The Appleton Area School District Board of Education authored an excellent column on school funding that was recently published by the Appleton Post Crescent. This is an outstanding example for all districts to use in community advocacy on behalf of their schools. Kudos!
School Board Asks for Public Support
Last year, residents of the Appleton Area School District made a significant, communal investment in student learning. In a referendum they approved updates to school facilities that included science labs and industrial technology areas. The successful referendum provided new technology to teachers and students. These facilities and learning tools are essential to preparing students for their futures. The School Board wholeheartedly appreciates the continuing support and is grateful for the trust and conviction from our community’s residents.
Still, educational support is a long-term investment, not a single decision or a one-time vote. To effectively utilize our facilities and learning tools to educate the district’s over 16,000 diverse students, we need to adequately fund operations. Our operating funds for the 2015-16 school year are being cut by $2.19 million in the proposed state budget. A voucher expansion will further reduce public school funding. Meanwhile, inflation pushes our operating costs higher.
Last month, we presented our concerns to the Joint Finance Committee and our local legislators have been briefed on the funding issue by both Board members and the District Leadership team. Our legislators are listening, but the words and perspectives of parents, staff and community members will prove valuable as they work to get our voices heard.
We ask for funding support that minimally addresses inflationary growth in district operational costs for two reasons:
The Appleton Area School District is controlling spending. We have altered employee benefits and adopted cost-reducing plan designs; contracted out cleaning, hot lunch and bus services; extended the life cycle of technology equipment and curriculum materials; refinanced debt; and repurposed vacant community buildings for district use. Even with the district’s efforts to control costs, there are normal cost of living increases in all of these areas.
The best teachers inspire and motivate. We want to attract and retain the best. Staff salaries have been frozen in four of the last six years. Another freeze will hinder our ability to attract and retain the talent that we need.
Our teachers are making a difference with every child. For some of our over 16,000 students, that entails advanced, college-level coursework. Others need targeted individualized instruction. Our highly-trained staff addresses the needs of a very diverse student body that includes: English language learners, students with special education needs and those for whom graduation is at risk. Instruction and engagement of our students also occurs beyond the walls of the district’s 22 neighborhood and 15 charter schools. Our partnerships with area businesses, organizations and volunteers provide opportunities including career-based learning and mentoring.
Public schools face significant challenges. As members of the Appleton Area School District Board of Education, we believe that these challenges can be met, and we need your continued and vocal support. Public education is an investment and the community is a critical stakeholder.
You can help the school board preserve this investment, keep our schools vibrant, and prepare students for tomorrow’s careers. We ask that you voice your support for public education and encourage the legislature to prioritize public school funding in the 2015-17 state budget.
School Board of the AASD
Sharon Fenlon, John Mielke, Diane Barkmeier, Kay Eggert, Julie Baker, Jim Bowman, Barry O’Connor