Monday, April 18, 2011

Oshkosh Area School District Addresses Governor Walker’s Budget Plans

On Wednesday, April 6, 2011, Superintendent Don Viegut spoke to the Oshkosh Area School District Board of Education regarding the impact of Governor Walker’s proposed budget and Budget Repair Bill. There are a number of factors that are yet unknown, especially with the recent injunction on the Budget Repair Bill. The Oshkosh Area School District has, however, addressed many budgetary factors and is moving forward with the board identified goal of becoming a destination district. Dr. Viegut stated in his address that settling the association contracts has given Oshkosh and its employees a sense of stability, allowing faculty and staff to focus on student learning. Since the contract settlements, in addition to the regular work of the district, the following has occurred:

- District administrators have had multiple meetings with legislators to explain how the “one size fits all” proposed budget takes away tools from low-spending districts like Oshkosh and widens the economic gap, creating districts who are “have’s” and those who are “have nots.”

- The district met with Senator Hopper, and prepared a packet of information for him explaining Oshkosh’s unique challenges, and what changes may help the district. This past week, the district followed up with him in person to reaffirm their position and clarify questions on the information provided.

- Through various senators, administrators have asked the governor to consider how the new third grade reading test (Governor Walker’s Read to Lead initiative) will align with the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam already given in third grade, the new SMARTER Balanced Assessment planned for 2014-15, and the universal screeners and progress monitoring assessments given with Response to Intervention process (RtI). Districts need to spend their money on helping students achieve, not testing on information already known – that Oshkosh students are high achieving.

- Work has begun on assessing teacher effectiveness. The administrative team is already discussing what the district values for their teachers. Looking at instructional effectiveness and measures of good teaching, the district is contemplating how future teacher pay is going to be determined.

- The district is taking part in regional conversations to address employee benefits in a fiscally responsible manner, considering purchasing as a consortium rather than an individual district.

- Plans are in place to address changing past contract language into policy and employee handbooks if the Budget Repair Bill is determined to be law.

- Financial scenario planning is taking place with PMA Financial Network, Inc. and Dr. Viegut requested a future workshop with administrators and board members to discuss those scenarios.

All of this work has been and will be balanced with the regular district work and the goals of innovation and strategic planning. The district intends to update the Board of Education as more information is learned.


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