Tuesday, May 26, 2015

WPS budget before Council (with another round on Net School Spending, unfortunately)

The Worcester Public Schools budget is before the Worcester City Council at 4 pm today. You can find the proposed FY16 city budget here; the WPS budget is pages 187-189 (or 191-193 in the PDF).

Unfortunately, it appears that we're doing another round of playing with the Net School Spending numbers, as the first page of the presentation says:
The amount recommended for non educational expenditure is recommended to be $17,869,016, level funded from the prior year.
This isn't the case.

We've known since we approved the new transportation contract in March that WPS transportation is going up by $1 million next year under our new contract with Durham. This is after WPS administration negotiated the original bid downward significantly. You'll note that we were also told at that meeting that city administration were "aware" of the contract changes, as they would impact FY16.

...which they have.

Now, the claim previously has been that the city grants "an extra amount" of money and the Worcester Public Schools (you can pick: blame adminstration or school committee on this one) "choose" to put it towards transportation.

This is somewhat silly.

The Worcester Public Schools (as regular readers may well be tired of hearing) are funded at or just below the minimum required by the state. At the same time, schools statewide are funded at an average--an AVERAGE--over 19% over for FY15.
That looks like this (I did this quickly: the blue line is the state average and the red line is Worcester):

Why does that matter? Well, for one thing, when we have conversations about why families make choices about where to send their children, you might consider this:

With a budget that is funded at (or just below) minimum, it isn't as though we have funds we could take from somewhere else to fund transportation; even if we do, that just puts us more in the hole, as transportation doesn't count towards the mimimum. And with a budget that sits right at that line, we're virtually guaranteed, as we've been told by the state, to go under the minimum due to the way charter school enrollment is counted.
I have to say that I'm disappointed in this, as these conversations go much better when we all have the same numbers in front of us.
For those wondering: we look to be just over minimum spending for FY16 (to start the year), with our coming in about 1% under, due to the cummulative $3 million we've been underfunded in previous years. 

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