Category Archives: budget

Considering changes to student assignment

As reported in yesterday’s Chronicle, Board President Sandra Lee Fewer and I are working on a proposal to change the student assignment system — really, to tweak it — by reordering the preferences for Kindergarten admissions.

After reading and absorbing the 3rd Annual Report on Student Assignment outcomes last month, I became more convinced than ever that the relatively high power the current system gives the CTIP (Census Tract Integration Preference) was not having the effect we’d hoped in terms of desegregating schools. In addition, putting CTIP so high in the hierarchy of preferences (coming just after siblings and children enrolled in and attending an SFUSD Pre-K program in the same attendance area) is clearly having an effect on some specific attendance area programs, to the disadvantage of residents of those attendance areas.

The board continues to believe strongly that diverse schools are better for everyone, and President Fewer and I have not abandoned the idea that we should continue to work on desegregating our schools where students are “racially isolated.”  (Read this post from 2010 about academic outcomes in our schools where more than 60 percent of students are either African American, Latino or Samoan for more discussion on this issue.)

It’s important also to say that at the time I said I didn’t think CTIP would affect attendance area residents’ ability to attend their local schools.  Now, I obviously think I was wrong, at least in a few cases like Clarendon and perhaps Grattan. (I just read back over a number of my posts from January – March 2010 and it’s interesting to do if you would like to know more about how we got to where we are today).  Anyway, I’m increasingly uneasy when people tell me that they plan to “rent in a CTIP zone” for K admissions, then move to a different neighborhood (this has happened to me a number of times); when I hear from homeowners in CTIP zones that they have received calls from real estate agents who say they can cash in on their “golden ticket” status;  when I see the data showing that residents of the Clarendon attendance area have pretty terrible odds of attending their local school because of demand from siblings and CTIP.  It’s clear that it’s time to make a modest adjustment that will still preserve some expanded choices for areas where there are concentrations of lower-achieving children.

The fact is, no neighborhood in San Francisco is very affordable anymore for either middle-class home buyers or renters.  All over the City, there are people who — thanks to either rent control or getting in to the real estate market early — can afford to live here but can’t afford to move (I’m one of them!).  Any system that offers its primarly benefit to people who can afford to choose whatever San Francisco neighborhood they live in or move at will is not one that benefits the neediest and most struggling San Franciscans.

Anyway – there will be plenty of time to debate, dissect and discuss this issue this summer – our proposal will be submitted for first reading on June 24 and will not be discussed in any detail by the Board until the August meeting of the Student Assignment committee. I expect the proposal to come back for a final vote in late August and — if it passes — to take effect for enrollment for the 2015-16 school year.

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Tuesday night the Board will consider the 2014-15 budget proposal and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) detailing how we will spend our new Local Control Funding Formula dollars from the state. The draft budget books and draft LCAP are available for download on the district’s web site, here, here and here (warning: the budget books are a big download – don’t click on the first two links from your phone).

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School’s out, happy summer! President Fewer wrangled the Board and senior district staff and created this goofy fan version of the hit “Happy” by Pharrell. It’s a little embarassing, but it’s cute:

 

And we have a budget!

Just getting home after a long meeting, but a substantive one: the Board had a lengthy budget discussion and passed the 2013-14 district budget unanimously.  The district will receive $360.58 million in unrestricted general fund revenues and spend $378.424 million, drawing down the beginning balance of $34.102 million to  about $700,000 after the required $15.566 million reserve.

