Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hot topic: How is your school coping with budget cuts?

This from a reader:
All of us are just finding out what the impact of the budget crisis will mean to our public school. I'd love to hear how different schools (and their PTA/PTOs) are responding. Can you create a new conversation topic so parents can share what scenarios their principal is presenting and how their school community (parents and staff) are preparing to respond? For instance, who's cutting teachers (and how many), who's investing all PTA funds to keep teachers and maintain smaller class sizes, who's doing a second fundraising ask to all families, any new/creative ideas, etc.

36 comments:

  1. One thing that is definitely happening next year will be the widening of the already gaping disparity between schools. Schools with a wealthy parent population will be saved some of the worst of the cuts, and poorer schools will not.

    This has already happened, but I predict it will be far harder to ignore next year. I can't fault parents for doing what they can to assure some level of school financing, but I do fault SFUSD for their ongoing failure to deliver on "keeping their promises" to school communities.

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  2. 'I do fault SFUSD for their ongoing failure to deliver on "keeping their promises" to school communities.'

    When the state cuts $2.5 billion from education, screwing over not only SFUSD but schools districts all over the state, how is it the district's fault?

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  3. At our school, we are losing three teachers. Class size for K is going to 24; 1st through 3rd is going to 27-30; and fourth and fifth will stay at 33. The principal has been mum about split grade classes, but I don't know how you deal with three lost teacher slots and the increased class sizes as she's laid out without doing some type of split grade classes. There will be no money for supplies or field trips at all. The PTA has agreed to try to raise money to at least get some money for some basic supplies, but they've never raised the amount they are talking about for next year (ever!) and are behind this year even getting what they got last year, so I'm dubious. This news is very grim. I'd love to know what is happening at the well-funded schools. Can the PTA really fund teacher slots or will the union let them do that?

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  4. Some of the schools are using EIA_LEP for class size reduction. That funding for english acquisition was NOT made flexible and it is not to be spent for anything other than English langauage development. But that does not mean it isn't happening.

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  5. "I'd love to know what is happening at the well-funded schools. Can the PTA really fund teacher slots or will the union let them do that?"

    I'm at a school with a PTA that raises a lot of cash. Like you, we're looking at losing 3 FTEs. We might be able to cover one teacher, but the concern there is is the district wouldn't pick their cost up after this budget crisis ends, or that the PTA runs through its cash and has to lay off the core teacher. It's just not a sustainable way of funding core staff. So, yeah, we might have more room for manuoeuvre and may better mitigate some of the impacts, but flesh and bone are still going to get cut.

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  6. I know some schools, Grattan for one, use PTA funds for class size reduction and to fund "extras" like staff to run computer labs. Not sure if any are funding whole teaching positions that way.

    A lot of schools will not have money for photocopies or basics like glue, pencils, paper, etc.

    Principals are not going to talk about the specifics of things like split classes until they absolutely have to because they know it will make the staff deeply unhappy. Sorry, but pretty much no one wants to teach a split grade class. (A multi-age class is a whole different thing than the split grades we're talking about. These split grades will be cobbled together at the last minute. They are not going to be well thought out nor will they be developed with teacher input.)

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  7. SFUSD really let our students doen in the management of the budget. Here is what the Association of California School Administrators said in it budget assessment, "Bracing For Cuts..":

    "We recommend, to the extent feasible, that you (LEAs) maximize avaiable one time resources, accompanied with all allowable categorical flexibility, to avoid reductions in critical instruction-related programs during 2009-10 and 2010-11. But LEAs will still be required to educate their students. Therefore, all budget, program and personnel decisions should be executed cautiously in the context of your LEA's core needs and long term fiscal viability"

    SFUSD didn't take advantage of any of the flexibility and as a result well upward of $10M, maybe a lot more was NOT set aside to save classroom teachers. They screwed up royally.

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  8. SF schools will now be almost 100% third world levels.

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  9. Pretty soon there will be talk of stealing from well-funded PTAs to give to other schools.

    I really want to spend time I don't have raising money that my kid won't benefit from.

    Maybe the SFUSD could decide to move some other families into my house. Give them access to my bank account, let them take my kid's clothes and toys, too.

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  10. SFUSD is at fault for:

    *Not planning better in advance. Last year, SFUSD had an administrative hiring spree.
    *Being far too quick to say "It's just $30,000...$100,000...a million dollars." This money adds up, but through the last year it still went to travel expenses (one administrator billed over thirty thousand dollars in fifteen months), consultant contracts, etc.
    *Already inequitable school funding gone haywire. The Weighted Student Formula does not sufficiently cover the additional needs of low-income students and English Language Learners, and the average salary tends to hurt schools with high numbers of such students (since they have younger teachers who earn less).
    *Some school districts demand PTA pooling. SFUSD does not. Nor does it have a foundation to help schools that do not benefit from such cash.

