Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) kicked off a new campaign called “Higher Ed, Not Debt” to tackle the nation’s staggering burden of student loan debt. The campaign will be fought by a broad coalition of unions and progressive groups including…
The good news is that after repeated inquiries for the last two weeks from this blog concerning the status and whereabouts of a $100,000 payment from Bon Secours -- that was due to Richmond Public Schools on January 2, 2014 -- City of Richmond Finance officials have finally figured out that they forgot to send the invoice requesting payment.
Wayne Lassiter, interim Financial director for the City explained: "I have searched all possible places the payment could be and I can say with absolute certainty, it is not and has not been received by the City of Richmond."
After he determined that officials at the City's Economic Development Authority did not have the money, Lassiter said Friday that the invoice "would be sent before the close of business."
He apologized for the failure of the city to send the invoice in a timely manner and added that he did not think that Bon Secours would be assessed a late fee.
The bad news is that the City Finance Office, headed by Sharon Judkins, is still trying to figure out what other monies are owed to the school system as a result of the city's leasing of the Westhampton Building to Bon Secours as part of the deal brokered by the city to create a $10-million dollar-plus practice facility for the Washington Redskins Team.
Given that City Auditor Umesh Dalal's office and City Council members have been stonewalled by Judkins in their efforts to audit the new $18 million information technology system and that employees complain that they are not properly trained to use the "RAPIDS" system software, I suggest they follow this link from the Richmond City Government website:
This document spells out in specific terms additional monies that are owed to Richmond Public Schools from the City of Richmond stemming from the city's use of an historic school in Richmond's West End to anchor the development deal.
Both Judkins and Byron Marshall, Richmond Chief Administrative Officer, were well aware that the money was due on Jan. 2, 2014:
-----Original Message----- From: Marshall, Byron C. - CAO Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 6:02 PM To: Hilbert, Chris A. - Council Member Cc: Judkins, Sharon O. - Finance; Denslow, Suzette - Mayor's Office Subject: FW: Redskins/Bon Secours question CM Hilbert, In answer to your question regarding the status of a $133,000 payment from Bon Secours, please be advised that EDA has received $33,0000 to cover rent of the facility and maintenance of its grounds. The first of 10 $100,000 annual payments is due on January 2, 2014. Section viii, 2, the relevant portion of the Performance Agreement between Bon Secours and the EDA is quoted below in Sharon Judkins' email to me. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Best regatds, BCM -----Original Message----- From: Judkins, Sharon O. - Finance Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 5:45 PM To: Marshall, Byron C. - CAO Subject: RE: Redskins/Bon Secours question Mr. Marshall, According to the Performance Agreement between the EDA and Bon Secours, section viii,2, "Payment to Support Public Schools", Bon Secours shall pay to the City the amount of $100,000, for (10) fiscal years commencing january 2,2014 and ending on January 2, 2023. As a result, no payment is due at this time and none has been received. Additionally, in the "Deed of Ground Lease" between EDA and Bon Secours, section 5 (Rent and Playing field Maintenance Amount), upon execution of the lease, the teneant shall pay to the landlord the amount of $33,000, which may be cash or in the form of a letter of credit and which will be credited to the first annual rent payment and the first playing field maintenance amount. Base on such lease, we do not interpret the $33,000 as payment ear-marked for schools. Please let me know if you have other questions or require additional information. Sharon O. Judkins Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Finance and Administration 900 East Broad Street, Suite 1003 Richmond, VA 23219 804-646-7920 (W) 804-646-6388 (Fax) 804-484-4064 (C) firstname.lastname@example.org
Neither Marshall nor Judkins offered a comment.
School Board officials also had no comment.
Kicking the Can
Opinion: "The mayor has a love affair with the Redskins, world cycling and baseball in the Bottom. Now maybe it’s time to learn from Russell Wilson."BY CAROL A.O. WOLF
By John R. Butcher
|The 2011-12 data on the Education Department Web report the total disbursements for each school division. |
[The most recent data available as of Feb. 5, 2014].
In terms of the total disbursements (corrected to remove payments to and from reserves, payments to upgrade or construct facilities, and debt service, the latter of which we are told Norfolk does not pay from the school budget) and the end-of-year ADM, we spent $3,903 per student more than the state division average and $3,726 more than Norfolk.
Notwithstanding the down economy, these differences are up by about $1,000 from last year's:
Multiplied by our ADM (21,363), the 2012 difference calculates to $83.4 million in disbursements above the state average (and $79.6 million more than Norfolk).
How shall we explain the very high cost of the Richmond system? It turns out that, even if we correct for all major differences between Richmond and the State, about $45 million of excess Richmond school expense is just that: Excess. The data (and a string of audits) suggest that Richmond is wasting that very large amount of money.
Follow the Money
Let's start by looking at the categories in the State report. Here are the Richmond and Norfolk expenditures by category (with debt service, contingency, and facilities removed), expressed as percentages of the State division average disbursement.
Richmond's costs are well above average for every category except administration and transportation; our costs are extraordinarily high for summer school, adult education, pre-K, and for "other" instructional programs.
If we recast the data in terms of dollars, we see attendance, food, summer school, and adult ed. to be relatively minor players, with the excess costs of instruction, O&M, pre-K, and "other" ed. predominating (and, even among those four, instruction and pre-K take the big bucks).
One source of these excess costs might be instructional salaries. Ours, however, are lower than the state average.
Versus the State, multiplication of the $1,415 difference by our 2,208 instructional positions shows a saving of $3.12 million from Richmond's lower salaries.
As to the state average, another source of excess cost is number of teachers. Here are the State's numbers per 1,000 kids (calculated from Table 19; the state's calculation in Table 17 is not yet posted as of Feb. 5, 2014):
The division average dropped this year from 102.5 per thousand to 70.9. Richmond, in contrast, dropped from 115.7 only to 103.4.
Compared to the division average, we have an extra 32.46 instructional personnel per thousand, i.e., 693 for the school division. At our average salary of $51,982, that calculates to $36 million in extra cost per year.
That's $36 million extra cost we can account for. These numbers do not tell us whether the Richmond taxpayers are getting anything for that money. The scores suggest we are not.
Corrected for Salary Difference and Number of Teachers
Applying these corrections to the cost differences, we obtain:
That leaves $50.5 million in excess spending unaccounted for (presuming there is an explanation for all those extra teachers; for sure, they are not doing anything for theSOL scores).
We often hear that special education and poverty are major contributors to Richmond's higher costs. It is difficult to come by numbers to quantify that so I turn to SchoolDataDirect, the now defunct data service from Standard & Poors that was supported by the Gates Foundation.
S&P calculated adjustments to spending on core operating activities to account for poverty, special education, and geographic factors. On the 2006 data, here are their numbers:
The difference in the adjustments is 5.8%, or 9.9% of the State correction. In short, on core educational spending, SchoolDataDirect calculates that Richmond is 9.9% more expensive to run than the State average (and 11% more expensive than Norfolk).
What we are doing here is broad-brush approximations, so let's apply the 9.9% to the total expenditures, after correction for the differences in salary and number of teachers:
After these adjustments we are left with an excess in our school budget of some 45 million compared to the state average (recall that this does not account for disbursements for facilities, debt, or contingency). (If we were to apply the 9.9% to the gross excess, it would reduce the corrected excess to 42.2 million). Until the RPS can explain where all that money is going and what we are getting for it, there is no reason at all to increase the school budget. To the contrary, these data make a good case to cut the budget by at least $45 million.
Richmond often claims that its infrastructure is larger than Norfolk's, reflecting Richmond's "small school" policy. Indeed, there are 47.5 principals in Richmond but only 52 in Norfolk, although Norfolk's ADM is almost 50% larger (30,593 v. 21,363). Richmond has never demonstrated any educational benefit from this relatively larger number of schools, however. And they've been right slow to do anything about the excess 4% of the capacity in elementary schools and 19% in middle and high schools.
In any event, Richmond's excess expenditure for O&M is $5.9 million. Even if all that is justified, Richmond is spending an excess $39.6 million (plus the salaries of an excess of teachers who are not contributing anything toward educating our kids).
The Bottom Line: $40+ Million Gone Missing
Most of the $45.5 (or $42.2) million extra spending relative to the state average must be in those categories where Richmond vastly outspends the state average: Instruction and pre-K (gross excess $67.6 million). The 2012 budget (pdf, ~1 MB download) shows about $5.9 million in grant income for the Head Start program, which would fund two thirds of the excess in pre-K activities. There is no information to show that we are getting any value for that money or for the remaining $8.3 million excess expense of "other" and pre-K instruction that apparently comes out of local and state taxes. In any event, the largest pools of unexplained expenditures are in the instructional budgets and those should be the first places to look for savings.
Without a zero based budget, it probably is impossible to find the waste in the instructional categories. Doubtless that is the reason that the City Auditor's forays into the RPS budget have targeted the low-hanging fruit in the administrative operation: In June, 2007, the City Auditor released an audit that identified potential savings of $16.7 to $19.8 million. About 20% of that ($3.4 to $5.3 million) was in non-teacher instructional staffing; most of the rest was non-instructional categories (notably custodial outsourcing and vehicle replacements).
In April, 2008, the City Auditor released an audit that found a further $6.7 million of waste in the RPS' purchasing and accounts payable operation. A December 2008 audit concluded that RPS fleet maintenance contract lacked provisions that would allow RPS to make necessary cost control and other operational decisions. A February, 2009 audit contains a four-page list of deficiencies in the Schools' IT program, including an absence of monitoring procedures that would assure that RPS was receiving proper value for its IT budget. An August, 2009 audit of RPS's grants administration found that the lack of proper monitoring of grants poses a "major risk."
If the auditor would look at the incompetent (or worse) expenditures for ADA compliance (see the discussions here and here), he would find still more waste. Even so, the (very rough) estimate here suggests there is lots more waste to be found and that the instruction budget is the place to find it.
Before Council gives any more money to the schools, don't you think they should demand to know exactly where all of that extra money is going and what we are getting back for it?
