Monday, March 11, 2019

Updates on the Budget Issues in Seattle Schools

  • It appears that the numbers being used for student enrollment at some schools do not match the enrollment numbers at OSPI.
Anyone know a reason that might be?
  • Budget submission from school committees are due this week, and most have been given new information less than two weeks ago.
  • I have mentioned this before but it seems it might play a role in the budget issues - part-time staff and health insurance.
The Washington Legislature has ruled that any 50% + part time employee must have ALL of the health insurance costs covered by the employer. Previously in SPS, the apparent arrangement was, work 50% contract, SPS pays 50% health. 

Staff at JSCEE decided the best way for SPS to adapt to this new rule was to insist the cost of this get pushed out to schools, who are now required to allocate $13k per part-timer out of their “discretionary budget”
The kicker is that, of course, most schools have no discretionary budget to speak of - every nickel and dime in that tiny part of spending that school budget committees meet over every spring is allocated.
The net effect, at say, Roosevelt, is that at least 3 highly experienced part-time teachers teaching unique classes that are probably not replaceable will just leave rather than go a full load.
This will probably affect wealthy schools less, as they can figure out ways to creatively backfill gaps in the discretionary budget. 
I'm not sure what this might mean in terms of union contracts.  
  • From Facebook, one parent's theory on the staffing cuts at schools, "This means that downtown is allocating staff to schools through projections instead of actual numbers. If they want to starve a school of staff, they can just release a crazy low-ass projection for that school, and then only give half back in the fall."
  • To which Kellie LaRue says, "Yes, that’s correct. Then add the artificial enrollment caps and the mysterious “staffing capacity” which is the initial allocation and certain schools are clearly taking an unfair burden. Franklin is being hit extra hard because this process will ensure they are unable to backfill via their waitlist."


kellie said...

Somedays, I am absolutely baffled at the level of crazy that lives in the land of enrollment and budget.

SPS ALLOCATES staff to schools on a FRACTIONAL basis. IIRC, K-8 is allocated on a .5 increments and 9-12 is allocated in .2 increments. (This may have changes but those are the historic increments)

This means that almost every single building has at least one part time staff member, because staff members are not allocated on a full time basis. High school has MANY part time staff because of the .2 allocation and the complexity of the master schedule.

So if downtown allocates a .5 FTE to a building, say all the new .5 librarians, does that means that the building has to pay $13,000 in their tiny discretionary budget to pay for the .5 librarian? Does anyone know???

Eric B said...

Re: Budgets not matching OSPI numbers, there was an interesting item that was daylighted by a Stevens teacher last (?) year. They were trying to get a teacher allocated because their fall enrollment was above projections and their enrollment justified another teacher. However, there was something weird that happened where roll was taken after some SpEd* students left the classroom for services. It was like those students vanished because they were nominally assigned to a classroom but they weren't on that teachers' roll call because they were getting services. When budget staff looked at the roll call real time, the students didn't show up. I believe that issue cost Stevens a teacher that fall.

I don't know if that was more widespread or not, but it's worth asking. I may also have details wrong on this--I'm working off memory from a while back, but the general outline is what I was told.

* This is absolutely 100% not the SpEd students' fault. It's 100% a failure where JSCEE doesn't understand what's happening in a school despite having the computer network at their fingertips.

Anonymous said...

The lack of transparency Has. To. Stop.

Kellie, Melissa and others: What can parents and community members do to get this district and the school board (which ultimately has authority over budget) to demand transparent articulation of enrollment projections and school allocations? And to articulate what budget tradeoffs are being proposed/made and why? (e.g. why would you only restore half of the cuts at a school and prioritize central admin for full restoration of cuts?)

And to explain why they are instituting seemingly capricious caps and not moving wait lists at in-demand schools? And why--if we really have enrollment dropping in N end schools--we are building a brand-new high school in Wallingford?

--Concerned parent

kellie said...

This reminds me of when the science alignment (not an adoption) was going to be accomplished via the various buildings science departments "discretionary dollars." It was utterly shocking, but somewhat understandable, that the head of the science department was unaware that the buildings did not have a budget to cover their own materials. Following the details of budget is not everyone's specialty.

This is even more egregious. The budget department should be absolutely aware of how limited discretionary dollars are and how many functions these dollars are supposed to cover, from paper onwards.

This blog often covers the "unintended consequences" of downtown's decisions. Did anyone bother to notify the board that the budget office made a major change in how part time employees are treated and the dramatic impact this will have on hiring. Has anyone considered that a major change to the WSS would be also needed to go alongside this change.

