Tight budget signals tough fight for LSCs

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Principals and LSCs could be in for tough fights come September, if expected state revenues fall short and force the district to tighten its budget.

Schools hammered out their discretionary budgets in the spring, using locally-controlled dollars that provide extra programs for low-income students. Their work is based on enrollment and revenue projections put out by the district’s budget office.

But the enrollment estimates are often wrong, say educators and LSC members, forcing schools to fight for additional teachers and resources once enrollment is finalized in the fall.

Traci Treadwell, head of the LSC at Sumner Elementary, says his school successfully bargained for $70,000 last year when final enrollment figures exceeded projections. Sumner is a victim of its own success, he claims, as rising test scores continue to attract students.

But the extra cash was promised for only one year. Looking ahead, Treadwell says, “With the Board having difficulties giving money right now, you can imagine what the fight [to keep the $70,000] will be like.”

To further complicate budgeting matters, LSCs lack adequate training for the district’s new budgeting system, says Valencia Rias of Designs for Change. As of July 18, the district stopped updating the old system, which offered simple-to-grasp reports including detailed personnel information, Rias explains.

That could hamper the ability of local school leaders to understand the inner-working of their budgets, she adds, putting them at a disadvantage when negotiating with the district over limited resources.