PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. - At a recent legislative forum Reno County Representative Mike O'Neal told the audience they were blaming the wrong people for cuts in education. He claimed it was the local school boards spending too much on non-classroom items that was at fault.
He certainly left me with the impression that it was high administrative costs that were the problem.
I was outraged. How could our school boards be doing this in a time of economic crisis?
Armed with righteous indignation I confronted area school superintendents. What I found was not what I expected. What Mr. O'Neal had called wasteful administrative spending seemed pretty essential to me.
Transportation costs. Seems necessary in rural Kansas. KPERS costs. Isn't that part of teachers pay?
Interest on Bonds. Does Mr. O'Neal suggest stiffing bond holders?
School counselors. I wish we didn't need them, but we do. School food service. Yeah-those damn kids don't need to eat. Librarians. School nurses.
The list goes on. Many items I consider to be needed for classroom work were deemed "administrative costs" by Mr. O'Neal.
I then found out what area schools had already cut. The Buhler district has reduced the number of school days, reduced transportation routes, reduced spending on classroom supplies, reduced the athletic budget, reduced building maintenance, eliminated vehicle purchases, and many other expenses.
Additional cut will be needed if the legislature doesn't do its job. These new cuts will severely hurt students.
I am sure each of us can find some administrative costs we would cut. But, it was obvious to me our local school boards were doing the best they could under very trying circumstances.
In times of difficulty we all need to work together. If we put our smartest, most sincere people together they would have a difficult time solving our state budget crisis.
I understand we all must sacrifice. I understand that we will not agree on everything.
What I can't accept is Representative O'Neal's desire to mislead rather than inform. We deserve and need better from our elected officials.