Board Work Session Today on Next Year's Budget

Here's the agenda.

There isn't a lot new in it.

And you'd think - if you were bleeding dollars because hundreds of students you expected did not show up - some kind of discussion about that issue.  Zero on that.

It's fine to point the finger at the Legislature, especially as it gets later and later for school districts who have to prepare and pass budgets for the next school year.  But I recall that staff said the district lost about $7M this year from students who didn't show up.  You'd think there would be some kind of forensic analysis on possible reasons.  I'm surprised the Board didn't tell the Superintendent they wanted to see

Page 10 shows the loss of students - about 700 last year and 700 this year.  And, they say that they are 98% right on their prediction. And they predict more enrollment drops next year.

Why are they not attempting to understand this trend is what troubles me.  It is just one in a long line of issues that is leading me to believe that there is a pattern developing in SPS and why it is happening is anyone's guess.

The cuts are on page 35.  What is still there in terms of a Restoration Plan (page 29) says this:

1.Fully restore WSS - $12.2m

2.Restore 50% of:
•Fall Enrollment
•Central Admin funding

3.Prorate the remaining:
•Fall Enrollment
•Central Admin funding
•24 credits

Note: Central Admin and Fall Enrollment are recommended to be first, as these impact staffing positions. 

So you could start reading the list and think - because of positioning - that #1 would be the first restoration but staff still stands by restoring their cuts first because those staff are needed for the other restoration items.  But HR is only losing 2.5 FTE; they really cannot restore WSS cuts first without those people?


Anonymous said…
SPS seems unaware of SB 5313, which is going to potentially have a big impact on school funding.

Good news for SPS: It increases the levy lid to $3,500 from $2,500. That should be a big revenue gain for the district.

Terrible news: this morning Senate Ways & Means adopted an amendment that would limit TRI for teachers. Beginning September 1, 2022, the average supplemental contract given by a district "must be no more than 3% of the average salary in the district provided as part of the state's statutory program of basic education."

Wouldn't this decimate teachers' salaries in SPS?

WS Parent
Former WPD said…
“To me this looks like political pressure prevailing over good policy. I have to believe my Democrat colleagues on the budget committee know in their hearts that this goes completely against the lessons that should have been learned from the McCleary court ruling in 2012, and the Doran ruling more than 40 years ago. Any increase in local-levy authority will eventually cause districts to rely more on local tax dollars, and give some districts an advantage over others when it comes to funding, which leads back to the educational inequities we worked so hard to eliminate in 2017. If the intent is to get going toward McCleary 2.0, this vote to enable a 67-percent increase in local school-levy rates is the surest way."

Districts and school boards were irresponsible with budgets. It is time for the state to involve themselves with collective bargaining.

Former WPD said…
Democrats are voting bills out of chambers in the middle of the night. They are no different than Republicans.

A Democratic led legislature looks to local school districts to fund special education. Wonderful for districts that have the capacity to pass levies.

As is, three school districts passed levies at legally allowed limits. These districts will need to go back to the voters should the levy lid be lifted. These school districts are not certain that voters will vote, again, to support levies. They are not pleased.
kellie said…
Here is the link to the State of Washington job description for Board Directors. The job description is pretty clear as well as the direct intent of the law is clear. The school board is accountable for the budget and enrollment and ensuring that resources are directed appropriately and no amount of "staff" changes that.

(1) It is the intent and purpose of this section to guarantee that each common school district board of directors, whether or not acting through its respective administrative staff, be held accountable for the proper operation of their district to the local community and its electorate. In accordance with the provisions of Title 28A RCW, as now or hereafter amended, each common school district board of directors shall be vested with the final responsibility for the setting of policies ensuring quality in the content and extent of its educational program and that such program provide students with the opportunity to achieve those skills which are generally recognized as requisite to learning.

Anonymous said…
Looks like SB 5313 was substituted out in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, so that the levy lid would be $3,000 per student in Seattle. This aligns with the House's proposed budget of a levy lid of $3,000 per pupil in Seattle.

The Senate Ways and Means newly passed TRI amendment is going to cause all kinds of problems if it passes both houses of the legislature. I hope the House nixes it.

Also, Ways and Means passed an amendment to SB 5313 directing OSPI to give charter schools the same amount per pupil as local enrichment levies! Wow do these legislator like to pull fast ones late at night.

WS Parent
kellie said…
I am at the work session.

The Historical Drops and Current Assignments Slide has a technical error.

The Grade Bands should be K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. The information is very useful as it shows the enrollment drops by grade bands, this shows that there is extreme volatility in secondary education. Where a significant number of students are assigned in April but not enrolled by October.

Unknown said…
If SPS is losing students, why are we building a 500-seat addition at Ingraham HS and a brand-new comprehensive high school at Lincoln? Once again, lack of transparency and coherent communication with the public engenders deep mistrust.

The school board MUST demand accountability and transparency. And we must support them in that call.

Concerned parent
McCleary 2 said…

ŸLevy Cliff Bill; Promotion of an unequal system:
Allows a district to levy at the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per pupil for school districts with fewer than 40,000 FTE students. Allows a district to levy at the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $3,000 per pupil for school districts with 40,000 FTE students or more. Provides local effort assistance to school districts that do not generate an enrichment levy of at least $1,500 per student when levying at a rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
kellie said…
There was a lot of interesting information at the work session and lots of great question from the board. There was lots of inquiry into the enrollment information, without a lot of satisfactory answers.

Staff is pretty clear that enrollment is decreasing and that there are multiple key metrics that truly indicate declining aggregate enrollment. Unfortunately, there was not any detailed breakouts of grade by grade or region by region. The response to those questions was "everywhere,"

In all my years at SPS, there has never really been anything uniform about enrollment. When you break it down, there are always patterns. Even with the very limited data presented quite a few patterns really jumped out.

The cohort survival rate or the grade-by-grade progression rate is dropping steadily and is at 96%. This is the number that is causing staff to be so conservative in their numbers. Families are leaving SPS and they don't know why.

However, without the grade by grade version, the number is meaningless. Historically, there was always a major drop between 5th and 6th grade and a major jump at 9th grade. By rolling this into one big average, it makes it clear why budget is alarmed but it also hides where families are happy and where families are voting with their feet.

SB5313 said…
SB5313 will hold back contract negotiations next year. Given districts around the state didn't have the capacity to maintain their budgets, this isn't a bad idea.

Beginning in 2022, the state put a limit on the amount of funding unions can bargain. The state is providing funding and district's don't have the capacity to manage their funding.

There are claims that teachers will loose $5K in teacher salaries. Read the bill! I'm having a hard time finding the language.

kellie said…
I should also note that there was a very respectful tone to the entire meeting. Everyone seemed very concerned at the gravity of the budget shortfall and that the timing of the state budget, vs the requirements for hiring new staff and the requirements for RIFs.

Anonymous said…
500 seat addition at Ingraham and they are now cutting teachers there.

kellie said…
I am not as thorough as Mel about reporting on Work Sessions, but I will try to give a few points, particularly about the conclusions reached.

The conversation was intense but respectful. Clearly hundreds of hours have been spent discussing this topic in other meetings to reach that level of depth. The point of the meeting was to get consensus on the Restoration plan and the meeting ran over by a few minutes in order to finalize some consensus.

The Board reached a consensus for an option that was not on the menu. They agreed that the most important thing was to restore the $12.2 M to the WSS and to not argue about any "partial restoration" plans.

There is a reasonable expectation that the various budget plans will provide the $12.2 to restore the WSS. However, in the event that there is not $12.2, then the board requested an additional work session, in order to find "somewhere else" to cut. The expectation that they would need to find about $1-3 Million and the board would vasty prefer to cut that from something other than WSS. Staff also seemed to prefer this option.

IMHO, this was a very thoughtful and collaborative exercise and shows some great solidarity between the board and staff to protect school buildings as much as possible, in the face of budget shortfalls that are far more severe than either the closures or the recession.

The board did not agree to either points #2 or #3 in the Restoration Plan. At this moment, it seems highly unlikely that we will have that much money to restore but there was there was not enough time for everyone to explore this.

From my vantage point, there seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding about the "50% Fall Enrollment" plan and I found it very challenging to follow along. There were numerous gaps between the question and the answers and I suspect that the term "Fall Enrollment" has not been clearly defined.

Fall Enrollment adjustments means at least three things.

1) Adding staff where there are more students.
2) Subtracting staff where there are not enough students.
3) Mitigating staff, because you don't want to remove staff, even though you really don't have the money to keep them.

My best guess is that board members were asking about "adding staff" in response to so many queries about decidedly odd enrollment projections. But it seemed to me that staff was replying about the need to "mitigate".

I suspect that with more time, this would have been sorted out but ... there is never enough time for budget and enrollment work sessions.

kellie said…
There was lots of conversation about how confusing these cuts are and how few people understand the building level cuts and the depth of community inquiry. I resemble that remark!

