Friday, March 08, 2019

Seattle Schools Budget Work Session

After yesterday's Work Sessions, I confess to many feelings - feeling flummoxed, confused, irritated and even feeling admiration at so many people trying to do their best.

The entire Board was present as was the Superintendent.  Garfield principal Ted Howard was also in attendance.

Budget head JoLynn Berge led the discussion for staff.  She noted that 85% of districts around the state are in the same place as Seattle.  However, she didn't note that many districts do not have the ability to pass levies the way Seattle Schools does.

She said the next Work Session on the Budget on April 3rd will be to find consensus on restoration issues. 

She stated that the issue of Special Education funding in the legislature was still up in the air but Senator Rolfes had a bill still in play.  She mentioned something odd about Sped funding to the effect that SPS would have to cost out each student's IEP and how much above state spend each student cost.  Director Harris asked if the district even had the staff to do that kind of work.  Berge said maybe but the district does have 7,000 Sped students and many are above the average of $11K.

Director Burke asked if extra funding came in for Sped that the district could take the dollars they would have used to fill that Sped cost and use it for other programs. Berge said yes.

There is also a new definition for elementary school counselors but I could not follow the discussion.  (You may recall that the Work Sessions were held at Garfield but it was in their cafeteria which had an echo that somewhat distorted voices.)

Director Mack came in with a statement of concern about the large cuts for the system.  She said, "I'm uncomfortable with projections on a school by school basis" and wanted to know how the cuts were derived.  She also asked about enrollment projections.

This started a discussion about enrollment and the vagaries of projections.

Berge said that they had 850 students less than they thought they would this year.  She said, "We knew enrollment was slowing but didn't anticipate this kind of drop."  She said the five-history would not have anticipated this.  (I interject here that there was a drop in 2017-2018 as well; that may well have been an early signal.)

She said that drop cost the district $7M and so, for next year, they are "tightening up."  She said,  "We need to stabilize our staffing and budget."

Mack continued that she was uncomfortable with how dramatic the estimation is.  She said hitting the mark is "imperfect" but the cuts were deep.  "I don't understand the methodology.  It's not transparent."

Director Geary said that she had seen the district go thru this three or four times and that her concern "isn't that it's too high but maybe not high enough."  She said they were slowing down the rate of loss.  She said conservative is better in terms of disruption.

Mack said she appreciated this but "closures happened because of lower enrollment projections."  I note that a reader made this same statement elsewhere.  I also note, as someone who had to make closure decisions with a committee, that we can't have that happen again (not without a lot of notice and, of course, an explanation about why all the expansion of space and schools throughout the district).

Burke said he thought conservative was better and that there was no perfect time for disruption but that it was less disruptive than doing it when school starts.  He said he was "worried about this conversation if we can't control this."  He said that SPS does get kids; they earn them.  He said he wanted to know where all those kids went and why. 

Berge then said something that fell in my flummoxed category.  She said that almost every school in the district had losses and it was across all grade levels.  She said there were also fewer births but she didn't know if that trend would change.

Why is staff so reluctant to figure out - even try to - why enrollment is dropping?

President Harris said she liked Burke's words and she had been begging for this kind of information but "it's fine to say we need to figure it out but we don't have the staff to do this."  She asked why there were 800 students in Seattle in charter schools.

I disagree somewhat.  SPS has enrollment staff and, if someone phones in to say their child won't be returning to SPS, staff can certainly ask why they are leaving.  They can ask where they are going.  The parent doesn't have to answer but it can't hurt to ask.  As well, if a parent emails saying their child is not returning, ask why.  Not everyone will answer but the answers you do get might yield some clues.

Director DeWolf then asked a question about the staffing at Washington Middle Schools and programs.  (Perhaps because there were Washington parents at this meeting.)

Berge said reductions do impact what can be offered in a master schedule.  She said Washington is not the smallest middle school.  (But again, if you see a migration from Washington - and I bet they will for next year - ask parents why.)

Interestingly, Mack then said my thought - trends or not, the information would be useful.

President Harris then mentioned the two budget books - Gold and PurpleGold is all the district revenue and expenditures and Purple is WSS per school. Berge nodded and said it is all online.

I pause here to point out that both books are quite lengthy and not always understandable.  My point is that no one should be smug about the existence of this legally obligated information.

DeWolf asked about using the Economic Stabilization Account and school librarians.  Berge said that fund is generally 3-5% with the state recommending at least 3%.  She said they could go below that.

Harris put in that she doesn't like trying to get to a "thumbs up, thumbs down" consensus on restoration.

Mack said another concern was if more kids did show up at any given school in the fall - enough for a classroom - what then?  

Principal Howard spoke about "boots on the ground" with BLTs and principals.  (He may not be aware that some principals don't have BLTs and/or some principals control the membership of the BLTs.)

Harris said decisions get made on an individual school basis but the restoration recommendations read as system-wide.  She said that it's "not a great system."

Superintendent Juneau spoke very little during the meeting but, at the end, said it was an "important conversation" and they really hope to collect the money that voters approved.  She said it is better to do the cuts now because "if we have to take it away later, it's way harder."  


- Yes, I know; there are not many answers in this thread but I can only report what they say.  

- It's a waiting game now and I don't like that.  

How are districts to budget when they don't know what the legally mandated funding for Special Education is to be now because of McCleary?  Maybe the State Supreme Court should go back to fining the legislature for every week this doesn't get done.

- In most districts we now have teachers and staff on tenderhooks - do we keep our staff or lose staff?  If so, which staff?  I recall Director Burke said elsewhere that he was trying to think of ways that librarians are recognized as part of basic education so that they could not so easily be cut.

- And what about enrollment projections?  I don't believe the district has a demographer any longer and I'm not necessarily advocating for one but something has to change.  I don't get this "we don't know what kids are in charter schools" - then find out because it's costing this district money.  

If the district is losing students throughout every region, why are we expanding so many schools and adding on classrooms? 

