A look at the proposed MPS budget

Folks can get a peek at the proposed upcoming budget tonight at the MPS strategic planning and budget meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Central Office, 5225 W. Vliet St.

Superintendent Gregory Thornton will be there to give the board – and those in attendance – an overview of what’s in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2012.

The overview of the budget – the summary – runs 29 pages. So, there is a lot of information in there. And much of it will need to be discussed, certainly. Below are some bullet point “highlights” from the overview. It is not an exhaustive list of everything in the budget. That would be impossible here.

“There is no doubt that this budget is extremely challenging and the fiscal realities are harsh,” Thornton writes in an introductory letter in the overview. “This budget has been carefully crafted to arrange key resources in a manner that best supports academic achievement for all students.”

Last week, I told you that the budget cuts 971 positions from the district, many of which hopefully will come from retirements, cuts to vacant positions and the like.

Remember, as is currently the case with the governor’s state budget, this is NOT yet the actual MPS budget, it is only the superintendent’s proposed budget. There will be discussion and negotiation with the school board, which must pass the final budget.

But here are some proposed changes in the overview:

  • The number of regions in the district shrinks from eight to five, saving costs of three regional specialists and other staff.
  • K4 classroom aides cut from some schools.
  • Curriculum generalists, math teacher leaders, literacy coaches and other instructional support and coaching staff are partially or entirely defunded. This potent cocktail of cuts may be very bad news for some schools that could lose nearly every adult in the building that isn’t tied to a classroom. At one school, for example, there is talk of having parents volunteer to load and unload buses, serve breakfast and handle other duties next year. But not all schools have that kind of support.
  • Utilities are cut by $2.1 million “due to lower costs” and closing buildings. Another $500,000 is saved on energy by “eliminating interior upkeep” of a number of closed schools.
  • Instructional materials are delayed and reduced.
  • Pre-kindergarten transportation costs cut by $3.8 million (see below).
  • K3 and K4 kindergarten programs preserved, though transportation for regular education students at those grade levels is gone.
  • The number of district charter schools increased, which the proposal says will “improve the market share of students in MPS,”
  • Recentralization of school budgets on Vliet Street, “to enable school leaders to spend more time on instructional leadership,” begins. I’m on the fence. Who knows better than the principal what an individual school’s needs are?
  • The recentralization of guidance counselor positions, long-term leaves for teaching staff, extra hours for engineers and the assignment of math and literacy coaches, is in this proposal. The idea is that these can save money in individual school budgets. However, the per pupil allotment to schools shrinks at the same time (from $4,632-$5,253 to $4,520-$5,026, depending on the grade level). So, if your school has a lot of maternity leaves or short-term disability leaves, etc., you may benefit, as these costs have crippled budgets in the past. If you don’t have any of these kinds of expenses, it might not seem like a great deal.
  • An Office of School Administration reorganization will, the proposal says, “provide additional instructional and operational support for principals.”
  • Includes the $20.4 million grant from the GE Foundation for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teaching.
  • Includes funding for the Transition Intervention Experience Center to “address the needs of chronically disruptive” 7th-9th grade kids.
  • Summer school programs will see a funding decrease, which likely means fewer sites and fewer seats available during summer session programming. The only district summer Montessori program, at MacDowell, will reportedly be gone.

I hope you will attend tonight’s meeting so you can learn more and so you can hear about the concerns of parents, students, teachers, administrators and school board members as they discuss Dr. Thornton’s overview. And, if you want to chime in, be sure to fill out a request to speak before you enter the auditorium.

In the meantime, I hope to get a briefing from the superintendent on the budget overview today. Stay tuned and tomorrow I will update you on that.

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