Wednesday, September 26, 2018

BEX V/Budget Work Session Today

Today's Work Session has two parts; BEX V and the budget for next school year.  I'll be attending the BEX V section.  Here is the agenda which contains both parts.

Key pages
Page 23 - List of short-listed BEX V projects.  I don't know that I agree with the whole list but it looks solid.  It appears that the downtown high school is off as there needs to be additional discussion.

Page 64-65
Probably the most complete list I have ever seen (thanks, Director Geary!) of BEX/BTA funds spent for every school.

Page 111 is the start of the Budget section which is, well, pretty much bad news.

Page 114 shows that PTA funding has gone down by nearly $1M.  (They note that this does NOT include booster club money which is where much of the big money raised comes from, particularly at the high school level).

Page 115 - Rainier Beach HS received a $300K IB grant from OSPI.

Page 116 - A particularly bad page about enrollment.  Last school year should have been a signal, there was a slight drop, and then the big drop this school year.  And it wasn't just that they expected new students but they lost students. 

I have to wonder at the reason "Seattle is expensive" really explains it.  (Although page 118 shows that the poverty rate in SPS has gone way down.)  There are new charter schools, a couple of new private schools and an online school.  To me, this may explain it more than being expensive.

To note, I've seen comments from readers like, "Why doesn't the district do more to get students in private schools back?"  I've said that for decades.  At this point, they truly don't have the room or the time to get back students (even as they lose money when they lose students).   But if this trend continues, the district is going to have too many buildings to operate.  That would be an even worse disaster for all schools.

Page 124 - State Prototypical spending for staffing is an interesting read.  SPS has fewer teachers than what the state would allot but more principals/assistant principals.

Page 125 - Also an interesting page to see what spending looks like at low-risk to high-risk schools.

Page 126 - Possible areas for reductions - No one is going to like this page.


Anonymous said...

I don’t see a hyperlink on my phone so haven’t gotten a chance to review things in detail,, but I suspect Seattle is really expensive is not at least the full answer. Of all of the kids we know who left our school last year, only one switched to another public school and only one moved away. Several went to APP and the majority went private. We are thinking of going the same route for next year because SPS is not meeting our kid’s needs.

And that’s a big change in PTA dollars. It would be good if anyone was looking at why the change was occurring and what the impact is to the kids.

So frustrated

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Frustrated, thanks for the heads up on the link; I put it in.

Anonymous said...

Them throwing down lots and lots of numbers does not mean they have actually done any 'value add'.

For example, the PTA funding slide is a joke. There is no meaning to it. Why chart it? Seriously, I am not being rhetorical, why did they chart this?

They include "2019" on the chart yet that has but one month of revenue for the current school year, and they make it seem like an ominous nose dive has occurred? They have failed to plot PTA $ against student enrollment, which has changed, so you get no sense if there is an ominous per capita change, and they don't indicate the various per-school per-capita figures: what is the range for non-Title 1 K-5 schools? $30 to $190 per student?!? There literally is no information on this slide, so why do they bother? What is their point?

FWIW, I did calculate PTA $ per non-FRL student, for the 4 years as they only gave 4 years of PTA grant totals, and it works out to an average per non-poor student enrolled of $122 plus or minus $9 stand dev. Again, so what. All this shows is that system-wide, there has been fairly steady on average PTA donations per capita. But, it tells us nothing about potential equity disconnects, or even, if this money makes a substantial delta in the educational experience of students relative to the basic education allotment dollars of, what, $8K per kid?

Wasting everyone's time.

I picked this because it was a trivial example to show how badly they fail at presenting actual analysis. How can the board, or the district management, make any informed decisions if they get no information? (OK, that was rhetorical)

smoke bomb

Anonymous said...

Looking further, FRL would seem to be potentially decreasing because more lower income families are being pushed out, but it could also be potentially decreasing as the higher minimum wage shifts more families slightly out of FRL. This could be misleading because those families close to the edge could certainly still be considered very in need.

In terms of the fewer teachers than the state model, it's hard to tell exactly what's going on because the numbers are too aggregated, but in addition to the higher numbers of principals/APs (not sure why that is), there's also a lot more certified staff in the buildings. I know in the north end, at least a few schools didn't have space to make the K-3 class size reductions so they reduced ratios by adding counselors and intervention support/etc. I wonder how those actually net out.

