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Monday, October 15, 2012

How the District Cheats Four Schools

There are four schools which are cheated by the District every year. They are South Lake, The Center School, The NOVA Project, and The World School. These are high schools which are not funded in accordance with the Weighted Staffing Standard used to fund every other high school. Instead of getting the funding that they are supposed to get, these schools get much, much less.

High schools with enrollment under 800 are supposed to be funded with these staff positions:


High School Staffing for schools with less than 800 students (AAFTE)
Principal 1.0
Asst. Principal 1.0
Admin. Secretary (260) 1.0
Data Registrar (220) 1.0
Attendance Spec. (201) 1.0
Fiscal Specialist (220) 1.0
Activity Coordinator 1.0
Nurse 0.8
Counselor* (per 400 students) 1.0
Librarian 1.0
Academic Intervention Specs 1.0

These schools, however, are not allotted these staff positions. These schools are singled out to be intentionally underfunded.

You might think it is because they are small schools, but Rainier Beach High School has an October 1 enrollment of 407, which isn't qualitatively different from the October 1 enrollment for The NOVA Project, which  is 340. The Center School has 285, South Lake has 127, and the World School has 187.

These schools don't have operational needs that are much different from other high schools. Visit them and you will see a principal in the office and teachers in classrooms with students. Through the day the students move from class to class. They look and work just like regular high schools. They have the same funding needs and they should be funded equitably.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

If that is the staffing for a school of 800 or less, and these schools total 800 altogether, it sounds like an argument for co-housing. Positions like nurse and fiscal specialist, among others, could easily be shared. Others like Principal can't be.

I guess it is pie-in-the-sky, but I doubt any of these schools would object to co-housing if it were in a truly appropriate building that approached one of the nice, new high schools like Ballard, Roosevelt, Cleveland... And if the building were designed to co-house disparate programs, perhaps with wings for classrooms and a central hub, all the better.

Greg Linden said...

So, has the district administration or board offered any reason that these schools are not given the staff positions (and funding) they are supposed to have?

Anonymous said...

Invitation by Seattle times

http://seattletimes.com/html/edcetera/2019437647_charter-schools-i-1240-twitter-editorial.html

Public School Parent

lendlees said...

Those schools are considered 'Alternative' and are not funded by the state as if they were 'normal' high schools. So, while it seems as if they are being cheated by SPS, in reality they are being cheated by the state.

Anonymous said...

lendlees or anyone else --

Can you provide me with more information about the "alternative" vs. traditional funding structure set up by the state? My child attends The Center School and I have never heard that "alternative" schools are funded by the state differently than traditional schools.

The Center School has the same graduation requirements as any other high school -- in fact they require an additional credit -- and all students are expected to be college-ready when they leave. I'm not sure how "alternative" it really is and it seems odd that they would receive different state funding.

Thanks for your help!

Inga Manskopf

Maureen said...

Another way to look at this is that they are over funding RBHS. Maybe the WSS for small High Schools should be adjusted. There are K-5 and K-8 schools that are bigger than RBHS that don't get all of those staff members. (I don't have anything against the ALE high schools, but I bet most of them would rather have more cash to spend on staff at will than to have all of those 1.0 office staff and Activities Coordinator etc.)

Eric B said...

I think Maureen is on to the real solution. If RBHS and Nova have the same student population, they should have the same basic WSS funding, perhaps augmented by some amount of school improvement money. I can understand from the District's point of view that a high school with 400 students can't support the same administrative staffing standard as a high school with 799, just as a matter of cold-hearted accounting. However, if the district admin isn't willing to fund a 400-student high school at the <800 student WSS, then they need another category on the WSS.

Anonymous said...

There are actually 2 funding systems getting intertwined here. The WSS formula that Charlie mentioned is district based, but I am not familiar with the exception that would apply to the 4 schools Charlie mentioned.

On the other hand, there is also the state's ALE (Alternative Learning Experience) school funding set by law at between 10%-20% less funding than regular schools (these cuts kicked in last year, with the rationale that kids spend less time at school in ALE's). This definitely cuts into the budgets in the ALE schools in our district.

Currently, there are only 3 ALE schools in SPS: NOVA, Interagency & Cascade (Homeschooling), all with 10% funding cuts from the standard FTE formula. Cleveland was an ALE school last year (created basically to avoid the state's 150 hr/credit instructional requirement), but as soon as their cut in funding happened, they asked to be removed from the ALE designation last fall and were approved retroactively, as I recall.

Now this year, NOVA & Interagency are interested in dropping the ALE status (also because of the funding cuts), but were told at the Oct. C&I meeting that they missed the boat & would have to do it for next year.

Please note that Center, World & S.Lake are not ALE designated schools, but it sounds as if NOVA gets funding cuts from both ALE & the WSS.

---SP

Po3 said...

How many years now has RBHS been staffed at these levels? And can they demonstrate increased enrollment or achievement?

If so, then I would say it's working and worth the additional cost.

If not, then I would say time to rethink their budget.

Anonymous said...

Garfield is only budgeted a .8 nurse for a student population of 1700. It also has one of the lowest per pupil funding of the comprehensive high schools, but don't know how that number compares to NOVA, etc.