High School is the master schedule. High School is funded in .2 increments. In other words, every single slot of the master schedule is added one by one. Approximately every six students gets you one more slot on that master schedule.

Students do not come in neat little boxes and this can cause problems at elementary school where you can have a handful of multi grade classes in order to make the balance of teachers and students work.

But at high school, everyone is working toward graduation requirements and it is not homeroom based. As such, high schools utterly depend on the flexibility of staff to be able to teach multiple TYPES of classes to fill out the school and utterly dependent on faculty who are willing to work .4 and .6 depending on the budget and enrollment.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Concern Parent, I just saw Network on Broadway (a truly great experience). You could, of course, go to your window, right now, and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

What to do instead? Right now, write to the Board (spsdirectors@seattleschools.org) or, if you want senior staff to also see the email (schoolboard@seattleschools.org), and tell them:

- like Director Mack, you DEMAND transparency on these numbers.
- the district needs to revise the enrollment policy to reflect that staff WILL ask and record the answer to "why are you leaving SPS?" and "where are you going?"
- the district needs to track charter school enrollment more closely
- DEMAND an explanation for the most glaring issue - how can this district be losing enrollment - across the district they say - and yet just asked the public for over $1B for buildings? All that money is not for renovating poor quality buildings; it's to add on more space. Why the need? Why is RBHS, which hasn't been over 800 students in a very long time, being rebuilt for 1600?

Explain that disconnect between enrollment and capital needs.

- Tell the Board that the costs for part-time teachers, particularly in high schools, cannot be borne by the schools themselves. Those teachers are a benefit to SPS and to those schools and SPS needs to pay for all the costs.

What can you use for leverage?

- "I'm not voting for anyone who does not stop this trainwreck." And do it. Ditto for any challengers.
- "I'm not giving my school any more money via PTA." And do it. Will there be pain? Yet but the pain needs to be felt at JSCEE and if you don't do in numbers, they won't feel it. (And to note, for some reason, the budget for next year reflects fewer PTA dollars. Why? It's a mystery.)
- "I won't spend any more of my valuable time advocating for this district in Olympia. In fact, I'm going to write to my legislators and tell THEM about my unhappiness with this district." And do it.
- Start writing letters to the editors of newspapers, say it on Facebook, tweet it; if the Board and senior leadership feel that heat of public scorn, something may change.

Before you say no to any of it, tell me, what's the alternative? Will there be pain? Yup but which is better, the district's brand of lemon in your multitude of paper cuts that is their management or ripping off the bandaid?

I'll have a separate thread on this issue of what to do.

FWIW said...

Since the beginning of the year, SPS enrollment is up 133 students.


WEA Swipe said...

I'm sorry to see such chaos.

I knew all of this was coming and I tried to warn you. It wasn't that I didn't think teachers deserved a raise, I simply understood that the state allocated approximately 3% for teacher raises and double digit raises would push district over the levy cliff. There is no wiggle room

The last round of teacher contracts increased pension benefits $3B.

State mandated health insurance for part time employees has a $900M price tag.

Many contracts around the state will be re-opened this year.

I don't see the dollars. I do see layoffs and increased class sizes.

Outsider said...

A lot of fractional positions in schools are not really filled by part-time employees. Rather, an individual who works full time would be .5 this and .5 that. A half-time librarian would spend the other half as technologist or special ed or intervention or something. So it seems the benefits charge, if it exists, would only be pushed on schools for staff who truly work part time, not for any fractional position listed on their roster.

The benefits change will cause interesting dynamics. The usual story in the workplace is employers trying to limit hours to avoid paying benefits, because the cutoff is around 75% of full time. But WA schools will be doing the opposite, maximizing hours and avoiding part-timers to limit the cost of benefits.

N.B. this is all very progressive.

Wedgwood Mom said...

My son just told me he heard from a teacher that 20 teachers will be cut next year from Roosevelt High School and they are getting rid of portables. Next year is supposed to be a year with less incoming freshman but I know it's about 50/50 HCC kids choosing Lincoln or Roosevelt. I'm very curious how much lower the enrollment at RHS will really be to justify losing portables and 20 teachers from such an overcrowded school.

Anonymous said...

