Prop 100, The Holy Grail, And New Budget Shortfalls

Prop 100 has been touted by so many as the Holy Grail to saving public education.  In a recent article by The Goldwater Institute regarding the state budget, K-12 Education may take another hit this year. See the full article by clicking the link.  Because of two failed initiatives, our state is now short over $745M that must be found somewhere.  How?  A snippet from the GI article below explains:

In her plan released Friday to balance this year’s budget Governor Brewer has asked for another $245 million “rollover” for public education funding. The state already rolls one payment due to schools into the next year, this would make it two, meaning instead of receiving 12 payments from the state like they are supposed to, schools will only receive 10 this year. And it would push the state’s debt to school districts to more than $1 billion.

What does this mean?  In all likelihood, Prop 100 will not live up to its promises as advertized.  Moreover, because so many other “bets” were made in this last election cycle on just how to “cure” the budget mess, additional cuts are inevitable.  Will K-12 eduation take a beating?  As the single biggest budget item, it’s sure to get looked at quite closely at the very least.

How is GPS preparing for what may be inevitable?  Good question.  In a school board meeting on the 25th of Jan, the district administration spent a great deal of time giving an overview of the proposed budget for the next year.  In addition to the budget overview was a “discussion” (we’ll use the term loosely) regarding all-day Kindergarten and whether to continue to offer the program for free.  After iterating a $4.5M budget deficit with additional cuts from the state legislature a strong possibility, district officials recommended keeping the All-day K program which costs $2.6M to support and makes up nearly 58% of the current deficit amount.

Three board members voted to support the program citing the passage of Prop 100 as a promise to the public to keep all-day K as well as indicating that if GPS didn’t continue with all-day K, enrollment would drop as parents enroll their children in neighboring districts that offer the program for free.  Board member Shane Stapley voiced opposition to the current program citing concerns that not only would funds to cover All-day K potentially endanger proper funding elsewhere in the district, but that there is no convincing evidence to show that all-day K offers a significant increase in student performance in the long run.  District officials were pressed for facts supporting academic acheivement relating particularly to reading scores and had no information to offer.  Mr. Stapley stated that he supported a tuition-based All-day K program to provide the optional program, and to offset additional expenses incurred by the district.  Board member EJ Anderson asserted that such a program would harm the children who need the program the most, indicating that families unable to pay the tuition costs would suffer the most.

However, GSInfo has been unable to draw any conclusion from any study that directly ties public education spending to academic performance in a proportional relationship.  In other words, just because we spend more, does not mean quality of education improves.  We further urge folks to keep their eye on the ball… Some unanswered questions from our GPS administration remain unanswered.

  1. How does the school administration plan on solving the $4.5M budgetary shortfall of which $2.6M is All-day K expense?
  2. What academic advantage does all-day K provide over half-day?  How long does any statisical difference last?  Does this benefit last through secondary education?
  3. Why didn’t the public know about this issue on the agenda before it was discussed in open meeting?  Can’t the district do a better job of giving proper notice to the public by using the published agenda and more detail?

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