Thursday, December 17, 2009

Budget and Transition Plan (Part 1)

I attended the Budget/Transition Board Work Session yesterday (well, 4 hours of it before I left). I had seen they were going to discuss the Budget and, as usual, the Board bit off more than it could chew in one sitting. The budget portion went long and the Transition Plan got started late. I regret I couldn't stay for all the Transition Plan (and yes, grandfathering was at the end). However, I saw several familiar faces there and I know they will fill in.

As it turns out, it was good to hear about the upcoming budget issues because my belief is that the budget and the new SAP are on a collision course. We are headed for a huge budget crisis of proportions we haven't seen since the Olchefske era. We are losing almost $24M from state money alone. The gap as of yesterday was $35M BUT, if they want to enact the new SAP, it could rise to nearly $45M between the new SAP and what is called Budget Enhancements. They are likely to dip into reserves again. This is going to last probably for at least 2 years. Something's gotta give and here's what it is.

Entire programs may be cut. Get ready because we may see that or at least a freeze on certain activities.

(Peter Maier suggested that they could not get the budget balanced without it. Given the numbers they are talking about and what they want/believe they can get done, I'm not sure what else could happen.) As Director Patu said at the Board meeting, in her charmingly blunt manner, when there is no new money, the district takes money from one thing to serve another. There is NO new money.

We are in real trouble. And, there is not going to be any real public engagement about it. What Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said would happen is that each principal would go to his or her community, via their PTA, and let them know that tough choices are coming. There would be no regional meetings about this issue.

What she forgets is that not all principals have the follow-thru nor does every school have a PTA. You, yes YOU, must go to your PTA and your principal and have the school's budget on the agenda in January. All the parents at every single school need to know what this means to their community.

Mr. Kennedy handed out a couple of things and I would suppose the Powerpoint will be at the website at some point but there was also a document called "Framing Seattle Public Schools' Budget" which was chock-a-block full of all sorts of data. (I need Meg Diaz to read this thing because I'm not sure I get all of it.) There was an interesting chart showing enrollment and budgeted staff that Mr. Kennedy said showed that as enrollment had been decreasing, staffing had been steady or increasing. He said with higher enrollment figures this is now reversing (but you have to wonder why this happened at all).

Budget Highlights:

This is costed out at about $5,575,794 (this does not include the capital costs of reopening the 5 schools which is roughly $50M to come from BTA III). The first year is about $855,000 for new libraries at some schools, technology and opening costs for 5 new schools. Also linked to this first year - and this is fairly big - is that TOPS and Salmon Bay would go to the Tier 1 transportation time like all other K-8s. They made the claim that leaving them in Tier 2 times would cost even more next year. Michael said this seemed to be less about the new SAP and more a continuation of what they started in adjusting transportation times earlier this year. (Interestingly, this was noted in the Transition Plan that it could be a temporary 2-year change for TOPS and Salmon Bay but not noted here. I wasn't there for that part of the Transition Plan - anyone? What did Tracy say?)

Then there is a category called "Academic Assurances" at $3.1M which includes Advanced Learning (both for professional development, curriculum, backfill from state reductions, Special Ed FTE, CTE FTE, ELL resource room and music enhancements at middle and high school.

Dr. Enfield said these things are crucial to fulfilling the promise of good schools everywhere. She said that ALO will expand to 5 new sites and Spectrum to 4 new sites (with every middle school having it). She said that the professional development was necessary because she constantly heard that "Spectrum isn't Spectrum isn't Spectrum" from school to school. Also interesting is the directive that all high schools would have at least one AP or IB course "offered in each core content area in all comprehensive high schools (English, Math, Science and History). (Note: this does not mean ONLY 4 but they have to have at least one in each core area. Currently, for example, Roosevelt's LA department won't teach a stand-alone AP English course and Hale's History department won't teach a stand-alone AP History course. I would suspect that having it as an add-on won't fulfill this requirement but I'll have to ask Dr. Enfield.)

