Disqus

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Following the Bouncing Money Ball

The reality is that our country, our state, our city are in a recession that has gone on now for at least two years.  We are moving at a glacial pace out of it.  Our district tells us over and over there is not enough money for all we need to do to the point where we laid off teachers and counselors (and other district workers) and put off planned purchases. 

Now, technically, the district has marginally more money than last year, not from the state, but from increased enrollment.  Any other time this might be major good news but just as money comes with those students, so do costs. 

I come to an interesting article in the Saturday Seattle Times about schools districts and their budgets. 

The State Legislature included a 1.9% pay cut for teachers in the state budget but the teacher contracts are all decided locally.  So that means, our district is, right now, negotiating with the SEA about those cuts.  Now, you may recall that we voted in a Supplemental Levy in February to pay for teacher raises negotiated in the last teachers' contract.   Those were about 1% per year so the net loss to teachers would be about .9%. 

What argument will the district use to get the union to budge?  "The good of the district?"  Lame when you consider they gave out raises this year (and last and the year before that) to administrators at headquarters.   Is there something the union wants that they could extract for the loss of the raise?  I don't know - teachers, you tell me. 

As I reported earlier, some districts have already settled and recalled laid off teachers (finding/cutting funding elsewhere). 

What really struck me from this article, however, was this (emphasis mine):

"I haven't heard of any districts that are in financial jeopardy this year," said Marie Sullivan of the Washington State School Directors Association. She noted the Legislature put $13 million in an emergency fund for school districts and no one has applied for these dollars.
 
"It sounds like districts are feeling they kind of can weather the storm," she said, adding that everyone is wary about next year.

Not ONE district has asked for money?  

I'll have to call and ask about the parameters around those dollars but if they are available, why not ask for some?  Is it a one-year ask and districts are waiting to see what happens next year?

But our district has committed to some very expensive items.  For example, STEM at Cleveland is not coming cheap and the district seems to refuse to consider that there could be other ways to have the school without every kid having a laptop.  (NYC has had magnet science high schools for years - with good results - without handing out a laptop to every student.)   Or, why don't we have stronger relationships with science/technology companies and departments in universities to perhaps get their help? 

What other costs are hurting us when we can least afford it?  Paying out two top administrators' salaries (MGJ and Don Kennedy).  Giving out raises.  Closing schools and then reopening those schools plus other mothballed buildings (in poor condition).  (No, those funds could not be used for the General Fund but we are whittling money away in BOTH our funds.)   Consultants every which way you look. 

It is very hard to know what the real and true state of our district's finances are.  I don't completely believe what we have been told because we never see a total costs and expenditures budget.   I remember, years back, that a former Board member and his wife gave the district a $1M gift.  I asked and asked what the money was used for and was told it went into the black hole that is the General Fund.  I never found out where it got directed. 

13 comments:

Andy said...

Look what I stumbled across. From the Washington Policy Center:

Seattle School District officials admit new budget is an increase, not a cut

I haven't seen this reported any where else. If you've touched on this here, my apologies. What do you all think about the numbers they are reporting?

Michael H said...

"Now, technically, the district has marginally more money than last year, not from the state, but from increased enrollment"

The enrollment money comes from the state - it's called apportionment, which is based on enrollment. What are you talking about that it doesn't come from the state?

That Passionate Teacher said...

She's talking about the education initiatives for class size reduction and the like.

You know...the ones the people voted in, then the legislature defunded a few years later when the latest Tim Eyman initiative passed and crippled their ability to actually do the people's work...

Word Verifier is "quituor". There are so many ways I could go with that....

Charlie Mas said...

It's true. The school district budget has risen regularly year after year and it is isn't clear what has been the source of the rising costs.

Has it been teacher salaries? Increased costs due to increased enrollment, due to teacher step increases, due to increases in salary rates?

Has it been strategic initiatives? What has STEM cost? What has Performance Management cost? What has the Student Data Warehouse cost? What has curricular alignment and academic assurances cost? What have any of the Strategic Plan initiatives cost?

