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Monday, May 23, 2011

SPS News Roundup ( the 6.3% Claim)

Apparently the Alliance had an event at High Point Center this evening with Dr. Enfield, Steve Sundquist, and other district officials.  It was billed as an evening with Dr. Enfield. 

Now this is interesting because a lot of Dr. Enfield's other outreach is always on the district calendar.  Not this one which was on the social media section of the SPS homepage (down in the right corner lower corner).  Also interesting that the Alliance didn't have this at their home page either.  Almost like they didn't want anyone to come.  Maybe it just got advertised in West Seattle?

Anyway, apparently Dr Enfield says that the "administration" funding level is down to...6.3%.  I can't wait to see the figures on that claim.  I'm pretty sure that it'll be central adm and not central office (central adm covers a much wider range of jobs outside of headquarters).

Also in the news was the exit interview for the state audits done last year (here's the article in the Times.)  I had looked over the auditors reports and glory be!  the district has no errors on its financial statements.  Don't get too excited (although kudos and good job) because they STILL can't get the Native American funding right (second year in a row).  

Two of the major concerns in 2009-10 focused on the district's Indian Education program — repeats of what auditors reported last year. The district failed again to ensure students signed up for services under a federal Indian-education grant were eligible, auditors said. It also didn't ensure that those on the required parent committee were parents of eligible students or that the committee's one student member was eligible.

Auditors recommended that the district consider repaying $168,228, the amount it had received for 806 ineligible students. Common reasons why students were ineligible, the preliminary audit report said, included undated or late forms. Some students also were counted twice.

I'm sorry.  How hard is it to create a parent committee?

One troubling issue that you have wonder about in the ethics department:


One employee, when he learned his programs would be audited, signed time-and-effort forms in December but dated them back in the summer, auditors said. That led School Board member Sherry Carr to say that sounded like an ethical lapse.

But Bob Boesche, the district's interim chief financial officer, said later that the employee didn't realize he was filling out forms incorrectly.

How do you fill out forms and back-date them and not realize you filled them out improperly? 

Then we have Publicola's report on Stand for Children, one of the truly turfiest of our astoturf ed groups,  getting $330k from (wait for it) the Gates Foundation.  Sigh.  I thought it quite funny what the head of SFC says:

None of our donors dictates our work. While the notion of foundations dictating the work of non-profits is worthy of discussion by the media, the idea of a billionaires’ conspiracy feels like a distraction from the urgent matter at hand, which is ‘what are we doing to help kids get an education that prepares them for productive lives?’ For the most part, our donors fund our ideas, and not the other way around.

I left a comment saying well, of course they don't need to dictate your work - you're all on the same ed reform train.  I also liked the "billionaires' conspiracy as a "distraction" - that's the new go-to word for ed reformers to use who like to try to flick off any kind of questioning or criticism as easy as a horse flicks off a pesky fly.   We're all just not focusing on the right things, don't you know?

I ended my comment (diatribe) by saying:

Don't tell us not to look at the man behind the curtain; pretty soon, we're going to rip it down.

Let's keep in the "public" in public education.

32 comments:

Confused about 'Ed Reform" said...

I don't really get all the hubbub. Is it bad to link teacher performance to their pay? Is Gates and company an evil cabal who wants our kids dumber? Is this about the union? Charter schools?
Merit pay? What is privatizing public schools about?

Need an explaner.

sp. said...

330K from Gates to Stand for Children?

That's a huge understatement by Publicola.

Try: $3,476,300.

Stand for Children Leadership Center
Date: May 2010
Purpose: to support education reforms, training, technical assistance, and tools designed to increase teacher effectiveness
Amount: $3,476,300
Term: 2 years and 1 month
Topic: College-Ready Education
Region Served: Global, North America
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Portland, Oregon
Grantee Web site: http://www.standleadershipcenter.org/

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Grants-2010/Pages/Stand-for-Children-Leadership-Center-OPPCR046.aspx


And in 2009:

Stand for Children Leadership Center
Date: December 2009
Purpose: to support the grassroots organization, policy development, and coalition work of Stand for Children Leadership Center focused on advancing common policy priorities in early learning and college ready
Amount: $971,280
Term: 3 years
Topic: Advocacy & Public Policy
Region Served: Global, North America
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Portland, Oregon
Grantee Web site: http://www.standleadershipcenter.org/
http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Grants-2009/Pages/Stand-for-Children-Leadership-Center-OPP1002588.aspx


And in 2007:

Stand for Children Leadership Center
Date: September 2007
Purpose: to support the expansion of Stand for Children in Washington State
Amount: $682,565
Term: 3 years
Topic: Advocacy & Public Policy
Region Served: Global, North America
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Portland, Oregon
Grantee Web site: http://www.standleadershipcenter.org/

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Grants-2007/Pages/Stand-for-Children-Leadership-Center-OPP48232.aspx

Publicola never seems to get the whole story, or else seems to get it last. Publicola underreported the cost of the MAP test and conflict of interest of Goodloe-Johnson as well. Said it cost something like $370,000 when in fact the district has spent MILLIONS on the MAP test.

