Approval Would Boost Early College, Academic Coaches
Kent ISD Enhancement Millage on May 2 Ballotby Morgan Jarema
On May 2, voters in the Kent ISD region will be asked to approve a 0.9 mill tax for local school districts, generating $211 per student to maintain programs, improve services and meet other needs. School News Network is offering information on what the millage means for each of the 20 districts in the Kent ISD. Today we focus on Comstock Park Public Schools. SNN spoke with Superintendent Ethan Ebenstein.
How much revenue would your district gain from the millage in the first year?
$410,395. The district has made more than $9.5 million in cuts since 2009, and has run at a deficit for four straight years.
What would you spend that increased revenue on, and how would this help your students?
There are four priorities in Comstock Park, Ebenstein said: K-12 math intervention and literacy coaches; stabilize or decrease class sizes, especially in grades K-2 at Stoney Creek; increase career and mental health counseling for students; and expand dual enrollment, Advanced Placement and early middle college programs.
Of the early college programs, Ebenstein said, "All those things cost money, but it's a tremendous benefit for students and parents because they are not picking up those costs. We spent about $70,000 last year on dual enrollment classes alone -- a record for us -- and we're on pace to spend the same this year. We actually expect that to increase in the next two to three years because of our (improved) PSAT scores and the skill set of eighth- through 10th-graders. We want our kids to be taking those courses."
If the millage were to fail, what changes or cuts would you have to make next school year?
"Comstock Park spends 75 percent of its funding directly in the classroom at this time, well above the state average of 63 percent," Ebenstein said. "This means 25 percent of our budget is used for all remaining areas such as transportation, athletics and operations. We are operating at a deficit of about $460 per student this year. Although the governor's proposed budget for next year is favorable to Comstock Park, the enhancement millage would be heavily influential in maintaining programming across the district.
"Without the enhancement millage, the district would have to first see if and where further reductions or cuts could come from out of the 25 percent of the budget used for areas like transportation and operations ... even though this has been a focused area of reduction for several years. We would strive, as always, to keep any reductions or cuts from the core instructional programs, but this would necessitate a close examination of areas such as co-curricular activities and elective programming."
What objections have you heard, if any, from your community, and what is your response?
"I think the most challenging piece has been educating those without children in school right now," said Ebenstein, who has been making the rounds talking to the Alpine Township Business Association, seniors groups, local Rotary and the Downtown Development Authority. "Those with children in school have been pretty supportive overall."