Introduction of the FY14 budget proposal to the Budget Committee on January 29th

Good evening.

Again, thank you for your service on our Budget Committee.  

Tonight, I want to share with you a budget proposal that attempts to resource our goal to ensure “each one, every one of our students graduates prepared to succeed beyond high school.”  It may go without saying, but let me state this explicitly: this budget does not provide the level of support we – all of us in this room – would want to have for our students; for the children of our community.

This budget proposal focuses on instruction – the single most important factor in student success.  Quality instruction has a greater influence on student success than income, first language, race, class size and many other factors.  Investing in our staff as they seek to strengthen instructional practice is essential to our success in elevating student achievement and equalizing that achievement across groups of students.  The instructional core is our key to success, especially in a declining resource environment such as the one we are in now.

Last year and the year before, I spoke to our Board and Budget Committee about the nonsensical way by which our funding and the timing of our funding is determined.  This budget was developed prior to knowing with any certainty what our state funding will be, how sequestration will impact federal funds, what support may be available for digital learning, and what costs may be incurred by legislative and/or Department of Education requirements.  It is anything but a precise context within which to plan.

That said, it is our job to work within the context we have.

What do we know about our current status in relation to our goal of “each one, every one”?  We know that we are seeing gradual increase in achievement in relation to national standards.  We know that we struggle to help some subgroups of students succeed at similar levels – not the same, but similar.  We know that if nothing changes, we can predict a continuation of these results.  This underscores our need to further invest in the instructional expertise of our staff.  Our budget contains only a small increase in instructional materials to support different instruction.  As we do this work, we will be emphasizing how we best support instruction for groups of students who have been historically less successful.

The proposal I bring to you this evening was developed by our full administrative team.  Principals and assistant principals, the few remaining district administrators all participated in the forming of this budget proposal and support the proposal you see before you.  We began with two simple criteria: increase student success and balance the budget; in essence, we began with the end in mind.

In ten meetings over a three-month period, we explored a myriad of ideas.  Nothing was off the table or out of bounds.  We then methodically worked through a process of individual, small group and large group conversations about the implications of various suggestions.  Ultimately, we agreed collectively that this budget proposal gives us our best opportunity to succeed within the resource limitations we face.  I am proud of the professional manner in which our administrators took on this immensely difficult challenge.

Here’s a global view of the challenge we all face.  The “roll forward” budget gap, due to changes in revenue and increases in costs, is nearly $1,000,000.  The investments we need to strengthen our work is just over $600,000.  The budget target we have is nearly $1.6 million.

Among the “roll forward” costs are:

  • Increases in some staff salaries earned by added experience or education or both
  • Increase in staff based on enrollment (as determined by applying the pupil-teacher ratio or PTR)
  • Increase in funding for elementary activities that were negotiated in last year’s collective bargaining agreement with our teachers
  • An adjustment in funding for the Juneau Community Charter School based on their increased enrollment
  • Correction of a budget error related to PLATO courses at the high school level

This budget proposes reducing teaching staff by just two FTE.  It also proposes eliminating two middle school counselors funded through Career Tech funds and paying for CTE existing teacher positions at the high school – positions that meet the criteria for CTE funding.

In addition to those reductions, we are also proposing the following:

  • Paraeducator positions – 4 positions at .93 FTE each
  • 1.0 FTE of “college counselor” (classified staff)
  • 1.0 FTE activity assistant
  • 1.0 FTE Information Technology staff*
  • 1.0 FTE custodian
  • .5 FTE administrative assistant from Office of Instructional Services
  • .5 FTE administrative assistant from HomeBRIDGE
  • 1.0 FTE auditorium manager*
  • Reduce 1 administrative assistant position at each high school from 12 to 10 month

Other reductions include:

  • Closing out the assistant superintendent office
  • Elimination of drug testing
  • Reduction in energy savings
  • Increase in grant indirect charges, where allowable*
  • Reduction of non-personnel budgets at district level
  • Reduce supply budgets at school level (5%)
  • Reduce intervention funds for Riverbend Elementary (instructional materials; one time purchase)
  • Reduce middle school activities
  • Alternate organizational assessment every other year
  • Reduce HR recruiting budget
  • Further reduce legal costs
  • Eliminate teacher “buddy mentor” program
  • Eliminate budget for “Sea Week”
  • Eliminate budget for school climate survey
  • Eliminate budget for drop out prevention contract
  • Further reduce Next Generation funds
  • Reduce already sparse school board stipend
  • Reduce travel support to “bees” beyond transportation

We are proposing a continued investment in professional development and expanded investments in instructional materials to equip our teachers with the things they need to meet the challenge of “each one, every one”.  We will respond to student achievement data to focus our professional development.  We will need to increase our attention within those resources on explicit instruction for students – teaching directly those fundamental skills our data tells us are lacking.   We will need to prioritize our work based on the students who need us the most.

We need to restructure our information technology staff, reducing one position to offset costs of moving 6 positions to 12 month.  This better positions us to do the work needed to support our instructional and informational technology needs.  

These reductions have a cumulative effect on our capacity to reach our goals.  We must pare back and redirect at the same time, both are difficult changes in our system.  Still, it is clear from our financial picture that we must pare back.  It is clear from our data that, while many of our students are remarkably successful, we must change to include all students in the success.

Noticeably absent from these investments is any cost of living increase in compensation.  This budget assumes no cost of living increase at any level of our organization.  For some of our employees, that represents no cost of living increase for two to three years running.  There has been no increase in salaries at the cabinet or superintendent level for two years and one is not planned for in this budget proposal.  We have the collective bargaining process in front of us and we will in engage that process in good faith with all of our employee groups.  

I worry about the impact this has on our staff and our community.  Reasonable people – really reasonable people – may disagree with these changes or feel demoralized by them.  Nonetheless, this is where we are; these are the things our team believes we need to do within our current context.

I want to underscore that these reductions are in addition to the reductions we made in the past three years, that they are cumulative and the effect is cumulative: on our goals and on our collective morale.  To a person, we are committed to the vision of ensuring “each one, every one of our students graduates prepared to succeed beyond high school.”  

We will not give up.  We will continue to work our theory of action – our Strategic Plan.  

We will continue to work the plan and invest in the things that hold the greatest promise for increased student success.  

We look forward to hearing additional ideas through the remainder of this process and will use those ideas to continue to shape our thinking.

Thank you for your attention,

Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich