Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hmm, about those October Counts

Today I received a notice about the kick-off for the Seattle Schools levies via Schools First.  They also asked for money to help support and run the campaign.  But they started out saying:

Fifty-two thousand students in Seattle’s public schools need our help.

And I thought, "What? That's not the number of kids in SPS."

So I went to the district's Fast Facts and here's what it says:

2015-16 At a Glance

Total Enrollment (Oct. 2015): 53,872

Now, this was the number reported on the October count so fine but then the head of Schools First, Greg Wong, wrote this to me:
Unfortunately you will see that number again as King County Elections has already finalized the Voters Pamphlet statements. The 52,000+ came from earlier numbers that the district used when discussing the lower-than-expected enrollment at the beginning of the year. Looks like the final October count numbers rebounded quite a bit.  Good to know!  
But the 5-year projections never had 2015-2016 at 52K+.  For 2014-2015, it was 52,574 and for 2015-2016, it was 54,070.  

Why would the district give Schools First a number from last year?  Yes, if the district had "rebounded" from 52,574 to 53,872, we never would have had the unhappiness around staff adjustments this past fall. 

I'm not saying the district or Schools First did anything wrong but geez, who's on first here if they are trying to pass these levies in just about six weeks.  (I also note, per usual, Schools First is saying these are "renewals" - which they are - but both are at a higher number than before.)


Wondering said...

Should the legislature support a levy swap, would Seattle's levy dollars be dispersed through-out the state?

Charlie Mas said...

Wondering, the levy swap is entirely a matter of perspective.

My understanding of how the levy swap would work - and I want to be corrected if I have this wrong - is that the state property tax rate - all across the state - would be increased specifically for education and that local school district property tax rates would be reduced by the same amount. The net effect would be that:
property owners in districts with levies would not have any change in their property taxes
property owners in districts without levies would see an increase in their property taxes
the State would collect and distribute more education funds
districts would receive more money from the State
districts with property tax levies would get less local money, though more State money

It's unclear to me if the revenue to the district from State and local sources would be more or less, but the presumption is that districts located in a high property value areas would lose more revenue from local sources than they would gain from the State and that districts in low property value areas would get more from the State after the swap than they were getting from their local levy.

Of course this only works with property taxes. If the school district got their revenue from anything else - like a sales tax or a beverage tax - it would be exempt from the levy swap.

Melissa Westbrook said...

It's just shifting from one thing to another when we need a new revenue source. You cannot shift and cut enough to fulfill McCleary and even some of 1351. It's magical thinking.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I don't think they gave Schools First last year's numbers, but rather this year's early numbers. As you posted previously, the 10-day count (9/30) was 52,399. That was up from last year, but below the prediction; hence the chaos over proposed teacher and staff cuts.

However, it seems the enrollment numbers really shot up after that. If 53,872 is the official Octtober count, that's nearly 1500 more kids than they counted the month before. How is that possible, unless someone screwed up the earlier counts? Are we really supposed to believe that 1500 new kids showed up in October?

That number is also about 800 more than they'd projected--not 675 less, as Nyland stated when planning the cuts. So what happened? Did they keep all those teachers after all, and hire a bunch more?

If enrollment counts were 1500 off over a one-month period, such that instead of staff cuts we needed more hiring, why wasn't this a big story?

Something seems fishy. My guess is that they screwed up the early numbers, made (or at least threatened) a bunch of cuts, then quietly said oops and never publicly fessed up to the mistake.


Melissa Westbrook said...

HF, exactly. These numbers really swing all over the place.

Anonymous said...

According to the October 2015 Counts (from the P223 reports from the SPS website): (http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/Migration/General/P223_oct15.pdf) (scroll down to the end for the district-wide numbers)

Total Students: 53874
Total P223: 52324

At first glance, the "total student" count includes Preschool students (1201 students) which are not included in the P223 count, and there are probably Head Start and other part time students, as well.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

it isn't uncommon for October numbers to be substantially higher than September numbers. If you take a look on OSPI, it's pretty consistent. Funding is tied to October enrollment because it's almost always the highest enrollment for every district. If SPS made cuts based on September enrollment, then leadership did so knowing they were making cuts on a number that was lower than they would be funded at. It would be interesting to know how they planned to spend the difference.