Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude

The Superintendent's report for tomorrow night's meeting is a seven point plan for budgeting (or "for advancing student achievement and program sustainability"). I'm heading into my fifth Worcester Public Schools budget on the School Committee, and my first reaction to the plan is that it states (mostly) the obvious.
Sometimes, though, the obvious needs to be stated, and as I've said at least once from the floor: what's obvious in the fiscal policy of the Worcester Public Schools isn't obvious (or even done or recognized) elsewhere, to the detriment of elsewhere.
I'll save my comments for tomorrow night, but a brief overview:
  • The first four--projected enrollment and projected budget, zero based budgeting, a public process, and public quarterly reports--are standard operating procedure for WPS. If you've been following our budgets at all, you've seen projections for coming years, you've heard about how the budget starts from scratch and assumes nothing, you've been able to do that because it's all done publicly and accessibly, and you can catch up quarterly with subcommittee reports. This is a all good stuff (which isn't, to my continued surprise, done in every public budget), which serves to keep everyone as informed as they wish to be.
  • The fifth point essentially says that grants can be great, but they  need a long term plan for when they're gone. This is what's been done by this administration on Race to the Top and on the School Improvement Grants; this plus the above are why the Worcester Public Schools didn't face the funding cliff we'd heard so much of when the federal stimulus was gone. If you don't know how you're going to continue something once the money's gone but you plan to continue it, then you have no business applying for the money in the first place. 
  • The sixth point caps administrative spending at a level well below that calculated (on 1993 rates) by the state. Note that this caps internal WPS central administrative spending; city administrative spending is calculated per a (currently being renegotiated) agreement between the superintendent and the city manager. 
  • The seventh lays out a plan for new revenue: it will go in directions close to students and their needs or areas that are increasing well beyond the accounting of the state. It thus includes not only the classroom itself and its supports, but maintenance and transportation; it also calls out health insurance, retirement, unemployment, and workers' comp. 

You can find the plan at the above link; it will be first up after recognitions tomorrow night at 7.

The title? Those are the four cardinal virtues. They echo what Plato wrote would be found in a wise city.

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