For all you policy wonks and wonkettes who have been unable to sleep because you are scared about the way the school district is spending school funds, relief is on the way. The 2011 2012 budget information is now available. Moi posted Will Seattle Public Schools Go the Way of Kansas City Public Schools? about a year ago.
There are probably few districts in the country who will be bold enough to make the statement that what happened in Kansas City couldn’t happen to their district. That is why people should be asking questions about how well the Seattle School District has been and is currently operating? The tag line from the New York Times regarding Kansas City is “years of inaction.”
A Publicola blog post interview with Melissa Westbrook outlines some of the issues facing Seattle Public Schools. Seattle Public Schools Community Blog has a Meg Diaz report about school finances.
Read this. This is a report prepared by parent Meg Diaz using district data on central office spending. It’s an amazing effort on Meg’s part and she gave it to Board members last night as well as spoke at the Board meeting.
Where can we find more money (even as the actual building is an financial albatross around our district’s neck)? In the headquarters of SPS.
Another blog post reports about a school finance meeting John Stang is reporting at SeattlePI.Com that the district is now implementing some recommendations from a 2008 audit; In Area Schools Follow Some Fix-it Suggestions, Disagree With Others Stang reports:
When Seattle schools cut 90 administrative staff members last week, that action echoed a recommendation in a 2008 state audit.
Seattle schools had 39 percent more executive and supervisors per student than the average of 10 school districts checked out in that audit.
The Seattle district needed to study trimming its central staffing levels, recommended a Sept. 30, 2008 state auditor’s office report on administration and support services in 10 Washington school districts.
Much of the 39 percent noted in the 2008 state audit consisted of non-executive technological staff members, said district spokeswoman Patti Spencer.
The 2008 audit noted that cutting 24 people could save $2.1 million in salaries and benefits. If the same numbers are used, 90 trimmed jobs would translate to slightly less than $8 million in savings….
Janet Peltz’s opinion piece in the Seattle Times, More Revenue is Needed to Stave Off Too Steep School Budget Cuts details the impact of the current fiscal situation.
Maybe the real issue for school districts every where is to ask the question what is necessary to provide a good basic education and can any school district afford more than that? Many of the issues that school districts are addressing are social problems often caused by poverty, incompetent parents, and health issues. If people who are unprepared to be parents can be persuaded to not have kids, that would go along way toward schools being able to focus on education. Economic policies which promote job creation would also help. A health care system which gives access to more people would also help many of the problems now addressed, often inadequately, by schools. Right now, schools are depending upon how one looks at it, the dumping ground for society’s problems or the last rest stop before the child is truly in crisis.
The question for Seattle Public Schools is how to address operating and financial issues before the nuclear option faced by Kansas City must be exercised.
Seattle Public Schools has information about the budget at its site.
2010-11 ADOPTED LINE ITEM BUDGETS
The 2010-11 Adopted General Fund Budget is available for download. The workbook contains multiple spreadsheets including raw data from the District’s budget development system as well as pivot tables allowing the user to aggregate data in ways the user might find useful. This workbook is intended for detailed analysis and requires a working knowledge of Excel. More casual users may find the District’s budget book at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/budget/budget_2010-11.html more user friendly.
Below are the responses from the 2011-12 budget development survey which was online from Nov. 18 to Dec. 4.
Survey results overview
Comments from open-ended questions, part 1
Comments from open-ended questions, part 2
Comments from open-ended questions, part 3
Comments from open-ended questions, part 4
SCHOOL BOARD WORKSHOPS:
Feb. 16, 2011
Proposed solutions for budget gap
Budget gap presentation
Revised staff proposal on gap closure
Seattle Channel video: School Board work session
Part 1 and Part 2
Feb. 9, 2011
Central Office reductions
GAP Estimate Summary
Personal Service Contracts
WSS team prioritization
Seattle Channel video: School Board work session
Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
Ed Source of California has some good general information about How to Read A School District Budget
A school district budget is more than numbers. It is a record of a district’s past decisions and a spending plan for its future. It shows a district’s priorities whether they have been clearly articulated or simply occurred by default. And it is a communications document that can tell constituents a lot about the district’s priorities and goals.
A school district budget can certainly be difficult to understand and even more challenging to describe. But behind the volumes of mandatory reporting forms, accounting procedures, and jargon are some basic principles that can help bring clarity for those who develop school district budgets and for those who want to understand them.
The first thing to understand is that district budgets in California use standardized object codes to classify their General Fund revenues and expenditures. The following represent the main categories into which these are placed. …
Looking at an overview is the critical first step
A look at a district’s line-item General Fund budget reveals a lot about its fiscal health. For example:
Examining the difference between total revenues and total expenditures can show whether a district is operating with a deficit in any given year. A comparison of fund balances from year to year can do the same.
Transfers from other funds to the General Fund may indicate that the district is balancing its ongoing budget by borrowing from other funds. Transfers into those same funds may mean that General Fund revenues are subsidizing other operations, such as facilities or a cafeteria program.
The line-item budget also provides a quick assessment of what proportion of the district’s revenues are unrestricted (available for general purposes) and restricted (must be used for specified purposes). Expenditures are divided the same way. While these designations conform to state policy, they can also reflect local board decisions to restrict specific revenues or expenditures not required by the state.
Look at the article outline in general terms because some items refer to California line items.
Dick Lilly’s Crosscut article, Report Finds Seattle School Spending Top-Heavy on Administration
Ed Sources’s How to Read A School District Budget
How To Read and Interpret a School District Budget by Gover, Robert J.
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