There are a lot of big questions the Board has about the current direction of the district, including:

  • The special education budget is bigger than ever, representing about 25 percent of the general fund when special ed transportation costs are included — Commissioners are increasingly worried that the annual growth in special education spending is unsustainable and asked for more clarity on how the district expects its current investments to pay off in reduced future costs and better academic outcomes. The CAC for Special Education has posted some great analysis and data on its web site;  committee members spoke at the Board meeting and expressed concern that the district’s plan to invest in professional development and coaching for teachers — while needed — might divert too much money away from the classroom. My personal feeling is that while accelerating expenditures are alarming, it’s not time to change course: we have been identified as significantly disproportionate in how we identify students of color for special education, and are now required to spend 15 percent of our Federal special education allocation on interventions in general education. General education teachers desperately need more tools to help students who are struggling achieve, so that special education is not the district’s only safety net for students who aren’t achieving at grade level. Coaching and professional development are the best ways to provide general education teachers with the tools they need. We’ve reduced our spending on out-of-district private school placements for students with disabilities, by almost $5 million since I got on the Board.  But our choice-based student assignment system increases our special education transportation costs, and one of my goals over the next year or two is to look at ways to maintain equitable treatment of students with disabilities in our system while decreasing our exposure on transportation.  Overall, though, I think the request for more clarity in the district’s expectations and strategies for the next few years would be a good thing and I support the need for vigilance in gauging the return on our increasing investments in educating our students with disabilities.
  • One of the Superintendent’s centerpiece initiatives — Multi-Tier Systems of Support, or MTSS–is still confusing for board members and members of the public. Essentially, the initiative seeks to place resources where they are most needed, so that schools that need more supports get more supports even as all schools get a base “package” that includes ample counselors, nurses, librarians and other support staff.  Fully-realizing this vision will take more money than we currently have, but there have been significant investments in the current budget in social workers, counselors and nurses for many schools.  Elementary area teams will now consist of an Assistant Superintendent, and Executive Director, a Family and Community Engagement Specialist, two teachers on special assignment who can provide instructional support to principals and schools, as well as clerical support and a small discretionary budget. The expectation that goes along with this is that area teams will be more effective and proactive at problem-solving so that complaints are less likely to languish and fester. Some Board members worry, however, that this represents a big expansion in central administration, and that it represents a dismantling of site-based autonomy and decision-making.
  • Board members also expressed concerns about the perception that there is a lot of “new money” represented by the passage of Prop. 30 and the state’s rapidly improving economic outlook, and asked where this “new money” could be seen in the budget. The answer to that question is complex, because you first must accept the Superintendent’s argument that we are climbing out of a deep hole represented by the cuts of the last five years (see cartoon below). It helps if you remember the general fund revenues vs. expenditures I cited at the top of this post: even with the “new money” from Prop. 30 and additional taxes, we still expect to spend about $18 million more than we take in in revenues in 2013-14. That $18 million deficit represents people, programs and instructional days that otherwise would have had to be cut in the coming year. The “new money,” is simply helping us climb out of the hole rather than sink deeper:  gasping fish 2
  • The 7-period day for high school: Tonight Commissioner Haney introduced a resolution urging the district to expand A-G qualified course offerings at high schools; the Superintendent introduced a proposal that would lessen the credit requirements for students attending continuation or county high schools. Both resolutions will be discussed in August when the Board reconvenes after its July recess. Most of us agree that our students will have a much easier time meeting the more stringent A-G graduation requirements in place for the Class of 2014 and beyond if we are able to offer a 7-period day, but it’s expensive and Board members wanted to know how the Superintendent proposes to get there.  Similarly, common planning time for teachers is a widely-endorsed way to improve student outcomes, and Vice President Fewer introduced a resolution last summer asking the Superintendent to implement common planning time at all schools by the end of this year. However, the Board has not voted on this resolution as yet because transportation and other logistical issues make it daunting to fund and implement.  Board members also asked how to make common planning time a reality in coming years, given our belief that it is a best practice in improving achievement.

That’s it for now: I’m going fishing for the month of July (metaphorically, not literally.  As my husband likes to say, fishing is boring until you catch a fish–then it’s disgusting. And sorry for all the fishing references).  I’ll start blogging again in August. Happy summer vacation everyone!

April 9 recap: A day late and $43,000 short

A light agenda last night, with only two items of note: a final vote on the Public Education Enrichment Fund spending plan for 2013-14 and final adoption of the Superintendent’s proposed policy on inclusive practices. Lots of public comment, too.

