Balanced Budget For The Denver Schools — An Unfamiliar But Welcome Place To Be

I have been writing about school districts across the nation for some time. It is unfortunate that many districts today generally are experiencing more problems than successes. Budgeting, finances and funding are the biggest headaches and challenges for school administrators and district officials. Though the Bush Administration has provided more federal funding under programs like the No Child Left Behind Act, such funding brings with it federal mandates of how to spend those dollars. Many school funding programs cost school districts as much as they receive, leaving them to scramble to obtain other funding for their schools’ day-to-day necessities. Some states even decrease state funding and cap the amount of funding a failing school may receive from local funding resources, which has never made any sense to me — take money away from a school, which needs it the most to create and implement intervention programs to improve the school’s performance.

That leaves school districts with insurmountable budget problems that mean operating in the red, and some (like the St. Louis school district) face the possibility of being taken over by the state. Each and every school within the United States must closely monitor what money the receive and what they spend.

Is it any wonder that the Denver schools’ officials recently experienced a burst of exhilaration after finding that they may be facing a balanced budget for their district for the 2007-2008 school year?

Not believing it possible, they went over the numbers again. The Denver schools’ officials combed the spreadsheets several times looking for errors. Even when no errors could be found and the proof was in front of them in black and white, the Denver schools’ administrators still had a hard time believing it. Yet, they have a balanced budget for the 2007-2008 school year for the district.

Theresa Pena, president of the Denver schools’ board, told reporters that the board members were shocked and did not quite know how to act with a balanced budget.

The Denver schools’ officials used the same “blueprint” for the 2007-2008 budget as they did for this year’s budget. They added nothing new to the Denver schools’ budget for next school year, and they made no cuts. It is pretty much the same as this year’s budget, except for a $200 million decrease of current commitments that do not extend into the next school year, according to Denver schools’ Superintendent Michael Bennet.

Though the $1.1 billion budget for the Denver schools’ 2007-2008 school year is not final, school officials are excited none-the-less. Bennet cautioned the Denver schools’ board that the projected budget leaves no margin for errors. If something goes wrong within the Denver schools district or Congress hands down unexpected mandates during its upcoming budget session, the balanced budget will be history.

Superintendent Bennet, allow the Denver school’s officials enjoy their unexpected feelings of satisfaction and elation for a while longer. It so seldom happens to public school officials these days.

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