Budgets on the Line for Kansas Schools

Basehor-Linwood Virtual School Director Nicole Hodges testifies in front of the Kansas House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Monday, March 31.

Photo by: David Howard (Twitter)

Basehor-Linwood Virtual School Director Nicole Hodges testifies in front of the Kansas House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Monday, March 31.

UPDATE: April 4, 10:17 a.m.

The Kansas Legislature plans to vote on House Bill 2774 sometime today. This bill has caused a lot of concern for schools throughout Kansas, as it originally called for extreme budget cuts.

Those cuts pertained mostly to virtual school funding.

Now, both Senate and House bills call for a change in funding from 105 percent to 90 percent, a much better deal than the initial 50 percent cut.

However, the focus has been shifted towards another aspect of the bill.

“Part of the House bill calls for zero funding for adults beyond age 19. This has a very real and harmful impact on not only these individuals who too often have no other alternative, but also on Kansas communities,” Virtual School Director Nicole Hodges said.

Rather than cut funding for adults completely, Hodges wants to negotiate and possibly create restrictions to address the Legislature’s concerns.

She has again reached out to the Basehor-Linwood community for support in the continuation of funding for programs like hers throughout the state of Kansas.

While the vote could be put off until April, it is likely the Kansas Legislature will come to a decision later today.


April 2, 8:00 p.m.

The Kansas Legislature is preparing for a vote that will determine whether or not current education funds will be reallocated to schools with more financial need by reducing their local property taxes.

However, this reallocation will negatively affect the programs that the funds are presently going towards.

Although proposals are changing hour to hour, the initial House bill shocked hundreds of people throughout the state of Kansas.

The amendment that compelled many to take action against the legislature planned on reducing transportation aid and cutting virtual school funding… in half.

That cut would amount to a potential $14 million.

Just for Basehor-Linwood High School, transportation funding would be reduced by $96,000 and the virtual school aid would be cut by $640,000.

“If the bill were to cut virtual school funding by 50 percent, it would have had an extremely negative effect on our program. The Board of Education would have to examine whether or not to continue operating the virtual school here at Basehor-Linwood. Many of our teachers teach for the virtual school, so if it were to close, all of our teachers who work for BLVS would lose the additional money they receive for teaching,” USD458 superintendent David Howard said.

Once the news hit BLHS, Howard and virtual school director Nicole Hodges traveled to the state capitol building in an attempt to persuade House members away from voting “yes” on the bill.

The two have continued traveling to Topeka every day this past week.

As expected, the process has not exactly been easy. “It’s a little frustrating. It appears many of the cuts are very arbitrary and not researched based in any way,” Howard said.

Despite the original plan to cut 50 percent, the legislature has since changed their decision. “They have backed off the 50 percent and are now looking at only reducing it by 10 percent, with a few other changes,” Howard said.

While the funds would be less than first expected, the additional money would still be reducing local property taxes of qualified schools of need.

Oddly enough, Basehor-Linwood schools actually qualify for these additional funds. “We wouldn’t be receiving any additional operating money, just the opposite,” Howard said.

While one part of the House Bill has been improved, multiple aspects are still a concern, including a new language to remove all funding for anyone over the age of 19.

“This would have a devastating impact on 21 out of 24 current 13th grade students with our program, and on the philosophy we have held true to since beginning our program,” Hodges said.

Prior to the addition of the language, Hodges released a written testimony to the House Appropriations Committee in which she offers a testimony of a former virtual school student.

Now, this testimony directly relates to the language.

“Twelve years ago, Donna, a 33-year-old mother of two, walked into our school with a simple question. Could she enroll with our virtual school?” Hodges said.

According to Donna, nobody in her family had ever graduated from high school and she wanted to be the first to do so. “She came to us with a transcript marked with four discouraging special education credits… We were concerned about the challenges that awaited us all, but how could we turn her down? She had zero self-esteem and could barely make eye contact, but she took those difficult first steps to seek help: so we enrolled her,” Hodges said.

Despite a  severe learning disability and family problems that caused her to drop out of school at age 15, Donna stayed determined. She wanted to set an example for her 10- and 13-year-old children.

“Enrolling in our virtual school allowed her flexible study time between her responsibilities as a part-time clerk and her parental duties. Over the years, we saw a new woman appear. Donna blossomed before us, confidence replacing defeat… Four years of hard work and determination – and through many moments of hopelessness and doubt – Donna earned her high school diploma,” Hodges said.

Shortly after graduating, Donna started at a higher paying job with benefits and went on to join a nursing program at a local community college.

Today, both of Donna’s children have graduated from high school and one is in college.

“The opportunity to learn and to experience success absolutely changed her life and the lives of her children. This is why Basehor-Linwood Virtual School exists,” Hodges said.

Cases like Donna’s will no longer be possible if this House Bill is passed.

To further ensure this doesn’t happen, Howard and Hodges are reaching out to the Basehor-Linwood community.

Howard recently posted on his school blog, “I’m asking that you please take time to contact our legislators, and let them know how important public education is to you and to our Basehor-Linwood community.”

The blog provides a list of local legislators and sample e-mails community members can send in an attempt to put a halt to the budget cuts.

Additionally, Howard provides a multitude of rationales that explain the importance of not only Basehor-Linwood Virtual School, but all virtual schools throughout Kansas.

“BLVS is an alternative approach to traditional schooling, as brick and mortar schools are not for every learner,” Howard said, “[Also], BLVS is an alternative for students who are physically unable to attend traditional classes for medical reasons or because of health issues.”

Financial hardships, school bullying issues and many more aspects are often considered when considering the option of virtual school.

Howard also reasons that virtual schools are a resource for parents who homeschool for all grades kindergarten through 12th.

While a great resource for students not enrolled in brick and mortar schools, BLVS, like many other virtual schools, present opportunities for high schoolers wanting to graduate early. Furthermore, all high school students have the option to recover credits if necessary.

Despite all of these positive factors, the House Bill could still potentially pass.

The Kansas Legislature is hoping to pass a bill by this Friday; however, if that doesn’t happen, they will come back during the veto session which will take place in late April.

To voice your opinion either for or against this House Bill, reach out to local legislators.

Representative Dove – 785.296.7670 or [email protected]
Senator Holland – 785.296.7372 or [email protected]

If you have time, additional legislators that need to hear from you are:

Senator Fitzgerald – 785.296.7357 or [email protected]
Senator Masterson – 785.296.7388 or [email protected]
Representative Rhoades – 785.296.7682 or [email protected]