Budget breakdown: A look at how city schools fared this budget season
Update June 1: So far, I have confirmed that Northwestern, City, Patterson, Roland Park also noted among the largest decreases--Patterson with the most at $1.2 million. More information to come on the losses/gains. Was also told that getting losses/gains for all 200 schools is nearly impossible (at least in a timely manner). I can post percentages as well.
The Baltimore city school board adopted a $1.3 billion budget for next year, in which the amount being allocated to schools will increase by about 1 percent from last year.
However, principals will receive millions less in "flexible" money, which gives schools the autonomy to staff their schools and provide resources for their students. School officials said the funding squeeze came as a result of more funding designated for specific purposes, like special ed; rising costs, particularly in salaries and benefits; and revenues remaining flat while enrollment increased.
This has resulted in various schools facing difficult decisions, and worrying that they will lose momentum in their progress.
Due to time constraints (the budget was presented in a piece-meal format with Powerpoints, and not released in its entirety until four days before the board vote), there wasn't much dialogue about the impact of this year's challenges.
Below, I have compiled some information about how schools fared this budget season, including how many schools are losing/gaining and on average how much. You can also take a look at the top 5 schools that lost/gained the most funding for next year, and how school officials explain whether the city's neighborhood and struggling schools can sustain under the current funding model.
A few weeks ago, the school system provided a summary of how many schools gained and how many lost this year. According to that data, 103 schools experienced funding decreases, with the losses averaging about $231,302; 77 schools saw an increase in funding next year, at an average gain of $394,195.
But many schools noted changes that were well beyond the average, and the pain was spread throughout the city.
Arundel Elementary/Middle School, a Cherry Hill Neighborhood school that made AYP for the first time ever last year, will lose more than $340,000. Roland Park Elementary/Middle School parents went to a budget hearing and asked school board members to explain the $600,000 cut to the high achieving school.
Roland Park parents went to a city school budget hearing and asked officials to explain the decrease.
Elizabeth Reichelt was part of a group, looking to understand the decrease, especially after she and other parents stood in the rain to protest state lawmakers in Annapolis to restore all city school funding.
“We understood that there were going to be these huge cuts, and thanks to the advocacy we were going to be avoiding those cuts,” Reichelt said. “So we were really caught off guard when there were still cuts at the school level.”
She said that she hopes that, “principals be given the support that they need to be creative and look at things in a whole new way,” she said. “Because it’s really hard to figure out where to cut when you’re losing resources.”
It is still unclear how many teaching positions will be lost next year, though we've heard that the number of surplus teachers is swelling.
School officials said that final budgets, with all full-time positions, are due in June. So far, teachers at Polytechnic Institute have spoken out against losing 9 teachers, and Baltimore School for the Arts students have protested losing 2 teachers and a staff member.
Apparently, similar scenarios are unfolding across the district.
“A number of principals are facing loss of staff,” said Jimmy Gittings, head of the principal’s union. “They have to make decisions to keep an assistant principal or lose two teaching positions, and that puts them between a rock and a hard plate.”
The school system also provided me with the list of schools that noted the largest budget increases and decreases:
Under the district's Fair Student Funding model, schools receive money based on enrollment numbers. School officials said that the decreases and increases were based on enrollment, and the amount of additional money that schools received for basic, advanced and special education students. It should also be noted that in most charter agreements, many are approved to expand by adding a new grade each year, so charter enrollment is designed to grow.
The top five gainers were all charter or transformation schools, and the schools that lost the most money were predominantly neighborhood and large, high schools--some of which have been struggling for some time.
Here is the list the school system provided (Note: for those who are wondering, yes, I have questions about why some schools weren't included as well--will check on that).
1. Furman L. Templeton Elementary gained $2 million, and 42 new students
2. Vanguard Collegiate Middle School gained $1.23 million and 157 new students
3. City Neighbors High School gained $1 million and 88 new students
4. Green Street Academy gained $1 million and 100 new students
5. NACA Freedom and Democracy Academy II gained $679,139 and 55 students
Schools that lost the most funding this year:
1. Frederick Douglass High School lost $1.2 million and 127 students
2. Forest Park High School lost $979, 201 and 104 students
3. Reginald F. Lewis which lost $610,745 and 127 students
4. Lyndhurst Elementary School lost $319,778 and 39 students
5. Southside Academy lost $487,107 and 36 students
In discussing the list, I asked school officials if neighborhood and big, city high schools will be able to sustain under the current funding model.
For example, Reginald F. Lewis experienced one of the biggest funding cuts this year. But, it's the school that city schools CEO Andres Alonso reassigned to Barney Wilson, former principal of the high achieving Polytechnic Institute, last year to help turn around.
“Sometimes you have a school that absolutely has to turn around, and work like hell to do it," said Michael Sarbanes, spokesman for the school system. "But sometimes the perception is such that it's not where [families] want to be, and they lose funds. The money follows the kids.”
Sarbanes said that Douglass and Reginald F. Lewis will receive grant funding this year to help with turnaround efforts.
However, NACA II charter leaders expressed concern about their sustainability at a school board meeting earlier this year, after the school's enrollment numbers and budget decreased two years in a row. They seem to be on the upswing.