Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Breaking it down

Which is, unfortunately, not a reference to some awesome beat boxing, break dancing, or other extemporaneous form of musical expression.

So, at the school board meeting, we learned that there were 8 areas identified where cuts could be made, and that the board had prioritized them, and the proposal from the superintendent identified how much money could be saved in each of the areas.

Let's make a table:

What it looks like in the classroom
1. District Office staff reductions
Less administrative support available to teachers. Most visible in training, IT, and HR services. In all this is 34.4 jobs.
2. Program/service cuts, modifications, or transfers (to other funds)
Alternative schools which educate children who have been expelled will be closed. Other programs such as music, art or theater will see severe cuts. This also cuts honors classes.
3. Non-teacher personnel cuts
Layoffs of special education aides, one Assisstant Principal per school, counselors, secretaries, hall monitors, and janitorial staff. Between this item and #1, there should be about 250 jobs lost.
4. Furloughs$0.8M - $4.0M
(1-5 days)
Longer holidays, a shorter school year. Some subjects might be rushed to cover all the state required curriculum. This would be a one year fix, passing the problem to next year.
5. Non-teacher pay cuts
$0.6M - $3.0M
Very grumpy employees...
6. Class-size increases
$3.5M - $21.9M
Elementary School classes increase by 2, from 22 to 24. Middle School classes increase by 4 from 31 to 35. High school classes increase by 7 from 32 to 39. In addition, High School teachers have only one prep period every other day. Currently this would mean that the high schools could no longer receive accreditation because the student to teacher ratios would be too high.
7. Tax increases
Raise tax rate from 0.738% to 0.8735%. This is about $6/month on a $100,000 home. Total yearly property taxes levied by Jordan school district are $480/year.
8. Teacher pay cuts
$1.0M - $5.0M
Very grumpy teachers (experienced teachers moving to other districts)
The board decided to do 1,2 and 3 which totals $17.5M. To cover the last $12.5M they decided to add an average of 4 students to every class. Apparently the district's lawyers advised them not to reduce pay, so 5 and 8 were not seriously considered.

You can find almost all of this information here.
The most pertinent meetings were in 2009: Aug 4, Aug 11. In 2010: Jan 12, Feb 9. The presentation about the tax increase proposed on Aug 4 can be found here. It includes a breakdown of where the budget shortfalls come from.

As a note about class sizes, Utah is dead last, with 4 more students per teacher than the next state on the list. Have a look at this. Keep in mind, those numbers are not the number of kids in a classroom, but the total number of kids, divided by the number of teachers. The number of kids in the classroom are much higher, around 31 in middle school and even higher in High School. Increasing class sizes will put Jordan schools in jeopardy of losing their accreditation. This will significantly harm students from our district as they attempt to apply for college.
The standards for accreditation are here.

If you care about this stuff, there is an open study session (where they discuss where the money is spent, but it's not open for comments from the public) from 5:30 to 6 tonight. We hope to see you there!


John said...

Some have commented that our administration is topheavy, poorly managed and that this is the source of the budget shortfall. I can't disagree, as I have no knowledge about the administration. The fact remains that the board's decision not to raise taxes harms the students and not the administration. The board has made a decision that harms students. Whether the harm should fall upon the administrators or upon the taxpayers or upon the teachers first is a secondary question.

Heidi said...

On June 9, Jordan School District Board of Education approved a budget that cuts teacher pay but has no adverse impact on district administrators. The district recently eliminated 172 jobs (mainly bus drivers, maintenance workers and secretaries). According to board members, teachers should stop whining and be grateful for their jobs.

Sure, we teachers get it. The approved budget slashes non-teaching employees and the earning capacity of teachers. Meanwhile, district administrators maintain their numbers and continue to earn salaries well beyond comparable positions in other Utah districts, even though half of their responsibilities went to the Canyons School District. It boggles the imagination.

To be fair, nine of the 172 employees "let go" were administrators. Five were school administrators. Only four (of 57!) district-level administrative jobs were eliminated by the district split! Who thought it would be a good idea to maintain almost all the bureaucrats at the district level while simultaneously purging the ranks of school administrators who actually work with kids?

An independent group should have overseen the budget crisis. Jordan teachers are willing to sacrifice. We just expect the district's leaders to do the same.

This is written by Wendy Brown, school counselor and neighbor of ours and was published in the trib. What's annoying to me is that they kept 8 janitorial supervisors (8 out of 8) when the district split even though they have almost half the buildings.

We've already paid our tax increase this year and are budgeting for the same next year (which was more than $6 per 100k this year) - I would just like to see some fiscal honesty.

(Thanks for providing a place for my impassioned rant!)

John said...

Thanks Heidi. It's always good to get more data and facts. I felt like that $2.5M was small when it came up in the meeting, but I didn't have anything to back up my feeling. Part of the problem is that it's the Superintendent(administration) that's making the proposals. It seems like the Board should be getting proposals from other sources as well.

Heidi said...

I totally here you - at the "truth and taxation" hearing this gentleman stood and volunteered his company's consulting services to help with the budget issues (he owns a company that comes in a fixes budget issues for all sorts and sizes of companies) and he said they could have as many hours as they needed and the board has declined repeatedly. I just can't understand why they are so hesitant to outside assistance...because maybe there is a better way.

Either way - I really feel for Melinda - I would hate to be a teacher in our district and would seriously consider looking elsewhere....

Melinda said...

That's good info Heidi and something we could bring up at the next board meeting. Thanks!

Matt Shake said...


Again, very well done! Your research is excellent and your writing is clear. I'm going to tell people about your blog.

Kerstin said...

I found this quote interesting, the blog source listed below:

"Perhaps, the biggest shocker of the evening came, when Barry Newbold (Jordan School District Superintendent) publically admitted that he would not petition the School Board for a reduction in his salary. While only a minute drop in the budget deficit, if he even rounded his salary down to $200,000, that could help the budget more than $34,000 dollars. The same goes for the rest of the board. This could result in almost $300,000 in savings."

**blog source: http://www.utahsarch.com/

Thanks for keeping me updated Melinda...if I knew about the meeting earlier, I would have attended (how to I find out in advance when these meetings will be?

Kerstin said...

Okay...now I feel silly...you linked to when the meetings are held...

I think I need more sleep...:)