Oh com’mon now. We all know that part time teachering is sort of a north end shi shi luxury proposition. That favorite one of a kind electives teacher just can’t bear to be full time. If that costs us a full timer’s insurance premium, then no we can’t afford that. And that part time awesome basket weaving teacher, will have also teach 9th grade LA or hit the road. Sure, to fill a high school master schedule we need to fill a lot of slots. Having teachers teach more than class, grade level or one subject, might be what we need. Absolutely the costs of the luxury of part time teaching dilettantes needs to be born by the schools that choose that. They alone are free to find and hire full timers to meet their schools unique needs.


Anonymous said...

That's completely insane. The schools this will most impact are smaller schools for whom "spanish 3" is that luxurious one period elective. SEA limits the number of different classes a teacher can teach. So, RBHS, WSHS, Chief Sealth, Cleveland. The big schools- Garfield, BHS, RHS- have enough kids to fill 6 periods of basket weaving.

Basic math

kellie said...

@ Concerned Parent,

There are few things you can do. You can certainly write the board. The next Board Work Session on April 3rd will be the work session to set the "restoration priorities" in the event that there is more money, so there is time to sort out many of these issues.

That said, I would also strong suggest writing to the Superintendent as there is a real leadership issue here - Transparency. How the Superintendent handles the opaqueness of this process will really set the tone for her entire tenure.

Simply put, a $40M deficit is a big deal and big deals require more transparency, not less. To describe this process as opaque is quite generous. I have been following enrollment and budget issues, since 2002. I am fairly conversant on the topics and I am struggling to make sense out of the public materials.

The district wants families to contact their Legislators and ask for more money. Families can ONLY do that if they trust the district about money.

Right now the "narrative" is the the cuts are via the WSS so the board would naturally think that having "restore the WSS" as the number 1 priority would restore funds, but it won't. As best I can tell, less than 50% of the cuts to buildings are being managed, properly via "official" cuts to the WSS. All the Core 24 money ($5M which is WSS money) is ranked at the very very bottom of the restoration. September adjustments (via the WSS) are planned at 50%. Health Care costs are being transferred to the Discretionary dollars (also WSS!). There are big changes in qualification for ELL ratios (that also should be WSS). Who knows how many other invisible cuts have been made, out side of the WSS official process.

So please do write to the board and ask for transparency, because transparency is the foundation of trust. But also write to the superintendent and ask for leadership.

kellie said...

While Reader's quips are entertaining, they miss the point entirely.

A seemingly small accounting change has caused a drastic change in hiring and retention policy, right in the middle of the planned displacement of nearly 200 staff members and an unknown number of RIFs.

This is a time of great uncertainty to SPS employees. While most people have been assured that they will be displaced into another job, rather than actually RIF'ed, there is tremendous ambiguity regarding real cuts, enrollment cuts, restoration money, etc.

So an unintended consequence of this policy is that part time staff are being targeted to take an unfair share of the displacement.

Most librarians were just made part time by budget cuts. I presume many of the librarians are holding tight in the hope that the funds are restored, because there has been a lot of advocacy on this issue. Now if they hold tight, does this cost $13000 for that privilege for an employee was that was forced to go to 50% and then has a better than average chance of being restored. Buildings have to submit their budgets under these proposed conditions, not the eventual most likely outcome. This is adding a layer of complexity in an already complex situation.

The point is that once again, a sweeping policy change was made in a very silo'ed way, without any consideration for the real world implications at the building level.

Stuart J said...

There are probably some schools that could pull in out of district kids. There are some that will attract kids from private schools, if they could get in.

kellie said...

Here are a few more things that people can do.

Buildings know their enrollment better than downtown. They always have and always will. Parents speak to the office at their school far more frequently than downtown. Every building should look at their projections, reach out to their families and make their best estimates of what they are really expecting for next year and then daylight that information as publicly as possible.

Buildings also have far more tools at their disposal to "confirm enrollment." The district needs to start being much more proactive in the way they gather their enrollment information and the best way to do this is to partner with the boots on he ground. Not dismiss them.

I have already been contacted by several PTAs who are just dumbfounded by their projected numbers and don't believe they match reality. Downtown claims to be blindsided by the enrollment declines but I know for certain that many schools attempted to warn downtown that they did not expect the number that was projected. Many savvy principals just refused to hire an allocated position, because they were so confident that they position would be removed.

Downtown needs to identify and trust people with credible insights and credible track records. .

Also, the district desperately needs an oversight committee of some sort regarding capacity. We have a wealth of talent when it comes to planning and demographics in the community. These resources need to be leveraged, not demonized.

Anonymous said...

