Enrollment at USD 256 soars

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

MORAN — While most districts are cutting staff to deal with budget reductions, Nancy Meyer, superintendent of USD 256 schools in Moran, hired three new teachers this year.
Monday was the first day of classes in the district and headcount was 374 students, 34 more than a year ago.
“Most of the additional students are in a few elementary classes,” which swelled numbers to the point that more teachers were required, Meyer said.
Of the total, 86, or 23 percent, are from outside USD 256. Most of the non-district students live in USD 257 and otherwise would attend classes in Iola. Meyer said two buses were dispatched each day to pick up students at the district boundary line a mile east of LaHarpe.
“Of the 86, two are from the Crest (Colony) district and four or five are from Bronson,” Meyer said. “The rest are from Iola’s district,” including 24 who attended classes at LaHarpe Elementary School last year.
USD 257 board members closed LaHarpe Elementary at the end of spring semester to save money. It served about 70 students.
The number of out-of-district students attending Marmaton Valley schools this year isn’t extraordinary. Last year, 71 of 340 students were from other districts, mostly USD 257.
Meyer cautioned that first-day attendance wasn’t the final word on student numbers.
“The official count will be on Sept. 20, for state aid purposes, and I won’t know until then exactly what our FTE (full-time equivalency) is,” she said. FTE numbers are used to determine state aid.
FTE isn’t the same as enrollment because pre-school and kindergarten students count as one-half FTE. Also, Meyer said she wouldn’t be sure about state aid per student until weighting factors, such as comparison of enrollment to other districts and number of at-risk students, calculated by those who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, were put into the funding formula after the official count on Sept. 20.
However, she did note that last year’s state aid was about $9,200 per full-time student, including money for special education programs, and anticipates this year’s will be about $9,000. Base state aid was reduced from $4,433 to $4,218 during the past year to deal with revenue shortfalls in Topeka. That accounts for USD 256’s per-student funding reduction.
Meanwhile, state aid in USD 257 is about $7,200 with special education funding, meaning that each of the 80 students attending Marmaton Valley schools from the Iola-Gas-LaHarpe district is costing the state nearly $2,000 more, a total of $160,000.

MIGRATION of students from one district to another is common throughout the state, though not usually in numbers as great as those going from USD 257 to Marmaton Valley schools. The 80 students represent about 6 percent of K-12 students living in USD 257.
USD 257’s headcount was 1,333 a week ago, 111 students fewer than the 1,444 students who were enrolled in classes a year earlier. That’s a loss of 8 percent.