Public and private money in San Francisco schools

Unlike some California school districts, which centralize and redistribute funds raised by parents, San Francisco so far has permitted all money raised at a school to stay there. This gives some schools an enormous advantage. School district data show that in 2011 (the most recent year tax records were available), parents of children at just 10 elementary schools raised $2.77 million — more money than those at the other 61 combined.

A very belated post on a great investigative series. This is what I want to research next, a really important issue particularly in California, where school funding is in the very bottom of state per pupil funding. Much of the debate in education centers around the impact of residential segregation on student outcomes and resource inequities between districts. As this investigation shows, inequities within districts are also prevalent: in San Francisco, there are vast differences in the amounts of money that individuals schools can raise from their student body and surrounding community.

By bringing in as much as $1,500 per student, the top fundraising schools appear to have been largely insulated from the effects of budgets cuts. Meanwhile, parents at high-poverty schools such as Junipero Serra are seeing shrinking resources for their children. This means laid-off staff, dilapidated libraries, outdated computers and a dearth of essential supplies like pencils and paper.

This happens in my own district, where there is no lottery or distribution of students as there is in Berkeley and (more halfheartedly) in San Francisco and Oakland. But here, in Albany, the PTAs have agreed to pool funds in response to outcry over the gaps in fundraising capacity between the schools.

Read more: How budget cuts and PTA fundraising undermined equity in San Francisco public schools

When universities go bankrupt…

LSU and many other public colleges in Louisiana might be forced to file for financial exigency, essentially academic bankruptcy, if state higher education funding doesn’t soon take a turn for the better.

Louisiana’s flagship university began putting together the paperwork for declaring financial exigency this week when the Legislature appeared to make little progress on finding a state budget solution, according to F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of LSU.

“We don’t say that to scare people,” he said. “Basically, it is how we are going to survive.”

Being in a state of financial exigency means a university’s funding situation is so difficult that the viability of the entire institution is threatened. The status makes it easier for public colleges to shut down programs and lay off tenured faculty, but it also tarnishes the school’s reputation, making it harder to recruit faculty and students.

Lawmakers have yet to move any revenue-raising measures — either a tax hike or tax credit rollback — during the session. A Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to take up an inventory tax repeal Wednesday afternoon (April 22) that would produce additional revenue for the state, though passage is far from certain.

Continue reading

The Glitch in Colorado’s Weed Experiment – NYTimes.com

To be filed under the “be careful what you wish for” category of fiscal policy. Colorado scrambles to avoid having to refund all of the revenue from marijuana sales, because, well because SMALL GOVERNMENT!

As an April 1 report in The Times explained, Colorado’s tax revenues have recently surged, thanks in part to the booming construction, oil and gas industries, in addition to some $58 million from the marijuana taxes. But not only revenues but overall state spending this year are expected to end up higher than the state estimated back when the marijuana tax was on the ballot. Under Tabor — which some in Colorado have likened to a fiscal straitjacket or a statutory version of the crazed space computer HAL 9000 — the state is therefore required to refund the marijuana money.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out. Legislators are trying to pass a law that would get around this, but the constitutional amendment still stands, until voters agree to repeal it.

Read: The Glitch in Colorado’s Weed Experiment – NYTimes.com.

The federal budget, battleground

So much to say about Obama’s budget, the geek in me actually wants to read the entire plan, but I have this pesky dissertation to finish instead.

Budgets are inherently redistributive documents, in one direction or another. Obama’s proposal is being characterized as a bold effort to redistribute the benefits of the recovery to the middle-class. It may be that, at least in part, but that could mean a lot of different things to different people.

One sentence that caught my eye is that Obama has left out “any pretense of trying to address the main drivers of the long-term debt – Social Security and Medicare.” And that he has outlined an ambitious set of goals rather than remaining “hemmed in… because of politics and balance sheets.” I’m not entirely sure what the NYT is getting at (that fixation on “entitlement” programs and debt is responsible for the absence to date of bold budgetary goals? what’s changed?).

