• 63°

School officials watch, wait

KENDRA MAJORS

Local school superintendents, as well as state superintendents, are watching and waiting for the upcoming February legislative session.

The important issue on docket, whether or not the legislature will raise the divisors for state funded teachers.

According to Pike County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bazzell, school systems earn their state-funded teaching units based on the number of students they have in the system.

They earn these by the number of students they have enrolled.

“There is an index that they use to come up with the number of state funded teachers a school system gets,” Bazzell said.

For example, if the index was 20 and there were 100 students then the school system would earn five teaching units.

If legislators raise the index to 25 then a school system would only earn four teaching units for 100 students.

Bazzell said the legislature could raise the divisor at one grade level or all grade levels.

The school system would potentially have to make cuts if the divisors are increased.

“We would have to make some tough decisions,” Bazzell said.

According to Bazzell, Pike County Schools currently has 12 teachers who are locally funded.

Bazzell said the system would have to evaluate the situation and would possible try to keep some teachers locally funded.

“If every grade level is raised by two, we would lose 11 state funded teachers,” Bazzell said.

If the system were to locally fund these teachers it would bring the number of locally funded teachers to roughly 23.

“We would certainly not be able to fund 23 teachers,” Bazzell said. “We would try to be as creative as we could be to try to reassign line items with federal money.”

According to Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith the state could increase the divisors anywhere from .5 to 2.

“If they raise (the divisor) it would impact Troy City Schools from 7.32 up to 17.41,” Felton-Smith said.

Unlike Pike County Schools, Troy City Schools cannot pickup additional local units.

“We are utilizing federal dollars for Title I and IDEA,” Felton-Smith said.

One of the potential problems associated with raising divisors is there could be more children per classroom and Bazzell said that system-wide ancillary units would likely be affected.

At Troy City Schools, there would most likely be larger class sizes, fewer elective course offering in middle and high schools.

“At the present time we have a wide variety of electives for our students,” Felton-Smith said.

According to Felton-Smith, at the present time, no personnel cuts will be made for the remainder of the FY09 year, which ends the last day of school in May.

If a classroom teacher resigns between now and May, the position will be filled for the remainder of the FY09 school year, Felton-Smith said.

At Troy City Schools, Felton-Smith and the school principals are working on a plan of action if the state does indeed raise the divisors.

Bazzell said he thinks every school system will be in the same situation with fewer teachers.

According to Bazzell this is a big concern for the state superintendent’s association and he as a superintendent.

Bazzell said he understands that there are some tough decisions to be made at the state levels, but hopes raising the divisors will be a last resort.

“I concur with Dr. Bazzell that this should be the last resort,” Felton-Smith said.