Christopher Rosacker
crosacker@theunion.com

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December 10, 2013
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Nevada County high schools face $100k shortage

Some school districts are winners and some districts are losers under California Gov. Jerry Brown’s revamped education funding formula.

Nevada Joint Union High School District is not one of the winners, district administrators said.

“The funding this year is $100,000 less than what we budgeted under the old model,” said Superintendent Louise Johnson to approximately 40 community members and educators at a Thursday town hall meeting to brainstorm priorities of Brown’s new education funding structure, called Local Control Funding Formula.

When school districts began crafting their budgets for this school year, they did so on the previous funding model while awaiting details from the state, said Karen Suenram, the district’s assistant superintendent of business. As the specifics of the new funding models were outlined, Nevada Joint Union officials realized they were not going to get paid a cost-of-living increase and a deficit reduction, Suenram told The Union.

“The gap funding for us is $700,000 a year,” Johnson said in reference to the eight-year roll-out of the new funding model.

The Local Control Funding Formula allocates funding based on a number of criteria, including the percentage of English-as-a-second-language students, foster children and enrollees on reduced or free lunch programs.

While the statewide average for these three funding criteria is approximately 60 percent of a district’s students, NJUHSD’s average is closer to 30 percent. The district is hoping to entice as many qualifying families to enroll in assistance programs as possible, in part to garner more funding, Suenram said.

“The funding gets better for us next year if the money at the state level continues to be generated at a rate they are projecting,” Suenram said.

Funds will also continue to be based on the number of students, and the high school district is down more than 150 students compared to last year, Johnson said.

“We could look at very slowly getting some things back, but the other problem we are facing is declining enrollment,” she said. “It is a double whammy.”

Nonetheless, the district must comply with outlining priorities of the Local Control Funding Formula.

“We have an opportunity in our culture right now to change how we educate our young people, and we have to take full advantage of it because it is very precious,” Johnson said.

At the Thursday town hall, parents and educators stressed a need to make students ready for the “real world” after high school, envisioning a system that includes the basics of English, math and science but also teaches students about managing a bank account, taxes and paying bills and other essentials.

Another popular notion was instilling students with an investment in their own education by helping them envision a goal and crafting a course load to achieve it. An ancillary objective of such a model would be to motivate students to continue education well past high school.

While stakeholders brainstormed new education endeavors and focuses, all groups at Thursday’s town hall stressed the need to preserve current programs such as arts, sports and ag programs.

“Because of the declining enrollment, we will continue to look at cutting,” Johnson said in response to a parent’s question Thursday. “That is why we are doing a full court press on all our good programs — to get kids, to get families to choose us.”

The district will take the preferences expressed Thursday and incorporate them into the priorities that must be submitted to the state in July 2014 as part of the Local Control Funding Formula mandates. Before then, though, the district will bring the matter to several school board and communities meetings to attract more parental opinions, Johnson said.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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The Union Updated Dec 12, 2013 01:22PM Published Dec 12, 2013 07:40AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.