Proposed federal ed cuts, state slowness may lead to RIFs | NevadaAppeal.com

Proposed federal ed cuts, state slowness may lead to RIFs

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

Churchill County High School students studying health and the field’s available occupations were recognized by the Churchill County School Board and board president Kathryn Whitaker, right, for being state winners and international qualifiers at the state conference. From right are students McKenna Jacques, Vera Vaz, Allison Frost, Seidi Lopez, Gabby Loop and Jenna Brady.
Steve Ranson / LVN

Because of proposed cuts in federal funding and the Nevada Legislature’s slow work on an education funding formula budget for the next two years, the Churchill County School District may be forced to cut upward to $2.5 million from next year’s budget.

Superintendent Dr. Summer Stephens, who became more emotional as the discussion progressed, outlined a plan at last Wednesday’s school board meeting to handle the deficit through attrition, closing some departments such as the warehouse, having all food service workers be employed by Chartwell and contract custodial work.

Furthermore, state law requires school districts to notify any employees who may be laid off no later than April 10. The district’s budget committee will review Stephens proposals on April 4. The school board plans to conduct its first meeting of the month on April 9 — a Tuesday — at 6 p.m.

Stephens and Business Service Director Phyllys Dowd said the state waits until the last minute in its legislative session to approve any funding for school districts, historically almost two months after school districts must notify affected employees who would be part of any reduction in force (RIF). Dowd said the work on a new funding proposal to add more money to the school districts has apparently slowed down in Carson City after all the work that went into the project in 2017.

Dowd said other school districts will be affected. She said Carson City, for example, could face a deficit of almost $4 million. (The Nevada Appeal reports in excess of $6 million.)

A three-person team visited many communities in August and September to brief school boards and community members on a proposal to fund education differently. In his presentation, Mark Fermanich of Augenblick, Palaich and Associates (APA) discussed how the study includes identifying resources that will serve at-risk students, English language learners, special education students and gifted and talented students. The study does include the costs of transportation.

The study is solicited additional online feedback from the various communities.

APA study teams crisscrossed Nevada during late summer reporting on a draft report that was submitted to the Nevada Department of Education on Aug. 1. Fermanich said the study took in account state standards for students, graduation requirements and the expectations of the school district, teachers and students. He said a similar study by UNLV examined similar information.

The study began during the spring of 2017. At issue is Education Week’s yearly rankings of the states that show Nevada is No. 47 in receiving education financing for grades K-12.

Board President Kathryn Whitaker, who was on a budget committee several years ago when the school district faced similar massive cuts, said the trustees have worked hard to be good stewards of the public’s money, but her frustration with federal funding cuts and the state’s lackadaisical attitude bothered her and fellow members.

“What we need to do is sue the state,” Trustee Matt Hyde said, adding Nevada’s school districts need to band together to stop the state from its delays in working with the local education boards.

Stephens said the school district has 27 classified and licensed openings for the 2019-20 school year. She said CCSD would look at combining responsibilities, for example, such as having district personnel take on different responsibilities as principal of Lahontan Elementary School, combining counselors at two schools or eliminating the positions. Combining or eliminating current openings would result in about $1.8 million in savings, said Stephens, and the additional RIFs would bring the total to $2.5 million.

Federal Title II and IV funds have been recommended for reduction by the Department of Education. Title II is designed to support states and districts in recruiting, preparing, training and developing teachers and school leaders. The reduction would affect the number of teachers at Northside Early Learning Center. Title IV includes Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized loans, Direct Graduate PLUS Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) and Federal Perkins Loans.

The Trump administration, according to Education Week, has proposed for its fiscal year 2020 budget to eliminate $2.1 billion in federal funding for teacher training under Title II, $1.2 billion in after-school funding in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program and $1.2 billion in block-grant money for districts to use to enhance academic offerings and improve school climate under Title IV’s Every Student Succeeds Act.

In other school board action …

Approved funding for students studying health to attend the Health Occupations Students of America international conference;

Listened to a report from Brad Daum, athletic director, on the winter sports season;

Received information on board policies.