A different perspective on the current state of Jeffco schools

Month: June 2020

Jason Glass is NOT a Rock Star

For anyone who still thinks Jason Glass is a rock star, one only needs to compare his Restart Model with that of Broward County, Florida. (Original Jeffco document if link above has been altered). Or, one can compare the Jeffco 2020-21 Budget with that of Denver Public Schools.

Broward has obviously put considerable thought and effort into their plan, while Glass’s plan is just incredibly weak.

The level of detail in the Broward County plan is quite impressive. You can tell that a lot of effort has been put into it and many, many viewpoints have been considered. I particularly like the fact that Broward is using Wednesdays to clean schools, not the Fridays in Glass’s plan.

The same can’t be said for the Jeffco plan. The differences are painfully obvious. It just looks like a minimal amount of effort has been expended in comparison. You just don’t get the same level of confidence.

Regarding budgets, once again there is significantly more detail in Denver’s than in Jeffco’s, especially with regards to future impacts. In addition, on pages 433 – 46, Denver discusses use of Federal Covid Relief Funds, in detail ($28M – $52M). In Jeffco, Askelson and Glass are attempting to tell the Board that they only need $5.5M in additional Covid-19 funding AND are attempting to circumvent the federal restrictions on those monies (COVID related and spent by end of calendar year). Way too little thought has gone into something way too important.

It’s time to admit what Jeffco got and didn’t get with Jason Glass. We got a blogger, talker and tweeter. We didn’t get someone who could plan, who understands finances or could move the academic performance needle. That’s a shame.

What’s worse is that the Board extended his contract for 5 years, meaning 1,000s more kids will be harmed by his extraordinarily weak leadership and his feeble attempts at getting an 84,000 student school district to implement nice sounding educational theories that have not been proven effective anywhere.

Jeffco’s Budget Reduction Proposals Don’t Make Sense

The Jeffco Board will be presented with additional information related to next year’s budget today at a Board meeting, here and here.

Much of what is included in the two documents makes it look like Jason Glass and the District staff really haven’t thought through what is going to happen to the District financially or how to make the necessary budget reductions.

To start, Federal money, both direct from Washington and allocated by Gov. Polis, appear to being used as compensation for a large budget shortfall in state funding. However, it is my understanding that the Federal money comes with some strings attached – primarily that it be used for explicit COVID-19 related expenditures, not merely as a backfill for items already budgeted or budget shortfalls. No where in the District staff discussion does it talk about these restrictions or how they will affect the use of the money. It merely appears that Jeffco is using the money as backfill. In addition, there is no discussion of ANY additional costs related to COVID, which the Federal money could be used for. Isn’t the District going to have fairly substantial COVID related costs? Why aren’t they reflected in the budget as increased expenditures?

The second major issue I have with the District’s budget discussion is that it is centered on next year. The state budget shortfall will last at least through the following year, probably longer, and the local property tax shortfall will begin next year as well. In this respect, CFO Askelson fails miserably in her job to present the Board with a complete financial picture. How can the Board decide how much to take from reserves this year if they have ZERO information on how bad the budgetary picture could look in the next few years? They can’t! In my mind, that is a demonstration of the total incompetence on the part of Glass and the CFO to not present that information.

Next, I find some of the District recommended cuts to be extremely questionable.

  1. There are only 2 proposed cuts listed as ‘Damaging’. One of those is the District’s paid lobbyist. Damaging? To whom? I have a hard time even remotely thinking of that cut as Damaging. Listing it this way clearly explains everything that is wrong with Jason Glass and Jeffco schools. Glass likes to say: “keep the main thing the main thing’. I hardly think a paid lobbyist is the main thing.
  2. The listing of the ‘Damaging’ lobbyist cut goes hand-in-hand with the ‘Recommended’ cut of 2 Literacy Interventionists. That’s doesn’t seem to be a great idea in a District where over 50% of kids don’t meet state reading expectations. Why not reduce the number of Community Superintendents by 2 for a $326k+ savings instead and even hire an additional Literacy Interventionist?
  3. And, what about a cut of $2.2M in School Improvement Funds, money that principally goes to Title I schools? In the interest of equity, couldn’t Glass find something else to cut – like $4.2M in 1:1 device purchases that have not been proven to improve academic growth or achievement?

Where would I cut? You can see that in a letter I wrote to the Board here, but below are some suggestions of where the District can and should look to make cuts.

I don’t envy the Board in having to make the cuts. I particularly don’t envy the Board because Glass and District staff have done such a horrendous job in deriving a list of potential cuts. However, there seems to be a tremendous amount of bloat in Jeffco’s $1.2B budget that is not focused on improving education that can easily be cut without affecting education or kids.