District joins Schools for Fair Funding
By MONICA SPRINGER
The Garden City USD 457 Board of Education voted 4-3 to join Schools for Fair Funding, an organization composed of school districts statewide that will decide whether to sue the state for more funding.
The vote followed a lengthy discussion where board members weighed the pros and cons of joining the organization.
Gloria Hopkins, John Scheopner, Gail Dunford and Jean Clifford voted in favor of joining and Bruce Reichmuth, Mike Utz and Jeff Crist voted against joining the organization.
Each school district that is a member of Schools for Fair Funding will have a vote on whether to sue the state Legislature. At Monday night’s meeting, the Board of Education did not decide how it will vote.
Instead, the board passed a motion 6-1 that allows Rick Atha, USD 457 superintendent, to make the decision.
Crist was opposed.
In the discussion that preceded the vote, each board member gave their opinions on whether to join Schools for Fair Funding.
Hopkins said she was in favor of joining because she didn’t know any other way to get adequate funding.
“I think we should stand up for our kids,” she said.
Several board members said they were unsure of how to vote, including Utz, Scheopner, Dunford and Reichmuth.
Reichmuth said he’d support joining Schools for Fair Funding but not as a voting member.
School districts that join Schools for Fair Funding can join the organization at two capacities: School districts can pay $5 per full-time student to Schools for Fair Funding and vote whether or not the organization sues the state, or they can pay $2 per full-time student and not have voting power.
The 4-3 vote was to join the organization for one year at $5 per full-time student, which is $34,672.
The school district joined the organization several years ago.
“I rode the fence but voted in favor” then, Utz said. “I still have a problem with the philosophical viewpoint to use tax dollars to join Schools for Fair Funding.”
The motion to join Schools for Fair Funding was made by Scheopner and seconded by Hopkins.
After that motion, the school board voted down a motion from Crist to not vote in favor of the lawsuit when each school district involved in Schools for Fair Funding votes.
Then the 6-1 vote came to let Atha decide how to vote when Schools for Fair Funding reaches that point.
Earlier in the meeting, the board asked State Rep. Jeff Whitham, R-Garden City, questions about the state’s budget.
Whitham said there are signs that the economy is strengthening and said he’s hopeful the state’s revenues will pick up.
“I realize it’s difficult,” Whitham said, adding that the best way to get legislators’ attention is to communicate with them, not sue them.
Whitham also said the Legislature has been reluctant to raise taxes during the recession.
“No one wants to sue,” Hopkins said. “We just want the funds.”
She added: “We can’t keep taking cuts.”
Garden City USD 457 has lost about 10 percent of its budget, or about $4 million, through cuts in state aid this year, said Kathleen Whitley, financial officer for USD 457.