Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's A Zero-Sum Situation ($$$$$)

People seem to appreciate knowing more about the context for the discussions about union-administration relations for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

You'll find the AAPS budget page here, and it's worth a look.

And the number one context piece is this: when it comes to school funding, it's (at best) a zero-sum situation.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools per-pupil funding for the 2014-2015 budget was $9,133 per pupil. In 2002-2003, it was $9,181. That's right, the current funding is less than the funding from twelve years ago. [In my parents' district in New  York, per pupil funding is more than double this number, and they are not at the top of the districts in their county!]

Per-pupil funding for AAPS, taken from the 2014-2015 budget.

Looking at the coming year(s), 
this financial situation does not seem to improve. 

And obviously--expenses continue to rise. Most particularly, retirement expenses (which are centralized through the state and charged to districts, and the districts do not control) continue to take a bigger and bigger bite out of the district's budget.

Even though the reason AAPS has higher per-pupil funding is because we have always supported our schools financially; even though we are a "donor district" and give much of the money that we collect to the rest of the state...
the state legislature continues to give token, if any, increases to districts like Ann Arbor (because we already get "so much" and it's "inequitable"), and disproportionate increases to charter and online schools.

Projections for next year are that any increases we see will not keep up with the cost of inflation, even without restoring teacher pay.

From the point of view of the administration and the school board, it's not a fiscally sound decision to raise teachers' salaries (even if they are not paid enough now), and several districts that are currently in deficit have gone down the road of spending that doesn't match income. The AAPS school board and administration are trying to avoid that.

And some people (me, among others, though I link here to Chris Savage's blog), fear that the defeat of Proposal 1 will be seen as by the legislature as an opportunity to grab more money from the school aid fund.


When we talk about the school budget, and the value of teachers and other school staff (teacher's aides, secretaries, principals...)...yes, and yes.

They are both important.

But financially, we're in a zero-sum game. If individual teachers get paid more, it is likely that we will have larger class sizes. But reducing class sizes is a proven way to improve achievement, and I think our class sizes now are plenty large enough.

That is the reality. Money, money, money.

Feel a bit stuck? I do.

And by the way--a good way to keep on top of what is happening at the state level is to visit, and subscribe to, the updates from Michigan Parents for Schools, And a good thing to do is to work with Michigan Parents for Schools to advocate at the state level.

Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!

1 comment:

  1. Like you, I'm also stuck. Revenue is largely controlled at the state level and out of the hands of AAPS. Like other areas of industry, we can hope for the best, but plan for the worst. I think the AAEA is being foolish by framing the argument as teachers against the administration and the board. The union needs to recognize this publicly and decide how they want to be seen. The superintendent and board's first duty is to the students, with secondary duties to other stakeholders. While many parents will support the teachers now because of their personal relationship with the children, once discord becomes more widespread and real financial consequences of that occur, ranging from teacher layoffs, to school year disruptions, to talk of an emergency manager, I think a lot of this goodwill will fade quickly. Change in Lansing is slow, and our best option is to try to survive and be the last one standing as the other districts fall into receivership. If we go then, then we go then, but at least the students will have some sustained benefit.