TVLC-LVCS 2011-2012 Budget Update
California continues to struggle with a significant budget shortfall which will impact K-12 education (and charter school) funding. The budget that the Governor has proposed includes the voter extension of several terminating tax measures. Including those extensions, LVCS would likely see a reduction in funding of $28 per student in ADA funding - $26,000. Additionally, LVCS will lose the benefit of 2010-2011 ARRA Stimulus the state used as an offset to the 2010-2011 cuts. This year LVCS Received $348,000 in one-time ARRA funding for the 2010-2011 budget that is unavailable in 2011-2012. LVCS will also see a reduced amount of money from our fundraising efforts of approximately $60,000 for 2011-2012.
Current Proposal & Impact:
The significant reduction in funding LVCS will receive will necessitate a freeze in current salary levels and current staffing levels. Staff will be added only in areas where required.
The Governor's budget proposal appears to be the best case scenario for school funding. LVCS is developing strategies to handle the additional cuts should voters not approve the tax extensions in the state budget. It is difficult to predict the degree of impact to K-12 funding should the voter measures fail and alternative strategies to balance the budget are not developed. Projections on impact range from $250-$900 per student ($230,000-$840,000).
These scenarios would lead to significant K-12 reductions throughout California, and LVCS would be impacted. We are meeting to discuss strategies in budgeting and options to address funding cuts. It is likely we will not have a clear understanding of the final state budget until early fall.
We are also learning to streamline and emphasize our fundraising efforts to help us better absorb our funding cuts. As a charter school, we are funded about $925 less per student compared to our local school district funding levels. Our fundraising efforts are raising almost $400 per student, so we need to make a concerted effort to increase that level as the discrepancy will eventually impact our programs. The current funding gap after our fundraising effort is still almost $500,00 a year.
The Importance of Fundraising to LVCS
The funding that LVCS receives from sources such as the state is not enough to accomplish all that we want, expect, and demand for our children's education. What follows is a brief overview of how funding for our school works, how much we need for the next school year, what we can accomplish if we can meet the budget created by the LVCS Board of Directors, and what each of us needs to do to ensure that we supply the superior education we want for each of our children by choosing to attend LVCS.
How Our School Is Funded
In the world of school finance, there are two primary divisions or types of money: statutory and non-statutory.
- Statutory funding is the money provided by state and local law. Sources of non-statutory funding includes Average Daily Attendance (ADA) money, bond measures, parcel taxes and federal funding.
- Non-statutory funding is money from sources not provided by state and local law. Sources of non-statutory money are donations, fundraisers, grants and trusts.
A typical school district, including our local school district, receives money from all the statutory categories mentioned above. However, a charter school gets money from only one statutory source: ADA funding. All other money for a charter school must come from non-statutory sources such as the parents of the students, interested third parties, and grants obtained by the school. Although we keep trying, grants are generally difficult to obtain due to extraordinary competition for available grants and specific qualifications that we must meet in order to apply.
When our local school district needs to do any construction or improvements to any of its buildings or rent properties, it can utilize Measure L funds. However, charter schools like LVCS do not have access to these funds. LVCS must go to its general operating fund (ADA money plus donations) to pay for campus construction, leases of portables, etc.
When the local school district wants to pay for science or music programs, it uses Measure D funds (i.e. the parcel tax many of us voted for in 2004). LVCS has no access to these funds, even in proportion to our student population. So the music, art, science or Spanish programs at LVCS must be paid out of the general operating fund. For example, in the LVCS board decided a science lab was mandatory for our children's education. That had to build that into the operating budget. The school's board of directors balanced and prioritized our ADA money and our donations as well as our fiscal management to figure out how to purchase the lab. Recently, our local district (LVJUSD) decided they needed new science labs at the local high schools. They simply dipped into Measure L funds, funded by local property taxes, so they were not required to balance operating funds (such as teacher salaries) against facilities improvements. Because we can't resort to property taxes, etc., the parents and supporters of LVCS have to help make up the difference.
Consequently, when the local school district discusses ADA funding, it represents only a part of their available statutory funding because they have access to other types of statutory funding. However, when LVCS discusses ADA funding, it's the only statutory funding we receive.
A Choice For Our Children
There are several reasons. First, with California ranked in the last 10% of the 50 states in terms of per student funding, the ADA money is barely enough to offer our children more than the very basics. Only through keeping operating costs low and focusing on providing for our children's educational needs without a lot of administrative overhead, can LVCS stretch dollars. Second, we have no sources of income beyond ADA money except what we, the parents of LVCS, can raise among ourselves or our community.
