Top 11 Ideas to Balance the Budget

Cost Cutting Ideas/Ideas to Increase Student Achievement: We should begin with a personnel audit, but before we have that, here are some initial recommendations.

Official Requests for Information #1-10

Seven of these were originally submitted on January 5th, 2013. Three more were added and official requests for information were sent on January 28th, 2013. #11 was added on February 1, 2013.

1.            Summer “shut down” days.   To remain competitive in the state, our energies and resources should be focused on student instructional days (180 are needed for this), and teacher planning days (10 days are needed for this). How much money will be saved when all 240 day employees in the county work 210 days?   Rationale: Teachers will have 10 planning days and those who prepare for the school year will work 10 days after the teachers leave and 10 days before the teachers return, that means that support staff will still have 3 times as many planning/preparation days as the teachers. Please calculate the cost savings involved in going from a maximum of 240 days to a maximum of 210 days- a savings of 30 days per year saved through the summer shut down.

2.            How much money would be saved if the “Welcome Center” was no longer funded? Rationale: The services provided through the Welcome Center should be provided at the school sites. It would be more convenient for parents and students if the documentation for enrollment was processed through the school in which the enrollment is sought.

3.            Summer Programs: How much money would be saved if summer programs were not funded? Rationale: Why are we offering extended year programs if we cannot adequately fund the basic school year programs? This is part of the summer shut down proposal.

4.            Instructional Coaches: These positions were originally intended to be temporary positions that rotated among the highest performing teachers. Usually, high performing teachers are selected as instructional coaches. Next year, we will need “all hands on deck” in the classrooms. If these coaches are reassigned back to the classroom, achievement will increase with high quality instruction from these high performing teachers (former coaches).   Coaches will be better equipped to help other teachers because they have been renewed by going back into the classroom and implementing effective teaching strategies that they use to coach other teachers. In the future, reassigned coaches or other high performing teachers will go back to being coaches as the budget allows. What is the total cost savings of this?

5.            ISS (In School Suspension) Staffing: Use paraprofessionals for these positions instead of certified teachers. They do not teach the students in ISS because they are directed to remain silent during ISS.   There are usually 1 or 2 students in ISS at any given time looking into cubicles as they work. The rationale for using paraprofessionals is that these teachers are not responsible for lesson planning, assigning grades or teaching. They are only responsible for monitoring behavior while the students work, similar to the role of a paraprofessional in a cafeteria. The other option is to use long term substitute teachers for these jobs if there is a problem with using paraprofessionals. What is the total cost savings for this?

6.            Middle and High School Department Chairpersons: Currently, these individuals teach one less class than other teachers. For example, if all math teachers teach 5 classes, the math department chair only teaches 4 classes. A more cost effective way to compensate department chairpersons is to provide a stipend instead of one less class. If we assume that the department chairperson is a skilled instructor, this will have a positive effect on student achievement. So, instead of losing 20% of a salary with a class load reduction, the stipend will be $1,000-$1,500 per year. If we assume that the average teacher earns $50,000, which will mean $8,500-$9,000 savings per year, not including benefits saved, per chairperson in services rendered. What is the total cost savings of this?

7.            How much money would be saved if the “7 period day” at Sandy Creek was brought in line with our other high schools (6 periods)? It is costing us more in instructional services because the 5 period teachers have less contact time with students and more teachers are needed to deliver the services for 7 periods. Less contact time usually means less instructional time which means lower student achievement in those core academic areas. So we are paying more and getting less time for instruction in core academic areas. The cost breakdown by school presented by Dan Colwell at the Tea Party meeting on January 22nd showed that we do indeed spend more per student at Sandy Creek than any other high school. This is not equitable. How much money would be saved if the pilot program is ended at Sandy Creek?

8.            Right size staffing at smaller schools: The smaller schools need to be looked at so they don’t have full time teachers for special subjects when a special teacher for 2 or 3 days is sufficient. Smaller schools need to reflect smaller staffing. The number of teachers allocated must be based on the number of students at each school. This will save the dollars that closing schools would have saved but it will keep valuable options open for choices parents can make. This will keep us from losing even more students through instability and school closure. You have provided the initial numbers for this cost savings for Tyrone and Brooks, but these numbers were called into question because they are not the actual numbers but estimates. Please provide the actual figures for the cost savings of this.

9.            Gifted Education: Currently, 15.2% of our students qualify for gifted education while 32.3% qualify for early intervention, 28.3% for special education and 12.5% for remedial education. In a county like Fayette, we should have more than 15.2% of our students in gifted. We can expand our gifted course offerings. This can begin as early as K, 1st and 2nd grade when aptitude and interest are identified in specific subjects. In elementary school currently we have an “all or nothing” gifted model. We can adjust this to fit the specific needs of our students. In 3rd grade, the criteria goes from 99th percentile to 96th percentile so I recommend that we make sure we have effective teachers in K, 1st and 2nd grades and that all of our 3rd graders are prepared and tested to be identified as gifted by subject area such as reading, math, language arts, science, arts, music, and social studies. These scores need to be looked at every year so that more gifted students can be identified. Instead of a pull out gifted model, we should maximize our teachers so that two teachers are not serving the same student at the same time, and our gifted students are not missing instruction in core academic subjects. This means that more of our teachers would need to be certified in gifted and provide those services by subject area.   This will provide challenge to more students who show both interest and aptitude in specific subjects. Gifted students are funded at a higher rate in the funding formula from the state, so this will both better serve our students’ specific needs and increase revenue. How much money would be saved if gifted teachers taught core academic subjects instead of using a pull out model? How much money would be generated per student as more gifted students are identified?

10.          Menu-style classes: At the middle and high school levels, we could offer menu style classes. For example, if a home school student wants to come in for one or two classes, they would be able to do that. In this way, we would offer the flexibility of allowing some students to come in and take a few courses that they select and let them work with their parents on other courses at home.   How much more money from the state would be generated if additional students were added on a class-by-class basis? Please provide numbers for the revenue per student/ per class.

11.  What is the cost savings if all schools remain open and the transportation radius is increased from 0.5 miles for pick up to 1 mile or the 1.5 miles? I would like to know the cost savings for either of these two options including fuel costs.  Rationale:  Walking is actually healthy and exercise in general has been linked to increased mental awareness and student achievement.

I would not be asking for this if I did not think it was important and could save us what we need to save while maintaining our educational excellence.

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