Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crappy! Chart! Thursday! Simple Cons: "Central Administration Is Soooooo Much Smaller"

It's late in day 2 (ish - I've got a sick kid at home) of nit-picky scrutiny of district claims.

Will finicky parsing lead to any discoveries beyond dangling participles? I don't want to kill your suspense, but, um, yes. Yes, it will.

Usual format: district claim, followed by basic facts and then analysis of said facts. To make it super-exciting, I've included a bona-fide crappy chart.

District Statement (from the levy FAQ):

“There are 110 FEWER positions in the Central Administration budget for 2010-2011 compared with 2009-2010 ADOPTED budget. (reduction from 356.8 staff to 246.6 staff -- this is a combination of correcting for misclassification in 09-10 and reduction of central office positions)”

Naked Actual Factual Facts!

Professional development coaches were the staff "misclassified" in Central Administration. Their primary job duty is overseeing the professional development of teachers. Coaches can neither hire nor fire the people they train, so SPS felt coaches didn't belong in a division with "supervision" in the name (coaches were budgeted in Supervision of Instruction, which is part of Central Administration), and so reclassified coaches as... teachers.

SPS’s CFOO stated (page 19) there were 116.5 professional development coaches in SPS in 2009-10 (costing $11.1 million).

However you think coaches should be budgeted, there's a leeetle issue with the district's math. It's wrong.

356.8 Central Administration FTEs - 116.5 "misclassified" FTEs = 240.3, not 246.6. While that's not a huge difference, it's worth taking note of. Because if this is a "combination" of "reductions" and "corrections," than... the 2010-11 FTE number would be lower than the subtraction of coaches from Central Administration, not higher. But it's... higher.

So, moving along past the PR department's questionable subtraction skills... let's take a moment and note that the district blurb starts by talking about "Central Administration" and finishes by saying that there were "reductions" to the "central office." At first glance, these terms seem interchangeable. They're not.

There is a genuine budget category from OSPI for Central Administration. The OSPI category of Central Administration has clearly defined budget subcategories and accounting guidelines (and everything!). That's not the case for "central office." Since it is not an official category, the district can choose to define "central office" however they want to.

Truthy SuperAnalysis™

This is a totally basic con.

Using "Central Administration" and a phrase that sounds like Central Administration but has no actual definition is an SPS all-time favorite. Anyone remember "Core Administration" (make-believe category the district used in budgets for a while)? Yeah. Good times. Using both "Central Administration" and its seeming doppelganger in the same paragraph leads the reader to believe the two categories are the same thing. But... they're not. It's a classic. Don't confuse a con being class-ic with being class-y.

In this example of one of the district's Very Favorite Simple Cons, the "Central Administration" doppelganger is "central office."

"Central office" exists only as a colloquialism. The district can choose to define it however they want to. This may come as a shocker, but... SPS's definition isn't available anywhere on the SPS website. Hmmm.

The "central office" reductions list from March 2010 included 3 laborers, 6 vacant positions, 5 Education Director positions, 1 Title 1 Program Director and, well, a bunch of other "reductions" that raise eyebrows a bit. Let's give those particular cuts a closer look.

Laborers are central administrators how? Oh... they're not. Looks like those folks were canned to pad the numbers. Vacant positions are a cost concern how? Sure, they get budgeted, but they have no actual cost associated. The 5 Ed Director positions weren't eliminated - the district reorganized those positions. There are still 5 Ed Directors. There was no reduction. The former Title I Program Director, Scott Whitbeck, is now the Director of School Improvement, a new position... so no actual FTE elimination there, either.

Still awake? I know. Budget stuff is dull. It casts into question the district's "reduction" claims, and as much as I'd love to delve further into that list - because there's more questionable stuff on it - it bores even me, so let's just steam ahead, call bullshit on the number of reductions, and move on. Please. If you've got questions about other stuff on the list, hit me with it in the comments.

"110 FEWER positions" in this year's Central Administration budget? Uh, no. I don't think so. Nice try, keeeds.

We just did this in Naked Actual Factual Facts!, but subtraction is so much fun that I can't resist doing it again, this time including a hard-to-read chart. Dark blue is central administration in 2010-11, light blue is central administration in 2009-10. The difference between the two is that one pair of columns includes coaches for both years, and the other excludes coaches for both years. You'll note in both cases, dark blue is a little bit ahead of light blue.

357 - 116.5 = 240.5 Central Administration FTEs for 2009-10. The district, for 2010-11 has reported that they'll have 246.6 Central Administration FTEs. Well, whaddya know!

When you compare 2009-10 (without coaches) to 2010-11 (without coaches), there are more Central Administration FTEs in 2010-11 than there were in 2009-10.

Central Administration got a little bit fatter. Again. And tried to cheat the numbers on the scale by setting the scale incorrectly. Again.


Maureen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said...

Meg, so would it be true to say that there were 116.5 professional development coaches in 09-10 and (116.5-18.35= ) 98.15 professional development coaches in 10-11?

At $80,000 per (that's what we would have had to pay the district for our reading specialist if we could have afforded to keep her) that would equal $7,852,000. That is SEVEN point eight five MILLION DOLLARS. Which is just less than one half of the ENTIRE annual levy amount.

Is that right?

Dorothy Neville said...

Maureen, perhaps that is one interpretation that supports the CA position that they have shrunk, that they have actually let some coaches go, (back into classrooms?) but I am dubious because of the recent power points I have watched, especially about MAP, talking about "increased" coach efforts to teach the teachers how to interpret the MAP. And really,the $6M for textbooks and professional development... I would love to see a breakdown of how much paper and how much coaching that money is supposed to purchase.

Meg said...

Maureen- I stuck with the 116.5 rather than 98.15 because in the spring, Cathy Thompson (Exectuve Director of Instructional Services) happily announced that the district would be hiring fabulous new pedagogy coaches for 2010-11. I don't know how many. It could be 2 (doubtful) or it could be 25 (probably also doubtful). In terms of FTEs, the coaching corps may have remained stable. Given the lack of clarity, I made an assumption.

And as long as I'm at my keyboard, tapping away about coaches, I cannot resist a small rant.

I've said this before, but coaches aren't teachers, even though they have teaching certificates. If they do teach students, I think it would be okay to bill that percentage of their work to teaching, but otherwise I think they were correctly classified in Central Administration. An argument could be made to budget coaches in Teaching Support, but Teaching? No.

The Teaching segment of the budget shouldn't be muddied - it's important for everyone to be able to clearly see how much SPS is spending on its most critical operation: instruction of students.