Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Budget Planning Meeting today 4-8

The Board will be meeting this afternoon and evening for a Board Workshop on "Budget Planning and Development". Here is the agenda.

It begins with a recap of the budget gap for the coming year. This is to make sure that everyone comes into the meeting with lowered expectations.

Next comes "Board developed guiding principals(sic)". I don't think that the Board is actually going to give guidance to principals, I think this was supposed to be "guiding principles". What are the Board's guiding principles? Last year they were to strike a balance between ongoing operations and investments in the Strategic Plan. I say balance, but I don't recall the Board ever saying "no" to any spending on the Plan. The community, I think, would have preferred more spending on current operations and less investment in Strategic Plan items. All of the cuts came in current operations, none that I could see in the Plan. I don't recall anyone in the District leadership ever saying "We will need to defer that Plan project until we have the funding for it." Do you?

Next comes "Budget Priorities". The agenda offers some examples, including Audit/Compliance, Impact to schools, Academic Assurances, Strategic Plan, New Student Assignment Plan Impacts, School Performance Framework, Human Resources Transformation. Notice something about this list? After audit compliance - which should save money, not cost money - and "impact to schools" - whatever that means - comes the Strategic Plan. Notice that the next three items are all Strategic Plan initiatives? The Strategic Plan is MIRVing. It takes four bullet points on the list.

Here are some items that didn't make the list of examples:
Response to Intervention - When is the District going to make support for struggling students a budget priority?
Inclusion - The District has mandated inclusion of special education students, now they need to pay for it.
Librarians, nurses, counselors - Schools need these positions staffed.


Next comes Community Engagement - internal and external. Internal is a reference to teachers and principals. I want to be sure that families know that teachers and principals are commonly ignored and disrespected as much as anyone else in the District. What level of Community Engagement will the Board ask for on budget planning? Will it be Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate or Empower? I'm guessing they will feel really, really generouos and go for Consult in which they commit to "keep people informed, listen to and acknowledge concerns and aspirations, and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision" It will be truly remarkable if they do this, as it will be the first thing they have done in which they committed to anything more than the most basic Inform level of engagement.

This will be followed by a review of the Weighted Staffing Standards, some talk about benchmarking, the timeline and then "Data Sets" - whatever that means.

From my review of this agenda, it appears that it will consist mostly of the Superintendent and the CFO/COO telling the Board how it is going to be. The Board, almost completely lacks information, context, or memory - except for what the staff tell them. They are also almost completely without vertebrae, minds, or community input. So they will, once again, act like a row of bobbleheads. They will nod along with the superintendent and drool and mumble along in their hypnotic trance "Yeah, a football. A football would make a great Christmas present."

In case you're thinking that there is at least one Board member who will step forward and demand better, let me remind you that Kay Smith-Blum is out of town and will not be able to attend the meeting. Director Patu means well, but she has yet to climb the learning curve very far and is out of her depth. Director DeBell knows better and thinks clearly, but he speaks so gently that they just ignore him. And every member of the 2007 majority is a lost cause. They are in thrall to the superintendent and have never challenged her on anything she has ever said or done. They are very unlikely to start here.

We can look forward to a budget planning process for school year 2011-2012 that is functionally identical to the budget planning process for this school year. There will be some show of public meeetings, but they won't influence the course of the decisions. The wrapper will be different, but the fruitcake inside will be the same.

37 comments:

Central Mom said...

You might remember that Carr asked the public, a few months back, for ways to change the budget process this year. I believe she is committed to doing better. (For SS, PM, HMM, I agree with your assessment.)

If we, the public, do not like how the priorities are framed...as Charlie suggests will be the case...then the time to stop that train is NOW. Like THIS WEEK. We need to write to the board members individually and ask that
>>Nurses/Counselors/Librarians
>>Inclusion
>>Response to Intervention
all be right up there at the table for funding priority consideration. From the get-go.

Central Mom said...

This ties back in with the reason Melissa, Dorothy, etc. are not in favor of the levy, btw...

