Last night, by an unanimous vote, the board approved the 2012 budget. The budget had to be presented to the state by September 15th, so they moved the called board meeting to after the budget hearing, added the approval of the budget to the agenda, and then approved it after taking just a single question from the public which was, “Could I get a copy of the final budget?”
The copied one that had been shared was missing a few of the slides. Mr. Spinelli promptly and generously gave the member of the public his copy. (As an aside, I had a pleasant conversation with Mr. Spinelli after the board meeting. Generous is an appropriate adjective; he was quite generous with his time with me after the meeting. Welcome to Huntsville, Mr. Spinelli, and excellent work preparing this budget in such a short amount of time. It was an impressive feat.)
The budget hearing was quite interesting. It seemed to me that much of the discussion and presentation was a direct response to my blog that I published about 30 minutes before the meeting began. (I know that seems conceited of me, but bear with me for a moment.) When Mr. Spinelli was taking the board through the budget for the second time and he got to the revenue section, he pointed out that part of the special education funding was coming from the federal government and that the actual budgeted amount for special education was nearly $20 million rather than the $14 million that I wrote about yesterday.
So yesterday at 4:30pm, I wrote that the 2011 budget called for $19.8 million for special education. Then at about 5:15pm during the budget hearing, Dr. Wardynski and Mr. Spinelli make a point of saying that this year our special education budget is $20 million. The actual numbers are as follows:
- $14,163,983 in instructional expenditures for special education in 2012
- $4,927,081 in federal funding from IDEA-B funds for 2012
- Thus, the total expenditures for special education for 2012 is $19,091,064. Let’s just call it $20 million.
So, everything that I wrote yesterday is pointless, right? We’re actually spending almost the exact same amount as last year. Right? What was I complaining about?
Well it’s completely true that the IDEA-B law is providing almost $5 million in funding for special education. But the thing that neither Dr. Wardynski nor Mr. Spinelli shared with us or the board last night was that the federal funding for special education in 2011 was almost exactly the same.
In 2011, as you can see in the chart below, the federal government sent $4,923,331 to Huntsville City Schools for special education funding.
So, yesterday, I asked about our priorities based on the reduction in funding for instruction and the reduction in funding for special education in particular. Dr. Wardynski implied that there wasn’t a reduction in funding by claiming that the 2012 budget calls for $20 million in federal and local spending.
But, as you can see, the reduction in funding is still there, because the 2011 budget included $5 million in federal funding as well. The 2012 budget, that the board approved last night, still shows a reduction in funding of at least $3.5 million dollars from 2011 (assuming that I should include the gifted eduction funding so that I’m comparing apples to apples).
So did they structure the discussion in the budget hearing in response to my post? Who knows, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they have approved a budget that cuts instruction by $6 million. What matters is that they have approved a budget that cuts special education by $3.5 million.
The superintendent and the board have recommended and approved a budget that calls on special education to be responsible for 30% of the total savings in 2012. The superintendent and the board have begun to balance the budget on the backs of special needs kids.