NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Schools with declining enrollments are in an impossible situation. Most state aid is based on head-count. When that head count goes down it’s hard to make up the difference.
But enrollment doesn’t go down evenly from one grade to another. An elementary school with 100 kids, approximately 20 students for each grade, may lose 10-percent of its students. But if enrollment goes down by four kids in the 3rd grade, three kids in the 4th grade, and 1 kid each in 1st, 2nd, and 5th grades, the school would suffer a tremendous loss of funding… but it will not be able to cut a single teacher. The 16 remaining kids in 3rd grade and the 17 kids left in 4th grade will still need someone to teach them. There will just be less money to go around, but no obvious way to cut expenses. That’s why extracurricular activities and other frills are constantly at risk.
The school district’s likely solution is to go to referendum, asking voters for the authority to spend beyond its statutory limits.
But the only solution to the declining-enrollment is rising enrollment. If the size of the student body stays the same, or goes down even more, the district will find itself in a worse financial spot once its borrowing authority runs out. They’ll face the same choices down the road: cut programs, or go back to the voters for more money.
So the real question as you consider how to vote on a school referendum isn’t the money being asked for today… its whether you’re committed to providing that same level of funding in the future.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau