Stories indexed with the term ‘school budget’

Column: Disparate Impact of AAPS Cuts?

Editor’s note: This marks the launch of a new column in The Chronicle, focused on Ann Arbor Public Schools and other educational issues. Readers might know Ruth Kraut from her commentary on Ann Arbor Schools Musings, where she’s been writing about these issues for several years. For recent background on The Chronicle’s coverage of AAPS, see “Milestone: Why You Keep Running a Marathon.”

Ruth Kraut, Ann Arbor Public Schools, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ruth Kraut

Next week, the board of the Ann Arbor Public Schools will need to cut about 5% from the district’s budget. That’s a reduction of about $8.6 million. Teachers have already taken a 3% pay cut.

Per-pupil funding for next year ($9,025) will be less than the per-pupil funding of 12 years ago in 2001-2002 ($9,034). So it’s no surprise that we’re at the point where cuts are painful. Cutting teachers, cutting programs – none of it is happy news. There will be consequences. The question is, what kind of consequences?

In the civil rights world, a “disparate impact” occurs when a policy is non-discriminatory in its intent but affects a “protected class” of people in a disproportionate way. In Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, for example, these protected classes include race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, and marital status.

AAPS is a district with a large achievement gap – between white students and African American and Hispanic/Latino students. And this gap has persisted for many years. Although in state civil rights law, income is not a protected status, income is highly correlated with race, age, and marital status. District-wide, there is also an achievement gap that is related to income: Poor kids are more likely to do poorly in school.

So it’s important to consider the AAPS budget from a perspective of potential disparate impacts. On the surface, the proposed budget cuts treat all students equally. But if we look deeper, would we find that certain budget cuts worsen – or perhaps improve – the achievement gap?

Three proposed budget cuts have raised a significant amount of opposition this year: (1) eliminating high school transportation; (2) cutting reading intervention teachers; and (3) cutting seventh hour or making it a tuition-only option. Together, these three account for just under $1.5 million of the $8.6 million in cuts. Do these cuts, in particular, have a disparate impact on any groups? [Full Story]

A2: School Budget

On her blog, Ann Arbor Public Schools trustee Christine Stead posts a list of budget questions that she has sent to the AAPS administration in preparation for an upcoming study session. Many of the questions focus on finding ways to make budget cuts without impacting the classroom and programs. [Source]

School Board to Use Savings to Bridge Deficit

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (May 23, 2012): The majority of AAPS trustees have agreed to spend down roughly $7 million in fund equity to meet projected expenditures for fiscal year 2012-13, beginning July 1, 2012. That decision came after suggestions by trustees Glenn Nelson and Christine Stead to restructure Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and to fully eliminate transportation, respectively, again went nowhere. The May 23 meeting included much discussion about the effect that spending down fund equity this year could have on the district’s ability to weather another projected deficit of $14 million to $18 million in FY 2013-14.

The board is expected to vote on the FY 2012-13 budget at its June 13 meeting.

In addition to the budget discussion, trustees moved quickly through a number of other items of business at the May 23 meeting: (1) directing administration to create a transportation committee; (2) approving the sale of tech bonds; (3) supporting the Washtenaw Intermediate School District budget with some suggested reporting improvements; (4) the approval of two property easements with the city of Ann Arbor; and (5) the approval of a number of policies, including an anti-bullying policy as newly mandated by state law.

Trustees also heard from 20 people, most of them speaking during general public commentary in support of the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center, which had originally been proposed to be closed or restructured as part of the budget. Many thanked the board for taking Clemente “off the chopping block” for this coming year, but expressed concerns about the board’s process, the district-wide achievement gap faced by African-American students, and the board’s “lack of respect” for Clemente students.   [Full Story]

AAPS Begins Superintendent Evaluation

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education committee of the whole meeting (May 16, 2012) Part 2:  Besides the budget, the AAPS board discussed several other issues at its committee meeting.

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green

AAPS superintendent Patricia Green at a fall 2011 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

The board is beginning its first evaluation of the one employee for whom it is directly responsible – superintendent Patricia Green. Green joined the district on July 1, 2011, and will undergo her first formal evaluation by the board during an executive session scheduled for June 20, 2102.

At the May 16 board meeting, trustees agreed to a process for soliciting input on Green from members of the AAPS community, including parents, principals, staff, board associations, bargaining groups, and specific people invited by trustees to participate.

The board also tentatively agreed to direct the AAPS administration to form a committee representing a wide range of stakeholders to study the sustainability of transportation services in the district. And board members affirmed the “differentiated instruction” approach to teaching used throughout the district, in lieu of maintaining a separate “gifted and talented” program.