    Poor schools will lose more teachers, and the bumped teachers who end up at these schools may not want to be there (and may quit - the lawsuit against UCLA for layoff inequity tells some stories I hope are not prophetic). Poor schools had less to start with and will have nothing now.

    SFUSD is supposed to be committed to closing the achievement gap and going "Beyond the Talk". This is more of the same. What the district could have done to help close that gap didn't happen.

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  11. In addition to the excellent observations in the previous comment, the $2.5 mil for National Urban Alliance went for PD at those schools were many of the teachers are getting laid off. Great work! Give teachers this expensive training at our expense and then lay them off. I think it is El Dorado a an example that is losing 65% of its teaching staff.

    Our board members spent tlije drunken sailors last June even while Mr. Garcia was supposedly warning them (Re: Rachel's blog) abou the impending cuts. But did he say anything about all those new positions for Sanchez? Of course not. Always negotiate from a higher base.

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  12. I teach at El Dorado and I am pretty sure that the teaching staff did not get any training from NUA consultants. Honestly, I have not been impressed by what the NUA independent contractors have been sharing with SFUSD because much of it is not novel and is already widely used at our school. Of course, they may have wonderful resources with which I am not familiar.

    That said, our school has spent extensively on staff development and has worked very hard to hire teachers who want to be here and want to collaborate and reflect. Since this is a fairly new initiative, the staff is low-seniority and eleven of fifteen classroom teachers have been noticed.

    El Dorado is the worst-impacted school, but the impact fell disproportionately on the Hard to Staff schools, so that teachers got their first Prop A bonus followed a couple of weeks later by a pink slip. It's bad for morale and for equity.

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  13. 1:25 / El Dorado teacher, I'm a parent who worked hard on Prop A and marched on March 4. I am so upset to hear of the situation at El Dorado--I have heard nothing but good things about your teaching staff. We need to be pouring money into intitiatives like yours, not taking teachers away.

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  14. I wish we had a district-wide version -- maybe on this blog?-- of school wishlists. I for one would happily march over to a school with art supplies or whatever, within the limits of what I could do. Not that that makes what CA is doing to its schools OK.

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  15. This is 9:43 am again -- I find it surprising that there is barely a post here from the well-funded elementaries about what plans they have to pay for extra teachers. I was hoping to hear some details from other PTAs because there's a debate going on at our school about whether to use the PTA money that usually goes for PE and some afterschool tutoring for a teacher. These are pretty gruesome choices, but, if we are going to have split classes, it may make sense to kiss goodbye to PE and instead use the money to fund a teacher or teacher assistant slot to either prevent a split class or augment staffing for it. Anyway, I remember now posters last year saying that the well-funded schools would do better as the budget cuts rolled out. I'd been one of those posters saying the second-tier schools aren't so bad, but . . . We've been at our school for five years now and next year is the first year I'm really worrying about our future at it. Can I ask if there's any chance that this loss of three teacher slots can be averted at this point or is it all a done deal?

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  16. I am at a large school, with a moderately well-funded PTA. We could probably afford to pay for one teaching position, but nothing else. Instead, it looks like we're going to fund our artist in residence and the LSP. Part of the reason is that we would not be able to keep a laid off teacher --the district would send us a consolidated teacher instead, and partly it's because we'd have to choose which grade (or two grades, with a split class) to reduce.

    I really urge anyone concerned about class sizes to make their opinion known to the District and Board. The district only saves $8 million (out of a $113 million deficit) by laying off teachers and increasing class size. Two furlough days would save more than that, and there are plenty of other options away from the classroom. Please make your voices heard!

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  17. Can anyone give me addresses for people on the Board or at SFUnified? Thanks!

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  18. Find email for members of the Board HERE:

    http://portal.sfusd.edu/template/default.cfm?page=board

    There is also a directory on the SFUSD website for various departments, staff, etc.

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  19. @2:10pm:

    Thank you for your kind words and your work to support SFUSD's students. It really means a lot. Cross your fingers for us that our staff is all back next year! We're used to doing this with little money, but we need the people we have.

    It's very hard because we know where we want to go and we have all kinds of indicators that what we are doing is working to support and educate the kids at our school, but the way things are, what we've created might be destroyed just as it starts to meet the "Beyond the Talk" goals.

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  20. About teacher layoffs, I've heard something that surprises me a bit. I wanted to pass it on to see if I was missing something here. Garcia said the cuts were going to be applied fairly. But, while my kids' elementary -- and I believe most SF elementaries -- are losing three teachers for next year, at least one middle school -- a really popular one -- is only losing one teacher. Given that this middle school has four times the number of students of most elementaries in the city -- and a concomitantly larger number of teachers -- I'm kind of surprised that they are losing only one teacher. Anyone care to comment? Is the feeling that middle schools in the city are already staffed too leanly? Does the District think all the fat is at the elementary level? Not sure I'm opposed to the way this is playing out, but I am concerned.

