School Budget Cut

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As principal of Carter High School in Mesa, Arizona, I work hard to ensure that my staff is properly compensated and driven to provide optimal educational services to our students. Nevertheless, in light of recent budget cuts in our school district, difficult decisions remain to be made for this administration. Effective immediately, the state Department of Education has chosen to reduce its maintenance and operations budget by 20% and its soft capital budget by 30%. As such, it is my responsibility to lead a bilateral effort determining exactly where these cuts will occur. The change, although not easy, is necessary to properly adjust to new policies.

These new directives will not change my mandate as principal of Carter High School as outlined under ISLLC directives one and three. Through directive one, I recognize that it is my job to foster a school and community environment with a clear vision communicating core beliefs for learning that focuses on each student's educational potential with clear learning goals in the midst of a diverse society (Huppenthal, 1996, p. 1). Through directive three, I welcome the responsibility to implement clearly organized rules and procedures that builds trust among colleagues, accepts responsibility for decisions made, and, especially in light of these pending cuts, acts in an entrepreneurial spirit in order to compensate for changes made in state funding to public education (Huppenthal, 1996, p. 4-5). In spite of these changes, our mission at Carter High School of providing a powerful and positive learning experience remains intact.

The results in the reduction of the maintenance and operations budget will affect everyone, albeit at varying degrees. Current budget allocations of $1,567,125 must be reduced to $1,253,700 for a sector reduction of $313,425. Supplies available to teach our children will be reduced from $15,390 to $10,000. Also, the discretionary budget for continued professional development will be eliminated in a new initiative for individual teacher training and development. The salary for teachers implementing elective credits will also face reductions of $2,000 per credit. However, the budget for physical education will be reduced even further to only one credit to save capital for core subjects. Classified staff (administrative assistants, library aides, etc.) will each face a $1,698 pay cut. In core electives, class sizes will need to increase in order to keep our best teachers as one credit position will be eliminated from each core subject. In spite of these difficult cuts, these changes will allow us to continue providing educational services at the new budget requirements.

In order to reach the objectives set by the soft capital budget reduction of 30%, further adjustments will be necessary. Athletic equipment, PE equipment, and furniture/desks will receive a moratorium on implementation through the school budget. This will save capital for investing in the continually updating technology needs of the twenty-first century. Also, textbook adoptions and other instructional equipment will be saved from the budget cut. In the face of these austerity measures, our fund allocation speaks to the high values we continue to hold for the learning process.

Within Carter High School, a number of primary sources of revenue remain available to fund the educational experiences of our students. Most significantly, the county local transfer provides the bulk of our district's operating costs (Mattox, 2011, p. 14). State revenue supplies four different types of funding: Standards of Quality (basic state aid, sales tax, program appropriations), Incentive Programs, Categorical Programs, and Lottery Funded Programs, each with their own indicators and accessibility volatility (Mattox, 2011, p. 14). Federal aid provides an additional source of funding according to performance realized in the nation's No Child Left Behind grant program (Mattox, 2011, p. 14). Finally, some miscellaneous funds come in through summer school tuition fees, building rental fees, and the sale of equipment and vehicles (Mattox, 2011, p. 14). These funds combine to create the budget for the fiscal year.

Sources of revenue come from three different categories: the federal, the state, and the local levels. Maintenance and operations budgets often come from state and federal sources. The capital budget comes from the local level. Soft budget allocations are funded through local and state levels. Bonds and tax credits come through approved local initiatives. While federal and state grants are both self-explanatory, title money comes from federal funding. Overrides arrive from the state level, while extracurricular fees are paid at the local level. Any other sources of revenue will most likely generate from the local. These three sources create the context for the generation of school funding.

Each of the aforementioned sources of revenue provides funding to specific payment items. Maintenance and operations budget allocations come from the state on a per-student basis from primary property tax. Capital budget utilization contributes to the upkeep and construction of new buildings through state funds allocated by the state interagency committee (Canavan, 2009, p. 1). Soft capital budget allocations supplying equipment and books are supplied by the state Department of Education, currently in the process of implementing funding reductions. Bonds represent agreed-upon levies approved by the community through a democratic process and funded through a secondary property tax. Federal grant money is used to pay the salaries of professional educators (Mattox, 2011, p. 59). In most cases, state grants supply the funding for the maintenance and operations budget as well as the soft capital budget. Title money is directed towards services for at-risk students (Junge & Krvaric, 2013, p. 2). Overrides provide for maintenance and operations within the state of Arizona (Jenney, 2013, p. 1). Also within the state, extracurricular fees provide for athletic equipment, band uniforms, laboratory equipment, and trips for competitive events (Raber, 2013, p. 2). In the case of tax credits applied to the school budget, these funds are used to support K-12 and preschool students with disabilities (Raber, 2014, p. 1). These composite funds contribute to the net effect of school funding.

