Moran schools in a fix

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

MORAN — Over the past two years, Marmaton Valley USD 256 has lost about $200,000 from its budget, forcing the district to put in place a number of cost-cutting measures.
The district eliminated a librarian, curriculum director and two custodians from its staff; cut seven days from its school year; and dropped its girls golf program.
What the district has been able to do, up to now, was largely avoid cutting teachers.
But without an infusion of increased state funding, “we’re not going to be able to do that,” said Nancy Meyer, Superintendent of Schools.
Without added revenues — made possible by a proposal by Gov. Mark Parkinson to raise taxes on sales and tobacco — USD 256 could lose as much as another $200,000 for the 2010-11 academic year. It operates on a $3 million budget.
As is, the district faces losing about eight staff members, including three or four teaching positions, an administrator and another three or four teacher’s aides, Meyer said.
With fewer teachers on staff, some classrooms likely would have 30 or more students, Meyer noted.
“It looks like our junior high athletics may be only intramural,” she continued. “We may have to look at doing away with field trips.”
The district already has dropped all financial support of its high school organizations, such as FFA, Future Business Leaders of America and its Family, Career and Communities Leaders of America chapters.
She offered other gloomy possibilities facing the district.
“We’ve been looking at a four-day school week, which isn’t good for the kids, but it may be something we have to do,” she said. Some have floated the idea of dropping such elective programs such as wood shop, music and art.
“I didn’t sign up for this when I got my degree,” Meyer said. “I got into this to help kids.”

MEYER will host a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Marmaton Valley High School Library to discuss the budget plight and ask for public input.
“Our message we want to send is ‘No more cutting,’” she said.
Patrons will be asked about other proposals, such as whether they would favor seeing students pay a nominal fee to take field trips, or whether volunteers could assist with reading programs.
“We’re thinking in terms of desperation, survival mode,” Meyer said. “We want to stop talking in terms of dollars and start talking about how it’s affecting people and programs.”
USD 256 is a part of the Schools For Fair Funding coalition, which was formed in 1997 and successfully sued the state over inadequate education funding, a long and contentious fight that eventually required a ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The group filed a motion earlier this week with the Supreme Court to reopen the decision, which was dismissed in 2006 after the state raised education funding.
Meyer said members at the forum also will be given contact information for state legislators to further discuss school finance.