Thursday, December 02, 2004

Another Educational Perspective

Swiftee over at Pair 'O Dice had his own take on the dire straits facing the St. Paul Public School (SPPS) district. He also shared his concerns in my comments below. Specifically, with the following questions.

Keep in mind that the SPPS district cuts, over the last 6 years, have totaled about $50 million bucks. The current budget shortfall is half that at 24.3 Mill.

What happened to the cash from the last two excess levy referendums.
The first one was primarily for technology improvements in the district. And one of the great features of this upgrade is the Parent Portal, allowing Parents to instantly review and monitors their student's performance online. Lack of parent involvement is the greatest detriment to their education, and SPPS has taken great steps to provide student information to the parents in an efficient and timely manner. The second referendum, I believe, was spent on improving achievement by providing Summer School for all students, and restoring some funding that was cut prior to the referendum.
Why is $12k\yr\student not enough to make sure the kid has a book.
I am not privy to recent data. This site does show an interesting picture. SPPS spends about the same per pupil as Seattle, but with triple the Non English students and 1.5 times as many students in poverty. Buffalo Public Schools have a higher Poverty rate, but only a fraction of Non English students but spend $2000 per pupil MORE then SPPS. Why isn't it enough, I don't know, yet, but it seems that SPPS is making pretty good strides with much less then other district are using.
Where is the $553M\yr (More than half a Billion!) going?
Well, 80%of the budget is salary, plain and simple. At this point, you would have to freeze and/or cut salary to make any significant dent in the deficit without increasing revenues. In my case, my salary is already froze, so that means the next step is a cut, which may drive me out of the profession. Is that what we want to do. Turn people away and deal with second tier educators willing to 'settle' for less pay.

All I have been trying to point out, is that this city's public school system has made a concerted effort to streamline function, while providing quality service, and is now facing a deficit larger then they have ever seen. You can only cut so much, and demand more gains, before one needs to look at other ways to resolve the shortfall.


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