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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *