As DISD Struggles to Make Budget Cuts This Year, Board Warned It's Only Gonna Get Worse

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The Dallas Independent School District board was just told it's "still in limbo" when it comes to the exact dollar figure it can expect in cuts from the state Legislature, though something could land on Gov. Rick Perry's desk as early as late next week. Right now, Senate Bill 1 would take $63 million from the district for the 2011-'12 school year, then another $101 million the following school year. Which means it'll only get worse -- and even worse the year and then the year after that, with hundreds of million in cuts possible the next biennium.

As trustee Edwin Flores put it, "We need to start planning knowing our future budgets are less." Which prompted board president Lew Blackburn to quote, of all things, The Wiz: "No bad news." Not likely. Today's less bad news is next year's worse news ... and on and on after that as the state continues to reconfigure how it funds public education. Which will likely mean seeing a negative fund balance sooner than later if "we don't make some drastic changes," said Nancy Bingham.

As noted earlier, the board just received two budget presentations: 5.1 and 6.0. Version 5.1 assumes a $90-million cut from the state; version 6.0 assumes a $63-million cut, per SB1. The entire budgets are available here for 5.1 and here for 6.0. CFO and interim superintendent Alan King said 6.0 "stresses me out," because, frankly, it's a little too hopeful.

Version 5.1, which King said is likely to be the one adopted at the next meeting, isn't significantly different from the May 26 budget, with the exception of the fact the district would restore all the full-timers back to the Montessoris, vanguards and academies, once in danger of being gutted. Version 6.0 adds back 62 full-timers in the high schools and 158 in the middle schools.

Bernadette Nutall and Carla Ranger came back to Nan Dosker's request: They want to restore librarians to the budget. Nutall said she wishes the budget would have eliminated full-day pre-K ... for now.

"I support full-day pre-K, just not on the backs of middle schools and high schools," she said. "Everyone in the district should bear the burden."

To which Edwin Flores said, yeah, but it's imperative to educate as many kids as early as possible.

"It's painful," he said. "These are people, these are humans, these folks have families, but our mission is to educate ... and if we're going to focus on that, I'm all in favor of pre-K. It's going to pay dividends many times over."

King told Ranger and Nutall that adding back librarians will cost $3 million -- money he'll find only by laying off 42 more teachers. At which point Mike Morath said, hey, how do we even know who and what's important without doing the research. To cut this and restore that without doing the research is "foolishness in the extreme," he insisted. "Where do we get the most bang for our eucational buck?" For instance, he said, spending so much on high school seniors with one foot out door means "we are screwing little kids who are 4, 5 years old we could be teaching to read."

Up shortly: TAKS results.

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25 comments
RTGolden
RTGolden

Not a professional accountant, or anything close to it, but a glaring fact jumped out at me from the general fund expenditures; 48% increase in "cocurricular/extracurricular activities".  What the hell?  We're going to cut programs designed to improve reading skills, but we're going to increase programs for what, sports, vo-ag, what are these vastly important programs?Also, I was happy to see employee travel (which I assume is trustees and administrators out cavorting and not teachers going to seminars and such) is being cut, but what the hell is non-employee travel?  If they're not employees, why is the district paying for their travel?  By tax-paying extension, why am I paying for their travel?The whole budget is vague to the point of being ludicrous.  The expenditure categories could be read to mean just about anything.  Cut the budget-writers and hire back the librarians.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

The budget, in its entirety, is almost unfathomable.  The DFPE (www.dfpe.org) published the budget back in March along with the chart of accounts, sort of a map key, to go along with it.  But even with the ability to use Excel to drill down to a particular school and a specific org and function, the current budget is constantly being tweaked.  Teaching and administrative positions are moved out of the General funds and into Title I funding.  Stuff in one bucket last year is in a different bucket this year.  There is no reliable granular year-over-year and month-over-month comparison that can be made. I hope things will settle down to a "new normal" but change is not a destination and hope is not a strategy or a method.

What most folks don't realize is that there is tremendous wiggle room in the budget. For example, the administration said it cut 450 positions from the budget...true enough...but that really meant 207 people because the balance of 243 were unfilled "positions" in the budget...placeholders, not people.  Then we find, through a FOIA request that 87 or so people are moved out of the general fund and into Title I funding sources...so it looks, on paper, like the cuts were larger than they were.  Student/Teacher ratios go from 25:1 to 27:1 but this isn't about classroom sizes at all...it's about eliminating teaching budget "positions" (not necessarily people) to add funds back into the budget (for other programs, administrators, etc.) with the net effect of not having enough money to fund teachers in the future.

I pushed strongly on the Commission for an across the board, graduated, net 2% cut in non-contract employee salaries (immediate savings of $5M or so) and to return to 25:1 ratios.  Will the Trustees grow a backbone?

