TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Is Tucson Unified School District closer to meeting it's budget campaign goals?
The district has campaigned to cut $7,000,000 in administration and to budget nearly 51 percent of classroom dollars by the 2015-2016 school year.
A newly released report gives a snapshot of how well the district is doing.
The Arizona Auditor General's 2015 report revealed no gain from the previous year in classroom dollars.
The spending remained flat at 48.7 percent.
The peer average is about 56 percent which is about the same percentage at Mesa Unified, the largest district in the state.
And what about the $7,000,000 cut in administration?
The report shows administration expenses are still considered very high.
The cost per pupil is $897, 10.9 percent of the budget. A nearly 5 percent increase from the previous year.
It had previously sat at $855 dollars, totaling 10.6 percent of the budget.
In comparison to peer districts, TUSD's administration costs are a whopping 41 percent higher than Mesa Unified.
The cost per pupil is only $637.
What has TUSD accomplished in its campaign goals so far?
The district approved a boost in teacher pay. About $500.
TUSD reduced the tax rate to 16 cents, though it campaigned for a 21 cent cut.
KGUN9 asked TUSD to respond to the Auditor General's report. Responses by PIO Stefanie Boe follows each finding.
Classroom spending is flat at 48.7% Down 5.2% in last five years. Peer average is 56.6%
This is the first year since 2012 that classroom spending stayed flat. It stayed flat despite cuts to capital funding from the state because we shifted $3,262,870.00 from administrative budgets to instructional budgets. While capital funding shouldn't impact instructional spending, it should be noted that Tucson Unified School District has lost nearly $100 Million in capital funding since 2008. This year the district has just $2.5 Million in capital funding to repair and maintain our 80+ schools. Our facilities team members are experts at finding outdated parts to maintain old equipment that we just can't afford to replace.
If you look at the spending per pupil versus the percentage, we are fourth in our area. We are continually working to bring more dollars into the classroom. There are some areas in which we must put student safety ahead of this priority. For example, we have several high schools that should not have assistant principals due to the size of their student body. However, we know that support is needed on campus and we are committed to maintaining that support. That decision impacts our percentage because those assistant principals are considered administrative even though they impact our students every day.
When you look at the districts that spend less than TUSD on a per pupil basis but have a better percentage, it comes down to TUSD having to maintain old schools and vacant schools. Each of the districts ahead of TUSD and behind it have no closed schools and fewer under-enrolled schools. With newer schools that house more students, you need fewer administrators and have greater efficiencies.
Expenses in Administration, Plant Operations, and Transportation are very high.
Since 2008, Tucson Unified has lost nearly $100 Million dollars in capital funding. Those dollars are meant to keep up and repair our buildings (which are on average 46 years old). Unfortunately, the $2.5 Million we received this school year just isn't enough. Also note that our square footage per pupil is much higher than the average-it costs money to maintain that square footage.
Our transportation costs are higher as we drive our 322 buses 4.6 Million miles per year. The desegregation plan requires us to transport students to their school of choice.
Our Current Financial and Internal Control Status is compliant in the report. Our Operating Reserve Percentage is also cited as 3.0% and increasing in the report. Our Years of Capital Reserve held is also in its 3rd year. These all indicate that our financial situation is strong compared to the past.
59 students per administrative position in contrast to peer average of 81 per administrative position.
In addition to the assistant principal situations noted above, we also have mandated central office positions in the desegregation court order that no one else has, such as Culturally Relevant Curriculum Director, Multi-Cultural Curriculum Director, Magnet School Director, Advanced Learning Experiences Director, Diversity Retention and Recruitment Director, Mexican American Student Services Director, and African American Student Services Director. Each of these positions are cited in the desegregation court order and we must comply.
Another 850 student have left since last year
For perspective, from 2012-13 to 2013-14, TUSD lost over 1,500 students. Dr. Sanchez's first day on the job was July 1, 2013. From 2013-14 to 2014-15, the loss was 850. 2014-15 to this school year, we project a loss of less than 550. The decline is slowing down, not accelerating. We are trending in the right direction and plan to continue that.
Students who met state standards (AZ Merit) scored lower in all 3 subjects, Math, Language Arts and Science, than state and peer groups.
Because the test was brand new and unseen by anyone before students across the state took it last year we anticipated these results. Now that we have a greater understanding of the test we are more prepared for this spring's testing. Our students have been taking benchmark tests along the way so teachers understand their students strengths and weaknesses and can immediately support them.
However, in the end, our students are more than just test-takers. We want parents to connect with their child's teacher to see how they're doing. The results of a test are just one piece of the information. Your child's teacher knows how they're doing and can give you the whole picture. The test is a snapshot.
We are so proud of our students. Our graduation rate is higher than the state average despite our higher poverty rate. We also appreciate that we have more experienced teachers than our peers and the state. The school board has approved raises for them for the past two years and we hope to continue that.