Superintendent anticipates cuts in state ed funding

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The superintendent of Pawhuska Public Schools is convinced that a cut or cuts to state common education payments to school districts will be coming in the next semester, but he has a message for Pawhuska residents -- don't be alarmed, we've got the money to cover this.

"The state revenue side is just not going to come in," David Cash told members of the Pawhuska Board of Education in a meeting Dec. 14. Cash explained that if you review figures for sales and income tax payments to the state, along with other data, it's possible to get a picture of where the state's finances are heading.

"We're in really good shape for that," Cash said regarding the potential for state cuts to education next semester.

He reminded board members that the Pawhuska district had actually planned, in its budgeting process for the 2020-21 fiscal year, to use some reserve funds to keep from having to let valuable employees go. He said the district had planned to spend some $100,000 to $150,000 for that purpose.

Cash said he thinks it is important for Pawhuska's education board members to be ready to exert a calming influence in the community. He predicted that when state revenue shortfall details begin to become public, there will be an increase in news stories about potential job losses among educators. In turn, there will be a temptation on the part of people viewing and reading news stories to become alarmed, he said.

Cash said he does not anticipate the Pawhuska district will be doing reductions in force.

In other business Dec. 14, members of the board heard from Byron Cowan, principal of Pawhuska Elementary School, which serves children in grades 3-5.

Cowan said the number of students at the school who are taking their classes virtually has dropped from as many as 38 at the beginning of the school year down to 19. He explained that virtual education had been difficult for some children in the grade range for which his school provides instruction.

"Virtual was a struggle for our younger kids," Cash said.

"Masks are working better than I would have thought with the elementary kids," Cowan said, and he noted that staff morale has suffered as the COVID-19 crisis has continued and teachers have become anxious about how much learning their students are missing.

"They're tired of the whole COVID situation," Cowan said of his teachers.

"Kids are behind and we know that," Cowan also said, voicing a desire to be able to review student progress data that will be generated in early 2021, to see specifically where students need help.