Harmony Seeker
Harmony Seeker

Michael.  I am not denying there is negative public sentiment to teachers.  I am saying it is undeserved and the sentiment is stoked by ideologues like Fox News.   Yes DISD wastes money.  But teachers don't make the decisions on where to spend the money.  That is not to say I don't care if the districts money is wasted. Teachers were laid off 2 years ago due to mismanagement.  I am saying don't blame the victim.   Blame is  not an effective way of solving the overwhelming problems this state has with public education.  I wasn't aware that the commission's meetings were encouraging teachers to attend.  No teachers were invited to be a part of the commission.  I don't know if you can use the district email to notify DISD staff of the Commission's meetings, but that may be something to look into if you want more teacher participation.

tracker
tracker

Full day PreK? Why pay for lunchtime and naptime and recess?  A solid 3 hours every day of real instruction would be plenty for a 4 yr old. There's a limit to how much you can cram down their little gullets in one day. On the one hand we cut teachers because we have no money, yet on the consent agenda we give IFL (road to broad toads) over 400K. And 300K irrigation contracts so our schools can be green. AYP, but green. And millions for handheld gizmos that have no tech support and/or will be immediately trashed and stolen. Business as usual.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Offering less than full-day PreK will only guarantee less participation in the program.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

All sorts of research shows that the effects of pre K wear off quickly UNLESS the child lives in a literacy-rich home.

Thanks to IFL and all the giant salaries at 3700, we have to choose between pre K and secondary students.

I suggest going with secondary students.Strong kindergartens can boost kids up amazingly; nothing can overcome a weak middle school.

RTGolden
RTGolden

@harmonyseeker: I elected to forego a college education.  This does not mean I don't value education itself, or the role teachers play in it.  Careful how you generalize, please.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

@facebook-100001968716330:disqus 

I support our teachers but to deny the public sentiment is to simply, ostrich-like, bury one's head in the sand. The State must adequately fund education but the local districts must also spend the funds wisely...neither of which is happening in the Dallas ISD...that is the reality and it negatively affects teaching positions.  

As a member of the Citizens Budget Review Commission - www.budgetreview.org - I was shocked at how few teachers (less than 5 over a ten week period) came to the public meetings.  The AFT president showed up for the last meeting only. The Commission pushed hard for student/teacher ratios to remain at 25:1 and it would have been nice for the teachers to show a little interest if not support.   

Harmony Seeker
Harmony Seeker

Perhaps, if you are speaking of the public that decided not to get a college degree or for some not graduate from high school, they should be seething inside of themselves for not taking school more seriously.   More importantly for everyone, who resents teachers, try it out. Substitute for a week in a public school, and then give your opinion on whether you think teaching is a cushy job.

I don't think it helps Michael for ideologues in the media and in politics to vilify teachers, the very people who are paying for the inept handling of the state budget with their jobs, cuts to their pay, and unpaid furlough days. All the while the no taxes mantra, teachers are footing the bill for a problem they didn't create.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

I agree with all of your points.  But your solutions may be quite expensive and the raw cuts to DISD over the next two years is a minimum $92M (best guess today, it will change). It's not the cost of the buildings but the staffing.  If we did away with ALL of the administration (including HR and Payroll) it's only a savings of $45M. So either schools close, or the teachers get RIF'd or take a pay cut, or both. [Until the State adequately funds education - not likely this year or next.]  

To top it off, the public looks at a teacher making $55K who only has to work 190 days and can take 10 vacation days off (5 state and 5 local) in the middle of the school year and practically seethes with resentment.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

We don't need to eject disruptive kids.We need there to be consequences for failing classes and disrupting.We need MULTIPLE alternative campuses that take the failing and disruptive off comprehensive campuses and counsel, remediate, and teach them for a full school year (base their placement on the previous year's grades and TAKS performance and/or behavior issues).

We need to protect and nurture and challenge the good kids.  The failure to do this has resulted in the demand for magnet schools, a declining overall enrollment, and the flight of the middle class.

We have too many half-empty campuses as it is; repurpose several of them into these remediation "magnets", transfer staff over, and turn the comprehensives into schools that require effort, attendance, obedience, and self-control.

I am NOT advocating leaving the thugs behind.  I am advocating addressing their needs apart from all the kids they are currently holding back.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Agreed...its a jobs program for adults (including construction, in this city that loves to elect construction company "visionaries" as mayors) and don't forget contracts for their friends.  But pub ed has been that way for 50 years... that doesn't make it correct, just what it is. My goal is to inject enough transparency and show enough connected dots to at least get value for the dollars spent (wish us all luck on that!) 

If education is a right (most countries agree that it is) then at what threshold do we eject disruptive kids? How would one, exactly, hold neglectful parents responsible?  These are not really education questions. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Public education has become, in urban areas, a jobs program for adults and a babysitting service for the neediest, most troubled kids.

