Teacher Strike and 5 Snow Days-Now What?

**Update 3/11/19**

I put this update at the start since it seems we have at least somewhat of a resolution on the missed days.  See below for original post and previous updates.


Friday in the weekly District email the following was announced:

“Weather Make-Up Days Update: Thank you to all 2,540 who participated in the on-line survey giving your input regarding the make-up time for snow closure days. The results of the survey are as follows (#1 received the most votes, #5 received the least votes):

           #1 – Decrease the number of ACT early release Fridays

           #2 – No half-day early release for the last day of school

           #3 – Lengthen the school day by a few minutes each day

           #4 – Shorten Spring Break

           #5 – Saturday School for graduation seniors only

Our waiver application is prepared and requires School Board approval which will be considered at the March 14th Board meeting. After evaluating the hours needed to make up the lost instructional time, we found that we can recoup the time solely from ACT Fridays. In anticipation of the waiver being approved, we are cancelling ACT early release for Friday March 15th and March 22nd while we wait for a decision from OSPI. If the waiver is approved, we will then cancel the remaining ACT days that are scheduled for the 2018-19 school year.

As it stands, if the waiver is approved (and no more days are cancelled due to weather, power outages, etc.), the last day of school will be June 24th and will be a half-day early release for students.

The district is working with our employee groups to identify appropriate ways to make up lost staff time. We will keep you updated when we receive the waiver decision. “

If anything changes on March 14th at the Board Meeting, I will update again.

**End update**

Tumwater School District got off to a later start than usual this year. Adjustments were made to Christmas break, Presidents weekend break and the end of school year to accommodate the lost instructional days originally scheduled in September.  Fast forward to February and we are hit with a giant snow storm.  The storm was more than this area typically is used to, prompting the Governor to declare a State of Emergency.  So, what does that mean to us?

Chris Reykdahl , OSPI Superintendent, released a statement explaining that because of the Governors Declaration, the school districts were allowed to apply for a waiver for those missed days of instruction. https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/WAOSPI/bulletins/22f2490  Mr. Reykdal stated, “State law allows the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to waive missed school days, and school districts will have the opportunity to apply to waive days that were missed while the state of emergency was in effect. However, there is no legal authority to waive the mandatory average of 1,027 hours of instruction for students.”  So what exactly does that mean?  In looking up the statute that makes this requirement, this is an average.  The requirement is actually 1080 hours for grades 9-12 and 1000 for grades 1-8,  https://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.150.220  . This brings up the question, what exactly is an instructional hour?  As defined by the Washington State Law:

“Instructional hours” means those hours students are provided the opportunity to engage in educational activity planned by and under the direction of school district staff, as directed by the administration and board of directors of the district, inclusive of intermissions for class changes, recess, and teacher/parent-guardian conferences that are planned and scheduled by the district for the purpose of discussing students’ educational needs or progress, and exclusive of time actually spent for meals. – RCW 28A.150.205 https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.150.205

Specifically meals are excluded, so a regular day of school is 6.5 hours long, taking lunch out leaves 6 hours each day.  So at 6 hours a day for 180 days is 1080.  I don’t know how the ACT days (1.25 hours less for 4.75 total hours), late starts (usually 2 hours), early release days and half days (not including teacher conference days as those are counted as a full day) are going to be accounted for, as that would be lost instructional hours and going far below the already required 1080 hours for grades 9-12.  Maybe they account for that with the younger students (grades 1-8) getting more than the 1000 required hours (approximately 167, six hour days) to make the 1027 hours average(approximately 171, six hour days).  Is that the spirit of the law or a loop hole? These are some of the questions we have posed to the TSD, and will update as we get answers. 

****Update 1*****

John Bash response (email 2/19/19):

“Yes, all districts are required to maintain a record showing how they meet the minimum basic education requirements required by law.  Tabitha Whiting (included here) works in our human resources division and is our point person for maintaining this data.  She can provide you a detailed summary and spreadsheet showing how we meet the requirement.  The requirements are separate for Kindergarten vs. grades 1-12 so we calculate these separately and use an averaging method for grades 1-12.  Again, Tabitha can explain how this is calculated and share our data with you.

Yes, we do plan to apply for a waiver for the days missed last week.  However, we won’t be doing that right away as the possibility of more winter weather still exists and changing the school calendar requires negotiation with our unions which is underway.  We also plan to gather input from parents will have a plan for this developed by the end of this week.  In lieu of making up days at the end of the school year (which is our current contract language with the teachers union), options include such things as eliminating early release Fridays, expanding our current school start/stop times, reducing scheduled vacation days, and/or eliminating any remaining ½ day early releases (like the last day of school).  These options are still being discussed and a plan must be agreed to between the district and our unions.  It’s not one side or the other that unilaterally determines this.  In addition to guaranteeing student instructional time, we also are working with our staff to plan and schedule work time for our 180 day employees that would need to be make up the hours not worked due to any approved waiver of school days.   This often includes professional development and/or other professional work related to their assigned duties and responsibilities.” The following spreadsheet was provided by TSD.  It was also explained, “ We report to the State Board of Education whether we meet the criteria or not as simple yes and no answers“, no data or proof is required to be sent.

This is a little confusing at first glance and there are a few minor errors, but the end average (1041 hours) is the TSD reported average if nothing were to change over the course of the year.  Apparently TSD is not required to update the information as time is lost during the years.  It was unclear if this form is ever updated or they look at those lost hours specifically.  The response was, “We maintain the document internally for record keeping purposes only after the fact”.  It was explained that the snow days that recently occurred are still not accounted for as they may be part of the waiver and that decision has not been made at this point.

