Superintendent’s Message: All Budget Dollars Support Classroom
At 8 o’clock each morning, school bells ring across Emporia signaling that students are in class and ready to start their day. Teachers take attendance, outline the objectives for the class, and launch into the first lesson. The school quickly settles into a hum of activity for the next six hours or so. Indeed, a summer full of planning and preparation has swung into action.
School started with “Jump Start” day on August 19, but teachers and support staff began weeks before studying changes in curriculum and standards, preparing lessons, assembling resources, learning about their students, personalizing the room to make them feel welcome, and organizing daily routines to keep students engaged in learning.
Indeed, the heart of our work in education is all about students and teachers in the classroom. Who can argue the challenge from state policymakers and politicians to “put more money into the classroom”? Nothing is more important than the lessons that prepare a student for the world outside that classroom. And yet, I struggle to identify anything or anyone in our schools that doesn’t end up “in the classroom.”
The August 12 Tallman Education Report from the Kansas Association of School Boards contains an easy-to-understand explanation of what goes directly and indirectly into the classroom. Across the state, districts spend on average 51 percent of the budget for Instruction – teachers, aides and classroom materials. Yet, the remaining 49 percent of district expenditures support the classroom in some way.
On average across the state, about 4 percent of the budget goes to Transportation – the men and women who drive the kids to school, dispatchers who monitor the routes and stay in constant communication with the drivers, the mechanics who make sure the buses are operating safely, and the people who provide regular training so that drivers can stay abreast of new local, state and federal requirements.
At school, students may first encounter the principal; office personnel who help them with lunch money, manage phone calls from home and take care of record-keeping; the nurse who checks a sore throat; or the food service worker who smiles and serves them breakfast. School administration and office expenses account for 5 percent of the average Kansas school district budget and Food Service another 4 percent.
During the day, students will work with other groups of support staff – librarians, counselors, technology specialists, speech pathologists and social workers. Instructional Support and Student Services account for another 7 percent of the budget, on average.
That leaves a sizable piece of the budget for maintenance and operations, such as building repairs, technology support, school security, custodial and maintenance staff, utilities and insurance, as well as construction and equipment purchases and payment on debt. Together, the operations and capital costs account for 25 percent of the budget or nearly one-fourth.
The final 4 percent accounts for district level administration, business operations, human resources and legal services. These are the individuals who are responsible for payroll, taking bids and ordering supplies, paying the bills, completing reports to meet state and federal requirements, making sure employees are hired with the appropriate training and certification for the job, taking care of insurance and other employee benefits and assuring that all procedures meet legal requirements and stay within the budgetary constraints prescribed.
District administration plans and coordinates all training and professional development, monitors student progress, facilitates assessments and record-keeping, and makes sure systems are in place to collect data – all to support the teacher’s instruction based on student needs.
While there is no legal requirement, K.S.A. 72-64c01 establishes the public policy goal for the state suggesting that at least 65 percent of the moneys appropriated, distributed or otherwise provided by the state to school districts should be expended in the classroom or for instruction.
Certainly, it is the goal of the Emporia Board of Education to put resources where they best serve the unique needs of Emporia students. Board members strive to assure that students find success before, during and after their work in our classrooms. From this quest, it is difficult to identify an expense that does not find its way “into the classroom.”