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Tighter budget imperils Ripon programs
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RIPON – Falling revenues means Ripon Unified students and parents may find out in the coming months that programs they have expected to always be there – the reader’s workshop as one example – could be history.

According to Ripon Superintendent Louise Nan, the district is going to be dangerously close to encroaching on the three-percent reserve that the State of California requires all districts maintain within the next three years.

While each round of cutbacks and information about the future coming out of Sacramento has been progressively worse as the 2009-10 school year approached, Nan said that the cutbacks in the Average Daily Attendance funds that the district will receive for each student that attends the minimum number of periods will be drastically reduced. It is a major blow to one of the district’s major funding sources.

With an additional $79,000 in cuts announced during the last word that was handed down, they’ll also have to deal with a reduction from $6,379 per pupil in ADA funding to only $5,208. That will place an additional strain on an already small district that relied on the attendance of their students to help keep Ripon Unified programs in place.

“We’re always looking for the worst case scenario,” Nan said. “And in July, it was worse than the worst – something that we’ve unfortunately come to expect in this educational environment.”

While school just started at Ripon Unified sites on Monday, administrators are still dealing with the fact that they’re $1,000,000 from where they were at the same time last year with little help in sight – even with the federal stimulus money that is supposedly earmarked for education.
According to Nan, federal programs like Title I – which helps below-average readers work their way back up to grade level – have gotten top priority in the distribution of funds and has left high-testing districts like Ripon out to fend for themselves and plan for what could be best described as a bleak future.

And it isn’t like the Board of Education and the Ripon Teacher’s Association haven’t worked together to try and do everything possible to cut all of the fat out of the budget.

Thanks to some creative shuffling and the retirement of 14 teachers – combined with the reduced salaries of both certificated and classified personnel – the district is still searching for ways to make sure that they’re offering the best education possible to the residents of the close-knit community.

Regardless of the lack of resources, teachers have still managed to make the education that students receive at Ripon Unified top notch – evident in the increased numbers of students who passed the California High School Exit Exam.

While 88 percent of the students who took the test last year passed the math portion and 91 percent passed the reading and language arts section, those numbers increased to 93 and 91 percent, respectively – a sign that even during a fiscal crisis it’s possible to have success in the classroom.

Nan says that she’s currently examining a variety of different options to help offset some of the programs that have been cut due to budget constraints – including teaming up with the non-profit Give Every Child a Chance to compensate for the lost Reader’s Workshop program.
The budget – which is constantly being monitored – will likely again be on the agenda when the board meets again on September 14.

To contact Jason Campbell, e-mail or call (209) 249-3544.