Must-read School Beat: Lisa Schiff does it again!

Lisa Schiff’s School Beat column on BeyondChron is one of my weekly must-reads during the school year (it posts every Thursday morning with a break during the summer months; occasionally there are guest columnists). Today, she’s done it again with a sobering look at what’s coming our way, budget-wise, over the next year. Lisa rightly says that

we as public education supporters will need to review the fine details ourselves as well, looking at BOE agendas and bringing up questions and uncertainties wherever appropriate. And, if hard choices need to be made, we will expect that all choices will be thoroughly evaluated in terms of the revenue impact, the educational impact and the community impact.

To encourage the public to get involved, I’d like to suggest that interested community members start attending the monthly Budget & Business Services Committee meetings, where many of the tough decisions will be discussed first, before they are incorporated into the 2010-11 Budget proposal next spring. Chair Jill Wynns has already sketched out a rough schedule of topics that will be discussed at upcoming meetings, with the idea that every corner of the budget will be scrutinized in order to wring out maximum benefit from the new flexibility we have in state categorical money.That rough schedule (subject to change) is:

  • October 20: Programs subject to new categorical flexibility (Tier III);
  • November 17: General education transportation;
  • December 15: Student nutrition and Child Development (preschool) programs;
  • January 19, 2010: Special education (including special education transportation.

There are at least a few sacred cows hiding here and there — programs that have had their funding streams protected by categorical restrictions but which need to be  evaluated with a new lens: are they truly aligned with our central strategic goal of closing the achievement gap?

Budget committee meetings are generally held the third Tuesday of the month, at 6 p.m. in the Board Room at 555 Franklin. Unfortunately, committee meetings are not broadcast on the radio or online, but recordings of past budget meetings are available by contacting Equity Assurance at (415) 355-7334. There may be a small fee for duplicating tapes.


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