Average means some students are not meeting the required minimum hours required:

TSD holds to the “average” as opposed to the differing requirements for grades 1-8 and 9-12.  Since this is allowed under the law some of the grades are well below the required minimum, while some are well above.  If you take TSDs numbers as reported, grades 9-12 are averaging about 998 hours of instruction, grades 1-5 average 1063, and 6-8 average 1062 for an overall average of 1041.  This would meet the requirement under the law.

What About Lunch?

TSD is allowing 20 minutes for lunch for each grade.  The bell schedules for the schools allow 30 minutes for lunch. The definition of instructional hours as stated above includes, intermission between classes, but excludes any time for meals.  TSD stated that they only count 20 minutes for lunch because “The passing time for lunch is considered 5 minutes before and after”. 

Interestingly enough, intermission for the HS is 4 minutes between classes and the middle school 3 minutes between classes, but TSD allows them a “passing time” of 5 minutes before and after lunch.  That brings up the question, does the passing time before lunch and after lunch count as intermittent time between classes or is it considered the same as the 5 minutes before school which is NOT allowed to be counted as instructional time? (A debate for another time maybe).  TSD considers it intermittent time and counts the 5 minutes before lunch and the 5 minutes after lunch as instructional time.

On the Washington State Board of Education FAQ site they discuss lunch time as follows:

8. Is there a standard time that should be reduced from the calculation of instructional hours for time spent for lunch?

There is no provision in basic education law setting guard rails around “time actually spent for meals”in the definition of instructional hours. Other law, however, may condition how districts make this determination.

RCW 28A.405.460, for example, provides that all certificated employees shall be allowed reasonable lunch period of not less than thirty continuous minutes during the regular school lunch periods and during which they shall have no assigned duties, unless they work out other arrangements by mutual consent. Children therefore cannot be under the supervision of certificated staff during those thirty minutes.

The Department of Labor & Industries requires by rule that an adult employee (public or private) must be allowed at least a 30-minute meal period starting no earlier than two hours and no later than five hours from the beginning of a shift. (WAC 296-126-092.)

Why does lunch time matter?

If you took the full 30 minute lunch for each grade, instructional hours for 1-5 would drop to 1033, grades 6-8 would drop to 1032 and grades 9-12 would drop to 945, the average instructional hours would drop to 1011 (well below the requirement).  As a reminder the law is 1000 instructional hours for grades 1-8 and 1080 for grades 9-12 or they can use an average of 1027.  Clearly our 9-12 grade students would fall well below the requirement if we did not employ the average. 

Will update later:  I have sent a question to the Washington State Board of Education to see if I can get clarification as to what they mean exactly by intermittent time and lunch times, and will update as I get more information.

What can you do?

Also, in the response from John Bash he discusses some interesting ideas for making up that time.

“We also plan to gather input from parents will have a plan for this developed by the end of this week.  In lieu of making up days at the end of the school year (which is our current contract language with the teachers union), options include such things as eliminating early release Fridays, expanding our current school start/stop times, reducing scheduled vacation days, and/or eliminating any remaining ½ day early releases (like the last day of school).  These options are still being discussed and a plan must be agreed to between the district and our unions.  It’s not one side or the other that unilaterally determines this.” 

TEA has stated that they will not take days away from Spring Break or have Saturday school, so my guess is these are off the table so to speak since TEA has to agree to any variances from the originally set schedule.  It looks like the only viable options we would have would be to get rid of ACT days, lengthen the school day and/or add days at the end of the year.  The state of emergency would only include 4 of the 5 snow days up to this point.  That means we at least have the one day added on at the end of the year so far.  But we are short 24 hours of instructional hours than originally planned, if TSDs accounting of the hours is correct. Fingers crossed that we don’t have anymore this year. 

Lastly, if you have any ideas, or suggestions about which option you would prefer for making up the lost instructional hours, I would encourage you to contact both TSD and TEA and let them know what you think.  

**Update 2**

Here is a link to the survey TSD put out to fill out a survey for your choice for options, one main problem was they didn’t leave the option to leave the days at the end of the year.   Click here to fill out the survey to vote for your choice on how to make up the instructional time.  Choices being: days off of Spring Break, remove half day on last day of school, Saturday school for seniors(not sure how that helps with the instructional hours if only seniors do this), remove ACT days, and lengthen all school days.  Also of note, in the response from John Bash he stated, “In addition to guaranteeing student instructional time, we also are working with our staff to plan and schedule work time for our 180 day employees that would need to be make up the hours not worked due to any approved waiver of school days.   This often includes professional development and/or other professional work related to their assigned duties and responsibilities.”   I am not exactly certain who falls in this category, but this could mean that employees (which may or may not include teachers) would still be required to work the “180 days”.  

**Update from the 2/28 Board Meeting**

During John Bash’s Superintendent report he stated that they were planning on applying for a waiver, but they were not going to apply until the end of March.  He stated they were waiting because they were waiting until the “snow” season was over.  He also stated we had LOTS of responses from the survey and they were going to look at that as they tried to work with TEA to make a decision about how to make up the hours.

For more information from the Washington State Board of Education you can visit these sites:

https://www.sbe.wa.gov/faqs/instructional_hours#4.%20What%20is%20the%20definition%20of%20instructional%20hours?

https://www.sbe.wa.gov/our-work/waivers

We are always looking for feedback, suggested topics or guest articles.  Feel free to email me at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

Why Change School Boundaries?

The short answer is to save money by better utilizing our resources.

I have taken part in the Boundary Committee Meetings for the last few months.  Jim Dugan from Parametrix was the “moderator” over the meetings and the liaison between the committee and the District.  He was definitely the expert in the process and very helpful at keeping us on track and focussed on the task at hand. 

Over the last few months the committee discussed the enrollment issues in each of the 6 elementary schools in the district.  Our task was to alleviate some of the overcrowding in a few of the schools by moving neighborhoods into different elementary school zones.  We were told we would only be working with the elementary schools and not worrying about the middle schools or the high schools.  There have been 2 public forums where people were able to voice their concerns and share ideas, however, these forums were not as very well attended compared to the number of people in the District.  

Our district is comprised of 6 elementary schools.  Three of the schools (Littlerock, East Olympia and Peter G Schmidt) feed into Bush Middle School and Tumwater High School.  The remaining 3 schools (Michael T. Simmons, Tumwater Hill and Black Lake) feed into Tumwater Middle School and Black Hills High School.  When the committee started this process, in each of those groups there was one school that was overcrowded and one that was well below capacity.  Our goal was to move neighborhoods to get the schools within their capacity not including portables.  

The two schools that are over capacity also showed the most growth potential over time.  Therefore, if the boundaries are not adjusted, there would be 2 schools not able to house the students at that school while other schools in the district have ample space to accommodate those students.  Starting at the elementary level should ease the adjustment in the long term for MS and HS changes that are likely to occur later on.

What are the enrollment numbers?

In the table above it is clear that BLE and LRE have quite a bit of available space where MTS is quite a bit over and EOE is over a little bit.  We were also given the projected enrollment numbers looking towards the future in the form of a graph(see below).  MTS is projected to increase at the greatest rate.  The rest of the schools were projected to increase at about the same rate.  During the meetings the committee was also told TSD has 2 properties that they have slotted for elementary schools.  The committee was advised not to worry too much about that because if TSD decides to build a school, construction is at least 6 years away, which would not solve the immediate need to even out the enrollment numbers. 

What’s next

We met on March 4th to finalize our recommendations.   We are pretty close to sending our recommendations to the Superintendent.  The next step is for Parametrix to put together the finalized map with correct enrollment numbers.  Then the map will be provided to the Superintendent for his approval.  The Superintendent will then present the map (with any changes TSD makes) to the Board for their approval.  I believe there is also a second reading where the map will be approved and finalized.  The hope is to get those changes implemented in the fall of 2020.  

What does the future hold

At the peak of the graph (around 2030) the total elementary enrollment should be around 3775-4000.  Looking at the total capacity for TSD elementary schools(assuming no use of portables) capacity in elementary schools is 3050.  However, if portables were to be used capacity would be 4225.  Notably, enrollment is projected to peak around 2030, with a slight downward trend thereafter. 

If TSD can operate within its capacity over the next decade, which may involve another boundary adjustment, a good argument could made that spending millions of dollars on a new elementary school is not necessary.  Another piece of the puzzle that was not discussed, was the number of interdistrict students(students not living in the TSD boundaries) TSD enrolls.  From the numbers the committee were given, our elementary schools have a total of 85 interdistrict students.  That number doesn’t seem to significantly change enrollment.  However, TSD may be put into a position of being very selective when deciding whether or not to accept interdistrict kids at the elementary school level.

High School Projected Enrollment

The graph above is what our committee was given as a projection for high school enrollment.  Even though THS and BHHS have virtually the same capacity, the enrollment at THS currently outpaces the BHHS enrollment by about 300 students.  TSD has suggested that it may look at redrawing middle school and high school boundaries in the future.  The high school projected enrollment looks to be pretty stable for THS and significantly increases for BHHS around the year 2026 and upticks through 2036. 

Our building capacity for the High Schools without portables is 2200, and with portables is 2750.  At present TSD enrolls about 2000 high school students.  The total projected enrollment in the high schools in 2036 is approximately 2930.  The projected enrollment is 180 students over the capacity at our high schools. 

TSD currently has approximately 230 IDT students at the HS level.  The number of out of district students at the high schools is generally more impactful as there are proportionately more IDT students enrolled at the high school level than at the elementary level.  In the future, TSD may be faced with redrawing high school boundaries to alleviate some of the imbalance in lieu of spending the money to build a new HS too.  There are other financial implications for IDT students.  See our Out of District Students Impact on Budget for details on the impact IDT students have on the budget.

As always we welcome comments and suggestions.  Click here to email us.

OUT OF DISTRICT STUDENTS IMPACT ON THE BUDGET

There are currently around 6500 kids attending schools in Tumwater School District(TSD).  About 375 of those students do not reside within the TSD boundaries.  TSD identifies these students as Interdistrict Transfer students(IDT), so that is how I will refer to them in this blog.  This blog entry goes through an analysis of, in general terms, the impact enrolling IDT kids has on the TSD budget. Disclaimer—I realize there are many non-financial considerations(class size, opportunity, diversity,  reciprocity with other districts, etc) for accepting IDT kids.  However, this article takes into consideration only the financial impact.  

I tackled this project because we received multiple inquiries about the topic, and there have been some statements made by TEA and TSD that IDT students may have positive or negative impact on the budget.  I conducted dozens of hours of research(including public records requests from TSD), met with TSD employees and reviewed applicable OSPI data in coming up with this information herein.  

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that, under the current basic education funding model, in almost all instances, the acceptance of IDT students negatively impacts the budget and increases the deficit between revenue and expenses.  Further, because IDT students do not bring with them any local levy money, yet receive the benefit of local levy money Tumwater citizens pay,  the share of levy money received by students residing within the TSD boundaries is greatly diluted.  In total, from my estimation, enrolling the 375 IDT students costs TSD an additional $700,000 to $1.5 million dollars.     

REFRESHER ABOUT THE BASICS OF SCHOOL FUNDING

To understand the impact IDT students have on the budget, a basic understanding of how school funding works is helpful.  I went through a detailed discussion of how school funding works in two of my prior blogs.  Is TSD in a Budget Crisis? and Can TEA and TSD agree on a Budget?.   If you read those blogs, or have a good understanding of the current funding model, you can skip this section. 

