By DR. LARRY MOSES
No one asked me but… I had told my wife that I would stop writing about the mess in the Clark County School District. But the District continues to make itself such a soft target of criticism. Once again, our schools are being asked to cut their budgets and in most cases that means cuts to staffing.
Here are some facts that I have found interesting. But of course, I am an education wonk. You may not find them interesting at all. The figures are taken from the CCSD web site. If you want to understand the financial mess the district is in, these may help.
The district presently is in financial turmoil over a $68 million “shortfall” in the General Operating Budget. One must wonder why this current budget “shortfall” is so upsetting when with the exception of two years since the 2008 school year, the District has dealt with budget cutting “shortfalls” on a yearly basis. These “shortfalls” range from a low of $11,315,000 in 2017 to a high of $134,500,000 in 2011.
The District uses the term budget cuts, however, technically these are not budget cuts. The “shortfalls” are exactly that: “shortfalls.”
The District has consistently over-projected the funds that would be available for the new school year. For example, last year the District falsely projected that they would receive a $194,000,000 increase from the various sources that supply funds for the General Operating Budget. They built the central and local school budgets on that number. However, when all the funds were totaled, they found that they had increased by only $134,000,000. Therefore, they had a $60 million dollar “shortfall.”
As has been past practice, the district budget gurus had local schools develop a budget on their projected figure rather than the actual figure. They themselves, in fact, created the $60 million deficit in the General Operating budget by over-estimating the funding that would be available.
Rather than fixing the problem of incompetent budget personnel, the district is fixing the blame on teachers. They say that $68 million dollars awarded the teachers by an impartial arbitrator has created the deficient.
The arbitrator is a professional individual who has no commitment to either party but is able to read budgets and decided if a party can actually meet the demands of the other party. Since it is against the law for teachers to withhold their labor, the state legislators set this mechanism in place to ensure the teachers would be dealt with fairly by the District. Both the District and the teacher’s association agreed to this method of settling disputes over teacher wages. Teachers have kept their part of the agreement over the years; the District has not seen fit to do so.
What the district officials fail to tell you is that the District has almost 700 vacant teaching positions for which they have budgeted. That is approximately $55 million dollars that should be available to meet the arbitrators ruling.
The District calls these “attrition dollars.” This money has been budgeted for teacher salaries but not spent due to the planned vacancies. What it does is create a superintendent’s slush fund. Instead of redeeming those funds by removing them from pet projects deemed worthy by the Superintendent, our “benevolent dictator” (his designation not mine) has chosen to protect those projects at the expense of the classroom teacher.
The Chief Financial Officer has further explained that the District had to open a number of new schools this year and this required a large amount of funding. He is correct. It does take a large amount of funding to open a new school.
However, most of the funding does not come from the General Operating Budget. It comes from the other part of the budget that no one seems to want to talk about. It is listed under the title of Other Funds in the Final Budget Document of CCSD.
One might assume that from the title “Other Funds” it would be insignificant. However, one would be wrong. It actually totals $2,194,666,813 for the 2019 school year. Yes! That is over two billion dollars.
This is the fund that is used to establish new schools. It cannot be used for teacher salaries. However, the opening of new schools requires a minimum of new teachers. For as you take students from overcrowded schools, those schools no longer need the same number of teachers and the overstock of teachers move with the overstock of students.
I am sure the financial gurus of CCSD will have a different explanation as to what these funding figures mean. But let me close my point with the following statement. According to the latest budget document, the per pupil funding in the 2019 General Operating Budget is $8,715. Though if the total $5 billion budget is considered the per pupil funding is $15,839. But according to a document from the Chief Financial Officer, the per pupil funding for each local school precinct is only $4,631. This means only 53% of the General Fund dollars are to be found in the local schools. When considering the total $5 billion budget, only 29% of the education dollars in CCSD reaches the student in the school.
I would emphasize the word latest Final Budget. Last year the District produced at least four Final Budget Documents over a six month period, each of which had different figures. It will be interesting to see what the final, final, final, final budget will look like this school year when it is produced in December 2018.
Once again, the leaders of the CCSD are trying to convince parents that the educational world is falling apart due to the states failure to adequately fund education in southern Nevada. They seem to be saying that if only the State will once again give the District another billion dollar boost, the District will rise from the ashes of destruction to the bright light of educational leadership.
Just as a side note the State did give the District an extra $17,000,000 to upgrade its Human Resources Division record keeping system. This is above and beyond both the General Operating Budget and the Other Funds recorded in the budget document.
Thoughts of the week…
It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.
– George W. Bush
We didn’t actually overspend our budget. The allocation simply fell short of our expenditure.
A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.
– William Feather