From the Desk of Mr. Patrick McKernan
I am not certain how many of you follow state politics, particularly those related to school funding issues. The Kansas Supreme Court recently ruled this past summer that schools were underfunded and most recently the court issued their opinion on the matter. Most, and I say most but not all, school districts across the state saw a funding increase this year. Some, as I said, did not. USD 429 was fortunate to see a funding increase. Your board of education, who continues to be fiscally responsible, lowered your overall mill levy. The board of education was able to give a stipend to all returning staff and increase wages for all staff. You can look at many reports and you will have a hard time finding Kansas ranking in the top half of the states for teacher pay. Many reports put us in the bottom quartile. This must change in our state, across the nation and most importantly in our community. We must start paying teachers a wage that keeps our best teachers in the profession and encourages talented young people to join this profession and work in our community.
As I mentioned earlier, USD 429 did benefit from additional funding. Most if not all of the increase is accounted for in this year’s budget. We did see a substantial increase in health insurance costs this year. That is a result of two variables. More staff taking insurance and an increase in premiums. We also hired a technology assistant. Derek Gilbert joined our staff and will eventually transition to our Technology Director. We are in the process of moving the district forward with discussions about upgrading our technology infrastructure and eventually moving to a 1 to 1 device initiative for as many students as possible. We cannot do this fast enough in my opinion but we need to have a good plan moving forward and be able to budget for the increased technology costs.
Going back to the Gannon decision, it is possible we will see an additional increase next year. This can be a double edge sword in small communities like ours. Many politicians want to see the local tax payers bear the burden of the increased funding. The board of education of USD 429 understands this as well as anyone. I am convinced, and I know they are committed to trying to continue to enhance all aspects of your school district, but doing so with a fiscally responsible attitude.