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Solutions: the Budget Cutting Puzzle

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Amy GIlchrist

on 13 April 2015

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Transcript of Solutions: the Budget Cutting Puzzle

Strategy #1: Longer School Day; Shorter School Week
Strategy #6: Open Source Curriculum
Our Task:
One of the first options in attempting to work with a diminishing budget without negatively impacting the school budget is extending the school day and shortening the school week. Students would attend school for an extra hour and a half each day, but would not attend school 1 day out of the week, preferably Fridays. Instead of the average 180-188 days, the school year would be reduced to approximately 150 school days. Theorists suggest that a four-day work week would save the average school 20% in operating expenses for each of the following as areas as the need for them would be reduced: transportation, food services, and custodial staff. The same theorists and advocates also suggest that the need for substitutes would decrease as well as increase attendance, since the bonus day off would allow for doctor's appointments and teacher trainings (Kruse, 2011, pg. 5) Teacher salaries would not be affected however, as the amount of time they would spend teaching would not change, given the extra hour and a half each day for four days.
In courses where quality open source online curriculum is available, it can replace textbooks altogether. Examples are the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning at the University of Texas (www.coerll.utexas.edu/coerll/) for World Language courses and MIT Open Courseware (http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm) for Science courses. These sites offer resources for both teachers and students that is current, adaptable, and available 24/7. Materials will be accessible in the classroom via COWs and computer labs, as well on students’ own devices with campus wifi.

With limited funding, school administrators are often faced with the task of cutting campus budgets. This presentation includes ten possible budget cutting measures that will not eliminate student programs, and their projected cost saving if applied to the South Texas ISD budget.
We researched journal articles, books, interviews, and other pertinent information to determine effective methods of cutting a school budget currently used in the United States.
Our sources

2014-2015 Costs Per Year: Savings Per Year:
Transportation: $4,847,250 $969,450
Food Service: $2,095,715 $419,143
Maintenance &
Operations: $6,479,900 $1, 295 980

2014-2105 data collected from: http://www.stisd.net/UserFiles/Servers/Server_6077198/File/Departments/Business_Office/Finance/Budget%20&%20Tax%20Rate/Proposed%20TAX%20&%20Buget.pdf
In 2008, the Vail, Arizona school district began its Beyond Textbooks initiative (Tomassini, 2012) . Since then, the 11,000-student district has invested in wifi and digital devices for the classrooms.. To offset some of the hardware costs, Vail uses open educational resources, instructional content made available for free by such organizations as CK-12 and OER Commons. Vail teachers, and those from partnering districts, create digital and video lessons that are stored and shared on a server. Money spent per pupil on instructional materials dropped from $60 to $10 as a result of the initiative.
Where it works
Cutting Education Budgets without losing student services.

Strategy #10: Outsource Data Processing
Miners, Zach. “Schools Tighten Their Fuel Budget Belts” Retrieved from: http://www.districtadministration.com/article/schools-tighten-fuel-budget-belt

Moffett Lauren. (2013). "Tablets in Schools: Saving Money and Trees". Retrieved from: http://www.novadesk.com/blog/bid/57268/Tablets-in-Schools-Saving-Money-and-Trees

Nabers, M. (2013, June 23). Cooperative purchasing networks vital to gaining government work. Houston Business Journal.

 PLANNING FOR OUR REGION'S FUTURE". (January 2012). Retrieved from: http://www.scrcog.org/documents/2012_Regional_School_Bus_Study.pdf

Thetford, T. (2010). Outsourcing custodial services: Common steps to success. American School & University Magazine, 83(2), 28-30.

Tomassini, J. (2012, May 8). Educators Weigh E-Textbook Cost Comparisons. Retrieved April 11, 2015, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/09/30etextbooks_ep.h31.html

(n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.abm.com/documents/case-studies/cherry_creek_schools.pdf

2014-2015 South Texas ISD General Spending Budget. Retrieved from http://www.stisd.net/UserFiles/Servers/Server_6077198/File/Departments/Business_Office/Finance/Budget%20&%20Tax%20Rate/Proposed%20TAX%20&%20Buget.pdf

