Just over one year has passed since the new evidence based funding model (EBF) for schools was signed into law and Staunton Schools are already seeing a significant positive impact for students. EBF first distributes dollars to school districts and students who are in the greatest need. This has been a welcome relief for Staunton Schools where we have been cash strapped for nearly a decade during the State budget crisis.
Now, for the first time in a long time, we are having conversations about where we can drive our dollars to have the greatest impact on student learning versus recommending where we can cut that will do the least harm. Right away our students and teachers have seen an immediate impact as a result of the funding.
At the start of the current school year the District was able to hire eight additional instructional employees: 5 teachers and 3 paraprofessionals. These positions were added to drive resources where they are needed the most: to reduce class size, provide academic and behavioral interventions, and to provide social emotional supports. Family and community engagement, school safety, social-emotional learning, and providing instructional resources to classrooms are other significant areas of improvement as a result of the funding.
This past June our District finished the fiscal year with the first balanced budget since 2009. We achieved this through making reductions, maximizing efficiencies, exercising patience, and raising revenue. EBF has been a significant factor for us to right the fiscal ship. Barring anything unforeseen, it is expected to close this fiscal year with a balanced budget as well. With this turnaround we will see steady, strategic gains as a result of stakeholder input and data driven decision making. While there is certainly a great deal of work ahead, it is exciting to now be able to have conversations about how we will invest our dollars to make the greatest impact on student learning!