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  21. Nearly all of the class size increases are at the elementary level (K-3). Middle schools are loosing the small (20 students) 9th grade math and english classes, but all of the rest of their class sizes will stay the same. So elementary teachers are the most affected. By the way, our school will loose 9 teachers, the principal and nearly all of the staff if pink slips go through... most of the positions will stay (we're loosing 2-3 teaching positions), but the teachers will be replaced by consolidated teachers and it's pretty much the luck of the draw who will land there.

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  22. 8:14, the reason for this is that the district is pretty much doing away with what is called "class size reduction." Originally under CSR, schools were penalized if their K-3 classes went over 20. In recent years that penalty has been significantly reduced and the maximum class size has been increased. With the loosened restrictions districts see small class sizes as "fat" to be trimmed. The savings comes from consolidating classes and letting teachers go.

    By the way, consolidated teachers are almost always those with the least experience in the district. They are not chosen for consolidation on the basis of performance, only by seniority. Yes it is the "luck of the draw," but it is also possible that a school may gain some very good teachers in the process.

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  23. 8:14 pm again -- thanks for the comments. This difference between middle and elementary makes sense, and I know that there's justifiable concern about how well middle schools are doing in any event, given how difficult those years can be. I spoke to a friend who is a teacher and her view on split classes was kind of interesting. She said that there is a definite art to teaching a split class. If teachers are fully prepared and have been used to doing split classes, the classes can be great. But here's the problem: few public school elementary teachers next year will have much experience doing it, and nearly every school will have some version of it, so there will be lots of teachers doing it for the first time. This unfortunately makes sense to me. It makes me even more worried for what is going to happen next year. I'm now wishing I had held out for the "trophy" school years ago -- wouldn't mind more helicoptering parents at my kids' school about now!

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  24. There is a full school board meeting tomorrow, Tuesday March 16th at 6pm at 555 Franklin that will be focused on the budget cuts. Everyone should try and come! Also, a group of Principals and Educators have been working very hard on an “alternative” district wide budget to keep the cuts further away the schools sites and this will be discussed as well. (From what I understand)

    My son goes to Monroe, and in addition to the budget cuts- Monroe is one of a handful of schools that is exiting STAR this year—which means we are losing about 1/3 of our budget, and could possible lose up to 13 staff. We have had many school-wide meetings to discuss what our priorities are, and have also mobilized to ask the district to provide more transparency within the budget process and to slow down voting on next year’s budget (for a few weeks) so we can digest the ramifications and also try and find more money in the proposed budget for the school sites.

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  25. Carolyn -- one poster above said that the District is only saving $8 million (out of the $113 million deficit) with all these teacher layoffs. That's a LOT of pain for very little gain. Is this true or do the layoffs actually reduce the deficit by more than that?

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  26. 10:43 am

    Honestly, I don't know the answer to that question. I am going to as many budget meetings as I can- but the budget is very complex. But i agree with that poster that there must be a way to keep the cuts further away from the kids. Maybe a question you can ask at the school board meeting tomorrow night if you are able to make it. thanks.

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  27. 10:43, the Examiner reported today that the layoffs (if all the people who got pink slips are actually laid off) would save the district $48 million next year, $97 million over two years. The whole deficit for the next two years is forecast to be $113 million, so it makes sense to assume that many of the pink slips will be rescinded. How many will be permanent is anyone's guess, and it makes this time crucial for voicing our opinions to the board and the superintendent.

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  28. Is there any talk of furlough days or teacher paycuts?

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  29. Specific budget cuts are hard to find for the reason Carolyn points out: the budget is complex.

    There are a lot (A LOT) of small changes SFUSD needs to make that add up to an enormous pile of money - little things like curtailing travel by district employees and members of the Board, not serving food at professional developments and meetings and so on.

    Then there are large consultant contracts that need to be cut. Some of these have special grants that pay for them, but not all of them.

    While it's true that a consolidated teacher is likely to be a good one, he or she has not been a member of that school's community. Moreover, he or she may not want to teach at a school significantly different from his/hers. And a lot of bumping will start with people who haven't been teaching for a long time. There's a big difference between working out of an office to working at Grattan to working at Harvey Milk to working at El Dorado. Having been extremely successful in one of these environments does not ensure future success.