Sources Continued
Other modes of transportation are not viable ones for students in our district. We have schools located in San Benito, TX, Mercedes, TX and Edinburg, TX. Students and buses in our Mercedes schools may travel some 50 miles one way to attend our school, and we--the district--would need to keep the promise to transport them, having made the choice to attend our school; otherwise, their home school would be a much more cost-effective alternative and STISD would lose enrollment. The alternative to traditional school buses fueled by diesel would a more cost-effective, environment friendly fuel solution such as propane. The national average for propane from for the month of January 2015 was $2.92/gallon while diesel was $3.06/gallon. Traditionally, propane tends to be less expensive than diesel (www.afdc.energy.gov). So while most school buses hold 35 gallons of fuel, that would equate to $102 to fill up a school bus with propane and $105 with diesel. While it is true that diesel can be more efficient in miles per gallon than regular gasoline, the same cannot be said for diesel and propane. In comparison to diesel, propane is a high-energy, clean burning fuel. Some of its benefits include: lower emissions, lower maintenance, longer life, and reduced dependency on foreign oil ("Regional School Bus Study", 2012). The purchase price of a propane fuel school bus can be more expensive--$12,000 more per bus. This is certainly a legitmate concern for most schools, but one the initial investment has been made, Blue Bird Co (the maker of the buses) states that the average annual savings for a bus that travels 15,000 miles per year is "$2,700 when compared to a diesel" (Miners, 2008).
Strategy #2: Diesel to Propane Buses
At $2, 700 of savings per bus (38 buses---STISD website displays all of the bus routes for each school), per year, for the district, this would equate to a savings for STISD $102, 600.

Savings for STISD
The Cooperative Purchasing Network (www.tcpn.org) is a national program administered by the Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston. The network’s contracts focus on goods and services for the K-12 public education sector (Nabers, 2013). Rather than going through a bidding process and vetting vendors for each purchase, districts can save time and money through contracts that have already been competitively bid and awarded by expert negotiators at the co-ops (Mann, 2014).
Strategy #9: Consolidated Purchasing
Boles ISD needed a new science building, but couldn’t afford to build the lab they wanted. A $410,000 grant from the Texas Education Agency wasn’t enough to build the project according to architects’ plans. The project was salvaged by TCPN because the state-run co-op already had a construction management contract with Trane. Using the design-build method of construction and Trane’s job order processing contract with TCPN, the science lab was fully-funded with money left over to buy computers and furnish the entire building (www.tcpn.org).
Where it's working
For one of the suggestions provided: having a student volunteer in the kitchen for community service hours can save an hour of labor. At $11/hr (the average cost of food service worker according the STISD salary schedule) this can save one school $1, 068 per year. Multiply that by 5 schools across the district and this equals $5, 840 per year. This estimate is for one student volunteer, adding more will increase the amounts of money saved per year. In addition to reducing the work week to 4 days and saving the District $969, 450 as discussed in Strategy #1, this elevates the savings to well over $1 million in Food Service Costs.
Effect on STISD
Instead, the District can make an initial investment of approximately $117-$200 for a tablet or Chromebook and provide teachers training for incorporating the use of tablets, internet-based programs and apps to eliminate the cost of paper.
STISD Effect Continued:
Strategy #4: Going Green (Paperless)
OfficeDepot.com (where our school orders paper from) prices a 10-ream case of white paper at $44.99. We have approximately 60 teachers at our school and the school supplies each teacher with one case at the beginning of the year (teachers are then responsible for additional cases out of their individual budget throughout the year). This is a cost of $2,699.40 at one school; multiply that by 5 and it equals to $13,497 for the District. Keep in mind that this is only the 1 case of paper provided to teachers as a courtesy.
How this affects STISD:
Contracting of those support services that are not related directly to curriculum delivery is a logical step for school districts that are facing budget cuts (Thetford, 2010). Most efforts have targeted food, transportation and custodial services.. In many cases, contracting out is simply the most efficient, practical and prudent path (Jimerson & Mathis, 2008). However, the district must be diligent in planning, implementation and oversight to make this a successful endeavor.
Strategy #8: Outsourcing Services
Experience has shown that successful school districts with in-house programs of moderate size or larger have realized a savings of 25 to 40 percent when outsourcing custodial services (Thetford, 2010). For example, Cherry Creek School District in Colorado has seen an overall annual savings of $750,000 since outsourcing their janitorial services. This cost-effective, green program improves the air quality in their facilities while allowing them to allocate more funding to security and quality control within the district (www.abm.com).
Where it's working
This innovative delivery model can be transformational in student engagement and cost savings (Horn & Staker, 2011). It can help a district’s budget by:
Maximizing class size and minimizing transportation by combining students on different schedules or at different locations.
Reducing staffing expenses as time spent in online portions of classes may be done independently or in a lab with an aide, rather than a teacher.

