Monday, August 6, 2007

Spokane District 81 Makes the Front Page of the Spokesman-Review

The top headline was Barry stinkin’ Bonds tying the home run record, but right under that ace ed reporter Sara Leaming delves in to the budget for Spokane schools. Under Superintendent Brian Benzel, who recently departed for an office job at Whitworth, Spokane was one of the most vocal districts in the state in protesting perceived shortcomings in the funding formula.

When you look at the numbers, though, one could be excused for wondering what all the fuss is about.

Consider, for example, the district trends for the past 10 years. Enrollment has dropped nearly 2000 students (from 30,320 to 28,400), but revenues have gone up an astounding $100 million dollars, from $191.7 million in 1998 to $293.1 million in 2007. The number of employees has also gone up, from 3,137 to 3,226.

It’s interesting to think about what it all means. That number of kids divided by 25 would be about 77 less classrooms, but the number of employees has gone up. Where’s the difference, then? Is it curriculum coaches? Is it parapros? Is it bus drivers?

Or, maybe, is it administration? The article also gives the salaries and duties of the top-12 folks in the head shed, which adds up to a cool $1,385,685. I have no idea if that’s out of line with the other biggest districts in the state, but it is a number that pops.

You can find the article on-line here. As an accompaniment, check out this column ($) by Lisa Brunkan and Don Barbieri from the August 1st edition which gets into the pending decision by the Spokane school board to make some pretty deep cuts to their elementary library programs. Barbieri is a big Spokane name; he ran against Cathy McMorris for the US House seat in 2004.

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