School officials discuss cuts

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By Jesef Williams

Officials talked more at Tuesday’s school board meeting about the effects of the latest state funding cut.

Tony Walker, finance director for the Lancaster County School District, revisited figures detailing the most previous budget cuts and ideas on how to handle an expected cut in funds from the state.

As of Tuesday, the school district was awaiting word from the state Department of Education about how much each district would be asked to make budget cuts. School district officials are expecting a 7 percent cut from the state.

Despite the shortfalls, Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore told the board that no jobs are expected to be lost.

Walker has said that the latest cut would remove between $1 million and $1.5 million from the district’s 2008-09 budget. Officials are prepared to dip into the district’s equity fund and other special revenue to make up for the loss.

The 2009-10 budget may present a greater challenge to the school district.

Moore believes personnel-related funds, which account for roughly 80 percent of the budget, will likely be affected.

“Eventually, it’s going to hit people,” Moore said.

Board member Margaret Gamble and chairwoman

Charlene McGriff both expressed disappointment with the state Act 388, which took school funding off the residential property tax rolls and shifted it to sales tax, a revenue source many argue is less stable.

McGriff believes if that law had not passed, school districts would be in a better situation now.

“We got a double blow,” McGriff said. “The economy’s going under and there’s Act 388.”

AP grant update

At Tuesday’s meeting, Carolyn Jordan and other district instructional specialists gave the board an update on the district’s Advanced Placement grant.

The district received a three-year, $2.28 million federal grant in 2006 that provides training and resources to encourage more minority students to enroll in Advanced Placement, or AP, courses, which are more rigorous and comparable to college courses.

The district is in the final year of the grant.

A.R. Rucker Middle, Andrew Jackson Middle and South Middle schools, and Andrew Jackson High and Lancaster High schools receive funding through the grant.

Jordan and her staff reported that from 2007 to 2008, for example, the number of minority students enrolled in AP classes at AJHS and LHS increased from 14 to 50. The number of parents participating in the parent component has also risen, going from 65 to nearly 300.

The grant provides teacher training, pre-AP course development for students and computers to some students to help them better keep up with the demands of the course.

“We do this because we want to see students achieve at the level of their potential,” Jordan said.

Dr. Paul McKenzie, who wrote the grant, said the district can reapply for the grant.

But repeat receipt of the funding will be highly contingent on the economy, as the federal government has cut back on the amount of grants awarded, he said.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152