I have found most of this year's budget and enrollment conversation very hard to follow and I have a lot of "inside baseball." I can hardly imagine how people new to this conversation are tracking. Many schools are in a situation where their enrollment is growing but they still are facing staffing cuts.

I will point out again that the lack of clarity is a leadership issue. This is Juneau's first budget and it is clearly one of the most challenging and complex budget issues, I have ever seen. It is a leadership decision to decide if you go more "transparent" or if you go more "opaque" when a situation gets complicated.

There was a modest amount of push back that these issues are too complex and we need to trust staff to manage them. I agree that we do need to trust staff to manage a very complex situation. But there are thousands of way to express trust. IMHO, trust is not a blank check. The blank check notion tends to just fuel conspiracy theories. In my experience with complex issues, I have found that being as transparent as possible is the best strategy for long term trust.

The board seems to be pressing for more transparency. We are going to learn a lot about Juneau's leadership style over the course of the next few weeks as the RIF and rehire process really starts and we learn how much is opaque and how much is transparent.

Anonymous said…
@Kellie So I am totally confused, since this only partly has to do with levy stuff, does it look like the schools they are cherry picking to receive the draconian cuts will end up with that situation? For example, at our projected to still be very full high school we heard our library would be closed due to our librarian being cut to 50% at our high school, & losing 15 FTE. When do we learn the outcome?


Anonymous said…

Thank you so much for these updates. It's extraordinarily helpful. I do wonder whether staff and the superintendent understand that trust must first be earned. Having taken on a role in a school district with so many deficiencies in the area of trust, Ms Juneau ought not expect that trust be freely given. This is her first real opportunity to show she is trustworthy as a leader, and whilst she has shown some promising signs, I am rather discouraged at the confusion at my neighbourhood school that has been fomented in no small way by a simple lack of transparency. I should give Ms Juneau low marks so far for her performance on this first test.

kellie said…
@ Parent,

I will try my best to answer any question, but I have to be clear, that there are multiple nuances that I still find confusing and will be certain to distinguish between what I know and where I am guessing.

There are 4 types of budget cuts or budget adjustments.

1) Cuts made via the WSS (aka true budget cuts)
2) Cuts made via enrollment projections. (cuts driven by fewer students)
3) Cuts made via boundary changes. These cuts are attached to the add's of the boundary adjustment.
4) High school has a very extra cut, where all Core 24 money has been removed. (approximately $5M)

There are 4 Equity tiers. Staff clarified several times that Level 1 and Level 2 schools are being held harmless. Those schools are receiving ZERO budget cuts. They may be experiencing cuts to the budget via enrollment shifts but they are not receiving budget cuts.

Cuts to the WSS ($12.2M) will be restored as soon as the State passes a budget. Who knows when that will happened. I can't even guess.

Cuts due to enrollment will be re-examined in June.

I have no idea what plan, if any, is in place for the boundary adjustments.

I seriously doubt that enough money will be coming from the State to restore the Core 24 money.

I hope that answers your question. Please follow up!
kellie said…
@ Frederike,

I would encourage you to share your thoughts with the board and staff. The situation does seem to be evolving in response to community input. At the last version of this meeting, it was noted that there had been no "complaints" about the projections and cuts. This is Seattle. If there are no complaints, it because nobody knows about it.

At this meeting, the board asked multiple times about how to respond to the many constituents with questions. I am also hopeful that the conversation could turn to more transparency. That is why I even attended the work session in the first place.

Anonymous said…
O.K please tell me if I understand:
1. Some cuts may happen to Tier 3 & 4 high schools regardless due to elimination of Core 24 money.
2. If WSS is restored in full (legislature) we will not see as many draconian cuts projected such as loss of librarian .50 FTE, 15 FTE etc.
3. If RHS, BHS, Garfield & IHS projected enrollment remain very full in June those schools may not experience as many teacher cuts as stated in early Spring.
4. Boundary changes due to the opening of Lincoln of course affect teacher allocation. They will likely be pulling teachers from other schools for Lincoln rather than hiring additional new teachers.

However since Lincoln is only opening with two grades & students in boundary change areas in two older grades are being grandfathered, the other schools will still be very full for awhile. If they are pulling teachers over to Lincoln there should be a staggered approach because students are being grandfathered.

