More students, fewer teachers

School District 38 has received the Accredited with Distinction rating once again. Since the Colorado Department of education started issuing ratings to school districts three years ago D-38 has consistently received the highest rating. File photo by Lisa Collacott
Posted

Lewis-Palmer School District 38 student population has nearly doubled in recent years. But at the same time, the number of teachers and administrators has significantly dropped.

In 1995, the district had 189 teachers, 21 administrators and 3,520 students. By 2000, the district increased in the number of teachers to 273, and student population increased to 4,362. The number of administrators stood the same.

By 2005, an increase put the number of teachers at 366, administrators at 26, and students at 5,610. But then, by 2012, the district saw a teacher count decline to 338 and only 18 administrators. There wasn’t a decline in student population, however. It continued to grow, nearly doubling from 1995, putting the number of students at 6,076.

The state has reduced the district’s funding substantially over the past five years, impacting the general fund budget by $11 million. In order to compensate for the shortage, the district has had to make reductions to all non-teaching areas of the budget, which has included a 31 percent reduction in administration positions since 2006.

Superintendent John Borman said it has been a challenge. Having fewer teachers and administrators, while at the same time, a climbing student population.

He’s worried more about the number of teachers because that forces larger class sizes. There are cnearly 30 fewer teachers for more than 450 extra students.

He said a few years ago the high school teachers went to teaching six classes instead of five, increasing the number of students in their classes. The district had to effectively cut 20 percent of the teachers at the high school level.

“Students aren’t going to receive as much individual attention as they used to,” Borman said. “And it’s certainly an overload on administrative staff. At the same time we have an unprecedented amount of state initiatives coming at us.”

Borman said the district is still one of the top districts, but he worries about maintaining all the aspects of what makes D-38 an excellent district.

“There is going to come a time, I worry, that we are going to start seeing some challenging results of our achievement,” Borman said.

Borman said that some of the cuts in the district have been interventionists that help at-risk students. He said some of the current success of the students is potentially misleading. A lot of things put in place earlier to help those students, are not in place anymore because of cuts.

“The good news is that we have an amazing staff. They’re keeping it together. But the pressure, if we make so many cuts, now that I worry about their ability to sustain,” Borman said.

More cuts

The district expects a slight increase from the state next year, which is good news. However, the following year’s funding, is expected to be reduced because of the cost of Medicaid.

Economic forecasters are predicting a trend of state cuts again, over the next 10 years, because of TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment, which caps property rates.

Borman said that there may come a time when the district may ask the community to help, and with good information, the public may be open to a mill levy override.

“We’re not asking for that yet. But that may be one of the remedies to help offset some of the state cuts,” Borman said. “We have a great staff that’s going to do everything they can do to maintain the level of education that we’re accustomed to. But with these cuts, that’s getting harder and harder to do.”