Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hat Trick, Crappy! Chart! Thursday! style: Advice, Chart & Riddle

It's Crappy! Chart! Thursday! with its many exclamation points, and a hat-trick in the style of Crappy! Chart! Thursday! Which, well... I have three things to say, and not much connecting the points, so I will use flimsy reasoning and a gimmick to force a connection.

Anyway. I don’t know if it’s the spring weather, but I have seen an awful lot of women lately wearing leggings. Not a skirt-leggings combo, not a long tunic/very, very short minidress and leggings combo, nothing. Just chicks trying to pretend that pants are leggings. Which… no. No, leggings are not pants.

I get that leggings are comfortable. I get that with a knee-high boot, especially if the boot fits the calf tightly, that zipping pants in there can be tricky, if not downright impossible (and let me say, as an aside: do not, under any circumstances, think that it would be best to wear gaucho pants to deal with this vexing issue, because gaucho pants are quite possibly as ridiculous as sequined genie pants).

But the thing is, leggings are not pants.

I know I’m reiterating what the folks over at Go Fug Yourself say all the time, but they’re right. I’m right. Leggings are not pants. They’re close. Only, so much easier, because you don’t have to deal with all the fit points that vary from woman to woman. However. Still. Not. Pants.

A couple of similarities, sadly, does not make something the same as.

So to sum up this piece of advice? Leggings are not pants. Please don’t wear them like they are. Thank you.

Second. Professional development coaches for teachers are not teachers. They may have been teachers. They may be certified as teachers. But a teacher, in a school district, is someone who’s primary job is to teach STUDENTS, not teachers. And a coach’s primary job? To help the teachers do better. Not to teach gen-u-ine students. Do I understand that some schools use their coaches as both teachers and coaches? I do. And, in fact, a coach could, in such cases, be split-billed. But the time they spend training? Doesn't count as being a classroom teacher. So, advice point number two: professional development coaches aren’t teachers. Do not get confused on this issue.

And we’re on to my somewhat related riddle (to the issue of coaches vs. teachers, not leggings vs. pants). It's going to take me a little explaining before I get to my riddle/question.

So... I'm a little suspicious that there may be some shuffling around of funds and categories to conceal (not in an illegal sense, but in a tiresome, banally misleading one) the way money is really being spent in SPS. Why? I was, while avoiding weeding, looking at the school look-up doohickey produced for the school board budget workshop. While this document shouldn’t be taken as final (it's "for discussion and comment"), it probably gives a pretty good idea of what’s coming down the line (and also, appears to correspond pretty closely with the budgets that have been sent to schools). And the thing is… the total budget for all schools comes to about $304m.

So... wait a second.

The total budget is $558m (ish). And school budgets include stuff like the principal, the teachers, counselors, librarians, supplies and instructional assistants. And if $304 is spent on all that, this means that about 55% of spending in the district is in schools.

Which is kind of weird. Because the district says in its very own operating budget that “In addition to Teaching, and Principal’s Office activities, the majority of Teaching Support staff and activities occur in school buildings.” I know. Bla, bla, bla, bla bo-ring. Still. You might want to pay attention.

The district said that for 2009-10, it planned on spending 61% of its budget on Teaching, 5% on Principal’s Office, and 14% on Teaching Support. Weirdly, Instead of adding to 54%-ish, that total comes to 80%. Hmmm. It might be one thing if we were dealing with a plus/minus of 5% or so. But we’re looking at a plus/minus of over 25% of a $558 miiiillllllllion (no, I couldn’t resist) budget. I get that I'm doing a little bit of an apples to oranges comparison, because the $304m for schools is for 2010-11, and I'm comparing it to 2009-10 and doing a little extrapolating. Still, $64m is a lot of inconsistency.

Usually, I see weird numbers, investigate them like I'm some kind of bizarre terrier, and more or less sort out why they’re anomalous.

But I can’t tell you why there is a $68 million discrepancy between what the district says it spends on teachers and the principal’s office, and what the district says it plans on spending to fully staff every school in the district. But it's a pretty significant chunk of change. I could guess where it's being spent, but I am cynical, and suspicious, and my answer might rhyme with "Ventral Defenestration."

You might have noticed that there is a crappy chart. I’ve gone ahead and posted the link to google docs, so that besides the terrible bitmap, you can read it a wee bit more closely.

So my riddle is this: do you know why there’s a discrepancy?

And that’s all for the Crappy! Chart! Thursday! version of a hat trick. Advice, chart, question. Good night.

Update: Maureen's comment rang a bell about a public information request I'd filed about the central office. It yielded me a not-very-useful spreadsheet at the time, as it included OTs, PTs and the like, which I could see were central costs, but not central administration costs. However, it's useful as it pertains to this question. I went through it and totted up every nurse, OT, PT, psychologist, IA, teacher, instrumental music teacher and anyone who looked like they worked in a school (no. I didn't put coaches in there), and whose actual job was to work with students. The salary total came to $12m; throw in benefits (which, if one looks at district salary and benefit expenses, appear to run at about 27%, so let's say we're at $16m-ish. The schools that are opening this fall will likely run $2m to $3m a pop (I actually ran some averages based on enrollment sizes for elementary schools), so let's chuck in an additional $6m to $9m. And let's imagine that there are $15m of teachers and principals on leave. So, from $68m as a discrepancy, we would be able to say the discrepancy has dropped $37 or $40m-ish, leaving a $28 to $31m discrepancy.

