At the School Board Meeting this evening, suggestions for possible solutions were given to the School Board regarding Illinois Budget cuts to Education funding. Superintendent Maureen Talbert began the discussion with the expectations of our possible State Revenue for next year. The projected loss of funding to our district, which is a correction to the letter sent to staff last week, is likely between $738, 720.98 – $2,075,991.76. The new information is in regards to the GSA Foundation Level and the completion of a state aid budget worksheet where it was determined that PPCUSD8 actually only receives $2300 per student rather than the $6119 per student advertised. Mrs. Talbert then projected, based on varying predictions of State payment percentages, how much funding the district will lose next year.
Mrs. Talbert then thanked the PPEA for reacting to her letter to staff by making an effort to help. She mentioned, and I later echoed, how collaborative we have become as a faculty, staff, administration, and School Board. It used to be an “us versus them” attitude whereas now, as a result of open communication and candid dialogue, problems are solved together. Mrs. Talbert discussed the suggested possible budget cuts that could be made and will send out to staff an outline of those suggestions with a note explaining the outline. At the same time, the School Board also received the list of suggestions from PPEA members. While several of the suggestions were on both lists, the School Board and the administration will take the suggestions from the members and put dollar amounts from our current budget on the PPEA suggestions and analyze them in their decisions for cuts.
Board member Mark Gebhards noted that if we look in all suggested areas except for cuts to staff and cut almost all other areas, we will be able to cut approximately $460,000. He left in budget items such as field trips, professional development, and the math textbook order. Mr. Gebhards also mentioned that a safe amount to shoot for is $800,000 in cuts. School Board President George Murphy stressed that “we need to take a look and cut as much as we possibly can before we get to personnel, and then very . . . very . . . very closely look at any personnel cuts that we have to make in order to minimize those because I’m not in favor of cutting people at all.” As this was an informational item, no action will be taken until the special Board meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m., March 30, 2010.
When I was asked to speak, I emphasized that I feel that the key to the great relationship we have with the administration and School Board is a result of open communication. We are in a position where we can voice our opinions and have those opinions heard without fear of either side becoming defensive. We have become, and I am proud to say it, a Problem Solving District. I emphasized that our first priority is to approach this problem with minimal impact on students and classrooms and, secondly, with minimal impact on staff. It is important for all involved to keep in mind that the suggested possible cuts are Suggestions at this point. The School Board will take all suggestions into consideration and will make decisions at the special Board meeting. I will work with administration to pass on further suggestions that PPEA members have that will reduce our budget while resulting in a minimal impact on students and staff.
My final recommendation to the School Board and the administration this evening was that we need to extend that same open communication with the public. We need to make sure the public is aware of our situation and the suggested possible solutions. We need to keep the public informed through every step of the process. I am expecting the community to share in our frustration, but also counting on the community to be as willing to help solve the problem as the PPEA, administration, and School Board are.
We are a Problem Solving District, and we will find a way to solve the problem with minimal impact on students, classrooms, and staff. Keep the dialogue open. Discuss concerns and suggestions with both your building liaisons and administrators. Talk to School Board members. Talk to community members. Talk to parents. Education IS a priority.