First up, the inclusion policy. As my comrade (and chair of the district’s Community Advisory Committee for Special Education) Katy Franklin summed it up this morning, “When you work so long for something to change, and then after 10 years, it does, it’s a weird feeling of happiness, relief and exhaustion … Still much work to do, but this is a fantastic start.”  Yep — I got pretty choked up as we were voting but there was really nothing else to do but go ahead with the meeting.

Next up:  PEEF spending. It hasn’t happened for quite a while, but thanks to the Mayor’s decision in late January to appropriate the entire amount called for in the City Charter (in lean budget years the City can pull a “trigger,” reducing the appropriation by 25%), we have a lot more PEEF money to spend next year (for background information about the PEEF, go here, here and here).  In large part, the Board was fine with the Superintendent’s decision to put a large chunk of the additional money (about $2 million in the third-third or “Other General Uses” portion of the fund) into a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) initiative. Among other things, the money would go to hire a STEM Director, three program administrators and 14 teachers on special assignment to develop curriculum and support schools in expanding their STEM focus.  We also agreed with the decision to put $7.5 million in restored Sports, Libraries Arts and Music (SLAM) funds towards:

  • Making sure that every school has a librarian present at least two days a week;
  • Expanding arts offerings at the middle school level; and
  • Expanding all SLAM offerings at Superintendent’s Zone and Intensive-tier schools (based on a cluster analysis of variables like academic performance and trends, human capital, and demographics schools in SFUSD are classified in four tiers — Challenge, Benchmark, Strategic and Intensive).

However, the Board spent almost 45 minutes discussing a proposal from Vice President Fewer to restore the level of funding for restorative practices to the original $911,000 proposed back in 2010 — the first year after the Board adopted its policy to add restorative practices to the district’s discipline policies.    The proposal represented a $43,000 increase to the Superintendent’s proposal to fund restorative practices at $868,000 — not a lot of money when you consider that the entire PEEF budget totals $50 million. Still, we had a robust discussion about where to find the money, and dug deeper into several line items   — we came away with a good understanding of some of the more obscure parts of the proposal. In the end, the Superintendent agreed to take the $43,000 from the STEM proposal and put it into restorative practices. 

The entire PEEF proposal–prepared prior to the Board’s amendments last night–can be found here.

Recap: February 26, 2013

The second meeting in February is always the meeting nobody wants to go to, because it’s the meeting where the Board votes on layoffs and non-re-elect notices to non-tenured teachers. There had been some hope earlier in the year that, due to the brightening state budget picture and the passage of Prop. 30 in November, there might not have to be layoffs this year.

Unfortunately, there is still too much uncertainty in the state budget picture, not to mention the looming prospect of sequestration in the Federal budget–threatening almost $4 million in cuts to district resources next year– to eliminate layoffs entirely for 2013-14.  In addition, the district’s School Improvement Grant (SIG)  is ending this year, meaning we lose $15 million in annual funding we have received each of the last three years. Other categorical funding grants are ending as well.  Finally, the Board continues to push the Superintendent to fully align our budget with the ongoing priorities in our strategic plan, especially taking into account the lessons we have learned with SIG (e.g., the value of the community schools approach, on-the-job coaching and professional development, and family engagement).  Realignment in an environment where resources are still scarce means tough decisions about program needs across the district.

It’s perhaps overly sunny to call it good news, but there are fewer staff getting notices this year than at any time since I took office in January 2009; 191 fewer certificated staff than last year. No multiple-subject (elementary school) teachers were noticed this year.  With that, here are the numbers:

Staff receiving preliminary layoff notices for the 2013-14 school year (FTE):

Pre-K-12 Certificated (teachers, social workers, counselors, nurses)– 118

Early Education Department teachers– 10

Administrators– 24

Paraprofessionals–43

In addition, the Board also voted to accept the Superintendent’s recommendation to “non-re-elect” 33 teachers across the district who would otherwise have been granted tenure if they were employed by the district in the 2013-14 school year. This is a very difficult decision, because by definition, a non-re-election of a probationary teacher can be made without any specific cause. A probationary teacher can (and many do) receive satisfactory evaluations and still not be re-elected, simply because the administrator supervising them does not feel it is a good enough fit to grant them tenure status.