McCleary legislation requires the State to pay for Basic Education(BEA).   The state funding model is based on per staff needed criteria, which is based on student to staff ratio.  For example, the State says any given District needs one teacher for every 17 K-3 students, one teacher for every 27 4th-6th students and roughly one teacher for every 28.5 7th-12th students.

The same type of funding model is used for principals, counselors, nurses, custodians, etc.  The key point is that, at least for state funding purposes, how many employees a District needs is dependent on enrollment.  The same rationale, although the formula is a little different, applies to Special Education(SPED) Funding.  Instead of counting the number of SPED students, the  state SPED funding model presumes 13.5% of students(same ratio across the State) are in need of SPED funding, and doles out SPED money on a per student basis, similar to the staffing funding described above. 

Since the staffing allocation and SPED funding are done on a purely per student basis, calculating the revenue is done by determining the amount received per student and then multiplying that figure by the number of enrolled students.  

HOW MUCH MONEY DOES TSD RECEIVE FROM THE STATE TO FUND BASIC EDUCATION

At the end of the day, TSD, like all other Districts, receives around $8,000 per student from the state based upon the current funding model as a baseline amount.  This is a rough approximation and  I appreciate that number may be a little high, or a little low, but it is close and any difference is not overly important for purposes of this blog.

Notably, whether a student lives inside or outside of the boundaries of TSD, TSD receives the same allocation for BEA—roughly $8,000 per student.   The headcount captures all kids who are attending TSD schools. So, if we accept this premise, assuming TSD has about 6500 students, TSD is getting roughly $52 million($8,000 X 6500) from the State to fund basic education.  If TSD had 6800 students, TSD would get roughly $54.4 million.    

LOCAL LEVY MONEY IS WHOLLY UNRELATED TO ENROLLMENT. 

Local levy money is acquired through voter approved property tax collection based upon a percentage of tax assessed value of real property located within the TSD boundaries.  TSD residents have routinely approved school levies.  Under the new funding model, the State capped the amount local school districts could collect at 1.5% of tax assessed value. 

So, in simple terms, TSD collects 1.5% of the tax assessed value of every piece of real property located within the TSD boundaries.  The revenue received by TSD on this front is somewhat variable, depending on assessed values, but is somewhere around $8 million. This revenue is wholly unrelated to, and is not affected by, enrollment.  TSD gets the same amount of money whether it has 700 students or 7000 students.  Levy money does not follow students, and there is no provision to allow for any compensation from one district to another when a student is not attending school within his or her assigned boundaries.

OTHER INCOME

For the most part, and with some exceptions, the balance of revenue received by TSD is either pass through, pretty close to revenue neutral or relatively small so no real impact on the district vs. out of district analysis.   The aggregate amount of these categories is probably about $2.5 million or so.  I did find about $500,000 of revenue received by the District that is not pass through, and is not tied to any specific expense or program.  TSD receives the same in these categories regardless of enrollment so I would add this amount to the local levy category when looking at in district vs. out of district funding.

SUMMARY OF FUNDING

TSD receives about $8,000 per student attending TSD schools.  In addition, TSD also receives whatever is collected from taxpayers within TSD boundaries, currently around $8 million per year.  For the analysis within this blog, the balance of other income is not overly important.   

WHAT IMPACT DO IDT STUDENTS HAVE ON THE TSD BUDGET

At last count, TSD had 375 students who do not live within the TSD boundaries and were attending TSD schools, which equates to about 6% of all TSD students. 

IDT STUDENTS DILUTE THE LOCAL LEVY MONEY. 

We can tackle the easy part first.  No extra local levy money is received with the IDT students.   Tumwater has about $8 million to spread amongst all of its students, regardless of how many students attend TSD schools.  With 6500 students that is about $1230 per student. 

However, if TSD did not have any IDT students, the $8 million would be spread amongst 6125 students, which equates to about $1306 per student.  Not a huge sum on an individual basis.  However, because of the IDT students, each TSD resident student is denied the benefit of the extra $76 that is coming from local levy money.  $76 multiplied by the 6125 resident students equates to $465,500.  In simple terms, were TSD inclined to deny all IDT requests, it would be able to spread around $465,500 across the resident students, instead of spending it on IDT students. 

IF TSD IS GETTING $11,000 PER IDT STUDENT, DOESN’T ADDING MORE OF THEM HELP THE BUDGET. 

In most instances,, the answer is a resounding “no.”   This is primarily due to the fact that the BEA funding TSD receives is woefully insufficient to fund TSD’s staffing expenses.  As noted above, TSD receives about $8,000 per student, including IDT students.  You would think more revenue is good, but in this instance the opposite is true.  Adding more IDT students actually increases the deficit.  In simple terms, it costs more than $8,000 per year  to educate each student, so, at least from a financial perspective, TSD would be better off without the student and the $8,000 that comes with him or her.  

More students requires more teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, para professionals, etc which creates an even larger gap between the revenue TSD receives and the salaries it needs to pay to TSD staff.   Maybe TSD factors this in as TSD reported that it denied 95 applications for IDT students in 2018/19 school year.

I will use teachers salaries for illustrative purposes as they comprise about 60% of the TSD workforce.  However,  as noted earlier, the deficit between what the state funds and what TSD pays is not unique to teachers, and is present pretty much across the board with TSD employees(See staffing analysis chart below). 

