Budget cuts could impact Region 8 education, again

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

CARDWELL, MO (KAIT) – Officials with the Southland C-9 School District Tuesday said they're keeping a close eye on expected budget cuts in the state of Missouri. According to Kim Campbell, who is in his first year as Southland's superintendent, the state is trying to find ways to resolve a budget shortfall of approximately $700-million during the next fiscal year. Campbell said the Missouri Department of Education could face cuts of up to eight percent.

"I've been 25 years in education. I just finished up eight years as principal at a neighboring district, Senath-Hornersville," said Campbell. "I knew that the cuts were coming and that was something that was going to be laid before me."

Campbell said the district has been cutting back on supplies and activities since budget cuts in 2009, when seven teaching positions were non-renewed at Southland.

"We can't reward the teachers. There was no pay raise and it was frozen like a lot of school districts in Missouri. (They're) probably going to stay frozen for the next year or two if things go as planned," said Campbell.

Southland has an annual budget of $3.7 million. If the district received an eight percent cut, then the district could lose nearly $300,000 in funding from the state.

"You start getting into five, ten percent cuts, that's pretty significant for a 1-A district," said Campbell.

Despite budget constraints over the last few years, graduation rates at Southland have improved. According to the Missouri Department of Education, 87.5% of seniors at Southland graduated in 2010, higher than the statewide average. The graduation rate at Southland in 2006 was less than 80%.

"Pretty much, school-wide we're just operating on a needs basis. That involved everything from paper, pencils, the food service, down to the custodians and the materials," said Campbell. "We're looking at any way we can get by and make do."

Campbell said student success also cuts into the school's revenue. At the end of the year, individuals with perfect attendance receive MP3 players. The top three students in a reading contest in K-6 and 7-12 also receive iPod Touches.

"They raise money through a little carnival festival they have at the first of the year. They have a king and queen contest and people put in money for that. They have games that are tied in with it and that raises five to six thousand dollars a year for trips for honor roll and perfect attendance," said Campbell. "We're just going to make do and we can't sit and worry about what might be. We're going to accept what the challenge is and we're going to keep having school for our children."

Campbell said one of the most concerning aspects of education cuts is the belief that one-on-one attention will be lost.

"It's going to be in the neighborhood of 20 plus, whereas before when the cuts were made last year, you had a better working number of maybe 14,15 or 16, where you would like to have it as low as possible," said Campbell.

"I've been in education for 24 years now. I've seen the ups and the downs. It will get better.," said Jetta McMinn, Business Education teacher at Southland. "I know some of the other teachers are taking on classes that they normally wouldn't have. Some junior high classes for high school teachers. Actually, this year I am teaching a junior high class that I have not ever taught before."

McMinn said teachers and students alike have changed their day to day operations to save the district time and money.

"The teachers I think know with the budget cuts, things have been tough. Everyone has buckled down. Everyone is saying we've got to do it. I know my fourth hour class and I have started recycling some of our paper, starting to use the backs of the paper whenever we print," said McMinn.

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