What is your perspective on the current deficit spending pattern of CUSD?
By sheer design, public entities have no experience in revenue generation. Their idea of “making money” is to cut costs, a self-perpetuating spiral to the bottom. Money from the state of California will start to dry up within the next 12-24 months due to declining tax revenues associated with COVID-19. It will put tremendous pressure on local school districts to fend for themselves. Without experienced leadership, who have had profit and loss responsibility, teachers, students, and parents will have to watch as we “cut our way” to a balanced budget. It is my understanding that CUSD currently faces a reduction in overall student enrollment of approximately 15% and a 24% reduction in the Village school, which the state is giving a one-year hiatus before the money tied to declining enrollment is lost due to COVID-19.
It will be the CUSD school board’s responsibility to develop entrepreneurial ideas that will perpetuate and grow revenue for the district while practicing fiscal discipline to prevent almost certain alarmist cuts, which could be devastating to the school system and its stakeholders. My nearly 20 years of corporate experience running multi-million-dollar territories and being responsible for those territories’ profit and loss statements positions me perfectly for just this type of scenario.
For instance, the CUSD system can capture additional enrollment and revenue by creating a fifth school within the CUSD system. This online division would require no other physical infrastructure and would be modeled after the successful university system of delivering degree-granting courses entirely online or in-person. This new fifth school within the district would provide all content virtually, enabling parents in the district to keep their child/children online for an entire year. Thus, listening to the “voice of the customer” who might not feel comfortable bringing their child back to campus for safety reasons. It would also enable CUSD to capture new enrollment by enrolling students outside of the district. There would also be four fully-in-person schools, as there are today, which would allow students to attend in a traditional learning environment. Both delivery options would be contractually agreed upon for one year by a parent for their child/children. By having these two options long-term, CUSD would add retain current students and capture new students interested in staying online but live outside the district, without adding infrastructure or training.
CUSD has already invested millions into training teachers and staff on how to deliver online content so that this new model would be simply a continuation of the current model. Primary and secondary education has changed since COVID-19 hit eight months ago, as has parent expectations and preferences for education delivery. It will be up to the CUSD board to innovate and execute actionable plans that can produce revenue and keep the CUSD system’s integrity. We will not be able to “litigate” our way to a balanced budget.