In the meantime, you can follow this link to read about the dysfunctional leadership that has served to prevent reform of Richmond's dysfunctional school system. Or you can follow this link to read about incompetence, or worse, in the procurement operation. Or you can follow this link to read about the disabled parking money fountain.
By Marian Wright-Edelman
“The world does not want and will never have the heroes and heroines of the past. What this age needs is an enlightened youth not to undertake the tasks like theirs but to imbibe the spirit of these great men and answer the present call of duty…”
-- Carter G. Woodson
Carter G. Woodson, son of former slaves, pioneering Harvard-trained historian, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and inspirer of Black History Month, sought to teach future generations of Black children about the great thinkers and role models who came before us. He was very clear that celebrating our rich Black history of struggle and courage was not the same as getting stuck in the past, but if we are going to understand the present and protect the future we must understand where we came from and what it took to get us here. Black History Month is not just for Black Americans.
It is for all Americans as we are at the tipping point of a country where the majority of our children are non-White.
Black history is American history. We can all be inspired by the progress made but clear about the progress that still remains to be made if we are going to move forward. We should use the extraordinary leaders from our history as examples to help us with the critical task of preparing this generation of children to be the new leaders our community and nation need right now.
The Children’s Defense Fund’s recent report on The State of America’s Children 2014 shows children of color are already a majority of all children under 2 and in five years children of color will be the majority of all children in America. All of our children—including all of our Black children—truly must be ready in critical mass to take their place among the workers, educators, members of the military, and political leaders of tomorrow. America is going to be left behind if our children are not enabled to get ahead and prepared, in Dr. Woodson’s words, to “answer the present call of duty.” Yet CDF found the state of Black children in America today is grim.
Black children are sliding backwards on our watch and the Black community needs to wake up and the country needs to wake up and do something about it with urgency and persistence. Black children are more than three times as likely to be poor as White children. A Black baby is born into poverty every two-and-a-half minutes. Over 4 million Black children (40 percent) were poor in 2012, compared to 5.2 million White children (14 percent). Twenty-five percent of poor children are Black although Black children are only 14 percent of the child population. In six states—Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin—half or more Black children are poor, and nearly half the states have Black child poverty rates of 40 percent of more.
Just under 40 percent of Black children live with two parents, compared to 65 percent of White children and 85 percent of Asian children. Each day, 1,153 Black babies are born to unmarried mothers and 199 to teen mothers. Although the percent of children born to unmarried mothers has increased for both Black and White children, nearly 3 in 4 Black babies are born to unmarried mothers compared to less than 1 in 4 White babies. Black children living with single mothers are three-and-a-half times as likely to be poor as Black children living with married parents.
Black children suffer worse health outcomes. Black babies are more than twice as likely as White babies to die before their first birthdays and Black children are twice as likely to die before their 18th birthdays as White children. Black babies are more likely to die before their first birthdays than babies in 72 other countries, including Sri Lanka, Cuba, and Romania. Although 95 percent of all children are now eligible for health coverage, Black children are 40 percent more likely to be uninsured than White children and over 1 million Black children (9.5 percent) are uninsured. Access to health coverage is not actual coverage until we make every effort to enroll every child.
Children who cannot read or compute are being sentenced to social and economic death in our competitive globalizing economy and too many Black students fall behind in school early on and do not catch up. Black children begin kindergarten with lower levels of school readiness than White children and our country has been very slow in investing in high quality early childhood programs unlike many of our competitor nations. More than 80 percent of fourth and eighth grade Black public school students cannot read or compute at grade level and Black children are more than twice as likely to drop out as White children.
Each school day, 763 Black high school students drop out. Black students scored the lowest of any racial/ethnic group on the ACT® college entrance exam. Only 5 percent of these Black high school students were college ready compared to 33 percent of White students and 43 percent of Asian students.
Black children are at great risk of being funneled into the prison pipeline. A Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime. The schools are a major feeder system into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Black students made up only 18 percent of students in public schools in 2009-2010 but were 40 percent of students who received one or more out-of-school suspensions. A Black public school student is suspended every 4 seconds of the school day. A Black child is arrested every 68 seconds. Black children and youth make up 32 percent of children arrested and 40 percent of all children and youth in residential placement in the juvenile justice system. Black children are overrepresented in abuse and neglect cases and in foster care.
Gun violence is the leading cause of death among Black children ages 1-19 although there is no hiding place for any of us from pervasive gun violence in America. Each day, three Black children or teens are killed by guns. Black children and teens are nearly five times more likely to die from gun violence than White children and teens.
The number of Black children and teens killed by guns between 1963 and 2010 is 17 times greater than the recorded lynchings of Black people of all ages between 1882 and 1968. Where is our equivalent anti-lynching movement today to give our children a chance to grow up safely?
I hope this Black History Month is not just about our history but about our obligation to protect our children and move our nation forward in our multiracial world. I hope it is a call to action to the Black community and every community to build the long overdue movement to stop the backwards slide of children of color on our watch and end the disgrace of letting children be the poorest group in the world’s richest economy. If America does not begin to get it—that our future is entwined with our children’s futures—we’re going to miss the boat to the future.