>>Nurses/Counselors/Librarians
>>Inclusion
>>Response to Intervention

have no promise whatsoever of getting $$ from those funds.

Zero. None.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm sure there are other budget priorities for families.

How about these:

Spending 100% of Title I money in Title I schools.

Spending 100% of LAP money in schools.

Spending I-728 money to reduce class sizes.

Allowing teachers and principals to determine their own professional development instead of mandating "coaches" from the central administration.

Dorothy Neville said...

Central Mom, you got it. But not only is there no promise of funding those great things, there is no OPPORTUNITY in the levy to fund those things. They've already promised it to new spending. So the supplemental levy CANNOT soften the state cuts. And since the promised new spending includes more growth downtown and ongoing obligations after the levy money is gone, then it reduces our ability to provide RtI and class size reductions and IAs.

You know, if the levy fails and the district makes cuts downtown to deal with that, then comes back with another supplemental levy saying that all the money will to go ELL/Special Ed Collaborating teachers and Special Ed and ELL IAs, because by golly, we are going to make full inclusion successful across the district! Then I would work my ass off getting that levy passed.

SC Parent said...

A Christmas Story will never be the same for me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, you made me laugh out loud (...a football) but I loved

"This is to make sure that everyone comes into the meeting with lowered expectations."

Thank you for that.

Concurring with Dorothy, folks this is the CRUX of the levy - balancing long-term initiatives with day-to-day operations.

We already know that from the state audit that day-to-day operations are not operating so well. That there is so much training and re-training in the "action plan" should tell you something.

Parents you KNOW from your own school that you had cuts. Is the levy going to backfill those? No.

If all things were equal (meaning day-to-day was on stable footing with good oversight and accountability), fine then fund those initiatives.

But if I had to vote (and I will vote) in tight times between sending money into buildings and classrooms versus continuing initiatives, I'd vote classroom every time.

The other issue to consider in everything this district does is sustainability. Is all this stuff - career ladder stipends, teacher incentives - sustainable down the line? Are these just pilot projects? Is the plan to cross our fingers and hope(!) the economy will get better and more money flows to our district coffers? I don't think that's a way to plan for the future.

Anonymous said...

I urge parents/teachers/school staff following this year's effect of the budget process on our schools to start showing up to district committee and board meetings with "FULLY FUND the WSS" signs.

FIRST fix the staff-directed process that ARTIFICIALLY held down enrollment projections at many of our schools last year (or artificially CAPPED enrollment at alt/K8 schools to minimize the need to fund support staff). When the WSS is fully funded THEN central admin can strategize to its little heart's content.

--District Watcher

Meg said...

what's interesting to me about the budget process, in a bad way, is that central budgets get set before school budgets do - I think during the winter. To my mind, this is completely backwards - the current process means that central budgets get set, and schools get what's left, when it should be the other way around. If the WSS is ever going to be fully funded - and I agree with District Watcher that it should be - the backwards nature of the budget process has to be corrected.

Also: Title I schools can't get 100% of Title I money. The district is obliged, through the nature of the funding, to set aside a certain percent of Title funds for the following items: professional development, transportation (for students who opt out of failing schools), tutoring (for FRL-eligible students in Title I schools) and family involvement. The total comes to something like 31% of all Title money the district gets. The set aside acts as a cap, though - the district does not have to spend more than the required set aside for any of those items.

Central Mom said...

Eureka. I obtained a Kay Smith-Blum budget brief she sent to the rest of her board colleagues and interested parents. Apparently the brief is based on parent feedback from her district. It's long, so I'll slice it into a couple parts and post, beginning here:

SUGGESTIONS FOR BUDGET GUIDING PRINCIPALS

I. A clear and abiding emphasis on the WSS that addresses all needs at school level and in our classrooms.

Note: Many of our schools are at “poverty” level in resources, materials and staffing. We might revisit the formulas currently in play around LAP versus Title versus SIG monies. We need to look closely at our student teacher ratios – have clarity around school budget categories ie, “elementary teacher “ versus “other teacher.”

Central Mom said...