The vast majority of us have enrolled our children at LVCS because we believe they can get an education superior to that offered by the local school district, comparable to and even exceeding private schools. Only through keeping operating costs low and focusing on providing for our children's educational needs without a lot of administrative overhead, can LVCS stretch dollars. Still, in order to accomplish our goals, we offer educational enrichment for our children in the form of a science lab, a music program, an arts program, a foreign language program, and computers for our middle school students, etc. Because these enrichment opportunities cost money that cannot be found through statutory funding alone, our strong emphasis on fundraising risks annoying some parents. We must either raise additional funds or accept a lower quality of education for our children. Few, if any, LVCS parents would accept the latter because we have come here seeking a higher quality of education.
We continue to expand the Middle School. In order to add new portables to accommodate the incoming middle school students and to construct and enclosed campus plan for middle school students, LVCS will need about $600,000. Again, however, because we get no additional bond money, LVCS must depend on its operating budget to make these improvements all while providing a superior quality education.
A unique differentiator of our charter school is the fact that the school board is elected by parent population only, as opposed to most public school districts where the population at large votes for the school board. This many times leads to a school board that is isolated from their "customers", namely the parents of the enrolled children. This leads, in turn, to spending inefficiencies, distorted spending priorities, bloated administrative costs, and a general unresponsiveness to the parents, at the ultimate cost of our children's education. In our case, with an attentive parent and voting base as well as an energetic and responsive board, our spending is efficient; the board's spending priorities are better aligned with the general wishes of the parents, and lower administrative costs. It is the role of the school board to set spending priorities, and it is the role of the parents to assure that those priorities reflect their desires through the election process of selecting board members.
What All This Means To My Family
If the 2006/07 school year is any indication, many of us parents have watched our children excel and flourish at LVCS. Moreover, as manifested by the large number of applications (where we were fully enrolled and a waiting list exceeding 300 and over 600 applicants for the 2007/08 school year), the local community realizes that LVCS offers the opportunity to receive a superior education. But excellence comes with a price: We must support LVCS financially to a greater degree than we needed to support the local district schools.
As we can see from the information presented here, charter schools need additional financial assistance. So for our children's sake, we must take the lead to obtain this funding. As a result, the Choice for Children Education Foundation (CCEF) has executed a number of major fundraising activities such as this Annual Fundraising Drive (AFD), the upcoming golf tournament and the upcoming gala last fall.
In addition, CCEF has sought ways, such as bingo on Sunday afternoons, to acquire income from outside the body of parents of LVCS students. However, since all these activities have raised only a portion of the non-statutory funding required, aggressive fundraising must continue in order to obtain all of the required non-statutory funding for the next school year. Whether we like it or not, we must continue to aggressively raise funds if we wish to educate our children to the level of performance that we at LVCS have committed ourselves to meet and exceed. So, we families of LVCS students must pledge to do our part to ensure LVCS has the financial resources to accomplish its goals.
What My Family Can Do
First and foremost, each family must commit itself to help raise its share of funds to ensure we meet our non-statutory funding requirements. You can make a cash contribution, obtain matching funds from employers, or volunteer at bingo games and other fundraisers held throughout the year. Included with this letter is an opportunity to contribute throughout the year. Please take a few minutes to consider what pledge your family can make and return the form. Remember, these are your children, your future, your legacy. Hopefully, you can budget an affordable amount to ensure the quality of your children's education. Whether you pledge or not, please return the form to help LVCS plan accordingly.
Donations are the life-blood of all charter schools including LVCS. Thanks to generous donors like you, the school will be able to provide an innovative and enriched educational experience in a small school environment during future school years! Your donation is tax deductible and will be used to fund the educational curriculum and operating expenses of Livermore Valley Charter School. We want LVCS to continue to grow and improve, but it takes money to accomplish this goal. An investment in LVCS is the very best investment you can make because your support goes directly to improving the educational experience for your children and all LVCS students.
Our hope and desire is that you now have a deeper understanding of how a charter school funds itself and, more specifically, how LVCS must fund itself. We hope you understand why we need to have every LVCS family try to help us meet our financial challenges in order to acquire the staff and facilities necessary to ensure our children's success. It's our school and it's our children. It's our challenge to meet.