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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : local July 09, 2014

1/17/2014 6:00:00 AM
PUSD enrollment decline shows signs of slowing: Cuts still under discussion
Patrick Whitehurst
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - While student enrollment continues to decline in the Prescott Unified School District, the decline is slowing.

That slowdown may reduce immediate cuts to the district - at least for the coming year. According to PUSD estimates, 4,664 students were enrolled 40 days into the new school year. Last year, 4,726 were enrolled at the school's 100-day count, which indicates the enrollment decline is slowing, school officials said.

The failed override and bond election, however, will continue to hurt the district, said Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Dave Smucker.

"We don't have any additional capital monies. We're in a tough spot there," Smucker told members of the PUSD Governing Board during their Jan. 14 regular meeting.

School officials, including Smucker, spoke "in-depth" on the district's budget since November's bond and override election failed to gain approval from voters, particularly when it comes to future decisions for district students and employees in the community.

"We've had a lot of conversations with the principals and the directors. I appreciate the work they've done and we have more work to do," Smucker said. "There's been a lot of communication inside our system on how we go about continuing to support our students in their education and how we support our staff through this process."

Discussions have taken place, Smucker said, on the possibility of closing a school, shifting to a four-day school week, and other options designed to reduce the budget, though no firm decisions are in place.

"The budget for this year will not include additional money for our staff. However, we cannot lose our focus on supporting staff for the future in what we do, and the decisions we make, next year," Smucker said.

Renee Raskin, the district's chief financial officer, briefed board members with budgetary estimates for the 2014-15 school year, particularly money for students, which already shows signs of improved enrollment compared to last year. Overall enrollment numbers, however, continue to decline from previous years, but that decline has slowed.

Firm enrollment numbers, which dictate state funding levels, are typically counted at the 100-day mark. For the current school year, that 100-day mark lands on Tuesday, Jan. 21, Raskin said.

"We should know, about a week after that, where we stand," she said.

"I think the positive enrollment data has made a difference for us. I don't think we'll have to make drastic change right now, but I think we're going to need to plan and work with our community and do a really great job of developing a relationship with them," Smucker said.

Besides enrollment, one-time monies, used to balance the district's budget for the current school year, created a reduction of a little more than half a million dollars for the district, Raskin said.

One-time monies won't be used to balance the budget next year, Smucker said. "That's the first time that that's happened, where we haven't used one-time monies and come back the next year and said we're starting the year and we're $500,000 down. That's a good thing. We can start from scratch," he said. "We're still not meeting the needs of what this district is going to need to be able move forward and we're going to need to take a look at that."

Plans to reduce or eliminate reliance on one-time monies, Smucker added, came from Governing Board direction in December.

"We believe, with the new budget information we've received, we'll be able to maintain programs throughout our organization, without making sweeping changes to our system - the big changes that really have an impact, sometimes on the culture of the community," Smucker said.

Further financial cuts at the state level, however, while not expected, could change current district estimates, Smucker warned.

"We're still doing work on this," he said. "When we think about having to cut budgets, I think we need to think primarily about our students in this community and what we're providing them in the future."

Alternative options will also be explored in greater detail, including other financial resources that may become available in the community, he added.

Follow reporter Patrick Whitehurst on Twitter @pwdcourier

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: Charters, gimme a break!

If charters are so great how did Mountain Oak loose it's Charter? Why are they closing up shop? Why are charter kids dhowing up in PUSD schools each week? Leaving PUSD because the child's family is moving away from the area doesn't mean it's a taking for the charters. PUSD tracks where their students go because of transcrpits. These numbers don't lie. So stop with the "students are flocking from PUSD like it were the plague" nonsense and save your Charter propaganda for the writers of FOX News.

Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Article comment by: Sad state of affairs

Amazing no one gets to the real issue. Why is enrollment in public schools down?

Parents that care about their children's education and their surrounding peer group are leaving public education for good reasons.

Public schools are filled with waifs from drug addicted, alcholic parents that have no ability or skills to raise a child, let alone parent. CPS is also filled with these throw back children.

Pretty pathetic. However, there is nothing that upgrading a public school can do to change this social blight. Public education cannot be blamed for society's affliction of addiction.

Removing children to private education from the public school situation and surrounding them with like-kind, for stable, productive education is the best option available. Hence, the exodus from public schools.

Teacher's raises, more money for educational upgrades is not the answer. It's the ingredients that make a superior product.

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Article comment by: @R s

Arizona is a right to work state. It is against the law for teachers to strike. That is why the override was so important. Teachers are backed into a corner. The only option many have is to leave the profession or move. They have families and children of their own like every other adult. What they don't have is respect and support for what they do for a living.

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Article comment by: R S

Why don't the teachers in this district go on strike?

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Article comment by: Just Saying

The parents are the problem. My neighbors are low life's who do not control their brats. Their brats treat everyone including their parents like crap. I can only imagine how they treat their teachers.

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Article comment by: disgusted and shameful

The override was for a pay increase for teachers. That failed worse than the bond. This basically said to the teachers that what they do is not worthy enough of a measly 1% increase in their pay. For most teachers that would have been roughly about $300 added to their salaries. What an embarrassment. Prisoners get more consideration than teachers.

