Lanesville copes with rainy days
The Lanesville Community School Corp. chose to take money out of its rainy day fund two weeks ago to help cover increased costs in the school district. They did this because the other viable option was to cut staff, teachers or a mixture of both. I believe they made the right decision, at least for now.
Yes, it is a quick fix and it basically depletes the rainy day fund. However, the students in Lanesville have another year to enjoy the excellent education that Lanesville provides for its students. Administrators and the school board also now have another year to look for alternatives or to prepare themselves for what will be some very tough decisions.
If they hadn’t chosen to take money from the fund, they would have had to lay-off teachers now. Instead, they chose to put the students first and remained status quo. Lanesville has about 40 teachers. At the elementary level, they basically have two teachers per grade. Had they cut back in teaching staff, who would they cut? If they cut at the elementary level, it could leave one teacher per grade and the sizes of the classes would drastically increase at the detriment of the students. Teachers aids who help remediation students could easily be cut as well.
Eighty percent to 90 percent of the funds in a school’s general fund go towards the salary and benefits of its teachers and staff. The average salary of a teacher is between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. To free up $300,000 in the general fund at Lanesville would have meant a lot of teachers and staff.
The funding issues at Lanesville are complicated and blame for the shortfall can’t easily be placed on anyone. The state changed the way it funded school years ago. Now the funding follows the student. If you lose students, you lose funding. The state also doesn’t provide equal funding per student for each school. For instance, in 2005, Lanesville spent an average of $5,400 per student while some schools were spending more than $11,000. It’s not fair, and it’s the smaller schools that suffer, like Lanesville.
Lanesville administrators and the school board cannot make money magically appear and can do nothing to change the way the state provides funding for its schools. Lanesville averages an enrollment of about 640 students while the state average is more than 3,000 per corporation. That’s a huge difference and a major factor in Lanesville’s budget problems, not to mention that it is located in a rural community which doesn’t help them in terms of property taxes.
Have the school board members been frivolously throwing away money? It’s possible, but I don’t believe they have. The board is made up of a loan officer, a building contractor and business men. With that mixture of expertise, the board is quite capable of making the best financial decisions for the school. Many of the members are graduates of Lanesville or their children are graduates. They have just as much invested in that school as anyone else in the Lanesville community and genuinely put the students’ needs first.
Despite funding issues, Lanesville has been named an exemplary school for two years in a row, something that’s not an easy feat for any school corporation. The majority of the teachers at Lanesville have a master’s degree and as a whole they have an excellent staff of teachers. They have a 94 percent graduation rate which is way above the state average of 74 percent. They continue to improve their numbers on ISTEP testing and they have a low student per teacher ratio. Lanesville has accomplished all of this with a lot less funding than most schools and at a time when the school is becoming a lot smaller and they continue to lose funding.
The school has some huge obstacles ahead of them and some tough decisions to make in the next year. What has happened has happened and the past cannot be changed. It’s not a time to point fingers or place blame. That will not help the school or the students. The only thing the community can do is support the board they elected and support the decisions they make, which mostly have been made with students’ needs as the top priority. The state just approved a new two-year budget boosts funding for schools by 3.8 percent, but Lanesville may not necessarily get the full increase. So it may or may not help.
Lanesville has survived funding problems before, and I’m sure they will find a way to overcome this one. Although, it will not be an easy road.