Posted Date: 02/25/2021
As you know, 2021-22 will be a difficult school budget year. We know that many parents have been advocating for the 4.6% increase that the Board of Education has recommended and we deeply appreciate that support.
With next year’s budget in mind, the district has difficult choices to make. However, the change to the magnet school supplemental funding is not intended to impact the quality of instruction or operations at any of the district’s magnet schools.
While Norwalk has had magnet schools for more than 35 years, the magnet school supplement is a relatively new addition to the budget. It was first offered in 2017-2018 as NPS was expanding its school choice program and establishing new program options. The result at the time was an extra $1,000 per student in local budget funds, beyond the per pupil budget that each school receives from taxpayer dollars.
In some cases, magnet schools have been receiving the standard per pupil expenditure, plus the per pupil magnet school supplement, as well as funds provided by the Federal government through the Title 1 grant. This has inadvertently contributed to an inequitable distribution of funds between magnet schools and neighborhood schools.
Although there will be more limited funds available than in the past, additional funding will still be available by application to support some extra program costs associated with a magnet school’s specific model or track, or for start up costs.
As part of the Student-Based Budgeting (SBB) process, our Finance Department will also work closely with each school to evaluate whether necessary resources or materials used by the school should instead be covered by the school’s SBB allocation.
District obligations to programs such as college level P-TECH classes at Norwalk Community College will remain in place. Additional funding provided by the State to the Center for Global Studies, an inter-district magnet school that also includes students from other towns, will also not change.
As we all know, the Covid pandemic has hit students hard. Learning loss from this year’s unprecedented events was the district’s highest priority when drafting the 2021-22 budget proposal. We need to make sure that all students are performing at their appropriate grade level, as quickly as possible. For that reason, the budget includes the addition of dedicated literacy specialists at our 12 elementary schools and four middle schools. Math specialists will also be required at all 12 elementary schools. The cost for these academic specialists is estimated at $2.5 million. The district is committed to identifying funds to cover this new but very necessary expense.