This report covers the non-budget portions of the May 16 school board committee of the whole meeting. The budget discussion during this meeting was covered in an earlier report. [Full Story]

AAPS Mulls Revenue Enhancement Proposals

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (March 21, 2012): At its Wednesday evening meeting, trustees of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) heard and discussed a variety of revenue enhancement proposals from the administration.

Christine Stead Ann Arbor Public Schools

Trustee Christine Stead directs a question to superintendent Patricia Green while trustee Glenn Nelson looks on. (Photos by the writer.)

The proposals ranged from digital billboards on district property to enrolling international students into the district. Board reaction to the proposals was mixed.

Trustee Christine Stead described the proposals as creative, but requested the opportunity to see “both sides of the ledger” – both revenue enhancements and cuts. Trustee Andy Thomas said he was “underwhelmed” by the revenue projections.

After a special briefing on a resolution to re-fund the 2004 Building and Sites Bond, the board unanimously approved the resolution. The re-fund, or “refinance,” of the bond would mean a slightly reduced millage rate for taxpayers. The re-funding will only go through if market conditions remain favorable. [Full Story]

AAPS Admin Meets Board Candidates

Editor’s note: Jennifer Coffman covers Ann Arbor Public Schools board meetings for The Chronicle.

Patricia Green Superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools

Patricia Green is the new superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, a job she started this summer. (Photos by the writer.)

To develop additional background understanding of the board, she attended a recent forum for candidates in the Nov. 8 school board elections. The forum was hosted by AAPS staff. Other media reports from that forum raised questions about what was actually said at that meeting. So The Chronicle asked Coffman to write up her notes from that forum. 

Four of the six candidates running for AAPS school board met with top AAPS administrators for an informal question-and-answer session held at the Balas administration building on Aug. 23, 2011.

After brief introductions, Patrick Leonard, Larry Murphy, Ahmar Iqbal, and Albert Howard asked administrators for more information about a variety of topics.

Those topics ranged from busing, to the district’s role in school board elections, to prayer in public schools. The two incumbents in the race – board secretary Andy Thomas and trustee Simone Lightfoot – did not attend the forum. [Full Story]

Spend or Save? Budget Splits AAPS Board 5-2

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (June 8, 2011): After hours of debate, Ann Arbor Public Schools trustees passed a 2011-12 budget early Thursday morning on a 5-2 vote, with trustees Simone Lightfoot and Christine Stead dissenting.

bus map AAPS

This map shows the relationship between locations of students' homes and the district's elementary and high schools. It was the focus of much of the board's discussion on June 8, 2011 when trustees approved the 2011-12 budget.

The original budget proposal brought to the board in April suggested cuts to 70 teaching positions, eliminated high school busing entirely, and used $1.73 million of fund equity. In the interim, the state offered school districts one-time payments to offset increases in retirement costs, as well as possible one-time grants for use of “best practices” as defined by the state. Those funding changes prompted board members to hold a study session earlier this month to offer AAPS administrators direction in how the temporary funding should be applied to the budget.

Based on that feedback, AAPS interim superintendent Robert Allen presented an amended budget at the June 8 board of education meeting. That amended budget slightly decreased the rise in class sizes, added back high school bus service by offering common pick-up points instead of traditional bus stops, and used less of the district’s fund equity.

During the budget discussion, trustees disagreed about multiple details of the budget, but the area of greatest contention was the proper amount to maintain in the district’s fund balance. Ultimately, the budget as presented passed with one major amendment, which moved $300,000 back out of fund equity and put it into the high school transportation budget, in order to allow for more common pick-up sites if needed.

In this meeting report, The Chronicle charts the board deliberations through the entire discussion. For a previously published nuts-and-bolts description of the approved budget, see “AAPS Board Sets 2011-12 Budget.”

Also at this meeting, updates to the district’s strategic plan and a set of board policies were approved. More policy updates, along with the district’s food service contract, were reviewed as first briefing items. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor School Board Weighs Cuts

When the board of education trustees meet on Wednesday evening to pass the fiscal year 2011-12 budget for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, they will have to choose between what to cut now and what to cut later.

AAPS Robert Allen

AAPS interim superintendent Robert Allen and board chair Deb Mexicotte. (Photo by the writer.)

School districts across Michigan are facing an ongoing structural deficit in state funding, along with significant anticipated cuts in reimbursement for special education services, and increases in mandated payments into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS).

Since the AAPS board last met on May 25, Michigan legislators passed a budget for the upcoming state fiscal year, which begins in October 2011 – though it still awaits Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature. The budget includes a one-time provision to offset the increase in school districts’ MPSERS payments, as well as one-time grants to districts that meet at least four out of five “best practice” guidelines, as defined by the state.

