The beginning of the school year provides opportunities for fresh ideas and positive changes to enhance learning experiences for all children. During the spring and summer, the Kyrene School District Governing Board and district leaders were hard at work considering ideas that would impact the budget for the 2014-15 school year. The final budget approved on July 8 was not only balanced, it also represents an investment in spending for whole-child programs such as art, music, physical education, library, math/literacy coaches who provide support and a change to the start times for Kyrene middle schools. This budget also demonstrates the board’s commitment to invest in one of our most valuable resources — teachers and staff who received a cost of living increase.
Kyrene’s ability to enhance valued programs and provide additional compensation for employees was welcome after several years of some of the most severe budget reductions we have ever seen. The governing board has always been very clear about the fact that every budgetary decision must primarily consider the impact on children, and they ensured any reduction was kept as far away from the classroom as possible. In addition, innovative initiatives to save money, such as the Kyrene Power Challenge, an aggressive conservation program that yielded over $200,000 in savings in 2012-13, were encouraged and supported by the board. The leadership provided by the board over the years, along with their commitment to maintaining a threshold of reserve dollars that preserves the district’s excellent credit rating, have been keys to managing the budget.
In addition to the leadership provided by the governing board, the community overwhelmingly supported the budget override in November 2013, which represented $12 million in maintenance and operations funding for the district. Without the passage of the override and the strong support from the parents, businesses and homeowners of Kyrene, the budget landscape would have been much different.
It has been a long haul for school districts in Arizona and around the nation in recent years. State funding for education has been on the decline, while state and federal mandates for student and teacher performance standards have increased. Student enrollment figures fluctuate as the demographics of Kyrene continue to change and parents have more educational choices for their children. Maintaining a balanced budget without compromising the quality of education has been a challenge.
As we continue moving into the 21st century, it will be important to invest wisely to best serve the diverse student population of our “A” rated school district.
• David K. Schauer, Ed.D., is superintendent of the Kyrene School District.