(cont.) SUGGESTIONS FOR BUDGET GUIDING PRINCIPALS

2. At least 50% of Supplemental Levy dollars are used SOLELY to create PARITY of program by investing in “one time use” strategies:

Note: These could include, but not limited to:

· Instrument and music material purchases to establish rigorous EIM programs in EVERY 4th and 5th grade level district wide along with orchestra instrument purchases for the 5 high schools that do not have an orchestral program.

· Start up costs to roll out language immersion programs district wide, begin with the completion of pathways already begun, and designate pathway in Central region.

· Development of one athletic league for SPS middle and high schools, equipment purchases to create parity of programs in all high schools and research the possibility of regional team approach for middle schools that would serve our K-8 athletes

· Purchase of materials and equipment district wide to roll out sustainability cohesive program (compost bins, worm bins, recycle containers, additional trash receptacles in hallways to accommodate recycling, stipends for staff in charge of programs (that then would be sustained by the savings in electrical and waste cost savings)

· Pilot programs of various educational technologies – Kindle program for textbook downloads at middle or high schools, laptop programs at 6th grade, etc.

· Development of safe walking routes in conjunction with a transformational approach to our transportation

· Change our bell times to concur with student learning times and create staggered school schedules that allow for capacity management (example: a student can start school at 8:30 or 9:30 – finish at 3 or 4 pm, allowing for maximum use of classrooms and facilities and better capacity management)

· Development of additional AP/Honors course in Franklin, Ingraham, Nathan Hale and West Seattle High schools….to ensure a rigorous academic pathway at all comprehensive high schools.

· Establish MAP testing at point of enrollment PRIOR to school/grade level assignment of incoming students to SPS – to ensure our schools are only assigned students that they have the staff and resources and funding to support.

* Additional grant to complete the work of the SBOC, in addition to the $10 million from BEX III

Central Mom said...

(cont.) SUGGESTIONS FOR BUDGET GUIDING PRINCIPALS

2. At least 50% of Supplemental Levy dollars are used SOLELY to create PARITY of program by investing in “one time use” strategies:

Note: These could include, but not limited to:

· Instrument and music material purchases to establish rigorous EIM programs in EVERY 4th and 5th grade level district wide along with orchestra instrument purchases for the 5 high schools that do not have an orchestral program.

· Start up costs to roll out language immersion programs district wide, begin with the completion of pathways already begun, and designate pathway in Central region.

· Development of one athletic league for SPS middle and high schools, equipment purchases to create parity of programs in all high schools and research the possibility of regional team approach for middle schools that would serve our K-8 athletes

· Purchase of materials and equipment district wide to roll out sustainability cohesive program (compost bins, worm bins, recycle containers, additional trash receptacles in hallways to accommodate recycling, stipends for staff in charge of programs (that then would be sustained by the savings in electrical and waste cost savings)

· Pilot programs of various educational technologies – Kindle program for textbook downloads at middle or high schools, laptop programs at 6th grade, etc.

· Development of safe walking routes in conjunction with a transformational approach to our transportation

· Change our bell times to concur with student learning times and create staggered school schedules that allow for capacity management (example: a student can start school at 8:30 or 9:30 – finish at 3 or 4 pm, allowing for maximum use of classrooms and facilities and better capacity management)

· Development of additional AP/Honors course in Franklin, Ingraham, Nathan Hale and West Seattle High schools….to ensure a rigorous academic pathway at all comprehensive high schools.

· Establish MAP testing at point of enrollment PRIOR to school/grade level assignment of incoming students to SPS – to ensure our schools are only assigned students that they have the staff and resources and funding to support.

* Additional grant to complete the work of the SBOC, in addition to the $10 million from BEX III

Central Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Central Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Central Mom said...

(cont.) SUGGESTIONS FOR BUDGET GUIDING PRINCIPALS

>>Pilot programs of various educational technologies – Kindle program for textbook downloads at middle or high schools, laptop programs at 6th grade, etc.