Oh and Stand for Children is not a "local" organization. It is a national political lobbying operation based in Portland, OR. that lays its Astroturf throughout the country (ie. Seattle, Chicago, etc.) thanks to funding from entities like the Gates Foundation.

It set up a satellite office here in Seattle (probably on Westlake near its pals Strategies 360 and LEV) back in 2009-10, most likely in time to pressure the teachers' union to accept a contract with merit pay in it. Lately, though, Stand has been plying its trade, lobbying for -- and helping to write -- ed reform bills in Olympia.

--Sue p.

p.s. Note to Confused: Read Diane Ravitch's "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education." That should answer all your questions

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Great-American-School-System/dp/0465014917

Anonymous said...

It isn't about altruism. Consider it one of the last places on earth to colonize. Education is mandated by state and local governments - so as long as there are children there is 'business' to be done. As far as our state is concerned, full funding is a court/constitutional mandate scheduled to be a $1.1 billion cash cow by 2018 or 'on a time line agreed to by the legislature.'
Think about the opportunity for exploitation of resources and the ease of trumping up claims of disasters and finger pointing.
But look at the privatiztion/charter history. It makes Pottergate, Pettygate.
There is oh so much more to be said...
-ttln

Kathy said...

Confused about Ed. Reform,

Ed reform is all about test scores i.e. linking teacher performance to tests (even children as young as 5, 6 and 7 years old), determining a number to show "growth" based on test scores, merit pay etc. etc.

There are many issues around data and it's uses. Data can be manipulated.

Gates gives schools grants to set- up initiatives and the rest is for tax-payers to shoulder.

Many initiatives are grant funded. In short, non-sustainable through use of tax-payer dollars.

Over the past 2 years the district has spent atleast $5.1M on computers for tests..MAP and Academic warehouse. The district funds the department of Research, Assessment and Evaluation close to $3M per year.

MAP testing is suppossed to help teachers inform instruction. Teachers at our school do not know how to do this...grant funding for teacher ed. to link MAP scores to inform instruction.

Over the past 3 years we've lost $37M state funding. We might see more losses within the next day or two.

To fund these initiatives, we're seeing cuts to our classrooms. During recent budget meetings some directors felt it ok to eliminate further classroom funding... our middle school will loose $193 per student. The district proposed eliminating elementary school counselors...some directors are ok with this...it will probably pass.

In short, reform takes supports and dollars out of our classrooms. Funding is directed toward testing, computers and administrative costs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Linking teacher performance to pay being bad? Well, it is if it's all you measure. Or if one or two tests a year weigh more heavily than anything else. What if your job performance was based on what someone else had to show they knew once or twice a year?

I think it's fine to have assessments to use in teacher performance review. It just can't be the majority weight. I do not see the fairness in it.

Gates and his "evil cabal"? No, I don't think anyone is evil. I think that they are given more credit and listened to much more than other voices in education like Diane Ravitch. There should be room at the tables for a wide variety of voices and that neither the cabal nor Arne Duncan seem interested is troubling.

They don't want our kids dumber but they also don't really care what parents have to say. It's nice how Mr. Gates has some say over what education his own children receive and yet, he's not so interested in what the rest of us have to say about the public education he is attempting to shape for OUR children.

Merit pay? Studies show it doesn't work. It would be better to make teaching a higher paying profession to start with.

What is privatizing public schools about? You have to ask?

Money. Isn't it always about money in this country?

They privatized health care (and look how well that's turned out). What is one of the last huge areas to privatize? Public education.

You kill two birds with one stone. You can stomp on unions (and the teachers' unions are huge groups) AND make money.

How do you make money?

-create and run schools (and all the services that entails)
-technology
-curriculum
-assessments
- teacher training (or retraining as the case may be)

That's what is happening. Whether it's highly organized by a few key players/entities, well, that's for you to decide. But that it is sweeping across the country, with the same talking points, the same code, well, it just seems unlikely that all 50 states just suddenly got on the same page.