On that topic, parallel to this issue, I see that Rainier Beach High School is way down in the timeline for a renovation under BEX V.  And, they want to build to 1600.  RBHS is unlikely to grow to that size especially with competition from more charter schools coming into the SE region.  At over $200M to renovate (a cost I plan to challenge), it feels like staff are trying to put off the rebuild and then, when they do get to it, will overbuild.

It almost feels like staff are trying to cede the SE to charter schools.

- The Board needs to get down to the nitty-gritty of boundaries AND artificial enrollment caps.  Some of this problem is of the district's own making and the Board should call that out.  If the district had allowed natural enrollment patterns, the landscape would be clearer.

Franklin and Cleveland - both to the SE - were capped and complained and nothing was done.  They might not be losing staff had the schools being able to enroll on demand.  Would it have hurt RBHS?  Maybe but if the district was resourcing the IB program and advertising it heavily, I think the loss of enrollment would have been short-term.

I starting looking closely at the budget for this year and, just with a cursory look, I see oddities.  I plan a separate thread as I believe that one issue is that when the district goes over its named budget, we never see an explanation.

It may be time for the district to hire an outside budget analyst to see exactly where dollars are going and why spending changes happen without transparency.

The Superintendent has said she wants to get Operations under control.  Great, let's start with more transparency now.


seattle citizen said...

Thank you for your in-depth coverage of this issue. This is a very detailed report.

Last round of closures pretty much put the coffin lid on alternative schools. We've lost Summit, AS1, Marshall, AAA, Indian Heritage...

I wonder if another round of closures will kill the alt programs off completely, ceding alternatives to the charter crowd.


Anonymous said...

I suggest you double-check what you wrote about special ed funding being appropriated to fund gen Ed shortfalls. At least that's what it sounded like. Best to clarify.

Confused reader

seattle citizen said...

Confused Reader - Is this the quote you are referring to?
"Director Burke asked if extra funding came in for Sped that the district could take the dollars they would have used to fill that Sped cost and use it for other programs. Berge said yes."

I read this as, "we are using gen-ed dollars to fill sped dollars; if extra Sped money comes in will those gen-ed dollars we've been using be freed up?"

Which makes sense.

But yes, we can't use money allocated for Sped for general ed.

kellie said...

Thanks for your in-depth report.

I would concur with most of the conversation that you need to be conservative with your projections and your aggressive with your cuts because, in general restoring is better than cutting later.

That said, these are not conservative projections, these are INSANE projections without any reference to the boots on the ground.

Moreover, there has been ample testimony and blog threads for over five years that directly counter the assertion that "nothing in the 5 year projections" would have shown this trend.

There are serious known flaws with the projections that are based on the 5 year averages. The most obvious of which is that it misses changes. The five year projections are paired with a two year average in order to point out areas of swift change. The overall projections have ignored this data point FOREVER.

The entire reason we had almost a decade of school closures is because the 5 year average projections missed the profound growth at elementary. It took FIVE FULL YEARS of elementary growth until the projections stabilized.

The reverse of this was also true. Long after elementary school growth was completely stable and had leveled off, there were ... wait for it ... FIVE MORE YEARS ... where elementary school enrollment was OVER PROJECTED.

This was known. This has been known and downtown has been utterly tone deaf to the very very simple fact that Seattle is a quickly changing city, and basing enrollment on a five year average has a very predictable outcome.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Confused Reader,what I thought I said was that if SPED funding came in, that the money that the district used to backfill Sped (which I believe are regular dollars), those backfill dollars that will now come from the state then could be used for other purposes.

I am in no way advocating to take dedicated Sped dollars for other purposes.

kellie said...

Rick Burke's comment is spot on. SPS is not entitled to students. SPS has to earn those students.

Downtown has been very casual in the way in which they have broken trust with families. The multiple broken enrollment promises, hidden behind the mysterious and unchangeable "staffing capacity" is bearing entirely predictable fruit.

This mythology that somehow choice and privilege are synonymous and therefore choice must be curtailed at every point in the system, completely and totally misses the simple fact that every single family in SPS filled out a form to enroll.

Families have choices. They can leave the district. They can enroll in Public Charters. And families are doing this in droves. It is time for SPS to actually honor the assignment plan and follow their own rules.

Anonymous said...

I also am grateful for this report.

I have to say, from someone who has a basic understanding of our SW neighborhood, I am beyond frustrated at SPS's planning around enrollment and capacity. BEX V is planning an addition on West Seattle Elementary. That school is not particularly overenrolled. New projections are predicting a big decrease in enrollment at WS Elementary. Nearby Sanislo has no walls ("open concept school") and was yet again overlooked in BEX V. Neighboring Roxhill at E.C. Hughes was recently refurbished and has lots of room. Instead of a boundary change with Roxhill, SPS recommended putting an unneeded addition on West Seattle Elementary, and continued to let Sanislo twist in the wind. If you lived in the neighborhood, you wouldn't have made this decision.

You know what the district could do if it wanted to help Sansilo? Make Sanislo a choice school with a Montessori type curriculum. You can do that curriculum with no walls. People would snap it up! Sanislo has only 200 kids and a crumbling infrastructure. Will that school be next on the SPS chopping block? It will make me so angry if it is! But I bet if we make it a choice school with an interesting Montessori curriculum, people wouldn't care if it didn't have walls. People would love it! It would have waitlists, like the other choice schools.

Another model that people in the SW would snap up is k-8 schools. Both Pathfinder and STEM in the Southwest have long waitlists. I would have loved a K-8 option, but I knew the chances were slim to none to get into either one of those schools, so I didn't even try.

The parents I know who have sent their middle schoolers to Summit Atlas charter school have mostly done so because they don't like how big Madison or Denny is, and wanted something smaller. Another k-8 or a smaller middle school option in the SW would have fit this bill. So, Summit Atlas has been the beneficiary of those people leaving the public system who didn't want to pay private school tuition (or send their kid on the ferry to Vashon). All those parents wanted was something smaller than grade bands of 300 kids when their kids were going through adolescence. Not a particularly big ask, but one SPS was unwilling to fill.

