Thursday, November 5, 2009

H1N1 and Crappy! Chart! Thursday!

Curly has the swine flu. Since the kid has inherited my cheap lungs, it was screwing up basic breathing enough that we went off to the doctor, who, in addition to carefully inspecting how Curly's breathing was doing, ran the swine flu test and confirmed the porcine origins of the kid's illness.

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.


Dorothy said...

Meg, would you like some help? I am not sure what figures you'd like, but if you would like to delegate some of the digging around, let me know. We are all so grateful and thanking you for your analysis, now we are hoping you will do more, but really, that's asking a lot. So if there's any task you can delegate to be more efficient, please do.

Robin said...

Yes, Dorothy exactly right, put me on that bandwagon. Meg, if there is something....

Sorry to hear your little one is down and out, I will put my kick swine flu butt vibes out for you.

Meg said...

Dorothy and Robin- Wow. Thank you. After such a petulant post, I would have expected something closer to "chill out, Princess."

As it happens... yes. I want to get a sense of what financial priorities are for PTAs across the district. The money that gets sent through the district is only part of the story. I want to know how much PTAs have raised for the last several years, what they've spent it on, if there was something they spent it on and dumped because it didn't work, and what they would spend additional money on if they could get their hands on it.

There is a have/have-not issue that is left inherently unexamined in looking at PTA monies. And for now, I'm just not looking at that, even as I am acutely aware that it is there.

But what the two of you could do, if you're willing, is get that financial information from your own PTAs, and from other contacts that you have (or just put me in touch with PTA contacts you have, so they don't think I'm a total crackpot asking them about their PTA money), and pass it on to me. That would be AWESOME.

Robin said...

Perhaps, we should email each other so we don't overlap efforts. My thought is that the Seattle PTSA would have an idea of the larger numbers. Meg, can you see Dorothy's email? I think I have your email.

Dorothy said...

Robin and Meg, turns out I am the PTSA Treasurer for Roosevelt High School. You can find my email address at the RHS website.

So, there's a couple places I can start looking. First in the public IRS records for non-profits, but that won't tell the whole story, because perhaps others do like we do. We fundraise on the order of $60 to $80K a year, but we have the money sent to the Alliance. It really simplifies the work of the PTSA and then the money goes into the school budget. I've actually been curious about the elementary schools with huge auctions, how do they handle the dough.

High school gets complicated. See, our ptsa budget is only about $15K a year, what we get from memberships and donations. But then we raise money for the school. However, there's the Drama, Orchestra, Jazz, Riderband, Athletics all active and fundraising. The RHS Foundation, The Golden Grads... We invited all the booster groups to a PTSA meeting and most came. Given their rough guesses, my back of the envelope calculation is that collectively, we raise $750K to a million dollars. A year. For one school. I really need to confirm those figures though.

Send me email and I will start asking around and see what I can dig up.

dan dempsey said...

I just spent sometime reviewing school board meetings that dealt with RIFing teachers. I found it particularly disturbing (June 3, 2009) when Don Kennedy was addressing the board and the board was looking for ways to find funds so that RIFs could be lessened or eliminated.

MGJ and Mr. Kennedy never gave the slightest hint that 111.5 coaches were going to cost $11 million. So my question is did they withhold this information from the board or did they just sometime later in the summer decide to spend $11 million on coaching?

This deserves an answer from MGJ as well as Mr. Kennedy.

If Mr. Kennedy purposely mislead the board he should resign or be fired.

As for the Superintendent my distain for that lady's actions are likely beyond measurement. She is the RIFer and in my opinion this bloated centralized administrative model that she pushes is precisely why Seattle was RIFing teachers when few other districts were riffing.

Maureen said...

Meg, I can get you that info from TOPS. Search Maureen on to figure out my last name. My email is maureen@lastnamedot org.