Budget Consideration FY2020

*NOTE: Since publishing this post on May 19th, the School Committee approved the proposed budget including the allocation of funding for menstrual products in schools, an enrollment study and additional garden resources which were previously under discussion. 

Dan Futrell shared a summary of the Superintendent's proposed budget at our May 13th Regular School Committee Meeting as part of his report on the Budget Public Hearing, which is included below. SPS Administration's mission to increase equity, access, and opportunity for all students is al the heart of the investments proposed for 2019. Click here to access the budget FY2020 budget information, including all documents, including the presentation by SPS administration at the public hearing as well as a link to a video of the public hearing. 

Following the public hearing, SC Finance and Facilities Subcommittee of the Whole met to begin deliberation on the budget and discussed budget items with the Superintendent. The source of funding and responsible party for providing sanitary products in machines installed at both the high school and middle grades floors in our K-8 schools was highlighted and the Superintendent continues effort with the city Department of Public Works and Health and Human Services to establish access. The Superintendent's office is also investigating resources to lead a comprehensive enrollment projection study considering the city changing demographics and plans for development, to support equity work and facility planning. The district was recently notified about a shortfall in funding for the current garden provider, and is exploring options with schools for funds to continue garden maintenance and programming. When discussing enhancing our current college guidance services for students, the Superintendent has included an additional staff member as well as resources to hire a consultant to aid in developing a strategic plan. I expect that work will result in a budget ask next year for FY2021.
Report on the 5/2 Public Hearing on the FY2020 budget proposed by Superintendent Skipper by Finance and Facilities Chair Dan Futrell:

FY2020 Staff Additions

"On Thursday, May 2, the Finance & Facilities subcommittee of the whole convened at 6:06pm for the public hearing on the FY2020 budget of Somerville Public Schools. In attendance were myself, Ms. Normand, Ms. Pitone, Mr. Green, Ms. O’Sullivan, and Ms. Palmer. Additionally, approximately 23 staff and 19 members of the public were in attendance.
The Superintendent’s budget recommends an increase from $72,679,325 to $76,257,481, representing new spending of $3.5M or 4.92%. 
The Superintendent’s emphasis in building her budget this year, in addition to overall supporting our vision of educating the whole child, is focused on increasing equity, access, and opportunity for all students.
From a financial perspective, of the new spending represented in the FY20 budget, 79% ($2.8M) is allocated to salaries, while 21% (0.7M) is allocated to non salary expenses in operations, contracts, transportation, and out of district tuition, among other things. Notably, there are only 6 new FTEs added to the current staff, including an Equity Administrator, a Special Ed Integration Specialist in Theater Arts, a Dean of Students at Argenziano, an Educator Counselor at the East, a College and Career Advisor at SHS, and a Pre-K SPED Teacher for the ASD program at Winter Hill. Outside of these new positions, the majority of new spending in salaries is structured to support increases in pay to our bargaining units.
The district highlighted FY2019 successes, which include the district’s leadership role in the By All Means initiative at Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab and as a founding district of the MCIEA consortium, an investment in long term equity work within this committee as well as the district’s administrative team, redesign of educational models for Next Wave/Full Circle, our pilot recycling and composting program, and the launch of the Somerville Learning 2030 Visioning process. In addition, the district’s track record of success has garnered over $2.9M in grant funds in support of preschool, mental and behavioral health services, and other planning initiatives. 
The district reported increased graduation rates in the district overall (91.2% grad rate in 5 years from SHS) paired with a falling dropout rate. Additionally, suspension rates have fallen over the last 6 years from a peak of 3.9% out of school suspension to 2.1% in 2018.  Attendance rates hover in the mid 94% and students largely report positive plans post graduation, with 71.9% planning on a 2-year or 4-year college or some other post-secondary plans, and 24.7% planning to enter directly into the workforce.
Though this was not a highlight of the Superintendent’s presentation, I noted that the demographics of our district are changing slowly. The number of students with a first language other than English has slowly been decreasing from 51% in 2013 when I first ran for School Committee to 48% in 2018. The state reports 21% first language not English. Students recorded with “high needs” has decreased from 75% to 60% over the same time period.*
The district’s proposed expenses shows a per pupil expenditure that exceeds $20,000 for the first time, at $20,232 in FY2018, up almost $800 per pupil from the year prior. This figure normally has a 1 year lag so this is the most recent data available. The district also reported an average class size of 19.0, and not exceeding an average of 20.5 students in any single grade.
Finally, the FY2020 budget includes shifted and new programmatic investment in innovation, out of school time, early education, special education, ELL programming, the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative, Social-Emotional and Wellness Supports, and Educator Development. Visit somerville.k12.ma.us/finance to view the presentation and find more details.
Of the approximately 19 members of the public who attended and provided comment, there was advocacy in support of Groundworks Somerville, the snack program, additional resources for equity and cultural proficiency, family liaisons, and support for the college admissions process. Several of the items were already included in the administration’s budget. 
Lastly, we noted that the additional opportunities for discussion on this budget would be the Finance Committee of the Whole’s deliberations on May 7 and May 21, as well as our full committee meetings tonight and on May 20.
We transitioned from the administration’s presentation to public comment at 7:15pm, and adjourned at 7:50pm."
*Note a clarification was made by the Superintendent regarding changes in the was DESE determines "high needs", which may be under representing this number with respect to how low income is captured.
Do you like this post?
Laura Pitone for Ward 5 School Committee
Keep informed about the campaign by signing up below