Sunday, October 03, 2010

Levy Update

The Committee for Responsible Education Spending (opposing passage of the supplemental levy) has been going to different venues to speak. Our goal is to give people the fullest picture of what the levy will and will not do. I'll write up a separate thread and try to go through each statement by the district. (We did get support from Dem. district #11 who voted a No on their endorsement and the 43rd Dems voted to give no endorsement at all. It's interesting because some PTAs are choosing to remain neutral and/or still haven't taken a vote.)

One question we have gotten is "what happens to the teachers' raises if the levy doesn't pass?" We researched this question and here's the answer and readers can all try to decipher how it got bargained this way. (By the way, this is information the district and Schools First haven't answered at all.)

According to the contract, if the levy doesn't pass, the teachers will not get their raises for years 2 and 3. It does say that if the district did get a grant or other state/fed funding, that might pay for it.

The new TIF (teacher incentive fund) federal grant that was recently awarded to the district for $12.5M will help some teachers with incentive pay, mentoring programs, teacher evaluation and principal incentive pay. But that would only be for teachers at low-performing schools.

(I note that the district used some pretty big talk about what will happen with this grant.

"...most importantly, more than 16,000 students who will be led by
motivated, highly effective teachers and principals across 34 target high-need schools."

What? Boy, I want to see those stats when they come out because there is still no real evidence anywhere that pay incentives work for teachers. While I think the other items in the grant like professional development, mentoring and recruitment might help develop high-performing teachers, that's not guaranteed either.

Also, I missed this from my first reading of the press release:

Applicants were also required to demonstrate a high level of local educator support and
involvement and a plan for financial sustainability after the 5 year grant award period.

This is a HUGE issue. I'll have to ask for the grant application and see what the plan is. )

Also, the state just got $208M from the feds to preserve teacher jobs. The question here is how much will SPS get and how will they use it? Since we are the largest district in the state, it may be that we will get at least $20M. Here's what it says about how the money can be spent:

States can use the money only for "preservation of jobs serving elementary and secondary education," meaning jobs held by teachers, principals, classroom aides and other education-related personnel. The funds can't be used for equipment, utilities, renovation or transportation, nor can they be used to reduce a state's debt or tucked into a "rainy-day fund."

I don't know if "preservation of jobs" means giving raises. So I think the upshot is that if the levy doesn't pass (and if I'm right about the TIF grant and the federal teacher grant don't cover raises), then NO teachers will get raises.

So why did teachers agree to this?

On the one hand, maybe fighting for the $1K a year just isn't worth it to them. They are willing to take the hit if the levy goes down. On the other hand, they know levies nearly never fail so it isn't much of a risk. Also, if they had argued for a guarantee for the raise even if the levy did fail, the district would have to take it out of the Operating budget and that would have meant more cuts to school funding (given that the district cuts at schools more than central).

What is also interesting is that failure of the levy would delay further development of end of course assessments and expansion of MAP. That is interesting given how much confusion there is over MAP.

The delay of end of course assessments might help the high school science programs which have concerns over the district's wish to limit the number of science classes that will get credit towards graduation. The district is saying at least courses (biology, chemistry, integrated science and physics) would get graduation credit but not courses like computer science, engineering, marine biology, astronomy, etc.

16 comments:

ParentofThree said...

Why will classes like Marine Bio not earn highschool credit anymore?

Dorothy Neville said...

It would earn high school credit as an elective, but would not count as a science credit.

Dorothy Neville said...

Our committee covers all our concerns about the TIF Grant.

KSB just told me in email that the TIF could be used to pay for $12M of the $19M promised in the CBA, which means the levy would only need to pay for $8M of it, but she is wrong wrong wrong, missing both math and critical reading skills and an understanding of how our Central Administration works. After I compose a return email explaining her reasoning errors to her, I will post it here.

dan dempsey said...

Ball Park guessing on that $208 million distribution to Seattle schools.

Seattle/state enrollment =

46,000/ 1,033,000 =

46/1033 = .045 = 4.5%

4.5% of 208 million = 9.3 million

Thus about 9 or 10 million dollars may be headed to Seattle.

dan dempsey said...

About Delays:

"What is also interesting is that failure of the levy would delay further development of end of course assessments and expansion of MAP."

Levy will not delay the State's End of Course testing in High School math on the way from the state. State will also have EoCs for other courses.

The grades 3 through 8 assessments, MSPs were designed along current state standards.

The HSPE was not testing current math standards because it was a one year stop gap until EoCs arrived.

Note: Students have never been tested at the high school level on the math standards released in 2008.

Dorothy Neville said...

KAY: the 12.5 million dollar grant for many of the things in the teachers contract – which could lower the 19 million to 8 if we work it right with the grant monies....leaving $25 million over next 3 years for the “capitol things” I listed. The legislature has made it very clear that these temporary supplemental budgets should not be used to back fill as they will not be sustained.

ME: Sorry, Kay, but this is just plain wrong. I don't think you understand the TIF grant well enough. I also think you underestimate the Central Administration's ability to deceive, to waste money, to push their agendas at all cost.

