Parent & Community Advocacy Update – February 2018

by Randy Ziegenfuss and Lynn Fuini-Hetten on February 2, 2018

School district budgeting process well underway

The school board has begun preparing the district’s budget for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1. Boards are required by law to adopt their final budgets by June 30, and between now and then the board has various deadlines it must follow to allow for proper planning and public comment.

However, the board’s June 30 deadline is the same as the General Assembly’s deadline to adopt a state budget. This means that school boards create a budget without knowing how much money the district will receive in state subsidies. In years when the state budget is late, this is especially challenging. The amount of available funds can determine what programs and services we can offer or continue.

The board must also budget money to pay for programs and services mandated by federal and state law. Many of these mandates are underfunded or districts receive no money at all to pay for them. These mandates include charter school funding, transportation, and special education. This strain on budget flexibility, combined with unpredictable contributions from the state, puts the district in a difficult position on an annual basis.

Despite the challenging process, parents and the community can help us. It’s important to understand why our school-funding pie gets divided as it does, the amount of state versus local funding provided, and what those funds pay for. Open the lines of communication, and speak to your board members about which programs and services are important to our students, and why. Also, consider becoming an advocate in the state budget process by speaking to our legislators about the need for adequate state funding for public schools. Here is a list of General Assembly contacts.

Follow the budget dialog at Operations Committee meetings on the first Monday of each month. Meetings are held in the Administration Building (1140 Salisbury Rd.) starting at 7:00 PM.

Parent advocacy in the state budget process

Gov. Wolf will present his state budget proposal for the 2018-19 fiscal year to the General Assembly on February 6. During the spring, legislators will draft amendments to the plan and negotiations will continue until an agreement is reached on a new state budget.

Funding for public schools will be part of the discussions, and legislators need to hear about the needs of our schools and students. How can parents advocate and influence the state budget? Here are some suggestions:

  • Get the facts – Know what is being proposed at the state level for education and what it means for Salisbury and students.
  • Reach out to our legislators. Phone calls and emails are the best ways to reach them.
  • Tell the Salisbury story – Talk about how important adequate state funding is to your schools and use examples of specific programs and students helped. Talk about what would happen if funding were increased, or if it were cut.
  • Communicate effectively – Present your ideas clearly and concisely. It is important to build relationships with our legislators. Understand their position on key issues so that you can show how your position will benefit his or her constituents.
  • Be persistent – Start the process early, keep at it and be patient.

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