I look forward to these debates if indeed the (or any!) Democrats really stand up for the idea that government can do good, but that government has recently been redistributing wealth from the bottom and middle to the top. There’s a lot of deconstructing to do of the term “middle-class” and of “redistribution.” The government is always in the business of spreading wealth, the question is who wields the butter knife.

Read: In Budget, Obama’s Unfettered Case for Spreading the Wealth – NYTimes.com.

Greek voters reject austerity

The Syriza party wins a major victory in Greece, forming an alliance with right-wing opponents to austerity (or, more specifically, to following the orders of Germany and the EU). I wish I had time to read much more about what’s happening in Europe, so I’ll just have to save it for summer beachside reading, post-dissertation.

Mr. Tsipras’s victory represented a rejection of the harsh economics of austerity. It also sent a warning to the rest of Europe, where continuing economic weakness has stirred a populist backlash, with more voters growing fed up with policies that have required sacrifices to meet the demands of creditors but that have failed to deliver more jobs and prosperity.

“The Greeks have the right to elect whoever they want; we have the right to no longer finance Greek debt,” Hans-Peter Friedrich, a senior member of Ms. Merkel’s conservative bloc, told the daily newspaper Bild on Monday. “The Greeks must now pay the consequences and cannot saddle German taxpayers with them.”

Read: AfterVictoryatGreekPolls, AlexisTsiprasIsSwornInandFormsCoalitionGovernment-NYTimes.com.

Informal Economy Budget Analysis

I just stumbled across this concept today (during the San Francisco Bay Area superstorm!): Informal Economy Budget Analysis. Pioneered by Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). In their words:

Informal Economy Budget Analysis (IEBA) examines how government budgets address the needs and interests of different groups of informal workers. It also investigates what opportunities exist for informal workers (or their representatives) to participate at different stages of the budget process.

IEBA was developed and tested in South Africa by Debbie Budlender, Francie Lund, Caroline Skinner, and Imraan Valodia as part of the Durban Informal Economy Policy Process: see Durban Informal Economy Policy Process. In 2009, WIEGO commissioned the analysis of government budgets from an informal economy perspective under the technical guidance of Debbie Budlender in one city in each of four places: Belo Horizonte in Brazil, Lahore in Pakistan, Metropolitan Lima in Peru, and Quezon City in the Philippines.

I found out about it from the Inclusive Cities people. They have several links to WIEGO papers here. Excited to check this out. I’m not focused on the informal economy, but I like the idea of alternative budget analysis.

San Jose Clears Out Its Homeless Camp

A city memo from this fall estimates a shortage of 16,000 affordable housing units. But resources to deal with that shortage have dwindled as well. In California, redevelopment funds from the state had been a reliable means of developing affordable housing, but when California was facing its severe budget deficits in the midst of the recession, its governor and Legislature did away with redevelopment programs.

Leslye Corsiglia, the city’s housing director, said that in 2010, the city received $40.6 million in redevelopment funds that could be used for low- and moderate-income housing. Now that money is spent. From all sources, federal, state and local, the city’s funds for affordable housing have dropped by a third since then, to $61 million.

Just last month, the City Council passed a housing impact fee requiring that developers of market rate rental housing pay $17 a square foot toward development of low-income housing. But revenue from that fee will not kick in until at least 2019.

Read: Few Options for Homeless as San Jose Clears Camp – NYTimes.com. (12/4/2014)

Watchdog: Borrowing Trouble – Chicago Tribune series

A great series finished last month on the Chicago Public Schools district’s engagement in complex bond deals, the lack of public oversight, and the high costs of many of those deals. I’ve been researching interest rate swaps for over a year, and I’m impressed with the thoroughness of the reporting here. THIS is why we need robust and well-staffed public newspapers.

Read: Watchdog: Borrowing Trouble – Chicago Tribune. (I’m not sure how much is behind a paywall)