The TIF grant is for FIVE years, covers 34 schools. They plan to spend the first year simply planning (and negotiating with teachers). Typical Grant Administration costs are 5% of a grant, but for Seattle, it's more like 10% of the grant. Let's be nice and say 5% for grant administration. Let's also be nice and say that the first year, they cover all that "study and planning" solely with their grant administration baseline. That leaves $11.88 M to cover the costs of the TIF over four years for 34 schools. That means it is less than $3M annually available available from the TIF grant.

Assume that the $19M needed for the CBA is equally distributed over 88 schools (rough estimate) means that 34/88, or 38% of the schools could use TIF grant to cover CBA costs. Well 38% of $19M is $7.2 M. So this is actually the maximum of the TIF grant that could be used to cover the CBA costs. But really, they will only have $3M a year, starting in year two, or $6M total of TIF to use for the CBA

We know that the TIF money will not be used strictly in accordance with the CBA.

So the BEST you can say is that if Central Administration treats the TIF fund the way you would like, it would pay for at most $6M of the $19M of the levy that is earmarked for CBA. And you and I both know realistically that that is not going to happen. Yes, the TIF grant will free up some of the supplemental levy money for other uses, but TIF will free up somewhat less than $6 million of the levy, assuming th levy passes.

It requires using value-added measures, but the CBA has that very vaguely described, saying that together the district and SEA will agree upon a reliable, transparent and valid algorithm. (But research shows that value added measures are neither reliable nor valid.) And the CBA does not require teachers to be evaluated using value added measures, just that teachers who get some low score on this as-of-yet-to-be-determined measure will get extra observations and scrutiny from their principal. So, more negotiating will be needed.

And, do not forget that the TIF grant requires the district to maintain the program and expand it to the entire district after year five, using our own funds. How are we going to pay for that? Not just how are we going to pay for that, but that the grant required a plan for financial sustainability. Given the audits that showed them out of compliance with every major state and federal grant, that the financial controls are so poor we have no reliable financial picture of the district, and now the state is warning us of low funding for years, how possibly could the district have provided such a plan?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you, Dan, that was helpful.

Spot on, Dorothy.

Dorothy Neville said...

League of Women Voters takes no position on the Levy!

See page 13 here.

Seattle School District 1 Proposition 1: No Position
The League of Women Voters of Seattle endorsed the February 2010 Seattle Public Schools Levies and at the time expressed concerns about authentic engagement with the community and the continuing lack of adequate state funding. With the 2010 audit results this summer, we are additionally concerned about accountability to the voters and responsible, transparent use of the Seattle Public School’s resources for the benefit of children in the classroom. While our positions state that “all levels of government are responsible for schools” we also “oppose the use of special levies and private funding for basic services, operation and maintenance.” It is for these reasons that we are taking no position on the current levy.

Parent of Two said...

Explain to me again, I'm slow on the up-take, how the failure of this supplemental levy will halt expansion of MAP. Is this an accurate picture? I know Bill Gates' money is paying for MAP at the moment. Will this money dry up and will there therefore be no more money for MAP w/o this levy? That seems reason enough to vote against it.

Dorothy Neville said...

Expansion of MAP and the levy. See HERE

Having TIF come through does affect this, but we do not know how, because we have no transparency from the district in the past and because the TIF grant was built on lies (that we were in such chaotic state before MGJ got here, that the performance management system is running and successful, that we have strong local and educator support for the tenets of TIF and that we have a funding sustainability plan.)

Note that there's 3.4 million dollars for implementation of the "evaluation system." This is where the MAP expansion fits in. It's an expansion of the MAP and the implementation of the algorithm and all the data collection needed so that every applicable teacher will be measured student growth using test scores.

The actual language "MAP expansion" as tied to the levy or other funds becoming available is in the MOU on the last page of the CBA.

"Under such circumstances, the following will be delayed:
 Further development of end of course assessments;
 Expansion of MAP"

Hélène said...

I'm taking a ~50% pay cut to teach so a 1% raise isn't really something I'm interested in fighting for. If I were motivated by money I would be doing something else and I think that's true for a lot of instructors.

On the other hand, not having to deal with the disruption and cryptic, unusable (so far) data of MAP testing would make our work lives better...

dan dempsey said...

Spot on Helene.

How is it the District prioritizes expensive useless stuff that making teaching more difficult?

wsnorth said...

KSB is our best director by far and our best chance to take back some control of this district. She is energetic, intelligent, and caring. So, let's go that extra mile to politely work with her to arrive at consensus understanding.

Sahila said...

wsnorth.... you want to place all your trust in what one director can achieve???? When all the others have fallen under the Broad spell?

Wow....

Charlie Mas said...

I agree with wsnorth that we should take care not to alienate the few thoughtful independent people in the district leadership.

How anyone could interpret that sound counsel as placing all of our faith in a single person is a leap I cannot follow.

emeraldkity said...

Wait- so Marine Biology @ Garfield, a class that should have been replicated throughout the district given the importance of the marine environment to the health & wealth of our region-

This class will earn college credit at the UW in Seattle, but it won't earn Science credit in SPS?


Because all the schools must be Aligned/ drug down to same level?

Yah- that will help reduce the Achievement Gap- take away support for the engaging and challenging courses so that more kids drop out.