Sunday, April 10, 2016

FY17 Worcester Schools budget

as assembled from what I can find online, as Thursday night, I was at the State House. The School Committee is posted online; the budget presentation starts at 30:10. The PowerPoint from Mr. Allen is here; as always, all slides cribbed from that.

Not news, but worth noting: Worcester's utterly getting creamed by the budget calculation this year. Flat(ish) enrollment (down 229, most of it in preschool) is offset by an increase in ELL students, but that is then combined with combined with NEGATIVE inflation. That means no increase (as noted almost immediately in Mr. Allen's presentation) save that ONE TIME increase due to the low income calculation change, and that's only due to Worcester having a high concentration of low income/ economically disadvantaged kids. Also, the appeal of the Title I census number was denied, meaning a loss of $1 million in Title I funding.

As we already knew from previous presentations, level service for next year costs $11M. What's coming in, though, is only going up by $4.6M.
And that doesn't get to anything the principals and schools were requesting, none of which was outrageous, but involved things like content area increases in secondary schools and badly needed support staff across the board. That added up, systemwide, to $11.7M.
And if I may, I'm sure that barely scratches the surface of what is actually needed. This is a system, after all, that is, by foundation calculations, 661 teachers short, remember.

SO a $25.5M increase in need facing a $4.6M increase in revenue.

What happens now?
Given where the enrollment changes are, expect teacher shifts across the system:

Also, expect that all of the requested additions from schools (save, say ELL teachers) aren't going to happen. Thursday's presentation also explicitly said that secondary teachers would be reduced and that no elementary teachers would be added. That means larger class sizes for everyone and no new choices in secondary schools. That puts projected average elementary class size at 22.5 (up a student from this year's 21.5) for next year. 
At the elementary level, 18 schools are projected to have no change in staff and 8 schools are expected to gain staff.
However, something that ought to be gaining headlines but isn't: Mr. Allen characterized as "alarming" that 1900 or more elementary students will be in classes of 27 students or more next year. Fixing that would take $2.5M.

What else?

As much as no one ever says anything about administration cutting, I'll remind my readers that Worcester is already BADLY underfunded on administration. We can't afford a cut there. The recent effort to expand secondary positions to expand choices clearly goes by the wayside.

Preschool has bigger things going on (why enrollment is falling? I know that's being looked into), but that gets complicated as a way of providing services to students with special education needs. Also, given what we know of early childhood, this is going backwards.
The building reallocation is being held for a year (which is a shame for all those kids impacted); not clear if that's a budgetary decisions or something else.
On security, the monetary aspect is "still ongoing," though there is being floated an increase in capital needs (hugely overdue) for the equipment aspect.

Because the teachers' union is in negotiations with the School Committee, the contract comes into play; there's a projection of $3M if health insurance changed.

If the House or Senate wanted to 
  • A) act on the FBRC recommendations;
  • B) respond to the lack Governor Baker did not; and 
  • C) do something positive for Worcester (and other particularly needy districts) 

they could fund the inflation factor. That would be $12M for Worcester this year (the link is to a chart of Gateway cities and their calculations; also Mr. Allen's work), and (not incidentally) statewide would bring chapter 70 into line with the local aid increase, as had been promised by Governor Baker.

At this point, waiting on the House budget on Thursday, but if that doesn't look better than this, Worcester, we've got work to do. 
Mayor Petty: "We need a call to action. We need to go to the state and get what we deserve."

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