TSD employs roughly 291 teachers, who are charged with educating the 6500 enrolled students.  That is roughly 22.3 students per teacher.   On average, the state funding TSD receives to pay teachers is about $16,000 per teacher short of what TSD actually pays the average teacher.  If TSD did not have the 375 IDT students, it would, presumably, employ about 16 fewer teachers(375/22.3), thus narrowing the deficit in funding by at least $256,000. The same logic applies to principals.  TSD has 18 principals, which is about 1 principal per 361 students.  If TSD had 375 fewer students, at least according to the current funding model, it should be able to get by with 1 less principal.  TSD currently pays it principals about $118,000 per year, while the state funds principals at $96,000 per year.  Reduction of students to a point where we need one less principal actually saves TSD $22,000 it would otherwise “lose”($118,000-$96,000) in having more students. 

As the chart above shows, TSD employs more staff than that which is allocated for by the State, and pays its staff more than the State allocates on a per employee basis.  This results in TSD operating at a “loss.”   

Assume TSD educating students equates to a business building widgets.  Currently, the cost to build those widgets(educate students) is greater than the revenue TSD is provided(BEA funding from the State) to build the widgets.  So, because TSD is building each widget at a loss, selling more widgets(bringing in more students) will only increase the deficit at which TSD operates. TSD adding students is just widening the deficit when comparing its revenue and expenses.   

I appreciate TSD is not a business, and should not be run like one.  However, TSD is required to operate within its means.   At present, the expenses associated with adding students exceeds the revenue TSD receives when adding those students, thus adding students is not a productive solution.

Just to be clear, I am making no judgment in this blog as to whether TSD has too many/few employees and whether those employees are over/under compensated.  I am merely pointing out that, under the current funding model, TSD adding students impacts the budget in a negative manner—with one exception(see below a few paragraphs for Strategically placed IDT students). 

ADDING IDT STUDENTS IS EVEN MORE PROBLEMATIC WHEN DOING SO PUTS CLASSROOMS AT IMPACT LEVELS

The contract reached between TSD and TEA also provides that additional resources will be devoted to classrooms that are above impact(specific enrollment levels).  Impact level for K-1 is 22 students, which increases to 27 students in grades 5-12.   This is a very common provision in education related labor agreements.  The concept is logical as the parties acknowledge effectively educating students with larger than acceptable class sizes requires more resources.  This also provides some incentive for TSD to maintain smaller class sizes—which I think everyone would agree is a primary goal.   

The additional resources are generally in one of two forms, (1)extra compensation for those teachers who have classrooms above impact levels or additional para professional time provided to those classes above impact level. As an example, an elementary school teacher can opt to receive either $22 per day per student above impact or 2.5 extra hours of paraprofessional time  to help.

In any event, the additional resources come at a cost to TSD as TSD must pay paraprofessionals or teachers additional compensation with no additional revenue stream.  Obviously, expending additional resources as a result of accepting IDT students negatively impacts the budget as there are expenses, but no additional revenue.     

STRATEGICALLY PLACED IDT KIDS CAN ACTUALLY HELP THE BUDGET

I can envision a situation where strategically accepting IDT kids could positively impact the budget.  As noted above, TSD receives about $11,000 in funding for each IDT student.  If TSD can educate that IDT student without significantly adding to its expenses, accepting the student may have a positive impact on the budget.   

Lets assume Peter G has a 5th grade class with 24 students and the impact level is 27 students.  Putting 3 more IDT kids in that class adds $33,000 to the budget, with very little staffing cost.  There are obviously other expenses associated with any student but it is safe to assume that these 3 IDT students will not create $24,000 of non-staffing expenses.  However, a big problem arises when another 5th grader moves into the Peter G boundaries.  This student, who must be enrolled, puts the class at impact, thus triggering the additional resources noted above. 

This happens everyday in many industries.  Think about it as if you were an airline carrier.  Maybe there are 100 seats on a flight, and the airline has sold 95 of those seats to paying customers.  The flight is going to depart with the 95 passengers whether the final 5 seats are sold or not.  However, the airline would like to find 5 more passengers willing to pay for one of the unoccupied seats as the costs to conduct the flight will be almost the same whether the plane is carrying 95 or 100 passengers. 

If the airline sells the last 5 seats, it gets extra revenue at very minimal additional costs(maybe the price of a soda and a bag of peanuts) as the flight was going to occur whether completely full or not, and adding the new passenger really is no additional expense.  However, if the airline sells an extra 10 seats, it has to bump 5 previously booked passengers(probably at an additional cost–maybe an extra free flight) or maybe the airline needs to schedule another flight, at great cost, to fulfill its obligation to get 105 passengers to the destination.      

One could argue that, from a purely budgetary facet, TSD should only accept IDT students where classrooms are well below impact.  In order to do this, TSD would have to wait until it had a pretty good idea how many students are in each classroom.   At the elementary school level, 26 of 128 classrooms are at impact. I have yet to obtain the data for the secondary schools.  

CONCLUSION

Setting aside policy considerations, and non-economic reasons to accept IDT students, there can be no dispute that doing so comes at a significant financial cost to TSD, in addition to diluting the resources available to the students residing within TSD boundaries. 

The BEA funds allocated to TSD by the State are insufficient to cover the actual costs associated with educating students attending TSD schools, with TSD likely experiencing a loss in providing basic education to IDT students in the neighborhood of at least $500,000.   Increasing the number of students increases that deficit. 

Moreover, the approximately 6125 students who reside within TSD boundaries are seeing about $465,000(6% of the $8 million collected from TSD taxpayers) being spent on IDT students, when that same $465,000 would be available to spend on TSD resident students if TSD did not have any IDT students.  

Accordingly, I estimate the negative financial impact of TSD accepting 375 IDT students to be about $965,000, and certainly between $700,000 to $1,500,000 range.  

COMMENTARY

As someone who is very involved with TSD schools, I have witnessed many instances where IDT kids and families have made very positive contributions to the Tumwater community.  For various reasons, TSD is a desired location for students throughout the local community. 