District projections are they are now losing students in the entire district overall. However, they need to be more clear about which grades are losing students and I would like to see an updated 5 year enrollment projection based upon new data. This should be done before they do any cuts that will potentially be very harmful to schools that will continue to have high enrollment for awhile.


kellie said…
@ Parent,

To the best of knowledge. (and not in the same order!)

1) yes. Some high school cuts are happening. Period.
2) The $12.2 M cut from WSS will restore all of the items on the slide in the presentation.
4) I can't answer that. I have no idea.

3) Is really complicated. The only thing that was covered at the work session was that there would be June adjustments. The plan or process or criteria was not addressed.

A significant portion of the enrollment presentation was about how staff was deeply uncomfortable adding staff based on post open enrollment information, because there was such a gap between the April post open enrollment actuals and the Oct 1 headcount.

For high school, there were 700 fewer high school students enrolled on Oct 1, 2018, than were assigned to high school in April 2018. Because of that 700 student drop, staff is very reluctant to add additional at high school.

I have a lot of ideas for this drop. Much of which has to do with the very restricted assignment and artificial enrollment caps but ... staff did not provide any information one way or another about why there was such a significant drop.

There are many ways to improve the accuracy of enrollment information. But that was not part of the conversation. There was no detailed breakdown on this number by grade band or by school. I really think that breakdown is critical. The aggregate number is useless.

Anonymous said…

Bottom line is that if some schools are still very full and even over capacity they should not also receive cuts beyond what is reasonable. To have to close a library and cut needed staff at the school should also be a last resort. They should first cut central administration before this type of cut.

Instead they want what they define as "tier 3 & 4 schools" students & staff to take the brunt of a projected overall district enrollment drop. So if their enrollment trend continues will they eventually cut from those schools again and again with a disregard for the actual school enrollment? There does not seem to be a process in place. Also, there have been population shifts happening for quite some time now in Seattle with some schools bursting while other schools experience enrollment drops. They have done nothing to attract families to the schools in areas experiencing drops.

Enough is enough and I can tell them why those who can are leaving the district despite a surge in overall population. Then there are the rest of us like myself who cannot afford to go private, and are stuck with severely overcrowded classrooms with a staff shortage and closed library. I would also love to see exactly where they are losing students.

Anonymous said…
@Kellie, you may already have seen these reports filed with the state, but they have SPS enrollment by grade band and one includes projections: (p.6, 11/5/2018) (p. 1, 11/2/2018, includes CY & forecasts to 2021/22) (p.1, 3/19/19)


Anonymous said…
@kellie —

So it sounds to you that staff is still proposing to only add back 50% of staffing at schools where they underproject enrollment?

All of this is sad, of course, but that is the part I cannot understand how anyone can justify. Because what it means is that schools will disproportionately lose staff based only upon how accurate staff’s guesses were. If they guessed right, then your school ends up with the intended student-staff ratio. If they guess wrong, then your school is unfairly shorted, and the extent to which your school is unfairly shorted depends on how badly they were off. And they aren’t even using post-open enrollment data, which may not be accurate, but has got to be MORE accurate than pre-OE data, right?

Is there something I’m not getting about this, because it seems crazy to me.

Anonymous said…
Agree 100% with those who say trust must be EARNED. Staff standing up and saying "just trust us, we're the experts all of this is too complicated for us to explain" is not a way to earn trust.

If you cannot clearly, succinctly articulate why you are making the budget tradeoffs you are making--and use evidence/data to buttress your argument for the tradeoffs--you have not earned trust. These are OUR public funds. Our elected school board has a legal fiduciary responsibility to ensure those funds are applied in a way to maximize benefits to students, not to central office jobs.

I am hard pressed to understand why cuts would be made to ANY school, regardless of tier and socioeconomic status, before central office. Anyone suggest cutting executive/regional directors?

Concerned Parent

Anonymous said…
How do enrollment projections factor in Running Start students? Our child plans on full-time Running Start for next year, but was told this spring to register for a full schedule at their high school, regardless. Students have since been told some courses won't be offered (not enough students signing up for particular classes? school losing staff?). For enrollment purposes, our child is still counted as FT at their high school for next year.

Why is enrollment down? I'd speculate it's partially a function of fewer families living within Seattle city limits (rents are high and newer housing is being built mostly for those without children), and partially a function of SPS dysfunction.

almost done
kellie said…
@ Parent,

I hear your frustration. I am just reporting on what happened. There was some discussion about the fact that without a true legislative fix, there was going to be additional cuts for the 2020 school year as well.