@Stuart J Regarding pulling in kids from neighboring districts, I personally agree with Kellie and think they are very wrong and are under projecting. Schools will likely be scrambling in Fall.

One example their projections seem to assume all north end HC kids will enter Lincoln, when as the past few years demonstrates many choose north end neighborhood schools.

However, you may remember in recent years they made the error of projecting at one point 2300-2400 kids at Garfield because they did not project based upon actual enrollment trends happening on the ground. In reality the north end HC kids have been split between Ingraham, Roosevelt, Garfield & Ballard for quite a few years now.

In addition there will likely also be many 10th graders who remain at their neighborhood schools and don't move to Lincoln. The high schools seem to believe they will have more students than is being projected. However, the district projects approx -900 or so leaving Garfield, Ballard & Roosevelt, yet approx +550 enrolling at Lincoln. The older graduating class at those schools is smaller than the upcoming class so it really seems off.


Anonymous said...

How many 10th graders will likely be geosplit from Roosevelt and Ballard? Those kids don't really have a choice, do they? They can't just say they're staying where they are, unless they have an alternate address.


Kate (Belltown) said...

Kellie, I always appreciate your very informed comments and recommendations. And I agree, it is imperative that people also write the superintendent. I guess this is her first big test - and I would say that so far she is failing it. Why, before this legislative session started, the district and the union weren't speaking out, lobbying hard and organizing (union) in Olympia I simply can't understand. So now we have a crisis and it is past time for the superintendent and board to do some very heavy lifting, NOW.

seattle citizen said...

Unclear, from SPS's webpage, Highly Capable and Advanced Learning in Secondary Schools:

"Service Option 4: 8th grade students who are eligible to receive HC and AL services may select to remain at their attendance area high school or attend another high school. Students can still enroll in the advanced courses available at that high school. Families must submit a Choice Form during the Open Enrollment period."

This means HCC students who are assigned to Lincoln next year can opt to go to Ballard.
Many no doubt will, as Lincoln, with limited course offerings, might not offer the advance classes they seek.

Anonymous said...

@ seattle citizen, I was asking about current 9th graders (next year's 10th graders). While HC-eligible 8th graders have the opportunity to choose a different high school if Lincoln isn't likely to offer appropriate classes in these early years, GE 8th graders who are in the new Lincoln zone will be assigned to Lincoln. Similarly, since Lincoln is opening with both 9th and 10th grades, current 9th graders residing in the new Lincoln zone will be split from their prior assignment schools (Ballard and Roosevelt). For GE students, I don't see how they can avoid that unless they have a second home outside the Lincoln boundary or are at their current high school via a "choice" assignment. Similarly, I don't see anything that suggests that HC-eligible or former HCC students who reside in the area that was geosplit from RHS and BHS are exempt from the move to Lincoln for 10th grade. So I'm wondering, how many 10th graders are anticipated to be at LHS next year (HC vs GE)?


Melissa Westbrook said...

"Also, the district desperately needs an oversight committee of some sort regarding capacity. We have a wealth of talent when it comes to planning and demographics in the community. These resources need to be leveraged, not demonized."

The district did have a demographer. I think she left and was never replaced. I was told they would work with the City's. Has that happened? I doubt it.

kellie said...

Based on a few comments, I want to be extra clear about a few of my posts.

I am NOT saying that the projections are wrong. There is not enough transparency to make that conclusion for certain.

I am saying that staff has put the board in an IMPOSSIBLE situation. At the work session, staff presented the board with information and then asked the board to make critical decisions based on that information. There are two potential scenarios.

Scenario 1 - a genuine crisis) If the information staff presented is correct, then we have a serious CRISIS on our hands and families are fleeing SPS in record numbers. The numbers presented were genuinely alarming and more serious than the enrollment declines that triggered school closures.

If the numbers are to be trusted, then the board needs to move into damage control mode.

Do we have a crisis on our hands? I don't know. I sincerely doubt a one year change of that magnitude but ... the long history of broken promises, the demise of advanced learning, the science adoption and a dozen other things could have triggered a mass exodus. It's possible, but not probable. But it was the "official information presented."

Scenario 2- Aggressive Enrollment Adjustment) - The enrollment information presented will cause the reduction of over 80 FTE district wide. If the information presented is not correct, then over 80 people are going to lose their jobs based on inaccurate information.

This is why I say that staff has put the board in an impossible situation. If the board trusts this information, they need to start sounding an alarm bell. If they don't trust this information, then the Superintendent has a leadership challenge.

