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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Buddy, Can You Spare $6M?

(Update: This story appeared in today's online PI, complete with quotes from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. I would assume this $6M gap is valid but I think all will be revealed at tonight's budget meeting at Roosevelt at 6:30 p.m.)

The PI reports (and I use that word loosely because they again are using a UW journalism student to be their reporter) that after the district got the numbers from the Legislature, the district's budget is $6M more in the whole. This is in addition to the $25M already cut.

I have to say I am quite torn about going to the Alliance Teacher Town Hall tonight or the budget meeting at Roosevelt. Anyone planning on going to the budget meeting who might report back? The budget meetings were about trying to explain the budget process and get feedback for next year's projected cuts at $24M but I suspect now they will ask what to do about this additional $6M. (Note: the district now says these meetings are to talk about the budget gap for this year but I swear the original post at the News and Calendar section of the district's website said it was to explain the process and talk about next year. I find this happens sometimes when I read something and then it seems to morph into something else a day or so later. )

From the article:

The district representatives emphasized that $6.6 million of the $25 million in cuts came from the central administration, a reduction of 85 out of about 380 jobs. The cuts also included freezing hiring and salary step increases and raising school meal prices and athletic participation fees. The district also would use $4.4 million in reserve funds.

Olga Addae, president of the Seattle Education Association, expressed skepticism about the cuts made from central administration.

"When they say there were 85 people cut from central, 40 of those were … the lowest- paid people downtown. They didn't cut the $150,000 people who came in on grant, and part of that grant was saying we'll fund them for a year, now you get them for the rest of the time -- you have to hire them."

This is true. Some of those "cuts" are the ed director positions who are going to be rehired and I think Ms. Addae is alluding to the Broad residents. I have asked if they are to be permanent hires but alas, no answer yet.

Interestingly, Duggan Harman, the district's executive director for finance, said the position cuts happened "all the way up to the superintendent's cabinet." So now Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has a cabinet? That's an interesting term that, to me, usually means close advisers and not just regular staff.

One idea being floated is another, yes another, levy this one for 3-years to cover our problems in November. Sorry district, that's a really bad idea and one the City would be unhappy with because the Families and Education levy comes up in November of 2011. The Legislature, because most Seattle school levies pass, would likely shrug and not do much more to fully fund education.

No, this is not just a Seattle problem or Washington state problem. I was in Tucson recently and boy, they were chopping away. Tucson operates as several smaller districts (even though it's not a particularly large city) and one district was eliminating full-day K, raising class sizes and having an across-the-board pay cut of 2% for the entire district staff. That last one is an interesting idea because it would probably raise a lot of money and the entire district staff would feel the pain and not just those who lose their jobs.

25 comments:

seattle citizen said...

How 'bout if we had an across the board temporary pay cut, but on a sliding scale: 0% for IAs, etc, making less than 30 grand; 2% for 30-50grand, 4% for 50-80grand, 6% over 80...say, a one-year duration cut.

Unknown said...

I believe that the Roosevelt meeting tonight is to talk about the budget process and priorities for 2011-2012, so not this budget year. In a perfect world of rainbow unicorns, the District would take our input (and that of staff), weight it, and come up with a set of cuts that reflect community and teaching staff priorities.

It'll happen, right?

Eric

Meg said...

I think you're right, that's important to look around and see that SPS is far from the only district struggling with these budget cuts. But it's also not hard to look around and see other districts working to have difficult, genuine engagement so that cuts are made with community buy-in and input... while SPS does decorative engagement (I think your term for it is spot on).

The $6m "central cuts" are not all central administration cuts. In audit & finance meetings as well as the last budget workshop for the whole board, senior finance staffers made sure to point this out to the board. A number of the cut positions are people who work in schools but are deployed centrally. How many? Well, if you take a look at page 17, it looks like 56 cuts were made to central administration proper (minus the five soon-to-be rehired ed directors, and, in my opinion, minus the 5 or 6positions that were already vacant). I'm gonna guess that those 56 (ish) cuts don't add to $6.6m, but those 56 (again, -ish)cuts are the actual central administration cuts.

Obviously, this bait and switch on "central cuts" vs. "central administration" cuts annoys me to no end. It's incredibly disingenuous, and totally lacking in good faith. And, all one has to do is look at the data - we have more central administration FTEs than we did a decade ago, and less students. I do understand why central administration feels like they've made painful cuts. I do not relish people losing their jobs. Unfortunately, from the point of view of parents and schools, it feels as if the folks in central administration are only beginning to feel the pain we've been feeling for some time, and their reaction is not "oh, dear, now we realize how schools have been struggling and what we've been asking them to cope with" but instead "we're bearing an undue burden." From 2008-09 to 2009-10 while every other sector in the district shrank a bit, central administration expenses increased (and I'm being nice and not counting the ARRA money that was stuck in there).

