ACT budget cuts should not impact student’s educational opportunities

April 11, 2019


Creative Commons image by Bluestocking

Stillwater school district cuts the ACT out of the budget for the 2019-2020 school year. The ACT is a test that measures student’s skills in 5 core areas: English, math, reading, science and writing (optional).

This year’s junior class took the ACT April 2 with no cost to the students, but a large price tag of $41 thousand to the school. Next year, there will no longer be a free, school-funded ACT exam. In recent years, the state has not provided school districts with money for them to provide tests like the ACT.

Many people think taking away the opportunity for juniors to take the ACT for free at school is unfair and illogical. However, with the school’s budget consisting of 80 percent salaries, there is only a remaining 20 percent of the budget that the school needs to use in the most efficient ways.

Years ago, there was an unfunded mandate for students to take the ACT, but that is no longer the law. The most recent requirement from the state is that schools have to provide the opportunity for all students to take the ACT during a school day.

Stillwater school district wanted to cut the ACT out of the budget since it is not mandatory for all colleges, not required to graduate and it is the lowest hanging fruit.

Students will still be given the opportunity to take the ACT during school but will have to pay for it with their own money.

“In light of some of the deficit that we’re anticipating having next year in our budget, there was an analysis on all of the different ways we spend money in the district and the decision was to cut the ACT along with some other items,” Assistant Principal Chris Otto explained.

The ACT exam without the writing test costs $46.00 and with the writing test costs $62.50. Although many may think students who can not afford the ACT will no longer be able to take it, the state provides financial aid to those who need it.

Kirsten Hoheisel, Executive Director of Finance and Operations said, “there are grants available for students that don’t have means that can apply to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE),” so that they can receive help covering the cost.

I definitely think that the state needs to provide a larger budget for schools.”

— Chris Otto

The school has thought long and hard about what to cut from the budget while trying the make the cuts have the smallest impact on the school community. Along with the ACT, there is an increased fee for athletic teams, a reduction in the district’s technology budget, a reduction of custodial staff through attrition and more.

Principal Robert Bach explained how the school board is looking for ways to reduce costs without removing things from the classrooms. They do not want to impact what teachers are doing on a daily basis, and the ACT was an additional, but not required, cost.

The school’s overall goal for their reserve fund is 5 percent, but by the end of this school year, they are only projected to have a reserve fund of 4 percent. With the budget cuts that will be implemented next year, the 2019-2020 school year is projected to end with a 4.64 percent reserve fund.

The school board made the most logical decision to remove the ACT funding from the budget in order to keep all faculty members and keep the learning environment updated for the students. The state, rather than individual school districts, should be providing the means for students to take the ACT for free.

“The state funding that we get already has not kept up with some of the costs of living changes,” Otto added. “I definitely think that the state needs to provide a larger budget for schools.”

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