The more serious the budget cuts the greater the need for accurate enrollment data. As Director Mack said, this lacks any transparency. We need TRANSPARENCY.

seattle citizen said...

@ unclear,
Yes, those current 9th graders assigned to Lincoln must go there. But my reading of the District's statement, above, is that HCC students can "attend another high school", which means they can choose to stay at Ballard instead of being assigned to Lincoln.

But yes, GE students are stuck.

If I am wrong about this, I hope someone will correct me.

seattle citizen said...

@ unclear,
Yes, those current 9th graders assigned to Lincoln must go there. But my reading of the District's statement, above, is that HCC students can "attend another high school", which means they can choose to stay at Ballard instead of being assigned to Lincoln.

But yes, GE students are stuck.

If I am wrong about this, I hope someone will correct me.

Anonymous said...

HCC 9th graders in the Lincoln area will also be pulled, if they are at Ballard or Roosevelt. Everyone we know with a legitimate second address(divorce, generally) is using it to avoid Lincoln(this is a bigger proportion of kids than I might have imagined), and almost every JAMS 8th grader we know is choosing RHS instead. I don't believe their projections, but I shouldn't have to. Open enrollment is over- where's the data from it? These projections are crazy, but they have an opportunity to back them up, with data. I hope they take it.


Anonymous said...

Current HC 9th graders who lived in the Lincoln zone chose either IHS or GHS last year because they were grandfathered in if they chose their HC pathway school (these were the same kids who were split may times over). So LHS won’t be getting HC kids as sophomores out of either IHS or GHS. And, the HCC who did choose RHS or BHS last year did so knew they would not be geosplit off to Lincoln either because they don’t live in LHS area.

The only HC kids who will land at LHS as freshmen reside in Hale or Lincoln because they can’t go to GHS and didn’t get in to IHS and don’t have access to a 2nd address to exit. That is a very small number. And it is unclear how Lincoln will land any HC as sophomores (only ones would be HC kids living in Wallingford/Fremont/QA who did not want to go to GHS and didn’t see IB as a fit).


seattle citizen said...

@ Rhs22 and ram - in my reading of the District's info, it seems an HCC student in the Lincoln zone (Wallingford, Fremont, QA and part of Magnolia) could choose any another school besides their assignment school. Am I mistaken?

Anonymous said...

"And, the HCC who did choose RHS or BHS last year did so knew they would not be geosplit off to Lincoln either because they don’t live in LHS area.....And it is unclear how Lincoln will land any HC as sophomores (only ones would be HC kids living in Wallingford/Fremont/QA who did not want to go to GHS and didn’t see IB as a fit)."

Yes. I agree with most of what this person stated as the current HC 9th graders who were to be rezoned Lincoln neighborhood school chose Ingraham or Garfield guaranteed grandfathering. These kids were split not just once or twice but many multiple times in the past through elementary & middle school and for once they thought of this particular age group of kids.

The current 8th HC kids who live in neighborhood Lincoln zone can choose Ingraham or Lincoln. The HC kids who live in the Roosevelt or Ballard zone can choose their neighborhood school, Ingraham or Lincoln. Current 10th, 11th and 12th general ed students are all being grandfathered at Ballard & Roosevelt as well.

Many kids come from split households and have multiple addresses so there may be many kids who are able to remain at Roosevelt or Ballard.

RHS mom

Anonymous said...

So...if Lincoln will open with very few HC 9th graders, and even fewer HC 10th graders, Lincoln is likely to be almost completely GE for several years, even though it's officially the north end HCC pathway school.

If Lincoln is being built for about 1600 students, that's about 400 per grade band. If, under normal circumstances, if would be about 1/3 to 1/2 HC, the 550ish projection for next year sounds a little high given that so many are trying to avoid it. I'd guess they'll be looking at more like 225 9th graders and 175 10th graders--about 400 students total. But that's just a wild guess, based on no data.

Golly, wouldn't it be nice to see the data? Open enrollment is behind us, so they should be able to provide breakdowns for each school.


Perservering said...

The Hale zone HC crew is small (but we persevere!!!), but there are a LOT of HC students in the new Lincoln zone because the elementary and middle school HCC programs were housed there in Wallingford for so long and students didn't have long bus rides to access them from there.

Anonymous said...

seattlecitizen HC 8th graders can choose their neighborhood zone school (like any other kid) or their pathway school which would be Lincoln if they live north end. They can also choose to do IB at Ingraham as an option, but there are usually limited spots except for last year. If a student becomes HC eligible in 9th grade however the rules are different, and they have no access to a pathway school like Lincoln. They must attend their neighborhood school.