Because the adults jobs program wants the state/ federal dollars kids bring with them, there are no consequences for anything in DISD as far as disruptive kids and neglectful parents bc if we hold them accountable, they'll leave and their state/federal dollars will follow them.

We'll tolerate anything at the expense of thousands of bright, diligent kids just so those state and federal dollars keep rolling in.

So, in that sense, public ed is a welfare program.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Yeh...nanny state here we come...I get it, the parents (or lack of parenting) is the problem.  But public education isn't a welfare program, although I'd wager many of the influencers think it is...or at least treat it as such.  My druthers is to pile all the resources into Pre-K through 3rd grade for five years and then add a grade every year afterwards asuming that the state will adequately fund education and locally we can responsibly spend and track the money and its real effect on student achievement.  A difficult order for each. But all I hear is criticism or sarcastic blather from most...that's certainly easy.

tracker
tracker

So we think they'll learn everything they need to know in (pre) kindergarten ? The problem is not going to be solved by the schools. The schools are not the problem. Now if would could extend that full day preK into 24/7 we might have something.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

But if a middle school kid can't read or write or do math at grade level then what?  That's what we have now. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Dead on.And, speaking of school lawns, when the did the mowers show up at some campuses?On the day the kids were taking the TAKS.

Not. distracting. at. all.

Teachers and kids are thwarted at every turn and then yelled at when the results suck.Teachers were forced to go to CILT trainings at Buckner during TAKS review, for goodness sake.

Because the bureaucrats keeping their jobs is more important than anything.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Continue cutting at 3700.SELL the Buckner building; let the useless-anyway departments office out of the hundreds of empty portables blighting too many campuses.Sure, the bureaucrats will have to walk inside to use the faculty bathroom, but if it's good enough for teachers, it should be good enough for the bureaucrats.

Ivonne Durant still makes an EXCESSIVE salary.  So do Donna Michauex, Cindy Goodsell, Claudia Rodriguez, etc etc etc.  And what about Cindy's sidekick Shirley Yarbrough?  Something like $93K a year to "assist" Goodsell but where has she been for the last several months?

The waste is sickening.

The state knows exactly to whom the money is being diverted:  useless layers of bureaucrats.  They need to pass a law that severly limits the number of non-teachers in a district and THEN open up the rainy day fund.

And unless you want dozens of kids beaten to bloody pulps on the secondary campuses,  they'd better restore monitors before they fund pre K.   Fights are rampant and intense and teachers are told NOT to intervene or touch a child. 

trashtalk
trashtalk

Fort Worth ISD trustees called a press conference and blew a public gasket over 10% of their schools being unacceptable.

Dallas trustees were just told that 15% of their schools are unacceptable and they sit there like day old bread.

Did they bother to ask which schools are in danger of closing?

By the way Morath, another reason for the jump in junior TAKS scores is the huge dropout rate by the junior year. Welcome to a job as trustee where you do not have a clue. Hillcrest didn't make AYP for another year. Might want to check on that.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Morath also seems pro-CEI.Inexplicable.Seems to be on the teacher-hating bandwagon.

Where else but in DISD are the most hands-on employees treated like CRAP on a daily basis?  Blamed, belittled, and short-changed by people who have never taught?

How successful can any entity be when it specifically EXCLUDES input from the people in the trenches?

Until Morath and the others start listening to the awful, terrible DISD teachers who actually do the work, the district is doomed.

He apparently has the fatal flaw of thinking that he knows better than the actual teachers.

trashtalk
trashtalk

And instead of spoon feeding TAKS scores to the board so the results can be spun, why don't you just hand Nancy Bingham Samuell's scores? The same Samuell where the principal was brought before the board to explain how he do with less?

He apparently can't get the school out of a dive with the resources he had. How is he supposed to do more with less? What are they? How many years of unacceptable and now scores are going down?

Next year Samuell will have fewer of everything. Explain the logic.

FabFranTX
FabFranTX

Did anyone else watch Byron Harris' story on Channel 8 about Medicaid and free braces.  Anyone else think that if Texas wasn't paying millions of dollars for braces for children on Medicaid then some of the money could be going back to education.  Anyone...anyone? 

trashtalk
trashtalk

Instead of robbing one child to pay another child, why don't we quit dipping out of the child pool and start dipping into the rainy day fund being bloated by oil and gas taxes?

There is still a layer of oily residue at 3700 Ross Avenue. Trying taking the funds for librarians out of the oil residue.

Remember, board members, you are in the school business and librarians, are well, part of the information economy. Get it?

trashtalk
trashtalk

Exactly why are additions of librarians answered in terms of TEACHER cuts?

Why not answer in terms of central administration cuts? For instance, 12 teachers equals 3 useless central administrators? Teachers could supply a long list of those who could go.

Instead, King is playing the same old game. Every addition on the campus costs teachers, not a loss in administrator pay or central administration.

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