That's what's it's about. Whether you consider this good or bad is up to you.

Anonymous said...

As parents we face lots of parental labels in this 24/7 digital media world, now we have conspiracy theorist to add.

When my oldest child enter the public school 6 years ago, we never thought we would spend so much time worrying about school adminstration, educational politics, standardized testing, and teacher evaluation. We thought naively that we just need to support our children by making sure they get their HW and class projects done on time, chaperone fieldtrips and volunteer at school events between work schedule and write checks to the PTA as needed. That would be enough.

Stupid us! We have done all that and yet we find ourselves spending many hours and $ to supplement our children with math, science, and writing at home. Our children take more tests, but the only thing the tests offer my kids are measurements of their acacademic ability. Our kids are not learning anything from this endeavor. They derive little obvious benefits as we have yet to see what the principals or teachers do to make use of the info to help each individual child.

For struggling kids, are they adding more math and reading specialisits in our schools? Are they testing for dyslexia? No. For high performers, are they adding more in depth and advanced coursework? No, not if you are in gen ed. Only 1 year ahead for "spectrum", and 2 years ahead for APP. With pacing and curriculum alignment, there is little chance of seeing anything more.

MAP and MSP testings offer an easy way to grade teachers, schools, principals and school districts.
Somehow in the midst of all these frantic endeavors and high talk about the need to make teachers and dollars accountable, our kids got lost.

We feel we are stuck among competing groups of "Ed Reformers", teacher unions, and "anti reformers". We have never felt more powerless as advocates for our children's schooling than we do today. Can it be all about money, legacies, and job security?

-PS mom

Bird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sahila said...

Ed reform is about much more than that.... it comes from Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics and its about sucking $600B/year out of public education and into private/company pockets...

and its about reducing education back to what it was when it started... for the majority of students, giving them only enough skills to be good workers and consumers....

Plain and simple....

Bird said...

Need an explainer,

I'd recommend reading Diane Ravitch's bookfor some context.

Is Gates and company an evil cabal?

I wouldn't say that.

I would say that Gates and his money are everywhere you turn.

If you find yourself in a debate where people point to the wide variety of organizations all clamoring for reform, you'll find, generally speaking, that they all have taken Gates or Broad money. It does make the whole reform movement seem rather like a Potemkin village.

And, of course, the fact that his money has bought into just about every institution makes it rather hard to combat when you think what they are pushing is a wrong turn.

I think that most of what they are pushing is unproven and expensive. It is definitely distracting the district and draining resources from well proven methods, for instance, greater supports for struggling students like summer school. Such methods yield good results, don't enrich a bunch of businesses and non-profits, so, consequently, they don't have a built in lobby advocating for them.

I don't want to pick a fight with these organizations, but it's pretty clear that many of them want to pick a fight with me, as they see parents and citizens as a problems to be overcome.

It's notable that Paul Hill, the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education came out saying that the public reaction to Martin Floe firing "gives a blueprint for resistance," and he didn't mean that in a good way.

The head of the Allliance, told the baord, after the removal of the Superintendent because of the Potter scandal, that they should listen to the public less. Remarkable.

Endless thanks to Charlie and Melissa for their reporting without which I'd know absolutely none of this.

Anonymous said...

Evaluating teachers' performance makes sense. Linking it directly and solely to test scores does not.

Teachers need to get out in front on these issues and propose things that make sense, instead of throwing stones at every idea that they hate (which is every idea).

Unions are a problem, because they are intransigent by nature. They protect the weakest, and every parent who has had a teacher who just should not be teaching becomes anti-union. The response to parents is that we just don't appreciate how wonderful that teacher truly is. All teachers are above average, as Garrison Keillor would say.

Fact is, some are great and I bow to them. Truly. Some are atrocious. And most do a good job in a tough profession.

It'd be great to reward the awesome ones. But at least, get rid of the lousy ones. Teachers I know point out that you can fire teachers. Fine, but it doesn't happen. They persist, and afflict scores of new kids each year. Wouldn't be tolerated in any other profession.

Change is coming. The best change would come from teachers who see the writing on the wall an take the lead in creating a system that evaluates and focuses on improving performance in every teacher, and in firing the ones that are really bad and can't or won't improve.

Stop the Whining

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bird, I'll pick a fight with Bill Gates any day of the week. (Well, it wouldn't be a fight but probably a spirited discussion.)

Meg said...

In the FY11 budget, the Teaching budget is $359M.

But if you look at the FY11 line item budget and totted up the budget for every school in the district, the total for all schools comes to about $295M, over $60M under what the district claims it spends on Teaching.