RHS mom

Anonymous said...

Seattle citizen, supposedly the pathway preference ends at 9th grade. So Lincoln area hcc students could have chosen another school for 9th grade (Garfield or IHS), but if they chose their attendance area school, they're in with attendance area kids and are being geosplit for 10th. We know a couple kids in this boat.


Anonymous said...

Seattlecitizen yes you are mistaken.... "Rhs22 and ram - in my reading of the District's info, it seems an HCC student in the Lincoln zone (Wallingford, Fremont, QA and part of Magnolia) could choose any another school besides their assignment school. Am I mistaken?"

Their only other option in this case (for current 8th and younger) would be Ingraham as their neighborhood school and pathway school are both Lincoln. The older crowd in that zone who will be 10th next year had a chance to go to Garfield or Ingraham grandfathered.

RHS mom

kellie said...

@ unclear,

All of the information on the Ballard and Roosevelt to Lincoln geo-splits was included in the Boundary discussions.

IIRC, 100-150 students would be split from Roosevelt and 150-200 students would be split from Ballard to make the 10th grade class. No HCC students were to be split as the would have made the programming too complex and both Ingraham and Garfield had plenty of space to keep those students.

We are after open enrollment and the final numbers should be done.

kellie said...

@ Mel,

A demographer would certainly help. However, at this point, a lot of the problem is common sense and simply listening to the boots on the ground.

In a lot of ways, enrollment information can best be thought of as a "conversation" between schools and the communities and downtown. The more voices and points of view represented in the conversation, the more accurate the data will be.

I remember the first time, that Tracy Libros invited me to an enrollment "conversation" in 2005. That was also the first time I met Charlie. Tracy genuinely wanted to hear from people in the neighborhoods and wanted to know what they were seeing. We talked about the impact of Pay for K on enrollment trends. (Hint: this was the first warning sign of impending capacity issues.)

As you know, under Superintendent Nyland, enrollment was further silo'ed from the community. IMHO, the natural result of distancing enrollment from the committees this information represents is that each year of this policy, enrollment data has been less accurate.

It will be interesting to see if Juneau decides to go for more community and transparency or if she continues to further silo enrollment and budget from the community. I really think it is past time for another capacity related advisory group of some sort. There is so much talent in our district that could be leveraged to make this information more timely and more relevant and less disruptive to schools.

seattle citizen said...

Thanks for the correction, everyone, it was unclear in what I read.

seattle citizen said...

kellie for Superintendent.

: )

Anonymous said...

Unclear "So...if Lincoln will open with very few HC 9th graders, and even fewer HC 10th graders, Lincoln is likely to be almost completely GE for several years, even though it's officially the north end HCC pathway school. "

Yes, it could have fewer HC students as Ingraham, Roosevelt, Ballard in upcoming years.Perhaps with each class the numbers will grow if there is a reason for HC kids to choose Lincoln over their neighborhood school. Kids also want to be with their friends from middle school. They are around 80-125 in the most recent 9th grade class depending upon school. Lincoln will add yet another school. Basically what we will likely see is north end HC kids split up amongst four schools that offer AP & IB options. In high school there is really no HC, just access to the right classes in sequence, and I think most parents are aware. In addition, the general education population drive the AP class schedule in all schools.

RH mom

Anonymous said...

Lincoln will not be completely GE though as Wallingford, Queen Ann neighborhood boundaries have alot of HC kids, including in the current 8th grade. Likely it will be similar to other neighboring high schools in upcoming years, but if it remains a north end pathway school it may end up with more HC kids in the future if it pulls from the neighboring schools and Ingraham. We are now post open enrollment so they should have somewhat accurate data on enrollment at Lincoln and the other schools.

RH mom

CascadiaMom said...

Re Capacity: The 2007 birth year was the largest single number of births in US history. (4.3 million) Those kids are currently in 5th and 6th grade. So there should be a capacity wave hitting high schools in 2-3 years. I've never gotten SPS to tell me how this is impacting them.

Anonymous said...

CascadiaMom - that may be in terms of birth rate, but there isn't any significant wave coming through SPS if you look at the P223 reports.

NE Parent

kellie said...

Thanks for the multiple kind comments. They really mean a lot.

Thank you Seattle Citizen. That's a kind comment but I'm a systems person who really cares about public education, not a trained educator. I have so much respect for the folks that do the hard work of educating our kids and I get powerfully frustrated when bad data analytics make life harder for teachers and families.

