Prospecting For Treasure

Always prospecting for the next treasure of an idea.

School District Finance 101– As Understood By Me

We had a very disturbing staff meeting after school on Friday.  We had already been hearing rumblings of things to come.  During the past few months, state budgets have been slashed by 10%.  This has resulted in cuts to every government agency in the State of Iowa, including unpaid furloughs and layoffs.  With the trickle down effect, it also meant a 10% budget cut for local school districts.  That 10% cut was for the 2009/2010 school year.  Contracts were already in place, so there were no layoffs in our school district.  The cuts have come from other places, and some reserves have been dipped into to ease the pain.
The outlook for the 2010/2011 school year is much more dismal.  We were informed on Friday that there would be a $33,000,000 shortfall.  This time there will be layoffs, to the tune of a 15% across the board staff cut.  This means 450 positions in all, including 302 teachers.  I am a veteran teacher, I know I’ll have a job, but none of us will go unscathed, if in fact, this really comes to pass.  I felt terrible for my student teacher who will graduate in May.  It was a very discouraging meeting for a young teacher just entering the workforce.  I worry for my colleagues who are in their early years of teaching.  If this happens, the biggest losers of all, will be the kids.  It will mean larger class sizes and the loss of great teaching talent, not to mention an educational environment with substandard technology, equipment, books, and supplies, since all budgets are already frozen.
Our meeting was orchestrated by the top administration in the district.  Our principal presented a prepared powerpoint to us, outlining the funding for the district, and budget concerns, and the fact that 85% of the budget goes to salaries.  We learned that this same powerpoint was presented the previous evening to DMEA, our teacher’s union.  It was stressed several times that the final outcome was dependent on many factors, including funding and negotiations.  It was suggested that we contact our legislators and DMEA.
Later in the evening, I watched the local news, where this situation was described as “worst case scenario.”  It was at this point that my skepticism began to set in.  I can’t help but think of the last time we had teacher layoffs in our district.  That was six years ago.  I remember the tears and grief after two of the teachers in my building received layoff notices.  Loyal to our school, they were left with no choice but to seek employment elsewhere.
Funny thing was, that by the end of the school year, and after negotiations were completed, somehow district administration discovered money in the budget, and those layoff notices were rescinded.   In the mean time, our very talented kindergarten teacher, who had received notice, was offered a better job in another school district, for more money and closer to her home.  So, ultimately, our kids lost out. They lost a great teacher.
As expected, our staff left the meeting and school extremely upset.  This is a different time, with a far worse world economy, than the last time.  We are surrounded by both state and local budget shortfalls.  I believe that our school district is in financial trouble, but I certainly hope these dire  predictions  are not  a part of posturing for a better position in negotiations.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Education | , , | 2 Comments