That being said, the primary focus of TSD should be to educate students residing within TSD boundaries.  There is no dispute that the manner and quantum in which TSD currently enrolls IDT students negatively impacts the budget.  

I would think, at the very least, TSD should only accept IDT students where the impact on TSD, and the students who live within the boundaries, is positive in the grand scheme of things, appreciating the financial component is but one factor.  

 We are always looking for feedback, suggested topics or guest articles.  Feel free to email me at scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

Can TEA and TSD agree on a budget?–No chance until they can agree on enrollment.

On February 19, 2019, TEA held a members only meeting led by their budget analyst.  The TEA Facebook page billed this meeting as a chance to explain “the budget crisis through the Association’s lens.”  I offered to attend the meeting on behalf of the TSD community budget audit committee, but my offer was politely declined. 

I have obtained some of the slides from the presentation, which were very informative.  As I will note below, TEA raises some valid points, while also using, in my view, unsubstantiated projections to try and convey an untenable position.  I have observed TSD engage in a similar practice.  That is not to say either of them is being deceptive, but each of them are assuming enrollment to suit their respective positions.  I have some commentary on the effect of this posturing, and have proposed a solution, at the end of this blog. 

In this blog, I am simply going to go through a set of slides that were presented at the TEA meeting and offer my take on the validity of the contentions, with some analysis of the data.    

TEA contends that TSD will not have a $6.5 million deficit in 2019/20.  I think TEA’s logic is correct, but the validity of the assertion is unknown until we know enrollment for 2019/20. 

The data on the slide is pulled from a 4 year forecast as provided by TSD to OSPI on 11/2/2018.  The report provides 2 key data points—student enrollment and employees.  http://www.k12.wa.us/safs/rep/fin/1819/34033f195f.pdf

In the forecast, TSD reported actual current enrollment of around 6670(which is about 200 less than the prior year).  As part of the forecast, TSD projected a significant decrease in enrollment, down to 6215 in 2019/20, 6360 in 2020/21, and 6460 in 2021/22.   Funding is tied directly to enrollment, and, if TSD’s projections are correct, the forecasted decrease is pretty accurate. 

TEA contends it is likely enrollment will more closely resemble the past few years(around 6700), and this year is just an anomaly.  This is the first year TSD has experienced a decline in enrollment for quite some time.  If TEA is correct, and enrollment stays roughly the same, TSD will not experience a large revenue decrease. 

Notably, as a variable, TSD controls enrollment to some degree as it decides how many out of district student to accept(as will be discussed in a future blog, state money follows the student while local levy money is the same regardless of enrollment). 

The most interesting component in this analysis is that TSD projects the exact same amount of certified staff(473), regardless of enrollment.  I am not sure if this is required for reporting.  However, it is illogical to presume that TSD would employ the same amount of staff if enrollment was down 400 students. If enrollment is down, the amount of employees would also decrease, resulting in a decrease of expenses. 

Enrollment is an unknown in part, and the parties are making very disparate assumptions.  So, both TEA and TSD are correct.  If enrollment is up, TEA’s projections are more accurate.  If enrollment is down, TSD’s projections are more accurate.  

TEA makes two contentions in this slide.  First, the probability of enrollment decreasing by 600 students over a 2 year period is very low. TEA is probably correct, but only time will tell.  Second, TSD currently employs 36 fewer teachers than the number for which it has budgeted.  TEA’s contention with respect to employees is inaccurate, at least according to most recent OSPI information.  

As noted above, TSD previously forecasted 473 certificated FTEs.  TSD currently reports that it actually has 490 certificated FTEs, which is 17 more than what was budgeted.  That is problematic in and of itself from a budgeting standpoint.

However, TEA doesn’t use either of those numbers and instead pulls the 437 FTE number from the staffing analysis(which is below).  The staffing analysis represents what the state is funding based upon TSD’s actual enrollment, and does not represent how many employees TSD actually has on staff.  TSD is not employing 36 fewer teachers when compared with the budget. 

Regardless of what the State funds, TSD appears to employ about 480 FTEs.  I find no evidence to support TEA’s statement that TSD currently employs only 437 FTEs.   

TEA accurately summarizes the effect of the McCleary fix.  However, TEA’s contention about state funding is overly optimistic, and to date unrealized, speculation as it is premised on enrollment being between 7000 and 7380 students. 

TEA makes an $18.7 million increased funding contention based upon an OSPI report which can be found at  http://www.k12.wa.us/safs/ins/2242/2242.asp.    You can either take my word for it or check out the data.   Click the Multi-Year Budget Comparison tool, which will take you to a spreadsheet.  The relevant information is on the District Detail Summary tab and the Enrollment tab. 

For those of you who like to get to the point quickly, here is the short version.  OSPI projects that TSD enrollment will be between 7000 and 7400 over the next 3 years, if that occurs the TEA is correct.  To the extent it does not, TEA’s contention is without merit.   

For those of you that like data and an explanation, here is the long version.  On the District Detail Summary tab, scroll down to Tumwater(line 283).  You will see that OSPI is predicting TSD will receive $84,520,546 million for 2017/18, with the amount increasing to $85,981,087 by 2020/21.  These numbers are based on a per student funding method. 

The flaw in the OSPI predictions is that they are based on unlikely enrollments which have not been, and are unlikely to be, achieved. If you click on the enrollment tab you will find that, in order to receive those funds, the enrollment in TSD would have to be 7000 students in 2018/19, increasing to 7380 students in 2020/21.  I am not sure how OSPI arrived at the enrollment projections, but they are extremely optimistic.   In fact, we know that actual enrollment in 2018/19 is 6600(400 less than what OSPI predicted), which, under the OSPI funding model, reduces the revenue by approximately $5,000,000. 