>>Development of safe walking routes in conjunction with a transformational approach to our transportation

>>Change our bell times to concur with student learning times and create staggered school schedules that allow for capacity management (example: a student can start school at 8:30 or 9:30 – finish at 3 or 4 pm, allowing for maximum use of classrooms and facilities and better capacity management)

>>Development of additional AP/Honors course in Franklin, Ingraham, Nathan Hale and West Seattle High schools….to ensure a rigorous academic pathway at all comprehensive high schools.

>>Establish MAP testing at point of enrollment PRIOR to school/grade level assignment of incoming students to SPS – to ensure our schools are only assigned students that they have the staff and resources and funding to support.

>>Additional grant to complete the work of the SBOC, in addition to the $10 million from BEX III

Central Mom said...

(end) SUGGESTIONS FOR BUDGET GUIDING PRINCIPALS


3. A commitment to hold our Central Administration costs to 4% or below of our budget in accordance with both national and state averages.

4. A collaborative approach during our budget development to all expenditures and cuts with our community that includes not just transparency but active solicitation of ideas and concerns thru numerous feedback channels i.e., create a blog/website for input by community, facebook posts regarding various aspects of budget, email blasts thru PTSA lists to solicit input, twitter posts around engagement opportunities, etc


5. An oversight element to our development process that assures compliance with all state, federal and other applicable laws, as well as our own district policy.


6. Embracing bold changes and innovations to create cost efficiencies and line item reductions.

(---End of brief---)

CCM said...

Here's a question re: the budget. There is now a crossing guard - labeled as SPS - at the 4-way stop at 19th & Aloha.

I guess its relatively close to Stevens and Lowell - although I don't see many public school kids crossing at that corner - its primarily used by St. Joe's or Holy Names kids.

Seems like a waste of money. Who identified a 4-way stop intersection with minimal public school traffic in need of a paid crossing guard?

Melissa Westbrook said...

The city had funded the crossing guards but I think that has come back to SPS. I think the crossing guard is operating on the premise that there are multiple schools nearby (and private or not, their parents pay taxes as well). Anyone know for sure who's paying for the guards now?

Kathy S said...

I'd like to see a line item for books inluded on Kay Smith-Blum's list. I understand the state pushed the responsibility of purchasing books onto the District. Hopefully, we could get a line item for books while trying to get the government to assume responsibility for basic educational needs.

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dan dempsey said...

More Money is coming from FEDS.

$208 Million to WA STATE to flexibly pay for teacher's salaries.

Anonymous said...

Our PTA is paying for the crossing guard this year. Last year it was the police department

North end parent

Sandy Blight said...

We need to find out how many people in the budget and finance department are actually certified and therefore qualified to prepare financial statements. What I have been told is that no one is currently qualified to write financial statements in the Seattle Public Schools. I have been disappointed to see that John Duggan Harman and Donald Kennedy, Exec Director of Finance and CFO are not even qualified accountants and have no track record of the functions they perform!.

StepJ said...

To follow up North End parent...

Our school (or likely PTA) is paying for the crossing guard this year.

wsnorth said...

PTA paying for a crossing guard is nothing. At our school the NSAP has dramatically increased the number of kids bussed in, due to the skewed and ridiculous boundaries. It is so chaotic the school is begging parent volunteers (who, by and large, live by the school, walk to it, and whose kids don't take the bus) to help get all the new kids on their busses safely. Talk about ABSURD! This type of work should be paid, hourly work.

Anonymous said...

Our PTA (in West Seattle) was approached to pay a supplemental amount to the crossing guard (a minimal portion is paid by the district), but we declined. We felt that we couldn't alter our budget to supplement the income of one person when there had been RIFs last year.

signed,
yumpears

Charlie Mas said...

I attended the meeting. So did Dorothy, Ramona, and three other members of the public.

It didn't go either as badly nor as well as I predicted.

I'll check my notes for a more complete report, but here's what I remember off the top of my head.

On the good side:
Director DeBell spoke effectively about changing the timeline to put the school budgets ahead of the central budget.
The District put together a big WSS Review Team and they say that they are committed to setting the WSS funding so that it is all a school needs to work. That's without any Title I, LAP, PTA, grant, Performance Management, or Family and Education Levy money. This creates an interesting contradiction. I heard the superintendent say that the WSS is all a school needs and also say that the state is failing to fully fund basic education. I don't see how they can both be true.
The Board modified their guiding principles to say that they will fund strategic plan efforts as resources allow.

