Monday, October 18, 2010

"Save Our School"

This morning, I went by the campus of McCoppin Elementary in the inner Richmond. We’re thinking about it as a possible back-up, as I’ve heard interesting things about it (adoption of a teaching method called “visual curriculum” and teaching support from the University of San Francisco, among others) and we are going to tour it soon.

I wanted to get a better sense of where the school is and parking options and such before our upcoming visit. But when I got there, I found something unexpected -- the campus was dotted with hand-drawn signs like this one from students, saying things like "Save Our School" and "Save Our Teachers. " At the front entrance, I asked a parent on her way out what the signs were about, and she said that late-breaking budget cuts are jeopardizing some of the school’s teachers. The school has started an emergency fund-raising drive.

I’m not posting this photo to criticize McCoppin in any way. While my family is new to the elementary school process, we’ve heard plenty about tough budgets. It’s clear that families at the school are rallying around their teachers. There wasn’t any information about how to donate on any of the signs I saw, but if anyone from McCoppin wants to add that information in the comments section, I’ll put it in the main post, and I’ll kick in.

But I did have a few questions for those of you more familiar with the public system:
  • Why would budget cuts be coming now, two months into the school year?
  • Are these cuts happening because of the state budget recently passed in Sacramento?
  • Are other schools in the district also facing a new round of cuts this fall?

- Seattle


  1. I'm a teacher at another school. Every school received revised budgets, though I don't know why. We are also facing cutting a position at our school.

  2. This is the time of year that schools get their finalized budgets. Good luck to McCoppin.

  3. Could it have something to do with fewer than expected students enrolled at the school at the 10-day count (when school funding is determined based on enrollment at the school)? Just a guess, but that happened at my child's school last year. Students transferred out before the 10-day count, and they weren't replaced, because the school had no wait pool to speak of. Fewer students meant less funding, and a teacher had to be cut. Sad and frustrating for everyone, and I'm sorry that McCoppin is facing cuts this year.

  4. I just heard that funding has been restored to the UC system, at the expense of the K-12 system. As a UC faculty member with a kid entering K next year, I am seriously bummed. All the hoopla about the governator's commitment to higher ed doesn't mean a thing if he's just playing a shell game with the same small pot of money.

  5. I think teacher consolidations at this time are typically due to underenrollment. Each site budget is based on a targeted expectation of students. If the real numbers fall short (10 day count), then the per student allocation has to be to adjusted. BTW, does anyone think its strange to base a school's entire budget on the count of a SINGLE DAY? Why not take the average count of week two or three?

    Aside from that, the state's budget cycle is not aligned with the school year. SSCs go through a lot of effort allocating their budgets in the Spring based on estimations. This past year was particularly difficult with the budget crises and pending teacher layoffs. The state budget is usually "revised" in May. But in California, the final budget gets delayed until....what is it now, October????

    As an example, our SSC went through an arduous process to make some difficult decisions around staff cuts and funding priorities last Spring. Then last month, there was a windfall of monies that we did not dare count on and/or expect. And a couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of "buying back" some of the things that we cut, although some things we could not recover because of the timeline.

  6. Yes, parking... that is an important consideration in the choice of a school. Such is life in the big city.

    Parents are far from having seat at the table in school reform discussions. There is a reason why.

  7. The final budgets for the year are in. Very small enrollment changes have an outsize impact on budgets. It is unfair and disruptive (especially for students who have been in a classroom that is about to consolidate).

    The "May revise" went through in May, as usual. The budget is always due after the May revise (...June 30th? It's so often late that I don't know when it's actually due now).

    The K-12 budget is not as bad as the revise, but it depends on many deferrals (and 98 is suspended). My understanding is that the deferred money could disappear before it ever is paid out.

  8. Don, what the h*ll are you talking about? Nobody mentioned parking on this post or thread. I noticed you cut-and-paste a response to the wrong thread on another comments section as well. If you are going to comment on everything and anything with your endless drumbeating for your won agenda, would you at least have the good grace to pay attention to what's actually in the posts and comments? It's as if you think the rest of us don't exist.

  9. 7:55 -
    Seattle posted "I wanted to get a better sense of where the school is and parking options and such before our upcoming visit."

  10. 8:53,

    Thank you for correcting the previous post. You would think the person would read it before accusing me of the same. I won't be expecting an apology anytime soon.

    Anyway, searching out the best school for your child has nothing to do with parking. If what you want is good parking take your kid to school on a motorcycle.

    There has been a nationwide effort to reform education from the Federal level. Caroline posted on this - a letter to Obama from parents who feel disenfranchised from the talks. My comment, though somewhat of a jump from parking, was intended to draw attention to the pedestrian interests of parents.

  11. But Don, parking is important. At our school, Lafayette, parking is available in abundance, with no 2 hour limit in the neighborhood. It allows a lot of parents to be involved at school during the day, which unfortunately is vital to a school's success these days. Just sayin'...

  12. And I didn't read Seattle's comment as saying that she was picking a school based on parking. She said she was checking out parking options before touring the school. It would be a bummer to arrive late to a tour, only because one didn't realize how long it took to find parking in the area. The gist of the post was that she was concerned about funding cuts at a school and wanted to help.

  13. Thanks for insights on budgets and how that process works over the course of the school year.

    To clarify the parking issue, it's as 11:16 said -- I wanted to see what the parking/street cleaning situation was around the school in advance of our tour, so that we stash the car and be on time for our tour without getting a ticket.

    Beyond tours, we have no plans right now to factor parking into our school selection. Many schools, including private ones, don't provide parking, and most parents seem to find ways to work around it.

  14. From the CTA website:

    "On top of the astonishing $17 billion in cuts to schools imposed over the past two years, under the new budget agreement expected to be voted on by the legislature today, California’s students will receive $4.3 billion less than they are owed under Proposition 98, the minimum school funding guarantee. The budget agreement also fails to provide any new, stable revenue streams for schools."

    1.7B of that is a deferral. E. Rat's comments that this money will disappear. Actually it doesn't exist except as an IOU. She's right in the sense that education may never see the deferrals. Of course, charter schools got a boost with the block grant.

    Although the budget isn't as bad on paper as the May revise, this is just based the legislature is kicking the can down the road.

    The crux is that the budgets are tight and growing tighter. This isn't just a two year $113m deficit. It is going to go on much longer and the Federal stimulus money for education is gone.

    Obama said recently that education is goal number one. So why did so little of the stimulus go to it? That is because the economic payback for educating a child today doesn't emerge for several years. It wouldn't help the economy now. Neither did the stimulus.

    As for parking, well maybe I misunderstood Seattle's meaning. I don't know anyone who chooses a school based on parking. When people traveled miles just to get to school parking doesn't seem to be much of an issue. It difficult just about everywhere with few exceptions. It is another matter not to be late for a tour on a one-time basis.

    Also, this statement:

    " BTW, does anyone think its strange to base a school's entire budget on the count of a SINGLE DAY? Why not take the average count of week two or three?"

    is not correct.

  15. correction "this is just based on the legislature kicking the can down the road."

  16. Thanks for your post and welcome to check: here

  17. Ignore the trolls.

    Don = troll

  18. What's with the constant down-with-Don remarks? Do what every other blogger does, ignore what you don't like or respond intelligently. The moderator should prevent this sort of harassment by deleting personal attacks.

    My children went to Alamo (now at Marina) and I can personally testify that Don was tireless in his efforts to help the school. We owe it to him for many positive administrative changes in recent years. It saddens me to see this kind of animus towards him. He's a strong advocate for student interests.

  19. Parking IS an important factor for many families in their overall logistic considerations. I have only sent my kid to schools where I can drive him to school, park there all day, then catch a commuter bus or train downtown. The point about being able to park near school in order to give full days as a volunteer is also a good one. The schools are strapped enough without having parents unable to be reliable in meeting their volunteer commitments because of parking hassles.

  20. 9:36 How inconsiderate to the neighbors of your school. It is very selfish to take up rotating parking spaces in a neighborhood that you don't even live in so you don't have to pay to park downtown. I really hope that that neighborhood puts in 2 hour parking

  21. 7:11 That is a strange comment. Nobody owns public street parking.

  22. 7:11, yes, that is really weird. I live near SF General and the staff is constantly parked all day on residential blocks without 2-hour signs. So be it. That's why they call it "public" parking. If you don't like it, build a garage. Or organize your neighbors to get permit-only parking or 2-hour signs.


  23. In answer to the first comment,one reason the schools received revised budgets is due to the flexibility of the categorical funding that comes from Sac. Monies that were once earmarked for certain programs are now untethered and can be used "for any educational purpose". There are mnay millions at stake in flexible funding.

