CLICK TO VIEW CHART REFERENCED BELOW BoE_Restrospect_Chart
This year’s Board of Education budget process has been challenging. There have been substantial changes in the way the budget is being presented this year. The most noticeable difference being the greater amount of information being provided. For example, personnel positions that are paid for through grant funding, and never reported in the BoE budget book, are now included by site and department.
With this greater degree of transparency, there have certainly been some growing pains. I call them growing pains because it’s difficult to accept and adapt to change. I know that for me the change in reporting has certainly thrown me for a loop, but I greatly appreciate the commitment that our Superintendent, Dr. Cooke, and his cabinet, have made to provide the public with all the information. Instead of, as we have clearly seen, making moves behind the scenes to make the budget work without having the BoE, and public, know that the district does not, at all times, have the best handle on what is needed to operate the district.
I said that last line, in my mind, with sarcasm because it is unrealistic to believe that we should expect perfection at all times. What I am looking for is the opportunity to have conversations – real conversations – that are based on facts. In my opinion, this is something that we are still working on.
With that said, I was quite surprised by a graph that was presented during the first public forum held on February 3, 2015 at L.P. Wilson. I’ve included the graph for you to review yourself. Please note, that there are some discrepancies in the numbers provided as data points provided along the lines. However, from my reading, I would say that arguing the data points only distracts from the main point, which is, we have a spending problem without accountability.
Let me first address any argument made that the whole graph should be thrown out because the numbers can be challenged. The reason why the numbers are different across data sources is most likely because there has yet to be consistency in reporting protocols within the district. But, also there are discrepancies in the reported numbers by year when you look across data sources. It appears that there has yet to be a widely recognized single data source that can be used to guide any discussion that looks retrospectively at BoE spending in Windsor.
For example, it was only two years ago that the district reported the number of Windsor children who attended magnet schools. Therefore, the argument that the numbers before 2013 are inaccurate because they don’t account for magnet school students is only a distraction from the real point. If anything, the lack of information provided on the expenses associated with magnet schools, including tuition, transportation, and special education, is a limitation of the Windsor BoE budget, not of the graph.
The second argument that could be made is that the per-pupil cost is substantially less when the number of students accounted for in the total operating budget is adjusted to reflect the actual student enrollment numbers that are calculated at the end of the school year. It appears that the graph includes the NESDEC (http://www.nesdec.org/) projected student enrollment that is available in each adopted budget book, and which is used to justify the proposed budget for the following year. Although somewhat confusing, Windsor residents are led to believe that the budget proposed by the Superintendent is necessary given the projected student enrollment for the next school year. In any regards, the difference is arguably insignificant when the larger point is considered.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, what is that point of the graph? Well for me, the point is that we are spending a lot of money with little justification for that spending. I was shocked by the graph when it was presented at the public forum. Yes, it was probably created for that shock effect, but maybe that’s what we need. Instead of just talking numbers, we need to see these numbers compared through trend lines. The fact of the matter is that our budget has doubled, as in we have seen a more than 30 MILLION DOLLAR increase in the budget in the same time period that more than 1,000 students have left our district.
Personally, I believe that the graph is awesome. It probably took a while to sort through everything, and the main point should not be lost in the low level arguments that the numbers aren’t consistent across sources. The sources are the problem, not the graph.
I would ask that whoever created the graph put together a comparison between data sources for the data points provided for the years ’01, ’09, ’11, and ’16. We would be happy to post it here on WindsorRights.
COMMENTS, THOUGHTS, QUESTIONS??? Post below!