School district’s at-risk budget approved

$2.29 million budget includes funding for summer school program

“I’m excited because for the first time in a long time, we’re going to be able to provide summer school across the elementary schools for students that are most in need.”

That’s what Marshalltown School Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte thinks of the district’s 2018-19 at-risk budget, which was unanimously passed during a special Marshalltown School Board meeting this week.

The budget, which totals $2,229,556, includes funding for a summer school program to begin in 2018. Marshalltown Learning Academy, literacy interventionists, student credit recovery and other programs also receive some funding from the at-risk budget.

“There were two separate presentations made to the board … basically paring down what additional at-risk services were going to be pursued, and so there were three or four things, initially,” Schutte said of information shared on the budget during the Nov. 20 and Dec. 4 board meetings. “We wound up paring it down to simply the summer school across the elementary schools in order to reduce potential impact on the tax rate.”

Board President Bea Niblock said the upcoming summer school program will have a positive impact for many students.

“Comments were made that they were certainly glad that summer school was part of this at-risk budget,” she said of board members at Monday’s meeting. “Summer school and summer learning loss are big factors in making this decision.”

Board member Ben Fletcher also said he agreed with the addition of the summer school program to the at-risk budget.

“I think if we’re going to invest somewhere to help with student achievement, the summer programming is going to be one of the most impactful places to do it,” he said. “That’s a big reason why I supported it.”

Schutte said the budget may necessitate a tax increase of up to 20 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. The rate is currently $17.95.

“I really think that would be the worst-case scenario, would be 20 cents per $1,000 in order to accommodate the summer school programming,” Schutte said. “We won’t know for sure until April (of 2018), when we adopt a [district] budget … sometimes, we can move some things around to reduce that, we don’t want to increase that any more than we would need to.”

Niblock and Fletcher said they agreed that the summer school program justifies a potential tax increase.

“It is a piece that the district knows that it needs to raise proficiency, especially with the population that we work with, with our English language learners and with our students from homes of poverty,” Niblock said of the summer school program.

Fletcher said the exact increase will not be known until the budgeting process begins early next year.

“Hopefully, we find some savings somewhere else down the line the rest of the year,” he said. “As far as the dollars spent on this program, I do think it’s worthwhile.”

The summer school program is set to accept 375 district elementary students next summer, according to information shared by district Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson at the Dec. 4 board meeting.

The program will focus on students who are not proficient in reading, are chronically absent or both. It will be based on the Rogers University summer program at Rogers Elementary School.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com