I just visited University of Wisconsin, Madison and was so impressed with the amount of support and funding Wisconsin provides to higher ed. I mentioned this to another parent on the campus tour and he said that the state income tax is tough. I noted that Washington does not have income tax and our education funding, K-12 and higher ed, suffers greatly from a lack of funding. I guess you pick your poison, and Washington has picked no income tax. Wisconsin sure was impressive. We need to rethink our funding model in Washington.

Washington needs an income tax

Charlie Mas said...

lendlees is making reference to the fact that Alternative Learning Experience schools are funded at 90% of the funding for conventional schools.

The extent to which these schools are underfunded, however, is not a result of their being ALE schools. Of them, only NOVA is an ALE.

STEM at Cleveland High School was an ALE and it was funded by the District in accordance with the WSS.

So, good try, lendlees, but no. That's not why.

Charlie Mas said...

Greg, the District will not say why these schools are not funded through the WSS. They will not say what criteria they use to determine that a school is "non-traditional" nor how they set the staffing for those schools.

In 2010-2011 STEM at Cleveland was an option school, an ALE, and used Project Based Learning. The same was true for The NOVA Project. Cleveland was funded through WSS, NOVA was regarded as a "non-traditional" school and was cheated out of seven staff people.

If the District wants to create additional WSS categories, such as "501-800" and "301-500", that would be fine. They haven't done that.

The District could tell these schools what they have to do to get off the "non-traditional" school list and get fair funding. It appears to me that they just need a football team. In a way, I would really love to see the NOVA football team. They might never win a game, but they would be the first truly co-ed football team in the country and the halftime show would ROCK!

Anonymous said...

Have nova students started attending school for a full week? So long as they only attend four out of five days, I don't see any reason why they should be funded at The same level as schools that run a full program for five days a week.

-IMHO

Unknown said...

Charlie, I'll let you chime in but I believe that students are working (as are teachers) five days a week. This is an early start to the brave world of student-directed learning (both online and out of school). To say a school deserves fewer dollars when staff and students are still working doesn't seem right.

hschinske said...

My daughter tells me that her teachers at Nova worked as hard as any she's ever seen, partly due to their duties as coordinators, which she described as pretty much "a whole extra job."

Helen Schinske

Catherine said...

@ IMHO My son graduated form Nova two years ago - in the years he was there, school was always 5 days a week. I'm not sure where the 4-days a week perception came from, but it sure wasn't the case then. And frankly those teachers worked hard, very hard, and got the job done. The approach isn't for everyone, but what he learned there served my son well in College.

Charlie Mas said...

NOVA students and teachers work five days a week.

So do the students and teachers at The Center School, The S.B.O.C., and South Lake High School.

Rather than each of us taking a guess about what criteria the District uses to determine which schools are "non-traditional" and should not be funded through the WSS, how about the District just tells us? Why don't they have a ready answer for it?

Want to know something funny? NOVA Students have come and testified to the Board about this for years, yet the Board Directors still act like they never heard of it.

The cure said...

Charlie Mas it's not like you care about nova or rainier beach and the entire time of your bloogging you've never missed an oppurtunity to throw rainier beach and the other school under the bus,but after all you've said about them was negative and now you want be there friend so give a break.

Charlie Mas said...

Thank you, The cure.

I can't tell you how grateful I am for people - people who don't know me - who tell me what I think and feel. It saves me all of that time-consuming introspection.

Jan said...

I have read a great deal of Charlie's writing championing BOTH NOVA and RBHS. Not trying to tell you what you think, Charlie -- but if you are trying to deny ever having argued for the District to keep its promises to RBHS (preferably prior to NSAP going live), forget it. You are on record. And I have never seen you do anything BUT champion NOVA.

As I read this debate, it is NOT about taking away RBHS assets (there are lots of threads that discuss the relative merits of giving RBHS extra assets to try to attract kids there (though I am not sure that we give them enough, or the right ones)). I think the issue is -- there is no principled basis that the District has ever shared that justifies its poor treatment of NOVA, World School, Center School, etc.

We need to stop quibbling about stupid labels (see the ridiculousness of ALE/non-ALE status for Cleveland), and just staff to meet the reality. NOVA, Center, etc. are as legitimate as other high schools. Give them the same resources. If there are specific assets targeted to football, deal with that. But this blind lumping of schools into one ill-fitting category or another is beyond silly.

Anonymous said...

The schools/programs considered ALE are Cascade Parent Partnership, NOVA and Interagency (from this week's Board Action Report). ALE status means 0.9 FTE funding.

Under WAC 392-121-107, an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) may be counted as a course of study for the purpose of 0.9 FTE (full-time equivalent) student enrollment counts.

reader

Anonymous said...

From June 6, 2012 Board Action Report re: ALE approvals-
"ALE schools are funded by the state at 90% of a comprehensive school's funding. Therefore, the district receives $813,870 less for these schools than it would be if the state fully funded ALE programs. The district does not backfill this amount and therefore there is no cost to this action."

