Read by Julie Keim to DCSD Board of Education
February 4, 2014
(See Attachment: SBB-Discussions)
During the last few years, I have seen our students’ access to a meaningful education deteriorate rapidly. Like most community members, I believed the slashes to our schools budgets were necessary due to the economic decline of our nation. I worked hard to raise money at my children’s schools to try to fund basic needs, which now even include salaries. I, like others, wonder when we can go back to enriching our students’ lives rather than begging parents for funds to provide the basic necessities that are your responsibility to provide.
We hear a lot of talk about the site or student based budgets and how they offer the principals complete control over their schools’ budgets and decisions. This would be an amazing opportunity for our schools, if only it were true. I have taken the liberty of preparing a high-level estimated budget for DougCo schools based on their requirements to educate children.
Because of time limits, I will cut to the chase. The first chart demonstrates the amount of SBB that has been passed to schools over the last 6 years. It also shows the State PPR, or the amount that you receive to fund the operations of DCSD schools. The last three columns show the relationship in percentages and the cuts to schools far exceed the proportionate cuts from the state. You have misled the public to believe that extreme cuts to schools were necessary, but all along you were passing the cuts to our children and virtually none to yourselves. A typical high school of 2,000 went from an annual funding level of just under $7.2M 5 years ago to less than $6M now. That is an average cut of $1.2M per year per school, with none of the obligations taken away and even more mandates added.
The second chart shows a simplistic mock budget for DCSD schools, including the annual budgeted revenues based on SBB. As you know, all schools are charged an average salary for positions regardless of the actual pay for their staff, so that is a variable schools do not control. This simple worksheet demonstrates that most schools have already overspent their budgets just by staffing an appropriate number of TEACHERS without even covering educational assistants, registrars, and other necessary staff. I didn’t even bother putting in average needs beyond staffing, since money no longer exists for niceties such as copies, books, curriculum, computers and all the other basic needs. Those are paid for through charity from parents. As currently funded by this District, SBBs leave our schools short and scrambling every time. How can you possibly tell the public that your site based budgets give principals flexibility to provide world class educations when they cannot even fund basic needs??!!
With the budget process starting soon, I would like to suggest that you take the time to truly assess the needs of your schools. A simple excel spreadsheet already used in the budget process could be completed with the real needs instead of principals having to fudge number to make it balance. You should also include a section for unmet needs that have been ignored for the last five years. The CFO and budget staff could then sit with those principals and collaboratively come up with a reasonable site based budget for each school. That would be world class!
It is time for the district to stop taking all the money at a high level for meaningless speakers, PR costs, legal fees, websites, unnecessary assessment systems, burdensome tests, inefficient transportation, utilities, administrator salaries and other things that do not have a direct impact on our students. It is time for you to remember who your “customer” is and fund the needs of our students and classrooms, and then figure out how to pay for the other things with your own “left-over district based budget”. It is not too late to begin this process. Rather than wasting time trying to second guess the legislature and the governor’s budget, why don’t you focus your time on how our schools really need to be funded to properly educate the students of Douglas County