money and the state budget

There is a syndicated article in the NG today talking about how the state intends to chop ONE BILLION DOLLARS out from Education. Doing the math, right now the unbalanced budget has $13.2B set aside for Education, but we have to subtract out a massive $5B for pensions which brings it down to $8.2B for everything else in schools. Divided by 3862 public schools in the state of Illinois, that averages to roughly $2M per school or about $3993 per student. Unit 4 receives a little over $15M from the state (FY2014 state budget form) for the Educational Fund(*), which comes out to $1623 per student (9383 total students). Ironically, according to ISBE Superintendent Christopher Koch, the “statutory amount set for general state aid” per child is $6119. Which is obviously meaningless and a sad joke. There is a ton of talk about “pension reform” and I have not figured out how the proposed “balanced budget” of chopping $1B will affect pensions. If we assume the worst-case scenario where pensions are left alone, that brings the money for Education down to $7.2B, or $1.86M average per school ($3505 per student); for Unit 4, an oversimplified guess would put the cut at $2.1M (total down to $13.3M), or $1421.6 per student.

Unit 4 has a $103M budget(*), and Gene Logas and the rest of the Finance team has placed us in a really well-padded financial position. Except we are cutting into that buffer space with additional raises for both teachers and administrators over the next three years due to the contract negotiations last year.

* UPDATE NOTE: The total Unit 4 budget is $138,853,108 – I am focusing on the Educational portion of the budget from which teachers are paid (among other things).

It is quite unclear how Gov. Quinn’s promise to protect Early Childhood Learning will play into this picture. I am not smart enough to figure that out. *grin* If you are, or if you know of someone who is, please pitch in.

All this to say that I am quite confident Unit 4 will be fine for the next few years, but we have to be diligent and very careful with how we plan our future. My sincere hope is that all stakeholders can come to the table to exercise “community involved planning” to dream up ways we can maximize our dollars.

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7 Responses to “money and the state budget”

  1. pattsi Says:

    Is it not the case, that there will be a referendum this November to raise property taxes to pay for the new HS and any other construction projects? How does this fit into this money picture that you have painted?

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    That’s a bit trickier, at least for one simpleton like me. The property tax referendum will ask property owners to shovel a couple hundred million into the Capital projects portion of the school budget, I think. The state pitches in less than $1M for Capital projects. The Educational Fund (out of which we pay teachers) is what benefits the most from State dollars. I forget, but I think the former is called Fund 60 and the latter Fund 61, but I would have to double-check that. Again, this (finances) is not my native language and I am still learning. 🙂

    Oh, and I need to correct my numbers above – the total school budget is closer to $140M. I used $103M for the Educational fund alone, so some of the math still works out since we are talking about money for students (and teachers).

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    I was completely wrong about Fund 60 and Fund 61; reading the 10-year Capital Improvement Plan, there are several pages that lay out the purpose of Fund 60 and 61, and they are all for shuttling Capital Improvement money. However, I do know there are several budgets and things like the Educational Fund for which money has to be used for a certain purpose, and you cannot easily move money between those funds. I have a few documents from Gene Logas that explain this, especially in the context of the Working Cash Bonds, since money has to be shuttled from one account to another in order to make things work.

    But Pattsi, I think you meant more “how hard is this going to hit our pocketbooks?” 🙂 I’ll have to look at that as well.

  4. pattsi Says:

    Indeed, the question what will the property tax increase cost the citizens. But a macro question is how does Unit 4 spend the taxpayers’ dollars received from property taxes as now established. Is the spending done wisely and a demonstration of fiduciary responsibility. The last is a question every citizen ought to be asking every elected official.

  5. Vav Says:

    http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/state-education-trends#/IL

    Recent data from Cato on spending and SAT scores over 40 years. No apparent correlation, particularly starting in 1990’s

  6. Jackie Says:

    I hope that most folks are smart enough to understand that unlike factories that make “products”, schools are not factories that generate kids who produce SAT scores. The outcomes of schooling for children are much, much more than the very tiny sample that is tapped by an SAT score. We also need to keep in mind which kids were taking these tests. I guarantee you that today’s SAT and ACT takers include many more students who are living in poverty, learning English as a new language, or have less well-educated parents than the pool of those test-takers 40 years ago

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    @jackie, that reminds me of a Sir Ken Robinson talk (10-minute RSA version, 56-minute live version), using the metaphor of factories and how the current system treats children like assembly line products. I really like the way Sir Robinson wants to shift the paradigm, and I have wondered for a while, how do we do that in Champaign?

    To the credit of teachers (at least the few I have talked to personally), they silently rebel against the systemic machinery in little ways where they can; allowing some children to shape their own path, providing one-off instruction, and generally just being really creative about their role in a very dogmatic business.

    I have always wondered about the value of testing. It really (REALLY REALLY) bothers me that some companies like Pearson have stood to gain so much from administering tests. And it isn’t limited to traditional schools – they are all over the professional certifications as well. The next time you think about a “Microsoft Certified Professional”, think about the fact that they only need 70% right on a multiple choice test (depending on the test). In other professions, you only need 63%. These kinds of tests are efficient, but hardly realistic. It’s the kind of thing you can throw up on a website and say to the world “whoever answers most these questions correctly can earn my seal of approval”. But how do you truly assess and evaluate if a person really knows the material? You have to watch them as they perform. And that is inefficient. Sure, you could do something like American Idol and bulk evaluate massive numbers of performers in groups, but you still get false positives and false negatives.

    I hate to say this (*grin*), but there is a part of me that really likes how Khan Academy handles this – you move on when you have mastered a subject. How does one know if you have mastered it? And here I have to hold my hands and say I don’t really know. So I will go fire up a few Khan courses and see how they do the whole assessment and evaluation thing. Heck, maybe they use stupid tests also. They use the words “adaptive assessment environment” – so my first lesson is to learn what that looks like.


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