Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Looking at the Seattle Schools' 2015-2016 Budget

The Board is having a multi-topic Work Session today with an update on the Families and Education levy, more Board policies and a  presentation to the Board on the 2025-2016 Budget.

 I don't know if it's because I don't read many budgets but I am finding this presentation documentation hard to understand.

 It appears - on page 10 - that the district is trying to pay for "strategic initiatives/grant backfill" to about $5M.  Seems like a lot given that's money that is NOT going to the classroom. 

What is also troubling on that same page - if I am reading it correctly - is that the district says the "materials, supplies, operating costs" are at $20.3M.  And yet, they will get $16.5M from the Operations levy.  Obviously the two numbers are not equal but the problem for me is that the district gets money from the state for operations.  If there is state money plus local levy money, how are they not able to corral the $20M?

They say they have a budget gap of almost $11M.

And look at page 16?  Guess who is in a  little "cloud" as a resource?  PTA.  Yes, folks, the district is counting PTA funding as a resource (and apparently, a continuing one).  THIS IS WRONG.  That kind of thinking is magical thinking because there is no guarantee any given PTA can continue its funding and/or might not change their minds about it.

Page 17, there's a chart showing WSS budgeting from 2011-2012 to next school year.  What is not explained is whether the growth in spending - with the two largest areas of Basic Ed and Sped - is based on growing numbers of students OR more spending per student or both.  Again, am I reading this chart wrong? 

Page 19, "completed pre-mitigation adjustments for unique program needs - 33 teachers" - which schools and what needs? 

Also on page 19, "25 FTE for K-1 CSR."  Anybody? 

Page 22, under FY 2015-2016 Capital Revenue, there's this:

Pending Legislative Ask for Magnolia ($23M), EC Hugh ($5M), MS ($5M)

So we are reopening Magnolia, EC Hughes and something else if the Legislature gives the district the money?   This is roughly $32M.

Page 23, they are taking $3M out of BEX IV for "major preventative maintenance transfer."  I'll have to go back and look but I don't recall this being in BEX IV.  Again, preventative maintenance should come out of the General Fund.   (I looked, this isn't in BEX IV.)

I also see a nearly $3M Muir green project.  I looked at the BEX IV list - this is not there.  I'm all for green projects but not when there is so much deferred maintenance to be done.

There are also supporting documents like the Summary of 2013-2014 General Fund Expenditures by State Activity that makes for interesting reading.

Guess who spends a lot less on professional development?  Seattle. 

And centered in a lot of white space on its own page is this one - Executive Management.  Yes, it has grown both for "all management FTE" and "executive management FTE."  Overall, it's gone from 16.7% to 23.1% as a "percent of total management." 


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's very wrong that they consider PTA to be a standing funding pipeline for schools. Of course, we've all known that they rely on this money--in our elementary school, the PTA funded some core classes, as well as field trips, and basic classroom supplies--but It's still horrible to see it there in black and white.

Also, did you read the article in the Seattle Times today (3/25) about the 20,000 parent signatures that were gathered by the (apparently pro-CC) Stand For Children organization in favor of a bill that would require student test scores in evaluating public-school teachers? Ack.

Roosevelt Mom

Anonymous said...

This is RIDICULOUS. 50% increase in executive salary outlay in 3 years.


Meg said...

so... from the timeline, it looks to me as if central administration staff get an opportunity to SAY what they need in terms of resources and staffing in order to perform well (insert snark here).

But schools get told what they'll get?

It seems a wee bit backwards. And by "a wee bit" I mean COMPLETELY.

If SPS admin is committed to serving students, wouldn't they figure out what a skeleton administration needs, get students what they need, and then work w/ the leftovers? Instead of growing from 108-ish management positions in admin to 135?

Maybe it's just me.

Lynn said...

K-1 CSR = Classroom Size Reduction. This applies to high poverty schools.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the levy update presentation, I'm confused by the positive academic growth slides (p.22-26). They say the figures show that the levy schools have a higher percentage of students achieving typical or higher growth (implying levy funding success), but since the various cohorts only started these levy-funded projects/services 1-2 years ago (2012/13 or 2013/14), the first couple years of the trend lines seem to actually reflect test scores PRIOR to the levy-funded activities. If that's the case, these were already higher performing groups to start with, so I'm not really seeing how it's such a positive outcome. (Most seem to have just maintained the preexisting lead, while HS seems to have lost its edge.) I feel like I must be misinterpreting these figures. Anyone able to help shed some light?


Anonymous said...

The BEX IV Levy includes Lincoln High Modernization for $182,640. It that a typo (the grand total is based on that number)?


Anonymous said...

So wait - that Mgmt FTE thing is utterly ridiculous! Since the 2012/2013 school year they've added
28.5 Management level FTEs???? And 9.6 of those are at the "Executive Management" level???????? And they wonder why they have a budget shortfall and have to depend on PTAs to pick up slack! Classrooms first! Bldg safety first! Remember those kids you are supposed to be serving?
ack this place!!!


Lynn said...


