The Blue Valley School District is so poor officials spent $130,000 in legal fees trying to get out of an agreement to buy textbooks in Braille for a blind elementary student.
KSHB 41-TV reports that 10-year-old Brooke Petros attends a private school, but state law requires that the public school district receives funding for Brooke’s education. In return, the district agreed to cover the cost of Brooke’s textbooks.
Known as an Individualized Education Plan,or IEP, the agreement was put into writing. The Blue Valley School District opted out of the agreement last year. The Petros family filed a complaint and according to the KSHB report, a hearing officer sided with them but the district appealed and a separate hearing officer ruled in their favor.
In arguing against providing the textbooks, the district spent more than $130,000 in legal fees.
“Do the math on this,” Dave Trabert, president of Kansas Policy Institute said. “The books cost $23,000 per year. It’s ridiculous. The district spent six years’ worth of books on legal fees.”
Blue Valley refused to comment to KSHB on the case, citing privacy concerns. Officials did provide a general statement, however.
“Blue Valley Schools is committed to fostering a learning environment that ensures equal opportunities for all students,” it reads. “While disputes about education will inevitably arise, the district’s commitment to each of its students remains steadfast.”
The KSHB story links to a district website that suggests the Blue Valley School District operating budget for the current school year is $200 million. Trabert says using the term “operating budget” is code for not counting all funding. The district page sites a budget of $170.2 million per year with a per pupil expense of $8,762. But if you look at their entire budget, the district is set to spend $348.4 million with per pupil expenditures of $15,315.
More tellingly, the Blue Valley District expenditures for administration and administrative support was $24.7 million last year but will balloon to $40.2 million this year.
“A 63 percent increase. That’s what’s in their budget,” Trabert said. “They’re proposing to spend 47 percent of their total spending on instruction. They are consistently below 50 percent of their spending going to instruction.”
A state law requires school districts to have very specific budget information with an easily identifiable link on their websites. The Blue Valley site doesn’t link to how the budget they show–their operating budget–is calculated.
“There’s never anything in there that says this doesn’t count a lot of stuff that we get,” Trabert said.