However, certain limitations exist concerning the allocation of funds. For example, tax credit money may not be used on merit of donor preference or in cases where parents agree to "swap" funding in donations to their respective children's education (Raber, 2013, p. 3). In addition, extracurricular fees may not be allocated towards senior trips or other amusement related activities (Raber, 2013, p. 2). Finally, soft capital dollars are prohibited from use in the distribution of salaries or stipends. These regulations contribute to the just application of funding in accordance with their original intentions.

In order to meet the district requirements, a number of items could be cut. Priority I cuts such as athletic equipment, furniture and desks, and PE equipment could be reduced from the soft capital budget implemented by the state Department of Education. Priority II cuts such as technology equipment and instructional equipment could be eliminated from the same category. Finally, priority III cuts in the maintenance and operations budget such as instructional supplies and professional development could provide a last means grounds upon which to eliminate funding. All factors considered, this district will face challenges to find alternative revenue.

2)The tenuous task of implementing the budgetary decision-making process should not be undertaken alone. Its proper realization will require input from school administrators, school boards, school employees, and members of the community. School administrators should be involved because they will focus on preserving the vision of the school to provide a positive and professional learning environment. School boards, more than any other group, will respect the rigors of the budget demands; their inclusion on the stakeholder team will provide a stabilizing influence on the process that considers the fiscal needs of the district. School employees stand to be most directly impacted by the budgetary cuts; implementing changes without their involvement would be a major error. Finally, involving members of the community, especially those with children at Carter High School, will help the engaged public understand the challenges facing the district; parents will likely be motivated to consider alternative sources of revenue in support of their children's growth. In excluding students from the group, we maintain standards of professionalism and allow students to focus on the process of learning.

The items I chose to remove from the school budget were based out of a comprehensive understanding of the necessity of reform. Teachers deserve to be paid fairly. When they're not, the possibility of a teacher's strike looms. Their salary cut only reflects the reality of a budget cut broadly implemented across the maintenance and operations budget. In order to involve the appropriate stakeholders in the process, a series of committee meetings will be organized to discuss the upcoming changes and encourage open dialogue; this plan will be implemented following the conclusion of these meetings and at the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year. I identified the programs to be preserved on the merit of preference to the core subjects; extracurricular activities, especially physical education, seem secondary in the urgency of teaching strong writing, science, and analytical skills so vital to success. This plan does not eliminate programs, and, while its effectiveness will be challenged, our school vision remains intact. At the conclusion of the stakeholder meetings, we will hold a community forum to explain to the public the incoming changes. Together, we will seek additional funding through local tax-deductible contributions, bonds, and the possibility of additional sales taxes to compensate for these losses. Through the No Child Left Behind act, student performance will be annually monitored. Although the forthcoming changes will be difficult, proper preparation and clear strategies will aid our cause.

References

Canavan, B. P. (2009, January 1). Capital budget. Harford County Public Schools. Retrieved March from https://www.hcps.org/boe/budget/content/FY08/CapitalBudgetNarrative.pdf

Huppenthal, J. (1996, January 1). ISLLC standards for school leaders. Higher Logic. Retrieved from http://higherlogicdownload.s3.amazonaws.com/AWSP/6a272d0b-ca35-4cb0-81a4-e2058b2c7e34/UploadedImages/Pro%20Dev/Intern%20Resources/ISLLC%20Standards%20(complete).pdf

Jenney, T. (2013, November 4). 2013 guide to school district overrides & bond measures. Americans for Prosperity Arizona. Retrieved from http://americansforprosperity.org/ arizona/legislativealerts/2013-guide-to-school-district-overrides-bond-measures/

Junge, M., & Krvaric, S. (2013, July 1). The money you don't know you have for school turnaround: Maximizing the Title I schoolwide model. Mass Insight. Retrieved from http://www.massinsight.org/publications/stg-resources/240/file/1/pubs/2013/07/12 /FedEd_SDN_supplemental_funds_toolkit_FINAL_7_11_13.pdf

Mattox, I. O. (2011, January 25). School board's proposed FY 2011-2012 operating budget. Goochland County Public Schools. Retrieved from http://www.glnd.k12.va.us/budget/ approved_budget_jan_2011.pdf

Raber, D. (2013, August 1). School tax credits. Arizona Department of Revenue. Retrieved from http://www.azdor.gov/Portals/0/Brochure/707.pdf

Raber, D. (2014, January 30). Manual for school tuition organizations. Arizona Department of Revenue. Retrieved from http://www.azdor.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket= 0xEYgFt2NkU%3d&tabid=240