WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
The operating budget for the Desoto County School system for the 2006-2007 school year has presented all the schools in Desoto County with the prospect of doing more with less. Getting by with less than abundant resources is nothing new to most educators, but funding, especially activities funds, will be particularly small this year.
The budgeted funds for The Pride of Desoto Central Marching Band were cut by SEVENTY PERCENT for the upcoming school year!! Instead of the $18,000 that has been budgeted for band programs in the past, this year Mr. Cox and his staff will have to make do with less than $7,000! These funds are normally used to by equipment, music and cover general operating expenses. The other established high schools in the county have been cut by a similar amount.
The reasons for such a drastic cut are twofold…….. Large startup funds (over 10 times this year’s funding allocation for the DCHS band program) were allocated to jump start the band programs at each of the new high schools. This is good for the new schools’ band programs. It’s almost impossible to adequately equip a first year high school band without a large startup budget (just ask Mr. Cox who had to do just that!), and the new schools will need the money. Unfortunately, because of a lack of available funds, the money for these startup costs was taken from the established high schools’ budgets (and yes, DCHS, after only one year of existence as a full high school is considered established).
The reason the money had to be taken from the established high schools is political. According to Mr. Kuykendall, the county superintendent, the state legislature has withheld a total of $48.7 million dollars in funding for Desoto County schools over the last five years. State funding of the public education system is tied to enrollment. Unfortunately, the state is using a funding formula based on enrollment during the 2002-2003 school year. With and average of 7 families a week moving to Desoto County, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that our school system is now substantially underfunded. According the county superindentent Milton Kuykendall, the Desoto County school system, has not recieved one dime to educate the 6,000 new students that have enrolled in the school system in the last four years. To make up the difference, the county has been relying on reserve funds, but now those funds are nearly exhausted, and cuts to individual school budgets are now coming into play.Recent legislation has been passed that corrects the formula for the fast growing counties in the state, but Desoto County will not fully benefit from it for four years.
What can you do as parent and band booster? Mr. Kuydendall had this suggestion, “I am very proud of all the schools performing arts/athletic programs but we need each parent to let their Senator/Rep and the Governor know that DCS should be paid FOR ALL STUDENTS NOW like other school districts are.” And this Friday night, September 8th, we may get our chance. If all goes as planned, our own State Senator, Merle Flowers, is scheduled to participate in the halftime activities during the football game. We parents need to show up in force and let him know that the state needs to act responsibly and correct the funding shortage for Desoto County. We need to act now! It may not fix this year’s budget woes, but if everyone urges their district representative to act fairly and address this critical issue, this situation can be corrected sooner rather than later. Contact your State Representatives and encourage them to act on pending legislation that will allow for immediate increased state funding of the county school systems with above average growth.