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More challenges are ahead

Superintendent, USD 410

USD 410 will face incredible challenges with continued decreases in school funding. Our representative lawmakers told us at the legislative coffee they are not interested in raising taxes. I appreciate our legislators’ sensitivity to the potential harm increased taxes can have on our local economy. I believe, like many, that increased taxes hurt the business climate and potential jobs these business would create. Yet, one may also want to consider what a depleted educational system means to the overall economy and the future of our state, county, and local communities.

I have visited with many of our staff and patrons and have received a variety of responses when it comes to what our schools should “do without.” There is no longer any fat (if there ever was) in our budget. Over the past several years, beginning in 2003, the USD 410 budget has gone through significant reductions in authority due to flat and/or minimal BSAPP (base state aid per pupil) increases and our consistent loss of enrollment.

During this time, education did receive one significant increase in funding because of the school-funding lawsuit of 2006. This increase allowed our schools to implement a number of programs for the at-risk learner. Included in this was the hiring of additional teachers and support staff (para-professionals) who assisted with the implementation of math, reading, writing, and enrichment activities for the at-risk, advanced, and vocational learners.

Also in 2006, a statewide initiative called Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) was gaining momentum and has become the framework through which instruction is better meeting the needs of our diverse learners. Much of the increase in school funding went to staffing this initiative and implementing new curriculum to help facilitate learning for all students at their particular learning level. This has been a big success in USD 410.

Our elementary school was selected as a pilot school for MTSS and presented successes they had in meeting the needs of all learners to the Kansas State Board of Education last spring. If continued decreases in school funding occur, decreases in student learning will be the reality.

Some say cut the extras —sports, field trips, clubs, and activities. These are “frills” we don’t need to fund. Yet, these frills are what make USD 410 a special place. This district is known across the state for providing outstanding extracurricular (I refer to them as co-curricular) athletics and activities and students excel at them.

Over the years, our communities have developed a tremendous sense of pride about these successes. Our alumni are proud to be called Trojans and speak well of their education after graduation. Often, they bring their families back to USD 410 so their children can have the same quality of education they received. This is a powerful statement about the value of quality local education.

On a personal note, my wife and I chose to come to Hillsboro USD 410 because of the reputation of the community, the people, and the schools. We believe it is a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

On April 8, the Board of Education is hosting a “Community Conversation” with the public about our school funding challenges. I encourage you to participate in this event. I am grateful to all USD 410 patrons for their continued commitments to quality schools.

Our children deserve the same quality education in good times … and bad.

Last modified March 25, 2010

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