Monday, January 25, 2010

Budget Talk: St. Cloud District Emphasizing Classroom Expenditures

This past weeks, I've been writing about what's been happening to our budget over the last seven budget years. In an earlier post, I described some of the trends that have been manifest by our budget on the revenue and expense side. Sometimes it is a bit difficult to drill through the budget, because at times revenues and expenditures hit our budgets in ways that mask trends. For example, our 2008-2009 budget had a major drop in revenues, because we lost our operating referendum for one year. So, when you look at budget trends, that year is sort of an exception. In order to avoid a sudden reduction in services, we used our reserves to carry us through that one bad year until the new operating referendum revenues were restored. At the bottom of each post, I've been listing the budgetary categories specified by the Minnesota Department of Education and I've been discussing the issues and challenges presented by each component of the budget.

In a prior post I showed that expenditures for "regular instruction," that is for classroom teaching primarily, has gone up much faster than other parts of the budget since 2002-2003. The regular instruction category is defined as "Expenditures for elementary and secondary classroom instruction, not including vocational instruction and exceptional instruction. Includes salaries of teachers, classroom aides, coaches, and expenditures for classroom supplies and textbooks." In short, we've been trying to put resources into the classroom. For example, in the six years since 2003-2004, our regular instruction expenditures have risen at a rate of 3.9 percent per year. Over that same period, our total budget has risen at the rate of about 2.6 percent per year. Over the same six years, District and school administration expenditures have risen at the rate of 2.0% per year. In short, spending for the classroom has risen at a rate just about double the rate of spending growth on district and school administration over this time period. District Support Services has risen at the rate of 4/10 of one percent per year in that six years. Special education expenses rose at the rate of 1.4 percent per year, reflecting in part, the decision of the board of education to impose a freeze on special education expenditures during the last several years, driving the average growth down. The primary growth in our budget has been in the regular instruction category over the last seven budget years.

The numbers thus show that in the last six years, the school district has been trying to grow classroom instructional instruction expenditures and emphasize growth where parents and the public have told us they want funds to go, into regular classroom instruction.

Ok. That is the last seven years' budget. What has happened in the last three years. Keep in mind that the state funding formula increased one percent and zero percent, or an average of 1/2 of one percent per year during that period. A review of the this year's budget shows an actual reduction in the budget for district and school administration over the period of the last three budget years. At the same time, it shows a $2 million increase in regular instruction, for an increase of 2.5 percent. It shows virtually no change in district support services and a reduction in special education. In all of these circumstances, I am not making an adjustment for inflation. In other words the reductions that I am describing are actual reductions, not "inflation adjusted" reductions. Pupil support services was held constant, that is no increase. Instructional support services rose about 3 percent per year (about $500,000) likely reflecting some grant funded operations. Site, building and equipment spending was not increased. Our expenditures on regular instruction increased at more than four times the rate of increase in the general funding formula. These are the hard numbers behind the Board of Education's pledge to keep cuts away from the classroom as much as possible and to avoid cutting teaching positions. Regular instruction has been rising as a percentage of our total budget.


Here are the some of the budgetary definitions from the Minnesota Department of Education:
  • District Level Administration Expenditures for the school board and for the office of the superintendent, principals, and any other line administrators who supervise staff.
  • District Support Services: Expenditures for central office administration and central office operations not included in district and school administration. Includes expenditures for business services, data processing, legal services, personnel office, printing, and the school census.
  • School Level Administration Expenditures for the administration of individual schools, including the cost of one licensed principal
  • Regular Instruction: Expenditures for elementary and secondary classroom instruction, not including vocational instruction and exceptional instruction. Includes salaries of teachers, classroom aides, coaches, and expenditures for classroom supplies and textbooks.
  • Instructional and Student Support Services. Expenditures for activities intended to help teachers provide instruction, not including expenditures for principals or superintendents. Expenditures for instructional support services include expenditures for assistant principals, curriculum development, libraries, media centers, audio visual support, staff development, and computer assisted instruction. Expenditures for pupil support services include noninstructional services provided to students such as counseling, guidance, health services, psychological services, and attendance and social work services
  • Facilities, Operations and Maintenance Expenditures for acquisition, operation, maintenance, improvement and repair of the district's buildings, grounds and equipment. Includes expenditures for custodians, fuel for buildings, electricity, telephones, and repairs. Also includes other miscellaneous expenditures such as retirement of long-term obligations, retirement of nonbonded obligations, insurance and nonrecurring items such as judgments.
  • Pupil Support Services: Expenditures for all non-instructional services provided to students, not including transportation and food. Includes expenditures for counseling, guidance, health services, psychological services, and attendance and social work services
  • Special Education: Expenditures for instruction of students who, because of atypical characteristics or conditions, are provided educational programs that are different from regular instructional programs. Includes expenditures for special instruction of students who are emotionally or psychologically disabled, or developmentally delayed; for students with physical, hearing speech, and visual impairments; and for students with special learning and behavior problems.
  • Vocational Instruction: Expenditures in secondary schools for instruction that is related to job skills and career exploration. Includes expenditures for home economics, as well as industrial, business, agriculture, and distributive education.

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