January 2019 Principal Chat... REVEALED: Doomsday Approaches

Our long hiatus is over.  Yes, Bonny Slope, the Principal Chat recaps are back! Just in time to discover that...

Doomsday approaches.

Last January’s Principal Chat had one singular focus-- discussing the the $22 million shortfall that Beaverton School District is facing next school year.  Talk about a buzzkill.

Here are some questions (and answers!) that you, Beaverton taxpayer, parent and everyday warrior, may have.

How does school funding work?

Public schools are funded by a combination of federal, state, and local taxes. Every $100 million in the state’s school fund translates to approx. $3.5 million for Beaverton School District.

So... What led to the budget gap that had to be hastily filled last December?

Several factors.  A January 16th OPB article recently shed light on the mitigating factors that led to the $12 million shortfall for 2018-19.  Here’s an excerpt:

Specifically, district officials pointed to five factors in Beaverton’s $10 to $12 million gap:

  • Estimates were too high for English Language Learner enrollment and students in need of specialized classroom environments (both student groups that bring additional funding to the district) — ELL student numbers were off by 400, the special education enrollment figure was over by 100 students.

  • Overall enrollment growth was flat, though Beaverton officials “anticipated continued student enrollment growth.”

  • There was a decrease of “students in poverty throughout Beaverton,” which “reduces our State School Fund allocation” — a drop of about $1.2 million based on enrolling 155 fewer students than forecast.

  • “[F]ewer teachers left the high end of the salary schedule and were not replaced by teachers on the lower end of the salary schedule.”

  • Beaverton’s costs under Oregon’s new Pay Equity law, designed to prohibit discrimination against women, “could not have been estimated when the budget was adopted,” but officials now say that law is costing the district $1.1 million.  

Read the full story HERE: https://www.opb.org/news/article/beaverton-oregon-school-budget-cuts/

In a nutshell, when they wrote this budget last spring, BSD overestimated the number of special ed students, new students, and low-income students for this school year.  Each of those groups provide money to a school district, and as they flatline, so does the money. As our demographics change, BSD receives less state and federal money.

Are there other factors at play here?

Absolutely.  State and local funding are impacted by PERS increase, contractual obligations to staff, health insurance increases, and non-salary increases like utilities.

How did this current shortfall affect Bonny Slope?

Last December, Janet and all school principals had to return 20% of their operating budget given to them in September.  That translated to about $15,000 less for Janet to work with this school year. Good news? Renee Conduff, our principal’s secretary, is a budget ace and has continued to keep us on track and out of the red.

And now to the real story. What does this mean for NEXT school year?

Budget cuts to the tune of $22 million.

(low whistle)

Okay. Dare we ask what is being cut?

Nothing has been decided yet, but everything is on the table, including:

  • Increased class size in all schools

  • Eliminating PYP & STEAM programs

  • Reducing multilingual teaching and support staff

  • Reducing custodial staff

  • Reducing campus supervisors and crossing guard positions

  • Shortening the school year

  • Eliminating conferences (or other non-student work days)

The district actually provided attendees with a list of 52 options with varying degrees of savings.

What BSD can’t cut?

  • Transportation

  • Special Education (maintenance and effort as required by federal law)

  • Utilities & gasoline

  • Contracted expenses for employees (Did we mention that teachers will begin contract negotiations later this year?  Oh how the plot thickens.)

But… but… we just passed that levy!  Why can’t we use some of that money?

Funny thing about taxpayer initiatives.  They have to be used for exactly what they were advertised for.  The levy will be used for teacher salaries in order to retain approx. 300 teacher positions and maintain smaller class sizes.

So… even though Beaverton passed the levy last spring, there will STILL be a $22M shortfall.

Yes.  If the levy HADN’T passed, Beaverton would be looking at even larger cuts.

But then why is Beaverton School District still building new schools?

The new schools are paid for by a bond in 2014.  Again, bonds are ballot-initiatives, meaning they are for a specific purpose and cannot be diverted.  The 2014 bond had very specific elements-- check them all out here.

Wait-- Bonny Slope just got all this new technology.  Why is BSD paying for all these devices when there’s a “budget shortfall?”  

Again, the influx of technology to BSD schools in the past several years is a result of the 2014 bond.  You can read their complete list of projects or just peek at the technology portion.

What can Bonny Slope brace itself for?

Well, sadly, Bonny Slope already has some pretty high class sizes, meaning we probably won’t see THAT much of a hike in the classroom.  However, depending on what the district decides, it could be anything from losing our PYP coordinator & Spanish teacher, to a shorter school year with no conferences.

Can BSCO help?

Our PTO provides an awesome amount of in-class supplies, teacher resources and student enrichment which is gonna come in handy through these dark ages.  However, BSD does not allow parent organizations to provide funds for additional staff.

Note: This is not the case for Portland Public, who are allowed to use PTO dollars to provide additional staff support.  However, affluent Portland PTOs must also share their fundraising totals with lower-income schools.

So… what you’re saying is that this situation is pretty serious.

Yes.  And it’s not going away anytime soon. Lovely.

Are there additional resources besides state or local taxes?

You know, attendees bounced a few ideas around, such as a Nike grant or (gulp) PERS reform.  So while yes, in theory there are other ways, right now we have no clear alternative pathway to shore up this funding.

Do parents/taxpayers have any say in how these cuts are applied?

Hmmm… you could:

Long story short— buckle up, Bonny Slope. The next few years could be a bumpy ride.

December Revealed

Better late than never!  Here’s a quick summary of Dec’s chat:

  • Even though BSD has put the kibosh on elementary overnight trips, Bonny Slope fifth graders will still enjoy two days of outdoor exploration through Trackers Earth Portland.

  • Stoller’s lockdown was a learning moment for BSD as well for the Washington County sheriff.  The district teaches protocols based on the best information out there, but there’s always room to improve and reevaluate.  One thing to know? When the WA County sheriff takes over, BSD and its employees must follow their lead. Confused about lockouts versus lockdowns? Here’s some handy info.

  • Bonny Slope will be receiving the second round of devices this spring, funded by the 2014 bond (see above).

  • BSCO is helping make BSE earthquake ready!  Emergency water barrels have arrived. Each classroom has a bucket with the essentials-- two gallons water, emergency bucket with pee/poop buckets (buddy classrooms), flashlights, solar blankets, first aid kits, and a list of emergency contacts for the class.  BSE is also increasing the number of radios on hand, since in the case of an emergency, cell phones may be down.

  • Our backpack program is alive and well!  Bonny Slope is always taking food and cash donations to help fund our pantry.

    And that’s a wrap!  Join us for our next Principal Chat on Friday, 2/22 @ 2pm.