Budgeting for Student Success

I introduced a resolution at the March 13th Board meeting to restore time allocation funding to middle and high schools. This funding was implemented a few years ago to increase equitable access to opportunities in our secondary schools by moving from a six period to seven period day. It is more expensive to educate secondary students, and the proposed deep budget cuts FY19 disparately impacted our secondary schools.

When we limit academic and elective options it has a disparate impact on students of color, students experiencing poverty, and students receiving SpEd and EL services. If you consider four core and a world language (which is required in our IB programs), and add Health/PE, students are left with maybe one elective. Students who wish to take AVID or need an academic or language support class have limited access to art, music, theatre, and other electives. Students from families with resources can supplement their extracurricular opportunities outside of school through private lessons and clubs, further exacerbating the opportunity gap. We must ensure equitable access to a well rounded education in middle and high school, as well as pathways to career and college programs like CTE, PSEO, and IB. Time allocation revenue was a solution. Increasing access to credits also supports students experiencing challenges that get them off track for graduation. A parent shared a story of their struggling South High student who was behind on credits. Without the continued 7 period day offerings, their student would be unable to graduate on time.

I listened to the voices of community, looked at the deep harm the proposed FY19 budget cuts had on secondary schools, and worked with stakeholders to provide a solution. The Board Chair stated he would vote no on the FY19 budget in June. This is not a solution. It is difficult and controversial to challenge assumptions and force us to consider different ideas. I lead with conviction and action, and when I believe we can do better for our students and school communities, I refuse to shame and blame the Superintendent and Administration. Instead, I come to the table and propose solutions, not just restoring time allocation revenue. For instance, reducing our school calendar, limited layoffs (type of furlough), reducing all testing, evaluations and data collection to the state minimum legally required, and sweeping our current budgets to find additional cost savings FY18.

This was not a surprise; I went through the proper channels with a first reading at the March Board Meeting and vote at the April Board meeting. There was a month before the vote on the resolution. No other suggestions or solutions were put forward by Board members or staff.  I received little feedback and questions about the resolution. The two concerns were maintaining fund balance and that the Superintendent had provided us with the best budget possible. I put forth an amendment in April, which passed as part of the overall resolution, directing the superintendent to NOT dip further in to fund balance to restore the $6.4 million to middle and high schools. And, there were opportunities to further reduce administrative overhead and programs. The funding cuts that the Superintendent recommended are below. 

There has been a suggestion that the time allocation revenue be distributed differently with a poverty component.  The resolution reinstated the funding exactly as it had been distributed the past few years, about $462 per pupil. It is per pupil because it has to account for how many additional teachers/staff you need to add offerings for the number of students you must serve. More students require more classes which equates to more teachers. SWHS, South and Washburn are by far our largest high schools, twice as big or more than our other four schools, PHHS, Roosevelt, Edison and North. When you actually break down the per pupil funding after the reallocation, the four smaller high schools receive significantly more per pupil than our three largest high schools. For example, Edison receives 21% more funding than South, 30% more than SW & 32% more than Washburn.

This is not the end of the budget conversation. We don’t approve the budget until June. Budget tie out for schools and departments must happen as early as possible so that we have the opportunity to hire quality employees and to meet the contractual obligations for notice in our union contracts, which is mid March. The Superintendent is presenting the formal budget at our May Board meeting for a first reading before the vote in June. There are still concerns about the student enrollment numbers for some schools like Henry High School and inadequate funding for Stadium View High School in the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center. I will continue to work with other Board members on these issues and others as they arise.

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