by Lake County News-Chronicle
January 31, 2013 at 5:51 am in Lake County News-Chronicle
Tags: Opinion 6 Comments »
Wow…finally something to talk about. This summary of questions for the Lake Superior School District to answer is great! I hope they voluntarily address each question in each of the three meetings, without prodding from the audience. If they don’t, I trust there will be a lot of folks who will request the answers! Why wasn’t this guy elected to the school board?
Well-loved. Like or Dislike: 27 4
OK, so I went to the school district web site, and finally found the state department of education link to the school district’s performance numbers (under WKHS/WKES on the top tab). I haven’t looked in detail yet, but it appears salaries and benefits have gradually gone up during the four day week school years, while our kids’ performance scores are lower than before the four day week started.
In fact, the science scores are on a serious downhill trend. Math took a big drop in 2011, but came back up in 2012 although not to the level it was prior to the four-day week. Reading went up in 2011, and dropped back down in 2012, still lower than before the four day week started. Overall the district is significantly below state averages.
And wow, look at those state averages: around 60% proficiency, and Lake Superior School District is worse.
Like or Dislike: 17 3
I spent abit more time in the last few days looking at the MDOE numbers.
First, academically, the North Shore Commuity Charter School seems to be performing slightly better than the comparable elementary public schools. Silver Bay is doing worse than Two Harbors elementary school.
Second, the financial data on the schools is only available from the state data base up to 2009. The North Shore Community Charter School has not overspent its revenues for at least the years 0f 2007,2008 and 2009– the only years available on the quick glance. The Lake Superior School District spent around $100K less than revenues in 2007, but overspent its revenues for 2008 and 2009. I can only assume they have continued to overspend in the years since 2009, or they wouldn’t have had a proposed deficit in 2012 (if what former superintendent Minkkinen said was true).
It sure would be nice to see more current financial data on the MDOE web sit.
But, it sure seems our district has an over-spending problem. And the additional/over spending is not resulting in improved student performance. Just what is going on?
The answer must be in the numbers, but those numbers will take a while to review, and they are not up-to-date. Trying to understand all this isn’t easy. So why hasn’t the district been more forthcoming on making a concerted and regular effort to help us see what they are doing? They don’t have a lot on their web site about this performance and financial stuff…it always seems to be just “good news”.
Can’t they reglarly post more data, and more current information on their web sit for families to review? With some honest, understandable and transparent explanations?
I’m not trying to be negative, but something better needs to be done. Their total budget seems to be around $19 million/year, plus or minus. And our kids aren’t doing any better than the numbers show?
Like or Dislike: 10 5
Brian, I believe the huge multi-million dollar discrepancy between income and expeditures in 2009 was to address what is called OPEB (Other Post Retirement Employee Benefits) shortfalls in the school district’s liability accruals. These OPEB items are mostly centered aroun medical plans for the retired employees.
To clean up the failure of the district to accrue money, over prior years, to address these potential future expenses, the district sold bonds to cover the exposure. Under the terms of changes in the 2008 Minnesota Omnibus Tax Bill, they were allowed to do this without requesting a referendum, and with very little to no public discussion.
They did this because PERA (the Public Employees Retirement Association) was being requested by the district to take over the administration of these programs, and PERA would not do so until the liabilities were properly funded. Since the district had used its funds for other things in the prior years, and had put aside no cash to offset the growing post retirement liabilities, they were forced to float the bonds—all at additional local taxpayer expense. If I recall correctly, the total was around $7-8 Million.
PERA now administers these programs for the district, according to strict actuarial standards.
Allowing our district, and a few others around the state, to fund these shortfalls without taxpayer referendums (and essentially without open public accountability) was vigorously lobbied for by the teachers’ unions.
I agree, we should have more updated information available on the MDOE site regarding the district’s financial performance. It is missing in the simplified parent reporting format for the full two years of the four-day week.
Like or Dislike: 8 3
Brian…I have a correction to make. The district funded its OPEB liabilities under the provisions of what is called GASB Statement #45. They are using an irrevocable trust option funded by the $8 million bond issue. The cost roughly doubles over the life of the bonds to cover interest and placement fees. I’m trying to go back and review my notes to see where the reference to a possible involvement by PERA may have come in. I haven’t found the information, yet. Sorry for the confusion.
Like or Dislike: 1 1
It is still true the Minnesota 2008 Omnibus Tax Bill allowed the funding to occur without a public referendum. The other comments in the referenced post, other than an implied possible involvement with PERA, remain accurate.
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