Why 4th Grade Orchestra, 7th Grade Football, German, and Other Student Programs Have Been Cut

The Iowa City Community School District’s Board’s policy governance model does not  excuse the board from asking critical questions of and demanding accountability from the superintendent, who was hired in the spring of 2010. Within the broad categories of the budget certified by the ICCSD Board, the superintendent presented specific budget cuts to the school board. Those cuts included eliminating the German program, 7th grade football, and 4th grade orchestra among other cuts. Cuts were not done because these programs themselves were too expensive. Instead, the programs which were cut were perceived by the superintendent as the easiest alternative to offset the increase in costs which have occurred in the district, mostly in other areas.

Scales of Justice

Below are some of the district’s General Fund Expenditures for the fiscal year period 2009 to 2013 as shown in ICCSD’s Certified Annual Financial Report (CAR), which can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.* The General Fund of a school district is used to cover the ordinary expenses of running the school district that are not found in other funds.

General Fund Expenditures 2009 2013 Percent Change from 2009 to 2013
Attendance and Social Work Services $236,435.45 $849,716.10 259.39
Health Services $897,843.88 $1,415,654.12 57.67
Guidance Services $1,646,240.27 $2,498,451.05 51.77
Administration Technology Services $573,785.28 $836,359.30 45.76
Executive Administration Services $1,330,718.02 $1,818,137.07 36.63
Business Administration Fiscal Services $893,004.71 $1,153,066.60 29.12
Personnel Services $348,998.17 $445,767.26 27.73
Library Media Services $3,154,407.05 $3,746,289.76 18.76
Instruction $75,913,746.65 $88,683,940.99 16.82
Board of Education Services $273,442.94 $314,685.60 15.08
Improvement of Instruction Services $2,745,605.56 $3,109,242.98 13.24
Operation and Maintenance of Plant Services $9,928,087.25 $11,181,103.36 12.62
School Administration Services $5,231,276.07 $5,831,898.84 11.48
Student Transportation $4,045,910.69 3,820,018.66 -5.58

The state authorized allowable growth in 2009 was 4%, 2010 4%, 2011 2%, 2012 0%, and 2013 2%.  While there are many revenue sources that make up the General Fund and impact how much a school district can spend, absent additional state aid, it makes sense for a district to keep General Fund Expenditures per student in some alignment with the allowable growth percentage (around 12.5% or so for the above time period).

Examined another way, General Fund Expenditures went up about 16.92% during the same time period while General Fund Revenues increased about 13.42%.

Oddly, General Fund (and PPEL also) transportation expenditures have gone down, even as the number of students and fuel costs have increased, making me wonder whether transportation expenses have been sliced too much.

20140529_170758

Are there firm conclusions that can be drawn from the above?  Yes, in some areas, the district has increased spending far in excess of allowable growth. Now is the time to discuss whether there have been specific corresponding increases in revenue, which offset specific expenditures, and whether the increases have resulted in improved student performance.

Further, I’d like to see the board discuss publicly whether students, for example, would benefit more from increased access to foreign languages and participation in music and activities like football than some of the other expenses ICCSD spends its money on. Discussions about what to spend money on are values and priorities based discussions the board should be having more of.

Unless spending is kept under control, further cuts in academic and extra-curricular activities are likely. While hindsight is always 20/20, it is time to take a harder look at expenditures, including those that may have been funded by grants and no longer are, in front of the public.

Although I am not surprised, I remain disappointed that the superintendent chose not to involve parents and most of the front line staff, including teachers, in making budget cuts.  It is not too late for the board to insist on this.  The only question is will these elected board members rectify the superintendent’s omission?

 

*To access ICCSD’s Certified Annual Financial Reports (and other districts as well), click on https://www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/certified-annual-financial-reports-car.  To access ICCSD’s mostly recently filed CAR, click on 1213_sfin_CAR_data DR.xlsb at https://www.educateiowa.gov/documents/certified-annual-financial-reports-car/2014/04/2012-2013-car. Then select “Iowa City” as the district in the upper left hand corner. To see “General Fund Expenditures by Function by Object,” click on General Exp at the bottom to see “General Fund Expenditures by Function by Object.”

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This entry was posted in Budget, Cuts, ICCSD, Iowa City Schools. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why 4th Grade Orchestra, 7th Grade Football, German, and Other Student Programs Have Been Cut

  1. Chris Liebig says:

    Thanks for this post. One program that was funded by a grant is PBIS, the district’s over-the-top behavior management program that uses material rewards to get the kids to comply with school rules. As I understand it, the grant ran out this year. I asked the superintendent how much the district would be spending on PBIS next year, but received no answer.

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    • Mary says:

      Thanks for the comment. Interesting. I would assume that the district would be able to track costs. I wonder if the original grant covered all of the start up costs including training and oversight? Do you know if or how the district measures whether this positively impacts academic outcomes?

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  2. I never see numbers for the elephant in the room—-FOOTBALL. Why not cut it?

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    • Mary says:

      You’ve raised an interesting point and question. The numbers should be provided. If the district had solicited feedback from the public, your question could have been brought up and discussed. I’d like to hear what people have to say. We missed out on this discussion (and others) because the superintendent failed to include the public in the decision making process. It seems to me the Board’s decision making process would have been more informed if all viewpoints could be brought forward (and not just after the superintendent’s decision was announced). Having data and research and soliciting the opinions of the public might have led to better Board deliberations and more informed budget cuts with better community understanding of and support for the same.

      I’ve had family members play football, including some of my own children at different points in time, and we know a lot more about football than we did years ago. Boys are the primary group of students who play football, and my observation is that this is a sport that attracts boys from all income levels. If boys are going to play football, I’d rather have them under the supervision and direction of school coaches than outside coaches and make sure they have access to good equipment. I found Coach Sabers comments about flag football potentially being more dangerous than tackle football interesting and would like to have heard more about this and football in general. If football were cut, I’d be curious about whether it would have an adverse impact on girls’ participation in sports under Title IX since my understanding is that schools need to provide equal opportunities to play sports for both boys and girls. All of this could have been brought out in public, and the point you’ve brought up could have been addressed.

      In any event, the superintendent should have included data, research, others opinions, etc. so the Board would have been fully informed. If my recollection is correct, this was required by the Board Policies under Superintendent Directions. Thank you for your comment.

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  3. Amy says:

    It’s almost exclusively boys who play football, not “primarily boys”.

    The Title IX thing gets brought up every time someone points out the massive money devoted to football, which we know perfectly well is a dangerous sport, but — as a woman who was an early beneficiary of Title IX, and is still active in sports — I can tell you that no, girls would not be hurt. The point of Title IX is that the girls and boys have equal opportunities. So long as they do, we’re in good shape. If cutting football were to mean that suddenly the sports budgets were truly out of whack, I think the girls would readily accept that fairness would dictate some changes. If they did not, that would tell us that the Social Studies curriculum was not up to par.

    Something people like to bring up in conjunction with equity when it’s pointed out how dangerous football is: cheerleading. Ftr, I’d be totally happy to see cheerleading cut as well. While not as expensive as football, it’s quite a dangerous sport, with the majority of severe injuries in women’s sport coming from cheer.

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