It’s no secret that California schools struggle to adequately fund programs and services for students. This has been our story for nearly forty years, since the passage of Proposition 13. School districts and local Boards have managed by adding services in good times and reducing in bad. In Evergreen, we’ve certainly gone through this cycle. As we look to develop the budget for 2018-2019, we find ourselves in this cycle again, despite the fact that we will be at full funding of the local control funding formula (LCFF).
Why, you might ask. Isn’t full funding of the LCFF supposed to restore revenues to the purchasing power of 2007-2008, California’s highest point for education funding? Yes, however, Evergreen, like other local districts, is facing a complicating situation: declining enrollment. Schools receive funding on a per pupil basis. Fewer students mean fewer dollars.
Declining enrollment is the result of a depressed birth rate during the recession, families moving from the area for more affordable housing options, and the fact that many neighborhoods in Evergreen were built 20 years ago and the children have aged out leaving the parents in the home with no children for our schools. For every student we lose, the District loses *$8,177
Wouldn’t fewer students result in a natural and proportional reduction in staffing? No, unfortunately, economies of scale are not in play in a declining enrollment environment. Students do not leave us in neat packages of 30 from any one school or grade. The decline takes place across the district and at all grades. Losing 15 students from one school doesn’t allow us to reduce a teacher.
This situation is further complicated when you consider that at full funding of LCFF, future funding increases will likely be limited to cost of living adjustments (COLA) which are projected to hover between 2.5% and 3% and costs are increasing at 4%-5%. Certain costs are increasing at increasing rates; retiree benefits, health care, and special education cost increases are putting significant pressure on our budget.
So what does all this mean? As we develop the 2018-2019 budget, we need to reduce approximately $7 million. These reductions will come from several places and I invite you to learn more by attending one of the Superintendent Coffee events where Chief Business Officer, Yang and I will share budget details and answer questions. Check our website and social media pages for dates/times.
Is there any good news? Yes! We believe that while these reductions may be difficult in the short term, they will result in a leaner, more efficient organization that has a laser –like focus on our goal: Engaging students in authentic learning that prepares them with the skills to be global-minded citizens. We are committed to providing our students cutting-edge learning opportunities and aligning our resources accordingly. A smaller district with fewer schools means that our limited student support personnel, (nurses, social workers, counselors, etc.) can reach more students. Our commitment to providing our students a world-class education won’t change a bit; what these changes can mean for the District is a real sustained stability that will result in less uncertainty, year in and year out.
*(2017-2018 LCFF per pupil funding average)