What would happen to Corbett School District if we only had half the kids?
As one of the lowest funded districts in the state multiple different school boards have elected to add out of district students to our population in order to provide opportunities for resident students over at least the last 16 years. Recently, the board has worked to keep our total population essentially flat for the last 7 years; however some would like to see it shrink further. The board has heard calls by a few folks for the district to shrink back to a resident only district.
When we consider a resident only district we need to consider two questions.
First, we need to consider if shrinking to a resident only district would be academically advantageous for our resident students?
Second, we need to consider if it is economically possible to run a resident only district.
The first question can be answered by looking back 15-20 years ago when we were mostly a resident only district. If we ask ourselves a series of questions the answers to those questions could point to an academic advantage to being smaller than we are now. Here are some of the questions we should ask ourselves before considering going to a resident only district.
Q: In a mostly resident district did we have a higher graduation rate than we do now?
Q: Did we have more course opportunities back then than we do now?
Q: Was the average GPA as high than as it is now?
Q: Were services for students with disabilities more robust than compared to now?
Q: Did we offer more athletic opportunities to students than compared to now?
Q: Was our student population more diverse than compared to now?
Q: Did a higher percentage of students attend college back then as compared to today?
Q: Did a higher percentage of students get scholarships to attend college back then as compared to today?
Q: Was the campus safer then as compared to now?
This list of questions does not capture every consideration when considering district size. For instance if we asked:
Q: Was traffic better then as compared to now?
You get an answer to that question that might make you consider that being resident only is better than being a hybrid of residents and non-residents. However, school boards consider the academic needs of students first and balance those against other considerations like traffic second. The point here is there are legitimate concerns, although not necessarily academic concerns, that make it fair to consider the functionality of a resident only district. Therefore, we should look at question two and decide if it is economically feasible to operate a resident only district.
What would have happened if we had half the kids we had in 2016-17?
The attached information was shared with Rob Saxton, the independent consultant reviewing the district’s operation, as well as with the school board at their December meeting. The data and analysis presented attempts to answer the question of what a resident only district would have looked like in 2016-17. The reason 2016-17 was analyzed is because it is the most recent school year where all of the State level data has been finalized as well as all of the district level data having been audited by independent auditors. The results of that audit has been reported, as required by law, to the state.
The analysis consists of three sets of documents. The first is titled “What would have happened if we had half the kids we had in 2016-17”. It is the primary document and references the second document called “Backup”. The primary document has a column called description where it describes each revenue/expenditure as well as a column labeled “Backup” which provides a more detailed breakdown of the audited numbers and the rationale for adjusting each audited number or for leaving it the same. The Backup column has page number references for the larger “Backup” document.
To summarize the primary document it demonstrates the following information:
In a resident only district we would have had about $6,065,300 in revenue. (green box)
Our overhead would be about $1,841,000. (yellow box)
Support Personnel would cost about $2,348,534 (pink box)
Non Class Room Level Student Level Programming would cost $1,365,166 (rose box)
After paying those baseline costs we would have had about $510,500 to hire classroom teachers. This number is about $2,440,782 short of what we would need to operate the district; assuming we did not get the small high school adjustment back. If we did get the small high school adjustment we would be about $1,845,329 short. (See the light blue boxes).
The final packet of information contains sheets 6, 7, and 9. Sheet 6 demonstrates two approaches to solving the $2,348,534 shortfall without the small high school adjustment. Solution one is to let in enough kids to balance the budget, but as you add kids you have to add instructors, and more instructors requires more money, which requires you to let in more students, etc. By the time the cat is done chasing its tail as shown on sheet 6 in the purple and rose colored boxes you have let in about 627 out of district kids and hired 49.56 teachers.
Solution two takes a different approach and tries to balance the budget without letting in any extra students. In order to balance the budget in a resident only district you would need to cut all athletics, the nurse assistant, all music, the technology director position, all bus transportation, eliminate grounds upkeep, eliminate the lunch and breakfast program, eliminate all principals and secretaries, eliminate everyone who works in the district office to include accounts payable, payroll, etc, and eliminate all of the janitors.
Many boards over the years have considered these two types of scenarios and they have consistently struck a balance between cutting programming and adding out of district students. That is to say cuts have been a part of nearly every budget cycle for more than a decade and the population has been kept essentially flat for seven years to keep the district small in recognition of concerns held by some folks regarding size.
Sheet 7 addresses one issue you may have noticed. Sheet 6 calls for a teacher population of 49.5 but in reality we only had 44 teachers that year. Sheet 7 demonstrates the types of cuts we implemented to keep the number of personnel as low as possible.
Finally, sheet 9 answers the question of “How the potential reinstatement of the small high school adjustment would impact sheet 6?” Put simply the small high school adjustment would still require the addition of students. In fact from the right hand purple box near the top of sheet 9 you can see you need to let in about 474 students to make up for the initial $1,845,329 shortfall. Unfortunately, as you let in more students your funds from the small high school adjustment go down.
The large orange box at the bottom of sheet 9 shows that by the time you let in enough kids to operate the district the small high school adjustment is no longer available to the district. In other words whether you start with a $2,348,534 or a $1,845,329 shortfall you arrive back at the same place.
Trying to describe a set of complicated multi-paged documents in writing is a challenge. If anyone is interested in walking through these scenarios I am happy to spend time in person helping folks understand the pressures our Board faces when trying to balance the academic needs of resident students with the overall size of our district. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this information.