The COVID-19 pandemic fueled an economic crisis and public schools are seeing state support cut as a result.
What the economic downturn has meant is readily seen in the mid-year funding adjustments from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
The cut for Purcell Public Schools amounted to 5.11 percent or $265,828.15.
It wasn’t quite break even for the district which received $231,688 from the CARES Act in 2020.
“It is the norm for school funding to have fluctuations, but it is most challenging to experience mid-year cuts after the budget for the district has been developed and deployed for the current year,” superintendent Dr. Sheli McAdoo said.
However, McAdoo said that cut doesn’t tell the whole story.
Purcell Public Schools was the recipient of a $905,777 emergency relief grant funded through the nation’s second stimulus package passed in late 2020.
“This allocation will help the district offset the revenue loss we experienced in state aid,” McAdoo said, citing cost-saving measures such as staffing, projects and over prioritization of expenditures.
“The goal of Purcell Public Schools is to be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars to benefit students,” McAdoo said.
But the real unknown for superintendents and school boards is what funding will look like for the 2021-22 school year.
One factor will be having a healthy cash carryover at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
“Carryover is important to the district as it is the way that we meet our financial obligations at the beginning of the school year until we receive state aid,” McAdoo said. “We are still projecting a healthy carryover for 2021-22 at this time.”
Lexington Public Schools received $188,330 through the CARES Act. The district’s share from the second stimulus is $796,007.
Superintendent Chad Hall received the formula for assessing the mid-year adjustment, but hasn’t yet done the math to arrive at the exact figure.
“But I can tell you it is significant,” he said.
Early estimates are the district stands to lose about $180,000.
“We knew it was coming,” Hall said of the cut, adding in a “normal” year, it is possible a district will see a bump in their mid-year adjustment.
“This year we’re seeing a cut in funding per ADM (average daily membership) weighted enrollment,” he continued.
The mid-year funding adjustment is typically a few thousand dollars either way for a district the size of Lexington.
“This ($180,000) is definitely a drop in terms of what is going on,” he said. “I told the board if we were frugal enough... We feel like we’re in a good position to weather this. Next year is a total unknown.”
Toby Ringwald, superintendent at Wayne Public Schools, said his district lost about $52,000 at mid-term.
“We are still on pace to lose roughly $450,000 in total funding this school year,” he added.
That is taking into account the $105,288 Wayne received from the CARES Act and $411,301 in the second stimulus.
Those second stimulus dollars are “preventing us from having to dig too far this year into our Building Fund to offset previously anticipated losses.”
Ringwald admits to “tremendous concerns” about the funding outlook for the 2021-22 school year.
It’s like a one-two punch from the pandemic’s effects on the overall economy and the negative effect Epic Charter School has on the school funding formula.
The combination “will have many schools playing catch up financially next year,” he said.
“We still expect to have a healthy fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2021,” he continued. “And the money we didn’t spend out of the Building Fund this year can help offset next year’s losses.
“We will carefully examine what positions will need to be hired back next year for staff that retire or leave the district.”
Washington Public Schools Superintendent Chris Reynolds noted that district was down more than $202,517 in the mid-year adjustment.
Reynolds said the district plans to use $219,418 received from the second stimulus to “fill the void caused by the midterm cut.”
“Washington is hoping for additional support from the federal government to offset the cost of running school during a pandemic and to reduce anticipated future losses in state funding,” he continued. “We specifically are advocating for a change in the funding process for future federal stimulus.”
Reynolds explained that both of the two initial CARES Act stimulus packages allotted funds through the federal Title I system – a process that creates an uneven playing field among districts.
“Based on the Title I process, districts such as Washington with low free and reduced (lunch) rates have received significantly lower federal stimulus funding,” Reynolds explained. “We are advocating that all additional stimulus funds be funded on a per-pupil basis. We believe this would be a more equitable way for the federal government to provide stimulus funds.”