On the other hand:
Most of the Board members don't seem to get the issues here.
The Community Engagement level will be "Consult" which means that they will accept public input, but they won't respond to it or say how it is reflected in the final decision. You can talk - but they won't promise to listen. They wanted to do better, but they "didn't want to make any promises that they didn't have the resources to keep".
This is still better than they are doing for the internal stakeholders who only get outbound one-way communication.

Dorothy Neville said...

It wasn't just MDB that spoke about the budget timelines, it was ALL five of the directors present. (KSB is on business trip and BP was at Morales funeral, came late.)

DK balked at first. Doesn't want to plan any budget until the prelim figures from the state on 12/20, but that would not give enough time, was told to predict anyway. He then balked at doing school budgets until they know enrollment figures in the spring, but then he got the genius idea that they could use this year's figures and deep intelligence to predict next years.

Culturally embedded, as Meg says, is the notion that downtown gets funded first and schools get the rest. That mentality showed up over and over in the presentation and to the board's credit, over and over they noticed and pushed for change. So I completely agree with Meg, now is the time for ALL board members to hear that this is the right path, thank them for pushing the budget timeline issue, keep them motivated to continue this effort.

At the break, I said to MDB that I appreciated his efforts in getting the budget timeline changed. He replied that yes, it would be nice (or something similarly low key) and I said No, it would be more than that, it would have a HUGE impact, would be a cultural shift. Let this board know that. IF they can get this changed institutionally, that could be their legacy, which could minimize their legacy as the board of the shocking audits.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sandy, you're right. The State Audit dinged them on that front as well.

That's Maestas' funeral that Betty was at.

Meg said...

I said this in another thread: it's important to keep in mind that any budget system can be gamed. I already know how I would go about gaming a shift in the budgeting calendar.

How to prevent it? Transparency. Line-by-line comparison. And most importantly, a board that is willing to provide the necessary scrutiny and oversight to truly make it happen. The bad habits that resulted in this last pair of dreadful audits took years to develop, and were happening well before this Superintendent came into the district (Melissa regularly mentions the Moss Adams audit, which was in 2003... and those same issues cited in that audit continue today). It will take a huge amount of political will and hard work by the board to fix. Do I hope they will? Yes. But it'll be a long road.

Dorothy Neville said...

Oops. Sorry, I had meant to google and fix the name before submitting comment.

Meg is perhaps more realistic about how much really really must change for the school budgets to authentically be considered first. She's right, it will be hard and will require strong political will on the part of the board. Will require all of us to watchdog and point out each and every instance of pushback from the district to fully implementing such a shift.

Example. Carr said do school budgets first, and then perhaps at HQ a whole department might have to be cut. Her example (which she knows cannot be jettisoned, but was the first she could think of) was IT. Well, when DK referred to that later, HIS example was cutting custodial staff! You know, the folks that clean schools!

Not only are custodial staff not the highest paid workers, but what about the guiding principles of minimizing impacts on the classroom and students?

This is exactly how downtown will frame the issue, turning it back into an impact on kids and protecting HQ upper management. We must ensure that the board doesn't fall for that.

wseadawg said...

The community engagement efforts are all for show, because, in order to comply with state and federal due process requirements, like those promulgated under the APA (Administrative Procedures Act), government entities, including School Boards, are mandated ONLY to allow public comment, NOT to listen, NOT to absorb, NOT to follow the evidence, and NOT to reach the best decisions. Procedural due process is entirely about FORM, not SUBSTANCE. So, if it appears to anyone that public input and commentary is treated with indifference or even scorn, and amounts to nothing more than a dog & pony show, take heart: That's exactly what it is.

