You can’t say this is a surprise. The whole way Wisconsin funds education has been accurately called a “going out of business” plan (video here); Prior to the overwhelming defeat of a referendum on April 7, Administrator Roger Gahart warned that a no vote could lead to dissolving the district.
Here is how the situation was explained.
A combination of factors have led Paris into financial difficulty.
The district is considered property-rich under state funding formulas, and has had declines in student enrollment, both factors leading to a steady reduction in state aid. At the same time, state law limits the amount of money districts can collect under the revenue cap, and its expenses have grown faster than revenues.
Paris has cut its budget over the past year, eliminating some staff positions and reducing costs. But the district, with just one classroom per grade level, has little room left to cut…
The dissolution vote is only the first step of a long process that most often does not end in a dissolution.
Paris is a very small K-8 district, serving less than 200 students. A case can be made that consolidating with another district would be best. Certainly economics should play a role in this decision, yet when you look closely it is clear that dissolution/consolidation won’t fix many of the problems.
There will be some economies of scale, but the recent cuts in Paris indicate that this potential is limited.
• Reductions in staff for 2008-2009 school year saved $100,240.
• Reductions in staff for 2009-2010 school year projected to be $60,000 to $70,000.
• Total current expenses reduced $121,966 from Fall Budget report.
• 26.5% reduction in supply expenses from 2007-2008 school year to 2008-2009.
• 52% reduction in supply expenses from
2008-2009 school year to 2009-2010.
• Improved energy conservation and building maintenance practices.
• Taking advantage of used, refurbished, and donated materials and equipment.
The district mentioned as possible new homes for the Paris students are Kenosha Unified, Bristol, Union Grove or Brighton. They all have there problems.
Kenosha is dealing with the aftermath of an ill-advised investment strategy (inspired by the need to do something to try to deal with the broken state finance system), the budget pressures were a major issue in the recent School Board elections, they are phasing out the Music Department and not too long ago faced protests against “excessive budget cuts.”
I can’t find anything on the Bristol or Brighton budgets. Not much on Union Grove either, except an incumbent Board Member seeking re-eletion saying “school funding” is “the most important issue facing the board.”
If dissolution/consolidation is only a partial and temporary fix, the School Finance Network (SFN) has a proposal that will help all districts in Wisconsin achieve sustainable funding for excellent education. There will be a hearing on the SFN plan on Tuesday April 21 at 1:00 PM at the Wisconsin State Capitol in room 413 north (more details here). It is important that there be a good crowd supporting comprehensive reform. Be there!
Meanwhile, contact your elected officials, the media and get involved (see here for “how to’).
Thomas J. Mertz