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Articles: Budget

Above, the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township discusses union issues. Left to right, Chad Hunter, Uniserv director; Kate Miller, union president; Dena Cushenberry, superintendent; Brian Simkins, human resources director; and Tony Mendez, school board president.
The Central York School District administrators recently discussed union issues. From left to right, Shelly Eaton, teacher union president; Bobbi Billman, director of human resources; Kevin Youcheff, principal of North Hills Elementary School; and Robert Grove, assistant superintendent.

It was compromise that prevented a major teacher’s strike in February, as Portland Public Schools and the local union struck a bargain during an intense 24 hours of negotiating that ended months of deliberations.

International students and their U.S. classmates from Newcomb Central School District in New York go for a hike in the nearby Adirondack Mountains.

Districts hurting financially are recruiting tuition-paying foreign students to increase enrollment and diversity.

The number of international high school students coming to the United States with an F-1 education visa increased to nearly 65,500 in 2012, up from 6,500 in 2007, according to federal data.

Robert Nelson, superintendent of Chawanakee Unified SD, oversees students working on refurbished Apple MacBooks, saving the district thousands of dollars. (Photo: Will Drosche)

Just five years ago, Chawanakee USD, a small rural district nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in northern California, and the North Kansas City School District, a suburban district located just north of Kansas City, Mo., were at the starting lines of the digital revolution.

Baldwin County School District in Alabama spends $9 million per year on its Digital Renaissance program, which funds MacBook Air laptops for middle and high school students, and iPads for K2 students.

Before 4,450 MacBook Airs were distributed to students, before teachers were equipped and trained on their own devices, before test scores increased and the dropout rate decreased, the Mooresville Graded School District’s digital conversion started with a hard look at finances—one result of which was the elimination of more than 35 teaching positions.

Don Brann visits an elementary school in the Inglewood district—and listens to staff needs.

Donald Brann, state trustee of Inglewood USD, has only been on the job six months, but already teachers and administrators are seeing that things are different from what they used to be.

After the state takeover of the financially-struggling district, administrators say just having direct access and being able to communicate with him and receive quick answers to their questions is a change of pace. They had never seen the chief administrator visit their schools before.

The Wake County Public School System opened Rolesville High School last August, a four-story school with 111 teaching spaces to serve 2,262 students at full capacity. It was made possible with a bond issue.

The Puyallup School District in Washington brought a $279 million bond issue before the local community in February, with plans to move 4,000 students out of portable classrooms by constructing and expanding buildings. The measure lost narrowly—55 percent of voters said yes to an issue that needed 60 percent to pass.

Eighth graders at Richards Middle School learn how to access sites and information on their iPads. They learned about acceptable use, computer cyber safety, Evernote, Skydrive, and Blackboard.

When residents of Macomb County, Mich., tune into Pandora internet radio, they may be surprised to hear ads selling something quite different from landscaping, new cars, or home repair services.

Charles K. Trainor says an audit committee is an in-house, fail-safe mechanism that helps superintendents and the school board to identify risks and suggest solutions.

Tough economic conditions and shrinking revenues have increased competition for public funds. As a result, school districts are under intense scrutiny from state regulators and local taxpayers; any fiscal mismanagement receives harsh criticism.

Reports of districts eliminating school nurses or replacing them with unlicensed staffers are increasing nationwide, and student health care is suffering as a result, nursing advocates say. Among nurses’ responsibilities is caring for the estimated 3 million children with food allergies—a number representing an 18 percent increase from 1997 to 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control—and the 7.1 million children with asthma.

Students in the Orange County School District in North Carolina, above left, have sturdy laptops thanks to a blend of funding from a county sales tax and the district’s capital budget.

Prepare for all expenses

Implementing a 1-to-1 program involves more than just buying or leasing tablets or laptops, notes Terry Haas, chief financial officer of Mooresville Graded School District. District leaders also need to prepare for other costs, including setting up wired or wireless networking, and servers needed to support the additional computers and software. Technology staff also needs to be hired or expanded.

Texas’ teacher merit pay system, once the largest in the nation with early successful results, was eliminated in a summer legislative session due to massive cuts to the state’s education budget. The small amount of funding that remains has been converted into a competitive grant for improving instruction in low-income districts.

Philadelphia schools almost didn’t open this fall, after a $304 million budget cut forced 4,000 layoffs. Though $45 million in state emergency aid released in October is helping make progress toward recovery, the district remains without basic services that most administrators take for granted, such as vice principals and secretaries in every school.

Until recently, only rural districts hoping to save money on busing geographically spread-out students had cut the school week down to four days. But now, while some districts are leaning toward year-round schedules, some are actually shortening the week as budgets continue to drop and state officials allow scheduling flexibility.

In the Napa Valley Vintner’s Adopt-a-School program, Vineyard 29’s owner, Chuck McMinn, takes part in West Park Elementary School’s Jog-a-thon last October. Vineyard 29 sponsors each student in their runs.

Superintendent Barbara Nemko of the Napa County Office of Education in California approached the Napa Valley Vintners Association about a decade ago to see if its members would participate in an adopt-a-school program. The vintners, a logical partner as the region’s key employers, were receptive.

Winery owners and school principals arranged for employees to tutor elementary school students, organized field trips to wineries, and hosted wine-and-cheese receptions for teachers. “We left it up to them,” Nemko says. “That worked out pretty well over the years.”

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $12.3 million to 35 school districts in 17 states to expand counseling programs, as ongoing budget cuts have led to reductions in the numbers of counselors and other support staff.