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Article comment by: nick prescott

The problem with education today is not the teachers. Most are dedicated and want the best for your children. Teachers are not miracle workers. Parents must instill values and morals in their children. Also, in the early years, they must reinforce at home, what is taught in school. Can't rely upon remediation entirely from the school system. In the early years, teachers are nurturers especially since in today's society, children are very needy because they must have working parents. Above all, teachers are professionals and deserve respect and compensation. Besides parents, they have one of the biggest responsibilities in the world. The problem is not teachers. The problem is bureaucrats who think they are teachers.

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Article comment by: R J

Many parents are unfit and unwilling to provide the nurturing their children need for emotional growth and education. Schools must assume this role in far too many cases. They deserve more support than we give them. They are far too important to our society to ignore.

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Article comment by: Adam Jones

Not only will Basis enroll the numbers they are predicting but the other strong charters will continue to grow. More central control and close contact of administrators to students and staff are what happens in the small charter school. Students are seen for the value that they are, the reason the school exists and teachers are there because of a common philosophy or goal.

No school can be everything to everyone. PUSD has the ability to offer services in ways that smaller charters cannot. But not supporting teachers with good wages, facilities with good upkeep and the things that it needs to run properly will not attract students.

If Prescott and Prescott Valley hope to attract families for the future of the towns, they will need good schools. It seems that the districts do not have the support of the towns and thus charters are becoming the school of choice due to so many students needs not being met by the district.

There is lack of harmony in district staff. All of this of course is personal opinion and actually the ability to choose is very nice, we should be grateful. My children have attended charter schools, but I have always supported the tax overrides as they best for our community as a whole.

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014
Article comment by: My Child is a PUSD Teacher and deserves better!

What a slap in the face it is to hear that teachers will go another year with out a raise! What is the incentive to keep good teachers in PUSD? PUSD is all about traditions. Not giving teachers a raise has become the newest tradition. The school board has got to do something for these teachers. PUSD teachers put the children first always. No one advocates for the teacher. A decade without compensation is way too long for any career, yet it seems to be totally acceptable for teachers in America. Let's put our children's minds in the hands of overworked, underpaid, and disrespected professionals and expect nothing less than a successful outcome. What a recipe for failure. Why doesn't anyone see that the problem lies with in our state legislature and not with who is running the class room.

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: Frank Aimes

Parents and grand parents deliver the education that matters. Schools provide a bare outline and the parents and grand parents get the job done.

Modern schools are based on old models but the massive bureaucracy can not evolve into new world definitions and pertinence.

No wonder American kids are behind so many countries that spend a fraction of what we do. I would trust our local teachers to get the job done WITHOUT the Department of Education and the public school system as we know it.

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: R Summitt

P.S. The Children see. Where do you all think they learn to bully?

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: R Summit

My daughter worked for this district. They treat their employees with great disrespect. Thankfully my daughter has a position where they show respect for the profession. She makes almost twice as much as she made at PUSD. Employees at PUSD have not had a pay increase in years. In this state nothing is done about it but giving ample lip service. These are the professionals that are supposed to teach our children how to treat people with respect?

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: Just Saying

Have any of you had a conversation with many of these young people? Many I have met are basically illiterate. Unable to even speak coherently. As far as having knowledge about what they are talking about? Zero.

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: Frank Aimes

Fewer students but need more money. Obviously the money is not for the students as fewer students would dictate less money is needed.

Country Club schools with union style legacy costs are the entire problem. You want more money to fund yourselves, not student benefits.

Consolidate your schools to cut overhead, stick to education and improve the quality of your mission.

Forget the models of the past and recreate yourselves. Do it or continue down this failed path.

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

@ Smoken Mirrors: That's a very scary piece of analysis you have there. Very glad you don't handle money for a living. He clearly said the would start even and you've got them down 1.3 million. You must work for the gubment dude. And there ain't no raises either, haven't been any in like 8 years. And whover think BASIS will enroll 600 students, I've got some swamp land for sale in Florida lol. The PUSD naysayers are out there, and it's creepy.

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: @ An Interested Party

Oh yes - many will come from private or charter schools. Charters (other than Tri-City Prep) all underperform compared to district schools. And who wouldn't want to save some tuition money and send a student to a better school for free?

Basis will definitely hurt the traditional district schools, but believe me that the Charters know Basis may very well be their death knell. Unless the go the other route like Excell did and cater to the dropout/non-traditional student demographic.

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: An Interested Party

Completely ignoring the fact that BASIS is scheduled to open next year with a proposed enrollment of 600 students. Where do you think those 600 students are going to come from? Most likely not from the Private schools or the Charter schools!

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014
Article comment by: Smoken Mirrors

What are the real numbers here?

Last year down 1.3 million, using up all the "one time monies" to balance that out means no more in the bank: $900.000.00

This year they claim they are only down $550,000.00. Really? That will only be the number if the state increase equals last years sate increase: $378,000.00. which by the way is traditionally used for raises and student support, but this state allows districts to set it aside to balance the budget.

So the truth is the district is still down 1.3 million, they are just using the state funds of $378,000.00 from last year, and hoping that they get the same this year to balance out to $550,000.00. Sounds like they are counting the chickens before they hatch, and just finding another way to keep from ever thinking about helping out the pay for their employees.

And you can bet the cuts they will come up with will lower the paychecks for their employees, raise insurance, etc...

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