Budget Analysis: Will there be anyone left to turn on the lights if you don’t lay off teachers?

Posted on April 12, 2011


As we all know, Governor Perry recently stated that school district leaders were choosing to lay off teachers rather than choosing to lay off other staff and reduce non-payroll program expenditures. GOP senators have said much the same thing. For example, Senator Shapiro (R-Plano) stated, “”We have said that from the beginning. There will be cuts. But our first priority will be in the classroom.” Similarly, Sen.Patrick (R-Houston says we have to “prioritize” our spending to focus on the classroom.

Data and Methodology

As mentioned above, the budget cut estimates were calculated by Moak and Casey. I downloaded them from TexasISD.com and uploaded them into SPSS> I also used TEA staff responsibility data provided by TEA. This data is at the individual person level and includes their role, service code (job title), percent of the day assigned to each service code, and percent of total base pay per service code. In addition, the data identifies the employing school district and school. The data was aggregated to the district level after identifying which educators and job assignments directly or indirectly impacted student outcomes. I then compared the ratio of total budgets cuts to the total base pay budgeted for educators in roles indirectly impacting student outcomes. In this way, I could identify the percentage of individuals not directly impacting student achievement who would have to be laid off if school boards decided NOT to lay off any individuals in roles directly impacting student outcomes.

There are two scenarios. Scenario one is where each district has its total Foundation School Program (FSP) revenue reduced by 11.3%. Version two is where each district has its FSP revenue reduced by an amount unique to each district based on the elimination of hold-harmless funding associated with the target revenue system (Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction), the elimination of the chapter 41 hold harmless, and a reduction to the basic allotment.

What happens if we cut the budget in a manner proposed by the house? Using Moak and Casey’s estimates of the cuts to districts, we can see how this will affect districts across the state.

Results for Non-Teaching Salaries

How to read these two graphs–the bars represent the percentage of school districts that would have to cut X % of their non-teaching salaries to fully match the budget cuts and not cut any teaching positions as politicians and some political organizations have urged districts to do. For example, in Figure 1, 36.1% of districts would have to cut between 40% and 50% of their non-teaching salaries to meet the budget cuts proposed under scenario 1 described above.

As shown in Figure 1, 20.1% of all districts would have to cut at least 50% of their non-teaching salaries!!!! Ok–so technically the politicians and pundits are right. Most districts could meet the budget cuts without cutting one teacher.

But do you think a doctor would cut 50% of nurses, physicians assistants, janitors, maintenance workers, accountants,  and all the other staff in order to not cut doctors because they are the ones who treat patients? Not a chance because they know the hospital will quickly shut down without all the support staff.

So, I have to ask, are the legislators and groups calling for these massive budget cuts in education willing to volunteer to drive the buses, cook and feed the children, collect and analyze data, complete forms for TEA, prepare the budget, manage the payroll, help the sick kids, and tutor the students having difficulties? I didn’t think so!

As shown in Figure 2, the budget cuts under scenario 2 described above would require over 11% of all districts to eliminate ALL of their non-teaching salaries in order to meet the budget cuts. Moreover, these districts would HAVE to cut teachers to meet the budget cuts imposed under House Bill 1.

Further, over ONE-THIRD of all districts would have to cut at least 50% of non-teaching salries to meet the budget cuts.

Results for  Salaries of Staff Not Directly Impacting Student Outcomes

While teachers are vital to student outcomes, other positions directly impact student outcomes as well as I showed in a previous post (https://fullerlook.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/staff-directly-impacting-students/). If we really want the cuts to not directly impact students, then the cuts should NOT affect any educator who directly impacts student outcomes. If we stick to this, let’s see how much of the salaries of the staff who indirectly impact student outcomes districts would have to cut.

But first, let’s review who directly impacts student outcomes:

1) Teachers and educational aides directly impact student outcomes since they are in classrooms every day with students and both work with students intensively. Educational aides make possible the mainstreaming of special needs students, ELL students, students struggling academically, and students with behavior problems. Without these aides, teachers could not be as effective with all students. If you doubt this, ask a teacher with a diverse groups of kids with different needs and who has an educational aide in her classroom.

2) Principals, assistant principals, nurses, counselors, and librarians also have a direct impact on student outcomes as anyone who has worked in schools or who has had children in schools can attest to. Principals and assistant principals set the direction of the school, assist teachers in improving practice, speak with students on a daily basis, encourage students, counsel students, and manage the day-to-day operations of the school. Without school administrators, schools would simply not run nearly as effectively or efficiently. Counselors perform a variety of functions, but most importantly work with students who are having difficulties in school. An effective counselor can improve student outcomes by keeping the student engaged in school and on the right track. Nurses help improve student outcomes by keeping kids healthy and safe and even saving lives as some parents have testified in front of the Senate Education Committee. Librarians assist teachers in instructing students to read and how to use the library in a number of different manners. They also teach students how to conduct research using library resources, including the internet.

3) Special education specialists, whether at a school or at the central office, make a critical difference in the lives of students with special needs. Without these staff, many students would suffer academically and emotionally. In fact,m federal law requires that such services to be provided and cutting such services could violate students’ rights to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.

Those who do not directly impact student outcomes are:

1) Teacher facilitators, mentors, and appraisers are critically important to improving teacher practice, thus one could argue that they directly impact student outcomes. However, because they have no direct interaction with students.

2) Curriculum and instructional specialists, either at the school- or district-level are not considered as directly impacting student outcomes. Undoubtedly, some of these individuals actually work with students, but there is no way we can determine this using state data. Many would argue that they school curriculum and instructional specialists directly impact student achievement, but I’ll play it conservatively and say that they do not.

3) Central office leaders (superintendents, associate superintendents, and managers), administrative staff (business-related positions and human resource staff), curriculum and instructional specialists, and operations personnel (plant maintenance, food processing, transportation, etc.) are critical to the functioning of the district, but only indirectly impact student outcomes.

4) Auxiliary staff (bus drivers, custodial staff, etc) help the district run, but do not directly impact student outcomes although students who can’t get to school or don;t get a meal at breakfast and lunch will certainly not perform to their potential.

Under scenario 1, as shown in Figure 3, 80.1% of all districts would have to cut at least 50% of the salaries for those individuals who do not directly impact student outcomes in order to not fire any educators who do directly impact student outcomes. Yep–80%. Pretty much everyone.

Under scenario 2, as shown in Figure 4,

a full 40% of districts would have cut EVERY SINGLE staff member who did not directly impact student outcomes. Every bus driver, custodian, maintenance person, data analyst, teacher facilitator, teacher mentor, and the entire central office. How, exactly, do the politicians expect a district to operate with no central office staff?????

There really is not much left to say, is there? Clearly those who think these budget cuts are simply trimming back the inefficiencies in the system don’t really understand how devastating these cuts are. Call your legislators and complain vociferously. Use this data! I will post the results for each district as soon as I can figure out how to do that without making 35 different tables.

The following story provides a superintendent’s view of why we cannot cut all the non-teaching positions and function effectively as a district. I agree with him wholeheartedly.


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