Textbook fees to increase at RV

In light of recent budget cuts, the Royal Valley Board of Education has decided to increase its textbook rental fee by $15 per student for 2015-2016. The new rate will be $65 per student or $195 maximum per family.

During the USD 337 Board of Education meeting Monday evening, Superintendent John Rundle provided a list of the textbook, technology and activity fees charged by surrounding school districts. Royal Valley does not charge fees for technology or activities.

While the board agreed to increase the rate by $15, students who qualify for a reduced lunch rate will only pay $50 per student or $150 maximum per family, which is the district’s current rate. Rundle said this represents about 90 families in the district.

Rundle said that students who qualify for a free lunch are able to apply for a waiver to waive that textbook fee altogether.

According to information provided at the school board meeting, Holton USD #336 charges a $45 textbook fee and a $40 activity fee (or “pay to play”) for each student. A $50 technology fee is charged for each high school student and a $10 fee for each middle school student.

The textbook fee at Jeff West USD #340 is $65 per student. Activity fees include $35 for each sport at the middle school (family max of $175) and $45 for each sport (family max of $225) at the high school. The exceptions at the high school include $35 for golf and $15 for debate/forensics. 

At Topeka Seaman USD #345, the textbook fee is $80 per student and the technology fee is an additional $25 per student.

Silver Lake USD #372 charges $100 per student in grades 7 - 12 for textbooks and $75 per student in grades kindergarten through sixth. The activity fee for middle and high school students is $50 per student.

Jackson Heights has a $40 textbook fee per student. The district does not charge for activities or technology.

Some districts offer waivers on some of the fees for students who qualify for free lunches, it was noted. 

“Besides Jackson Heights, we are way below the cost of other districts,” Rundle said. “We’ve talked about having an activity fee or a ‘pay to play,’ but, administratively, there’s no support for that. We don’t see that as being a good move for our community.”

Additional funds collected by the textbook rate increase must be used for additional textbooks or curriculum, Rundle noted.

The board also received a legislative update from Rundle and discussed a new proposed school finance formula created by Sen. Steve Abrams, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

“Essentially, Abrams has gone back to our current formula and tweaked it,” Rundle said. 

The formula has five components to determine state aid, including:

* Enrollment State Aid set at $3,820 per student based on headcount, not FTE.

* Poverty State Aid based on each district’s poverty as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

* Sparsity State Aid based on the sparsity of population in the school district.

* Success Incentive State Aid based on the performance of school district graduates in the 24 months after graduation.

* State Equalization Aid based not just on assessed valuation per pupil but also factoring in federal adjusted gross income in the district and homes values in the district.

Also, instead of having a Local Option Budget, districts would be able to levy a local property tax known as the Local Portion Levy Budget, which would be equalized under the new State Equalization Aid formula.

If it moves forward, the formula would be piloted with just six school districts next year, Hugoton, Blue Valley, Concordia, Marysville, McPherson and Kansas City, Rundle said. The proposed formula was set to be discussed in the Senate Education Committee Tuesday.

In other business, the board:

* Approved consent items.

* Received a copy of a letter sent to the Kansas Department of Transportation by members of the city of Hoyt expressing their concern with the intersection at U.S. Highway 75 and Kansas Highway 214. The city is requesting a flashing light at that location.

* Received quarterly academic progress monitoring reports from Susan Pfrang, director of curriculum an instruction. Pfrang said that state assessments have begun in the district.

* Reviewed the proposed spring/summer maintenance list submitted by Rundle. At the elementary school, some playground equipment will be re-stained and some areas in the building will be re-painted. Rundle will also be getting some prices on replacing heat pumps at both the elementary and middle schools.

At the high school, the carpet in the ag room needs to be replaced, as well as some door frames. Large expense items will be brought to the board for approval.

* Met in executive session with Rundle and Pfrang for 20 minutes to discuss non-elected personnel and for teacher salary negotiations.

Back in open session, the board accepted the resignation of Jackie Riggles as a second-grade teacher.

* Set the board retreat for June 3.

* Adjourned the meeting at 8:30 p.m. All board members were present.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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