The very difficult part for me  tonight was that 14 of the 33 were special education teachers — a job that is one of the toughest across the district, and of course a credential area that is perennially in demand. Being a new special education teacher is exceptionally difficult, and without adequate support it is more than likely a teacher will fail in some area or another. So the failure to “find a fit” is perhaps a greater failure of the district’s rather than the individual teacher; still, it is important to back up our administrators when they make the very tough calls we have been telling them they must make in order to continue putting student learning above all else.

Teachers who have been non-re-elected can opt to resign at the end of the year in order to avoid having “non-re-elected” appear in their employee file, and can apply for any future opportunity with the school district.

In the news:  Did you know SFUSD has the highest percentage of teachers who have attained National Board Certified status of any district in California? That’s right — 231, or about six percent of 3,600 teachers across the district–have now attained the prestigious (and rigorous to attain) professional designation.  The newest batch of teachers who have achieved this status in 2012-13 will be honored at the March 12 Board meeting.

We aim to please: A commenter recently asked for a copy of the bedrock principles of inclusion that were submitted as a proposed Board policy recently. Here they are.

Scarier than Halloween . . .

Tonight the Superintendent sent a memo to the Board listing the effects if Prop. 30 and/or Prop. 38 don’t pass. It’s not good, and includes $10 million in additional forced closure (furlough) days this school year — school would end with a half day on Thursday, May 23 instead of a half-day on Friday, May 27–as well as $6.5 million in additional mid-year cuts. And then there’s 2013-14.

Though many school advocates feel Prop. 38 is better for schools in the long run (here is a more detailed comparison of the two measures as well as a fact sheet), the measure has never polled above 50 percent. Prop. 30 had polled above 50 percent until recently, but because of negative advertising the measure is now supported by less than a majority according to polls.  Though I have long advocated a “yes/yes” position on the two measures, with the reasoning that asking voters to choose between the two dooms both to failure, I think now during the stretch it is imperative that education advocates impress on voters who care about our schools that Prop. 30 must pass.   In other words, do whatever you want with Prop. 38 (I’m voting yes) but please, whatever you do, vote YES on 30. 

Recap: the last meeting of 2011-12, and the end of an era

Tonight was both a celebration and a farewell — Carlos formally administered the oath of office to Richard Carranza, so officially we have two Superintendents until July 1 (“I’m the spare,” Richard joked after the ceremony). It was wonderful to see Richard assume the office, but many of us (Carlos most of all) got choked up at the realization that tonight was Carlos’ last Board meeting as Superintendent. (He got over it pretty quickly — by the time our marathon meeting wrapped up in the wee hours, Carlos was glad to bring his years in SFUSD to a close; he’ll miss us, but not that much).

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Working through the 2012-13 recommended budget

Last week, Superintendent Garcia presented his last budget to the Board, for passage at the June 26 meeting (the last Board meeting of the fiscal year). At a special meeting tonight, the Board dug into the budget, asked questions, made some speeches and suggestions, and considered (as required) the proposed “flexing” of certain categorical funds (“Tier III categoricals”). It was a long night — the Board started in closed session at 4:30 pm, and did not adjourn the special meeting until after 10 p.m.–but that’s not so surprising because the district’s budget is so complex.

Highlights

The district expects to start the 2012-13 fiscal year with an unrestricted general fund balance of $46.2 million. $15.5 million of that is the unspendable-under-most-circumstances “designated reserve”, which means we have a healthy cash balance of about $30.5 million. Unrestricted revenues are expected to come in at $331.1 million, and the district will spend all of that plus the $30.5 million in cash, bringing expenditures to $361.6 million.  The district expects to end the year with just $230,000 in cash after the designated (unspendable) reserve.