The board did ask a few questions about how the 2019 cuts and possible restoration would fit with a 2020 plan. That said, there was no real time to dig into that part of the conversation. Everyone is really focused on the 2019 budget cut and declining enrollment. Not fixes.

Director Burke made a great remark about how just because enrollment declined, does not mean it needs to continue to decline and about how staff and the board need to work together to figure this out and get families back. I really hope that is an indicator of future focus. Seattle is still growing. IMHO, it is critical to get ahead of this before charters take all the market share.

But once again, the only enrollment information presented was AGGREGATE data. Without the grade by grade, school by school, region by region, information. It is impossible to really look at any particular school and any particular solutions.

Puzzled Mom said…
First of all, I don't know if Kelli is familiar with this enrollment count:

But I wasn't. Fascinating. Almost 900 students in ALE (Alternative Learning Experience)! What is that? I've never even heard of that.

Also, K-6 is so much bigger than 7-12. I find that really surprising. I'm just a random parent, but I'm not NOT paying attention, you know?

So, in this form to OSPI, the district is forecasting that they will have almost 1000 more students next year than this year. But in the district's forecasting about cuts, they're predicting less than that. How do the two jive together?

Which is it: more or fewer?
Anonymous said…
Why are they opening Lincoln next year if high school enrollment is trending severely down? This makes zero sense to me. I can imagine opening a new high school with only 250-400 students total, and offering a wide array of courses for students in multiple programs will be EXTRA expensive. They will either have to place students into a limited array of courses, or offer multiple courses with very few students. They are also housing HCC kids who may need varying levels of science & math.

Why not keep them at their original neighborhood schools and delay the opening? It makes zero sense to me that if money is so dire as to have to cut 15FTE at multiple schools and close libraries why they are marching on. Stop this train wreck! This district has not opened a new high school in eternity. I can imagine Lincoln won't open well with the confidence of parents and students. I am hearing of families that have no confidence.

kellie said…
@ Data,

Thank you!!! No I haven't seen those reports. There was a passing comment last night about how the State of Washington is now requiring budget and enrollment projections. I had no idea this was already underway.

That said, this information further muddies the waters. The enrollment information at last night's meeting was projecting a 700 student decline. This information provided to the State is projection a 1,000 student increase.

Do you have any context for how these reports are either generated or used?

kellie said…
@ JvA,

So it sounds to you that staff is still proposing to only add back 50% of staffing at schools where they underproject enrollment?

Great question and I wish I could answer it cleanly. While there was lots of Q&A about this specific topic, from my vantage point, it appeared there was much more mis-communication, than clarity.

Several board directors, mentioned that they had heard from multiple communities that their enrollment information seemed dangerously low and were concerned about cutting staff, to just have to turn around and try to re-hire.

Deputy Superintendent Nielson remarked that building level information is not always reliable and that they are very concerned about the "show rate" numbers and don't want to staff buildings on post-open enrollment information.

Now all that said, I strongly suspect that they are using the phrase "Fall enrollment" to mean multiple things. At quite a few points, Staff explained the "Fall enrollment" was the mitigation money used for schools that did not reach their enrollment targets. Clear as mud?

Regardless, the board refused to move past Restoration Plan point #1 (page 29) on the consensus vote. Points #2 and #3 were tabled for a later meeting.

kellie said…
@ Concerned Parent,

Very well said. One of the reasons that I attended the meeting is because I believe so strongly in transparent systems. Over the years, I have found that when SPS makes their data transparent, my respect for the hard work done goes up, not down.

The same thing happened last night. Last night, staff presented that the significantly lower enrollment projections were based on lower than expected cohort survival rate numbers (down to 96% from 101% a few year ago) and significantly lower show rate numbers (show rate is the number who show up in September vs enrolled in April)

With that data set, of course, you would be predicting an enrollment decline.

HOWEVER, the AGGREGATE NUMBERS are pretty useless at the building level. You need the school by school, grade by grade to be able to see patterns and trends and to be more accurate at the building level.

This is the exact reason we got trapped into seven years of school closures. The aggregate data said one thing but the grade by grade info said something completely different.

While this may be wonky and technical crap, it has a direct impact on every student and every teacher. IMHO, this is just too important to get wrong and it needs more eyeballs, not less.

kellie said…
@ Almost done,

You just hit on a really critical point and this was discussed at length in the work session.

Running Start enrollment has been higher than expected for the last few years. It has also been higher state wide. Staff stated that the high school enrollment projections included an assumption that running start enrollment would continue to increase.