For AAPS, this means the district could receive as much as $4 million more in state funding than anticipated when its 2011-12 budget was proposed – a $2.4 million retirement offset, and a possible $1.6 million in best practice grant funding. In light of these changes, AAPS trustees met Friday, June 3 to review possible amendments to the budget proposal they will be considering Wednesday. No binding decisions were made at the study session, and there was no consensus among trustees about how much to defer to recommendations brought by the administration.

Changes to transportation services and class sizes generated the most discussion. The proposed budget includes a reduction of 70 teaching positions, which would raise class sizes at all grade levels by two or three students per classroom. Administration has proposed bringing back 7.7 of those 70 positions, though trustees discussed whether the district should add back even more.

The board also discussed the possibility of proposing additional local millages. Revenues could be used to refresh technology districtwide and build more classrooms, allowing AAPS to offer all-day kindergarten at all elementary schools. Ballot language for any proposed millages would need to be completed by the end of August to be voted on this fall.

Two four-year terms for board of education trustees will also be on the Nov. 8 ballot, for seats currently held by trustees Simone Lightfoot and Andy Thomas. [Full Story]

School Board Calls Extra Session on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (May 25, 2011): The May 25 meeting of the AAPS board of education opened on a somber note, with board president Deb Mexicotte requesting a moment of silence to honor Huron High School junior Seth Harsch, who died Tuesday after stepping in front of a train. Mexicotte noted that crisis counselors have been on hand at Huron to offer support to students and staff, who are dealing with the loss to their community.

A handful of residents addressed the board during a public hearing on the proposed 2011-12 AAPS budget. The board will hold an additional study session on the budget on Fri., June 3 at 3:30 p.m. in the main conference room of the Balas administration building, and the public is invited.

The session will focus on prioritizing objectives, in case the finalization of the state budget leads to greater revenue for the district than initially expected. If revenue projections increase, the board may choose to restore high school busing, decrease class sizes, or make other amendments to the currently proposed budget. A final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 8.

Public commentary on the Haisley Elementary School parking lot continued. Although many of the speakers requested additional changes to the design, the board approved the proposal as it had been presented at the board’s first briefing, along with a host of other facilities improvement projects. Trustees also approved the purchase of a new standardized assessment tool, the Northwest Evaluation Association Assessment (NWEA), primarily for use in grades K-5.

Late in the meeting, which lasted over seven hours, the board engaged in a frank discussion regarding the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s (WISD’s) budget as it relates to state reimbursement of special education services as well as local tax levies. Though trustees eventually passed a proposal in support of the budget, some board members registered strong concerns.

Finally, the board heard first briefings on a number of other items, including the 2011 millage resolution that will accompany the final budget vote, and updates on both the AAPS strategic plan and a set of board policies. [Full Story]

AAPS Board: No Principal Sharing in 2011-12

Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education meeting (May 11, 2011): After hearing significant public commentary on the matter, and following a spirited discussion, the AAPS board voted 5-2 to eliminate a plan to share principals among elementary schools from the proposed 2011-12 AAPS budget. A public hearing on the budget will be held as part of the next regular board meeting at 7 p.m. on May 25.

Public commentary was also rich with concerns regarding a proposed expansion of the parking lot at Haisley Elementary, which was discussed by the board at length as a first briefing item. It will come up for a vote at the May 25 meeting.

At the May 11 meeting, which lasted past 1:30 a.m., the board also approved upgrades to the district’s PowerSchool communication system, SISS assistive technology, and the elementary math curriculum. They also heard a first briefing on a proposal to purchase a new standardized assessment tool to complement the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), and were updated on the progress of the Widening Advancement for Youth (WAY) Washtenaw program. [Full Story]

AAPS Board to Address 2011-12 Deficit

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (April 20, 2011): Wednesday’s meeting of the AAPS board of education outlined the district’s planned budget cuts for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The district needs to cut about $15 million from their budget in response to reductions in education funding they expect to be handed down from the state.

Robert Allen

Robert Allen, interim superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, addresses the board of education at their April 20, 2011 meeting.

The proposed cuts would eliminate 70 teaching positions, and would likely lead to changes in the district that include larger class sizes, fewer elective options and new roles for teachers. Other proposals include eliminating busing for high school students, cutting salaries and benefits, and creating “shared” principal positions at four elementary schools. On the revenue side, the budget plan calls for expanding the district’s Schools of Choice program and increasing parking fees at Pioneer High School for University of Michigan football and basketball games.

Interim superintendent Robert Allen delivered the presentation, saying that this year’s budget preparations were the most difficult he’s had in his five years working with the district’s finances.

“Although we have made similar cuts, it is even more difficult to make them on the heels of the $18 million we reduced last year,” he said. “We tried to keep the cuts away from the classroom, but at some point that becomes impossible.”

Allen said the district’s structural deficit, which creates an annual hole of $6-7 million dollars, will not go away until it’s dealt with directly. ”We’ve been facing the structural deficit for about 10 years and we can’t address it by cutting,” he said. “We have to fix the structure.”

