October 07, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning The Budget Shortfall and Staffing Reductions 

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Members of the DCPS Community:

Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the DCPS FY10 budget and our recent decision to separate the employment of school staff members in order to balance our budget.

We will continue to update this document with additional information as it becomes available. 

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Michelle Rhee



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE BUDGET SHORTFALL AND STAFFING REDUCTIONSTHE BUDGET OVERALL

1. It is only six weeks into the new school year. Why are you adjusting school budgets and staffing now?
Each year, DCPS engages in an equalization process. Through this process and like many other school districts, we adjust school budgets to align staffing and other resources to actual student enrollment at each school. The budget of an individual school may increase or decrease depending on the number of students attending and fully registered in that particular school. We do our best to project which schools students will actually attend; however, we do not know until after the school year begins where students actually report. In addition to this annual process, we face a budget shortfall for FY 2010 which began on October 1st. As a result, we needed to reduce many school budgets. Instead of undertaking two separate processes—budget reduction and equalization—we combined these into one in order to minimize the disruption to student learning.

2. What is DCPS’ total budget shortfall?
Going into FY 2010, our expenses were $820.5 million, against available funding of $779.5 million. Our budget shortfall for FY 2010 was $43.9 million. The shortfall was caused by:

  • summer reductions (in June and August) made by Council--$20.5 million
  • additional school-level resources that, in previous years, had been carried on the central office budget—$20.5 million
  • costs associated with leave and severance for separated employees—approximately $3 million

3. Why did you hire 900 teachers if you knew you would need to let them go in October?
Preparations for school opening began in January 2009. Preliminary school budgets are routinely developed in February—as they were this year--and submitted to Council as part of the Mayor’s proposed FY 2010 budget in March 2009. To ensure that we hire the best possible candidates, we allow principals to hire teachers in the spring. This timing also allows teachers interested in transferring meaningful options to move to other DCPS schools.

Under our agreement with the Washington Teachers Union, this open hiring process can begin as early as April 15th. This year, we began the open hiring process on May 20th. This process continued throughout the summer until the middle of July. On July 31, 2009, we are required by union contract to place in schools all current teachers who do not have positions by that date. 915 of our 934 new teachers had already been hired when the budget was further reduced on August 6th.

4. Why can’t DCPS use stimulus funds to save jobs?
We have used stimulus funds to save jobs. Our FY 2010 budget includes nearly $40 million in state stabilization funds. The remaining federal titles funds have restrictions upon their use, and stimulus dollars are not available on an on-going basis. School districts were given clear direction by the U.S. Department of Education to use these funds on one-time expenditures, such as equipment and computer programs, but not to supplement teacher salaries.



SCHOOL BUDGETS

5. Did you reduce the budget of every school?
No. The budgets of about 20 schools increased; the majority of these schools had significant increases in student enrollment. Additional per-pupil funds offset the reductions caused by cutting the overall budget and the additional resources assigned to each school.

6. What was the process by which school budgets were reduced?
Each school received an initial budget adjustment that reflected (a) the difference between the school’s projected enrollment and its actual enrollment, (b) the decrease in the amount of funding we receive per pupil, and (c) the cost of additional staff members that had been previously carried by central office.

After conferring with their LSRTs and in conjunction with their instructional superintendents, principals developed budget reduction plans for their schools. The plans needed to best meet the school’s individual needs. We also tried to maintain, to the maximum extent possible, the comprehensive staffing model as well as the wrap-around services essential for our student’s success. The reduction plans could include eliminating vacant positions, or reducing both filled teaching and non-teaching positions and non-personnel spending.

7. What are the school-by-school enrollment numbers?
Download the list of DCPS schools, along with the enrollment that each school projected for the 2009-2010 school year as well as its actual enrollment as of September 17, 2009.



STAFFING

8. Was it absolutely necessary to make these staff reductions?
It was necessary because, coming into FY 2010, DCPS had an extraordinary budget pressure cause by two main factors: (a) the budget reductions made by DC Council, and (b) a number of school-based positions that in prior years, had been covered by the central office budget. In addition, anti-deficiency laws prevent us from budgeting for and carrying staff unless we are able to show resources that support those positions for an entire year. The shortfall this year makes it impossible to do this without reducing positions.

9. How many staff members were released?
District-wide, 388 employees were separated. Separation notices were delivered to affected employees. Consistent with past practice, affected employees were immediately placed on paid administrative leave until their employment is separated next month. They were provided with important information regarding severance, health benefits and other meaningful assistance in order to ease this difficult transition.

10. Did you target veteran teachers?
Absolutely not. This is rumor and completely unsubstantiated. Such a practice is not only illegal but morally reprehensible. In addition, since many, many thousands of DCPS students benefit from being skillfully taught by veteran teachers, it would be ill-advised for us to ever take such an action. The experience levels of teachers affected:

  • Only 7% of teachers affected had experience of 25 years or more
  • 54% of teachers affected had experience of 10 years or less
  • 39% of teachers affected were in their first five years of teaching
  • 17% of teachers affected were new hires; they were in their first year of teaching.

11. What about other characteristics of the people who were separated?

  • The majority of DCPS employees are over age 40; their average age is 43. The average age of those separated is 49.
  • Overall, 49% of DCPS employees are DC residents. 43% of the persons separated are DC residents.
  • Our data on race is incomplete because, by law, identification of one’s race is not mandatory. Reporting it is completely voluntary, and the choice to do so is up to each individual employee. Many employees choose not to report their race.

12. How were the decisions made about which people to separate?
Most often, RIFs adhere to the “last hired, first fired” formula, and length of service is the only criterion used to make those decisions. We all know that, while we have many fine veteran teachers (see question 10), there is not always a direct correlation between teacher effectiveness and years of service. So there was a quality element in the criteria that principals used to make separation determinations.

If the school’s budget reduction plan included the elimination of a filled position, a reduction in force was utilized to determine whose employment was terminated. Pursuant to DC law, all employees were rated on the following four factors: 1) the needs of the school; 2) relevant, significant contributions and performance of staff member; 3) relevant supplemental experience demonstrated on the job, and 4) length of creditable service. Principals had to explain their ratings on the first three factors. The fourth factor was calculated by the DCPS Office of Human Resources. These ratings then determined the ranking for reduction in force decisions.

13. Did every school lose staff members?
No. Sixty percent (60%) of schools lost either one staff member or no staff member. Eighty percent (80%) of schools lost two or few staff members. See chart below:

Number of Teachers Separated  Number of Schools
0 39
1 37
2 26
3 8
4 6
5 or more 12


We have worked--and will continue to do so--with individual schools to ensure that parents and guardians are able to talk to the principals of their children’s schools in order to better understand how their school has been impacted.

14. Is it true that police escorted all separated staff out of their buildings?
No. This is rumor. Principals proceeded with the separations according to a very clear set of protocols specifically designed to avoid turmoil and disruption. There were a few isolated instances in which separated employees were upset and confrontational (understandably so). In those few instances, we requested security support to ensure the safety of all present.

15. What about other staff members? Did schools lose custodians, office workers and other positions?
Yes. The breakdown is as follows:

SEPARATED STAFF BY EMPLOYEE GROUP

Employee Group Description  Number of Staff Separated
Teachers Classroom teachers 229
Custodial Staff Custodial foreman and custodians 19
Office Staff Clerks, registrars, business managers and other administrative staff assigned to school offices 59

Student Support Staff

 

Assistant principals, counselor and other staff that work directly with students but not assigned to classrooms 81
  Total 388

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