It is easy to fill up option schools. From what Kellie said, it would be easy to fill up Franklin and Cleveland. If enrollment is decreasing after this capacity crunch, let's give people some flexibility. My kids went to Schmitz Park when it had 19 portables. We stuck it out because despite its crappy infrastructure, it was a good school with strong curriculum and faculty. If you give people options regarding curriculum, they don't care much about infrastructure. They will come back. There is no excuse for decreasing enrollment when the city has grown this much.


kellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kellie said...

Director Mack is completely and totally spot on with her comments.

This lacks TRANSPARENCY of any kind. When you are asking people to share the pain, you need to show the math and be transparent. There is nothing transparent in these projections.

Anonymous said...

MW asked, "Would it have hurt RBHS? Maybe but if the district was resourcing the IB program and advertising it heavily, I think the loss of enrollment would have been short-term."

It's not that simple with IB. A strong IB program requires a large enough cohort of students that the full diploma option can be offered, meaning a minimum of 6 unique IB courses (LA, SS, math, science, world language, elective), 3 of which must be 2-yr courses. Then there's the cost to students: each exam costs $, just like with AP. When students have the option of Running Start, which is more flexible than IB and potentially translates to more college credit (only the 2-yr IB courses may get college credit, compared to getting college credit for passing a 1 qtr class through RS - no external IB exam needed), IB may be a tough sell. How many Ingraham students opt out of their neighborhood school - either going to Hale or Ballard or Running Start - because they don't want IB? Bottom line - while IB may be a draw for some students, it's competing with other options.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyway that BEX V can be changed when capacity analysis changes this much midstream? It certainly seems unfair to voters to ask for capacity mitigation in an election in February, and come back with enrollment projections two weeks later and say "WHOOPS!"

To highlight the SW issue in capacity vs. condition of schools:

Sanislo not only is an "open concept" school, it is a wreck in terms of infrastructure. Other SW schools in need of relief for poor condition include STEM and Lafayette.

BEX V said WS Elementary needed increased capacity, but it did not need help with condition. Its current capacity is 387. Current P223 for WS Elementary is 433, but next year's projection is only 397 (only 10 above capacity). Would love to see five year projections, but they are so bad I don't know if they are worth the paper they are written on.

Neighboring Roxhill at E.C. Huges has capacity for 360. Its current P223 is only 256, so it currently has room for about 100 students. Next year's Roxhill's projection is only 239, so it would have room next year for 120 students. A simple boundary adjustment with WS Elementary, and there is more than enough room for everyone. By the way, Roxhill is so close to WS Elementary I bet with a boundary adjustment most of those new kids would be able to walk to school.

It looks to me like someone in the district was purposely withholding these projection numbers before BEX V went on the ballot. The only reason WS Elementary was on the list was for capacity. It was not on the list for condition. If capacity need is going down in the southern part of the SW region as a whole, and at WS Elementary in particular, there is no reason at all to fund increased capacity there. What is needed is to fund for improved condition at Sansilo, STEM, and Lafayette.

Anyway we can shift the funds, or are stuck?


Anonymous said...

I am still perplexed that as our city and our schools have been growing in enrollment with each year, they are predicting -294 Garfield, -321 Roosevelt, -256 Ballard and yet only 556 for Lincoln? The graduating classes I had thought were much smaller than the incoming classes?
Someone please clarify that they are basically predicting a drop of approx 315 high school students? They are opening a new high school and finishing a 500 seat addition onto Ingraham!
The rest of their approx 850 fewer students scattered across lower enrollment at middle and elementary schools?


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Melissa, for this reporting and analysis, and thanks to Kellie and others for your incredibly valuable insights.


Anonymous said...

Running Start draw. That is also part of the HS enrollment projections. And it does impact the upper grades (11-12) to a degree. However, with the Seattle Promise program, I wonder how many students now will opt for Running Start since one of the main reasons for making that choice is to save money on college after graduation. There is no way of knowing how it will impact future enrollment figures- will populations be more stable across grades 9-12? We will have to see.

- Promising

Melissa Westbrook said...

WS Parent, can they shift the BEX V funds? In short, yes they can.

Naturally, it behooves them in the eyes of school communities where promises were made and in the eyes of the public who voted for the funds to do what they say.

However, the Board can say, "On further examination of enrollment issues" which is exactly what staff is saying about staff cuts.

And Confused, I hope you and all my readers write to the Board and say that you agree with Director Mack - there is not transparency in what is happening. If staff has been unable to figure out enrollment so that they are not bleeding dollars AND refuse to acknowledge factors that influence enrollment, well, then the Board can say that it is folly to proceed with BEX V as planning.

If we don't have the students, why are we expanding Ingraham and West Seattle Elementary? West Woodland?

If it is IS necessary, then provide the clear numbers on why.

Staff can't have it both ways and it is we, the taxpayers, who are paying for all this confusion.

Anonymous said...

"If we don't have the students..."

Aren't there 3-4 portables at every north end comprehensive HS??

overcrowding relief

Private MiddleSchool said...

if you are not returning to SPS, there is a two question form that parents are asked to fill out. Honestly, I was HOUNDED when I mentioned to the front desk staff that my child would not be returning to SPS for the following year, but then when I read fthe form, I was so shocked at the lack of information they were collecting, just name and what school you were leaving. What a missed opportunity to learn about why parents are departing!

And so I don't understand why they couldn't add a third question, "where are you going?" or even a check box: Moving from Seattle, staying in Seattle but leaving for a private school, staying in Seattle but leaving for a charter school, staying in Seattle but homeschooling, Running Start, etc.

And even a why? For us, smaller class sizes.

Billy Billion said...

