An economics exam for School District 51

The current recession has amounted to more than a pop quiz for school districts around Colorado, including School District 51. Rather, it has been a series of difficult tests of a district’s ability to cut expenses and still meet the educational needs of its students.

District 51 has passed with high grades so far. It has proposed things such as promoting early retirement for teachers, reassigning others, reducing purchases of technological equipment, cutting staff development and renegotiating or cutting contract work.

To date, the district’s budget cutting has been accomplished without severely impacting the classroom or extracurricular activities. But each subsequent exam is more difficult than the previous one, and the easy answers have already been selected.

District 51 will receive $385 less per student in funding next year. In addition, it is expected to have 200 fewer students when classes begin next fall than it had last autumn. That means a further significant reduction in its revenue.

District 51 officials believe they have a reasonable plan for dealing with those budget numbers for next year. They have presented that plan to the school board and public this week.

But they are worried about what will happen if state funding continues to decline — as is anticipated — for the 2011-2012 school year.

We are, too. Residents of District 51 can already begin to see the impact of the funding drop on in-class education.

We don’t fault the district for proposing to save a half million dollars by delaying the adoption of new math and reading curricula. That’s a healthy savings. But the new curricula are needed as District 51 battles to raise reading and math test scores throughout the district.

If revenue continues to drop, parents and citizens may not like the answers available to District 51. But they should be prepared for possibilities in the not-too-distant future that include shorter school weeks, reductions in budgets for both academics and athletics or discussions of a tax increase.


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