Monday, August 07, 2017

District to State: It's Not Enough

 Update: my bad.  I skipped over a paragraph in my notes.  See bottom of page for info on impact fees.

end of update

Today's press conference at JSCEE about the district's early analysis of the McCleary funding as approved by the Legislature this year  didn't have many fireworks but there was one good note of passion from an unexpected source.

Fronting for the district were Superintendent Larry Nyland, school board director Jill Geary, and CFO JoLynn Berge.  Director Geary gave the opening remarks, saying the public has asked for information since the legislative session ended.  She noted that SPS has made "shifts" in their budget process, making it more transparent, and want to keep doing so with the new McCleary dollars.  She said that the Legislature did not seem to understand the "particular challenges" of Seattle Schools.

She said, "We anticipate unforeseen consequences for our diverse population and shortfalls in the budget."

She was the Board's legislative delegate to the legislature this past year and thanked the Seattle delegation for their work with her, saying they had been very responsive.

Ms. Berge said that state funding dollars had always had complicated formulas and the new changes in the law didn't make them less so.  She said what they were presenting was not all the analysis but enough to allow them to see that the district will be in a very bad place in just a couple of years.

She then went into the presentation handouts.
The first  was "Revenue Analysis of Status Quo to Enacted Budget."  Basically, the district will see a bump up in 2018-2019 of $188 per pupil.  Then the next year, it's about $100 up with one last bump from the Operations levy but come 2020-2021, it will be down about $92 from what they receive now, primarily because of the  loss of levy dollars.

In the second slide, "Budget Outlook for School Years 2018-2019 through 2020-2021", we see the expenditures versus revenue and the projected deficit.  It's not pretty.  And, the point was made that with no revenue, those deficits mean "trimming back."   I don't think most schools will feel it in the next couple of years but come 2020, it will mean about $24M in cuts and you can't hide from that.

The third slide was "Special Education - Remaining Gap in State Basic Ed Funding for Staff."  Basically, this state does not want to pay for fully funding Special Education.  The State has put more money in for Sped but there will still be a gap for what the district spends and the state funds.

It was stated that the district could try to use dollars out of the "enrichment levy" (which is our current Operations levy).  What has changed here is that districts can no longer use levy dollars for "basic education" so these levies will now be considered "enrichment" levies for other non-basic uses.

The last slide was "Classified Staff - Remaining Gap in State Basic Ed Funding."  These staff - school secretaries/clerical staff, aides, maintenance/custodial, central clerical and professional staff, school security, program managers and directors, deputy and assistant superintendents - do little in enrichment activities so the so-called "enrichment levy" could not be used for their salaries.  However, the district seems to believe they can and will try to do that.

My read of all this is the district is trying to understand how much money they will have coming into which spending buckets. 

The note of passion? That was Superintendent Nyland.  It is the most animated I have ever seen him be.  He started low-key, saying that Seattle taxpayers will be paying more but getting fewer dollars.  He said it was a "levy swipe, not a swap." 

H said that Seattle had been accused of giving too much to teachers - and he said , "I don't believe that" - but pointed out that SPS teacher salaries are below other districts in the state and it's more expensive to live here.

His fervor came when he said that the State had been making promises for 40 years on fully funding public education.  He said the new dollars are good but it probably won't raise Washington up to even the middle for state funding among the other 49 states. He continued saying our state constitution says it's the most important duty for the state as do taxpayers.

He said the $400M extra that SPS will see next year will be the lowest amount the district has received in three years. 

Question and Answer Highlights

? - I asked about their statement about the McCleary funding and that the district hopes the Supreme Court see what they see in the McCleary Plan and what the district would like the Court to do and, if the Court were to shut down the K-12 public education system, do they have a contingency plan?

Nyland said the plaintiffs on the NEWS group that brought the lawsuit have pointe dout several options including rescinding tax breaks for companies (which would generate more than enough money).

He said the Kansas Supreme Court had shut down that state's schools but it was in June and their legislature got the work done before schools reopened.  He said, "We never want students to be the ones to suffer but we need to see action."

He said that the Court could give their opinion as early as October but perhaps as late as January as they have done on other cases.

? As for the district's statement that they would not be hurt as much as other districts by the Legislature's lack of a capital budget, he said that SPS had enough planning dollars to continue on, while other districts didn't have any such dollars and would have to halt their work.

? Berge was asked how much money the district would lose per student in the levy swap.  She said they currently receive $3400 per student and it would go down to $2500 per students.

? What about contract negotiations?
Nyland said they don't have to start on classified bargaining until the end of this year with the teachers' contract to be bargained the next year.  He said he was not going to apologize for the funding level for teachers.