According to OSPI's F 195 report, Seattle Public Schools received nearly $100 million more in one year (from $858 million in 2018 to $955 million in 2019).

Seattle Public Schools has had a budget increase of $189M since 2016-2017. The 2018-2019 budget has ballooned to$957M or nearly $1B.

Some claim that McCleary will not bring us up to pre-McCleary levels. In 2006, SPS's budget was $455M. There were 10,000 fewer students.

JB said...

Every year around my kids' birthdays I'd get a mailing from the health dept (don't remember if it was King Co.or WA State) that gave information about a child at that age....health info, development info, etc. There's a database of kids by age and zip + 4. How much more reliable an estimate of, at least, elementary enrollment could SPS have if they accessed this database. They'd know exactly how many kids in a neighborhood at every age, and they could use historical percentages of families choosing public schools to project enrollment. Rather than a 5-year average....what a blunt instrument!

Then manually adjust for "trend benders", like a new school opening. Given the massive amounts of dollars wasted in closing and re-opening schools, misallocation of capital levy dollars, and the resulting loss of students as people flee SPS, it seems like a logical to invest in a better system.

not a robot

Another View said...

Librarians may be staging a walk out. I'm ok with half time librarians. $77M deficit means cuts.

Washington Paramount Duty cheered pushing the district into debt. Call! Write your legislators for relief!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another View, explain how WPD "pushed" the district into debt.

Another View said...

Washington Paramount Duty lobbied for non-sustainable double digit pay increases. IMO, their end game appears to push an unconstitutional income tax (capital gains tax). IMO, it is a very dangerous game to create unsustainable budgets.

Anonymous said...

I am all for capital gains tax, as well as a reasonable state income tax like most states do have, but then we need to also lower our regressive 10.1% sales tax. I also don't support the idea of massive teacher cuts at our already lean high schools with very large class sizes, or librarians being cut to half time. The district also needs to better analyze enrollment projections for next year, I think they are wrong. In addition, the cuts to the high schools don't equate to the projected loss of students either.


Anonymous said...

How are teacher benefits, pensions and seniority impacted when a teacher moves school districts within Washington state?

Mad Dad

kellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kellie said...

It's always challenging when there is more than one thing going on at the same time.

1) There is a substantial budget shortfall. I certainly appreciate all of the parents who are focusing their time and energy on trying to get more funds from the legislature.

2) Then there is the way that SPS is managing the shortfall. The board has approved drastic cuts to the WSS as recommended by the WSS committee. This is not pleasant. This is what has caused the cuts to librarians and has removed all of the Core 24 money from high school. Those cuts are deep and real and a direct result of the shortfall and will result in RIF's.

3) Then there is SPS's perennial habit of cutting their nose off to spite their face. This work session really highlights category 3.

#1 and #2 are fairly well known in most communities by now. The vernacular of the levy cliff and the loss of staff, particularly librarians is fairly well known. What just happened in this work session is still pretty opaque.

SPS is hiding behind this narrative that they need to be conservative with the money. That is absolutely true.

That said, the enrollment projections determine which staff at which buildings will be RIF'ed. That has been lost in this conversation. The cuts to the WSS are substantial enough to cover the shortfall. The enrollment projections then determine precisely how much money and staff each building will receive.

BECAUSE the cuts are so deep, it puts an extra burden on staff to ensure that the enrollment projections are more accurate then they have ever been in order to be as thoughtful and even handed when the inevitable RIF's are processed.

But rather than be as cautious as possible, staff has instead decided to add an extra layer of "conservatism" in the projections. The problem is that this does not mean that they are being more conservative. Rather it means the exact opposite, they are being RECKLESS.

In all my years of reviewing enrollment projections, I have never seen projections that have deviated so much so quickly from the current patterns and are so far removed from the cohorts rolling up to the next grade level. If I am right, these projections have been heavily massaged in order to be "extra conservative." If that true, then many teachers are going to be RIF'ed for no reason.

However, if I'm wrong and these projection represent some deeper understanding of enrollment trends, post open enrollment, then SPS is swiftly headed to a massive sea change of families fleeing the district and school closures in the near future.

In either case, people should be fairly alarmed and demanding transparency. Much of the money from BEX V is still being spent to expand capacity. If the district is rapidly shrinking, those funds need to be reinvested into other capital projects.

Anonymous said...

Kellie Do you think perhaps they are cutting so many teachers (approx 40 or more total) from the other high schools to send many of them to Lincoln if the budget gets reinstated? Lincoln will not open with very many students but perhaps they need alot of teachers in order to be able to offer a wide array of offerings? In this case though as the other schools may still be overcrowded, the result might be very overcrowded classes (38+) in those 4 high schools, and maybe <10 students in certain classes at Lincoln?


kellie said...

Here is just a small snapshot of the enrollment projection insanity. All numbers exclude ALE.

* Current Grades 9-12 total enrollment, per OSPI Feb 2019 1251 report: 13,999.

* The "conservative projection" per the work session for 2019-2020, 9-12 enrollment, is 11,837.

* The current 8th grade is 3,759 vs current 12th grade is 3,396.

The 8th grade class is LARGER than the graduating senior class, but yet .... The projections are predicting an enrollment drop of 2,162 high school students or 15.4% DROP in total high school enrollment.

Historically, there has been an enrollment pop of several hundred students at 9th grade as many families switch from private back to public. But let's assume that is no longer true and there is only a 95% cohort survival. That still means 3,571 kids will show up to high school, which exceeds the number graduating up and out.

Seriously? It is challenging to put words to that level of change. If true, these projections insinuate a wholesale abandonment of Seattle's high schools.

Running Start enrollment is already at a historic high for Seattle and I was predicting a drop for next year, based on new capacity and the Seattle Promise program. These numbers must include a doubling of Running Start enrollment.

