by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Clackamas Education Service District Superintendent Milt Dennison cautioned that the CESD budget estimates are based in part on student head count, which could change in the next several months.A redistribution of Clackamas Education Service District funds could mean hundreds of thousands more dollars for Lake Oswego and West Linn-Wilsonville school districts.

The influx will help school districts in a time when revenue is scarce. On the flip side, CESD could endure some layoffs, but many of those employees may find work at the school districts CESD serves, and it will see a slight boost in state funding of $200,000. A service model, which detailed changes to how the 10 school districts in Clackamas County access CESD services was spurred by state legislation, and it has birthed a new budget model for next year that shows projected student attendance and dollar estimates.

“These are numbers we’re projecting, so it’ll change as we get to the start of the school year — attendance will change; expenditures will change,” CESD Superintendent Milt Dennison said.

What CESD does

The state’s 19 education service districts are under the auspices of the Oregon Department of Education and do not have authority over school districts. Like other education service districts, the CESD by state law must give 90 percent of what it receives through the state school fund to the school districts it supports, a bundle of services referred to as core services or resolutions, and its districts can receive additional CESD support via contracts.

Services the CESD provides include evaluations to determine whether a child has a disability, for little children, ages newborn to age 5, and for school-age children, kindergarten to age 21.

The evaluations for little children help determine eligibility for CESD services such as early intervention, home visits and consultations, as well as early childhood special education. CESD provides special education preschools to about 1,200 kids.

Evaluations for school-age children who may have disabilities determine how to adjust their schooling after an assessment of language, intelligence, academic skills and social or emotional development, and individualized education plans often are created to help. CESD does about 2,000-plus special education evaluations annually, Dennison said.

Two major things have changed in that model for distribution of services that heavily impact funding for Lake Oswego and West Linn-Wilsonville school districts: a new rebate and a different approach to evaluations.

Changes to evaluation services

One big change is that before, officials with all school districts received evaluations from the CESD as part of its core services.

District officials now are able choose not to contract for evaluations — effective next fiscal year — and handle them internally or through another provider, or officials can choose to contract with CESD, offering a projected amount of evaluations at the start of the fiscal year to establish the budget. The fiscal year starts in July.

Lake Oswego schools’ evaluation services through the CESD were estimated at $353,058 for this fiscal year and would be about that much this coming year, according to the latest calculations, said Stuart Ketzler, executive director of finance at the Lake Oswego School District. West-Linn Wilsonville schools got $530,750 this year. West Linn-Wilsonville will be leasing its evaluations through another provider in 2014-15.

Rhoades“It’s not like we’re necessarily getting more money,” said Bill Rhoades, superintendent of West Linn-Wilsonville School District, said of the change. “We’re just able to use the money that’s there to support evaluation services in a way that most serves the kids in West Linn and Wilsonville. We believe we can be more efficient because we can provide our own services.”

Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Bill Korach said Lake Oswego will continue using the CESD evaluation services next year, but the idea of not using them through CESD could be considered for 2015-16.

“Once we know the extent of the evaluations to be completed at CESD (in 2014-15) based on requests from the districts, we will develop a staffing plan,” Dennison said. “Undoubtedly, it will mean that some of our staff will no longer have jobs at CESD.” 

The “follow the work law,” passed in 2013, will aid laid-off CESD staff, Dennison said.

“The law states that any CESD employees laid off because of school districts picking up the work will be transferred to the various school districts,” he said. “As soon as we know how many evaluation employees we need, our (human resources) staff will be working with school district HR staff to make sure our displaced employees have a job.”

The addition of a rebate

The other major change to the service model has to do with West Linn-Wilsonville and Lake Oswego being “underutilizers,” essentially giving more than they get. CESD gets some of its state funding based on weighted average daily membership (ADMw), which calculates how many students there are, factoring in more points for some students, such as special education students, and the more points, the more funding, up to a point. West Linn-Wilsonville and Lake Oswego school districts are among the largest school districts but have fewer special education expenses, Dennison said.

There are about 65,783 ADMw at school districts in the CESD: West Linn-Wilsonville has about 9,933 ADMw and Lake Oswego has about 7,361 ADMw, according to Oregon Department of Education’s February estimates. The two school districts have a higher ADMw than most but are not using as much CESD support for special education students as other schools are. The key difference is that most West Linn-Wilsonville and Lake Oswego students are not being placed in CESD’s Life Enrichment Education Program to learn life skills, but many kids at other districts use the program, Dennison said.

School districts also get some state funding based on weighted average daily membership: For this fiscal year, West Linn-Wilsonville’s rate is $6,562 per ADMw and Lake Oswego’s is $6,572 per ADMw, according to ODE spokeswoman Crystal Greene. There is a limit on the ADMw money, an 11 percent cap on the percent of students on individualized education plans (strategies for some kids with disabilities’ schooling) that a district can get ADMw dollars for.

The CESD funding also is connected to enrollment. Once the state school fund is set, Oregon education service districts receive 4.5 percent of that money, which is allocated to each ESD based on the total enrollment of students at its school districts. CESD received $20.2 million next year to spend on the districts it serves.

To make things fairer for the underutilizing school districts, the CESD is withholding a little more than 4.8 percent of its core services money — about $928,826 based on this year’s numbers — to redistribute at the end of the year to the underutilizers, which also include Canby, Gladstone and Molalla school districts.

Through the rebate, West Linn-Wilsonville School District stands to gain about $469,489 and Lake Oswego School District would see a bump of maybe $345,616, according to projections based on this year’s numbers. The money does not have a special designation on it and can be spent as school districts wish. The CESD usually distributes funds in two installments, the first half in January and the second half at the end of the fiscal year.

The revenue for Lake Oswego will help the district address a budget gap.

“CESD revenue is already built into the current budget and the financial model — it is part of what is closing the gap,” Ketzler said.

KorachKorach said the new CESD funding model still will allow the larger school districts that bring in more ADMw money to support the smaller ones.

“I think it is imperative that we do support smaller districts,” he said. “West Linn and Lake Oswego are both advantaged — because we have local options (levies), for example.”

CESD services

Some of CESD’s other core services include professional development and courier services, and contract services, besides the once-core-now-contract evaluations, include providing administration of the electronic student information system, Synergy SIS.

As of July 2013, any school district had the right to opt out of education service districts in July of this year, something a couple of school districts first did in other areas through a pilot project three years ago.

The superintendents of all the CESD school districts met to decide whether to back the new funding and service models, and they did, and no one chose to opt out of CESD services. The CESD board will meet to approve its 2014-15 budget in May.

The new fiscal year commences July 1, when the changes to the CESD financial and service models will really go into effect.

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