The funding model of lower need vs higher need is really striking. I don't think anyone would argue that higher needs schools don't need more resources and I've heard that actual funding doesn't shake out like that because it really ends up being netted out on a per teacher ratio and the higher income schools tend to have more senior teachers so effectively cost more, yet double the per student funding suggests low income schools should have really quite a lot more adults or discretionary funding or both. It doesn't seem like those resources are being leveraged effectively when we see posts about lower income schools still having large class sizes, lack of opportunity for music/enrichment, lack of supplies, lack of resources for camp fees, etc. Where is the disconnect? How do we figure out what will actually make a difference and support programs accordingly?

So frustrated

Anonymous said...

Regarding PTA funding: we have to remember that well-funded PTAs are operating at schools that get only $6000 per head, to use round numbers, whereas poor schools are getting $12,000 per head. At a school of 500 students, that's the difference between $3 million and $6 million. The maximum a PTA is raising is rare cases of $500K, but usually more like $100K to $200K.

This "Olschefsky model" of shifting salaries and what not to PTA funding sources is already supposed to be an equity adjustment. This seems not to be well understood or discussed when we talk about PTA funding and equity. But it's not like richer schools are funding extras with their PTA money, which isn't anywhere near the extra per-head money poor schools get. They are funding a lot of essentials, too, that would be totally unfunded otherwise.

I agree with So Frustrated that there isn't enough transparency to compare apples to apples and really see where the equity problems lie and where the disconnects are located.


Moveathon Pledged-Out said...

Some elementary schools are getting twice as much money per student as other elementary schools but they still can't pay for full time librarians? Like SF2 says above, some of these elementary schools may be bringing in several million more dollars but are still running Go Fund Me drives for colored pens.

It seems like the millions of extra dollars haven't led to a better student experience, a happier school community, or higher achievement scores, or closing any gaps. What gives?

Anonymous said...

It would be really interesting to see, for every elementary school, the total funding from the state and from SPS, total outside grants, and total PTA/foundation/booster funds allocated (whether spent yet or not), and then divide that number by the enrollment for that school and compare the total real spending per capita at each school that way.

It's hard to get PTA/foundation/booster numbers for every school, but the comparison would be really interesting to see to get a picture of the real dollars spent per capita in shortfall, if any, that low-income schools have.

If there is no shortfall in real dollars spent, then it would be very interesting to look at the schools' budgets and see how money is being allocated differently.


Anonymous said...

Regarding MW's comment about whether the district cares or not that so many students in the enrollment area are choosing Private or Charter ...

When I was reading the write-ups during the Superintendent selection, I was really impressed by the woman from Michigan (a charter friendly state) who indicated that in the face of declining enrollment (mostly losses to charter schools) she began competing to get those students back.

I have no faith that any of the middle/upper managers in this district have any clue what that would even look like. They literally don't know what makes a family select the district vs. private vs. charter. If there are shoulder shrugs at the board meetings over the current enrollment slide, it very telling.


Anonymous said...

Lincoln High School: Apparently, finishing renovation of the Eastern half of the building, including the crumbling theater, is not on the list of items to be funded in the next capital budget (though it was supposed to be.) If we want Seattle Public Schools to complete this renovation, the community needs to demand it of Director Eden Mack as she leading that committee.

Frustrated parent

Anonymous said...

Per Lincoln HS, link below:



Anonymous said...

The lincoln theater complex is NOT crumbling. It is an absolute coup that it managed to escape getting messed with by idiots who wanted to destroy its integrity. 2 theaters, an excellent band room with risers, sets of bathrooms for the front of the house and the back too - it is fantastic. Ask the music teachers who have conducted large symphonic orchestras on that stage for since 2012 when Lowell moved in: don’t mess with it!!! It is an amazing facility as is and can meet the needs of performing arts (music and theater) and community building. Plus, this district can’t build anything efficiently, they pay far more per sq ft than any other educational service district.

Lincoln alum

Anonymous said...

What's surprising about the ranking of projects is that health and safety is not weighted more heavily than other factors. Alarming, really.

@Lincoln alum, the Lincoln auditorium is most likely not up to earthquake code (auditoriums at EMS, JAMS, and IHS are of a similar era). Given its age, it also most likely contains lead and asbestos, like many older SPS school buildings. From a health and safety standpoint, families should have some concerns. Major renovations usually require seismic upgrades of the structure - they have to be "brought up to code" - but in Lincoln's case, the auditorium is a separate structure, allowing them to bypass upgrades for now.

priorities unclear

Anonymous said...

OMG, I was in the Lincoln Theater complex last June. It's all asbestos inside, the layers of paint are full of lead, the pipes are full of lead, it's not seismically retrofitted, the seats are too small and super uncomfortable, and the sound system is state-of-the-art 1975. It also smells of mildew in spots. No sensible person thinks that facility is "fantastic."

