Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Ten Sleep School faces $282,000 negative effect on budget

Task force of parents, staff, board member created to help with recommendations on cuts

 

March 15, 2017



TEN SLEEP – During the Ten Sleep School monthly board meeting Monday evening, Ten Sleep Superintendent Jimmy Phelps explained to board members that state and federal cuts, along with an increase in health care premiums could cause a $282,000 negative effect on next year’s budget. To address this issue a task force has been created to help with recommendations on where cuts can and will be done.

“I’m hoping that that is the worst case scenario. It’s not just us, its every district in the state. Worland has some very deep cuts to make, Thermopolis has some very deep cuts, it’s everywhere,” Phelps stated. “I’ve got to make some kind of recommendation that is the best that I can come to you with. Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and everything that I came up with is not good. So I’m putting together a task force to help me come up with recommendations for you guys (Ten Sleep School Board),” he added.

The task force has a Ten Sleep School Board member Jane Thurston, four teachers which were chosen by the entire teaching staff, a paraeducator chosen by the paraeducators, a classified staff member (bus drivers, secretaries, lunch personnel, etc.) chosen by the classified staff, the schools technology/maintenance employee, a Ten Sleep Recreation Board member and four parents recommended by school staff.

Phelps stated that the task force would have recommendations for the board at a special school board meeting on April 3, at 7 p.m.

According to Phelps the Ten Sleep school district received $3,105,000 this year and with recent legislation there will be a statewide cut of $56 million dollars, which equals out to 3.8 percent. The 3.8 percent equals an $118,000 loss to the Ten Sleep School budget. But with increased enrollment for next year the cut shouldn’t be that large. “Now we have some increased enrollment so next year will be based on a higher number than this year. Our best guess is that we are going to lose about $75,000 in loss of funding,” Phelps said.

On top of the $75,000 loss in state funding, the school has also been informed that they should expect a 10 percent increase in health care premiums which equals out to about a $47,000 negative effect on the budget, Phelps said.

A loss in federal funding is going to create the largest impact on the school. According to Phelps, Ten Sleep School has received notice that their federal Title I funds will be reduced to practically zero, which equals a loss of $165,000. Ten Sleep School received $165,000 this year and next year they might receive $10,000 or less and the following year it would go to zero. “They told us they didn’t know if it would be $10,000, $2,000, $5,000 or $7,000 just somewhere in there; it would be less than $10,000 probably,” Phelps stated.

Phelps explained to the board that federal Title I funding has a regulation that requires schools to have 2 percent of their students living in poverty and 10 or more students living in poverty to receive Title I funds. “The key word is and,” Phelps said. “Now prior to this I never knew that you could lose your Title I, I always thought that it was tied to your free/ reduced rate and it is tied to your free/reduced rate but it is more in terms of how you can use the money. Poverty is much less than the level that free/reduced lunch is. Next year’s money is based on data from year 2015 and we are told that we have seven students in 2015 that were living in poverty, therefore we are above the 2 percent but below the drop-dead number of 10. The way that they come up with this number seven is not an actual number, it’s a statistical calculation based upon a formula that the U.S Census Bureau has. Every year the U.S. Census Bureau puts this out for all school districts in the United States,” he added.

There is an appeals process and the school is appealing the decision but the chance of getting anywhere is almost non-existent. Phelps stated that according to his contact at the Wyoming Department of Education, the school is welcome to appeal the decision but as far as he knew, no school in the state of Wyoming has ever appealed the loss of Title I funding and benefitted.

The school is appealing to the U.S. Census Bureau but the bureau doesn’t provide the school with any data because the information that the bureau uses comes from a variety of sources including individual tax returns. “If you appeal they will look at what they did and tell you whether they messed up or whether they are correct or not,” Phelps said.

Unhappy with the way the appeals process works and the fact that there was no way of knowing whether the number was accurate or not, Phelps decided to take matters into his own hands, not only for Ten Sleep School but for other small school districts. “In checking there are two other school districts in the state of Wyoming that have lost their Title I funds. We are the second smallest school district in the state, for years we were the smallest but recently we surged ahead of Arvada Clearmont. Arvada Clearmont lost all their Title I funding about six years ago. Meeteetse, which is the third smallest, lost all of their Title I funds a year ago and so now the three smallest school districts in the state have lost their Title I funds. And it’s all based upon this drop-dead of 10. So I wrote an appeal to the U.S. Census Bureau stating that the number of 10 is unfair and discriminatory to districts our size,” Phelps said. “The only place the regulations say that you can appeal is the U.S Census Bureau and the bureau doesn’t write the regulations, the (U.S.) Department of Education does. I wrote the letter to the U.S. Census Bureau and at the same time I sent the same letter to Senator (John) Barrasso’s office, Senator (Mike) Enzi’s office, Rep. (Liz) Cheney’s office and others,” he added.

Phelps gave an example to the board as to why the 2 percent and 10 students living in poverty is discriminatory. A district that has 500 students and has 10 students living in poverty meets both requirements, 10 students is 2 percent of 500. The Ten Sleep School District had 99 students and seven students living in poverty, which means that Ten Sleep School would need to have 10 percent living in poverty to meet both requirements.“ So I’m claiming that requiring us to have 10 percent where a district of 500 or more only has to have 2 percent is discriminatory to us and any other district with under 500 students,” Phelps explained.

According to Phelps, Senator Barrasso has written a letter to the U.S Department of Education requesting an explanation. “We talked to Ms. Clark (Jinx, Deputy State Director for Senator Barrasso) today (Monday) and she said that the letter from Senator Barrasso had been written and sent to them (U.S. Department of Education) about a week and a half ago, two weeks ago now and that she will give them until the end of the week, if she doesn’t hear anything back, she will call them and ask them where they are at with this,” Phelps stated.

 
 

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