The music thing is great to hear because they want to "strengthen existing programs while creating greater equity and access across schools". Foundational courses would include concert, marching and jazz, orchestra and choir.

They also put numbers to costs for some programs. Montessori costs $74,500 to start up and International School costs are $115,000 in planning for year 1 and $75,000 implementation for year 2.

Also under NSAP costs is STEM at $1.5M (note that is a start-up cost although oddly they said it was for computers which is under Technology in BTA III).

They left the Transition Costs a blank but Sherry Carr (and then Michael) were not having it. Sherry wanted a placeholder number for that category. Mr. Kennedy agreed to do so.

Budget Enhancements

This was a third cost that adds to the shortfall. It includes textbooks for high school Social Studies and Science and K-5 music. It also includes professional leadership development, misc. program enhancements (at $250,000 that Mr. Kennedy zoomed right through but I didn't miss his speed so I'm a little suspicious at what this is), adoption committee work and more textbooks for the new schools. This pot sits at just under $5M.

Solutions (early stage work from staff)
  • furloughs for non-school staff
  • central reductions of staff
  • WSS cuts
  • freeze on purchases and contracts
  • shifts to grant funding
  • translation efficiencies (this at $1M)
  • non-essential hiring freeze
  • increased revenue ($2M - I assume from enrollment)
  • other cost savings (to be gone over with the Finance Committee)
  • elimination of programs
There was then a couple of pages that I assume were because of Meg Diaz' work. One was about the budgeted coaching positions at 116.5 FTE (full-time employee) and a cost of $11M. It was pointed out it wasn't just for coaches but for STAR and consulting teachers as well. Michael said that he thought they were trying to fund all the coaches from grant dollars and not baseline. I don't think Mr. Kennedy liked that statement. Additionally, there was a Central Administration costs comparsion from '09 to '10. It shows it is down by 12%.

My Notes:
  • there was a somewhat large sum under Board of $2.3M which Michael asked them to explain as the Board has nothing like that to spend. It turned out to be for the Board office, election costs, contractual/legal services and state auditor costs. The Board has little to do with most of this spending.
  • Betty asked the most charmingly naive questions throughout both presentations. I am trying to be generous here but she seems over her head. Her first question was why we spend so much on transportation. It was explained that we had a choice system that made us have to transport many students far from home but the new plan would, hopefully, bring them closer.
  • Peter Maier asked about bus times and the head of Transportation couldn't even tell him correctly off the top of his head which I thought was odd.
  • When discussing Special Ed and inclusion, Betty questioned the wisdom of putting some kids with behavior problems in classrooms but Susan Enfield said that they had supports in place.
  • Betty asked the rest of the Board, "Well, what are we going to do about this deficit?" It was quite odd as they were getting to discussing options. She seemingly couldn't quite follow along with the conversation. (That said, this was the first time any of them were seeing this so trying to read and listen and comprehend is tough.)
  • there was talk of prioritizing text adoptions because of the costs
Board suggestions for cuts
  • district travel
  • elementary counselors
  • security
  • see if overlap between translation services and bilingual IAs does exist
  • standardizing of costs for full-day K charges
  • furloughs for central staff
  • salary freezes/reductions
  • delay in textbook adoptions
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did say something interesting at one point about costs for Montessori and International schools, saying Options schools have costs. But, international schools aren't Option schools so was that a slip of the tongue?

All the directors seem firmly against any teacher cuts. Kay encouraged early retirement offers, online texts and a freeze on travel. She also worried over fresh food at schools but that train is way gone.

Michael, as usual, had the broad picture. He said we were the best funded district in the state and yet we spend a lot. We spend more on teaching costs and professional development. (I thought about a freeze on professional development for a couple of years but one person told me they thought it was contractual. Well, the teachers have a new contract coming up - why not freeze it for a couple of years if it serves everyone's interests?) He also noted that we have a line item of $31M for supervision of teachers that is not principals. (He's right - way too much money.) He also said that Washington State has one of the most progressive job share laws in the country and we should use this as an opportunity to restructure.

Betty ended the discussion with asking if we could postpone the new SAP in light of the deficit.

All of this is absolutely scary. But you don't find $35-45M in a cookie jar or under a mattress. Hard times indeed.


zb said...

Thanks Melissa. No comments 'cause I still need to process it all. Scary times. As others have said, part of the hope is that detailed discussions of where budgets are spent and where they will need to be cut will help people decide if they want to support increased revenues.

SolvayGirl said...

I hate to see them drop elementary counselors. Ours at Graham Hill was critical in helping all of the students deal with conflict both on the playground and in the classroom. And his work with kids with more serious issues was so valuable.

Maureen said...

Wow Melissa, excellent notes!

I have a few small things to add. Throughout the night, deBell was consistent in having Don Kennedy clarify when a 'teaching' or 'instructional support' budget category contained coaches and when it did not. (Meg's legacy I would think).

Increased revenue of $2Million is part of the proposed solution, DK attributed it to :food service P increases, Pay for Play and maximizing state and Fed reimbursements (it sounds like they have done a terrible job with this in the past--all that money foregone!). It wasn't attributed to enrollment increases.

"WSS Cuts" ($6M on slide 17 "Proposed Solutions") ARE basically teacher cuts--these are the decisions that the principals will have to make, so as Melissa says, make sure your PTSA or Site Council asks about the building budget by January.

The TOPS/Salmon Bay start time thing was oddly misplaced here--it belonged in the Transition discussion, when it appeared there it made a lot more sense.

Central Mom said...

The superintendent was asked by the board about the plan for public engagement around the budget. The answer from MGJ is that there is ZERO plan at the central level. No special input meetings. No plan for extra online info. The reason given is that the scope of budget cuts will be too large for that kind of engagement. The plan is to inform principals who will then work with their communities.

I am glad they are looking to individual school communities to make decisions that work for their communities. But overall, this is NOT a good plan. There are principals without communications skills. There is trouble w/ central staff communicating clearly to all principals at the same time. There is the nagging suspicion that principals are going to be left to hung out to dry as the communicators of district bad news.

Either handle this publicly at the central level or stop paying the people on central staff who are supposed to be handling what could be one of the biggest issues the District has faced in a decade.

In short, "no public engagement plan" is completely unacceptable.

followthatdog said...

I'd be interested in hearing more about the budget cut discussion topic of "standardizing of costs for Full day k" Is there somewhere I can find what that is in a more detailed way?

h2o girl said...

Just received an email from the principal of Salmon Bay forwarding a letter from Don Kennedy about changing the start times. It says that it will save 2.3 million over two years. Start times would change from 9:10 to 8:20.

Personally, I would love it. Right now my kid gets home after 4:00 and when she has large homework projects that extra hour would be great - would give her a little down time before bed. But she's in 7th grade - I'm sure parents of the younger kids would not be thrilled to have them waiting for the bus at 7:20.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Follow that dog, my notes just reflect no discussion over the standardizing of full-day K charges, just the suggestion of some savings there. You might ask Steve or Sherry about that one.

Stu said...

It says that it will save 2.3 million over two years. Start times would change from 9:10 to 8:20.

This is the problem when the administration and staff use the same math books they're foisting on the kids . . . I would LOVE to see some sort of breakdown as to how this will save 2.3 million! (I would also love to see some specifics as to how many buses are running how many routes for how many kids this year and if it's translated into the projected savings from last year's proposals. Meg?)


mirmac1 said...

How can the HUGE subject of educating special education get such short shrift? Patu at least has an excuse to be ingenuous, but the others? Enfield's "oh, we have supports for that" is taken as gospel?

People, 1:93 children may have some form of autism spectrum disorder. That's alot of supports - that we don't have. And it appears from the District budget, their "inclusion" training and success is a low priority.