Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crappy! Chart! Thursday! Admits Trust Issues

So... I don't really trust the district. I know. Shocking.

Why?

Well, as is my habit, I made a chart to show why. Well, to show one of the reasons why. Last year, there were cuts-o-rama. Discussions about what to cut started back in December of 2008, and those discussions evolved. Adjustments were made, bla, bla, bla, yawn. You would expect that, right? Sure.
Would you also expect that a proposed $5m in Central Administration cuts would dwindle to zippo, zero, nada, while cuts to schools (these are what are euphemistically referred to as "WSS Cuts") went up from initial proposals? Hmmm. Maybe not. But that's what happened. Central Administration cuts that were proposed quietly dwindled into to zero, and schools? Schools took it in the teeth.
The handy-dandy crappy chart o' the day shows a timeline, from December of 2008 to fall 2009, when OSPI F-195 budget reports were filed. School closures are green; those pretty much stayed the same. WSS cuts, the blue line, started lower, stayed stable, bumped up, and then went down a leeeetle bit, but finished above initial proposals (by the by, WSS cuts sound nice and harmless, but you need to react to it like someone just suggested you get an episiotomy for fun. WSS cuts are cuts that will directly affect students). Central Administration is the red line. In December 2008 (page 4), they were proposed at $5m. In January, (page 8), they quietly dropped to $4m. By June, they'd mysteriously dropped to $3.8, and in the Ever Fun Operating Budget (page 13), they were listed at $3.1. But if you checked the F-195 filing on OSPI (and... I did), even if you were nice enough to subtract out the $6-7m of ARRA funds from Central Admin (and... I was), Central Administration expenses weren't pruned back by $3.1m. They weren't pruned back at all. Did those 5 schools still close? Yup. Were class sizes raised? Yessirree. Were other cuts still made to the WSS? Uh-huh.

Compounding my trust issues, it turns out that Central Administration raises (excluding cost of living and step raises, which means... it excludes a lot of raises) have come to $800k (page 20) since July 2008. That's an annual additional expense, kids, and I'm going to be a little redundant and say that the $800k only tells part of the story about downtown raises, given the "not including" disclaimer in there. Why fuss about it? Because schools are scraping the barrel. Even if you divided that amount by the 90-ish schools in the district, I defy you to find me a principal right now in SPS that could not tell you, within 30 seconds, 3 things that they could do with an extra $8,000 to $10,000.

You could say that I am being unreasonably crabby, because pink slips, supposedly around $5.4m of them, are being handed out downtown. And... you might have a point.
However, schools took it in the teeth last year, and it's happening to schools again this year. I hear several board members saying "cuts are planned to Central Administration for $6m" but there's almost no discussion of the fact that there were cuts planned last year and nothing happened. Does that make it any easier for someone getting a pink slip? No. Does it make them easier to hand out? No. But this should have happened a year ago, and, just as schools are going through Round 2 Of Pain, it should be a second round downtown, too. Schools should not be suffering worse cuts than administration. But they are.
Update: the district eliminated 77 positions, to the tune of... maybe around $5m? It's hard to be certain, because I personally would not count, as they do, firing and then re-hiring 5 education directors at over $110k a pop in salary as "eliminating" a position. I would also not count not filling 6 vacancies as elimination or savings. Nor would I count 2 resignations as part of the cuts made. So, they count 90; I count 77. Even so, it looks like some pain was passed around downtown. However, it also looks like the district padded their numbers a little bit. 3 laborers and 9 administrative assistants (1 under "admin secretary, 1 under secretary, and 6 under "senior administrative assistant," 1 under "clerical")? Maybe they really were extra fat; not every single director should be running around with an assistant. But to the suspicious mind, it's also possible that those people were fired because they'll bump up the total numbers: smells like cannon fodder. And those positions can be easily re-filled as a non-FTE expense through a vendor. But that is only if you are as suspicious as I am. And I don't think you want to be that suspicious.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I wish someone would write a blog like this about the school district where I'm employed!