You want fantastic? Have you been to the Shorecrest High School Auditorium just a few miles away in Shorecrest? That is what a fantastic high school auditorium looks like.


WonkMom said...

PTA funding probably fell because of significantly increased SPS funding for staff positions in the March allocations (due to the one-year "double-dip" before the $2,500 hard levy cap kicks in). PTAs across the city weren't being asked to fund as much as they were previously. You'll likely see it skyrocket next year, if nothing else changes.

Anonymous said...

Why private? As a former SSD teacher I have been befuddled by the inconsistency in curriculums at various reported schools, especially middle and high schools. Most of the private schools I visited were well organized, curriculum was obvious, people cared about the kids. There are some exemplary public schools but the entire administration is a mess.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Melissa who said "There are new charter schools, a couple of new private schools and an online school. To me, this may explain it more than being expensive." The kids we know who left this year, left for private at the high school level.
The 1 million loss of PTA dollars may be correlated with those who left for private schools. Isn't there any way to track the demographics of who did not re-enroll this year? Seems like in this city especially we would be able to hire someone to track the data effectively.

Anonymous said...

>>>> Regarding PTA funding: we have to remember that well-funded PTAs are operating at schools that get only $6000 per head, to use round numbers, whereas poor schools are getting $12,000 per head

What a load of uninformed, total horse crap. And we often hear the same load of crap from HCC parents, “proving” that their students’ program is ridiculously underfunded compared to others, and that segregation is proven to be cost effective. There is no $6,000 per student poverty differential. The ONLY program driving a $6,000 per student funding differential is special education. If a school has a very high per student rate compared to your school with a “well-funded PTA”, go look around for the special ed wing in the building, or, more likely, the special ed portables out back. You won’t find it. The notion that “PTAs are only providing money that those other $12,000 per head schools are getting “ ignores the other reality. Those well heeled parents are often the very ones driving the students with special needs out of their schools to protect their precious PTA dollars.


Anonymous said...

PTA is not providing anywhere close to the amount of money higher FRL schools are getting, and you're wrong, reader. LAP, levy, and weighted staffing standards account for a large chunk of the differential. I think what you say was probably true 6 or 7 years ago, but you should really check out a more recent WSS and school budget. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. The district is still underfunded and top heavy but is doing a much better job deploying limited resources to schools more highly impacted by poverty. There are still issues with differentially retaining senior teachers at impacted schools, but that has been a bit blunted lately by all the new schools opening.

Wonk Out

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, Title One schools do get federal and state funds (LAP). But those are restricted funds (although we did learn from Washington Middle School's new principal that those LAP funds there were improperly used last year).

Robbin' the 'Hood said...

Personally I think the Robin Hood approach of taking PTSA funds from wealthier schools and giving it to poorer schools is doomed. Robin Hood stole from the rich. Rich people in Seattle mostly don't have school aged children. We should be going full Robin Hood, but we should be stealing from Boeing and Microsoft and Amazon and Starbucks, not families with young kids.

Anonymous said...

Reader - look at page 125 of the budget report Melissa linked to above - the lower income elementary schools get over $12,000 budgeted per student and the higher income schools get closer to $7,000 budgeted per student - excluding special education and ELL. Some of those dollars are restricted(Lap/Title 1) and some are not - discretionary equity dollars. The difference is a LOT more than the $500-$1000 per kid the very few highest PTAs fundraise...most, even in the upper income schools, raise much less.

It is clear significantly more resources are directed at lower income schools in terms of teacher ratio and discretionary funding. I have heard, but have nothing to confirm, that the district has intentionally shortchanged higher income schools because they know those families will make it up. I have also heard PTA funding is inherently unequal.

I have no idea what the “right” amount more funding is or how to decide it. I know it can’t be all. It also seems clear that there’s a huge gap in what I would expect the extras to fund vs what they are funding.

I would not expect teachers from low income schools to be crowdsourcing basic supplies or have class sizes of 30. I have seen both listed on fund raising sites. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to wonder what the dollars are being spent on. The $3M extra Bailey-Ganzert gets is 6 times as much as the largest elementary PTAs fundraise. What is it covering? Is that allocation effective? How can we do better? How much more do they need?

So frustrated

Broadway Millennial said...

Did anyone see this Donors Choose request from Ms. Schulz at Lowell Elementary? She says classrooms in most high poverty schools in SPS do not even come with any furniture at all, so she asked for $715. What is Lowell doing with the $13,890 per student the district gives them if it can't even afford furniture?


Anonymous said...