? What are other districts saying?
Berge said she hadn't heard much but that SPS was probably ahead in its early analysis.  She said it was likely they had some of the same concerns about levy rates and levy caps.

FYI, tomorrow the district launches the new school year internally.  Enrollment has started and the lobby was quite full with parents and students.


I asked about impact fees and their possible help to the district with capacity issues.  I was surprised but the Superintendent said that not enough of the new building included family-sized apartments.  He said impact fees for schools (and others) are based on the impacts to the schools and those new apartments weren't not going to have enough children to generate much in the way of impact fees.

I think he's generally right but that, in itself, is a major problem - where is the family housing in this Grand Bargain?


Anonymous said...

Trying to make sure I understand the numbers, although I can't access the presentation... So in '20/'21, the average funding per student will be $92/student less than now? And this is because we'll lose $900 per student in levy funding, but the state will presumably be providing an extra $808 per student at that point (to make the math work out)?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, Unclear; I put in a better link to the presentation docs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks unclear ... so PTA's will have to push harder (ugh!!?) or someone will have to finally step up and start a Seattle Public Schools Foundation, AND we have to collectively help flip the 45th so our legislators can fix this messed up legislation.

Let's do-it!

Watching said...


Nyland suggests closing schools and ending tax breaks to fund McCleary.

WTH? said...

Seattle is in the midst of incredible growth and Nyland suggests closing schools???

Anonymous said...

Maybe Attorney General Ferguson wouldn't be so quick to declare victory for the Legislature if he sent his own kids to public school. Good enough for other people's children, I guess.


Anonymous said...

Where do Bob Ferguson's kids go to school? I am assuming he moved his family from Seattle to Olympia when he became attorney general.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Mr. Morton is stating Nyland's words - I believe - wrongly. Nyland did say that the plaintiffs had laid out possible solutions, including tax breaks. But he didn't say closing schools was the answer. He alluded to the pain of that happening should the Supreme Court decide to shut down the public ed system. I find that a misleading tweet. I see from a later tweet that he clarified that first tweet which was a good idea.

Melissa Westbrook said...

My bad: I skipped a paragraph where I asked about impact fees. See the end of thread.

Watching said...

I was never confident that the McCleary lawsuit was in the best interest of Seattle Public Schools. Perhaps I was correct.

Anonymous said...

Re: impact fees
A lot of families are not living in "family-sized" apartments because they cannot afford them. Several clients live in 1 bedroom apartments with their families of 4-5. Kids all in one bedroom, parents have a hideaway or something in the main room. Packed in like sardines.


Anonymous said...

I think the idea that as the young people moving to Seattle start marrying and having kids, that they will look for a big house with a yard and a commute to Seattle is an outdated idea. More and more families, for a variety of reasons*, will decide to stay in their two bedroom apartment in Ballard or Capital Hill and we will all look back at the time when we decided against developer impact fees to improve and grow our schools and say d'oh.

*(1)Millennials, I am told, don't like cars or commutes.
(2) Having an only child will be much more affordable in the increasingly expensive Seattle than having the assumed 2.5.
(3) This already happens in many big cities in Europe.
(4) Seattle still has some great open spaces near many apartment buildings.
(5) Everything else in Seattle is changing. Why do we assume this will stay the same?

-NW Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

CT and NW Mom, valid comments and exactly why I was surprised that Nyland seems to blow off the issue so easily. Even if it did turn out to be little direct money to schools, 1) every bit counts and 2) mitigation might come in the form of supports for more sidewalks.

Anonymous said...

No, millenials don't like cars or commutes. I have several peers whose parents commuted two-hours-plus, each way, so their family could live in the suburbs or the better school district. The kids would have preferred to spend more time with their parents. Not to mention that it's apparently morally reprehensible to be a latchkey kid nowadays. Viable options shrink until the obvious answer is: live near your job. Minimize commute. The city is averse to family-sized apartments, so take what you can get.

Everyone loves to talk about the young, 20-something single tech guys. It's all well and good to joke about them as socially inept and all, but they're getting married and starting families in droves. And they're not all fleeing once they do.
-pragmatic xennial

Anonymous said...

@ NW Mom

All the traffic on I5, I90, 520 and H99 says you are wrong. The skyrocketing suburban home prices also told me you're wrong. They all are screaming,

Cars = Freedom and Freedom = America


Anonymous said...

Really? I could have sworn they were screaming, "I accepted a job here and, well, this is better than taking the Concorde I guess. Particularly since there Is no more Concorde."
-pragmatic xennial

K.S. said...

We werenever confident that Nyland was in the best interests of Seattle Schools and we were right.

If his intensity in his first 39 years was anything like that of the last year here, no one was in any danger.

Seattle got burned.