Good evening students, staff, families and community,
I hope this message finds you and your families in good health and in good spirits. The hustle and bustle around campus has picked up this week as we prepare to welcome back our kindergarten students to the hybrid schedule on Monday, as well as our Pt. Robert’s Primary School students, and our high school athletes have begun their conditioning program in preparation for a transition to sports’ specific practices on October 19th. For all students returning Monday, please visit the District’s current school year section of the website for important information. For those Kindergarten students who are on the “B” schedule for hybrid, and will return to the building on Monday, please visit the Primary School’s 2020-2021 section of the website for critical information on the procedures surrounding drop off and pick up. Our staff have been working hard to prepare and are looking forward to welcoming you to the building.
As this school year began we have been talking with you about the impacts of reduced enrollment on the district's finances, both now and in the future. We wanted to take some time to outline some of those impacts for you to assist in understanding. This year’s school budget was built by the district, presented to the public and passed by the school board with an anticipated full time equivalency (FTE) enrollment of 2199.57 students. As of this week our current enrollment is 2069.47 FTE. The budgeted vs. actual amounts creates a deficit of 130 student FTE. At this time, the resulting difference of the budgeted number of students and current enrollment creates an estimated revenue shortfall of over $2 million.
It’s also important to note that enrollment numbers published by the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and often referenced in the media, are head count numbers, not FTE. A student may attend school in the district on a less than full time basis, which is reflected in the FTE, for example, as .5 FTE, but in the head count as 1.0. This accounts for what may appear to be a discrepancy in reported numbers.
In addition to State funding from the prototypical school funding model (basic education funding on a per-pupil basis), there are other funding sources the district is monitoring to determine the financial impact to the District:
Transportation funding based on unpredictable ridership numbers & missed/limited funding
Learning Assistance Program (LAP)
Future Levy Collections
As things stand currently, a large portion of transportation funding is based on ridership on buses. Having had no riders for a large portion of the start of the year due to remote learning, seeing a reduction in families utilizing school transportation in hybrid, and with the potential for public health and safety to impact our return to the buildings at any time, this is an area of great uncertainty. School districts and OSPI are interested in legislative action by way of some sort of hold harmless or make whole provision, to assist in ensuring funding will be available to meet the needs of students. With the legislature set to return to session in January this is something we are hopeful will be discussed.
Learning Assistant Program (LAP) offers supplemental services for K–12 students scoring below grade-level standard in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. These services focus on accelerating student growth to make progress towards grade level and addressing barriers preventing students from accessing core instruction.
An additional portion of LAP funding is referred to as High Poverty LAP, which schools can receive if their 3-year average of free and reduced lunch students is greater than 50% of their student population, based on the approval number as of October 1of each year. In the 2019-2020 school year we had two campuses (BPS/BES) received these funds to the total of just over $300,000. As of today, we do not expect to reach the threshold for the next school year on any of our campuses. You can find more information about LAP here; https://www.k12.wa.us/student-success/support-programs/learning-assistance-program-lap
Lastly, we would like to briefly mention levy funding. The Blaine School District has been fortunate to have received the support of our community in passing an enrichment levy last Spring. The collection amount is limited by a “levy lid”, or restriction, the state imposes on school districts. Our district’s levy lid is $2,500 per pupil, which the state has set to rise with inflation. Collection per pupil is also impacted by the previous year’s enrollment, so our current reduced enrollment, as mentioned above, will decrease levy collection capacity in future years.
While we know these are difficult topics, in light of recent information that has circulated regarding school enrollment and funding, we wanted to provide some base information to inform our community about the anticipated impacts on the finances of our District. We have been working hard to determine the best way to address these anticipated short-falls, beginning now and moving into next school year. While these decisions are difficult and will likely impact District programs and staff, we are committed to making sound financial decisions.
In closing, we will continue to advocate with our local legislators for the adequate funding of public education in the State of Washington. We want to continue to partner with our families and community to continually improve and make Blaine School District the best place in Washington for your student(s) to receive a high quality education.
It is a great night to be a Borderite, and, as always, a great night to be your superintendent.
Dr. Christopher Granger