As it turns out, it was good to hear about the upcoming budget issues because my belief is that the budget and the new SAP are on a collision course. We are headed for a huge budget crisis of proportions we haven't seen since the Olchefske era. We are losing almost $24M from state money alone. The gap as of yesterday was $35M BUT, if they want to enact the new SAP, it could rise to nearly $45M between the new SAP and what is called Budget Enhancements. They are likely to dip into reserves again. This is going to last probably for at least 2 years. Something's gotta give and here's what it is.
Entire programs may be cut. Get ready because we may see that or at least a freeze on certain activities.
(Peter Maier suggested that they could not get the budget balanced without it. Given the numbers they are talking about and what they want/believe they can get done, I'm not sure what else could happen.) As Director Patu said at the Board meeting, in her charmingly blunt manner, when there is no new money, the district takes money from one thing to serve another. There is NO new money.
We are in real trouble. And, there is not going to be any real public engagement about it. What Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said would happen is that each principal would go to his or her community, via their PTA, and let them know that tough choices are coming. There would be no regional meetings about this issue.
What she forgets is that not all principals have the follow-thru nor does every school have a PTA. You, yes YOU, must go to your PTA and your principal and have the school's budget on the agenda in January. All the parents at every single school need to know what this means to their community.
Mr. Kennedy handed out a couple of things and I would suppose the Powerpoint will be at the website at some point but there was also a document called "Framing Seattle Public Schools' Budget" which was chock-a-block full of all sorts of data. (I need Meg Diaz to read this thing because I'm not sure I get all of it.) There was an interesting chart showing enrollment and budgeted staff that Mr. Kennedy said showed that as enrollment had been decreasing, staffing had been steady or increasing. He said with higher enrollment figures this is now reversing (but you have to wonder why this happened at all).
This is costed out at about $5,575,794 (this does not include the capital costs of reopening the 5 schools which is roughly $50M to come from BTA III). The first year is about $855,000 for new libraries at some schools, technology and opening costs for 5 new schools. Also linked to this first year - and this is fairly big - is that TOPS and Salmon Bay would go to the Tier 1 transportation time like all other K-8s. They made the claim that leaving them in Tier 2 times would cost even more next year. Michael said this seemed to be less about the new SAP and more a continuation of what they started in adjusting transportation times earlier this year. (Interestingly, this was noted in the Transition Plan that it could be a temporary 2-year change for TOPS and Salmon Bay but not noted here. I wasn't there for that part of the Transition Plan - anyone? What did Tracy say?)
Then there is a category called "Academic Assurances" at $3.1M which includes Advanced Learning (both for professional development, curriculum, backfill from state reductions, Special Ed FTE, CTE FTE, ELL resource room and music enhancements at middle and high school.
Dr. Enfield said these things are crucial to fulfilling the promise of good schools everywhere. She said that ALO will expand to 5 new sites and Spectrum to 4 new sites (with every middle school having it). She said that the professional development was necessary because she constantly heard that "Spectrum isn't Spectrum isn't Spectrum" from school to school. Also interesting is the directive that all high schools would have at least one AP or IB course "offered in each core content area in all comprehensive high schools (English, Math, Science and History). (Note: this does not mean ONLY 4 but they have to have at least one in each core area. Currently, for example, Roosevelt's LA department won't teach a stand-alone AP English course and Hale's History department won't teach a stand-alone AP History course. I would suspect that having it as an add-on won't fulfill this requirement but I'll have to ask Dr. Enfield.)
The music thing is great to hear because they want to "strengthen existing programs while creating greater equity and access across schools". Foundational courses would include concert, marching and jazz, orchestra and choir.
They also put numbers to costs for some programs. Montessori costs $74,500 to start up and International School costs are $115,000 in planning for year 1 and $75,000 implementation for year 2.
Also under NSAP costs is STEM at $1.5M (note that is a start-up cost although oddly they said it was for computers which is under Technology in BTA III).
They left the Transition Costs a blank but Sherry Carr (and then Michael) were not having it. Sherry wanted a placeholder number for that category. Mr. Kennedy agreed to do so.
This was a third cost that adds to the shortfall. It includes textbooks for high school Social Studies and Science and K-5 music. It also includes professional leadership development, misc. program enhancements (at $250,000 that Mr. Kennedy zoomed right through but I didn't miss his speed so I'm a little suspicious at what this is), adoption committee work and more textbooks for the new schools. This pot sits at just under $5M.
Solutions (early stage work from staff)
- furloughs for non-school staff
- central reductions of staff
- WSS cuts
- freeze on purchases and contracts
- shifts to grant funding
- translation efficiencies (this at $1M)
- non-essential hiring freeze
- increased revenue ($2M - I assume from enrollment)
- other cost savings (to be gone over with the Finance Committee)
- elimination of programs
- there was a somewhat large sum under Board of $2.3M which Michael asked them to explain as the Board has nothing like that to spend. It turned out to be for the Board office, election costs, contractual/legal services and state auditor costs. The Board has little to do with most of this spending.
- Betty asked the most charmingly naive questions throughout both presentations. I am trying to be generous here but she seems over her head. Her first question was why we spend so much on transportation. It was explained that we had a choice system that made us have to transport many students far from home but the new plan would, hopefully, bring them closer.
- Peter Maier asked about bus times and the head of Transportation couldn't even tell him correctly off the top of his head which I thought was odd.
- When discussing Special Ed and inclusion, Betty questioned the wisdom of putting some kids with behavior problems in classrooms but Susan Enfield said that they had supports in place.
- Betty asked the rest of the Board, "Well, what are we going to do about this deficit?" It was quite odd as they were getting to discussing options. She seemingly couldn't quite follow along with the conversation. (That said, this was the first time any of them were seeing this so trying to read and listen and comprehend is tough.)
- there was talk of prioritizing text adoptions because of the costs
- district travel
- elementary counselors
- see if overlap between translation services and bilingual IAs does exist
- standardizing of costs for full-day K charges
- furloughs for central staff
- salary freezes/reductions
- delay in textbook adoptions
All the directors seem firmly against any teacher cuts. Kay encouraged early retirement offers, online texts and a freeze on travel. She also worried over fresh food at schools but that train is way gone.
Michael, as usual, had the broad picture. He said we were the best funded district in the state and yet we spend a lot. We spend more on teaching costs and professional development. (I thought about a freeze on professional development for a couple of years but one person told me they thought it was contractual. Well, the teachers have a new contract coming up - why not freeze it for a couple of years if it serves everyone's interests?) He also noted that we have a line item of $31M for supervision of teachers that is not principals. (He's right - way too much money.) He also said that Washington State has one of the most progressive job share laws in the country and we should use this as an opportunity to restructure.
Betty ended the discussion with asking if we could postpone the new SAP in light of the deficit.
All of this is absolutely scary. But you don't find $35-45M in a cookie jar or under a mattress. Hard times indeed.