Federal cuts being seen in Wyoming schools

2013-09-16T08:30:00Z Federal cuts being seen in Wyoming schoolsBy AERIN CURTIS Wyoming Tribune-Eagle The Billings Gazette
September 16, 2013 8:30 am  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Federal cuts to educational funding have Wyoming school districts paying close attention to their budgets.

Cuts from the federal sequester were in several areas like IDEA part B special-education grants, Title I grants, and career and technical education, according to information from the U.S. Department of Education.

They came through during the summer, but districts more recently started to see the effects of those cuts. The most concerning cut for several schools was to Title I funds, school officials said.

“It wasn’t just special education. It has affected Title I greatly and it’s hurting us,” said special-services director Brent Bacon with Laramie County School District 2. “There’s no backup to Title I, (and) that’s making people nervous.”

Though there was a cut to special-education funds, the state funds the program at 100 percent, he said, so the reduction didn’t have the same effect.

“We’re very fortunate in Wyoming,” he said. “If we didn’t have that support and that backing from the state, I could see a district really struggling.”

In Wyoming, the overall cuts to Title I funds were about 3.4 percent, or $1.19 million, of the state’s past Title I funds, according to information from the Wyoming Department of Education. The department expects to know exactly how much it lost later this fall.

Title I programs offer extra support in reading and math to at-risk students, Bacon said. In LCSD2, the funds support elementary students, he added.

The cut to district funding was almost $80,000 and reduced one full-time position to part time, Bacon said. The employee was able to transition into a classroom role, he said.

“Basically, it has started to affect kids,” he said. “We’re down half of a Title I position compared to last year, and we could see that happening more.”

The district currently has 6.25 Title I jobs, or seven employees, he said.

The change in staffing means classroom teachers have to do more of the intervention work on their own, he said. However, teachers have worked to fill that space.

Some schools in Laramie County School District 1 also have felt the reduction in funds, district principals said.

The district has 12 elementary schools and one junior high that receives some level of Title I funding, according to district information.

“It’s noticeable,” Cheyenne’s Buffalo Ridge Elementary Principal Greg Garman said. “For me, it means that I have to be very careful that I don’t lose personnel.”

His building receives “targeted assistance,” so the cut came from a smaller amount, he said.

The school started some new programs last year that likely will have to be changed, he said.

The funding has allowed the school to offer struggling students help through a nationally known and research-based reading program, he said.

“We are now able to offer the full slate of Lindamood-Bell intervention, which we couldn’t before,” Garman said.

The school also does some math intervention work.

Johnson Junior High administrators said the cut also generated some concern about staffing.

“We’ve got a couple of staff positions that are funded in part and in whole with Title I resources,” Principal John Balow said. “We want to maintain those positions. We feel like they have a positive impact, but if we get thinner and thinner we may have to consider that down the road.”

However, students shouldn’t notice a difference in services from this cut, he said. Some of the reduction has been offset by an increase in enrollment.

“We’ve tried to plan over the last few years to help negate any drastic cuts we saw coming, and we think that’s paid off,” Balow said.

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