Baldwin school district sees dip in enrollment
In a normal year, Monday would have been an important date in the Baldwin school district’s fiscal year.
USD 348 enrollment by grade
1st grade 83
2nd grade 110
3rd grade 102
4th grade 81
5th grade 102
6th grade 108
7th grade 122
8th grade 107
9th grade 102
The state has long set aside the date of Sept. 21 as the official date public school districts report their enrollment numbers for school funding purposes. However, this year school districts are being funded through block grants frozen at the level of state funding they received a year ago.
That development came when Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature jointly decided to scrap a two-decade old school finance formula. The block grants are in place until a new funding formula can be developed and approved.
Baldwin Superintendent Paul Dorathy said because students had Monday off for a teacher workday, the district was collecting its official enrollment numbers Tuesday. Although the numbers will have no bearing on the amount of state aid the district receives, the district still is required to report overall enrollment numbers and statistics for such categories at the number of at-risk students, transportation and special education, he said.
A daily running tabulation of building and grade enrollment can be found at the district’s web site, usd348.com. Districts have traditionally used the so-called full-time equivalency total to report enrollment for state aid. That FTE counted some students, such those in the 4-year-old program and kindergartners, as half a student and the occasional part-time high school student at the percentage of the attendance.
Dorathy said the reason for the enrollment decline can be found in the small first-grade class of 83 students compared to the 107 seniors last September in the class of 2015.
The actual number of student enrolled as of Tuesday was 1,407. When those in the 4-year-old program and kindergartners are counted at 50 percent, the FTE enrollment is 1,297.5, which Dorathy said would be very close to the FTE number reported to the state. Last year the district had a Sept. 21 headcount number of 1,428 and FTE of 1,345.
Dorathy said a committee of legislators and educators has been appointed for the task of writing a new school finance formula and would start meeting soon. School districts have also been asked to provide input. The committee is to make a recommendation to the Legislature at the start of its 2016 session in January, he said.
Brownback and legislators claimed the last formula was too complicated, but critics claimed it was jettisoned because the governor and his Republican allies in the Legislature couldn’t make it work with the tax cuts they approved in preceding years.
The challenge of the committee and the Legislature will be to craft a new funding formula that satisfies the state’s constitutional mandate that the state adequately fund education, Dorathy said. That Kansas Supreme Court has upheld that mandate in past lawsuits and one that remains open.