Because of its large program, district could benefit greatly, suffer dearly from state funding changes
Summer school funding is on the minds of school officials and state legislators, and the Port Washington-Saukville School District is poised to benefit greatly or suffer dearly if significant changes are made.
The district is supporting a Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) resolution that will be voted upon during the Wisconsin State School Board Convention in Milwaukee next week that would urge the Legislature to significantly increase state aid for summer school programs.
For the Port Washington-Saukville School District, which has one of the largest, longest-standing summer school programs in the state, the change would mean an additional $750,000 annually, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.
“The amount of money involved is substantial,” he said. “If this passes, our district would definitely be one of the largest winners.”
Under the state aid formula, districts use the number of minutes of summer school education provided every year to calculate full-time student equivalent enrollment figures. In the case of the Port-Saukville School District, the 1,500 students who attend summer school are the equivalent of 126 full-time students under the aid formula. Currently, districts can count 40% of those students — 50 in the case of the Port-Saukville School District — as full-time students for the purposes of state aid.
The WASB resolution calls for the aid formula to be changed so that 100% of the full-time equivalent students can be counted in enrollment figures.
Whether the call for such a change will gain any traction in the Legislature is uncertain, but at the very least the resolution may help ward off the opposite reaction from lawmakers intent on cutting funding for public education, officials said.
“Part of this resolution is a reaction to preliminary discussions among some legislators to eliminate all financial support for summer school programs,” Supt. Michael Weber said. “That would be devastating to summer school programs throughout the state.”
It would be particularly devastating to the Port Washington-Saukville School District, whose summer school enrollment is worth about $500,000 annually under the state revenue limit formula, Froemming said.
When asked if the elimination of state funding for summer school would doom the district’s long-standing program, Weber said, “I really don’t know.
“My guess is no, it would not, but we would have to take money away from something else important to maintain our summer school program.”
At stake is a six-week program that officials say has long been an important part of the public school education provided by the district. Remedial programs help elementary and middle school students stay on track and is one of the reasons Port Washington High School has a graduation rate of almost 100%, Weber said.
The enrichment programs — everything from fishing and athletics to arts and engineering — help keep students engaged academically and socially over the long summer break, helping to reduce the so-called summer learning slide.
Froemming noted that the program also provides attractive jobs for both veteran educators and new teachers looking for experience and an entree into the district that they can parlay into full-time employment.
“A five-hour-a-day job for six weeks in summer is pretty attractive for a lot of teachers,” Froemming said.
Among the other WASB resolutions supported by the district is one calling for the repeal of the school start date mandate law enacted in 1999 that prevents districts from beginning their school years before Sept. 1.
One of the justifications for the law is that beginning classes earlier in the summer would deprive the tourism industry of seasonal workers during a peak tourism period.
The WASB argues, however, that most students — those in kindergarten through eighth grade — are not part of the workforce, so earlier starts to the school year would not have a significant impact on the tourism industry.
Local school officials said they are not intent on making significant changes to the school start date but believe districts should have the freedom to draft a calendar that works best for the students they educate.
“I’ve not been a strong supporter of the Sept. 1 start date and I’ve not been a strong opponent of it,” Weber told the School Board Monday. “What I am opposed to is dictating to local communities and school districts what their calendars should look like.”