Chop Chop — Early Cuts Come to Neenah

The Sweet, “Chop Chop” (click to listen or download).

In Neenah, they are getting an early start on cutting programs, services and personnel (read the students’ educational opportunities).  According to the Appleton Post Crescent the Board has enacted over 50 program cuts and fee increases to address an anticipated $2.8 million gap between allowed revenues and projected costs in the 2010-11 school year.  These cuts total $2.7 million, so there are more to come.  Probably much more,because if the legislators don’t address revenue shortfalls (think Penny for Kids), I don’t see anyway that there won’t be a state “budget reconciliation” in April or May, with either lower revenue limits, reduced state aid or (most likely) both.

Let’s look at what got lopped off this round (full administrative analysis here):

  • $628,000 by deferring textbook purchases
  • $240,000 by cutting four teachers at Shattuck Middle School as part of a streamlined house structure
  • $200,000 by cutting five educational assistants for special education
  • $168,000 by cutting three educational assistants and one administrative assistant
  • $162,400 by limiting eighth-graders to one fine arts class and one practical arts class
  • $150,000 by cutting two counselors
  • $100,000 by reducing staff and support for co-curricular activities
  • $80,000 by reducing overtime for hourly employees
  • $70,000 by cutting a bookkeeper at the central office
  • $60,000 by cutting a teacher from the gifted and talented program
  • $60,000 by cutting an academic support teacher
  • $42,000 by eliminating the third-grade strings program from the school day
  • Here are some other figures of interest. 

    If Wisconsin wins a Race to the Top grant and if that grant is funded at the requested level, Neenah will receive $412,938 in funding that can only be spent on programs approved by the Federal Department of Education.

    For the 2009-10 school year, to make up from cuts in state education investment, raised their tax levy $2,184,046 or by 6.8% (calculated from here and here).

    In Madison, a 15% cut in state aid is anticipated for 2010-11 (absent a “budget reconciliation”) and cuts in educational opportunities will likely be $3 million to $4 million range.  Madison has adopted a budget time line, but has not brought the axes out yet.

    There are only one group of people who can reverse the trends playing out in Neenah, in Madison and around the state:  our elected officials in the State Legislature.  There is only one proposal that has any kind of chance at all of making this happen: the Penny for Kids dedicated sales tax for education.  Go to the site and sign the petitionWrite your legislatorsWrite your local paper. Keep in touch with the Penny for Kids campaign on Facebook and Twitter (I’ll confess that I don’t “tweet”).

    Neenah’s early; many, many more cuts in many, many more districts will follow if nothing is done.

    Thomas J. Mertz

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    1 Comment

    Filed under "education finance", Budget, education, finance, Local News, Pennies for Kids, School Finance, Take Action, Uncategorized

    One response to “Chop Chop — Early Cuts Come to Neenah

    1. Jackie Woodruff

      They still had 3rd grade strings in Neenah? I bring this up because over the last six years I have heard nothing but complaining from people that I work with that also work for Republicans at the Capital that Madison offers way more “extras” than other districts. I had a State budget aide argue with me that he was not in favor of reforming school funding as other districts had eliminated ALL strings and had music on a cart and we at MMSD were complaining about having to eliminate 4th grade strings.

      Hearing that Neenah is having to eliminate 3rd grade strings makes me wonder what other misconceptions are out there as to what other districts have had to sacrifice in the past to balance budgets. I have heard it argued that it was “equitable” for Madison to loose 4th grade strings as an example because it would level the playing field for other districts across the State who had music on a cart. I am a firm believer in equity and I now question how equitable our school districts are across the State. I now question what other districts have in comparison to my own. Has there been a State-wide comparison of what each district offers done? I shutter to think at what such a comparison might show.

      As we promote things like Pennies for Kids statewide, I think it is important to look at comparisons in an effort to clarify misconceptions about the state/health of the School Systems in Wisconsin. Many voters across the State, especially those without school age children may not understand the scope of the problem and the effect the funding cuts are having in districts other than their own. I think the good people of Neenah need to be aware that many districts have lost even more than they have and if drastic changes are not made to educational funding this will be only the first of many sacrifices the students in Neenah may face in the foreseeable future.

      I hope that these horrible cuts facing our schools will be a long needed wake up call people need to change a broken funding system. Maybe seeing what others around the State see as “normal for their district” might make voters more sympathetic as to the need for Educational funding reform as they see what their district might look like inthe near future without it.

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