March 10, 2016
The Board and Administration are steadily working towards a plan to implement FDK in the fall of 2017 and will discuss it more this week.
Full Day Kindergarten (FDK)
Information developed by the Administration has been presented to the board members with particular attention to outstanding questions from those who voted against implementing it for fall 2016. The information developed most recently can be found via these links.
The Administration's financial projection relies heavily on an anticipated decrease in enrollment at Avon Grove Charter School (AGCS) to populate AGSD's new FDK. This effectively redirects taxpayer funding from one school to the other, but is not additional revenue from outside of the district the taxpayer is responsible for. The redirected funding (shown as "Charter School Reduction" in the Administration projection) functions as a credit for the AGSD budget (and a loss to AGCS). However all the costs associated with modular classrooms, teachers, supplies, furniture, professional development, etc. are new expenses that may not be completely offset if AGSD does not attract the projected number of AGCS students.
The latest assumption is that the new FDK program will reduce enrollment at AGCS by 40 students in year 1 and 60 students each subsequent year compared to the base enrollment that exists now. If this occurs, it will financially undermine the charter school if that enrollment gap is not filled with students from other school districts. (AGCS also accepts students from other surrounding districts but 41% of the students reside in the Avon Grove School District. A total of 88% come from the combined Avon Grove, Kennett and Oxford districts.)
Daily Local News Article - Charter School Students
The AGCS has been extremely popular in the AGSD. If the enrollment of AGSD-residing students does not decrease as projected, the "offset" doesn't occur and all the increased costs for FDK will be simply added to the ever expanding expenses of the AGSD. In fact, it is likely that many kindergarten-aged students living in the district (who might have otherwise enrolled in private or parochial kindergarten options) will enroll in AGSD FDK instead at the expense of those local organizations. Parents of these students will see a significant savings when they enroll in publicly funded FDK. In those cases, no school funding would transfer from the Charter School and the district would have to fund the entire cost of their kindergarten education.
Cost Element Omitted
The latest cost analysis from the Administration omits a major cost element. It identifies the cost to expand the kindergarten program at the kindergarten level. It takes financial credit for a substantial number of students moving from AGCS to AGSD and compounds that "credit" as the effect progresses forward into 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade etc. However it contains no allowance for the additional cost of increasing enrollment in AGSD beyond kindergarten. In 1st grade alone it is unrealistic to assume that another 60 students can be added that will all fit into existing classrooms and be educated by the same staffing level using the same supplies that currently exist. As with the credit assumption, these costs will compound forward but they are not acknowledged in the information presented to the board to support a decision to move forward.
The AGSD has already raised your taxes to the maximum amount allowable without a referendum for 2 consecutive years, and is building a budget around doing it for a 3rd consecutive year. These increases all occurred without any allowance for FDK. Adding FDK increases the need for increased taxes to pay for it.
Still No 5-Year Plan
Despite an apparent willingness to take on several million dollars in increased expenses, the Board and Administration still have not developed a 5-year overall projection to illustrate where the AGSD is heading financially. The board seems to be making a conscious decision to remain uninformed about the effects of their choices, and how they impact the fund balance, taxes, and financial stability of the district before committing to more spending. Oddly, they have made 5-year student enrollment projections, but no financial projections.
The previous projection by Avon Grove Taxpayers for Responsible Spending showing a cumulative tax increase of 35% over 6 years to support foreseeable spending remains essentially valid.
We urge all taxpayers within the district to contact their board directors and insist that a comprehensive 5-year plan be developed before any new spending is initiated. Contact details for your board are listed here.
Please help share this information to friends and neighbors. They can stay in touch with future by joining our distribution list here and sign the petition here.