SPS looks upon it as that DAMN, annoying public comment stuff we have to allow (vs. listen to), and insert into the record (without reading a word of). MGJ's body language and texting habits have exemplified this attitude from day one, and nothing is going to change under her watch. She and the Board are free to do as they wish, no matter what's in the record, unless or until they really, really goof up like they did in the Math Case, where they didn't even bother to compile the record they ignored properly. All they have to do is say, "yeah, we knew about that stuff, but we chose to do X instead", they'll get away with it, because public input occurred, so the public comment requirement was met.

So don't get your hopes up that the best ideas or a mountain of overwhelming evidence to support them will ever be implemented ahead of what Gates, Broad & Walton want.

On the flip side, in MGJ's departing interviews from Charleston, I recall her complaining that she put together exactly the right plan to turn around all the schools there, but the community "wouldn't fund it." Could we hope for a sequel in Seattle? Maybe.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is the slide presentation that went with the meeting.

Note on slides #22 and #23 the list of cuts made the last two years in response to reduced funding from the State.

If the levy was really to restore cuts made when the state support was reduced, then this would be the list of spending purposes for the levy. Not one item on these slides is on the shopping list for the levy.

This is incontrovertable proof that the levy is NOT to restore cuts caused by reduced state funding.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie .. nice job with the incontrovertible proof. Wow, if that was in the voters guide. A knock out punch.

Wseadawg .. I agree almost 100% ... but .. there are a few somethings called RCWs that can be pretty hard to successfully ignore if someone makes a fuss.

As we found out in the school Board's Math decision made May 6, 2009, which was appealed on June 5, 2009. Won on Feb 4, 2010. Judicial decision appealed by District on Mar 5, 2010 and will likely be heard and decided in Appeals court Division I sometime in the Spring of 2011. It takes time to change any of the really obtuse decisions made by the school board through the appeal process.

The other option is a lot quicker. Charge that a board member violated state law and that they violated a significant state law and file for their recall and discharge and be able to substantiate the charge.

It could happen.

================

I really like the legacy change from the Board of irresponsible audit findings to the Board that fixed the budgeting process. I hope to see it, impossible as it sounds. DK would need to see the problem to even get started.

Jan said...

I am not really a numbers guy, so what I say may make all you accounting/financial statement types snort with derision -- but oh well, here goes.

I think what the Board needs to do -- and they need to do it in time for the Superintendant and her staff to incorporate it into the budget given to the board to review -- is direct the staff to include, as part of the school budget, a break out, for each category/line item/whatever, the following:
1. any amounts shifted to that category that were included as a part of central administration in last year's budget (so -- if teacher coaches were in central last year -- and they move them -- they get flagged; and
2. any new items that are being added as part of performance management -- so people can figure out (a) whether that stuff ought to be in the schools budget or the central administration budget, and how much it is -- so a decision can be made as to whether the Board wants to fund it, or fund other things, like IAs, books, librarians, etc.
If less than the maximum amount of LAP, Title I, etc. funding available is going to a school, what is the deviance, and where is it going. This way, the Board can make a principled decision as to whether they want those funds diverted that way or not.

Personally, I would also like to see where the cuts are coming from to fund the mistake made with the Native American money from last year. My recollection is that MGJ said that they would make up that money from other operating funds. It would be nice to know what they are proposing to cut to keep that commitment.

Patrick said...

Jan, you want annual reports that illuminate? SPS uses them to obfuscate.

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a compelling question for me:

The District goes on and on about how they don't have any money. But when they need to come up with cash - for the Native American program funding, for cost overruns on STEM, to refund the money misspent on the Small Business Program, etc. - they never seem to have any trouble with it. We never hear "Yes, we can replace the funding of the Native American program, but to pay for it we'll have to cut... [whatever]".

Director Martin-Morris said that the Board made tough choices about funding, but when I asked him what the choices were, he couldn't say. It was either get this now and not have money in some future year for something that you might want then or forego this immediate need in favor of some unknown potential future need. Not that tough a choice, particularly given that they never put the indefinite future need ahead of the current need.

Where did the money come from for the Native American program?

Where did the money come from to cover the STEM cost overruns?

Where did the money come from to cover the refund to the capital fund for the small business program?