Many of you have already read my rants on this topic over the last 5 years about how there is plenty of opportunity to collect solid data about running start but zero real data, just a lot of mythology. There is also some serious chicken-and-egg style problems where when high schools are short staffed, this actually pushes more students out to running start.

For me, this is the most frustrating issues, Staff kept asserting that the high school enrollment data was unreliable and unpredictable. But that is just not correct. It just means that they way you are collecting your information is unreliable and unpredictable.

There are dozens of ways to improve the accuracy of high school enrollment projections. The professionals who work in the buildings really do know their students and they have a good sense of their enrollment intentions.

Moreover, if you simply gave students their high school schedule in the Spring and told them they needed to commit to their schedule or Running Start most would give you a clean answer. It's not perfect but nothing will give you perfect information.

And frankly if you just told families, that teacher's jobs DEPENDED on accurate enrollment information, I am confident you would get better data.

Anonymous said…
"Deputy Superintendent Nielson remarked that building level information is not always reliable and that they are very concerned about the "show rate" numbers and don't want to staff buildings on post-open enrollment information." they think basing their staff cuts on enrollment projections prior to open enrollment is more accurate than actual enrollment information? I get that things can still be different in Fall, but historically these numbers have been very similar. This makes no sense to me.

As for one report to the state reporting 1000 more students and 700 less in their other report what is the timing between the two reports? Or is it possible they are claiming a "projected" drop in enrollment as an excuse to shift money away from certain schools to where they want it? Something seems fishy. When you are not transparent over and over you tend to lose people's trust.

Anonymous said…

I can't personally supply any context, but this link provides a handbook and a plethora of bulletins (including Running Start) to explain Enrollment Reporting guidance

Plus there are multiple detailed financial documents for anyone so inclined to dig in on the left side menu.

I truly appreciate all the work you do to explain enrollment, provide historical context and keep us informed!

Outsider said…
Below is a cut-paste from a Not Safe For Seattle website, (blog of Christian cultural doomer Rod Dreher, for aficionados). The passage itself was written by a professor from a "Christian polytechnic" university in East Texas, so in some ways it's very far from Seattle. But it also sounded very familiar relative to recent hot topics discussed in this forum: disappearing students, rising Running Start, dumbing down the science curriculum, etc.

"Another unappreciated angle of college is the way that it’s rapidly becoming the equivalent of a gifted-and-talented program for high school students who are dissatisfied with the quality of their high school education, or who simply want to burnish credentials in pursuit of admission to more prestigious programs at elite national universities.

"In 2011, my small university of roughly 2000 students had 2 students in the 14-16 age bracket; generally this means they are dual-enrolled high school students who are not yet high-school seniors. By 2015, that number had climbed to 31. Any guesses where it is in 2019?

"I just checked our enrollment statistics. We now have 349 students in the 14-16 age bracket. From 0.1% to 1.5% to 15%, in only 8 years. The growth trend is exponential.

"This is being driven by intense desire among students (and their parents!) to do something that helps them (1) improve their standing in application to high-reputation schools, (2) control education costs by spreading them out over more years or putting the “fifth year” at the beginning (living cheaply off-campus) instead of the end (living expensively on-campus), and (3) escape from the influence of underachieving peers who force teachers to dumb down teaching.

"In effect, this amounts to another mechanism that allows the wealthy to trade cash for enrollment privileges. Students from poor families are being frozen out, since dual-enrollment rarely provides scholarship aid.

"Administrators see dual-enrollment as a way to rescue themselves from a short-term financial crunch. But in the long run the infusion of these students creates a state of dependence that isn’t easily reversed. And an influx of high-school students that become an essential budget component creates pressure to design a set of courses that appeal to such students and allow for their retention — which unsurprisingly tend to be courses with difficulty levels that match the somewhat limited abilities of high school underclassmen. So in effect, college becomes a sort of flexible alternative to expensive private prep-schools and boarding schools, for families in the top 20% income bracket, but not the top 5%.

"But as the population of “real” college students gets continually diluted, college runs the risk of being devalued into what high school used to be, and high schools (now abandoned by all talented upperclassmen) are forced to recalibrate themselves to serve as remedial education for those unable or unwilling to pursue dual-credit. This mimics the experience of bachelors degrees themselves, which began as something that distinguished their holders as exceptional scholars worthy of employment in managerial positions, but now have developed into a credentialing screen for service-sector jobs. If a bachelors degree is the new high-school diploma, then I guess there’s a certain logic in colleges becoming charter-schools for teenagers. But it isn’t much fun for professors, who are stuck trying to figure out how to appease a class full of students who are increasingly prone to finding themselves in over their heads — and who will fill out faculty evaluations forms at the end of the semester to be read by the same administrators who know that the campus can no longer afford to meet payroll without their presence."
kellie said…
@ Puzzled Mom.

