Special education student assessments, district transportation routes and parents’ ability to choose where students attend school could soon be affected by changes to state legislation, Fort Wayne Community Schools officials said Tuesday.
FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson, school board members, the district’s administration and PTA leaders met Tuesday at South Side High School for the first of five meetings intended to inform the public about issues facing the school district.
Robinson outlined major issues affecting Fort Wayne Community Schools, including the state’s voucher program and A-F accountability system, as well as budget cuts and property tax caps affecting the district’s budget.
We believe there are some things happening in our state that don’t always benefit us as a district, Robinson said.
Property tax caps have caused the district to receive $29.9 million less since 2009, Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend said. The revenue collected from property taxes is used for the district’s transportation, bus replacement and capital projects funds, among others.
The declining funding means the district will need to reduce expenses annually over the next five years, Robinson said, and some of those reductions could directly affect students and parents, such as changes to school transportation.
The district’s School Choice Program allows parents to choose where their students attend, but it involves busing students out of their neighborhoods.
We’re going to have to take a look at what programs are offered where, Robinson said.
Right now, we have Choice (programs) all over the district. At some point, we’re going to have to take a look at whether we can continue to do that.
The state is also in the process of evaluating its standardized tests for the 2015-16 school year. Students are currently required to take the ISTEP+ exam.
A change to testing will mean headaches for all students, teachers and school districts, but it will greatly affect special education students as they will be required to take the same test as everyone else, Robinson said.
We have students who have been testing with us for eight years out of their school career.
This will be a totally different testing environment and a huge change for those students, she said.
Nothing is simple
Robinson encouraged parents and community members to reach out to legislators to make their voices heard about issues that will affect the district.
Everybody wants a simple explanation for things sometimes, and nothing connected to education is simple, she said.
Amanda Pickett said that although she already knows quite a bit about the topics Robinson shared Tuesday, she was glad to hear a discussion begin between parents and administrators.
Pickett has children at Harrison Hill Elementary School and Jeff H. Towles Montessori School and is the president of the Harrison Hill PTA.
She said she plans to take a slideshow to an upcoming PTA meeting to make sure others are informed.
Especially on the legislative issues, this is the time to make our voices heard, Pickett said.
Corrinna Church, mother of two South Side High School students, said she was taking notes so she could review later.
Church said she wasn’t aware of the issues that are faced by special education students and didn’t fully understand how the voucher program worked.
It’s helpful to hear what is going on, she said.