Which is… weird.

The sum of what’s being spent in schools should come to more than just Teaching, since school budgets, in addition to carrying pretty much all teaching, includes principals’ offices (another $33M), and many expenses from the categories of Other Support and Teaching Support.

That’s a lot of dissonance, to have the sum of all school budgets come to less than Teaching. What it looks like to me is that many expenditures that belong in Central Administration are budgeted elsewhere (Teaching, Teaching Support, Other Support, Unit Administration). A quick look at the line item budget turned up the following groups that probably belong in Central Administration:

Professional development coaches. In late 2009, SPS reclassified all PD coaches from Central Administration to Teaching. This might have been a legit move for the coaches who were part of school faculties, but seems absurd for the coaches who do not have a school assignment (there are about 42 who don’t – let’s play nice and assume half of them have a multi-school assignment and therefore aren’t administration, but that still leaves us with 21 who are really administrators). Add around $2M to Central Admin.

IT administration. SPS’s CIO, a top district administrator, and several managers in his organization are billed to Other Support (and the capital fund). While much of IT should be legitimately billed to Other Support, since it’s a district-wide expense, the management of it is an administrative expense and should be billed as such. Add around $1M to Central Admin.

Consulting teachers for SpEd and Advanced Learning are billed to teaching. Do they teach students? Uh, no. Consulting teachers are administrators. Add about $1.4M to Central Admin.

About $800K of the enrollment services budget is billed to teaching support. Really? Explain to me the support that enrollment provides to teaching, dudes.

So, with hardly any looking at all, I have about $5M that should probably be in Central Administration… which adds not quite a full percentage point. But I turned that all up only looking at a few of things. There are smaller potato items (grants manager billed to teaching, a program manager billed to principals’ office, etc) that I suspect may really add up.

Overall, I think there’s at least $10M of Central Administration expense shoved into other expense segments. That’s make 6.7% closer to 8-9%. Which would mean SPS might have shrunk its administrative burden some, but not by a lot.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the LEV event. This should be counted as an in-kind contribution to the Steve Sundquist campaign for re-election. Like he gives a shit about parents in WS. Oops, only at election time.

http://westseattleblog.com/2011/05/video-seattle-public-schools-new-leader-in-high-point

WV: The Tool is shmobin the voters

grumpy

someone said...

@Meg - fascinating - where you suppose those "missing" dollars actually are? Man there are just so many games being played at so many levels - you can't help but wonder if ANYONE really knows what the heck is going on with that budget - geeeez!

Greg said...

Excellent analysis, Meg. Thanks for doing it. I know the board has not listened in the past, but have you sent your thoughts to them anyway? Seems like it is worth another try.

I do wonder about the amount of central staff in the budget. The core purpose of central should be capacity planning, especially expanding successful programs and reworking unsuccessful ones. But central appears to contain a lot of staff devoted to curriculum alignment and teacher support, money which teachers, parents, and students probably would prefer be spent on more teachers, especially in this time of tight budgets.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Great stuff, Meg but one question: isn't the CIO funded out of BTA/BEX? I remember asking Ratchford about that and he said yup, his salary comes from there.

Meg, whether you do or not, I'm sending this to the Board. THEY need to be asking these questions.

someone said...

Forgive my ignorance, but why would there be a legal assitant from the General Counsel's office assigned to "teaching" budget?

Meg said...

The CIO's salary is funded out of capital and operating - about $90K from operating (and I think total comp, including benefits, comes in at around $180K). I don't know why the funding is mixed, but given that IT is, in many respects, a mix of capital and operating issues, it seems legit.

I don't know all the pockets that administration has been tucked away in. Some things that smell off may turn out to be perfectly reasonable. Some, though, may not. A legal assistant budgeted in teaching seems like a good thing to ask a few questions about. I would guess that there are host of little expenses like a legal assistant budgeted to teaching - under $100K total per line item, but adding up to substantive amounts. I have not gone through the line item budget with a fine-toothed comb, so that's speculation on my part.

Anonymous said...

Meg & Melissa -

every day, at every school, during every period, attendance is taken.

attendance is taken electronically and it is taken by certified teachers.

so you need student count by period by teacher -

what is the distribution of that student count by teacher?

if you order by student count and by teacher, you get all the teachers with 1 or 3 students ...

maybe you want to add the teacher's endorsement, or, maybe you want to add what exactly the class is - obviously SPED teachers won't have many kids.

my real point is that very rudimentary use of the attendance system (which many parents know is called "esis") results in 1 being able to figure out how many teachers actually have kids with them in a day or a set of days or a week ...

