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MailTribune.com
  • School districts do their homework on grant spending

  • Although a $1 billion funding increase for Oregon's K-12 public schools for the next two years was announced a month ago, superintendents still are deciding how to use the windfall.
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    • General purpose grants, by school district
      Most of Jackson and Jefferson counties schools will have more general purpose grant monies for 2013-15, compared with the previous two years.
      However, Butte Falls school district's grant lost 20...
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      General purpose grants, by school district
      Most of Jackson and Jefferson counties schools will have more general purpose grant monies for 2013-15, compared with the previous two years.

      However, Butte Falls school district's grant lost 20.4 percent to offset a one-time increase for opening a charter school and Pinehurst's funds dropped 1.7 percent due to a decline in enrollment.

      Here are the amounts for the two-year funding:

      Ashland: Increase of $4.1 million (11.2 percent) from 2011-13 to $40.7 million for 2013-15

      Butte Falls: Decrease of $938,047 (20.4 percent) from 2011-13 to $3.7 million for 2013-15

      Central Point: Increase of $7.7 million (12.9 percent) from 2011-13 to $66.9 million for 2013-15

      Eagle Point: Increase of $5.4 million (9.3 percent) from 2011-13 to $62.9 million for 2013-15

      Grants Pass: Increase of $8.5 million (10.9 percent) from 2011-13 to $86.5 million for 2013-15

      Medford: Increase of $23.3 million (13.2 percent) from 2011-13 to $200.4 million for 2013-15

      Phoenix-Talent: Increase of $3.9 million (9.9 percent) from 2011-13 to $42.5 million for 2013-15

      Pinehurst: Decrease of $12,994 (1.7 percent) from 2011-13 to $770,902 for 2013-15

      Prospect: Increase of $572,943 (12.3 percent) from 2011-13 to $5.2 million for 2013-15

      Rogue River: Increase of $811,787 (5.9 percent) from 2011-13 to $14.6 million for 2013-15

      Three Rivers/Josephine County: Increase of $6,750,125 (9.93 percent) from 2011-13 to $74,705,971 for 2013-15
  • Although a $1 billion funding increase for Oregon's K-12 public schools for the next two years was announced a month ago, superintendents still are deciding how to use the windfall.
    Some districts will hire more teachers and staff, and make facility improvements, while others have no plans to spend more.
    The Oregon Legislature approved $800 million more in direct funding and $200 million in additional savings in state Public Employee Retirement System, PERS, pension costs.
    In past years, schools have had to reduce the number of instructional days and employees, and dip into reserves to cover budget shortfalls.
    "After years of disinvestment and layoffs, we took advantage of an historic opportunity to reinvest in schools," said state Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland.
    "We will get more teachers back in classrooms and put people to work on key construction projects," Buckley said.
    The additional funds are not enough, however, for districts to add back all that has been cut over the years, he said.
    "We have more to do," said Buckley, "but we are finally beginning to re-invest in Oregon students, workers and families."
    The education budget is $6.55 billion for 2013-15, compared with $5.75 billion in the 2011-13 biennium.
    The Medford School District will use its $23.3 million increase over two years to complete safety projects and add teachers and staff, said Superintendent Phil Long.
    New hires may include elementary student support specialists, middle and high school counselors and campus monitors.
    The district hopes to also expand reading and math intervention programs.
    "These are all important investments in the success of our students," said Long.
    Even with the increases in funding from the state, the 2013-14 budget plan uses some reserves.
    "It will truly become a balanced budget plan in 2014-15," said Long of the $200 million 2013-15 general fund that includes funding from local property taxes, federal forest fees and a separate Common School fund.
    The district has hired staff to fill new high school intervention support positions, but other decisions will not be finalized until later this month, he said.
    Long hopes to add four instructional days to the existing 170 days, and perhaps reduce class size. Both of those decisions will depend on the outcome of the collective bargaining process with teachers, he said.
    At the Ashland School District, Business Manager Greg Lecuyer says there won't be any changes, but the district will not have to dip into its fund balance.
    "There will be no new services, new hires or added school days," he said.
    While the Legislature did reduce the PERS increases, they still climbed considerably. Lecuyer said Ashland's PERS payment increased about $800,000 a year, cutting into the $4.1 million fund increase over two years.
    "We will maintain our status quo," he said. "For some districts, going back to status quo was an achievement."
    Eagle Point School District will receive $5.4 million more during 2013-15, according to the state's Department of Education.
    In this school year, Eagle Point will use about $600,000 to add teachers and staff, as well as fund summer school programs and pay for deferred building maintenance, according to Scott Whitman, director of business services for Jackson County School District 9.
    Specifically, the district will hire three teachers, a math instructional coach, an instructional assistant and custodians, he said.
    Additionally, two temporary teachers will be converted to regular staff positions.
    He said the district's increased PERS costs will be about $700,000. On top of that, $300,000 will be needed for contractual step increases and another $100,000 will go toward cost-of-living increases and health insurance increases.
    Across the state, the adopted budget will allow the Department of Education to create an Office of Education Equity, which will focus on closing the achievement gap and better serving students of color and English Language Learners.
    In addition to the K-12 State School Fund for 2013-15, the Legislature approved funding to support early literacy, teaching, STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education and to help students create a pathway to college.
    Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@mailtribune.com.
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