Big bucks at stake in counting students
State funds schools for year by October numbers
Valdez Star file photo
Valdez High School has experienced a steep decline in its enrollment numbers since the official time period for the state count began.
Valdez City Schools is in the business of teaching kids how to count, but the number of student’s the State of Alaska counts as enrolled and attending school in the district during the month of October is one of the most important numbers that will be added up during the school year. This is because the lion’s share of state financial support for education revolves around the “base student allocation,” a set sum of money the state pays school districts for each student it had enrolled between October 1 through 26.
“This year we had budgeted for 665” students, Jacob Jensen, district superintendent, told the board of education during its regular meeting Monday night.
As of Friday, the enrollment number in the district was actually 635. If the current enrollment number holds true through October 26, the district will see an estimated loss of $330,000 in state funding according to Amber Cockerham, the district’s finance director.
Hermon Hutchens Elementary School saw its entire sixth grade student body move to Gilson Middle School this year, but the there are still 298 pre-k through fifth grade students attending Hermon Hutchens according to Chris Bennett, principal.
“We’re exactly at 137 students,” Rod Morrison, principal of Gilson Middle School said.
The school population drop has been most dramatic at Valdez High School.
“We’re down 26 kids from last year,” said Dr. Elizabeth Balcerek, school principal, “It’s pretty much across the board…” with a low number of incoming freshmen to the senior class.
The district’s current count at the school is 200 students.
Valdez Star file photo
The lower grades in the Valdez City Schools District are seeing less of a decline in enrollment numbers than the high school.
The school board got its first look at the possible consequences of the drop in student enrollment during Monday night’s school board meeting.
The lower projected dollar figure in state funding that was calculated by school administration, when combined with projected increases in insurance and energy, created a deficit of $687,000.
The enrollment numbers and state dollar figures also matter due to the fact that city funding for the 2014 school year will be included for the upcoming city budget planning for 2013.
The city funded $9,441,283 for education for the current school year. This included the state’s maximum allowable contribution – commonly referred to as the cap - of $8,377,313, plus an additional $1.5 million outside of the cap.
This was a slight drop from the district’s fiscal year funding for last year.