Boards across the SU have now finished their budget decisions for voter approval in March. Board members, principals, directors and especially Business Manager Brenda Fleming spent numerous hours reviewing data and other information to make informed decisions that can support high quality education in a sustainable and affordable manner. I thank Board members across the SU for their volunteer time and effort in making decisions in the best interest of students.
Budget decisions are difficult once again this year as the declining enrollment, the current funding system and the vision for a student centered 21st Century learning environment come into conflict. It is important, as our Compass points out, that our students receive opportunities to meet the learning outcomes defined in the Compass and develop character, competence, creativity and community. Yet this year, we are up against cost shifts that include:
- moving preschool out of federal grants into local budgets now that preschool is mandated,
- absorbing retirement cost shifts for teachers through a “new teacher tax” we must pay annually for any teacher new to the system, as well as the
- cost shifting retirement benefits for grant funded teachers into the grants that pay their salaries (to the tune of $117,000, or nearly 2 teacher positions),
- picking up 50% of the cost of dual enrollments (a small number but an administrative impact).
As more and more mandates are shifting costs to local budgets at the same time enrollment is declining, the perfect storm is in place for discussions about whether schools are spending too much. We need to talk about the investment in students our schools need to make for the benefit of our communities now and in our future, and continue to analyze what is affordable within the ever increasing funding restraints.
Please be involved in budget discussions that make our schools the best we can be for our children.