Which leads to Cascadia mom's comments. Cascadiamom is correct. The baby boom echo peeked with the 2007 births but yet, SPS did not sensitize their enrollment information and BEX planning based on this.

I was one of multiple people who provided information that the focus on adding multiple extra elementary schools, like Decatur, was premature because elementary school enrollment had leveled out and there was every reason to expect elementary enrollment would slow or stall.

NE Parent is then asking the right question. If there are more kids in this age group and more kids in Seattle, then WHY is there is a slowing of middle school enrollment. When you ask that question, you have a better conversation.

Trite answers without any data like "housing prices" are toxic to this process. It could be housing prices but if that was the case you would EASILY be able to track the enrollment shifts to other districts and you would also be able to follow this data via housing stock and other analytics. But there is little to no evidence to support this.

Middle School enrollment took a sharp turn with the opening of Meany and RESMS, prior to that that it was solid and expected to grow so much that we would need a 12th comprehensive high school. When you look at that shift, you have a better question.

Enrollment does not live in a vacuum. Director Burke had it right, when he said SPS "earns enrollment." When you examine the enrollment data, you can start to spot the patterns of where there are demographic shifts and where the enrollment is just not being earned.

The 800 students enrolled in Charter Schools tells us that there are plenty of students in SE and SW Seattle that SPS has "not earned."

Anonymous said...

The limits enrollment places on K-8 options may be one factor driving people out of the district/to private at middle school. My daughter was #3 on the waitlist for Hazel Wolf 6th grade in 2016, and I believe she took the last available slot. There were nearly 50 people still waiting. I would not be surprised if many of those behind us who were interested in the lower-key K-8 environment for their kids chose not to enroll in their big regional middle school. Especially for those in N. Seattle -- you can move a few miles north up to Shoreline, Lynnwood or MLT and pay much less for housing (both renting and buying).


kellie said...

I want to go back and address Stuart J's comment about "out of district" enrollment. It is a complicated topic and it has a huge impact on enrollment. Because in addition to Public Charter Schools, out of district public school enrollment is a viable option for many SPS families.

The concept of "what you measure matters and what you don't measure is invisible" is familiar to many people. Out of district enrollment is one of the EASIEST things to measure but yet, it is not included in the enrollment analytics. That is a huge oversight that causes lot of disruption.

It is easy to measure because there is a clean paperwork trail. When a student lives in one district but attends public school in other district, there is annual paperwork to be completed, so that the MONEY follows the student to the new district.

Most school districts LOVE out of district enrollment. While school districts have an obligation to enroll every student who resides in their district, school districts are able to open "out of district" enrollment, on a school-by-school and grade-by-grade basis. Out of district enrollment enables school districts to be far more efficient in their operations and when operations are more efficient, students benefit.

This is one of the many reasons why "staffing capacity" is such a toxic policy. When SPS closes a school with ample physical capacity to its own students, it is also closing that school to "out of district" enrollment. There are many schools, like Center School and Nova and Cleveland, etc, that could have easily filled to their historic enrollment levels as they have a long history of "out of district" enrollment. But when SPS implemented "staffing capacity," these schools began to shrink.

As the baby boom echo has worked its way through SPS and surrounding districts, other districts had the option of managing their capacity via ending "out of district" enrollment. In recent years, Shoreline, Bellevue, Mercer Island and Highline have closed their doors to multiple grade bands. This has had rather obvious impacts on Seattle but yet ... they are never measured.

By ignoring 'out of district" enrollment, lots of mythology can take root in enrollment. Mythology is story without data. Out of district enrollment is a critical data point and a large piece of the enrollment narrative.

Robert Cruickshank said...

One important thing to point out is that it won't just be parents here on the blog raising these questions. State legislators are extremely skeptical of SPS's management practices and use of money. I don't always agree with that skepticism and often it's used by legislators to make excuses for underfunding our schools. That being said, SPS *will* get hit with these same questions from legislators when they arrive in Olympia to ask for more money. SPS will have to give clear and credible answers to legislators on this. If they can't give clear and credible answers to parents, then they may be in for some uncomfortable conversations in Olympia.

Anonymous said...


Can you please explain the "staffing capacity" policy and how it works in practice? Thank you so much for sharing your hard-earned knowledge! Is this related to WSS? Or the fact that SPS takes the funding it gets from the state and feds and then allocates staff positions to schools and not dollars to be used as needed at individual schools?

Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

And has anyone point-blank asked our elected school board and/or budget director JoLynn Berge to explain the proposed budget the board is being asked to vote on? Explain the cuts, enrollment projections on which budget and cuts are made, the tradeoffs being proposed and the restoration plan?

If so, what is the answer from the board and the budget director? Or Juneau, for that matter?

Concerned parent

Elsa said...

Concerned parent:



Dream on.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Concerned Parent, not in any forum I have been to. The lack of pushback from the Board is troubling.

I would say that the root of the issue is the last teacher raises. Of course, I believe the teachers deserved the raises but I also thought that the district had budgeted properly for them. What I believe they did is gamble that the new McCleary money would cover them (given teachers are basic education) but that senior staff did not think that the legislature would give them more money BUT cut the levy funding amount.

Is that the whole reason we are here? I'd say that and not fully funding Special Education. They lost dollars when students left but that's on the district (and they seem tragically uninterested in why).

WEA Swipe said...

The state legislature requires districts to provide four year budgets. The district needs to release their four year budget projections:

Spokane provided double digit pay raises. These raises are/were not sustainable and expected to rise over the next few years:

"Spokane Schools board of directors approved a $465 million operating budget – up from $444 million before the contract settlement.
That swung the district’s budget from an $8 million surplus to a $12.6 million deficit, easily covered by the district’s reserve of $37 million.
However, next year’s projected deficit is $40.6 million. Barring intervention from the state, the deficit would grow to $49.2 million for the 2020-21 school year and $57 million the following year."


Districts and boards can not spend what they do not have. Negotiations coming up, again, this year. It is time for WEA to back-off.

WEA Swipe said...

WEA's plan was to swipe the entire billion off the table. They didn't give a damn about the levy cliff.

We fought to prevent the legislature from pushing us over the levy cliff, a few years ago. Then, WEA came along and pushed us over the cliff. WEA's plan was to return to Olympia and get the $$ this year. How is that working out?

WEA Swipe said...

WEA worked to get 20% raises - or more-in Lake Washington and Edmonds. Seattle was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Melissa Westbrook said...

WEA, I appreciate your information but without backup - like how do you know what WEA was planning - don't infer what you cannot prove.

kellie said...

@ Concerned Parent,

Here is my best attempt to explain the mysterious "staffing capacity."

The New Student Assignment Plan (NSAP- 2010) migrated SPS from a 100% choice plan, to a "limited choice plan." Because SPS had been a 100% choice district, there was considerable effort inserted into the NSAP, to preserve choice wherever possible and to minimize disruption to families wherever possible.

The are multiple places in the NSAP where choice is protected on a "space available" basis. Now unfortunately, the document itself never defined "space available." This is because in the years 2004-2009 when the NSAP was being created, "space available" was a widely understood term. Every school in the district had a capacity number, and after that number of students were enrolled, a wait list was started.

The problem with widely understood terms is that institutional memory fades. While anyone can pull the 2007 or 2008 enrollment and can get a snapshot of that number, since that definition is not written in the document, "space available" was "re-defined" in 2017 as Staffing capacity.

In 2017, multiple new schools were to be opened with corresponding boundary changes. This was also the same year as the first levy cliff and budget staff were attempting to be "very conservative" with their spending.

Families at Whitman Middle School were promised that since there as not a capacity problem at Whitman, any family that wanted to stay at Whitman would be able to do so. This promise was posted on the SPS website as well as verbally repeated at community meetings for two years.

Then come post open enrollment, that promise was broken. The reason for the broken promise was there might be "physical capacity" but there was no "staffing capacity."

Staffing Capacity was then defined as the "initial staffing allocation given to a school BEFORE open enrollment."

While Whitman Middle School had more than enough physical capacity to accommodate 100% of the families on the waitlist, the "initial allocation" of teachers was not enough to meet the demand for families to remain at Whitman.

Historically, SPS did a small pre-open enrollment allocation, followed by a post-open-enrollment adjustment to match staff to the enrollment demand. But starting in 2017, SPS used the term "staffing capacity" to justify, not honoring that there was physical capacity.

It is important to note that this practice had already been employed at Cleveland and other schools but the term was first used to justify the broken promises to the Whitman community.

Anonymous said...

JoLynn Barge cannot explain any details of the district budget nor explain any of the department budgets within the district. She shows up with printouts of a PowerPoint with graphs with old data and assumed projections and if you ask a direct question, she will falter and have to get back to you with an answer or change the subject with an inferior additude.