In spite of the congressional action that averted our nation's plunge over the fiscal cliff, many questions remain unanswered about looming cuts to the federal budget. That's making it difficult for organizations that rely on federal funding to work too far ahead, including public schools.
Every public school across the state relies on some amount of federal funding to operate. And with congress putting off their decision on spending cuts, schools have to tweak their budgets.
"It depends on your school district on how much impact federal dollars has. It's not as big as state and local and other resources but it has an impact," Rapid City School Superintendent Tim Mitchell said.
Even though the Rapid City School District doesn't receive as much federal funding as some other districts across the state, Mitchell says that he's still considering options should that funding fall through.
"We're going to plan for that eight to ten percent cut. We're going to look at if that revenue is gone then how much revenue do we have to work with and what kind of impact will it have on programming and staffing," Mitchell said.
The federal dollars in question pay for Title I and IDEA programs that target disabled, minority, and impoverished students. Each year, the Rapid City School District receives between $7 to $8 million to make the programs happen.
"There are people's jobs that are funded through those federal dollars to provide that programming for those students," Mitchell said.
With the district already coping with an $8-million reduction in state funding over the last two years, Mitchell says he isn't looking to cut more positions. But ultimately, that will depend on what happens in Washington.
"It's a wait and see, but then try and generate scenarios at the local and the state level that try and deal with the issue as best as possible," Mitchell said.
Mitchell also serves on the executive board of the American Association of School Administrators. He is planning a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with that group next week to learn more about how federal budget cuts could impact schools.