I have a hunch that the data driven decision making makers have NO interest in this data, because it would show pretty clearly who is in fact a teacher and who is hiding in teacher land pay category.

Data For Dum-ez

Confused about said...

Thank you all for the explainer. I was being sarcastic about the "evil cabal", but sometimes it does sound a little conspiratorial here. I agree about Gates using his money in an undemocratic fashion. He has been criticized for this with his agricultural work as well. Hooking people into chemical agriculture and mechanized farming thereby reducing their sustainability. If the money comes to the district with strings attached, I suppose they should make sure that the elected board approves it or else reject it. Are tests excessive and harmful? I agree they need to be used carefully and perhaps teachers don't use them well, but if they identify kids having trouble or who are not being challenged, that sounds good. Privatization of schools is not like health care. School can be standardized and delivered by the private sector quite well, as our flourishing private school sector shows, but maybe we need to be open to alternatives. I believe France and other Euro countries will subsidize private school and they also provide decent public instruction. In fact that is how their health care works, a blend of subsidized private care and public health.
I've always felt hat our system is so decentralized on a national level that it creates disfunction in many local areas and, yes, there are groups with their own agenda or profit motivation ready to swoop.

I appreciate this forum to get answers and help understanding the issues.

Need more help later

Melissa Westbrook said...

"School can be standardized and delivered by the private sector quite well, as our flourishing private school sector shows, but maybe we need to be open to alternatives."

What? How do a myriad of private schools have standardized teaching? I don't see this point.

Anonymous said...

"Forgive my ignorance, but why would there be a legal assitant from the General Counsel's office assigned to "teaching" budget?"

The legal assistant who handles all of the special education issues is my guess.

TIC

Kathy said...

Meg,

Could the difference be related to benefits such as health insurance?

mirmac1 said...

Hey, on the WS blog video I think I saw the elusive Cordell Carter!

Meg said...

Kathy - good question, but no, those are all fully loaded costs and include benefits.

There are expenses that are legitimate teaching expenses but don't appear as part of school budgets (staff on leave, subs) but I still think there's an awful lot of dissonance between the total for school budgets and the total for the Teaching expense segment.

Confused said...

Melissa,
I guess my point was that education is a service that is the same for all students, more or less, unlike health care. Kids need to learn reading, math, etc. and standards and norms are available. Students at private schools learn similar skills as public school students. Health care is based on the needs of the person and varies greatly. Do voucher schemes undermine public education or make it stronger or no effect? One could say that we are hostage to this mismanaged district because we have no choice unless we are able to move or pay for private. You and many others struggle valiantly to gain some level of control over the district and I thank and respect you for that, but it seems a better system is possible.

Not too discouraged

SP said...

Also from the Enfield meeting (from the West Seattle Blog), confirming Metro passes next year for Denny kids INSIDE the walk-zone:

"Though an invitation was extended to anyone in West Seattle with public-school questions and concerns, the bulk of the discussion involved issues unique to High Point, including transportation to Denny International Middle School, whose principal Jeff Clark was also among those on hand. Though Denny students in HP are technically inside the walk zone, it was noted that they will be provided with transit passes."

----
Has anyone heard the reason behind this new bussing expense which is contrary to the NSAP/Transportatioon plan, and not offered to other Seattle Middle School students inside walk zones, in a time where every dollar counts?

mirmac1 said...

Uh, let me guess. It's election time? And Sundquist is getting nervous.

Anonymous said...

How interesting ... I'm not a conspiracy theorist, BUT UAI/ANEA (Urban ... Alliance) not related to "The Alliance" - reached out to partner with and even tried many times to book that High Point facility to no avail. Then to find this meeting was hidden out in social media pages and happened in MY neighborhood kind of weirds me out.

As to your question "How hard is it to create a parent committee?" Let me tell you, according to the district it is very hard, and it is likely that there will be a THIRD year in a row dealing with this funding issue because of it.

NO ONE attending parent committee meetings for that program is a parent who doesn't also happen to be a district employee. All the other parents have thrown up their hands in frustration and walked away. The district claims its all legal, but I would also call that an ethical lapse as well, wouldn't you?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, post that with a name. Good thoughts but give yourself a handle.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Really?

"...the same for all students, more or less,"

You think education in this country, public, charter, private, is more or less the same.

I have to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Maybe next time I'll post with a handle ... the wheels of justice grind slowly but I have to give them a chance to work. Filed a complaint on 5/4.