When Scott Moll's family moved from Wichita to Andover, he saw parents lining up to volunteer and support schools like he had never seen before.
So he's confident that the community will find a way to pull its school district through a state budget crisis.
"Our school has so many resources, I absolutely think this is an opportunity," Moll said. "There's no better place in the state to think outside the box and innovate and show what we can do."
Moll and other parents at the meeting at Andover Central High School offered answers to the grim predictions by administrators and other experts about what might happen as state legislators work to close a projected budget shortfall of $416 million.
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It was one of two town hall-type meetings Monday in the Wichita area to explain what's at stake for Kansans.
Andover administrators told about 100 students, parents and teachers that they've been exploring new ways to bring services to students.
They include combining higher-level academic classes, which draw fewer students at Andover's two high schools, on one campus or creating virtual classrooms, said Superintendent Mark Evans.
"But those only go so far," Evans said.
Other experts talked about how state budget cuts would mean fewer doctors for clinics serving the poor, and how meals for homebound people are being cut for lack of funds.
Parents, however, were determined to find answers. And they'd done their homework. (MP3: Listen to audio from Tuesday's meeting.)
Joanne Barclay, who has had five children go through Andover schools, said she'd learned about a program in Ohio which brought senior citizens into the schools to share the food services.
"It benefited both the people needing the meals, and the high school having the seniors come there," Barclay said.
Others were concerned about the prospects of seeing more people lose their jobs and more programs cut.
Evans said Andover had already lost elementary school math tutors, frozen salaries, and decreased transportation services and utilities usage.
This year, any additional state cuts will mean losses of jobs, where 90 percent of the district's operating funds go.
"We know we all have to tighten our belts," he said afterward. "But what we don't want is a tourniquet."
Worries in Wichita
Jennifer Richardson spends a lot of her time fighting to get education and mental health services for her son.
On Monday, she looked down at a list of potential state budget cuts that might make the fight more difficult.
"It shouldn't be this hard," she said. "It's really sad."
Richardson attended the Experience Counts Virtual Rally at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas in Wichita, which offered parents Internet access to state experts who explained the 2010 legislative mental health agenda. It also gave parents a chance to talk to legislators in Topeka and argue against cutting services for the mentally ill.
About 25 families in Wichita were among the 200 statewide who participated.
Among the items of most concern to Richardson and others were a proposed 10 percent cut to Medicaid, and a request by the Kansas Health Policy Authority for legislative authority to develop a list of preferred medications for mental illness treatment.
Richardson said her son has been on dozens of medications for his different disorders, including one that costs $500 a month that is provided by the state.
If some of the drugs don't make the list, his life would be threatened, she said. And without state help, the family would never be able to afford the medications.
One family told lawmakers they'd have to give their children who suffer mental illness up to the state.
Others feared their children would be institutionalized, wind up in jail or die.
"Families really got to talk about the impacts," said Sherri Luthe, director of parent advocacy and support services through the mental health association, a nonprofit that served as a partner in the rally.
State experts told the families that when funding for preventive services such as attendant care and parent support care is cut, the need for more expensive crisis stabilization and hospitalization increases.
Fewer preventive services will lead to more need for crisis services, the experts said.
Shawna'de Smith, whose five children ages 4 to 21 suffer a range of illnesses including autism and defiance- and attention-deficit disorders, wanted to know if cuts would affect the 12 medications they require. She was told the list of preferred drugs could pose problems.
Cuts in treatment could be another problem, said Smith, a special education teacher who was laid off in May in the last round of budget cuts.
"All are in therapy, and you can see a huge impact on days they miss," she said.