Budget on the level for new school year

Camas School District will add to kindergarten program for struggling students

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The Camas School District budget for 2014-15 is very similar to last year’s, with a few exceptions.

The $61 million budget includes additional money for the Literacy Early Advocacy Program, professional development for staff and increased costs of utilities, insurance, curriculum and supplies. Additional classified and certified staff members were also hired, based on higher enrollment projections.

The general fund is based on enrollment growth of approximately 1.54 percent. Last year’s actual enrollment was 6,048 FTE (full-time equivalency), and 2014-15 is projected at 6,106 FTE.

Last year’s general fund was $59.7 million.

“This year’s budget was straightforward, relative to prior years when we were faced with making significant cuts in programs,” said Doug Quinn, school board member.

LEAP, an intervention program, is being expanded to all elementary schools in the district to help kindergartners who are at risk for not meeting grade level reading expectations. Previously, students were bussed to schools that offered the LEAP program.

“Extensive data collection showed that the program was highly impactful and students showed significant gains academically,” said Donna Gregg, the district’s director of business services. “The board determined that the high success of the program warranted the expansion to all schools to be able to serve more students.”

Added Quinn, “Recognizing that reading is the platform for all future learning, it is essential these kids get the best start possible. That’s what LEAP does. It’s amazing to see students advance out of the program once their skills develop. The other benefits to their confidence and willingness to engage in the learning process are evident. Early intervention is key to getting all our students to graduate high school, and this effort starts in kindergarten.”

During the past few years, the makeup of the district’s budget has changed in other ways as well. Camas was in a building or remodeling phase, with four new schools constructed and an extensive face-lift of Camas High School. This was due to a bond that the taxpayers passed several years prior.

“For the most part, new construction has ended and minor remodels are underway that update security and safety systems,” Quinn said.

New this year is the state of Washington losing the No Child Left Behind waiver. Now, districts must set aside 20 percent of Title 1 funds for students who want to relocate to another building within the district. The district’s Title 1 allocation is $432,726.

“This set aside impacts direct services to students as we are not able to staff as many intervention positions or purchase intervention materials that are targeted for struggling students,” Gregg said.

Quinn noted that the loss of the waiver decreases flexibility in how students are educated with Title 1 funds.

“The difficult aspect of the loss is that it’s those very funds that we use to help our most at-risk students,” he said. “Anytime funding is withheld, it presents a problem.”

Staffing changes include:

o $2 million for 19.65 teaching positions, including 3.5 LEAP positions, a teaching/assessment director and 5.80 FTE added after last year’s budget.

o $900,000 for 10 additional classified staff positions, including three para-educators for the LEAP program.

Fund increases from the state include, but are not limited to:

o Adding $1.7 million for increased enrollment, counselors at the high school level, funding for lab classes and increases to materials/operating costs.

o Adding $400,000 for collection of levy taxes.

o Transportation fund increase of $325,000.

o E-rate increase of $60,000 for phone and internet service to schools.