- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wichita Eagle, Aug. 25

An extraordinary meeting

Kansans may not understand any more than they did before Monday’s State Finance Council meeting what makes a school district worthy of extra dollars from a new “extraordinary needs fund.” But what was extraordinary was how some council members challenged districts about their stated needs, numbers, superintendent salaries and classroom spending before the council variously shorted and denied their requests.

This uncomfortable process is new for the state, as the fund was created by the block-grant funding law passed in March to replace the repealed 23-year-old school-finance formula.

Not surprisingly, the GOP state leaders who dominate the panel, chaired by Gov. Sam Brownback, seemed to be making up the rules for distributing the money as they went. They took property tax declines more seriously than growth in student numbers, with Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, arguing that “2 percent above last year’s enrollment can easily be accommodated in the classroom, I would think, and with current personnel.” (State budget director Shawn Sullivan had proposed a 1 percent increase threshold.)

That decision ended up favoring the petitioning rural districts over the urban ones. And though the council had $12.3 million available, it approved only about $6 million to help 34 districts.

Leaders at Wichita’s USD 259, one of four districts stiffed on Monday, seem optimistic about the invitation to try again in October. The council members wanted a more accurate number of the refugee students relocating to Wichita from Somalia, Myanmar and other war-torn countries.

Perhaps Brownback, who showed leadership on refugee issues as a U.S. senator, is right that federal funding can be found to help Wichita serve the young refugees. If so, that would be good news.

But it was pretty rich for Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson, R-Andover, to gripe that “the federal government isn’t paying for” the refugees’ schooling and expects Kansas taxpayers to do so, given how Topeka increasingly leans on local districts and property owners to cover the state obligation of K-12 education. Masterson’s suggestion that private institutions could better meet the children’s needs also showed a lack of understanding of the special instruction, time and support they require.

USD 259 asked for $980,000 to help educate the refugees this school year. That seems reasonable, especially because the district was charged $1.1 million by the state to help finance the new fund.

The school board also just approved a 2015-16 budget that anticipates $4 million less in expenditures than last year as it cuts programs, raises property taxes, freezes teacher pay and leaves 10 days of operating expenses in reserve - hardly indicative of a district awash in extra cash.

The governor and others seemed very proud of themselves for how the extraordinary needs fund can respond to property value declines. But the old formula accounted for per-pupil enrollment growth.

Even better, it did so without forcing superintendents to beg elected officials for more dollars.

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Manhattan Mercury, Aug. 30

KSU students have much to give; Energy, skills can help improve Manhattan

Now that K-State’s returning students have gotten reacquainted and new students have found their way around campus, we hope both groups extend their reach further.

We hope they become part of this larger community. We’re not talking just about patronizing Aggieville’s restaurants and bars and taverns, as much a part of college life as those places are. Nor are we referring just to full- or part-time jobs that local businesses and even governments can offer; certainly jobs can be important simply in making college affordable in addition to helping students gain experience and build relationships.

What we have in mind is encouraging students to help make Manhattan a better place. We urge students to offer their time, energy, ideas and skills to any of a number of local nonprofit organizations. These agencies fill vital needs in every community, helping people in all stages of life. Some are committed to youth, others assist the infirm or elderly. Yet others help the jobless find work or the hungry find something to eat or cope with family or emotional problems.

What they generally have in common are their altruistic nature, limited funding and the need for volunteers who want to make a difference in someone’s life or in one’s community.

Students - and other residents - who take the trouble to get involved are likely to get back as much as or more than they give.

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Great Bend Tribune, Aug 28

Local help needed; Agencies helping needy facing fund shortages

It is a problem much bigger than many of us realize.

Most take it for granted that they have a roof over their heads, lights and air conditioning to keep them comfortable and the resources to stock the fridge.

But, for many in our community, this is not the case.

“People are just in a struggle right now,” said Jennie Gordy, office manager for the Emergency Aid Council. “Some people don’t realize there is such a need.”

Gordy represents one of a handful of local agencies that offer assistance to those struggling to pay their rent and utilities, The council joins the Salvation Army and the Central Kansas Dream Center if offering such services.

The local economy, while not as impacted by the recession as more metropolitan areas, is still on the mend. Now, we have a slump in the oil patch causing laborers’ hours to be cut or their jobs to be eliminated entirely.

This may not be the sole reason. And, sure, there are those who really don’t try to hard to find work and bring their problems upon themselves.

But, it is important to have help available.

Federal programs such as food stamps are crucial, despite flaws and abuse. However, we can’t sit back and rely just on the feds to fulfill this mission.

We have to take care of our own. That is where these groups come into the picture.

No, they don’t just offer handouts and don’t grant enough money for the applicants to leave debt free. But, the can fill in the gaps and help folks stay in their homes or keep the lights burning.

Now, they are facing an onslaught of residents seeking aide. This has depleted their funds and they need help themselves.

Many rail against the government and its meddling. Here is an opportunity to step up and do some good at the local level, Washington, D.C., be damned.

It’s time to put money where the mouths are.

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Dodge City Globe, Aug. 27

It’s always a good time to give

The end of August is seen by many as back-to-school time. It can also be a time of extreme hardship for families.

The Salvation Army has a food drive going at Dodge City Public Library. While the bounty provided by library patrons is wonderful, it’s not enough.

The food pantry at the Salvation Army is almost barren. Many families on fixed incomes chose between school supplies and clothes and food for the month. With such a tough choice, many chose their children’s needs for education and reached out for help.

The Salvation Army has done all it can for anyone who asks, but now it is time for us to help as well.

Donate food or funds to help restock the Salvation Army food pantry.

While many people are in the giving spirit during the holiday season — November and December — many organizations will see a significant need during summer months.

It’s not just food either. The American Red Cross often cites a shortage of blood donors during the summer months. Senior organizations talk of helping seniors without air conditioning and mobility during summer.

Part of the reason there is a shortage of food is because children have been home for the summer. Often there are more meals consumed at home and families need more to survive.

The Salvation Army food pantry can use dry goods — rice, beans, pasta — and canned goods.

Dairy isn’t as welcome because the products have expiration dates and sometimes can’t be given out prior to the expiration date.

Spaghetti and sauce can be purchased for under $5. Canned vegetables are often on sale. Canned fruit and fruit cups aren’t very expensive.

We can all help in some way. Many homes have canned goods that have been in the pantry for more than six months. Why not donate them and help others?

While we’re at it, donate blood. It’s a simple process that has been proven to save countless lives.

There are small, simple, inexpensive things we can all do to make life easier for those less fortunate, or even save someone’s life.

Helping others is never a bad thing. Helping others doesn’t have to be just a holiday thing.

Helping others often helps us. Good karma, or something like what goes around comes around.

The one we like is do unto others as you would have them do to you. In other words, if you needed food, wouldn’t you want someone to have the means to help? So, if you have the means, please help. Our community and the Salvation Army need it.

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