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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 19, 2017

School Update

By Mike Jorgensen

The school year is already a quarter of the way done.  Is that even possible?  One of the biggest events for a school during the first quarter is the certified enrollment process.  I would like to explain that process in some details and give you some recent history for the district.  Washington Community Schools had a mixed bag of good news and bad news on certified enrollment this year.  I would also like to share some observations on the near-completed political process from this year.   

Certified Enrollment
Certified Enrollment is based on where students are attending at the end of the day of Oct. 1.  Believe it or not, we had one student who was attending school in one district the morning of the 1st and was in our district that afternoon.  It is an interesting process and takes two weeks afterward to track down where everyone landed.  Even after we thought we had everything figured out, we still had to make corrections because someone moved or relocated at the last few days prior to the 1st.   
As I mentioned earlier, we had good news and bad news.  The good news was that the district’s open enrolled/tuition in number increased by 12 students, which is a 16 percent increase over the previous year.  The number of students who open enroll/tuition out decreased by 2 from the previous year.   These are trends that we hope continue over a long period of time to bring these numbers into balance.  We still have more out than in, but the gap is closing.  
The bad news would be that the certified enrollment count decreased by 27.3 students from 2013.  Our actual enrollment was 1,758.08 compared to 1,784.31 the previous year.  This is the first decrease in enrollment that we have seen in five years.  While we anticipated a small decrease due to graduating a larger class and smaller kindergarten enrollment, we did not anticipate this size of drop.  We were anticipating about 10 students down.  The difference came simply from the fact that we had more students that moved out of the district than students who moved in.  We had one family that had seven school-age students that moved out of the district.   That’s over 25 percent of the drop right there.
The impact of this is considerable.  That is $172,000 based on 2014-2015 state aid payments.  The district has already developed a plan to reduce $250,000 in expenditures for next year.  Cost for the district for the next year is anticipated to increase by at least 4 percent.   This means approximately $500,000 in additional expenditures.   The actions of the legislature will have a significant impact on the outcome.  A 2 percent growth figure means a shortfall of over $440,000.   A 3 percent growth figure leaves as about $350,000 short.  $250,000 in reduced spending will still mean that the district will have to use some of the reserves that we have worked hard to build up.  While that is the purpose of reserves, you still don’t want to use too much in case more difficult times are ahead.  We are expecting very large graduating classes in 2018 and 2019 and doubt we will have the kindergarten enrollments to replace it.   Reserves were a negative figure in 2009, were built to a peak of $2.7 million in 2011 and are currently at $2.1 million.  

Political Observations
I want to do this in a way where I don’t show my bias, but I do have some observations that I find somewhat ironic, humorous and a little depressing.  
I find it very disappointing that politics have resorted to such a negative process. Campaigns are almost exclusively negative and mudslinging.  What is the difference between that and bullying at schools?  The following excerpt came from the Des Moines Register  “A candidate was asked by a reporter about the negative tone of Iowa’s political campaigns this year and how politicians from both major parties can return to the Statehouse afterward and provide leadership on anti-bullying issues in Iowa’s schools.”    What a great question.  Wish I had asked it.
I was very disappointed in our local candidate forum that neither the House or Senate candidates said that Education was one of their priorities in the up coming session.  In fact, very little discussion on education was ever raised with the exception of an edited question I had submitted that was totally out of context of the original question.
I also find it somewhat discouraging and disappointing that $27 million has been spent on television advertising on just the Iowa Senate race;   $27 million would be close to a full percent of additional school aid funding.   From what I have seen of the mostly negative and ineffective advertising, I find it ironic that one of the platforms being discussed is wasteful spending. Twenty-seven million dollars!!!!!!!