Lincoln High School is opening in September to deal with the extreme over crowding at Ballard and Roosevelt. Should we pull the plug on that project? Based on historic enrollment trends, opening Lincoln is absolutely critical for high school enrollment but based on these projections, the best way to handle the shortfall would be to just stop that project.

That's how absurd these projections are. Staff needs to provide some transparency to justify these proposed RIFs.

If the numbers are real, we have serious problems. Problems big enough to justify not opening Lincoln. If the numbers are not real, then we have massive disruption at high school and unnecessary teacher RIF's over and above the budget problems.

Which problem do we actually have?

kellie said...

@ wondering,

I really can't answer that. My entire point is that I can't make heads or tails out of this information.

All I know is that the presentation to the board included all of the numbers for Lincoln, including the addition of 21.50 staff members at Lincoln. The 11,837 number also includes Lincoln's projected enrollment.

The removal of all of the Core 24 money is going to cause high school RIFs. Period. The change to the WSS would cause high school RIFs, even for schools with growing enrollment.

Because the cuts via the WSS are so severe, it is really incumbent upon staff to provide the most accurate projections possible so that schools are not hit with a double whammy of a WSS cut and an artificial enrollment cut.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another View, an income tax is not the same as a capital gains tax. You know that.

Kellie, thank you for that input.

I believe your last paragraph above:

"Because the cuts via the WSS are so severe, it is really incumbent upon staff to provide the most accurate projections possible so that schools are not hit with a double whammy of a WSS cut and an artificial enrollment cut."

is completely accurate.

Do we have a Board that will do this? We'll see but I'm about done with supporting a district that hides behind numbers that mean pain for school communities and staff. It certainly isn't pain for senior staff.

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

Should the legislature pass a "capital gains" tax, expect an immediate lawsuit. The court will determine whether a capital gains tax is an income tax or not.

Anonymous said...

Kellie, I’m at a school. The projections about how many children we are going to have next year is wildly lower than any previous years. The district says the projected drop is due to lower birth rate and so many families moving out of Seattle due to cost. It’s really hard to believe. Since Tracy Libros left the numbers have always been off, but this year’s projections seem so unbelievable. I guess time will tell.
Elementary Teacher

Anonymous said...

They don't make this info easy to dig through. Looking at P223 reports, enrollment has been steady over the last few years with steady dips through elementary school, a bigger dip moving to 6th and then another bigger dip for Running Start. Significantly larger enrollment in K vs 12 has been keeping overall enrollment stable.

Now enrollment is currently projecting significantly lower enrollment, even vs BEX just two months ago. Is this K driven? Choice driven? Flipping through the school based allocations is interesting. There are some obvious errors in the region I'm most familiar with, but there are also some numbers that are unusual vs recent trends yet don't surprise me based on what I'm hearing.

Enrollment doesn't look at why people are making the choices so they can really only guess at what's happening. Do we have an unexpected change in our potential population? Are people fed up with "equity"? Are people frustrated with changes in their buildings (Washington Middle School? Garfield?)? Are people leaving because they can't opt into the programs they want (Cleveland?)? Figuring those things out might help SPS actually get and keep kids. There are huge wait lists at many schools still - why not look at why and make more schools like those?

One thing is clear - if these enrollment trends are correct, BEX looks really wrong. There's a lot of additional capacity in areas where it doesn't seem it's needed. That would be wasteful enough, but when buildings have been prioritized for unneeded capacity over buildings that are in horrible condition, it's a terrible use of resources.

Other thoughts - technology is expensive! All of the computers would buy a lot of paper, pens, pencils and even IAS.

Fed Up

Melissa Westbrook said...

Francis, okay, capital gains would be PART of someone's income. For what, one year? You and I both know that "income" for the majority people is what they make at jobs.

Also, I am deleting your comment because you were name-calling. If you and Another View have a problem with WPD, go take it up at their Facebook page. I'm not interested in arguing that issue here.

Just to note readers, I'm taking parts of many comments to incorporate in a letter to the Board that I will publish in a thread. Fed Up, I'm going to reference some of your comment. The Board needs to lead.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the name calling. But the point about a capital gains tax being an income tax is what makes it unconstitutional in our state. Income taxes must apply to all income earners and that tax must be taxed at a uniform rate.

Thus, it is unconstitutional and the legislature can pass it but the courts will toss it out.


Anonymous said...

@ Melissa Thank you so much for your informative reporting and your advocacy as well. This is a very important topic as it could lead to erosion of public trust, as well as closing of schools, if they don't get a much better handle on their data and projections.

Kellie thank you also so much as well as always your insights are invaluable.

I am wondering if the opening of Lincoln meant transferring the majority of those teachers all along even if budget was reinstated, no matter if the enrollment remained just as high and classes ballooned or disappeared entirely at those other high schools.

I also agree that they really should delay the opening of Lincoln if these projections are accurate. But has the train already left the station, can the board halt it? It really makes zero sense to open next year and stretch resources to the breaking point for other schools. Try to do so much and nothing gets done well. My guess is Lincoln won't benefit either from opening during this time period. I have already heard of future Lincoln parents lamenting about lack of offerings as compared to other high schools.


Melissa Westbrook said...

And again, Francis, that's not what this discussion is really about so stay on topic.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Regarding WPD: We believe funding should match the need at schools. SPS needs to pay teachers more in order to recruit and retain quality teachers. It is up to the legislature to deliver that funding *as they are required to by the constitution and the court.* In 2017 the Supreme Court ordered the legislature to add $1 billion in funding for teacher salaries. The legislature responded with $1 billion in one-time funding. The problem is the legislature didn't make that funding sustainable. Thus, the answer is they need to make that funding sustainable.

We all need to reject austerity thinking that assumes schools have to cut to fit the budget. The budget provided by the legislature needs to expand to meet the need. This is the plain language and clear intent of the state constitution. We will continue to work to enforce that.