The district’s assumptions for 2012-13 include four forced closure (furlough) days for most staff and five forced closure days for unrepresented (management) employees; they also assume the district will use Prop A (parcel tax) funds to pay for three professional development days for district certificated and classified staff.

Below, you can see those figures plus projections for 2013-14 and 2014-15 as things stand now:

Of course, the district will have to submit a version of this chart to the state that does not have red ending balances and reflects a fully-funded designated reserve — if we don’t, we risk state takeover.  And unfortunately, it’s not so easy as just promising to spend less, then figuring out what to cut next year (as if that’s easy). The district has to actually identify potential cuts for the state, and demonstrate that it is taking actions to actually make the cuts. (Unlike state government, which just says it will cut but then never does, but that’s another story).  In our case, we are in mediation with UESF on changes to their contract that would help realize these savings, but there are also other challenges: the SIG funding will end after 2012-13, which represents an ongoing loss of $15 million; in addition we expect the Rainy Day Fund to be exhausted as a resource by 2014-15.

Tier III

Beginning in the 2010-11 school year, the state began to allow districts to “flex” funding for 39 “categorical” programs — funding that is restricted for specific purposes and/or populations — designated as “Tier III” programs by the state.  In return, districts must hold a public hearing detailing what portion of the money is to be “flexed” and what the intended use of those funds will be.  Last week’s Board meeting was supposed to serve as that public hearing, but Board members and members of the public were not satisfied that the information provided at that meeting gave us enough specificity on either point, so the do-over was tonight.

In 2012-13, programs like deferred maintenance for facilities ($2.2 million), incentives to hire P.E. teachers ($800K), art and music block grants ($725 million) and adult education ($430K) will be entirely flexed (swept into the General Fund for use on other priorities), while others like Gifted and Talented Education, alternative credentialing programs for teachers and the paraprofessional to teacher support program (helping aides get the intern teaching and extra credit hours they need to become certificated teachers) will only be partially funded. Some, like fee waivers for needy students taking AP tests and professional development for reading and math, will be fully-funded.

There was a spirited discussion about all of this tonight, which was the intent of the public hearing requirement in the first place. In the end, five Commissioners  (Yee, Wynns, Norton, Mendoza, Murase) voted to accept the Superintendent’s recommendation for flexing Tier III funds, while two (Fewer, Maufas) voted against.

How to read the budget

The Board also had a robust discussion about how to improve our communication of the budget overall. The budget book is 400-plus pages, and several Commissioners (myself included) feel that it doesn’t highlight the right things. It’s really impossible to understand unless you also have a copy of the previous year’s budget book alongside to compare how different departments were staffed and funded last year versus this year.  Suggestions included:

  • Add a “prior year” column to each department and school detail to enhance comparisons;
  • Add a narrative to each department and school detail to highlight what changed and why from year to year. For example, last year there was a Multilingual Department, with 7.5 FTE (full-time equivalent)  and $830K worth of funding, and a Lau Plan Implementation department, with 27.4 FTE and $4.4 million in funding.  This year, there is just a Lau Plan department, with 35 FTE and $4.8 million in funding. I know enough about the district to be pretty sure that Multilingual was folded into Lau, which makes sense because the work of the two departments overlaps quite a bit. The FTE numbers pretty much work, but somehow the two departments lost $400K. What got cut, exactly?  There’s no way to tell from the current budget book — and you wouldn’t even know what you were missing if you didn’t compare the 2011-12 book and the 2012-13 book side-by-side.
  • Can we do what the City does? Apparently the City has an “award-winning” budget book according to Commissioner Murase. What does it take for them to produce their book each year and how could we learn from that?

Anyway, the best single thing one can do to better understand the district’s budget is to read the narrative pages of the current proposal, pages 1 through 40. Then read them again, cross-referencing the narrative with the exhibits on pages 41 – 67. Once you understand those two sections, you’re ready to start digging into the central office and school site detail pages that make up the rest of the book. Still, departments like special education will be pretty difficult to understand without a staff person at your side to help define unfamiliar terms and demystify why the whole book is organized the way it is.