Bailout from Bingo
Faced with a six-figure budget shortfall, school officials in Burgin, Ky., are banking on bingo.
The Burgin school district's $100,000 budget deficit, which officials there attribute to the loss of 50 students in the 368-student system over the past three years, has forced the school board to cut a janitorial position, trim the athletic budget, freeze salaries, and raise property taxes.
District leaders are hoping that Monday-night bingo games, held at the nearby Harrodsburg Bingo Center, will alleviate some of the pinch. Charitable bingo is legal in Kentucky.
The games are adding at least $700 a week to a new endowment fund, according to school board member Donna Major. Bingo revenues are expected to add a total of $30,000 to the schools' $1.5 million budget this year, she said.
Kentucky pays for its schools using a formula based on average daily attendance. Ms. Major said that in addition to a loss in state education dollars, the district's dwindling population has drained local tax coffers.
"We're a small school system, and $100,000 means a lot to our schools," she said. "Everyone's feeling it."
Beecher City, Ill., is pretty quiet these days. But the town of 500 residents in the south-central part of the state became a Depression-era boomtown when oil was discovered there in 1937.
Now, with the help of a $5,000 grant from the state school board, 7th through 12th graders in Beecher City are embarking on a multiyear study of the local oil field, which is still in production, and its impact on their lives.
"They pretty much grew up in the middle of the oil field and had little awareness of it," said Gary Cadwell, the principal of Beecher City Community Unit #20.
The junior-senior high school's 200 students will review archives, conduct interviews, and perform science experiments to gain a better understanding of the oil industry and local oil reserves.
The student research will be aided by the grant money, which has already been used to buy computers and link the school to the World Wide Web.
Beecher City students have set up a school Web site with a section dedicated to their oil project. The site can be reached at www.lth5.k12.il.us/beechercity.
Added Mr. Cadwell, "We're trying to involve as many students as possible in different areas of curriculum."
--KERRY A. WHITE & ROBERT C. JOHNSTON