Strategy #7: Blended Learning
Founded in 2006, Rocketship is an elementary charter school that has relied on technology to accelerate student achievement, while cutting labor costs. Schools use the “station rotation” model of blended learning, in which students cycle between about six hours of traditional classroom time and two hours of computer-assisted instruction in “learning labs” each day. That model, which helped give birth to the blended learning movement, allows Rocketship to replace one credentialed teacher per grade with an hourly-wage aide, freeing up $500,000 yearly per school (Herold, 2014).
Where it's working

Agrelius, Kelly. "Go Paperless in Your School". Retrieved from http://www.teachhub.com/go-paperless-your-school

Coleman, P. D., Walker, R., & Lawrence, L. (2012). The pros and cons of education budget cuts: An investigative study.Research in Higher Education Journal, 16, 1-10. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1023234828?accountid=7113

Cruse, Joseph. (2014). "Food For Thought: Outsourcing School Lunch Service Growing Locally".
The Sentinel
. Retrieved from: http://cumberlink.com/news/local/food-for-thought-outsourcing-school-lunch-service-growing-locally/article_2e334b4e-f3f4-11e3-9b2b-001a4bcf887a.html

Ellerson, N. (n.d.). AASA White Paper: School Budgets 101. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/files/SchoolBudgetBriefFINAL.pdf

"Energy Efficient Programs in K-12 Schools". (2011). United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/statelocalclimate/documents/pdf/k-12_guide.pdf

(n.d.) http://www.frontlinek12.com/Pages/Blog/Sequestration.html

Herold, B. (2014, January 21). Growing Pains for Rocketship's Blended-Learning Juggernaut. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/01/21/19el-rotation.h33.html

Horn, M., & Staker, H. (2011, January 1). The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.leadcommission.org/sites/default/files/The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning_0.pdf

Jimerson, L., & Mathis, W. (2008). A Guide to Contracting Out School Support Services: Good for the School? Good for the Community? East Lansing, MI: The Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice.

Mann Jackson, N. (2014, August 1). School districts dive into cooperative commerce. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.districtadministration.com/article/school-districts-dive-cooperative-commerce

Where this is working:
Lengthening the school day and shortening the school week to Tues-Friday has saved one district in South Dakota over $1,00,00,000 over the course of 8 years, This equates to an average of $125,000 per year. Another school district in Minnesota (Maccray ISD) anticipates an average of $65,000 savings per year (Coleman et. al, 2011, pg. 5)
Where this is working:
San Antonio Northside School District purchased 16 of these buses for their district in 2008 (Miner, 2008).
Perhaps one of the most understated places schools frivolously spend money is in supplies--pens, paper, staples, rubberbands, etc. These are necessities that office administrative personnel could not function without. And while most of these items run from $1.00 a pack others can run up to $40 per case, such as copy paper. Being an English teacher, I can vouch for the necessity of paper; I don't need a textbook--I can find passages and short stories online, but then I need to provide my students with a hard copy. The front office needs to run all sorts of daily reports and the other teachers run copies of tests, instructions, and worksheets as well. It adds up.
"According to a quick Google search, the average school spends between $30,000 and $50,000 a year on paper alone. That means, every year, at $50,000, a school consumes 1191 boxes of paper ($50,000 / $41.99, the Office Depot Brand Copy Paper). Each box contains 10 reams of 500 sheets, which means that in each box there are 5,000 sheets of paper. 5,000 sheets in a box x 1191 boxes a year = 5,955,000 sheets of paper consumed in one year" (Moffett, 2013).
reduce the cost of paper and supplies
cloud-based document storage--less excuses for students not bringing their homework to class
most cloud-based programs are free or very low cost
over 20,000 educational apps are available in all subject areas
Longer life span than most laptop computers
low-cost initial investment
environment friendly
Where this paperless approach is working:
New York City:
Clarkstown Central School District
Adopted this program in 2007.
Uploads 91,000 documents per year
Nearly 102,000 student created documents were uploaded in one year as well
Estimates saving 5 million sheets of paper per year.

San Diego, CA:
Santee School District
Uploads 6000 files each month
estimates saving 260 reams per year
this equals to $10,917.74 in savings in Instruction Funds

Strategy #3: Evaluating Food Costs and Consumption
An area that schools also lose money as a result of waste and poor management is in food service. Michelle Obama's war on obesity in 2010 forced school to incorporate more fruits and grains into the food served in public schools. The initiative, most say, has been a disaster. As the cost of goods and services continue to rise and students are not buying or eating much of the food public schools provide, public school budgets are seeing the effects. According to LAUSD's (Los Angeles Unified School District) food service director (only Texas is second to the number of students that California educates) reports serving 650,000 meals a day with students wasting at least $100,000 a day. This, David Drinkle says, adds up to
$18 million dollars a year for the city of Los Angeles (Hope, 2014).

The Solution: Search for Cost Effective Solutions
1. Consolidate food prep with other small districts or schools in the area. The initial start up for a centralized location would be a costly investment, but the reduction in more efficient food preparation and lower expense in labor (http://www.oppaga.state).

2. Choose between made from scratch meals that may cost less to produce but require more labor to prepare, while "heat & eat" foods are less in labor costs but more in purchase price (Kruse, pg. 20).

