Starting out with a quote from StarTrek's Spock, "Insufficient facts always invite danger," Chino Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Duane Noggle proceeded to discuss public school funding and budgets. He was speaking on Saturday morning at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, and joined by Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Dave Smucker and Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Paul Stanton.
Noggle began by pointing out that the extra 1¢ sales tax voted in last year has not solved the budget crisis, there is still a deficit. Noggle explained that this year, the State generated less revenue than in 2004; ($6.29 billion). Since the economy is in a slump, sales tax and income tax have a corresponding slump.
In 2007, Noggle continues, 44% of the state revenue went to education, 17% went to Medicaid, 19% went to 'others', 10% to the Universities, 9% corrections.
Noggle compares that with the 2011 budget: 39% of the state budget and 28% went to Medicaid. He explained that to help take care of the budget deficit, Governor Brewer is proposing a Medicaid rollback of $541.5 million, which will have to be approved by the Federal Government. "If the Federal government does not provide a waiver," Noggle states, "we will see $541.5 million in budget cuts to other departments. If you look back at the graph, there's not much left to cut. If you don't cut Medicaid, it will consume about 80% of the budget," he finished grimly.
"So, that's the scenario," Noggle said. "The crisis is going to be with us at least for two more years, if not for another ten years. This is not going to go away."
Noggle detailed some of the things his district is implementing to meet the recent budget cuts:
- Reduced their workforce by 72 employees, 12 of which were teachers since 2007.
- 4 Day School Day (saves about $250k in utilities and substitute)
- Cut Capital Expenses - no new textbooks in 4 years, no new buses, major facility repairs eliminated (during the last monsoon season, a major roof leak occurred in the high school gym, causing damage to the gym floor, kids have not used the gym since then, waiting for a grant for repairs).
- Increased Pay-To-Play for Athletes
- Full-day kindergarten - now tuition based (students on free and reduced lunch pay $1 per day, others pay $10 per day)
- Decrease in Prop 301 Classroom site fund payments to teachers
- Offering advertising on website, newsletter, buses and the school marquee
- Also reduced or eliminated Early Childhood Education and English Lauguage Learners, chemical Abuse and Dropout Prevention
- Eliminated Teacher prep
- Paperless (saving about 2-4 cases a month)
- Installing $2 million in energy saving projects via a public/private type of partnership with Honeywell. Construction starts in March.
Some future changes in curriculum Noggles expects:
- Elimination of the graduation requirement to have at least one semester of online learning
- Increased professional development. 10 half days have been added to the calendar with no additional pay.
- Students pay to repeat a course online if they've failed it before.
"Instead of talking about money all the time, we need to get back to what we love to do, teaching students," Noggle said. He cited the need for additional professional development as part of the solution to this.
One question that had been given to Noggle in advance was, "What can be done to improve academic results with less resources?"
Noggle answered that this has been something he's been struggling with for quite some time, stating that Arizona is 49th or 50th in the nation in funding for our schools. "To continue to expect people to work with no resources, I think is ludicrous," he said. "And that has been something we have been doing. We have not bought text books in four years, you cannot keep doing that. People are getting burned out."
Noggle said that they are offering signing bonuses and pay at two or three higher steps, especially at the high school level, in order to get the very best teachers. They have gone to a performance-based evaluations and pay-based student achievement. Even Superintendents will see 20% of their pay is based on performance. The three school districts are moving to a collaboration of effort in professional development to equip the teachers for these changes.
And so, he re-asks the question from his own perspective: "The question is, 'What resources are necessary to improve academic results?'"
"It's up to you, the voters," Noggle said. Then he asked a series of questions of his own:
- Is it okay to have class sizes of 40 students or more per teacher?
- Is it okay to have a shorter school year?
- Is it okay not to have art, music, P.E. and counselors at the schools?
- Is it okay to have 1/2 day kindergarten?
- Is it okay to use yesterday's technology for tomorrow's leaders?
- Is it okay not to have buses to safely transport our students?
- Is it okay not to have clean restrooms?
- Is it okay to have crumbling facilities and vacant buildings because we cannot afford to put students in the schools?
- Is it okay not to have after school programs including athletics, tutoring, student clubs?
- Is it okay not to have nurses and health services in the schools?
- Research shows that great schools are the engine of economic growth. What are we willing to invest?
"We accept change," Noggle concluded. "We'll do what we have to do to move forward, while meeting the challenges. I don't see the budget crisis going away, at least for the rest of my career. We'll have to make some tough decisions. We cannot continually be asking people to do more with less."
Editor's note: This article is one of three parts, written after attending a League of Women Voter's meeting.
Prescott Perspective: Dr. Smucker: Figuring Out What's Best for Our Kids
Chino Valley Perspective: Back To What We Love - Teaching Kids
Prescott Valley Perspective: Dr. Stanton: Children Aren't Widgets