District 63 Achieving, But Cuts Not Yet Felt
Superintendent says last spring's $1.6 million in cuts is keeping the budget in the black.
Superintendent Scott Clay had some good news to report in his "State of the District" presentation last week. Students in District 63 continue to show high levels of achievement and the district’s finances should remain stable for at least the next few years, Clay told the board at its monthly meeting.
However, those high levels of achievement were measured in standardized tests taken last March, which was before some teachers were downsized in last spring’s $1.6 million in budget cuts. Due to the downsizing and the fact fewer teachers remain, class sizes have climbed.
The district will administer this year’s tests in March.
Earlier: District 63 kills gifted program
Board members reacted positively to the presentation, which discussed student achievement, English language learners, special education, professional development, technology infrastructure, the district budget and student enrollment, among other topics.
“You’ve made a lot of progress with a lot of challenges,” board member Walter Gluznik said.
8th graders scored higher than 3rd graders
According to the presentation, 71 percent of District 63’s third-graders met or exceeded standards on the state-mandated reading test; 90 percent of eighth-graders met or exceeded reading standards. In math, 88 percent of third-graders met or exceeded standards; 93 percent of eighth-graders did.
“You would usually see a slight dip in junior high, but our kids do better the longer they are with us,” Clay said.
Many younger kids learning to speak English
Part of the reason the scores are lower in third grade is that about a third of the district’s 3,622 students qualify for English as a Second Language services, and they are concentrated in the lower grades. An even larger proportion of the students have moved from ESL to regular education, so a large majority of students live in homes where a language other than English is spoken.
Moving special ed students to regular classrooms
The district is working to move more of its special education students into regular education classrooms, Clay said, noting that Illinois has one of the lowest percentages of special ed students in regular classrooms in the nation, District 63’s percentage of special ed students in regular classrooms is in the bottom half among districts in Illinois.
“That’s not a place we want to be,” he said.
Spending is less than money coming in
In terms of the budget, the district this year expects $44.6 million in revenue and $43.1 million in spending. With the cuts made last year, the district does not expect to see spending outstrip revenue until about 2015, and it would be a few more years before fund balances drop below $12 million, the level at which administrators say the district would have to start borrowing money in short-term loans to maintain cash flow. Without the cuts, the district would have spent more than it is taking in this year.
“It’s important to remember that we are doing this by raising class sizes and losing a lot of staff,” Clay said.
Class sizes as high as 32
Some third- through sixth-graders are in classes of up to 32 students this year, he said, and junior high academic classes reach 31 students. Physical education and some other junior high classes reach up to 43 students.