I was up for several hours in the middle of the night, contending with Curly's fever and cough. I am so tired I may as well be drunk. Still, I've blown off a couple of Crappy! Chart! Thursdays!, so I figured I may as well throw something up here.
I went to today's school board Audit & Finance Committee meeting (I know! So! Exciting!). Given that the report I posted early in October was on the agenda, I was pretty curious to see what the district had to say. It was about what I expected.
Quite a bit of attention was given to the fact that it is genuinely, actually, in-disputably true that the budget SPS presents to the public doesn't correspond with the budget reports SPS files with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for the good state of WA. And then the district said, "We'll get them to match! Yay!" Which is a good first step. Even if it is a little snarky of me to include the "yay!"
I think I get a tiny bit of snark. The district prepped a 14 slide response to my fanciest set of crappy charts ev-uh. But the hoi polloi (and I count as such) is not supposed to speak unless spoken to at committee meetings. So I didn't get to say a word about the district's response. Bummer, dude.
But if you're me (and I am!), you'd be asking: but what about the MONEY? Because matching budgets are almost as wonderful as finding just the right accessories for an outfit, but the major issue here is the amount of money being poured into administrative issues, most particularly Supervision of Instruction (on OSPI Supervision of Instruction counts as Central Administration). Supervision of Instruction was $14M in 2004-05, and by 2009-10 had grown to $31M. Thasalotta growth. I wish my shoe budget would grow like that.
Fortunately, SPS has a solution to the growth in that segment. The solution is to decide that $11M worth of coaches (111 coaches) – the teaching coaches, who basically provide professional development for teachers – shouldn't be billed to Supervision of Instruction, but to TEACHING. Because, the coaches don't technically supervise teachers. I mean, c'mon. They just coach them, and tell them how to do their jobs. But they don't supervise them. So they should be billed to Teaching Activities, because also? Sometimes they "model" teaching methods to the teachers they're coaching, with ACTUAL students in the exact same room. So that counts, right?
If I had a few more glasses of wine (say, two bottles), and closed both my eyes, I think I could see their point. But the thing is, I haven't. So I'm... annoyed. I don't think that the finance guys should be expected to address whether or not the growth is justified (that's an operational issue), but they should acknowledge that's the growth is significant. Magically re-categorizing it and then saying "look! Central Administration is now in line!" just doesn't quite do it for me.
Anyway, crappy charts. I've been mulling over how PTAs spend their money, and how the district spends its money. I think that it's really interesting that 100% of the PTA funds the district lists as donations go to supplemental staffing in schools. It feels like there's quite a bit of dissonance between what the priorities are for schools (teachers working with students) and the administration (coaches), and right now, I would say that the district has failed to lay out a case for the investment they're making in coaches. There could be a case for the number of coaches (and no, I don't mean that in a snarky "I COULD win the lottery and spend it all on shoes!" kind of way). But I think the district should make their case, clearly, thoroughly and openly, and acknowledge that there are valid counter-arguments. Saying that "coaches are strategic" isn't making a case.