Saturday, October 23, 2010

Crappy! Chart! Thursday! Simple Cons: "The Levy Will Help Save the Keeeeeeeds"

I'm back, but probably not better than ever.

Better, worse, or still just digression-o-rific, I'm sticking with the usual format: district statement, basic facts, snarky commentary/analysis - this time accompanied not by one, but two! Crappy! Charts!

It's all very un-exciting.

Although... I do have a recent Don Cherry jacket picture. His fashion choices remain as comfortingly cornea-chafing as ever.

Maybe he's trying to show he's got what it takes to be an announcer on Battle of the Blades, which... at first I thought was a spoof reality show because it's so awesomely ridiculous. Dancing with the Stars on the ice! In Canada! With NHL and figure skating stars! It really has to be seen to be believed. Don Cherry and his impressive selection of taste-free jackets would look positively subdued on that show.
Um. Anyway. Moving on to the business at hand.

District Statement:
“$25.5 [million] will be available to help reduce the number and severity of cuts we need to make due to decreased funding and increasing costs.”

Naked Actual Factual Facts!
To be clear, the $25.5 million in the district statement refers to money from the $48.2 million Supplemental Levy (currently on the ballot) that will be "available" to offset cuts due to decreased funding.

In 2011-12, the district anticipates a funding gap of $28m. If this levy passes, $14.5m in levy revenue will be available to SPS in 2011-12.

In 2011-12, SPS has already committed to spending the levy money as follows, and as shown above (Where'd my data come from? SPS's Levy FAQ and this, with contract expenses highlighted on page 5. More readable versions of the crappy charts in this post are on dropbox):

● $5.9m, textbooks. This is for textbook adoption, not just textbooks. It may, as the Language Arts adoption did, include expenses for consultants – for LA, SPS spent $750,000-ish on consultants. The district hasn't said whether or not they'll be hiring consultants for any of the adoptions, but... they sure do luuurrve them some consultants. Professional development for teachers is also part of the $5.9m in "textbook" costs. Is that bad? Not necessarily, but keep in mind, this line item is more than simple replacement of materials.

● $.8m, Implementation of Teacher’s contract. Total implementation at $2.4m. I've assumed the cost spreads out evenly over 3 years rather than falling primarily in year one (and given standard distribution of implementation costs, it would be fair to assume a higher percentage of cost in year 1). Rather than noodle with complicated assumptions about the cost distribution, I will stick to even division - so, FYI: I'm lowballing year 1 costs.

● $2.7m for 1% pay increase for teachers. The two year cost is $5.4m – I'm making the assumption the cost is evenly split between 2011-12 and 2012-13.

● $1.53m, collaboration time for teachers. 3-year total cost of $4.6m. Again, I assumed the cost will likely be about equal for each of the three years.

● $1.7m, career ladder stipends, additional STAR mentors, stipends for level 1 schools. 3-year cost of $5.1m. Little reason to think that this cost won’t distribute evenly across all three years.

● $1m. First year investments. What’s that? Who knows. Sounds like implementation, but it’s got it’s own line item and no explanation. Whatevs. It's there. It's a million bucks. Moving on.

-$.73m for the TIF grant. SPS obtained a 5-year TIF grant, which will offset the three-year costs of the teacher's contract by $2.2m. Again, I assumed an even distribution. For 2011-12, it takes off $.73m from the total committed expenses.

Truthy SuperAnalysis!™
The already-committed expenses for the supplemental levy revenue add up to $13.63m. The TIF grant offsets these expenses slightly, which brings the total committed levy revenue down to $12.9m. 89% of year one levy revenue is already spoken for before the levy's passed. Not a penny of that 89% will offset cuts.

SPS is staring down the maw of a $28 milllllllllion a budget gap in 2011-12, and has known that since at least the spring. Yet SPS management approved committing to expenses that expand SPS's budget obligations, knowing: a) how much levy money would be available in 2011-12 and b) what the shortfall for 2011-12 might be.

Irresponsible fiscal planning, ahoy!

But... what about that $25.5 million in levy funds available to offset cuts? Right now, the three year total in levy funds that haven't been snatched up for anything is $25.5m.

Howev-ah. No promises have been made to use the money to close budget gaps or protect schools. The district said that $25.5m will "be available." But SPS has not said that the remaining levy money will be used to protect schools from budget cuts - they've said it's "available," which is not the same thing. It looks like a loophole to me, kids.

And look, I know this may make me sound like a paranoid kook (with goats!), but unless it's written in the blood of senior management and at least 4 board members, I wouldn't count any declaration from SPS as a promise. Although... that would be a really macabre way to make a promise. And a document that's a biohazard and a half.

Anyway. Right now, we're talking about 2011-12, the year that schools and the district will need the most relief.

For 2011-12, SPS has committed to expanding its budget, using levy funds. Virtually no levy money will be left to offset an enormous budget shortfall. The $1.6m available will reduce the $28m gap down to... a still pretty freaking gigantic $26.4m – a not-at-all-whopping 6%-ish reduction.

So how will the rest of that gap be closed? I'd bet that it's likely to come out of reducing budgets for schools and student programs. Again.

However "groundbreaking" and "historic" it may be, I doubt the new teacher's contract will improve instruction in schools so much that nobody will notice the cuts school budgets will have to endure in order to support the first year of the contract... cuts that could be seriously mitigated by actually using the levy money to, well, mitigate cuts.

$3.4 million of the entire levy (the $1m for first year and $2.4m of "implementation") is just for Central Administration implementation issues. That's 7% of the whole levy - and 18% of the $19m teacher's contract. That's a lotta money to get something off the ground. It doesn't sound like good stewardship of public resources. It sounds like top-heavy administrative costs.

I've said this a couple times, so pardon my redundance, but consider this one more time: SPS, this spring, had already forecast the budget gap, and knew how much levy money would be available in 2011-12. And yet they moved forward with committing the lion's share of levy funds for 2011-12 to increasing the budget, leaving a tiny portion available to "reduce the number and severity of cuts."

Someone tell me: how is that kind of planning for the keeeeeds?

Truthy SuperAnalysis™ says: Dude. It's not.


another mom said...

As a mathmatically challenged type, I appreciate the analysis with digressions and goat references. Put me in the 'no' column.

Don Cherry's jacket is priceless and btw comes with its own giant sized boutonnieres.

Meg said...

I'm so glad you like Don Cherry's jacket. You should suggest the boutonnieres to him - I bet he'd do it next time he wears that sucker.