Proposal to save taxpayers $6.2M

[Open letter to] CUSD 200 Board members,

Congratulations, Wheaton-Warrenville District 200 voted to build a new Jefferson preschool without raising taxes.

D200 said it could fund the project from operating revenue.  So tell me, why is the district still planning to use 20-year “lease certificates,” which will cost the taxpayers $6.2M more than necessary?   These tax dollars should be paying for educating students and maintaining our buildings rather than funneling them to consultants and out of state lenders. Continue reading “Proposal to save taxpayers $6.2M”

School Bond Debt Drives Property Taxes

School districts need to keep borrowing so that they can spend today and tax tomorrow.  They think as long as they are not raising taxes much, we won’t notice.  But, we are paying attention.  When we approved the last referendums (Hubble, high schools…) those were to be paid off in 20 years – like a mortgage.  Instead, the school board has refinanced bonds to lower current payments and push the all-paid date out.  Then they borrow more – new, non-referendum bonds.  It is now more like a home equity line of credit that will never be paid off, so taxes will never go down.  Currently about 9% of our property tax bill pays for past school district borrowing.  If we STOP future bond issues our taxes will go down! Continue reading “School Bond Debt Drives Property Taxes”

QA Jefferson with links for details

 

I will be voting “NO” despite the fact that everyone (me included) would like to say “yes” to a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center…

 

Bottom line:

District 200 cannot afford a new building without issuing new debt that will let them spend today while taxing tomorrow. The latest 5-year forecast, which does includes a new building, shows a $26 million deficit.  In recent years, the end-of-May financial report shows that prior to the first installment of yearly property taxes, the District’s money in the bank dips to around $15 million.  So while the referendum wording says “without levying a separate, special property tax,” they will need to find money somewhere. Continue reading “QA Jefferson with links for details”

D200 Pre-K enrollment & Cost

Over the years we have a few snapshots of District 200 pre-k enrollment numbers.

I have no details about the growth in the program from 2001 to 2007.  The growth between 2012 and 2016 is due to non-mandated, federal grants for low-income families in the half-day Head Start program and the all-day Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) program. Total program numbers for 2018 are similar to 2016.  The district’s 2016 “future consideration” numbers show a forecasted growth in the non-mandated grant programs and the number of typically developing students in the blended classes.

As preciously posted on DuPageWatchdog:

2016-preK-enrollment-chart

 

2016 Pre-K enrollment numbers 

From the July 2016 FOIA, I have end of year 2015-2016 enrollment numbers.  Note: the school report cards will list numbers from the fall and since children with IEPs are enrolled in the program when they turn 3, the report card numbers will be lower.

The summary page from the FOIA:
d200prek june2016entollment

The raw data from that FOIA preK2016classEnrollment

When I copy the raw data into excel and add it up, it is almost the same (2 more in Jefferson.  i missed the speech only at at Madison – the first 50+ pages were almost completely redacted, original was most likely a student list).  The FOIA responses includes details of how many are special needs (mandated taxpayer funded education) vs. “typically developing” (pays tuition).  I am not sure if the bi-lingual program is mandated or tuition based.  PEG and Head Start are both federal grant programs that are NOT mandated.

 

d200prek june2016 detail entollment

The same FOIA response included “Future Considerations link

d200prek june2016 forecast entoll

 

Notice the predicted increase was in the number of blended classes (more tuition based students), and the number of low-income students in the non-mandated, federal grant programs.

 

There are mixed reviews on the Head Start program’s effectiveness.

“In the final phase of a large-scale, randomized, controlled study of nearly 5,000 children from low-income families, researchers found that the positive effects on literacy and language development demonstrated by children who entered Head Start at age 4 had dissipated by the end of 3rd grade, and that they were, on average, academically indistinguishable from their peers who had not been in Head Start.”  https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/01/09/15headstart.h32.html

Cost of Grant Programs

The same article says “The $8 billion Head Start program serves nearly 1 million low-income children.”

That is about $8,000 per child.

The PEG all-day grant program, which also serves low-income families, will cost $17,000 per child. https://dupagepolicyjournal.com/stories/511549582-records-taxpayers-spending-17-220-per-child-on-wheaton-preschool-for-4-year-olds

See below for my notes on what pre-K costs in 2012-2013.

 

2018 Pre-K enrollment numbers

Another resident had received 2018 enrollment numbers via FOIA from CUSD200.

Those numbers are similar to what the district had in 2016

d200prek june2018 entollment

 

From My 2013 Notes on Pre-K Program Costs:

What does the pre-K program cost the district (taxpayer)?

I tried asking.  I tried a FOIA. I was told that the district does not have this data broken out and that it would not be easy to pull together because the specialist work in multiple schools. Pre-K tuition is $2,115 (9 months at $235/month). Dr Harris and Stephanie Farrelly have both stated publicly that the tuition based program is self supporting. According to the latest school report card, the average teacher salary in CUSD 200 is $77,162.  Pre-K classrooms have at least two aids. Based on 140 days per year (it is a four day per week program), 6 hours per day and $11.25 per hour, I estimate that to be $19,000 per pre-K room. Thus, salary per classroom for one teacher and two aids is approximately $96,000 According to Stephanie Farrelly, the blended classes consist of 6 tuition based students and 11 special needs students. Based on 17 students per class, 2 classes per day, the cost per student is $2,858, just to cover salaries. This does not include benefits, supplies, administration or building and maintenance cost.  I just cannot understand how $2,115 in tuition covers $2,858+ in expenses.

Pre-K listed in the 2012 audit report

The complete 2012 audit report is available here. [no longer available]  On 2012_audit_p64, it lists the cost of regular pre-K as $267,597.  In the 2011-2012 year there were 70 tuition based students (from FOIA).   Dividing $267,597 by 70 yields $3,822 as the per student cost of providing this program.  Tuition charged, $2,115, covers 55% of tuition based program costs, as reported in the audit. The same page of the audit list the cost associated with special education pre-K as $1,116,877.  There were 217 special ed students and 50 speech students.   1,116,877 divided by (217+50) is $4,110 for each special ed pre-K student.  This does not include transportation, administration cost or the salaries for the specialist. Note: In-district pre-K for special needs children is mandated by the state and the state does provide some funding.  The school district must continue to provide these services.

For Comparison

And for historical purposes, a chart from 2013 FOIA

preK-numbers1-1024x425