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Proposed budget for Denair Unified focuses on DECA expansion, new textbooks
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The rapidly-expanding Denair Elementary Charter Academy will add classrooms for its growing dual-immersion program, and students throughout the Denair Unified School District will be able to take advantage of new textbooks under a proposed 2017-2018 budget considered by school officials.

The budget, totaling $15.7 million, will provide about $415,000 toward the purchase and installation of up to 10 portable classrooms at DECA in time for the 2018-2019 school year, and will use more than $1 million in so-called “one-time funds” received from the state over the past few years.

The elementary campus’ dual-immersion program, which began at the kindergarten level in 2015-2016, expands to each grade level as students advance, and must add two classes each year, providing an adequate environment for students to learn both Spanish and English.

Further expansion of the District’s programs is granted in the budget through an additional $430,000, which will be used to purchase new Spanish, English language arts and math textbooks, another $120,000 to replace two computer labs at DECA and $100,000 to buy eight to 10 Chromebook carts.

“We really want to expand our programs to entice students to come to the district,” said Linda Covello, DUSD chief business officer.

Rather than increasing overall funding for education, Governor Jerry Brown uses the state’s extra money to divvy out one-time funds at the end of the fiscal year. By law, said Covello, the one-time funds that the District has accumulated over the past three years cannot be spent on ongoing expenses, like employee salaries.

Denair’s proposed 2017-18 budget anticipates an Average Daily Attendance of 1,279 students, an increase of 16 students from this year. ADA is the basis for state funding. Projections are for 2% attendance growth in 2018-19 and 3% in 2019-20. At Denair Middle and High School, the estimated ADA is 513, while at DECA the number is 528 and Denair Charter Academy is estimated to have an ADA of 238. The District is no longer funded on the prior year’s ADA, due to no longer being in declining enrollment status.

“We’re full in TK (transitional kindergarten) and kindergarten next year, which is promising,” said Covello “Expanding the elementary school is a huge push. We’re growing there and the other sites are no longer declining.”

The proposed budget will spend $1.7 million more than last year’s budget, and other than the one-time funds, the rest of the difference is reflected in raises given to employees and additional contributions by the District to their pension systems. The District recently granted its employees an additional one-time salary payment of three percent, bringing employees’ compensation this year to what they were in 2013.

In addition to the budget, there also was a public hearing on the Local Control Accountability Plan, which is “the narrative that explains how the money we spend is used to meet the district’s goals,” said Covello. Each district is required to submit an annual LCAP to the state. The total General Fund Budget Expenditures for the LCAP is just over $8 million.

Denair’s LCAP also showed it has one of the lowest student suspension rates in California as well as one of the highest graduation rates for white students.

Its areas of greatest need, according to state metrics, are improving math and English test scores districtwide. The Latino graduation rate of 79.5 percent mirrors the state average and also is a target for improvement. A new program called Parents for Quality Education will be rolled out this year to educate parents in their native language about the importance of being a part of their child’s learning experiences.