    The district administration has decided to put every last penny it can into the 2 new superintendent zones in a last ditch effort to seal the deal on its legacy in closing the achievement gap. Though there is no evidence that spending more money can achieve that end and plenty of evidence to show that it can't, nevertheless the Central Office is taking whatever dollars it can from high API schools and giving it to low API schools.

    One final technical point, funds flow from the state controller to the LEAs in ( I believe it is ) 3 apportionments. These can change at any time given fluidity of tax revenue and the faultiness of projections.

  24. 9:02

    Tell you pal Don to stop insulting people, being arrogant, and totally unpleasant in his comments to others. Then maybe people will stop telling him to go away.

  25. thanks for sharing your perspective on budgets, Don. I really don't get this badgering. I find most of what you say way more helpful and thoughful than 90% of other posts.

    If you have a problem with what Don says, then offer an intelligent counter-argument. Quit just flaming. Admin, please delete those users. It is really hard to read through a topic with this going on.

  26. So sick of sockpuppets.

  27. I'm 8:54.
    I admit I have no idea what the politics or clashes are on this board. I just come here for information and different perspectives.I have no idea who Don is in real life. Maybe he is some tool for some outside agenda. I don't f--ing care.
    10:33 (and 6:59, et al-- you sound like just one person)-- grow up or go hang with the teeny boppers on myspace.

    now, moving on....

  28. Budget cuts aside does anyone have any thoughts on McCoppin as a school option?

  29. We are considering McCoppin, and here's what I know so far, based on the buzz at Rossi playground.

    The school has strong and improving academics, with API almost reaching the mid-800s this past year. It's got two tracks -- Cantonese bilingual and GE. The Cantonese program gets especially high marks from parents. I looked at the numbers from Round I last year, and both the CB and GE program were oversubscribed, though the CB program more so.

    The negatives I've heard is that the two school communities don't come together much, and that PTA fundraising and events are spotty. But this emergency fundraising could mean that this is turning around?

    In the surrounding neighborhood, a lot of parents on the GE side are wondering whether the PTA stuff is at a tipping point and whether jumping in for next year will provide the final tip needed. There are also a lot of parents in the New Traditions assignment area who are looking at McCoppin. The NT area starts well into the inner Richmond, and it's a huge area for a small school like NT. A lot of NT parents are thinking they are being set up by the district to be slammed into Muir, and they'd much rather go to McCoppin than Muir.

  30. I liked the principal at mccoppin when I toured it last year - seems like he's really done a lot to turn the school around.

  31. The Principal is definitely energetic and enthusiastic at McCoppin and has done some good things from what I could tell. I toured it last year as well but in the end I didn't feel it was a good fit for us so I didn't put it on our list of seven. That's not to say it wouldn't work for many other people of course!

  32. Don is correct: the Calif legislature recently passed the state budget 100 days late - a new record - and it includes pain now and pain later. While the public school situation in California is dire, the universities have been on a precipice, with double-digit tuition increases each year the past few years and the administration going so far as to propose limiting the number of in-state students and accepting more out-of-state students to balance the books. What a mess. After shepherding through an $800 billion stimulus package in 2009 -- no thanks to all but a few Republicans who tried to defeat it and Blue Dog Democrats who whittled down the figure -- the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress mistakenly assumed last year that the U.S. economic recovery was on track. Wrong. The economy has stalled, unemployment is up and that means tax revenues are coming in much lower than expected. The result is less money for schools, less money for everything.

  33. We toured McCoppin last year.
    Pros: enthusiastic principal, happy children, seemingly committed teachers
    Cons: no before care for a school that starts at 8:50am(????), school grounds leave a bit to be desired, not much diversity in the school.

    we live within a stones throw of the school so the cons were a big disappointment to our hopes of attending a neighborhood school. we're going to nt and really like it - fantastic princple and great teachers. but we might need to reevaluate once the middle school patterns are finalized if we're going to stay public.

  34. McCoppin is a hidden gem. Jan. 24 is

    spot on the topic enthusiastic principal, happy children, seemingly committed teachers.

    The Principal and Teachers can only do so much. it's up to the parents to step up their game and do what they can . Don't b**ch and complain and go do something about it. McCoppin has won title I for 2007 and most recently 2011. Credit the PTA of this school for caring so much and stepping up to do whats best. Shout out to President (initials) G.M. and Mrs. L, G man edd. As far as school outside decor
    us new parents will do our part to fix it up. Do you want education money for the kids schooling or to doll pretty up a school.

    I am a new parent at the school and i'm proud of this school and it's david vs. goliath attitude!

    Proud parent tour de france