Common Core Standards Hike Up Wethersfield School Budget
WETHERSFIELD - A proposed $53.45 million Wethersfield school district budget aimed at addressing mandated education reform such as the soon-to-be enacted Common Core State Standards, amongst other areas, leaped the first hurdle of its approval path by a unanimous vote at the Board of Education meeting last Tuesday night, March 12.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett’s proposal, a 3.57 percent increase from this year’s $51.61 million budget, still has to garner approval from the Town Council in a process that will include an April hearing.
Wethersfield, like other districts in the state, is in the middle of a transition to align with the Common Core State Standards, and its latest budget proposal was designed with that purpose in mind, Emmett said during a presentation at the meeting.
“We are in the process of moving away from the Connecticut Mastery Test and the CAPT and toward the Smarter Balanced Assessment,” Emmett said. “I can tell you now, as a parent with a ninth-grader who has taken it, she says it is hard.”
In order to prepare its students, the district has to focus on readying its teachers. Emmett’s proposed budget includes an 8 percent increase in funding allotted to the purpose of “instructional program improvement,” or, in other words, faculty training and evaluation.
“We will be responsible for a number of formal and informal evaluations of our teachers,” Emmett said.
The Board of Education is asking for $99,615, compared to the $92,235 Wethersfield spent for this area in the 2012-13 budget. The district is looking to add a math instructional supervisor that will assess data collected by subject-area teams in order to guide teachers on curriculum development, Emmett said.
Emmett is proposing a $1.49 million expenditure budget, a 9.32 percent bump from the current fiscalyear’s budget, for school “supplies and materials,” although the amount he proposes to put towards textbooks has decreased 3.85 percent from this year’s $93,404 to 2013-14’s tentative $73,381.
“Perhaps what we’ll have to look for in the future are digital textbooks--textbooks online,” he said.
Proposed expenditures on software and media supplies, on the other hand, saw a call for a 16.41 percent increase-from $245,714 to $286,039.
Among the requests that were left out of the proposal was the addition of two elementary-level teachers, a decision that was motivated by the fact that since the implementation of full-day kindergarten, the number of classes with 26 students or more has dropped from six to one, Emmett said.
“The budget last year decreased class sizes, and we feel that we are still okay,” he said.
Pupil tuition, which includes funds the district is required to provide for special education services and magnet school costs, saw a proposed 21.57 percent increase from 2012-13’s $2.91 million allotment. Special education costs can include occupational therapy and paraprofessional services, as well as any mandate that falls under a given student’s Individualized Education Plan, (IEP). How much the district needs to spend in this area can be determined solely by chance, Emmett said.
“We’re kind of at the mercy of who decides to move in and who moves out,” he said.
Magnet school tuition, a cost towns share with the state, covers the percentage the district is required to pay, as well as any special services a student might require, Emmett said.
“These are all services we’d provide for students in our district anyway,” Emmett said.