Thursday, January 12, 2017

Watching the Work Sessions

Here is a link to last night's Work Sessions on the budget for 2017-2018 and the SAP Transition Plan for 2017-2018. 

I note that the microphone for Geary/Burke did not appear to work as well as the others so if the sound from them is different, that's why. 


kellie said...

I attended both work sessions and here are a few observations.

The $74M budget gap is largest in institutional memory. It is far larger than the Olschefski "financial crisis" in 2002 that triggered school closures. It is far larger than any of the budget gaps during the recession. It is even larger than the "savings" from rounds of school closures.

It is really important to get a sense of scope and size of this problem. Budget Gaps of this size, cause districts to close schools, regardless of their capacity situation, because it is often the only way to trim that much from the budget.

I have attended budget meetings like this during all of these fiscal crises and this meeting was dramatically different. There are two competing things happening that is creating some odd outcomes.

1) This crisis is predominantly artificial. The recession and the drastic cuts to the education budget and the 2002 accounting problem were very tangible and measurable and people responded with an appropriate mix of outrage and somber rollup-your-sleeves and cut critical services.

This crisis is potentially a crisis of timing. $30M in levy money is in limbo. There is another $20M in the Governors budget for Seattle Schools that is likely. As well as another $12M in COLA money that is the absolute minimum that the legislature will need to add to the budget.

So this means that there is a strong possibility that the entire $74M gap could be restored and therefore there was this sense of "academic exercise" in the room.

2) This is NOT an academic exercise. There are decisions being made that will have drastic impacts on the 2017 classroom experience.

These impacts will be felt, even if the money is restored. Because WHEN not IF the money is restored will determine the extent of the damage.

I think the cognitive dissonance of "yes, this is a manufactured and artificial crisis" and "yes, we do need to balance the budget in January with what we have" is more than most reasonable people can manage.

kellie said...

Here is a little more detail on why the TIMING matters to the experience in the buildings next year.

Seattle has been experiencing year over year enrollment growth and this trend is expected to continue. This means that every year, we need to employ MORE teachers and building staff than the prior year.

Seattle School has a very young average teacher age right now. This means that we already hire a lot of first year teachers to meet this growth.

We also have unfilled teacher positions every year and unfilled Sub positions every day. This is especially true for Sped, ELL, World Language and Math.

Folks were pretty happy (appropriately so) that the RIFs of front line staff would be mostly handled by "natural attrition" and that there are enough internal jobs remaining that nearly all staff will be "displaced" rather than truly let go.

That is a good thing. However, this skips over that part that we are already struggling to hire qualified teachers and building staff in a good year. There was this general feeling that "when the money is restored, we will start to hire back" that did not really resonate with the reality of just how hard it has been to hire staff in a good year.

In a good year, we lose many of our new staff to surrounding districts who are able to make hiring commitments earlier in the year than SPS and we struggle to get enough bodies to replace attrition, let alone growth.

Both this year and last year, SPS did a national search for Spanish teachers in November and December because of unfilled Spanish teaching positions.

Everyone is confident that MOST of the money will be restored. However, WHEN the money is restored has the greatest impact on teacher retention and hiring. This budget crisis has already done significant damage to our ability to hire for next year, simply by authorizing the RIFs.. The extent of that damage grows the longer this drags on. If it drags on to the point where RIFs are implemented, it typically takes years to repair the damage done to the ability to hire.