Archive for Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Legislator: School funding a hot topic

School district, city to work together on concerns about traffic on 24-40 highway

November 15, 2000

State Rep. Kenny Wilk says it's not easy to understand how Kansas schools are funded.

"Anybody who tells me the school finance formula is simple obviously doesn't understand it," Wilk said.

Wilk, state Sen.-elect Bob Lyon and Kansas school board member Janet Waugh spoke at Monday's Tonganoxie school district advisory council.

In particular in need of repair is the funding of special education, Wilk said.

"The feds need to fund what they promised to fund," Wilk said. "In 1973, the feds promised to fund special education at 40 percent of the cost. The last time I checked, they were funding 8 percent."

Wilk said other issues to look at during the 2001 Legislature include public safety and increasing pay for guards at Lansing Correctional Facility, lottery renewal and redistricting.

Waugh said to expect changes in January when new state board of education members take office.

"The state board became rather prominent worldwide last year," Waugh said of the debate over the teaching of evolution in Kansas schools. "Come January, we will go back in an obscure position. We will revisit some of the decisions and standards that were made in the past."

Waugh said it's imperative that the state board work on re-establishing a good relationship with the Legislature and governor.

"We would all like to be on the same page working for the kids," Waugh said. "When we're all working on different angles, it's the kids that lose."

Richard Erickson, school superintendent, noted that 202 of the state's 304 school districts are angling with budgets due to declines in enrollment and a related decrease in state funding.

Wilk discussed means that more school funding could be obtained.

"In my view, a property tax increase is out of the question," Wilk said. "I wouldn't support that."

Wilk said any increase likely would come from sales tax or income tax.

Wilk said the decline in enrollment in some Johnson County schools may help increase per pupil state funding.

"Now that Johnson County has a declining enrollment, maybe they'll think it's worthy of discussion," Wilk said.

Erickson brought up the issue of the speed limit on U.S. Highway 24-40 north of the high school and junior high, and west of the elementary school. He also suggested that stoplights are needed.

"There's an awful lot of traffic out there," Erickson said.

Chris Clark, city administrator, said he had talked to Kansas Department of Trans-portation officials. Clark said he thought KDOT's primary concern was "getting cars from Point A to Point B." He said he told KDOT officials about a traffic situation in Massachu-setts, where he formerly lived, where nine lives were lost be-fore improvements were made.

"I said why do we have to relive that," Clark said. "Why can't we do something prior to people getting killed. What I have been saying to these people has been falling on deaf ears."

Tonganoxie police chief Kenny Carpenter noted the discrepancy of the speed limits on along 24-40 north of the high school and junior high school.

"Going east the speed limit is 50," Carpenter said. "Going west it's 40."

Carpenter said he believed traffic ought to be slowed to 30 mph in front of the school, and the area should be designated a school zone.

Larry Meadows said that if the city would make an agreement with the state to take responsibility for the road and maintenance in that area, the state might be interested.

"The state would love for you to take that off their hands," Meadows said. "If you entered into an agreement to maintain and own in, they'd probably even put in the stoplights."

Wilk suggested that the city and school get together and work out some suggestions that he could take to KDOT.

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