How might COVID-19 impact the school district budget?
The estimated loss of revenue to the state due to COVID-19 is currently $7 billion. As such, the state is looking to cut costs. The state has a constitutional duty to fund “basic education,” but school district services and programs NOT considered “basic education” could be at risk of losing state funding. Local property tax revenue, used in part to fund schools, is also expected to decline.
What is “basic education” and what is not considered “basic education?”
Basic education is instruction in the Essential Academic Learning Requirements, which includes but is not limited to the following: English Language Arts (ELA), Math, Science, Social Studies, Health and PE, World Languages. Services and programs not included in basic education include: state funding support for National Board Certified teachers, local effort assistance, inflationary adjustments, extracurricular programs, supplemental professional development, etc.
How does enrollment impact the budget?
The District’s funding from the state is based on enrollment. Thus, we are actively working to ensure students return in the fall. We are monitoring registration activity for next year and are not seeing typical trends. The School District is also hearing concerns from families about returning to school buildings next year. These fears are state- and nation-wide. SPS is proactively working to provide options for students in order to maintain enrollment.
What is the projected budget shortfall for 2020-2021 school year?
We estimate a $12 million deficit going into next school year.
What is the fund balance?
The fund balance is reserve money or an “emergency fund” for the school district. It is the money left over from revenue after all expenses are accounted for. The minimum fund balance is 5-6% of the operating budget per Board policy. If the fund balance falls below the minimum, policy calls for the District to create a plan to restore it.
What do local levies fund?
Levies fund the programs and services that the state does not fund as part of “basic education.” The next opportunity for the Board to bring a levy to a citizen’s vote is February 2021.
How will “equitable access” be implemented? What principles will be applied?
The District works to ensure resources are applied equitably across all students. We’ll be looking at programs like counseling services and intervention programs to ensure they are maintained. One of the Board’s guiding principles in budget development is to “provide equitable distribution of resources that recognize the diverse needs of students.”
What does CARES Act funding cover? Has SPS received guidance from OSPI on the use of CARES Act money?
CARES Act funding is for use to cover COVID-19 related expenses. The District expects to receive additional guidance. General areas of use currently include remote learning technology, custodians, increase net cost of transportation and social distancing items such as plexiglass.
What is the process the District will take to decide which programs/services to cut if need be?
The School Board will work with the District to develop a budget that aligns with the guiding principles set forward by the Board:
- Protect basic needs for educating the whole child
- Provide equitable distribution of resources that recognize the diverse needs of students
- Maintain essential support services
- Meet legal compliance and educational standards
What additional costs may be associated with a “safe start” to school in the fall?
Additional costs could include personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, additional custodial support, increased transportation needs, technology, social distancing measures and other needs to be determined as the reopening plan is defined. Some of these costs may be covered by CARES Act or FEMA funding.
Might the District fund distribution of laptops to each SPS student?
We are working evaluating models to ensure equitable and safe access to technology. Currently, we would need an additional 3,000-5,000 laptops to achieve a 1:1 ratio for all students K-12. We are looking at several options for funding for laptops and technology.
What will elementary specialty instruction look like next year?
Elementary instruction in specialty areas will continue with the model of the current year. If learning is virtual next year, OPSI will determine parameters for specialty instruction. We will work closely with teachers to create best practices. It is very difficult to replicate this instruction virtually, but we be thoughtful and creative in our approach.
How will the budget strengthen Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs?
Current staffing levels will continue, and we will be growing resources for support staff. Staff are participating in book studies and multiple professional development trainings to help support students currently and in the fall.
What are the next steps for the School District’s budget planning process?
The School District will continue to review and seek input on budget allocations for the 2020-2021. The School District is reviewing the need for additional resources in support of the priority to provide antiracism and social emotional programs and services within available resources.