Last Tuesday evening the Putting Students First Coalition hosted a community budget forum. The presenter was Karen Swett, a retired SCUSD teacher who has spent years working with district
budget s and is one of the founders of the non-profit Making Cents Work. The non-profit is dedicated to empowering parents and community members with the knowledge of how to read district budgets and make sense of the columns of numbers and codes. The forum was a success, attracting thirty plus people and generating some coverage from local television news. Knowledge is power and the district isn't interested in the community having any. It has cut off Karen's access to district budget databases. If the district cuts Karen off, it cuts off the entire community fighting the school closures as well. How should we respond? Karen has this suggestion:
Tonight's agenda item 9.1. There is a dollar amount - shortfall - on page 2 of 5.7 million. This amount must show on either the 1st interim budget status report or the upcoming 2nd Interim budget status report. Someone should say "SHOW ME". If they say that it is on the 2nd Interim that the public will see on March 21, remind them that the 2nd Interim reflects ACTUALS through the end of January. Since they are citing a specific amount for a "shortfall" they must also have their 2nd Interim projections already done. Ask them to post the budget document - NOT A STAFF REPORT - on the district website tomorrow. Tell them that would indicate a real desire to be transparent. If they say that it is not ready yet, ask how they have been able to determine a "shortfall" if they have not completed their calculations. Unfortunately there is not an opportunity for this kind of a discussion. Hit hard on the SHOW ME and insist on real budget reports - insist on the 2nd Interim.
The budget recommendations for meeting this shortfall include $1,000,000 from closing seven schools. Don't let the district stonewall the community. Demand transparency. Demand the actual budget reports.