Budget guru Phil Stover, interim chief special projects officer in San Diego Unified has been answering your questions about school budget cuts this week on our blog. This is our final post! Phil says you can keep asking away over e-mail, but we’re going to end the party on the blog here for now. I want to thank Phil for coming up with this great idea and being so responsive to our readers’ requests! Enjoy your final Q and A!
QUESTION from reader TAMMY CHESSER: How do we not have money to educate our children?
Where did the money come from to educate our children from the 1950s to the 2000s?
Is it true that 80 percent of the current budget is laden with administration costs?
ANSWERS from PHIL STOVER:Thanks for the questions.
We don’t have enough money right now because our revenue from almost every source has lessened over the past few years. Most of our income comes from the state. California is experiencing severe drops in revenue, therefore they pass along less money to school districts. I am not sure about prior to the 1980s, but I know that since then, the majority of school funding comes from the state.
California gives us less funding than in past years, but penalizes us if our student/teacher ratio increases above a certain level (because we have less revenue). That is not fair.
The state also tells us more and more how we can use the funds they give us. That makes it very hard for us to have flexibility in how we use the funds we have. We have total funding of over $2 billion dollars (including all capital funding), but only have true flexibility with about $750 million of that.
No, 80 percent of our budget is not administrative costs. Approximately 85 percent of our general fund budget (in San Diego Unified) does go to personnel costs — the teachers, custodians, secretaries and other support staff that make the district run. Our central office staff is around 12 percent of our total staff. Our administrators/managers, including principals account for about 2.9 percent of our district staff. I have worked with many urban districts and have never seen a district so lean at the administrative level.
Correction: This original version of this post contained an inaccurate estimate of the district’s total budget. It has been updated.
— PHIL STOVER