The reality is that our country, our state, our city are in a recession that has gone on now for at least two years. We are moving at a glacial pace out of it. Our district tells us over and over there is not enough money for all we need to do to the point where we laid off teachers and counselors (and other district workers) and put off planned purchases.
Now, technically, the district has marginally more money than last year, not from the state, but from increased enrollment. Any other time this might be major good news but just as money comes with those students, so do costs.
I come to an interesting article in the Saturday Seattle Times about schools districts and their budgets.
The State Legislature included a 1.9% pay cut for teachers in the state budget but the teacher contracts are all decided locally. So that means, our district is, right now, negotiating with the SEA about those cuts. Now, you may recall that we voted in a Supplemental Levy in February to pay for teacher raises negotiated in the last teachers' contract. Those were about 1% per year so the net loss to teachers would be about .9%.
What argument will the district use to get the union to budge? "The good of the district?" Lame when you consider they gave out raises this year (and last and the year before that) to administrators at headquarters. Is there something the union wants that they could extract for the loss of the raise? I don't know - teachers, you tell me.
As I reported earlier, some districts have already settled and recalled laid off teachers (finding/cutting funding elsewhere).
What really struck me from this article, however, was this (emphasis mine):
"I haven't heard of any districts that are in financial jeopardy this year," said Marie Sullivan of the Washington State School Directors Association. She noted the Legislature put $13 million in an emergency fund for school districts and no one has applied for these dollars.
"It sounds like districts are feeling they kind of can weather the storm," she said, adding that everyone is wary about next year.
Not ONE district has asked for money?
I'll have to call and ask about the parameters around those dollars but if they are available, why not ask for some? Is it a one-year ask and districts are waiting to see what happens next year?
But our district has committed to some very expensive items. For example, STEM at Cleveland is not coming cheap and the district seems to refuse to consider that there could be other ways to have the school without every kid having a laptop. (NYC has had magnet science high schools for years - with good results - without handing out a laptop to every student.) Or, why don't we have stronger relationships with science/technology companies and departments in universities to perhaps get their help?
What other costs are hurting us when we can least afford it? Paying out two top administrators' salaries (MGJ and Don Kennedy). Giving out raises. Closing schools and then reopening those schools plus other mothballed buildings (in poor condition). (No, those funds could not be used for the General Fund but we are whittling money away in BOTH our funds.) Consultants every which way you look.
It is very hard to know what the real and true state of our district's finances are. I don't completely believe what we have been told because we never see a total costs and expenditures budget. I remember, years back, that a former Board member and his wife gave the district a $1M gift. I asked and asked what the money was used for and was told it went into the black hole that is the General Fund. I never found out where it got directed.