As to SPS enrollment, charter schools are an obvious culprit here. If the enrollment projections are off by 850, and charter schools in Seattle have at least 850 students (and they do) then the answer is staring us in the face. Every school district in America with charter schools has seen corresponding budget cuts in the public schools as charters drain off students and funding. This issue was at the core of the teacher strikes in LA and Oakland recently. We cannot pretend we are immune to this.

The legislature needs to defund charter schools and redirect that funding back into the public system. The charter schools can then raise their own money to continue operating, just like every other private school. The Gates Foundation has an endowment of $44 billion. They can part with a fraction of that in order to keep charter schools in operation.

kellie said...

I think Elementary Teacher has it right.

The enrollment projections have not felt right since Traci Libros. Traci was tough but she was also known to work collaboratively with communities and schools and she made adjustments to the projections and the staffing allocations based on information from the "boots on the ground" regularly.

I once worked with a school community that knew the projections did not match the post open enrollment info. They documented their reasons and really detailed their ELL population. Within 24 hours, Traci had added a 1.0 FTE for ELL. Done.

Downtown has really entrenched into a mindset that "choice is the cause of staffing instability" and therefore choice must be curtailed. As well as the mindset of "we know best" and communities just don't really understand their own enrollment. It always been my experience that school communities are the best source of information about what's really happening, not the 5 year average.

Historically, schools were given a pre-open enrollment allocation and then that allocation was adjusted post open enrollment based on better information and then adjustments were made regularly over the next few months. Staff has adopted this new "staffing capacity" which says that the pre-open enrollment allocation is your staffing allocation and if there is greater demand ... Too bad. To honor that demand from families would cause adjustments at other schools, so we won't do that.

After a few years of this process, the results have become very clear. Total enrollment is dropping and it is dropping more dramatically in the places where "staffing capacity" is being enforced.

And more importantly as Elementary Teacher mentioned "it's hard to believe." Nobody can trust this process.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Downtown has really entrenched into a mindset that "choice is the cause of staffing instability" and therefore choice must be curtailed. As well as the mindset of "we know best" and communities just don't really understand their own enrollment. It always been my experience that school communities are the best source of information about what's really happening, not the 5 year average."

Yup and this one's going to the Board as well.

Anonymous said...

I concur with Kellie. I don't believe they will lose tons of students next year, especially at some of the high schools that are stuffed well beyond capacity. It's anecdotal true, but my kid and a friend a different high school have both met kids whose parents recently moved to the area for tech jobs. Has also met multiple kids who entered public high school from private middle schools. Our city has been growing leaps and bounds and schools have been very overcrowded. I don't believe the projections are at all accurate. The restoration plan needs to re-hire all the teachers so they won't be left with full classrooms and scrambling in the Fall.


Robert Cruickshank said...

SPS is a mismanaged district. The root of the mismanagement is a "we know better than you" attitude from the district's senior staff toward literally everybody else - the board, teachers, parents, students, community members. Rarely is anyone who takes a "we know better than you" approach actually correct, and in reality this leads to bad decisions and ignored problems that spread and cause a spiraling set of crises. We see this here with the enrollment projections.

And we now know that this mismanagement is putting badly needed funding at risk.

At some point the board, and it truly is up to the board, has to step in and manage this district. Board directors will claim they have no power here, but they're simply wrong. They have plenty of power but they refuse to use it. Until they use their powers to force change to happen, the problems will grow worse.

kellie said...

The work session presentation does not have page numbers but on the slide right after the Q&A, there is a breakdown of the cuts via the changes in enrollment, vs the changes in the funding formula.

Enrollment changes will cause the loss of 78.6 FTE. Cuts to the WSS will cause the loss of 85.8 FTE.

The fact that those numbers are nearly equal should be a huge warning flag, as it is very bad financial protocol to hide your cuts this way.

Moreover, there is another issue, as once again the cuts to high school are still fairly opaque. The presentation states that about $3M is being trimmed from high school via the change in the WSS from 29:1 to 30:1. However, absent in the presentation is the removal of $5M in Core 24 dollars designed to ensure that the students under the Core 24 rules are able to get enough credits.

That means the cuts to high school is closer to $8M, which is a huge part of the overall cuts. (I suspect that the $8M is a straight cut and that when you consider the reduced enrollment that number would be even larger ... but you can't tell from these documents)

The plan calls for the displacement of 102 instructional staff. The other 61 staff are librarians, counselors, assistant principals, etc. 55 of the 102 instructional staff displacements are at high school.

More than half of the teacher cuts are for high school. That is a huge change in plans.

Just last July, I served on the BEX committee for the most recent BEX levy. Downtown was pushing heavily for a 12th comprehensive high school to meet enrollment growth. What could have changed so much that we are going from aggressively expanding high school to cuts of this magnitude.

Staff has an obligation to provide some transparency when or if things have shifted this much. And if they haven't really changed this much, then this plan is reckless, beyond description.

Number Looker said...

The enrollment predictions from the district are predicting that these are the schools that will gain additional students next year:
School Predicted Increase in Enrollment
Lincoln HS 556 (new school)
Magnolia 246 (new school)
Cedar Park 85
Olympic Hills 79
North Beach 71
Loyal Heights 68
Jane Addams MS 66
Eckstein MS 54
Sealth HS 53
Eaglestaff MS 47
Ingraham HS 41
West Seattle HS 34
Emerson 23
Bryant 22
Madrona 19
Gatewood 13
Thornton Creek 13
B.F. Day 12
Denny MS 12
Whitman MS 12
Arbor Heights 11
Lafayette 10
Licton Springs K-8 10
Center School 9
South Lake HS 9
Alki 5
Hawthorne 5
Rainier View 5
South Shore K-8 3
Graham Hill 2
Green Lake 2
TOPS K-8 1

Some of these numbers make a lot of sense. Cedar Park and Licton Springs and Thornton Creek are all in new buildings and are probably all still ramping up to size.

But some others make no sense. Ingraham HS is opening up a new 500-seat addition, so why is the school only adding 41 students?

