CHEROKEE - Southeast USD 247 has learned their application requesting $383,281 in Extraordinary Need State Aid for school districts with declining enrollments has been granted in full. Southeast Superintendent Dr. Brad Miner says this one time offer allows the school district to delay some of the cuts planned for 2017-18 as they transition to being a smaller school district.
"We'll look to employ one para for each building and a school resource officer if one is available," Dr. Miner says. "These individuals will be hired knowing that the position is only for one year. While they may only be for one year, the benefit of having these positions allows us to continue to support students for another year in ways we were not going to be able to without the funds."
Dr. Miner says the Block Grant that funded schools for the past two years kept State Aid frozen and did not fluctuate with increases or decreases in enrollment. Legislatures recently passed a school finance law that returns to a per pupil formula. Since 2014-15, Southeast had a decline in enrollment of approximately 100 students. That coupled with an increase in health insurance premiums, meant a loss of funding for Southeast totaling over $700,000, which forced drastic reductions for the 2017-2018 school year.
“It was devastating to experience such a dramatic funding decline in one year," Dr. Miner says.
Law makers recognized school officials concerns and authorized the State Board of Education to receive applications for Extraordinary Need State Aid in the amount of $2,593,452 for school districts with declining enrollments. Dr. Miner expressed his appreciation for the legislators that worked so hard to include it as part of the new school finance formula.
"Research shows us that working with at-risk students requires additional support beyond what they can get during regular class time with the teacher alone, hence, the paras. We have an economically disadvantaged student population of over 60% and any extra support we can provide them, even for one year, is a benefit."
Southeast plans to use the funds for para support for struggling students, support of early childhood programs, support of students attending national qualifying events, providing a school resource officer, teacher and student support in the classroom, and classified and certified salary support.
"We are not looking to bring back classroom teachers as we know we are a smaller district and class size does not support that. While we will see a decrease in funding next year, we also expect more natural attrition added to the cuts we've made for 2017-18 which can help offset the loss, and may allow us to keep these positions. It's too early to tell right now. This just gives us a little more cushion as we ease into being a smaller school."
"We had planned to shift some maintenance salaries and utility expenses into capital outlay. Having this funding now means we can postpone that for at least another year and that money can be freed up and we will not have to put off some of the things we were planning to put off, such as needed building repairs, bus purchases, classroom supplies, etc."