The Blue Springs School District continues to perform well, the superintendent says, but he adds that funding concerns – particularly funding from the state – pose long-term risks.
“We obviously have something to be proud of in this community,” Superintendent Jim Finley said at Thursday’s Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “The school district is a gem, something to be valued."
He added, “The question is, can we sustain that with our current levels of funding?”
Finley mentioned projections by former Missouri Budget Director James Moody that, thanks to tax cuts passed by the Missouri General Assembly in the last three years, the state is looking eight to 10 years of tight budgets. State funding is about one-third of the district’s budget, and the state has been withholding full payments to schools, costing Blue Springs about $350,000 this year.
The largest amount of money in the budget comes from local taxes, and Finley noted that last year local property valuations finally came back to the levels of 2008, when the economy fell into the Great Recession.
Also, the district is saving money with improved energy efficiency, refinanced debt and staff reductions, and Finley said its cost per pupil is lower than that of other area districts.
“We continue to look for ways to be as efficient as we can and continue to enjoy the level of excellence we’ve become accustomed to,” he said.
He mentioned a long string of successes and awards, including five National Merit semifinalists last year, having Moreland Ridge Middle School library media specialist Tara Pennington as the regional teacher of the year, having Voy Spears Elementary as a state Gold Star school and a national Blue Ribbon school, Blue Springs High School finishing first (boys) and fourth (girls) at state in cross country two weeks ago. Also, the Wildcats play for the 6A championship in football this weekend.
And this week came word that the district’s annual performance rating from the state was 99.6, measuring academic achievement, college and career readiness, attendance and other factors.
“We are once again the highest performing district in the Kansas City area,” Finley said.
He also touched on the controversy over Gov. Eric Greitens' attempts to remove state Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. He has made several appointments to the State Board of Education, which has a closed meeting set for Tuesday, possibly to fire Vandeven, though it appears Greitens lacks the votes.
For many years, Finley said, the board of has had four Republicans and four Democrats to prevent this kind of situation. He said he’s concerned, and he urged people to follow the issue.
“This is really unprecedented in our state,” he said.