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  30. 8:47 I largely disagree. Good teachers are professionals, and the skills a teacher needs at Grattan are the same skills they need at Milk, El Dorado, etc. Yes, fitting in with any new community can be an adjustment that takes some time, but if you meet a consolidated teacher with fear and suspicion you're likely to find what you're looking for. Welcome them with a good attitude and the knowledge that we're all in this together, and you're a lot more likely to establish a good relationship and maybe find a new friend.

    Understand that teachers are consolidated every year, the only thing that is new is that it looks like more will be moved around this year.

    I do understand your fear of having admins moved from office positions into classrooms, but this doesn't happen very often. The district's admin pinkslips are almost always more for show than a reality.

    I also agree that it is much, much more preferable to keep teachers where they are. Consolidation is not an enjoyable process for anyone involved. Again, this is why we need to press the district to keep the cuts as far from the classrooms as possible. Lower class sizes equal more teachers keeping their jobs, fewer consolidations, and fewer split classes.

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  31. Does anyone know where the cutoff for getting a pinkslip was? I've heard of 1st and 2nd year teachers who got notices, did any 3rd or 4th year teachers get them?

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  32. I hate to vent but I am so frustrated when I hear about "reform" programs that target teachers as the problem with schools. I am not an ideologue, I'm not a teachers union fanatic (Hey, I went to NYC public schools as a kid while Albert Shanker sent teachers out on political strikes that lasted months!), but I've been at an SF school for five years and have yet to encounter these terrible teachers that all the reformers are always screaming about. Every teacher my two kids have had (that's now eight in all) have been absolutely terrific. Yes, at any large public school there's going to be one or two teachers who, for whatever reason (burned out, near retirement, whatever) are mailing it in, but 98+% of the teachers at our school are totally terrific. It kills me when I continue to hear this stuff about how the only way to improve the schools is to put more pressure on the teachers. Maybe what we should be doing is putting more pressure on the parents and administrators? There are some wink links there!

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  33. Yes, some permanent teachers got pink slips. Third year teachers with CLADs were pink-slipped and so were some fourth year teachers, at least in the elementaries.

    As a teacher, I can tell you that working at a high-needs school is very, very, VERY different from working at a school with a largely wealthy parent base and a white, middle-class ethos. Teaching may be the same, but the strategies, needs, and mindset are different.

    Besides, as you note: school communities have been established around the teachers at the school (for good or for ill). Consolidation is not something where you should be looking for a bright side: it is what it is, and it is overwhelmingly negative for all involved no matter the quality of the teachers involved.

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  34. 11:25, I am also a teacher. I was trained at a high-needs school in SFUSD (one that is routinely trashed on this blog, by the way), and I've taught successfully at both high-needs schools and at some of the most sought after trophy schools in this district. I've been consolidated twice already, and I'm about to be consolidated again. I can tell you from my extensive personal experience that as bad as consolidation is, you definitely do need to look for the "bright side." If I was unable to do that, I don't think I could continue as a teacher in this district. Regardless of where I end up next, I'm going to do my absolute best for my students, their parents, and my colleagues.

    The single hardest thing about being moved around through consolidation is re-establishing oneself in a brand new environment, especially with the knowledge that you may very well be moved again in another year. I certainly do not want to imagine when I walk into my new school next year that I'm going to be greeted by a staff that expects me to be somehow less of a teacher because I don't know "their" school.

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  35. I think given your experience you're reading into what I'm saying a bit much. Still, to be fair: when you go to a new school, particularly one that lost a valued and less senior colleague to bumping, people aren't going to be feeling that kind - which is horrible for the whole school community.

    Hopefully summer will be a buffer, since it's pretty raw right now.

    That said, I'm not talking about teachers who have been successful in high-needs schools. I'm talking about the teachers who trash parents and students based on their wealth or personal difficulties, or who don't really bother with English Language Development, or those who have attended PDs I've led, who cheerfully bashed on their colleagues at "lesser schools" before finding out that I was one of them.

    Or the teachers in LAUSD who got bumped into schools in Watts and quit a few days in. This is what the ACLU is suing LAUSD about right now.

    Those people? Totally don't want them at my school. And this consolidation process is severe enough that there may be fewer options. Otherwise, yes. Welcoming new staff is important because getting bumped is bad on all sides. I'll try to be more positive about it - but I'm hoping things shake out a little better at my site.

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  36. 10:47, I hope you will approach ALL new colleagues with an open mind. Not all of us trash high-needs schools or students! And it's not going to be through any choice of our own that we bump another teacher. Just don't make us the bad guys, okay? If it turns out we really are those teachers you fear, fine. Snub us in the lunchroom or whatever. No one enjoys going into a new school and proving themselves again - over and over again in my case. If I do end up at your school, I hope you'll have some sympathy for my situation, I will definitely be sensitive to your losses as well as the needs of your (our!) community.

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