Just when you think education officials’ money worship cannot be more depraved, an elementary school principal sends parents what amounts to a ransom note.  Cathy Austin, principal of Harmony Elementary School in Blue Valley, yesterday told parents they must pay next year’s registration fees in advance or risk losing teachers.  In other words, pay up or your child’s education will suffer.

Austin told parents, “We need payment to be able to keep our teachers.  Our FTE (Full Time Equivalent – which means a full-time teacher) is based on PAID registration fees, so we are low at this time and I am afraid that we may be losing our staff to other schools.”

This ransom note isn’t just morally corrupt; it is also a blatantly false claim.

District officials know that next year’s funding is not dependent upon paid registration fees or enrollment.  As explained here and here, funding for the 2021-22 school year will be based on enrollment for the years 2019-20, 2020-21, or 2021-22…whichever is greater.

Also, USD 229 Blue Valley does not need registration fees to hire teachers or increase their pay.  For one thing, school districts already know that per-student funding is going up again next year.

Blue Valley also has a lot of money sitting in banks from funding not spent in prior years.  USD 229 started this school year with $51.5 million in operating cash reserves, which have held steady for the last ten years.  What’s more, the district has over $50 million in capital reserves that can be used to pay for some operating costs.

Board members could also decide to right-size the district’s bloated management scheme.

Blue Valley personnel reports on file with the Kansas Department of Education show a 44% increase in the number of managers between 2005 and 2020, with a 22% enrollment increase.  With 190 managers (superintendent, asst. superintendents, principals, asst. principals, directors, managers, instruction coordinators, and curriculum specialists) for 22,416 students, Blue Valley has 118.5 students per manager.  The board could save at least $7 million annually by cutting administration to the students-per-manager level of the Shawnee Mission school district in Johnson County.

Parents should ignore this despicable attempt to hold students’ education for ransom. They are under no obligation to prepay registration fees and the Blue Valley school board members owe parents an apology.

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