As a preamble to what I would suggest the district should cut, I make these disclaimers:
- I have looked through all the documents available for 2011-2012 budgeting. They do not follow in a real and coherent fashion so it is not really possible to discern exactly what staff is saying. There was an initial listing, followed by another presentation and the Strategic Plan Budget Planning Tool followed by the Budget Balancing tool. I can't tell if the planning tools overlap. I know that the Board pushed back on some initial ideas (like selling the radio station at Hale) so naturally it fell to staff to look at other areas.
- Staff is right about the difficulty of planning when there are unknowns looming. What will the economic update forecast be on March 17th? What will labor partners have to say?
- I am going with the idea that things add up. So, to me, anything we save over $50k is worth it.
- Keep in mind that there is always the option of stating a "cut" as a temporary suspension or a reduction. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. I know; you worry if something is even suspended for a year or two or three, it may be lost forever. That's a possibility but if the correct wording is used then it will be more difficult for the district to not follow-thru later on.
- A bit of a wild card here is the Families and Education levy. It has been stated what the levy goals are (ELL students, schools with highest level of academic need, children 5 and younger likely to attend those schools, students with highest level of academic need, etc.) BUT we will not know until AFTER the levy passes what form these will take. Can we cut from Early Education in SPS' budget hoping that the F&E levy can take up some of that? The red for hold in the planning tools seems to indicate the district may think that way as well.
- I have no crystal ball. I base these ideas on what I believe is the current state of our district (which is not a steady state to start with). It is frustrating to know that time and money is being spent on audit response. Not because they shouldn't but because the district knew, in many cases, exactly what they should have been doing and didn't do it. Eliminating the audit response work isn't listed anywhere and I give them credit for that. But we shouldn't even be having to put out that much effort when the district knew better.
- I CONCUR with every red (stop) item in the Strategic Planning Tool with a couple of exceptions. One, SBOC. The hole digging has got to stop and the district has to act in a responsible manner and keep their promises to this community. Two, there are two small Family Engagement areas that I feel worth supporting. One is for $40k (outreach) and one is for $23k (for translations). I think all three of these are important to keep the lines of communication open between our non-English speaking families and SPS.
- Last, I won't be putting forth a total worth of $36.6M to cover the gap. I am just putting forward the ideas that I think will do the least harm to the classroom and to any forward motion for initiatives already in progress.
The district is saying they could cut between $6-12M. If they went high, that would be a third of the gap right there. This is in their green zone so I say go for it. Add into that their idea of Central Mid-Year Reductions that would happen this school year at $700k to $1.4M.
Meg Diaz has now pointed out, in vivid detail, that there were NOT anywhere close to 85 Central Administration jobs cut last year. So while any cuts are painful, it won't be as if they cut 85 last year and are cutting even deeper this year.
The district has given no real nod in any direction here except that they recommend:
- "transportation changes",
- eliminating summer school,
- evening school, and
- reducing custodial support (but at the same time they say they are looking at outsourcing that).
We currently have math, reading and curriculum coaches and data coaches (and I believe there's also to be science coaches). I know that we have both school-based coaches (who are there all day) and traveling coaches.
I recommend that we eliminate at-school coaches of all kinds.
I recommend that we cut the number of coaches, overall, by half.
If any of them are being paid with grants, great and we fund only those positions.
I'm thinking this might be 10-15 people. Staff recommends most of this at green or yellow.
It's funny but when the whole Brave New World brouhaha happened, there were a number of local pundits who scoffed at all this "professional development". "You mean you need teachers for teachers? Don't they already know how to teach?" It was a bit astonishing that so many educated people believe teaching is a static profession.
However, I think between regular professional development and the coaches, it's overkill. It's using money we don't have to spend. The coaches do NOT work directly with students. Most important, there is no real evidence - read, DATA - to tell us it works. Director DeBell was pretty clear at an Audit&Finance meeting last year, that if we had all these coaches, he wanted to see data-driven reasoning to keep them. There has been nothing of substance so far. Hence, reduce the number of coaches.
Any other cuts should come from the Executive Management team which has gone from 8.6 FTE last year to 15.5 this year. Some of these may be grant-based but it seems the new district policy is to keep them on after the grants end.