Has it been increased central office expenses? How many people work there now? What are their salaries?

We don't know the answers to any of these questions. We can't tell from the budget.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Michael, that was poorly worded. Yes, the money for students comes from the state but we are not getting other money from the state (via I-728, etc.) that we normally would.

mirmac1 said...

Here is the budget comparison with the current year. The "Teaching" activity budget increased by $12M. Probably to pay for all those coaches for TFA.

Thank goodness we have all this transparency now. With the deceptive incremental budgeting method, Duggan Harman can follow the lead of the business-types on the Board who say beat down the teachers union for furlough concessions.

mirmac1 said...

I shoulda "snarked" after that TFA comment.

dan dempsey said...

The News from the Clover Park School District just south of Tacoma.

The CPSD contract expired. The district and the union agreed to roll over the contract from the last three years and extend it an additional year.

Teachers in CPSD will not see any reduction in salary, nor will there be any reduction in TRI money.

CPSD like Seattle is known for exceptionally high expenditures on District Administration...

=====
So why would the SPS need to renegotiate an existing contract? .... Slap in the face again for SPS teachers.

SPS teachers need to pay the price for Central Admin raises.

Where is that study that recommended all those pay increases for Central Admin? Is it available on line? Is an FOIA necessary? Does not the SEA have a copy?

TfA is coming to .... ???? why is TfA coming? I forget ... Help me out.

Kathy said...

Taken from the Washington Policy Center:

".The Basic Education Allocation grant from the state has increased by $7.2 million to cover the enrollment of an estimated 1,362 new students, from 43,325 students in 2010-11 to 44,687 students in 2011-12"

We will be receiving more money from the state due to increasing enrollment. However, this does not mean dollars will be put into our schools.

My undestanding is the district averages 3 years of enrollment numbers...this number is somehow reflected in an AAFTE. Dollars are then allocated to schools based on a 3 year enrollment average. The district holds back funds for "Performance Management". This year the district has held back $1.9million.

So, although the district may have received an additional $7.2M from the state, dollars distributed to our schools will be reflective of lower enrollment numbers. This is a problem for schools with growing populations.

Cap'n Billy Keg said...

From this post - quoting Marie Sullivan:

"I haven't heard of any districts that are in financial jeopardy this year," said Marie Sullivan of the Washington State School Directors Association. She noted the Legislature put $13 million in an emergency fund for school districts and no one has applied for these dollars.

"It sounds like districts are feeling they kind of can weather the storm," she said, adding that everyone is wary about next year.
"

And, Melissa said:

"Not ONE district has asked for money?"

Here's more information on that straight from Marie Sullivan:

"The Legislature put $13 million in the 2011 supplemental budget, and districts had to meet certain eligibility requirements (not in the ST story, I noticed) to be eligible for the state loan.

The money was for school districts that were facing financial issues due to cuts made in the 2010 sessions, including $208 million for the 2010-11 (current) school year, and then the retroactive cuts (so back to the start of this year’s school year) of about $80 million.

If any districts had applied, they would have to pay the money back by June 30, 2012. Very few school districts met the eligibility requirements, and according to OSPI, none applied for the funding
".

"The information regarding the contingency fund was in ESHB 1086, Section 502(14)."

Also:

"$13 million was because the legislature “floated” money from one biennium to the next, and it was possible some districts would have needed funding to meet payroll due to the date shift.

Typically, school districts are paid an “apportionment payment” on the 30th of each month; June 30, 2011 is the end of the 2011 fiscal year. By not paying school districts on June 30, but shifting the payment to July 1, 2011, the Legislature changed the impact on the state budget to the next biennium.
"

And, another link: ESHB 1087, Section 1402

Hope the above info helps answer your question, Melissa...

Cap'n Billy Keg said...

The link I posted "ESHB 1087, Section 1402" was incorrect - here is the correct one:

ESHB 1087 Section 1402

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks for that info.

jana said...

Wow, every kid has to have a laptop now? Is that an expense borne by the District, or by individual parents? Does that fall under Microsoft's $100 laptop per child program?