I'm planning on going to the budget meeting, unless my babysitting falls through.

Maureen said...

About the $6million: Hasn't that money been allocated back to the schools? Someone I know saw the list of new SPS allocations after the state budget passed. I was told that some schools got as much as $87,000 returned to their budgets and the smallest allocation was $42,000. (This happened last week.)

MeganMcM posted here that her principal said that her school wasn't going to get anything, but she didn't know the details at that time, Megan, do you know any more now?

I'm hoping to make the Roosevelt meeting as well. Melissa, what would you ask if you were there? (I want to complain about the Ed Director positions and get some clarity on the transportation budget-ha.)

MoneyPenny said...

The "cabinet" has always existed. It is just what they call the executive folks like the CAO, COO, General Counsel ect. And the "cabinet" level cut was the General Counsel. Like the Ed Directors, a position sure to come back in a different form with a different person filling the role.

Melissa Westbrook said...

You know, Maureen, I was all set to answer your question but I just may go. And yes, there are district staff who read (monitor) this blog so I don't think I'll give them a heads up.

I'll probably see you there, Meg.

TechyMom said...

I wonder if this is out of date info? If they're talking about the 6 million that was put back into the budget by the legislature last week?

dan dempsey said...

uummmm.....
How does that $5,280 bonus MGJ received in a budget restricted environment look now?

... proposed by Sundquist

How about the diversion of monies originally intended to help struggling students diverted into PET projects?
... so nicely shown by Meg

How about the really big money getting pumped into Cleveland STEM option because the district is in a big hurry?

Leadership has no idea how to cut much of anything that Leadership desires no matter how irrational the desire.


How much is being spent on outside legal counsel to defend extremely poor choices made in an illegal fashion?
... Superior Court & State Supreme Court {Preg, O'Donnell, etc and in Olympia Freimund, Jackson, Tardif and who knows what other firms are currently getting paid}

Perhaps the Leadership could consider following the laws. Instead of getting sued.

Look for Special Education's failure to follow IDEA next in regard to least restrictive environment accommodations. That is next on the list of likely to be sued items.

Sure is good to have a Superintendent who was a Special Education teacher violating the Special Ed laws.

Look for some lawsuits to be filed in Federal Court next..... that is where attorney fees from the district to pay the winner's fees can be collected because the district should not be violating the law. Well at least not caught violating the law.

Megan Mc said...

Maureen, I should know more after our BLT meeting this afternoon. I have to work tonight so I won't make it to either meeting. Thanks in advance to those that are able to attend.

OT: according to NW cable news: Starting April 26, Kindergarten through fifth graders from South Shore will now go to Columbia. That is where the students went through last year until it was closed and South Shore was opened. At some point, pre-kindergartners will also go to Columbia, but that may not happen next week. The district says they have to get special licensing for 4-year-olds, which they do not have yet.

Seventh and eighth graders will go do Rainier Beach High School. They will be in a separate wing from the high schoolers.

seattle citizen said...

I really feel for the South Shore students, staff and community. This is a very hard thing for them. I wonder what other communitities might do to help them out and show support during this difficult crisis?

Bake some cupcakes?

donate a nice field trip?

ideas?

Sahila said...

Wrote this to Harium this morning... perhaps I should send it to all the Directors...

I hope you are good at that 'find the peanut under the cup' game Harium...

Have you noticed that in all the information the Staff keeps giving you, the numbers keep changing and moving around... moving targets...

How on earth can you make sensible decisions about budgets - this year and next - when you dont really have a definitive set of numbers to work with?

And after all the stuff ups coming out of finance and research and data, how can you trust any information the staff give to you now?

You need to hire Meg Diaz to unwrap this latest claim of being another $6Million in the hole...

I know its not fair that you have to go through everything with a fine tooth comb and all that, but that's your job in looking after the interests of the kids in this District...

The other thing you could do, is start demanding the truth and some professional competency from the Staff...

Oh, and firing a few of those expensive Broad people might also put some money back in the coffers and hence into the classrooms...

seattle citizen said...

OT, but digging around on the contact person for Our Schools Coalition, I found this about Karen Waters, the contact IDed on their website. They try to say they are a coalition INCLUDING the Alliance, but they are a creation of the Alliance (and their Gates money men)So she's been working for Gates, Alliance, LEV, Excellent Schools Now...Hmmm, I guess she's the go-between, and now she's the only contact person listed as the rep for the supposedly community-driven "Our Schools Coalition" Last year, she was the contact person for the NCTQ report:
From her bio on their website -
"Karen Waters, Strategies 360 Senior Vice President
Karen Waters runs Strategies 360’s education division, using her extensive knowledge of government relations, public affairs and communications to drive reform and create change.
Karen manages a wide range of clients and projects, from directing voter campaigns to crafting policy solutions at the state and federal level to implementing grassroots efforts and conducting media outreach. Past and current clients include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, League of Education Voters, Alliance for Education, Excellent Schools Now Coalition, PlayWorks and the Clover Park School District."