Except. The discrepancy I noted is between the total being spent on schools and Teaching Activities plus Principal's Office.

Another gander at the Always Fun 2009-10 Operating Budget reveals that nurses, OTs, PTs, counselors and the like are billed under Teaching Support, which... would remove that money from the noted discrepancy. The description about the Teaching Support segment, by the by, also mentions that coaches are included in the category. Huh. Does this mean we have more coaches than the district is letting on? I don't know.

Anyway. So... add in the opening schools ($6-9m) , and maybe some teachers and principals on leave ($15m?), and I think we're probably still looking at some $40m in dissonance.


Maureen said...

Meg, we just walked through our building's proposed budget in BoLT the other day, and from that experience: I'm wondering if some part of the gap might pay for assorted IAs and specialty staff that work in a building but are, I'm told, paid by "downtown."

In our building, several people we see every day or close to it are not on the building budget. They include: two IAs who "goes with" particular special ed students; a sign language interpretor who works with several different students; an itinerant psychologist; occupational and speech therapists and maybe some more I'm not aware of.
At five full time equivalents, that would amount to roughly 12% of our building budget.

I'm not sure if that staff is accounted for already in "Other Support" or "Teaching Support," I just know they aren't in the building budget.

kellie said...

Oh, Meg. I am laughing so hard that all the members of my household just rushed to my side to find what was so damn funny.

I simply love Crappy! Chart! Thursday!

Thank you!

Meg said...

I think you're right about OTs, PTs, psychologists and the like being paid for by the district, rather than being part of school budgets. I would guess that they would be billed as part of teaching support, but I'm not positive about that.

I looked over a couple of school allocation budgets, including TOPS, Gatzert, and Thurgood Marshall. It looks to me as if SpEd IAs are part of school budgets, although... when they're assigned to a particular kid that might not be the case, since it could be a short-term assignment or a longer one.

So... how much do you think district-paid staff run SPS? I'd toss in teachers and principals on leave. I just struggle to believe that it runs us over $60m, since the sum total cost for all middle schools in the district is $48m-ish.

I think some of the discrepancy is simple to explain, in straightforward, sensible ways (like OTs, or teachers on leave). For "illustrative purposes only" in his December 9th presentation, Don Kennedy said that $35m was equal to the cost of about 412 teachers. From what I've seen, it looks like OTs, PTs and aides get paid significantly less than teachers. Am I going somewhere with that? No... just mulling it over, and wondering how much of that sixty some million is legit, and how much is murky deception.

Also... I hope I'm not sounding strident at you, because I'm glad you put up some thoughts. I'm just thinking it through.

Kellie- thanks.

Charlie Mas said...

First and foremost, I absolutely must agree with you on two points.

1) Leggings are not pants. If you're wearing them as pants (without a tunic/minidress/skirt over), STOP IT. You're not only embarassing yourself, but you're making things difficult for everyone around you. If I look, I'm a creep. If I don't look then I'm a creep in denial.

2) Do not wear gaucho pants with boots. This is a horrible look. I don't care what you see in the fashion magazines - think of some of the other things you see in them. I don't care if someone ever told you that this is okay. It is a freakin' horrible look. In fact, gaucho pants are a dreadful look under every other circumstance as well. No one finds them attractive - not even gauchos. Just don't do it. They make you look like a bad Star Trek cosplay.

Finally, as to the $64 million question, I don't have any answers, but I have more questions.

What about the cost of five new schools? Surely if we have five more schools in 2010-2011 than we had in 2009-2010 there must be some cost associated with that. Is this already included in the $304 million? It's amazing that the district can add five schools and reduce school budget costs by $64 million. It kinda makes a mockery of the idea of closing schools to save money.

Why do we see the cuts in the school budgets already but the central administration budget doesn't reflect any cuts? Haven't we been promised cuts in Central Administration?

Are you sure that the total spending will equal the $558 million of the previous year? The District's revenues aren't being cut? I believe that some of the District revenues from the state were cut last year but replaced by federal bailout money. Do we have the federal bailout money this year as well? How sure are you that the total revenue line is unmoved?

Keep it up. You are doing a good job of pointing out the failings of the Board to question and the staff to honestly answer.

Meg said...

Charlie- I estimated the cost of the five schools as roughly $11.3m, based on the average cost of elementary schools of similar sizes to each one opening. So around $2-3m a pop. I did not include that in my estimate, nor was it in the look-up tool the district had created.

I am not certain that we'll get $558m to spend. In 2008-08, we had $556m to spend, and it's at $558m for 2009-10, at least if one goes by the F-195 reports on OSPI. Minimal growth last year resulted in substantial cuts; I am, for lack of better information, making the assumption that revenue will remain flat, rather than expand or contract.

SPS says it will be cutting central administration by at least $6m this year, starting... real soon. Last year, though, they said: "Reduction of central office costs, including staff and non-staff expenditures: cost reduction of $3.1 million." So if you look over the OSPI F-195 reports, your eyes might pop out of your head to see that Central Admin moved from $45m to $52m. Much of the growth may be easily explained because I think some $6.1m of the ARRA funds sat there before being distributed elsewhere, but even once that's subtracted out, central admin does not appear to have contracted as an expense segment. It looks like it grew slightly.

Why am I taking so long to answer a simple question about proposed central admin cuts? Well, cuts happened throughout the district last year, and were proposed for central administration, but it doesn't look to me as if cuts of any substance were actually made. So for this year? I'll believe it when I see it. And I'm gonna wanna see it.