BY C.L. HARMON
It’s a formula even the most seasoned of gamblers might scratch their heads over, but one that school administrators statewide have had to accept as the numbers game where the odds almost always seem stacked against them.
It’s what’s known as the mid-year adjustment and depending on the increase/decrease of students at the time, it could be good news or bad. Or it could just be bad no matter the circumstances. Assistant Superintendent Kelly Spradlin explained that the pie used to give slices of funds to schools continues to shrink. In fact, schools receive less now per student than they did in 2008.
The school gets it yearly allocation in August, but that amount is determined by the number of students the district ended with the prior year. In October, the district does another count and then sends that number to the state. All schools in the state do this. The state then takes the numbers of all the students statewide and how much money it has to spend, uses its formula to figure how much it can pay per child and then that number is converted to dollars and sent to the districts in January as a mid-year adjustment.
Spradlin said that simply explained, more students equal more money. But…it’s never really that simple when dealing with the state. For instance, if a district is losing students, then they are going to lose some of this mid-year adjustment they were told they were going to get back in August. As for Mannford, Spradlin said , they were initially doing the “happy dance” because they are up 52 kids. So more money, right? Well…yes and no.
Before we get to an actual dollar amount, one must first understand what is a weighted ADM or Average Daily Membership. Weights are based on several criteria, but simply, it means that the more costly it is to educate a child, the higher weight classification the child is given. An example would be that the state considers it be more expensive to teach a four-year old than a 14 year old, so the younger child is given a higher weight.
Last year the weighted ADM was 2,458. Now this number is important because it equates to more dollars. Weighted students are worth more than those not weighted. But that is actually a phantom number as far as breathing bodies are concerned. Because the actual head count is only 1,561 or ADM (non-weighted number). An example of this would be if the district had 1,000 students with a disability of some type, instead of them being classified as one student each, they are now 1.5 students each. So the state uses this to allocate the funds to districts.
This year the district is at 2,576 weighted ADM. So those 52 new students actually increased the phantom number used for calculations by 118 weighted ADM. This means more money in the mid-year adjustment. In fact, $254,615 more. However, a simple email from the State Department of Education would slash that number. On the same day as the mid year adjustments were sent out, came an email that notified districts statewide that there was going to be at least a three percent reduction in the overall budget very soon. This doesn’t mean the mid-year payout, but the overall allocations for the year. The reason given was the shortfalls in the actual state budget.
This small three percent cut is actually costing the district $194,000. So when the cut is calculated into the overall budget, the actual mid-year payment is only $60,615.
“The good news is, and this is no joke, is that we are up $60,000 from last year. I know this sounds twisted, but I have a lot of colleagues who are trying to figure out what they are going to do because they didn’t gain 50 kids. Some of them have even lost kids, so their adjustment is already negative and now they are losing another three percent,” Spradlin said. He added that it would be wonderful to have the entire $254, 000, but the administration is just happy to not be at zero or looking at a negative balance for next year.
Spradlin does not believe the district will ever get the three percent back based on the deficit and numbers coming from the state. He emphasized that the reason the district is able to keep its head above water, other than the increase in students, is fiscally responsible people on the school board and the past and present administrations using good judgement and common sense during good and bad economic turns. It has allowed Mannford to remain fluent in its actions over the course of decades and keep good teachers while avoiding personnel layoffs, according to Spradlin.
Every morning while Spradlin high fives the kids at the elementary school, he is reminded why he is so thankful to work in a district that takes its fiscal and teaching responsibilities so seriously.
School Mid Year Allocation Is Bitter Sweet Bucks
BY C.L. HARMON