The deficit could grow even larger – by nearly $6 million – if voters don’t pass a special education millage renewal that’s on the May 3 ballot. At several points throughout the meeting, board members and AAPS staff urged the public to support the millage renewal.

Allen closed his introduction by saying that the district tried to make the cuts in an equitable manner, adding that everyone should maintain efforts to lobby state representatives to come up with a permanent fix for budget woes.

The budget update was an informational item at Wednesday’s meeting and will come back before the board as a briefing item next month before it can be approved. [Full Story]

AAPS Board Gets Briefed on Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting (March 16, 2011): The highlight of last week’s meeting was a presentation from interim superintendent Robert Allen on the many budget and funding issues the district faces in the coming years.

Allen told board members that the district faces a $15 million shortfall in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That figure assumes the special education millage, on the ballot for May 3, will be renewed. If voters don’t approve the millage renewal, the deficit could grow to nearly $21 million.

During the meeting, board members criticized Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed state budget, which calls for cuts to K-12 education. They cautioned that his focus on business tax cuts would undermine the quality of public education in the state. “I don’t think most people want education ravaged in order to fund a huge business tax cut,” trustee Glenn Nelson said. “We need to shout this story from the rooftops.”

Allen will be giving an expanded report on the budget situation to the public from 6:30-8 p.m. on Monday, March 21 at the Pioneer High School cafeteria annex. The board also discussed setting up a time to meet with state legislators, to discuss their concerns about the state budget proposals.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, board president Deb Mexicotte reported that the district is close to wrapping up contract negotiations with Patricia Green, the board’s choice to become the district’s next superintendent. She hoped to provide additional details soon, including a potential start date. [Full Story]

AAPS Mulls Options to Increase Revenue

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education study sessions (Dec. 8, 2010 and Jan. 19, 2011): As the AAPS school board begins planning for the 2011-12 budget cycle, it has devoted two recent study sessions to strategizing about how to respond to the structural deficit in Michigan’s education funding.

Christine Stead, Jane Landefeld

AAPS board member Christine Stead, left, with Jane Landefeld, who is director of student accounting for the district. (Photo by the writer.)

The first session, held in December, focused on affecting state funding through legislative advocacy, and resulted in board approval of a detailed set of education funding principles that will be presented to state lawmakers for their consideration. [.pdf of funding principles]

At the second session, held last week, trustees brainstormed potential routes toward enhancing revenue at the local level.

In addition to continuing to advocate for funding changes at the state level, options suggested for local revenue enhancement included: increasing private giving; securing additional grant funding; running another enhancement millage campaign; licensing school logos on apparel; improving customer service; leveraging business partnerships better; continuing to develop new programs; and allocating funding for more robust and targeted marketing strategies to increase enrollment.

Finally, the board also acknowledged the need for some spending cuts in addition to increasing efforts at revenue enhancement. [Full Story]

AAPS Budget Nears Final Approval

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (May 26, 2010): Though no one took the opportunity to speak during the public budget hearing, the board formally considered the proposed 2010-11 school budget and accompanying millage rates, with final approval expected at a meeting in June.

AAPS board member Christine Stead at the May 26 board meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Concerns about state school aid funding emerged throughout the budget discussion, as well as during the rest of the meeting.

In its business for the evening, superintendent Todd Roberts sought input from the board on granting 32 retirement extensions. Four sinking fund projects were approved as part of an extensive consent agenda. A new textbook was suggested for AP biology.

And multiple awards were presented to both AAPS staff and students. [Full Story]

AAPS: Privatize Custodial, Maintenance Work

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (April 14, 2010): Bids to outsource Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) custodial and maintenance services were presented and discussed at the board of education meeting last Wednesday. If negotiations with its local custodial and maintenance workers union do not succeed, the board will vote on privatizing those services at its April 28 meeting.

Glenn Nelson Ann Arbor Public Schools

Glenn Nelson addresses his fellow AAPS board members during last Wednesday's meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Also mentioned was the possibility that layoff notices could be issued – and, in fact, about 190 teachers have received letters stating that they might receive such notices. If approved by the board at its meeting on Wednesday, notices could go out later this week.

The board also swore in its newest member, Christine Stead, as treasurer, replacing long-time board member Randy Friedman, who resigned earlier this month. His resignation adds a fifth seat to the election slate this fall.

Updates were given to the budget plan, and a bid for summer construction projects at Pioneer High School was given a first briefing by the board. That marked the final phase of the comprehensive capital improvements program approved by the community with the passage of the bond and sinking fund millages in 2004.

Peer mentoring was applauded as part of middle school programming, and a personal curriculum option and additional facilities projects were also discussed at first briefing. [Full Story]