News Release by Alliance on NCTQ report, October 2009
“….Seattle, Wash. – Today the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) issued a
report on the ability of the Seattle Public Schools to attract, develop, retain and evaluate
teachers, concluding that many SPS and Washington State teacher policies hinder
improved student achievement…..”
Contact: Bess Keller, NCTQ
Tel: 202-393-0020 x15
Cell: 410-302-3425
Email: bkeller@nctq.org
Tel: 206-282-1990
Cell: 206-334-0822
Email: Karenw@strategies360.com

Melissa Westbrook said...

Moneypenny, which general counsel did they get rid of? If it was Miss Minimee, that was awhile back plus they apparently hired her back as a "consultant".

Syd said...

I think the PI reporter did a nice job. Just because one is a student does not mean one is not a good reporter.

grousefinder said...

Allow me to beat my drum one more time: The math and science coaches employed by SPS are the biggest money pit in the District. They must be laid off. In numerous conversations with multiple teachers, the consensus opinion is that coaches are superfluous. They serve as foot soldiers for District policy that is, for the most part, a failure.

Does anyone on this blog know how many coaches are floating around out there at any given time? Have any truly been let go?

For the District to come back now and say (after the State just ponied-up) that another 6 million is needed smacks of poor (malfeasant) accounting practice. If these people were in the private sector they would be given bonuses for hiding the truth. In the public sector...well they need a trip to the unemployment office.

MoneyPenny said...

The General Counsel. Gary Ikeda.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Really? Gary? You sure he didn't retire (he's been here a long time).

Syd, the reason I don't trust the student reporters at the PI is because one of them reported a statement I didn't make (and hadn't even talked to me!) and also couldn't even get the name of this website right (it's at the top of the page). I had a retraction printed on both.

MoneyPenny said...

I am sure that is what he may tell people, but there is a lawyer on the RIF list, they hired a replacement after Ms. McMinimee quit (who works for a law firm now, not as a consultant), and General Counsel is the only "cabinet" level position for a lawyer. That is why I am saying that like the Ed director, likely a position that will come back in some other form.

Snoop said...

56 x 100,000 = 5,600,000
56 x 200,000 = 11,200,000

Why is it hard to imagine that 56 employees cost @6.6m?

Maureen said...

About the $6million (again): Here's the point that the UW student journalist (and I, above)did not make clear: Three weeks ago the gap was more like $12,000,000. Last week the state budget restored $5.2 million to the District. SPS chose to restore $6.1million to the schools in discretionary spending. So now SPS is still short about $6million.

Central Mom said...

I'm still extremely unclear how the District has gotten away with artificially holding down enrollment number targets at Option schools as a sneaky way of getting staffing budget cuts at the schools.

What is the correct forum to publicly call out this budgeting slight of hand and get it remedied? Suggestions?

(And yes, I know that attendance schools have gotten the same treatment, but at least there the District has the thin veneer of an excuse in pointing at projected neighborhood enrollment. For Option Schools it looks like blatant number manipulation with no excuse whatsoever.)

TechyMom said...

Just curious... It seems like people here aren't in favor of a levy to cover the shortfall. Is my impression correct? If it is, why?

A local levy seems more fair to poor students than increasing fees on individual students for sports, band, lunch, full-day K or whatever. There are a lot of people who can't afford more school fees but don't qualify for FRL. I'd much rather see a levy than fee increases on individuals. I'd rather see state funding than a levy, but that ship has sailed.

I get the argument about raising local levy lids being unfair to poorer districts, but now that it's done, does it make sense for us to refuse to fund our schools ourselves?

If that's not the reason, I really don't see why not do a levy. What am I missing?

Charlie Mas said...

While funding is tight for public K-12 education all across the state, there is real reason to believe that Seattle Public Schools misspends the precious little allotted them. Other districts are also on tight budgets yet they manage to fund the necessities. Here in Seattle, the necessities are cut while some very questionable spending continues.

So support for a levy could come, but it would have to come after a clearer and cleaner exposition of the budget priorities and a number of corrections in those priorities.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't want a levy because:

- we just had one
- it will greatly undermine the Families and Education levy the City is putting up for renewal in 2011
- I don't trust the district to use the money wisely nor to not keep it as permanent fixture.

There are ways to get that $6M and a levy is not one of them. That's just me.

SolvayGirl said...

I agree with Melissa. As long as we keep taxing ourselves without some real budget accountability, Seattle property owners will continue to wear the "Sucker" brand.

It's time for the Board to demand transparency and real accounting. I can't believe that they are not enraged by the treatment they are getting from District Staff.