That $182K amount is the projected 2015-16 spending on Lincoln. I'm sure there will be more work to be done as we get closer to reopening it as a high school.

Anonymous said...

If my son's school is any indication, be prepared for total chaos, come September.

Our budget projections for next year had us at 23 more kids's than what we were allocated for this year, but the school received no additional teacher allocation.

The school has been growing steadily since the NSAP, and we have a small 5th grade class least it is small compared to the number of kindergartners, 1st graders, etc...

Should be fun!

We added a kindergarten classroom late last summer, and the new kindergarten teacher still hasn't received all her curriculum from the District. It took until about winter break to get the Math In Focus materials for her class.

They really seem to be skimping on the school support end of the budget. I can see not wanting to pull teachers in October, like they did this year, but there is a difference in being conservative and common sense.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

Yes, on page 10, that does appear to be the case re: Grants/Strategic Initiatives. Also, what do you suppose "Onetime Funds" means - that has a shortfall of $4.6 million (pg 10).


Anonymous said...

"So we are reopening Magnolia, EC Hughes and something else if the Legislature gives the district the money? This is roughly $32M."

I believe the "something else" is improvements to middle school buildings "in distress." The presentation says 4 middle schools.

- North-end Mom

F&E 2011 said...

I was reading the 2011 Family and Education Levy document from 2011. The city demands that SPS provide "rent free space in all school buildings for preschool program" and "programs once established will not be displaced."

The city had reserved $60M of Family and Education Levy for prek. Why did the city need the Gates grant for Bailey Gatzert? All it needs is already established in the Family and Education levy far as I can determine.

The Family and Ed. levy wants data sharing and used the student ID number to do so. There is also language related to elimination of teacher tenure, Common Core is Required and a p-3 focus.

mirmac1 said...

I've found these budget presentations to be deliberately opaque. Does talking fast, as Sebring does, make it more intellectually challenging? No. Its just smoke and mirrors.

Previous top administrators (and board members like KSB) have noted that using a "gap analysis" is a crude, simplistic way of building budgets. Many of us have advocated using zero-based budgeting (it doesn't have to happen every year, if it clear that the changes - in top FTE for example - show obvious value-added etc). Zero-based budgeting requires EVERY department and EVERY manager to demonstrate WHY they need this monye. Using gap analysis means they don't have to do that. They just have to show "well, we did this last year and we project expanding $$$ on this same useless thing next year so there's our gap!" All this under Sherry Carr's oversight. Well, as long as SPS can use this as a hammer against our labor "partners"....

Grant backfill reflects the district's past mistakes of getting roped into unsustainable new shiny things. By mixing it up with the "Charles Wright for Supt" fund, SPS gets to make more screw ups. And Wright is in no way accountable. He can sit back and complain that the board won't let him do his job (and I use that term loosely).

Sigh said...

I've noted that the district is adding 66.6 FTE to WSS. 14.5 FTE is going toward "Special Programs". What are these programs? Where is Meg!

MGJ brought in the TIF grant which was valued around $13M and this grant is probably due to expire. The funding was used to create the Academic Warehouse which links test scores to teacher evaluations, career ladders etc. How much of the budget is going to keep this useless warehouse alive?

The budget is absolutely crude. There should be a document that indicates the amount of funding each department is receiving. How much funding is going to the Department of Research, Evaluation and Assessment?

I want to know: How much of a budget are assist. superintendent's given? Millions? This question needs to be asked and answered.

Lastly, it is time to quit flying Harium Martin Morris around the country and there are multiple high level administrators that have payscales and compensation packages that equsl $200K.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac, I'm not worried about the "Charles Wright for Supt" fund. He's working hard to solidify his kingdom of bean counters, but it's not sustainable when schools start failing right and left because he can't fund them properly (unless he wanted to then turn us into a charter district in the end, which is entirely possible). Since he sends his own child to a private school, I can't imagine he could ever have the moral authority for the top job.

Other People

Eric M said...

Parents pay for All materials for all science classes at Ballard High School. The school district pays for the heat and lights, copies, white paper, and some maintenance, and keeps the computers & network running.

Every piece of string, roll of tape, lens, battery, fish, pulley, spring and beaker is paid for directly by parent donation, or through PTSA fundraising efforts, or by teachers buying the things they need out of our own pockets.

This amounts to about $2500 outlay per year per full time science teacher.

I have great gratitude for the generosity of most parents, and the Ballard PTSA. The situation would be completely untenable without this.

Less impressed with a workplace situation that sets up employees who are committed to their work to pay for basics out of pocket.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will have updates on the Work Session soon. I can only say I don't hold out a lot of hope for how things are run.

What's weird is that the amount per pupil is going up (since 2011 and one Board member said "goodie" without realizing that the money does not appear to be going into classrooms and schools).

Anonymous said...

Those charts about general fund expenditures per pupil are indeed interesting - how does the admin number go up by 28.5 FTEs and yet, still magically equal 5% of total expenditures?????

That's some pretty fancy coding there!