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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comments on Rock Hill Schools Plan For Meeting The Budget

I made three comments on the Rock Hill Schools Plan to meet the 2011 budget during Monday's meeting. Those comments were on; Student Academic Fees; Middle School Elective Programs and; Salary increases for employees. I will have comments on the Parent Smart reductions later.

I have two concerns with the student academic fees. The first is that we have a free and reduced lunch level of 54% in the district. This means the full fees would be paid by a minority of the students - and many of those students are very close to the poverty line themselves. I'm guessing this was one of the reasons there was/and has been such a push back for the fees this year. The second comment is that the fees were not uniformly collected by the different school administrations. The money was to be used only at the school - somehow the message got out that the district was going to use it. My suggestion was for the collection of the fees to be a school event and to take the district out of it completely - which was rejected by the administration. My follow-up comment was that we should get support from each school's School Improvement Council (made up of parents, teachers, and community) before agreeing to the fees for next year.

My comment on middle school electives was that we need to be sure we don't end up with have and have not schools. That if we offer a program, strings for instance, it should be available for all students or it should be offered at one of our middle schools which are currently choice.

My last comment concerned the Superintendent's suggestion that the board consider taking money out of  the fund balance to pay a salary increase because it looked like the other school districts in York County were going to give pay increases. I wanted the administration to provide to the board the reason why the other districts could do this within their revenue and we couldn't.

From the latest state report cards comes some interesting data. The first is the average size of elementary schools. I suspect this is an area that is making education in Rock Hill Expensive. Our schools are smaller than the rest of the county as you can see below:

Elementary Schools Size
Fort Mill 687
York 663
Clover 528
Rock Hill 456
We also have more students per teacher (which you would think would make our costs less):

Student/Teacher Ratio
Clover 21.4
Fort Mill 21.7
York 21.9
Rock Hill 22.3
We spend the lowest percentage of our budget on students:

% of Budget Spent on Students
Fort Mill 61.50%
Clover 59.40%
York 59.20%
Rock Hill 58.60%
But we are the second highest in money spent per student:

Dollars Per Student
Clover $9,359
Rock Hill $9,223
York $8,896
Fort Mill $8,639
Our average teacher salaries are the lowest (Since pay changes by years of experience and level of education/National Board, there are a lot of factors at play):

Teacher Salaries
Fort Mill $51,189
Clover $50,728
York $49,588
Rock Hill $49,216
And our average Administrator salaries are second lowest (which you would expect with small elementary schools):

Administration Salaries
Fort Mill $89,658
Clover $82,435
Rock Hill $81,842
York $81,359
But these are just numbers from the state report card. We have programs that are unique to our district. Such as:
  • Elementary, Middle, and High School IB programs
  • Choice schools for Gifted and Talented and Foreign language
  • Elementary swimming program
  • Carrol School and Brattonsville Academy for elementary history
  • A Charter School for the Children's Attention Home
  • The Flexible Learning Center
And I'm sure there are benefits to smaller elementary schools. The administration is making decisions based on "The Climb" and the "Professional Code".

I understand there is a lot of sympathy concerning teacher step increases - and the board may end up granting them. However, I do have these concerns:
  • Studies show that pay is not a motivator, nor is it the major issue for people to leave. The number one reason people leave is because of working conditions and not having respect from their employer.
  • Adding to salaries carry's forward to the next year's budget, making it more difficult to balance the next year. Higher salaries, with limited revenue, end up causing more jobs to be lost.
  • In January, when a teacher is in the parking lot helping to park cars, at 15 degrees, because we eliminated the positions that used to do that, do you think they will remember the 2% raise in August or the fact they, with all their education, are having to be outside in 15 degrees because we cut a position? What about the high school coach who now has to cut the grass as well?
  • Are we student focussed if we cut money for teacher classroom supplies?
  • What does it say to all the employees who lost their jobs, or took pay cuts so we can give the remaining employees a pay increase?
A  problem with ACT 388 is that we've lost our ability to fund unique programs through local tax dollars.  We have major decisions to make. The community has remained silent. It is  time to speak up.

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