for about $720,000, to be replaced by less-experienced teachers at about half the cost.
Is this putting us on the path of a revolving door of teachers – new teachers hired only to be replaced shortly before being tenured? Is this how we plan to staff the new schools? Especially since we apparently don’t have the cash flow to staff the ones we already have?
It’s time for patrons, and the school board, to step up and demand transparency. Don’t just talk it; walk it.
At the very least, make the school district’s expenditures and agenda packets readily available for all interested patrons to view online.
Encourage, rather than discourage, comments during board meetings. Allow public comments for each agenda item, as the county commission does; don’t intimidate patrons by asking them to submit comment cards before they are allowed to speak.
Don’t discourage patrons from making information requests through forms and fees; that’s a basic cost of doing business for a public entity.
In other words; don’t just preach transparency, do it.
It’s easy to pass the blame onto the state legislature, and in fact, the legislature does deserve blame. But it’s also important for the USD 231 school board and administration to take responsibility and make both a short and long range financial plan. There is no magic get-out-of-debt card.
And more importantly, don’t sacrifice the quality of our children’s education for the fancy bells and whistles.
If it’s really about the kids, prove it. Make teachers and students the priority and support a “school culture” conducive to learning.
It starts at the top.
Although districts statewide have suffered from sluggish aid payments, USD 231 is the extreme case in having  its credit rating slashed.


  1. gardnerpatron says:

    Very well said. Making teachers and students priority is essential. Pooling first year teachers and waiting for an opening so that they can have a job does not cut it. Raising classroom size while just months ago giving all the district administration raises, and now telling teachers and staff there is no money for them because we have to tighten up the budget, Something is wrong here. Yes the current administration has made our image look good but at what cost? There is to much deception going on and one lie will lead to another and pretty soon it will all come out.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    I believe most of the blame lies with the apathy of the people. You get lousy city and school dist. governments because the asinine people have been supporting and enabling their sorry rearends for years and many of the citizens operate in the same irresponsible manner. Week after week, month after month, year after year those governments along with many others here in Kansas have been taking care of the thieves resulting in a huge loss of tax revenue to the people and the politicians continue to put the people in debt at an astrounding rate and yet the people do NOTHING about all of their conniving, manipulations, lies, etc. My days of being a watchdog and having a concern for young, middle and poor class families are winding down because I don’t see them doing much to help themselves – many of them are part of the problems and not part of the solutions.

  3. nonamers says:

    Maybe people are apathetic because they don’t like being told they’re stupid for disagreeing with the self-important supercritical extremists who can never see beyond their own petty agendas. Maybe if people actually discussed the issues and not how “the other guy” was “the problem”, we’d see more involvement from the general public.

  4. Judith Rogers says:

    Maybe if you had a brain, you would use it…………..but I highly doubt it………..

  5. Judith Rogers says:

    Just watched the local news and found the article on the city of Mission most interesting. Sure glad the citizens of Gardner didn’t get stuck with that City Mgr. Scanlon and citizens here should be giving Fotovich a medal for avoiding that bullet. City of Mission doing most of their business in the back room just like I believe is done here with our city government and probably why the Dictator so wanted Scanlon here and with our School Dist.and violating the Open Meetings Act time and time again. The stench continues because the people are not doing their jobs and allow, enable and support these types of leadership. I know I will be glad to see the backside of Press also.

  6. Judith Rogers says:

    Brownback got exactly what he wanted and will never use his veto power on this one and the asinine legislators who brought this plan to his lap are now asking him to veto the bill – go figure – they all need a free bungee jump with no strings attached. Brownie, our local city and school district governments along with our County Commissioners all operate in the same manner which includes the lies, manipulation, conniving, etc. etc. and the people are supporting and enabling this crud – cronyism government is going to eat you alive.

  7. Judith Rogers says:

    Failed to give you the link to the story I was referring to so here it is………http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/may/11/legislative-leaders-brownback-veto-tax-cut/

  8. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    School districts school funding lawsuit vs. State of Kansas goes to court June 4, 2012.

    Link: 20poundsofheadlines.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/kansas-school-money-case-heads-for-court-again/

  9. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

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