Saturday, January 17, 2009

Letter to the Editor

"Comments: NAACP says suit possible over Seattle school closures

Saying the time for talk has passed, local leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Friday called litigation "a definite possibility" in reaction to the Seattle Public School's planned school closures, saying the plan hurts people of color, the poor and those with learning disabilities. Read article"

One, there isn't enough money to go around, and using the emergency fund for ongoing operating expenses is just silly - it's a fix that lasts one, or if incredible luck is involved, two years...and then the Seattle School District is back in trouble, but now without an emergency fund.

An emergency fund, unless it is large enough to fund all or a significant portion of the budget from interest and dividend income, is dandy for things like "drat, a building burned down, we must replace it" - not for operating costs.

The best approach, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, is to keep it simple. Happily, we have the numbers to do that.

1) Separate out the per location non-instructional (heat, light, maintenance, repairs, custodial) operating budgets of each school.

2) Divide into that number the number of students per location, to determine which buildings (not instructional programs, buildings) cost the most to run per student.

3) Take the number found in (2) and start closing the highest non-instructional per student cost facilities until enough facilities have been closed and sold to save current deficit + 25% (for margin).

Heaven forfend, but repeat as needed.

Dollars are dollars, and an old (however architecturally gorgeous) building that is a pig for non-instructional operating costs is an old building that is a pig for non-instructional operating costs - regardless of the race, color, gender, or creed of the inhabitants.

It would be arguably legitimate to factor in busing costs to for students moving to schools with more efficient physical plants in borderline cases. Could conceivably be that busing would cost enough in some instances to destroy the savings of shutting down a bad physical plant.

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