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Schools consider impact of ‘fiscal cliff’

Pre-kindergarten and special education are among partially federally funded programs that would take a hit if lawmakers in Washington send the nation off the fiscal cliff, it was reported to Thursday’s School Board meeting.

According to district Finance Director Wendy Forsman, across-the-board cuts of 8 percent to 10 percent, if Congress does not act by March 1, would shave $325,000 a year from the federally supported programs, from 2014 to 2021.

Furthermore, Title I school-improvement funding would fall by $350,000 and Title II improving teacher quality funding by $60,000 annually, Forsman added.

‘It’s not just a one-year thing. … And it’s not just targeted decreases — just percentage decreases,” she said.

Though federal funds are supplementary, “they have become part of the core program.”

Title I funding would be reduced by $350,000, Forsman said, possibly hitting summer school staffing, instructional planning/after school leadership meetings, STAR reading and math renewals, staff course work for reading and math specialty endorsements, after-school and weekend programs, technology-enhanced equipment and staff development.

A reduction of $60,000 to Title II funds, she added, could include the loss of at least one class size-reduction teacher along with staff development support.

Reductions in career and technical education and Impact Aid would amount to $25,000 and $45,000 respectively, Forsman said.

But board members at the meeting seemed most concerned with the specter of special education and pre-kindergarten cuts.

Potential special education reductions reported by Forsman include transition specialists, assistant teachers, social workers, bus assistants, assistive technology assistants, job coaches and diagnosticians.

“It’s most important … (that) we recognize that if kids aren’t challenged, or have the opportunity to engage in some type of organized program at four or five years old, then that kid is behind the rest of the time,” Enoch Copeland said.

Judith Brooks-Buck noted that special education mandates have “never been fully funded,” adding, “It’s really disconcerting to look at this.”

Pre-school education is the best way to increase on-time graduation, Superintendent Deran Whitney said.