Once again, TEA makes an assumption that TSD will get more money.  The assumption is predicated on enrollment numbers that seem unrealistic.  Unless we get about 400 new kids moving into the district, TEA’s contention is extremely flawed.   

The “Fiction” statement on this one is a little confusing to me.  I am unaware of TSD, or anyone else, contending that TSD has to give local levy dollars to other districts.  That is not the case, and is actually contrary to the law.  As TEA points out, TSD must keep that money local and it must be used for the designated purpose, which generally does not include funding basic education. 

The confusion may be from the legislature capping the local levy collection amount at 1.5% of assessed value, even though voters approved more than 3%.  See my prior blog for a discussion on this one.  In any event, whatever is collected over 1.5% goes back to the State coffers, and is doled out under the new state funding model. 

point that is inaccurate.  TEA does not offer any of its own sources, and appears to rely solely on TSD information, but piece meals the information to try and conclude that TSD budgeted $4 million more for FTE salaries than it actually pays. I see no evidence that is the case.  Candidly, I cannot even trace the sources and follow the logic.  Without confirmation of the source, and a linear explanation, I would disregard this one. 

average teacher in Tumwater is paid a salary of around $81,000.  The state is funding our teacher spots at about $65,000.  A similar disparity exists for almost all other FTE positions. 

TEA’s contention that Tumwater is getting an increase of $13 million is based on OSPI’s prediction that Tumwater will have between 7000 and 7300 students over the next couple years.  Even assuming TEA is correct, and those students do show up, Tumwater would need to hire many more employees, which would come at a cost that would quickly eat up the alleged surplus of money.  In fact, one could argue(which I plan on doing in a later blog) that more students coming in to the District could negatively impact the budget as the state funding is inadequate. 

CONCLUSION

What I have learned through this process, similar to the strike discussions, is that the parties cannot even agree on how much money is available, which is really just agreeing on how many kids will be(or are) enrolled at TSD.  TEA and TSD are each putting forth projections, yet failing to jointly discuss the reality of those projections.  I see no benefit to a presentation of “TSD’s view” at a TSD Board meeting.  Similarly, I see no benefit with TEA bringing its members together to put forth the “TEA view.”   The parties’ inability to agree on current and future enrollment numbers is disappointing.   

PROPOSED SOLUTION

The labor contracts are in place so the fixed expenses are pretty predictable, and revenue is almost wholly dependent on enrollment.   The budget variable is the number of kids.  In simple terms, TSD and TEA just need to get together and figure out what to do if “X”(or “X”+200, or “X”+400) kids show up. 

That variable cannot be solved right now, but TSD and TEA could agree upon what to do once the variable is known.   How about TEA and TSD come up with a joint plan, hopefully with the help of the community, that changes when enrollment changes?  Get around the same table and come up with a plan if there are 6400 kids, then come up with a plan if there are 6600 kids, then come up with a plan if there 6800 kids, and so on and so on.  

We are always looking for feedback, suggested topics or guest articles.  Feel free to email me at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

Is TSD in a Budget Crisis?

Well that depends on your definition of crisis.  Under current law, Districts are required to provide a rolling 4 year budget forecast.  As with all forecasts, the 4 year budget is based upon projections, the biggest one of which is enrollment. Here is a recent 4 year forecast produced by TSD:

TSD projections moving forward are bleak.  In each year, with the current budget and projected enrollments, TSD is projecting expenditures that greatly exceed expected revenue, on average about $5 million per year.  This model is obviously not sustainable.  It is possible the legislature will provide more revenue, and enrollment numbers will certainly change to some degree, which will affect revenue and expenses.  

If the enrollment projections TSD is using are correct, the 4 year forecast is likely the reality we are facing. 

WHAT DID MCCLEARY DO?

The McCleary lawsuit was all about the source of the funding, not the quantum of money.  Past practice was to allow local communities broad discretion to determine how much money was needed for funding education.  If the taxpayers were up for supplementing basic education funds, so be it.  As part of the McCleary decision, the Supreme Court found this was inequitable.  The primary effect of the McCleary decision is that the State is now required to fully fund basic education from state coffers, and cannot shift the burden to the local communities.  Of some concern, the McCleary court decision did not dictate, or even offer much guidance, as to how this was to be done.  That task was left to the legislature. 

WHERE DOES TSD REVENUE COME FROM UNDER THE NEW FUNDING MODEL?

School District budgets are complicated.  However, they are also relatively predictable.  The vast majority of the revenue for TSD comes from two sources: (1)State Money for basic education; and (2) Local Money for voter approved enhancements not falling within the basic education realm. 

The State money is based, almost exclusively, on enrollment, and makes up about 72% of the total TSD revenue.  The Local Money comes from voter approved levies and makes up about 10% of the total TSD revenue.  The remaining revenue comes from various sources that are, for the most part, pretty consistent and really do not create large variances in the budget. 

State Money.  Under current enrollment numbers, Tumwater receives about $58 million per year from the State to fund basic education.  The legislature has determined how much it should cost to fund basic education, and now divides up the money pretty much equally across the state.  The theory being that it should cost the same to educate a kid in Tumwater, as it does in Omak, as it does in Bellingham.  The money is actually allocated per staff “needed” which is determined by the number of kids enrolled.  For example, the State might say there should be 20 kids in a 4th grade class.  Therefore, if a District has 20 4th graders, it gets money for 1 teacher.  If the District has 30 4th graders, it gets money for 1.5 teachers—regardless of whether the District employs 1 or 2 teachers educating the 30 kids.  The same type of funding model is used for principals, counselors, nurses, janitor, etc.  How many a District needs is dependent on enrollment. 

