Archive for Thursday, February 7, 2008

Zoellner keeping eye on district’s legislative agenda

February 7, 2008

Most of De Soto USD 232's legislative concerns can boil down to one thing: education funding.

Senators and representatives returned to Topeka last month with a plateful of issues to be discussed in a tight-budget, reelection year.

Some of the education issues being tossed around for the current legislative session include a proposed $65 million increase to the court-mandated school finance package for the 2009-10 school year.

However, Sharon Zoellner, superintendent of De Soto USD 232, said the proposed increase sounds misleading.

"The biggest concern I have about that proposal is language in there that would lead people to believe that in the last three years they have caught us up from a funding perspective and they've not," she said. "We are about $800 per pupil behind today."

Zoellner also pointed out that only about $37 million of that proposed $65 million increase would go toward schools. About $28 million would go toward the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System.

Another issue the De Soto school district is keeping an eye on is the possibility of all-day kindergarten.

"All-day kindergarten is critical," Zoellner said. "The sooner we can get children, the sooner we can have them ready for their education career. But all-day kindergarten for us is not possible because we don't have space."

Zoellner said resources are needed before a program could be implemented.

"By the state coming out and funding all day kindergarten, even if it's on a voluntary basis, it would give us an impetus to look at how we might be able to have that happen," she said. "It definitely is going to take more classroom additions on our elementary schools."

Another possibility this session is a second official enrollment count day, which Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, told the district she would fight for.

"It would help us tremendously," Zoellner said. "I don't know how many students we've had enroll since Jan. 7, but I know at the high schools kids are coming in by the droves."

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