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Nevada Schools to nix Home School Assistance Program

The Nevada School Board on Monday decided it will discontinue its Home School Assistance Program in the 2014-15 school year.

Administration brought a recommendation to the board to discontinue this program, noting that state funding has dropped in recent years from .6 (of a full-time student) per student to .3 per student.

“We were generating funds at one point (by providing the program), but as things began to shift on the home school front, (and) it dropped to .3 funding … we’re losing money on it,” explained Nevada Superintendent Steve Gray.

In fact, so few districts are offering home schooling assistance that families who want this assistance, which involves payment for a certified teacher (often a parent), are reaching out to Nevada from as far away as Cedar Rapids.

Nevada School Improvement Director Nancy Port said that while there are a few local families being served through the program, she knows that in addition to Cedar Rapids they are serving families from Glidden, three families from Ankeny and a family from Bondurant.

A lot of the local families who home school partner with the Nevada School District in some way through dual enrollment so their children can participate in sports and other extra curricular activities or take specific classes. And in these cases, the school does receive some state funding reimbursement for these local students who are utilizing school resources. But for students from far away, there is no opportunity to recoup any more than the .3 reimbursement.

Gray said a lot has changed on the home schooling front. Not only has funding support dropped, but home schooling families don’t have to report in to the home district about home schooling their children any longer. Prior to the last legislative session, he said, schools had to know what every child in their district was doing for an education. Parents are now no longer obligated to inform schools of their educational choices.

For fiscal year 2013, it was shown that the program at Nevada is operating at a nearly $5,000 deficit.

“It’s hard to be in favor of something that’s costing taxpayers money,” board member Dave Sutherland said.

Gray said he brought this item to the board at this time, so that families utilizing the program will have plenty of time to consider what they want to do for the next school year. The program will remain in operation through the present school year.

New Shells and Risers

It appeared Monday that board member Sutherland might be taking on the role of “devil’s advocate” that seemed to be former board member Mike Bates’ favorite role.

Sutherland questioned the need to spend $32,307 on new risers and shells for use in the new auditorium. The current risers and shells have been in use at the school since the 1970s, according to two of the school’s longtime music instructors.

Administration recommended the purchase of new shells and risers, citing the fact that Music Parents and the Nevada Education Foundation were willing to partner with the board on the purchase. Music Parents are raising funds to pay $11,139 for the risers and the Foundation and school district were being asked to each pay $10,584 to cover the cost of the shells.

“We’ve got great partners and a lot of people have put forth of lot of effort to do things for our kids, so anything we can do to partner with these groups, is a win-win for us,” Gray said.

Gray asked the board, at this time, to front the full amount to ensure the equipment was in place for upcoming concerts and performances.

Sutherland wasn’t sure that the district should spend money on something that wasn’t absolutely necessary. He wondered if the risers and shells the school has now could be painted, repaired and maintained. “They have been looking at this (possible purchase) for quite awhile,” Sutherland said. “We (the board) didn’t support it then … so what’s changed?”

Sutherland noted that he thinks the Music Parents do a great job of supporting the programs and he didn’t want to be misunderstood as not supporting the music programs. But, he wasn’t sure the school district should spend money on something that wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Board President Marty Chitty felt that because they were looking at a “time-sensitive price,” which would likely increase if they waited longer, it was time to make the purchase. He and board member Laura West also concurred that if two other entities were willing to divide the cost into basically thirds, the school district should take advantage of the opportunity to not have to pay the full cost.

Newest board member Tori Upchurch wanted to know where the school’s money would come from to pay its share of the risers. Gray said the school funds would come out of the PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy) fund. Upchurch asked if there was enough in that fund to support this purchase and other purchases that might be needed.

Gray said the PPEL fund should be looking at a balance of $400,000 at the end of this school year, even with purchases that have already been approved for the current fiscal year, such as a new bus.

The board approved the purchase of new shells and risers by a vote of 4-1. Chitty thanked Sutherland for doing “a good job of representing past board members’ concerns” and providing for “an invigorating” discussion.

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