"The 10% equates to the following dollar amounts, by school:
Cleveland $387,429
Interagency $193,373
Nova $161,157
Cascade P. P. Program $71,911"

This is what I do not understand- When Cleveland reversed their ALE status, the rationale was that the 10% would fully to go to Cleveland (ie full FTE funding). But this year the NOVA principal repetedly stated that if NOVA removes the ALE status that the 10% would go to the general SPS funds and not to NOVA. This does not make sense?

---SP

Patrick said...

Has anyone seen the state's reason for funding alt schools less? They must have had something in mind.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Probably the reason is - wealth[ier], whiter kids tend to go to small, alternative boutiques. Why NOT fund them at a lower rate? Their actual needs are less. True, they do have needs - but NOBODY in SPS gets all their needs met, only a fraction get met or funded. In this case, the needs is less and the percentage of need funded is probably more or less equal to other high schools.

The Center School - 16% FRL. 73% White

NOVA - 33% FRL, 73% White

In these two schools - the participation by other races is very low. A few percentages in each category.

Since they aren't diverse, aren't poor - in reality they need less staff to deal with it. EG. Why would they need a "vice principal"? Couldn't they have less counseling too? As much as we would all like to believe that we value diversity, it is actually a challenge, and one that requires staffing and money.

As to World School. Who knows why that is underfunded? Probably because the parents can not advocate, especially if they are illegal residents. Then, there's the language barriers. SPS takes advantage of all that and provides less funding.

-parent



Maureen said...

It's interesting to me that the Cascade Parent Partnership gets 90% of state funds. Aren't those kids much more than 10% homeschooled? Does the whole budget (so $650,000 ish?)go to hire staff to help people homeschool? Maybe I don't understand what they do.

Anonymous said...

There is more to diversity than race and money. Lots of GLBT kids go to NOVA, as do lots of kids who have had trouble fitting in or been bullied elsewhere. But, of course, if they're white and not starving, they don't need counseling. Seriously?

-aghast

Anonymous said...

Aghast, it's about percentages of need not need itself. Because NOBODY gets what they need. Yes others need counseling. But homelessness and food insecurity together with the abuse of poverty trumps just about everything else. Seriously? You don't get that? Then you'll just be confused about the why part of the funding.

-parent

Anonymous said...

Well, if we want to use a "diversity" standard to determine school funding, we should keep in mind the demographic make-up of all schools.

For example (from 2009 data):

Eckstein Middle School
68% white
15% FRL

Whitman Middle School
66% white
23% FRL

Roosevelt High School
62% white
21% FRL

Ballard High School
67% white
24% FRL

If NOVA and Center deserve less funding because of their demographic make-up, perhaps these schools do, as well.

What Charlie blogged about was base funding for staff, not services for kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

But you bring up a good point, parent. How are we supporting the basic needs of kids who are homeless and hungry? Is it the school's role or is it the City's role or is it the state's role? It seems to me everyone is failing our poor kids.

BTW, whatever happened to the SE Initiative that provided additional funding for schools with high FRL rates? I lost track of that.

I am also wondering . . . since NOVA and Center take kids from all over the city, and I know Center didn't fill all of its freshman slots this year, why don't more kids who qualify for FRL go there? Perhaps this is a topic for another thread. :)

-- Another Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

√Probably because the parents can not advocate, especially if they are illegal residents

What? How do you know that ANY World School parents are illegal? I would be very careful about any future statements of that sort.

It is more a language barrier and uneasiness/lack of familiarity with another culture that hurts them than immigration status.

Charlie Mas said...

The District has a short list of schools - all but one of them high schools - which they classify as "non-traditional" schools and do not fund through the WSS. A couple of these schools, such as the Cascade Parent Partnership, are not organized like conventional schools and a reasonable explanation can be offered for why they should not be funded like other schools.

Four of them, Seattle World School, The Center School, South Lake High School, and The NOVA Project, are organized along the same lines as conventional schools but are not funded through the WSS.

Here is a simple question:

Why aren't these four schools funded through the WSS? What are the criteria that distinguish these four schools from other schools? Why are the students in these schools not entitled to the same staff support as students in other schools?

The reflex answer would be enrollment, but with NOVA at 340 and Rainier Beach at 400 I find it hard to accept that answer. Are we to believe that those sixty students at Rainier Beach High School put the school over a tipping point that requires seven more staff people?

Anonymous said...

Right Charlie, I accept the reflex answer. In that case, the question really is why isn't RB funded like a small school? The reason: it clearly has huge needs like a bigger school, even though it isn't one.

And right another parent. The diversity question doesn't matter for larger schools, because the WSS applies to them and takes diversity into account. EG. They already get funding for FRL, ELL, and Sped. Of course not enough, but they are extra funded for those things as they have them.

-parent

Anonymous said...

Charlie, don't know why these 4 schools don't use WSS. However, even if you were to use WSS for RB vs. NOVA, you have to look at the number of ELL, spec ed, and FRL students in each school to see why there is such a difference in staffing and budget.

x-blt

Charlie Mas said...

I don't begrudge any school the staffing or budget they get based on the SpEd, FRL, or bilingual enrollment. That's not what this is about. In fact, those things have nothing to do with this and I can't imagine why anyone would even try to interject them into the discussion.