Number Looker said...

The enrollment predictions from the district are predicting that these are the schools that will lose students next year:
School Predicted Decrease in Enrollment
Pathfinder K-8 -1
Kimball -2
Hazel Wolf K-8 -2
Maple -3
McDonald -4
Louisa Boren K-8 -5
Cascade K-12 -5
Greenwood -6
Middle College -6
Concord -7
West Woodland -7
Bailey Gatzert -8
McGilvra -8
John Rogers -11
Sand Point -12
Madison MS -12
Highland Park -13
Salmon Bay K-8 -15
Roxhill -16
Sacajawea -16
Meany MS -17
Decatur -18
Laurelhurst -18
Van Asselt -19
Aki Kurose MS -21
Wing Luke -22
Olympic View -26
Wedgwood -26
Orca K-8 -26
Ranier Beach HS -29
John Hay -30
John Muir -32
West Seattle -32
Fairmount -33
Stevens -33
Viewlands -33
Hamilton MS -33
Leschi -34
Montlake -34
InterAgency -35
Cascadia -36
Whittier -36
QAE -37
Dearborn Park -38
Northgate -40
Daniel Bagley -41
Adams -43
Genessee Hill -44
Cleveland HS -44
Franz Coe -47
Dunlap -48
Broadview-Thomson K-8 -52
World School -55 -55
McClure MS -64
Nova HS -65
Washington -68
Lawton -75
View Ridge -77
Hale HS -77
Lowell -80
Thurgood Marshall -103
Mercer MS -116
Franklin HS -134
Catherine Blaine K-8 -179
Ballard HS -256
Garfield HS -294
Roosevelt HS -321

Number Looker said...

I'm just not finding a lot of sense in these predicted enrollment changes. I live north of the ship canal, so that's what I looked at. North of the ship canal, the district is predicting that every school is losing students EXCEPT for a couple of odd clusters where they predict massive growth.

So apparently everyone with kids is draining out of the NNW corner of the city (Viewlands, Broadview-Thomsen and Northgate are all predicted to hemorrhage students). But just south of that, North Beach and Loyal Heights are both picking up about 70 new students? And while the NNW corner is losing kids, the NNE corner is piling them in. Olympic Hills and Cedar Park are both predicted to gain about 80 kids.

Almost everywhere else north of the cut, schools are predicted to lose students. Except B.F. Day and Bryant and Licton Springs and Green Lake. And some are only predicted to lose a small number (West Woodland, Greenwood, John Stanford, McDonald).

And View Ridge is predicted to lose 77 students? What happened there? I mean, really, what's up with that prediction? If there were a birth rate change or families were having to move out of Seattle because the city is too expensive, that doesn't explain why View Ridge is shrinking by 77 students but Bryant is growing by 22.

These numbers smell fishy. Why would the NNW shrink and the NNE grow? But the NE area south of those few NNE schools shrink (except for Bryant, which is growing!)? Why the sudden boom in the mid-NW zone at North Beach and Loyal Heights but Adams and Whittier tanking?

What gives?

Anonymous said...

I live south of the ship canal and of the schools I’m familiar with, the numbers also look crazy to me. How can elementary schools be losing 80 or 103 students (see Lowell & Thurgood Marshall)? It seems very unlikely, along with the prediction that Montlake, Stevens, Leschi, and McGilvra are all losing students—30+ at each of the first 3–while Madrona gains almost a full class.

And here’s an important point that I hope others will help bring to the Board’s attention: the budget restoration plan (if more money comes from the state) priorities proposed by district staff at last week’s budget work session are (1) restore Weighted Staffing Standards cuts then (2) restore 50% “fall enrollment” and 50% “central admin” then (3) restore everything else. The way I understand that plan, it means if the district lays off 4 teachers at your school in error because their projections are so wrong, then next fall they could say “sorry, we know we were wrong, but we are only paying to restore 2 of the 4 teachers you are entitled to because the restoration plan says fund 50% of fall enrollment needs and then restore 50% of central admin cuts.”

Please join me in asking the board to revise the proposed restoration plan to fund ALL CLASSROOM STAFFING NEEDS (whether identified now or in the fall) before restoring central admin cuts or anything else.

—Looking Too

Anonymous said...

With the shiny new Loyal Heights Elementary that opened last year came new, expanded boundaries. The school was built to hold four classes per grade (as opposed to the three classes per grade it had in recent years past). The boundaries were drawn to absorb kids from Adams and Whittier. That said, many kids grandfathered into their old school this year, so LHE will grow slowly, mostly as the kindergarten class grows and rolls up year-to-year.

While that doesn't explain the NNW numbers, it at least explains some of the trends.


Eric B said...

Mid-north high school numbers don't make sense. Lincoln gains 556, which you would expect to come at the expense of Garfield, Ballard, and Roosevelt. Those three schools are predicted to lose a total of 871 students. Ballard and Roosevelt alone lose more than Lincoln gains. That's ... fishy.

Anonymous said...

Why would Cascadia lose 36 kids? This is an all-HCC school that requires testing for entry. Are they projecting that 36 of currently enrolled kids are going back to their neighborhood school?

What's up

Joe Wolf said...

Regarding the additions at West Seattle ES and West Woodland ES, the original impetus for the additions was portable replacement, plus at WSES providing appropriate spaces for programs like SpEd that had been shoehorned into the building.

Anonymous said...

For the 1000th time: I remain in awe of all that Tracy Libros accomplished. RIP.

There will never be another Tracy, but SPS best get busy finding someone(s) with competence in projecting enrollment. This projection is a joke.


Anonymous said...

I suspect the same that Kelli does: Downtown is trying to do two things through one enrollment projection process. 1) Distribute teaching resources appropriately. (This is largely fine, bodies need to follow students, although there is art as well as bean counting associated with this. Kids do not fall into neat bundles of 30 per class. Additionally no schools should lack access to art, music, books, counseling, media services, physical education, office support, etc.)