ALE or Alternative Learning Experiences are schools like Interagency, Skills Center and Middle College. The enrollment is listed separately, because they are funded completely differently from the prototypical school model.

In other words, these schools are supposed to be less expensive, so the students receive less money.

Anonymous said…
Are neighboring districts seeing the same enrollment declines, or are they predicting increases?

If they're predicting steady numbers or increases, then to me, Seattle's enrollment numbers (if accurate) must surely signal the start of a "death spiral" in Seattle Public Schools. We've been teetering on this point for a while, but I'm not seeing signs of the kind of leadership from the board or from the new superintendent that would reassure me.

I don't know how to find that data, however. If we are starting a death spiral, SPS will be in shambles within 5 years.

kellie said…
As I have been thinking about this meeting and all the churn and upset across the district, because budget is the foundation of the work of the work of education and this is just not clear enough.

At multiple points in the meeting, the conversation centered around the serious disruption caused by unreliable enrollment information and constant adjustments. There was a big focus on how SPS has to hire at least 400 new teachers every year and that we are competing with the Bellevues and the Shorelines, etc. The focus was on how in our neighboring districts, school buildings are given a budget in February and then they are done. They can hire with confidence, because they don't need to deal with the choice systems, options schools and all this process of adjustment.

I think the observation is correct but the focus is wrong.

Other districts are smaller. It is far simpler to manage hiring and enrollment in a district with only two high schools and baker's dozen of elementary schools. The process is very linear.

Seattle has 108 schools. (Please correct me if I am wrong, the count seems to change every year). And that is the point. If just counting the number of schools in Seattle is a complex undertaking, then enrollment and hiring is going to be complex and no amount of "locking and loading" the budget in February is going to change that.

Plus, charter schools are swiftly gaining enrollment. Even if there was no choice system, charter schools all by themselves are more than enough to cause serious disruption to hiring and enrollment.

We need a way that is neither as fluid as the 100% choice process, nor as rigid as the current process.

kellie said…
When the NSAP was implemented, siblings were split all across the district. It was expected that year one would be the worst and it would get better over time.

StepJ organized a small group of volunteers, who partnered closely with schools all across the district to get accurate enrollment information and get the waitlist moved. By October 1, only Lafayette elementary was so over enrolled that they were unable to enroll 7 siblings.

The point is pretty simple, because that is just one example of hundreds that I could list. There are ways to get better enrollment data. There are ways to partner with the community. There are multiple credible sources of enrollment information.

Downtown gets a lot of eyeballs on what they do wrong and not a lot of credit for what they do right. That is unfortunate but it is also the nature of public work.

Managing enrollment, budget and hiring is much more complex in Seattle than surrounding districts, and more complex by orders of magnitude. If enrollment projections are off by 10%, that is over 5,000 SPS students who are not in the expected place and we have 108 "places".

When other districts are off by 10%, that is 1500 students and there is only a dozen places they could wind up. That is not a very challenging problem,

The math for SPS enrollment is drastically different and once the charter school variable escalates, the range of possible results will also expand.

If you tell schools that they need to organize themselves, to clarify their enrollment so that they can make a case for their budget, they will do it. But then you have to be flexible and make the changes.

In defense of downtown, that is a labor intensive process. And when there is drastic budget cuts and RIFs, it is often more challenging than one might expect to add more work.

So we need a creative solution, because this is just too important to not do. One of the reason, I still blog my observations, is because this blog is actually a place where cross sections of people from all across the district are able share information and ideas.

I don't know how to fix this, in the short time frame we have, but maybe someone else does.

kellie said…
@ Shamblooney

If you call the neighboring districts, they generally just send you the info. Likewise with OSPI.

I haven't done it recently, but I have done it many times. In general, they are THRILLED to speak to someone who cares about their job and will send you anything you want.

To note, this year the Washington State Charter Commission received 12 NOIs (Notice of Intent) which are required as an early signal to applying. Out of those 12, only four have submitted applications.

They only authorized one this year opened in Renton. (Also to ponder is that Excel Charter - an early charter that started to fail but was taken under Green Dot's wing - is moving from Kent to Renton.)