Reader, your blame on HCC parents is misplaced. My child's HCC school, Decatur, doesn't have a counselor. Despite having 13.3% children identified as SPED or 504, we'll never have a counselor to address the unsupported mental health needs because a 0.5 counselor is only assigned based on meeting one of three criteria per SPS Purple Book, 1. Focus or Priority school, 2. Greater than 50% poverty or 3. presence of Social/Emotional Behavior program.

The institutional barriers in SPS for those with disabilities remain strong, because Equity dollars use % FRL only without regard for disability.

Whatever SPED dollars are assigned to our school are insufficient as there was tremendous staff turnover this year due to SPED support issues.

Our school is too small to afford to pay for a counselor out of PTA funds.

If I have to choose between ability vs. disability support for my child, my choice is to move out of this district.

In researching other options, I discovered Lake Washington has 1.0 FTE counselor assigned to EVERY elementary school and has committed to Twice Exceptional student support.

Almost Out

Anonymous said...

Almost Out is right, SPS policy of funding based almost solely on FRL IS inequitable for many students. Every school should have a counselor, librarian and nurse. 2E students are especially impacted by the narrow minded funding based on FRL and not actual need. It's mind boggling that surrounding districts are able to provide these to all schools.

NW Parent

Anonymous said...

@ NW Parent, I’d rephrase that as “It's mind boggling that SPS can’t figure out how to do it when surrounding districts are able to provide these to all schools.”


Limitless Reader said...

We attended an event here this past Sunday & had an awesome experience from beginning to end. They served great food and the salad I had for dinner was delicious. The service at venues in NYC also was impeccable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with HF & Almost out & NW parent.

" SPS policy of funding based almost solely on FRL IS inequitable for many students. Every school should have a counselor, librarian and nurse. 2E students are especially impacted by the narrow minded funding based on FRL and not actual need.

It is outrageous really that there is no baseline of equity for many students. In addition, I notice that the vulnerability of 2E & LGBT students gets ignored. Parents and staff need to advocate to the superintendent & board. Point out these issues and a definition of "equity" which is being defined internally, however the management sees fit without any accountability.


Anonymous said...

Dear Almost Out, Decatur has 10% special ed, far below district average. And, special ed kids don’t get counselors. SPS has a policy that forbids it. So yeah, a rich all white school in the north end, without frl, ell, or real Sped, isn’t going to get a lot of perks from the district. And no, special ed isn’t going to be deluxe at the gifted schools because special ed doesn’t turn average kids into gifted ones. Maybe that’s why they need counseling. By design.


Anonymous said...

The $6000 dollar difference per child does not include Special Ed funding. My rich white Northend school with two classrooms of special ed (which, as far as I know, nobody fought against and in fact the PTA are actively seeking ways to support them) still receives about $6000 less per child in funding than high-need schools when special ed funding is excluded.

Do schools with higher needs and fewer resources deserve more monetary support? Absolutely.

Should schools on the low end of the SPS funding gap be shamed for trying to raise money to support a librarian or a counselor? No.

Please stop painting with such a broad brush. We are much more likely to figure out how to fully fund *all* schools if we put aside our differences and work together.


Anonymous said...

>>> (as far as I know, nobody fought against [the special ed] in my rich, white school)

Nice try. So far as you know, Northend Kavanaugh. But yes, the resistance is nearly universal in the Northend, every high school, and every elementary school of any wealth at all. High needs schools simply need more AFTER all money is accounted for. Including pta donations. So, pta donations are fine but should be pooled and doled out in the same proportion as the WSS. Schools shouldn’t get to thwart the equity efforts, which means poor schools get more. Period.


Anonymous said...

@ reader

As another north-ender, why would I fight against special ed in our schools when my kids--and those of many of my neighbors, and about 1/3 of my friends--need those services?

"The resistance is nearly universal in the Northend"? Please provide data and examples, so those of with special ed students know more about who and when and how to fight this supposed opposition in our midst.

Are there not special ed sites and services in the north end?


Viewing said...

You do get that there are title 1 schools in the Northend, don't you? Broadview-Thomson, Viewlands, Northgate, Olympic Hills. Plus there are "title 1 targeted assistance" schools: Sand Point, Olympic View, Licton Springs, and John Rogers. Give it up with the South/North war.

The PTSA moneygrubbing is ridiculous. The money is in corporations and elderly white ladies who lunch and tech workers who don't even have kids yet. It's a waste of time to go demanding that the 20 wealthiest families at McGilvra or wherever to donate money to cover everyone else who can't afford to pay cash for public education. All this energy could be going into fixing the state's underfunding of schools. But instead it's all being wasted on bickering about how rich other cash-strapped parents are.

Anonymous said...