3. Have students work in the serving lines to gain community service hours to reduce the cost of labor.
Savings for STISD
South Texas ISD spent $1,643,751 on Instructional Materials in the 2012-2013 school year for 3381 students, or $486.17 per student. Though not itemized, it is likely this fund includes both textbooks and other materials. Based on an assumption that 50% of 'Instructional Materials" are textbooks, that is $243.09 per student currently spent on textbooks. Based on the average 80% savings on textbooks reported in some districts using open source curriculum, this would lower STISD's per-student textbook expenditure to $48.62. The total savings to the district would then be $164,384.22

Where outsourcing is working:
A school district in North Carolina has shed 23,000 jobs by outsourcing their food preparation to a companies such as Chartwell and Amarak. The decreased salary and retirement contributions at Carlisle Area School District are expecting to turn the $500,000 deficit into a $200,000 surplus by the end of this school year (Cress, 2014).
Savings for STISD
Schools using a blended learning model often claim
they can reduce staffing by one teacher per
grade level per campus. If this were introduced at the district's four high schools (9-12) and one junior high (7-8), this would replace 18 teachers with paraprofessionals. Based on the current average teacher salary of $55,032 and paraprofessional salary of roughly $20,000, this would net $35,032 per position, or $630,576.
Where this is working:
Bullitt County School District in Kentucky hired a professional service company to perform and energy audit. The combination of energy-saving strategies saved the school district over $500,000 in utility costs.

Mount Prospect School District in Illinois also had a professional company perform an energy audit and chose to reduce heat and air-conditioning when the school was not occupied. The results has been a savings of $50,000 per year.
Effect on STISD:
South Texas ISD has a Maintenance & Operating Budget of almost $6.5 million between its four high schools and 1 middle school. Incorporating energy-efficient lighting and practices can save STISD up to 30% of their energy bills. This M&O budget is not specific on what is allocated towards utilities but a safe assumption of up to $10-15,000 a year savings, if not more,
Strategy #5: Cut Energy Costs
According to excelenergy.com, U.S. schools spend a combined $6 billion in energy costs--"second only to salaries". This is about $0.67 per square foot. Schools can request companies to perform an energy audit to reduce these costs. Most often, simply installing motion sensor light that activate and turn on room lights when someone enters the room and then turn them off after the room has been occupied for several minutes. Doing so, can save school districts millions of dollars a school year. Specifically, "by implementing energy efficiency measures, many K-12 schools have been able to reduce energy costs by as much as 30 percent in existing facilities" ("Energy Efficient Programs in K-12 Schools").
Savings for STISD
STISD's 2012-13 budget allocated $4,783,019 for Plant Maintenance and Operations. As this sum is not itemized, we will estimate that only about half of the activities falling in this category could be outsourced. Based on a 25% rate of savings, the low end of most estimates by operations contractors, this would save STISD $59,7877 annually.
Savings for STISD
The potential savings for STISD using consolidated purchasing depends entirely on which products or services they opted to purchase in this manner. Savings would be realized both in the cost of goods purchased and in the staff time saved in the RFP/RFQ and contracting process.
We will use Instructional Supplies as an example, which by AASA guidelines is typically 5% of Instructional budgets (Ellerson). According to this standard, of the $20,484,812 budgeted by STISD for Instruction, $1,024,241 would be allocated for Instructional Supplies. Even a modest 5% savings on these supplies would save STISD $51,212 per year.
In the rapidly changing world of technology,
the tasks of gathering, processing and storing school district data are rapidly changing, too. Keeping up to date with the needed equipment, properly trained staff and adequate security is both time and money intensive. Therefore, outsourcing one or several of these tasks is becoming a common solutions for many districts.
Savings to STISD
STISD currently budgets $517,353 for Data Processing. Although it may not lower this line item of the budget to outsource these services, this strategy would reduce staff time and IT expenditures related to keeping these tasks in-house. Some districts currently using Prologis estimate a time savings of 50% - 75% for their data processing staff. Assuming a 40 hour week at $10 per hour, this would be a value of $200-$300 worth of staff time that could be trimmed or reallocated to other tasks each week. Estimating a full-time staff of 2 data clerks for the district, that would amount to at least $10,000 in staff savings alone. IT hardware and programming expenditures would be reduced greatly as well.
Where this is working
There are many Texas school districts currently using Prologis for integrated data processing services. They often cite the improved efficiency and accuracy resulting from having all data-related operations, from HR to gradebooks to PEIMS and more, connected in one system. Jim Hirsch, Associate Superintendent for Academic and Technology Services at Plano ISD says, "Having a single database relate all of the variables involved with the education of our students allows us the ultimate in information access, which translates into better decision-making as we continue to improve student learning." (http://www.ptsteams.com)
Week 3 Assignment

Michele Rodriguez,
Amy Gilchrist
Estimated Savings for South Texas ISD
Full transcript