Strategic Planning Tool Items
College and Career Readiness #9
I would put off creating the IB program at RBHS. It's a savings of $150k. I know RBHS needs help but frankly, I think they need more direct supports at this point than a new program. Work has already started this year for IB at RBHS so this is putting the rest of the work on hold. To keep the work going through 2011-2012, the district could take RBHS teachers, on professional development days to either Chief Sealth or Ingraham to do one-on-one work with those IB teachers.
Data and Assessments #14 (as well as in the Budget Planning Tool)
There are several instances where the district is proposing to use capital funds. I find this disturbing and I wonder if it might come back and haunt the district in a future audit. (Keep in mind, the audit in July had a number of places where the district said it thought it was okay to use money in a certain manner and got their hand slapped by the SAO.) One place is where the district has already used (under the heading of "technology") $368,292 from capital funds for implementation of MAP and wants to use another $500K from capital for the MAP license.
The district also proposes to transfer between $400k-$1.1M under "technology" from the capital fund and yet didn't explain exactly where that would go. There should be NO movement of funds without a direct line of what those funds would be used for. There is also yet another instance of where the district wanted to charge an HR cost over to capital. I think this is folly.
We need to cut back on MAP testing now, whether it saves us money or not. It is costing so much and I do not believe there is evidence to continue 3x a year testing.
Data and Assessments #15
This would $410k. We had a Gates grant to cover this year's cost ($722k) but we need to suspend this. This is also marked as red (hold) by staff and I agree.
School Performance Framework #28
I recommend cutting this at least in half. It is budgeted at $8.2M; staff recommends funding it at this year's level, $2.6M. I concur with this.
Leadership Development #46/47
I concur with staff on holding off on these until there is funding. That is about $400 and $100k.
Student Assignment #48
I call this one out even though staff puts it on hold (which I agree with). It's for hiring yet ANOTHER consultant to figure out...functional capacity at our schools. What? How many times is this going to be done? I'm sorry, pick a number and stop.
Academic Assurances #53
With great sadness, I recommend to put this one on hold. It's for $432k for new music instruments and PD for those teachers. Again, a suspension for now.
Strategic Planning Department #56
This is stated at $555k and staff recommends $277K. I would recommend dropping it to $150k. If every other department is going to lose staff (and this one is unlikely to as many of its staff is paid through grants), they can run on bare bones like everyone else.
From the Budget Balancing Tool:
Eliminate dual principal at RBHS. Yes, I agree but I also say cut the second principal at Bryant and replace with a less costly vice-principal and/or head teacher. Cost savings - between $50-75k. Why this can't be done is a mystery that needs daylighting.
Eliminate Summer School - I strongly disagree with this one at $200-400k. It seems to fly in the face of all reason AND lowers the supports for struggling students.
Reduce Custodial Support and look at outsourcing - One, the district is already at every third day. Most districts try for every other day. If it goes lower to every fourth day, you'll notice it. Two, I think this unacceptable for elementary schools. Three Staff could not answer the Board's query on whether this would be for the entire school OR just the public areas. (Meaning clean the bathrooms and halls/lobby and not the classrooms.) As for outsourcing, well, we do negotiate with a union so I would suspect they might have something to say.
Transportation Changes - between $3M-4M but I have no idea what this would mean. Dorothy, was there discussion on this I missed? It was high on the budget survey list of acceptable cuts.
Across the Board Non-Instructional Furlough - $1.3M - $4M. I concur with this one as many other governmental agencies have done this to save money. The range may be for 1-2 days.
Eliminate Medical Retiree Subsidy - $3.8M. That's a lot of money but I'm not sure what this means to those involved. I have a call in to figure it out.
Reduce WSS by K-4 revenue loss amount - $5.2-$6.8 - The most obvious hit to schools. This is a moving target as we don't know what the state funding will be. Again, we need to cut as much from every other non-school area before we get here.
Eliminate 1x1.0 full day K in WSS - If this happens, it is likely that Pay for K tuition could go up next year (it is currently $207 a month). This would be a hardship for many families who are not free/reduced lunch.
Reductions in Strategic Plan and Budget Review - $500k - $1M. Have I already covered this in the Strategic Planning Tool? It's hard to say what has overlapped here but yes, I support this cut.
I would support cutting/reducing funding for athletics even if the Board doesn't. I know that it helps kids stay in school BUT the core mission in our district is academics. There are rec leagues and intramural sports to hold kids over a couple of years.