Every now and then, it’s fun to go poking around the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) web site. You never know what you might find.
Today’s search turned up some really useful stuff: the FY15 Foundation Program reports! (FY15 represents the time period from October 1, 2014, to September 30, 2015.)
State funding accounts for the majority of most every school district’s annual budget. Once these numbers are on paper, final plans can be made for the upcoming school year.
For now, school district officials are busy working on staffing plans (including which teachers will stay and which ones will not).
They’re busy looking at these numbers and figuring out how to best divvy up the money (that we state taxpayers have entrusted them to spend) to improve the achievement of our children.
They’re busy trying to figure out how federal money and local money intersects with the Foundation Program money and how to fund those priorities for their communities.
So, while they’re busy doing that, here are a few sets of numbers for you to peruse.
These reports are compilations of PDFs of STATE funding amounts (no federal or local money included), in school district order. School districts are listed county first, then city, alphabetical order within those categories (except for Trussville City Schools, which is last).
“ADM” is Average Daily Membership, which is the average, daily enrollment in your system for the 20 days following Labor Day from the 2013-2014 school year.
Click. On. The. Links. I didn’t want to clutter up the page with samples of each report. So click on them. Okay?
This report, the Foundation Allocation by District, is the simplest one to understand. Each district has its own page. Allocations for FY15 are compared with FY14 numbers.
A couple of numbers to point out:
- Classroom allocations went from $300/unit in FY14 to $310/unit in FY15. A “unit” is a classroom.
- Other Current Expense (OCE) increased from $15,661 per unit to $15,967 per unit. OCE is money that school districts have a bit of discretion over, but, as ALSDE Chief of Staff Dr. Craig Pouncey says, they typically use it to pay the light bill.
- Textbook allocations increased from $31.35/student to $35/student.
- Fleet renewal funds stayed at $6,000 per bus. Fleet renewal funds are allocated for buses under 10 years old. The idea behind it is to pay off new bus purchases over 10 years, but folks tell me that school buses cost more than $60,000. (Here’s an ordering guide for Florida school buses. Wow.)
Keep in mind that those allocations are only for state-funded units (think of a unit as a teacher’s classroom). If a unit is funded with local money, ALL of these allocations come out of local money.
The second report is the “LEA Unit Breakdown”. LEA is the Local Education Agency, a.k.a., the school district. This report shows you how many state-funded principals, assistant principals, library/media personnel, classroom teachers, counselors, career tech directors, and career tech counselors your school’s student population buys you.
This report is the “Summary of Teacher Type” report. This report shows you the number of regular teachers earned, as well as the number of special education teachers earned and the number of career tech teachers earned. Don’t get too hung up on the numbers, though, because it is still up to the local board of education to determine the actual distribution of those teachers “based on the needs of the students”.
The Better Reports to Learn More About Your District and School
This is a good one. It shows you exactly how much state money your district will receive, and how it is earmarked. It has the fancy title of “Supplemental Report (System)”. Smooth.
And this one? Whoa. Watch out. This report lists every public school in Alabama and how much state money it will receive, and how it is earmarked. Fancy title: “Supplemental Report (School)”.
Titles aside, it is a place to start. Get familiar with these reports.
Imagine how impressed your friends will be when you can quote these numbers at the ball park.
The FY15 Salary Schedule
Some More Light Reading
Here is the ALSDE’s 2013-2014 Guide to State Allocations. It is a great intro to how state funds are divvied up. The updated guide for 2014-2015 will be published soon [UPDATE 12/16/14, links to the 2014-2015 guide!].
Why Bother With All of These Numbers?
If we, the community, don’t take some time to understand the language of school finance and how state funds are distributed based on the formulas in place, how can we ever begin to even hope to engage in the discussion to strengthen and improve the public education offered to our children?
The public has left this discussion to the Experts for a long time now. This discussion will happen with us or without us.
Let’s engage. School district budget hearings start soon.