2) Manage budget cuts. No, it is not appropriate to use enrollment forecasting to manage district budget cuts above and beyond actual butts in seats ramifications. Balancing the budget on the back of extra-super-secret-conservative-forecasting is madness. In my second decade of bird dogging Downtown, I've seen this tactic a couple of times and it always ends in disaster. Related point: Making no supporting data publicly available to explain this forecast is unacceptable. These numbers were based on something. Show it.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I signed up to speak at the Board meeting on Wednesday; two minutes will not be enough.

juicygoofy said...

Somewhat tangential, but related: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/end-of-the-seattle-boom-flow-of-new-residents-to-king-county-on-the-decline-records-show/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

Anonymous said...

We just received communications from our school that the state funding formula no longer funds school counselors - at any level. As such, our school counselor position (which in the past has been funded between 1-3 days by SPS, dependent on the year) will no longer be funded by SPS. So if we want to retain our school counselor, the PTA has to come up with 100% or the funds.

Is all of this correct?

-Always complicated

Anonymous said...

I don't think the discrepancy between losing 871 total students (Garfield, Roosevelt & Ballard) and gaining 556 at Lincoln is due to forecasting that those high school kids will be leaving their public high school for "charter schools". In fact the high schools often receive students from private schools. In addition, the current graduating senior classes are smaller than the younger grades so it really makes no sense. My guess is they are intentionally not reinstating those teachers, counselors etc in the contingency plan for some other reason.


kellie said...

Ugh. The more I think about this, the more problematic nuances begin to appear.

The loss of institutional memory regarding the Student Assignment Plan is often shocking. Downtown has completely lost sight of the fact that many "popular" schools, had their boundaries drawn intentionally small in order to allow to for some choice seats, Franklin High School is one of those schools.

Because the mysterious "staffing capacity" is tied to these initial allocations, that means these projections now also function as a "defacto artificial enrollment cap." In other words, over the last few years, staff has consistently refused to move the wait lists, in order to prevent staffing cuts, when to do so will push a school over its initial allocation.

This has become a circular argument and completely disconnected from the open enrollment process. Center Schools historic capacity is 400 students. However, in the last few years, Center School's allocation was substantially lower and when open enrollment had more students, these students were not enrollment because that would have been higher than the initial allocation.

Franklin has historically been a school with a very high demand and a long wait list. This extremely low allocation, (-134 students) also means, that wait list students will most likely not be admitted despite ample "physical capacity" because of the "artificial staffing capacity."

I can not emphasize enough, just how much damage can be done to a school, by strangling its enrollment. It is almost as if, enrollment is happy to directly enroll families into charter schools.

Anonymous said...

They also have strangled enrollment in the past to keep schools from qualifying for staff like assistant principals, another office worker, full time arts people, yada yada. These are the games downtown plays. Shift those kids to another school where those positions already exist. And voila, some of the budget problems "go away". On the back of students at the impacted schools, largely the option schools where downtown can dictate capacity and high schools where downtown has drawn the enrollment lines too tightly on purpose in some cases. And Downtown hasn't had the guts to explain themselves. School employees and parents have had to find the disturbing patterns then spend ridiculous hours trying to overturn budget decisions that look good inside the walls of JSCEE but stink at the community level.


kellie said...

A friend of mine, a hospital administrator, said that they was an old joke that people used to remind themselves of the mission.

"This would be a great place to work, if it weren't for the patients!"

The joke was intended to serve as a reminder that BOTH patients do indeed cause administrators many a headache AND the entire reason the hospital exists is to serve patients.

I wish that there was some similar meme downtown. The way that this enrollment process is managed makes it clear that downtown thinks of the school communities as the "problem" and that enrollment is just too complicated and everyone should just trust that they know what they are doing.

Trust is earned. Trust comes with transparency.

Joe Wolf said...

FWIW, relative to the recent and current enrollment trends.


Anonymous said...

Number Looker - we were told by the IHS principal that they are already overcapacity so the 500 seats are partially being used for students who are already there. I feel like we were told that around 300 of the 500 seats are to accommodate the current students and that they plan to add around 50/year over the next 4 years to get to the new 500 seats. I'm too tired to look up the current capacity of the IHS building vs number currently there to confirm the 300 of 500 memory.
IHS parent

Anonymous said...

To be at 1,500 total, school needs ~400 kids per grade.

Ingraham High School Feb 2019 SPS 223 report
Grade 8/9/10/11 total head count 367/358/351/312

IHS has room. Given running start participation, drop outs, lower classes can be bigger to balance the narrowing sizes of the upper cohort. The district plays game with Ingraham, like Franklin and Cleveland, not letting kids in, when they really should!


Eric B said...

The budget is based on a predicted 400 student incoming class at IHS, which I suspect is a little low. Current capacity (pre-addition, no portables) is 1200-1300. Current population is ~1400, which is why there are 5 portables and a class meeting in the old teacher's lounge. With the addition, the capacity will be a pretty good match to the population.

Melissa Westbrook said...

From the article Joe linked:

"Then, in early summer of 2018, the state demographer published population estimates for the city of Seattle as of April 2018. The results showed a decline in population growth rate for the first time since 2010. It went from 3.9% in 2017 to 2.3% in 2018. The growth rate slow down didn’t receive the same fanfare as boom reporting does (KUOW and The Urbanist excepted)."

Anonymous said...

If the growth rate declined from 3.9% to 2.3%, that's still GROWTH. So why the shrinking numbers?


Joe Wolf said...

Some thoughts (while I did not do demographic work at SPS, I did at other large districts and am in my current role at a D.C. area district):

School district enrollment changes are often tangentially related to changes in the general population. It can be boosted exogenously (roll-out of the NSAP), and suppressed exogenously too (opening of charter schools).The drop in the rate of increase in the City population may well play into the net drop in SPS numbers, with other factors also playing a role.