As you may be aware, the Wyoming State Legislature is discussing various funding bills to address school finance in the face of declining revenue.
On Monday, January 30, at 6:00pm , the House Education Committee will hold its meeting at the East High School Auditorium. The sole bill for discussion is House Bill 236, the School Finance "Omnibus" bill.
Here are several links of interest and opportunities to provide public comment to our legislators.
Included below is an overview of some areas included in these budget bills that are of serious concern to TCSD #1, with an explanation of how these cuts would impact our district and our students.
All our staff, programs, interventions and activities are vital to our children's success and education. We recognize the reality that reductions must take place, however, making draconian reductions in a hasty fashion without a plan to increase revenue is not a viable solution and leaves our most vulnerable citizens of Wyoming at risk. Our children are our greatest assets and they deserve and need the financial support of the legislature in order to be successful.
TCSD #1 is encouraging the legislature to consider a percentage reduction to school district budgets and leave the decisions on how to reduce expenditures, programs, and opportunities up to the local school boards. As elected officials and representatives of the community, local school boards can best determine how to continue to provide the high quality education our state, communities, parents, and children expect. This solution relieves the legislature of the responsibility of dictating how to reduce funding and gives them the time needed to focus on future revenue streams.
Proposed Budget Reductions and the impacts to TCSD #1
Increases the goal from 85% to 90% for all 3rd grade students to be at grade level in reading. TCSD#1 supports this goal and has actually set the goal in our strategic plan of 100% of students at grade level for math and reading by the end of 3rd grade by 2022.
Impact on TCSD#1: The concern is that when coupled with the proposed reductions below, the district would not have access to adequate resources (time, teachers, and materials) to realize this goal.
· Elementary class size increases.
Impact on TCSD: Annually, this would require a reduction of 5-8 teachers in grades K-5. This would also require a reduction in the number of specialist teachers or reduce the specials offered to students. Specialist teachers are defined as intervention support, art, music, PE, library, Spanish, computer.
· Secondary class size increases.
Impact on TCSD#1: Annually, this would require that JHMS, JHHS and SHS reduce staff; including electives, career and technical education, and fine arts programs. This may also impact the number of course offerings. An early estimate for secondary schools is 3-4 teaching positions annually.
· Reduces funding for Instructional Facilitators from 60% to 15%.
Impact on TCSD#1: This would most likely result in a loss of half the Instructional Facilitator positions or 4-5 staff.
· Reduce transportation expenditures by 20% over two years.
Impact on TCSD#1: This would result in the consolidation of routes and longer bus rides for students. Field trip frequency would be reduced, as there would not be enough drivers and busses to run regular routes as well as field trips. Activity busses for travel to competitions for activities and athletics would also be reduced.
· Reduce special education costs by 10%.
Impact on TCSD#1: As most special education costs are driven by IEP's, it is hard to imagine how this might occur. Most likely it would require fewer staff conducting the same work, and increase the caseloads for special education teachers.
· Vacancy filling rate of 50% for 13 months
Impact on TCSD#1: This requires knowing in advance which positions are going to be vacated and which ones must be filled. Without knowing what the future holds for anyone, this would be difficult to predict.
· Reduce teacher contract days by 7:
Impact on TCSD#1: Currently teachers work 187 days to provide time for classroom preparation, parent conferencing, and professional development. This time during the year is vital as teachers must keep pace with current research and have time as teams to collaborate and learn. If there is no time during the school day, teachers would have to stay after school for professional development, and would be compensated on an hourly basis, thus reducing the overall savings. This reduction in days only would be a loss of $700,000 for teachers.
· Reduce educator salaries.
Impact on TCSD#1: Educators across the country are serving our country's most valuable asset - our children. Even with the magnitude of expectation and responsibility on their shoulders, educator salaries are much lower than other positions of equal value. Further, educators have invested in education with multiple advanced degrees and are highly skilled people in a community. Educators already work well above and beyond expectations and should be valued for the important role they fill in children's lives, while meeting the demands of the community and state expectations.