"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Monday, February 14, 2011

Anatomy of a School District Deficit

I know this is not hot off the presses, but Evansville could be in the same budget deficit boat soon, so it is relevant to review the anatomy of a 10 million dollar hole in a school district budget. Given our community is about a tenth the size of Janesville, one could extrapolate that budget holes an order of magnitude lower than Janesville could loom for the ECSD.

Click on the post to review the courses on the bubble In Janesville. Strikingly absent from consideration, as on parent stated in the article referenced in the link below, are cuts to athletics. I'm sure the rationale here is that cuts of teachers will get them to their desired end result quicker. But when a district goes for the jugular on instruction without forcing the entire district to feel some pain, some are inclined to believe that there are sacred cows that will not be considered for reduction or elimination. When more than a tenth of your budget is involved, nobody gets to be a sacred cow. Suck it up and bleed from every orifice, I say.


The link below gives the Gazettes' view of how the district got in this pickle. Stunningly absent from consideration is the analysis of how the recent addition of 4K contributed to their woes. I'm pretty sure that's because the Gazette is glaringly pro-4K. If a little district like Evansville would have to pony up over a quarter of a million dollars to implement 4K, it's probably safe to assume that it cost Janesville 2.5 to 3 million dollars up front. The "break even point" in the Evansville plan is experienced in about year 3, with an expected increase in revenue of $322,000 after expenses are considered going forward from year 4.


Since Janesville began their 4K program in 2007, this is the year they begin to "profit" from the program. Given the dictatorial style of our new governor, I am skeptical that funding for 4K will remain in the state budget and where will they be then? Probably 5 or 6 million dollars deeper in the hole. Even worse, the link below gives a tepid endorsement for 4K, from my perspective.


This excerpt from the article is why I remain unconvinced that 4K will solve all the problems laid at its doorstep.

"It's not that 4K has been proved to work, Politifact said, but Grothman claimed that research shows that it doesn't work, and that is still in dispute.

Politifact cited W. Steven Barnett of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, who wrote in 2009:

"Not only have small-scale programs in well-controlled studies demonstrated solid, long-term effects, but large-scale public programs also have been found to produce persistent impacts on children's learning and development, showing that all children benefit."

Barnett referred to an analysis of dozens of studies to back up his contention."

But where are these "dozens of studies"? Not in Milwaukee, I'm sure. They have had 4K in Milwaukee for 20 years. It hasn't done squat for them. One negative data point surely doesn't spoil the entire experiment, but the biggest district in Wisconsin has failed miserably at providing a successful 4K program. What makes the other 4K programs better? Presumably, it's all based on the same state curriculum. Presumably, they have the same goals for the program. In what way do all the proponents of universal 4K propose to do it differently so positive results can be seen? Janesville admits that there are no data to indicate the results of their 4K program either way since they don't do the testing until 3rd grade. This is a serious problem with social programs in general and educators specifically. They simply are clueless when it comes to design of experiment. They do not set clear measurable goals and designate how they will demonstrate progress. If they plan to use the results from the impotent WKCE as the proof positive that they did the right thing, I am very sorry for their school board. That was asinine. The WKCE is not an indication of competence but rather watered down evaluation tool put into place to placate the requirements of Bush's NCLB (No child left behind) legislation. Good grief, after all the years 4K has been around, there is no data from well-controlled studies that show "SHAZAM 4K is a MIRACLE! Saints be praised." That's because the data don't exist and 4K is not a do-all, end-all panacea for whatever ails education. Continuing to look for such data is a waste of time. Yes, 4K is useful for a particular section of the population. That doesn't mean that it should be a universal right of all students, just like Head Start is not a universal right, but a privilege for those who are in need. Identify the students in need and get them into a 4K program. Likely, they need 2 and 3K as well. I'm just sayin'. Concern for targeted students suffering from low self-esteem, while a worthy one, should not require universal 4K to adequately address that concern. Get creative, for God's sake.

Most of all, get realistic. While it irks me more than anybody that the illustrious UW Madison (and others I'm sure, it's just that I read an article to this effect last year about UW Madison) has PLENTY of money to hand out for athletic scholarships but not enough to provide money for all the Merit Scholars who wish to attend their school, I sadly have concluded that education is NOT a priority for our state, our country or our world. The pot of money is going to dwindle. If you want your kid to get certain services, seek them yourself. The days of the government recognizing educational needs and providing them are over. What that means to public education is any body's guess, but let the games begin.


Mike said...

I applaud the efforts of the board on making this quick and not wasting time/ money on a 4K that the majority of us do not want and something we cannot afford. The way Janesville is saying that are “making” money on the program is the most backwards financial explanation I have ever heard. It is as absurd as a single mother on state and federal support to have another child to get more support (please do not be offended, but it does happen). One of Gov Walker’s campaign promises is to stamp out wasteful and fraudulent state spending. If the state is giving a program more money than it needs to operate, don’t you think that money will be targeted? Walker has made good on all but one of his campaign promises and is “in progress” on the aforementioned promise. We are the 6th most “in-debt per capita” in the union, eventually the money will not be there, and programs will be cut. Good luck with the “more debt, more aid” theory in the next two years, you’ll be sadly disappointed hold a bill for something you should have never invested in.

Katy said...

I will have to say that your single mother analogy is offensive to me. Any idiot who buys into the "spend money to make money" philosophy regarding education or any government provided initiative lives in the land of La. This is not Wall Street. No matter how you dice it, it's tax payer provided income, whether it comes as state contribution or local property tax contribution. Educators talk about the state contribution as if it is manna from heaven when it all comes from the same place: my pocket and yours.

Anonymous said...

Hello, you have been very quite on Walker targeting teachers in his blind effort to balance the budget. I would like to know from you, as a former board member is Walker doing the schools a big favor by attempting do this ?

Less wages paid, less benefits paid, how if any way do you see this helping Evansville with their budget woes.

What problems do see it causing, besides teachers leaving which would be really sad as we have some excellent teachers.

I would like to hear your opinion on this. Because there is more to this than the money issue.