Thursday, November 15, 2007

Creative financing.

Our school site learned in late September that, oops, the district didn't have enough $ to fund us fully. Go on, find a teacher to "consolidate" (i.e. fire). You are $40K short, no, 20K, no 30K, well, we don't really know how much... Hmm. OK. This is a plushy school, hey, just ask the parent groups to pony up the extra. We have 2 parents groups and we each have over $200K sitting in the bank. Time to get rid of the librarian. We have a GREAT principal. Newish, but great. He asked the school district 3 times and got 3 different answers. How much do we need to pay to keep our librarian. $16,000 was the common answer. Oops! Sorry, we really meant $29,000. Turns out your librarian (who isn't credentialed thus we won't give you the $16K in city tax $ to use for librarians that you are owed) has worked for 30 years and is paid a lot more than the average librarian (I think that amount was $24K for 1/2 time - her other 1/2 time is spent at school under the auspices of the special ed department - separate budget - she helps kids read or something). Turns out our district (and probably most of them) use cost averaging for schools - each school gets a certain amount of site funding based upon number of students and a complicated formula of how many students qualify for things like free lunch, have learning disabilities etc. They then are assessed average costs for salaries - average principal, average secretary, average teachers, average lunch ladies, average librarians... (we are one of only about 3 schools to have actually had a librarian until this new tax was passed a couple of years back). We have many teachers who have been here much longer than average (hence earn much more than average - teachers are of course paid by # of years worked, not ability as they are union employees). Quincy's teacher has been here for 30ish years. Aidan's teacher about 10. The librarian about 30. In general this accounting method benefits our well established school - we get assessed average costs but in reality the district has to pay our staff much higher than "average". It really sucks for struggling schools that have poor teacher retention and are filled with brand new teachers - paid less than average, but the school site is assessed average rates. Make sense? Anyway, I seem to be one of the few who understand this (altho perhaps can't explain it). Turns out we would have to pay $29K to keep our librarian (and remember we are giving up a district provided credentialed one who is "free" to us) and our school would only be credited $24K for her. Kind of sucks! Turns out we have a mom who has a middle school kid at a school that had the same thing happen. When this happens to them they just fund the lowest paid teacher and get credited back more than they pay. Pretty smart huh? Our nifty principal hadn't heard of this, but he went back and made it happen. We now only have to pay $16K to keep our $29K librarian - and the school gets an extra $8K on the books to use against something else (or rather to help offset the funding deficit). It is unreal that public schools are so unbelievably under funded. We face union strikes every few years (for paltry cost of living increases and medical coverage - not for extravagant things). The parents have to fund the art teacher, PE teacher, music teacher, and librarian. Oh yeah, and all computers in the school classrooms and computer lab and teacher. And field trips. Our school has a much higher socio-economic group than the average in the district - only 13% of our kids get free lunch while district average is around 60%. Our parent groups raise over $300K each year to pay for our consultants. Did I mention that we had to "win the lottery" to get into the school? You put down up to 7 schools on your application and hope for the best. Our school was the #1 most requested school the year we applied.

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