  For what it is worth, TSD enrollment is down about 250 students this school year.  In very general terms, 250 fewer students probably equates to at least a $2 million revenue reduction.    

Local Money.  A few years ago, our voters approved a levy that allows TSD to collect roughly $16 million (roughly 3% of assessed property values) in property taxes per year from citizens that live within TSD boundaries.  However, with the new funding model, the legislature reduced the ability for local jurisdictions to tax citizens and supplement education funding, effectively capping the amount Tumwater can collect at 1.5% of assessed value.  The result is that TSD is set to receive an estimated $7 million less each year than the voters decided to give to TSD.  In addition, there are some pretty strict parameters as to how the levy money collected can be used.  See charts below. 

Many education leaders, including Tumwater’s own Chris Reykdal(Superintendent of Public Instruction), are putting forth creative “fixes” to allow districts to collect a larger share.    http://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/PressReleases2018/ProposedLegislation.aspx.  To date, I am unaware of any significant legislative changes to the funding model so we are stuck with the above reality for the forseeable future.   

WERE ALL DISTRICTS NEGATIVELY IMPACTED?

No, for some the new funding model provides more revenue.  Tumwater fell into a little bit of a perfect storm that was caused by two primary factors, and was among the hardest hit.

First, from a historical perspective, Tumwater citizens have been generous, and routinely supported education levies and bonds.  The new funding model is designed to prohibit local communities from funding basic education to any degree.  Thus, Tumwater is precluded from collecting money to fund basic education even if its citizens want to be generous or think doing so is worthwhile.   

Secondarily, the funding model provided some “make up” money based upon cost of living and teacher experience in certain districts. 

Unfortunately, at least on this go around, TSD missed the numerical thresholds in each category and is not receiving any of that money.  Notably, our neighbors in North Thurston and Olympia are each receiving extra funds.

IS THE STATE GIVING TSD ENOUGH MONEY TO FULLY FUND BASIC EDUCATION?

The answer is a clear and definitive “no,” at least not at the level Tumwater citizens have grown accustomed to in the past.  One of the most illustrative examples lies with the gaps in the funding model for employee costs.  Remember that the State has essentially prohibited the local collection of revenue for employee costs.  All money for employee costs is supposed to come from the State. 

According to TSD, the average teacher in Tumwater makes about $81,727 a year.  However, the state has allocated about $65,216 per teacher.  In TSD, principals earn, on average, about $118,000 per year.  The legislature is funding about $96,000 per principal.  The same type of deficiency is present for virtually every other category of employees as the chart below shows. 

It is true that TSD’s revenue increased under McCleary, probably in an amount that is pretty comparable to the increased expenses that were a byproduct of the new contracts for employees.  However, the State has now prohibited TSD’s practice of supplementing its expenses with money from the local levies. If TSD were able to collect local money, the budget, like most years, would have likely fallen into place, even with the increased employee costs.       

This practice is not unique to TSD and many districts are facing a similar situation.  For more information see https://www.esd112.org/schoolfunding/.

DOES TSD HAVE A RAINY DAY FUND?

Yes.  TSD maintains a “General Fund”—which is really a savings account.  Think of it as a cushion.  Charged with certain fiscal responsibilities, TSD cannot live paycheck to paycheck, spending what it has each month.  Thus, a rainy day fund is maintained.  The balance in the account fluctuates, but the average general fund balance over the past few years has been around $9 million.  The largest deposits occur in October and April. Notably, at a recent Board Meeting TSD elected to reduce the amount of funds required to be maintained in the general fund, and use some of the rainy day funds to make up the budget deficit this year.  This was a “band aid” to bridge the deficit for the 2018-19 school year.  With the reduced limit, the ongoing minimum general fund balance will likely be reduced to around $4 million.   

WHAT IS THE PLAN?

Just to be clear, the budget dilemma we are now facing was not caused solely by TSD and its employees reaching new contracts.  That being said, like many organizations, employee costs are one of the largest expenditures for TSD.  Accordingly, it would be disingenuous to argue that paying people more has not contributed to the budget dilemma. 

It is unfair for TEA(or WEA) to say that TSD has plenty of money.  It is also unfair for TSD, or anyone else, to blame the budget dilemma on the employees for negotiating labor agreements.  TSD and the labor unions entered into the agreements, and should have had a pretty good understanding at the time of the consequences.  The upside is that we can recruit and retain higher quality staff.  The downside is that, until a revised funding stream appears, we are going to have to cut some corners, be  creative, and figure out a way to use the limited resources we have to provide the best environment we can for our students.

It is a matter of priorities.  TSD’s revenue is limited, and insufficient to fully fund what we have historically funded.  We need to prioritize how we want to spend money.  Paying staff a fair and negotiated wage is a noble objective, as is having small class sizes, as is having up to date technology, as is having great extra-curricular activities, and so on and so on.  TSD needs to come together as a community, and make some pretty difficult decisions, at least in the short term. 

At recent meetings, the TSD Board has discussed proposed cuts, and some of the decisions will need to be made within the next 60-90 days.   Meeting minutes can be located here.  https://www.tumwater.k12.wa.us/Page/8625

We are hopeful TSD, TEA and the rest of the Tumwater community will work together and engage in thought provoking brainstorming sessions where an exchange of ideas can occur to reach a solution that works best for the Tumwater community.   We would love to hear your questions and/comments.  We will continue our investigative work and update periodically. 

The information appearing in this blog was primarily compiled from the following sources: (1) TSD presentations at Board Meetings; (2)OSPI; and (3) knowledge gleaned during my tenure on the TSD budget committee.   

We are always looking for feedback, suggested topics or guest articles.  Feel free to email me at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com