Reader, it's almost laughable that you think a disabled elementary aged child receiving counseling support for emotional challenges is a "perk", but then again you have a history of discriminatory comments about disabled children on this blog, and are strangely intractable about the fact that disabled isn't equivalent to low IQ.

Anyone who has read biographies of famous historical figures (Churchill, Einstein, Tesla, etc.) would realize that it isn't uncommon for disability and high IQ to go hand-in-hand and that school was troubling for these figures.

You can't leave out 504 from consideration, because the bulk of those children have ADHD which is a disorder. Furthermore, even though you continually disparage disabled children, they're a protected class, and whether over or under the distract average, they're not widgets, they're children who deserve social and emotional support.

Another fact that you don't realize is that Counselors provide social skills groups and emotional counseling to children across this district who need it, formally identified or not.

Calling Decatur a "rich, white" school reveals your penchant for alternative facts. It's 56% white, and you have zero way of proving it's rich. The opposite of FRL isn't rich. There's a continuum of low, middle and upper class following the very low income qualifier for FRL.

It's disappointing, yet not surprising, that you feel supporting one protected class means discriminating against another, but I don't share your views.

Almost Out

Anonymous said...

All schools deserve counselors and librarians and nurses, and enough teachers that class sizes are reasonable and schools aren't rearranging teachers and schedules mid-Oct. The kids deserve this regardless of their FRL population or the number of FOCUS and ACCESS classrooms within. That is what I want to work towards. PTA money, while a part of it, will not solve this alone. We need to think bigger.


Anonymous said...

I believe Decatur is a minority-majority school as of this year. If not this year, it will be next year. It is not a "white" school.


Anonymous said...

Broadway millennial,

One of my kids is at Lowell, and I was a bit confused too when I saw that donors choose page. They certainly DO have classroom furniture at Lowell (and I don't believe that most of it is covered in foul graffiti - not in my daughter's classroom anyway. Maybe the older kids?). It looks like she is asking for softer furniture (for a reading area or similar, maybe) plus classroom supplies, which the district probably does not pay for, and is trying hard to elicit sympathy from potential donors.

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...


The schools with the highest % of FRL typically also have the highest per-student funding. And it's not enough.

And the per-student funding isn't enough at schools with low FRL.

Every. Single. Student in SPS is getting shortchanged. None of them deserve to be shortchanged. They all deserve better. Every single kid deserves to learn at school, in a building that isn't crumbling around them. Fighting over which kids "deserve" it more is missing the point of public education: every kid deserves to learn at school. Every student deserves an education that makes them reach to the top of their abilities. And the problem with the way public education is funded is that everyone talks like it's really important, and then... our institutions don't spend as if education is important.

Does SPS administration make terrible financial decisions? Yes. If they didn't, would there be enough money? NO. It might be better, but it wouldn't change the constant Sophie's choice of public education - a child has to get screwed over because there is never enough money. And charters coming onto the scene is only going to make it worse. First fight: get SPS administrators to do better with the money they have. Second fight: get enough money from the state. McCleary isn't the savior, it's the start.

-Longtime Watcher

Anonymous said...

What Longtime Watcher said is very important. Not a single child in SPS is getting a fully funded public education. The answer isn’t to take from some students and give to others. The answer is to take from the rich white men who are hoarding all the money and use that money to fund every child’s needs. Every last one of them. This isn’t rocket science.

Rocket Man

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, Longtime Watcher, well said. Just to note, it serves some at JSCEE to have parents at each others' throats, keep that in mind.

Anonymous said...

@ Rocket Man, so rich white women and rich people who aren't white should get to, as you say, "hoard" their money?

just curious

Anonymous said...

Lincoln HS Correction:

If future Lincoln HS parents and current Hamilton MS parents (Hamilton relies on the auditorium for all its music concerts) are concerned about the fact that the auditorium is not up to health and safety standards (e.g. asbestos, earthquake retrofitting), please contact the FULL school board, not just Director Eden Mack, and register to testify at the next board meeting with stories that demonstrate the impact unsafe facilities have on students and teachers.

Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

@just curious, no, but the three richest people in the state (who are also atop the list of the richest people in the world) are white men: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Paul Allen. One can add other wealthy folks like Steve Ballmer, Nick Hanauer, and others. All white dudes. Every wealthy person should be heavily taxed to fund our schools, starting with those five.

Rocket Man

Anonymous said...

@ Rocket Man, yeah, there are a lot of rich white dudes. However, stereotypes and generalizations aren't what we need right now, even if they are often correct. A little more attention to clarifying our language is a good thing, don't you think?

just curious

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