Park City schools: A diverse, but not declining, enrollment — Annual growth 2 to 3 percent highlighted by Hispanic influx | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Park City schools: A diverse, but not declining, enrollment — Annual growth 2 to 3 percent highlighted by Hispanic influx

Jeremy Evans

PARK CITY, Utah – With an average enrollment growth rate of 2 to 3 percent each year since 1991, Park City School District Superintendent Dave Adamson doesn’t have to deal with declining enrollment like school districts at South Shore.

But he does have to deal with an issue our districts are also facing – a Latino influx.

Thirteen percent of Park City School District’s 4,300 students are Latino, with a decent percentage of them being first-year English language learners. Lake enrollment in Nevada’s Douglas County has a similar percentage, but California’s Lake Tahoe Unified School District states that 37 percent of its students in the 2005-06 school year are Latino.

About 25 percent of South Shore’s overall population is Latino. Park City boasts a comparable figure, with about 20 percent of its overall population being Latino.

“It is not easy for them, but the last couple of years we have created a Latino advisory committee,” said Adamson, whose district has a staffing ratio of 23-1. “We also added a liaison in the community that helps us within the Latino community.”

These various committees and groups are a reflection of the community’s support for its school district.

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Unlike California and Nevada, which are revenue limit states, Utah is a recapture state. A process of recapture allows Park City School District to receive the same amount of money per-pupil as other districts in the state. A recapture system also ensures that each district, regardless of how much it contributes to the state through local revenue sources such as property tax, receives the same amount of money per-pupil.

Some label it a “Robin Hood” scheme resulting in wealthier school districts such as Park City subsidizing poorer districts that don’t generate the same amount of money in property tax dollars. Regardless of how much a district gives the state, each school district in Utah ultimately receives $6,500 for each student.

Revenue limit states, such as California and Nevada, decide what each district will receive per-pupil depending on historical spending patterns, which vary considerably from district-to-district. This calculation from our respective states can result in a fluctuation in the amount of money distributed from year-to-year.

During the 2004-05 school year, each student represented $8,040 in Nevada’s Douglas County. During the 2005-06 school year, LTUSD received $5,148 per-pupil from the state of California.

In Utah, Park City’s $6,500 per-pupil amount is broken down this way: $2,700 from the state and $3,800 from a local revenue source, an amount generated from property tax dollars. In a poor school district with low property tax valuation, those numbers might be reversed, with $3,800 coming from the state and $2,700 being generated from its local revenue source.

Park City voters decided what percentage of its property tax dollars would be given to the state for education. Although the yield is low – fourth lowest in the state – for an area with a median home price of $800,000, that low yield rate equates to a significant amount of money.

“The community support is very nice. It’s one of the most attractive portions of this job,” said Adamson, who previously worked in a school district in Salt Lake City that had 70,000 students. “The community support comes in different flavors. Local government officials are also very involved.”

The school district also has the benefit of an education foundation, created about six years ago by a group of dedicated parents. The foundation was designed to provide more services for students than the $6,500 per-pupil amount allows.

In 2005, the foundation raised about $800,000, according to mayor Dana Williams, and the money went toward items such as microscopes, computers and extra training for teachers. This commitment from the foundation has also resulted in Park City High School becoming one of the top schools in the country.

Using criteria such as Advanced Placement (AP) scores, Newsweek magazine ranked Park City High School 150th out of 27,000 high schools in the country. It was the highest ranking for any high school in Utah.

It was also one of the highest of any public school in the country as many of the schools listed were private schools or prep academies.

Beginning teacher salaries (bachelor’s degree, no experience) in the district start at $32,000. In Douglas County, a beginning teacher salary during the 2004-05 school year was $31,795. In Lake Tahoe Unified School District, a beginning teacher salary was $36,061 this academic year.

Since Adamson believes in retaining teachers, his salary schedule remains one of the highest in the state, though it needs to be because many of the district’s employees can’t afford to live in town.

“We have people moving to Park City just because of our school district,” said mayor Dana Williams. “The community always steps up when something is needed and has to be voted on.”