Interestingly, Green Dot, which was to expand a middle school charter to a K-8, didn't followed thru. However, their 6-12 academy in the SE is expanding by one grade level a year so that will affect schools in that area.

There is one application for an elementary school, either in Seattle or Renton. I suspect it might be Renton because finding space in Seattle would seem to be a major obstacle.

While charters are just trickling in (a surprise to me), I also note that there are several opening in spots around the state and appear to be home-grown. That's a good thing for charters if we have to have them.

Anonymous said…
Here is a report from KING5 (with video) looking at student migration. The CFO of Seattle Public Schools is quoted saying housing costs are having an impact. (I would argue that the quality of schools is also a significant issue.) Enrollment will be way down in:

*Federal Way

Districts with more students "and thus more funding" are:

*Evergreen (Vancouver, WA area)

More or less steady enrollment projections in Tacoma. Seattle Public Schools was allegedly "blindsided" by the lower enrollment. First time in 10 years SPS has seen an overall decline in enrollment and projections that are also off.

Bainbridge is seeing a decline in enrollment:

Lake Washington School District is expecting 2,000 more students by 2020:

This report from September says Seattle, Bellevue, and Highline are all seeing "unexpected" drops (ie drops not seen in previous projections in enrollment. Tacoma's projections enrollment appear correct:

Local Enrollment
kellie said…
@ Local Enrollment,

Thank you! That is great info.

The annual enrollment reports that go to the board each year, are missing several critical enrollment metrics - Running Start, Out of District Enrollment and a few other things.

The out of district enrollment is really important because it is really "too easy" to look at this list and think .. Oh Bellevue and Shoreline are losing students, so it is not just Seattle. Oops. Nope.

One of the many reasons for enrollment growth in Seattle over the last 10 years is that other districts have closed their doors to Seattle Students at multiple grade bands. At one point there were over 1,000 Seattle residents students in Shoreline schools. That was one of the primary reasons why new middle schools needed to open was so that these students could return to Seattle as part of the NSAP.

So if other districts are losing enrollment, then they open their doors to receive Seattle students. Many families live close to a boundary and it is often just easier to go to the other district.

I am amazed by the number of West Seattle students who ride the ferry every day to go to school in Vashon.

So what this means is that other districts will back their losses with Seattle students. Based on historical precedent, there seems to be more than enough Seattle students willing to travel to other districts. This means that in the event of real regional enrollment decline, the decline is Seattle is steeper and more variable than other districts.

Anonymous said…
@kellie, @Local Enrollment

Thanks for that information! I had not thought about out-of-district enrollment, but that is a very good point. The closest (good) school for many students living near the city limits is often not in Seattle. Students living close to I-90 used to attend Mercer Island at fairly high rates as well.

I wonder if you agree that there are a couple of other factors playing a role too. First, all of the large (and many of the medium-sized) tech companies, including Amazon but also Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. are at various stages of having sites and even campuses on the East Side. Real estate costs are one thing keeping them out of Seattle both in terms of commercial property costs and residential costs for employees. Unmarried "tech bros" are happy enough to code in darkened offices downtown, but possibly more desirable long-term employees who have families need stability and high-quality schools, so they live on the East Side and commute. Why do they live on the East Side? Housing costs are not that much better in Kirkland and Bothell than in Seattle these days. I don't have data to back this up, but I suspect there is a steady trend of families looking specifically for good schools, and they're ending up in Lake Washington District and Northshore. To be honest, if my family were moving to Seattle for a tech job today, we would be looking in Woodinville to attend Northshore schools.

But the south suburbs also also growing with middle class and low-income families looking for affordable housing. You can get a lot of apartment and a lot of house in Spanaway and Puyallup, so the commute time might seem worth it. Commutes to either Seattle or Bellevue or Tacoma are comparable from places like Auburn and Bethel and Puyallup, and I think a fair number of tech employees and people in jobs supporting tech companies might also be looking there. The impact on Seattle once ST3 is done will be huge.

Seattle Public Schools is not doing a great job serving middle class students, which is why so many are already in private school. The 30% in private school can't all be rich families. It has to be lots of middle class families too. If the middle class continues to give up on Seattle schools, then we're in for it. What happened at Washington Middle School this year when the district of its own free will removed most of the middle class students attending that school is what will happen district wide.

On a related note, we have a leadership gap in Seattle. Too many weak and inexperienced principals, too many executive directors with hidden agendas that undermine the superintendent and the schools. Those kinds of things scare off the middle class, and with them all hope for the future of the schools. This is why I worry that a "death spiral" is already underway.


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