BARTON COUNTY — Congressional gridlock over the U.S. budget is trickling down to Barton County with the automatic spending cuts that went into effect March 1, called the sequester.
Area schools received notification from the Kansas Department of Education this week that preliminary cuts have been made to Title 1 allocations for the 2013-14 school year. The Title 1 program is for students who are below the reading or math standards and state academic assessments for their grade.
Schools with students in Barton County facing reductions are USD 112 Central Plains, USD 355 Ellinwood, USD 403 Otis-Bison, USD 428 Great Bend, and USD 431 Hoisington.
According to the KDE, a 5 percent cut was enacted on each state due to the federal sequestration. A .2 percent is related to the decreased amount that Congress appropriated for the program.
A positive for the state is that the Kansas poverty data has not grown as fast as 48 other state, but that fact has also resulted in a decrease in the allocation of funding. Finally, each state has an legal amount the U.S. Education Department must fund, which reduces the amount available for all other states.
The total preliminary school district cuts for the State of Kansas amounts to $7,206,193 or 7.28 percent.
“We’ll cut down on supplies,” said Bill Lowry, superintendent of USD 431 Hoisington schools. Most of the Title 1 teachers in Hoisington are reading specialists, with one math teacher.
With Title 1,“interventions are for kids below grade level,” said Lowry. He said Title 1 students may have a variety of educational issues such as comprehension or understanding of phonics, resulting in a need for more individualized attention.
Hoisington, as have other schools in the area, implemented a newer program called MTSS – or Multi-Tier System of Supports – to assist in bringing students up to grade level over the past few years. MTSS is results based school-wide program where each student is assessed regularly to target skills intervention. Each student receives individualized instruction until the student achieves competency at the skill. Students start MTSS in elementary school.
Lowry said MTSS has helped close the gap. Since the program is still new, they are still looking at the MTSS data for the district.
Fortunately, other area superintendents in the area thought the cuts were manageable as well. Ellinwood Superintendent Ben Jacobs also responded to the cuts saying, “keep in mind these allocations are simply preliminary. We get final allocations later during the school year.”
“We can eat the cut because of our consolidation,” said Steve Woolf, superintendent of USD 112 Central Plains. “We’ll survive. I feel sorry for the folks in tight situations.”
Tom Vernon, superintendent of USD 428 Great Bend, said, “I think we will just try to absorb the loss as best we can, while trying not to affect our Title program’s impact on students.”
The preliminary cuts, according to KSDE initial reports, are:
•USD 112 Central Plains, 10 percent, amounting to $8,438.
•USD 355 Ellinwood, 4.7 percent, amounting to $3,637.
•USD 403 Otis-Bison, 1.05 percent, amounting to $304.
•USD 428 Great Bend, 1.05 percent, amounting to $8,556.
•USD 431 Hoisington, 10 percent, amounting to $13,008.