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Our School District Gets More From Each Dollar Spent

Story By Melanie C. Johnson, DiamondBarPatch

The Walnut Valley Unified District might be spending less money per student than others in the state and nearby, but that has not hurt test scores.

The district ranks in the lowest 25percent for spending per student but ranks in the highest 25 percent when it comes to Academic Performance Index scores, according to a California Watch report. Walnut Valley Unified spent $7,197 per student during the 2009-10 school year, the most recent data available.

That was the lowest spent compared to neighboring districts such as Brea-Olinda Unified at $7,271, Chino Valley Unified at $7,533, Covina-Valley Unified at $7,636, Rowland Unified at $8,088 and Pomona Unified at $9,057.

Walnut Valley also ranked the lowest in per-student spending among school districts statewide that had similar attendance figures, according to the report.

The district’s 2010 Academic Index Performance score, a growth measure related to testing, was 898.  That API score was higher than adjacent districts that spent more per student.  Pomona Unified, which spent more than $1,800 per student than Walnut Valley did, had a score of 721.  Rowland Unified had a score of 792, Covina-Valley 769, Chino Valley 812 and Brea-Olinda 864.

Walnut Valley, like most districts across the state, is facing lean economic times. The Board of Education last week approved a $107 million budget that is influx while the state irons out its own fiscal plan for 2011-12.

Assistant Superintendent Jack LeBrun said several things that would affect the district’s budget are uncertain including whether the state cuts $330 per student in average daily attendance funding.

If the state takes that money, then the district is expected to end fiscal years 2012-13 and 2013-14 with a $6 million deficit total, he said.  If that money is not cut, the district expects to end both of those fiscal years in the positive.

Something that helps to add to funding for students when the district can't is donations from parents, community organizations and booster clubs.

The nonprofit Walnut Valley Educational Foundation raises funds to support the school district, including awarding grants to teachers.  Two district parents created an endowment through investments to keep the elementary school program in place after budget cuts threatened to end it.

After the school board approved the budget last week, Vice President Carolyn Elfelt said that the belt tightening could offer the district an opportunity to find ways to do things cheaper.

“Hopefully this is a chance where we can step back and see how we can educate kids,” she said, “and see if we can come up with a more efficient way to do things.”