Eric Russell, Superintendent of Schools, Baldwin-Woodville Area School District. Photo by Kaye Bird
Eric Russell, Superintendent of Schools, Baldwin-Woodville Area School District. Photo by Kaye Bird

By Eric Russell, Superintendent of Schools, Baldwin-Woodville Area School District

BALDWIN, WI – Spring is finally here, I hope!  Hard to believe we are coming to the end of another school year.  This past weekend, we had another annual marker with Prom!  We had another successful Prom that even included a real camel.  Now Graduation is on the horizon, May 24, and school will be out on June 4. 

This is also the time of year that we do a lot of planning for the coming school year, 2019-2020.  This is particularly challenging when you do not know your budget.  As you may know, we are in a budget cycle year.  Which means the state legislators and the Governor are working to prepare the next biennium budget, 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.  While they start working on the budget in January and it is supposed to be done by July 1, it is very rarely completed by September or even October.  This is very frustrating.  I do understand the difficulty of building a budget.  There is definitely a give and take.  You cannot have everything. 

Every budget cycle, education is a hot topic, as it should be.  Education is the largest single category in the budget.  There is always a debate about whether or not education needs an increase and if so, how much.  As you might have suspected, I believe that education does deserve an increase.  Over the last ten years in particular, education has not been a priority.  Costs continue to rise but revenues do not!  This is very difficult and schools have done a lot to try to do the best they can.  For example, this year the Baldwin-Woodville Area School District was looking at a 17% increase in medical insurance, almost a half a million dollars.  We can’t afford that.  We had to make some changes. It is also becoming more and more difficult to find quality educators.  Where once upon a time we would get hundreds of applications, now we are lucky to get fifteen and for some positions one application.  Is this what we want for our kids?

Each of us spend our money according to our priorities.  Students need to be our priority!  Students are faced with a lot of challenges now days and schools are expected to address those challenges.  Without proper funding, that is not going to happen.  Special education is an important topic this budget cycle.  We are seeing the severity and intensity of student needs increase.  As a public school, we are required by law to fund special education services, regardless of cost.  Wisconsin special education is funded through categorical aid and is distributed on a cost-reimbursement basis.  Our current reimbursement rate is about 25% of the prior-year cost.  Currently, the Baldwin-Woodville Area School District is transferring almost two million dollars from the fund 10 budget (Regular Education) to the fund 27 budget (Special Education). 

In the end, I believe we need to prioritize our kids and education!  Investing in education now has been shown to pay off down the road.