BOE Statement, by Jennifer Robertson, Parent
April 19, 2016,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today.
On April 5th, Bonnie Betz presented this chart to you, claiming that Douglas County spends less on overhead per pupil, compared to other districts in the front range. She indicated that she based this data on a new comparison tool from CDE.
It’s important to note that this chart was not pulled from the CDE tool itself. This chart was manually created based on a subset of data from the CDE tool, as well as additional data from another CDE source for pupil counts.
There are a couple of key problems with this chart.
1. This dollar amount includes expenditures for district-run schools only, but the pupil count represented all students, including charter students. Therefore, she was dividing the dollar amount by an inflated number. While she made the same mistake for all the districts, this mistake favored districts with a greater percentage of charter students.
2. While the CDE tool includes data from all funds for each district, Ms. Betz filtered it to only included data from the General Fund. This assumes that all of these districts use the General Fund to track the same expenses. This is not true. For example, Transportation, is tracked within the General Fund for Cherry Creek, Littleton, Aurora, Denver, and Colorado Springs, but dollars are transferred out of the General Fund, into a separate fund, for Douglas County, Jefferson County, and Adams. Therefore, Transportation dollars were counted as part of overhead in Bonnie’s chart for 5 of these districts, but not for the other 3, including Douglas County. This is just one example.
3. The [Douglas County] Capital Projects Fund is also funded with transfers from the General Fund.
Many IT development costs for InspirEd, Balanced Assessments, WorkDay and “cloud infrastructure” are being charged to Capital Projects, not the General Fund. It is very important to understand that these Douglas County Capital Projects are omitted from Ms Betz’s analysis altogether.
Now, I’m going to discuss these expenses in more detail.
Scott Smith gave a breakdown of why this transfer was needed. He primarily cited IT and assessments. Bonnie Betz stated that they needed to shift some of these funds to capital projects, because when the district develops a product that could be packaged up and sold, the efforts to develop that product have to be capitalized.
Building a commercial software product is typically far more expensive than building an internal application. The cost of making this scalable to other entities has to be considered.
Dr. Fagen appears to know this, based on an email that she sent to Tony Wagner on Oct 15, 2012. At one point, she states “At this event, they would like me to present the Douglas County plan for reinventing education: new outcomes, new assessments, new teaching etc., and explain the technology infrastructure we need to bring this to scale (including the learning management system, balanced assessment system, teacher evaluation system, and compensation system.)…she goes on to give more information about this upcoming event in January, where an entity named ConvergeUS “will bring technology folks and foundations to the event with a hope of getting the funding, expertise, and commitment to do the work to build the integrated systems”
Now the CFO has sent the message that Douglas County spends less on overhead than any other district in the front range, while stating that IT is part of overhead, based on an analysis that excludes these very dollars used for IT capital projects.
When you review the budget options for next year, please look into how much money will be set aside from transfers from the general fund to capital projects fund, and how much is left over from what was set aside from previous transfers, that are intended to continue the development of the infrastructure to Reinvent American Education. Please allow this amount to be up for discussion when funding is prioritized.
And when the next big IT initiatives are up for approval (such as the data center move where there is an RFP), please ask whether this is needed to support the education of students in DCSD, or to Reinvent American Education
If it is the latter, please ask why we need to pay for it with dollars intended to educate students in district- run schools in Douglas County, while the district claims that they are the most underfunded district in the front range.
Thank you for your time.