Bailey Middle School searching for answers as it takes budget hit

Bailey Middle School's principal was prepared for a pandemic era budget cut, until it turned out to be four times what it should have been, and the school district can't seem to explain what's going on. (Bailey Middle School social media photo).

Darryl Wyatt is hopping mad.

The principal of Dr. William H. Bailey Middle School knew he would take a hit to his budget, after the Legislature cut money for what most education types in Nevada refer to as SB178 funds.

But he didn’t realize the hit would be almost $400,000, and cost him four teachers. And he didn’t realize that when he asked what happened, he would be ghosted by the CFO of the Clark County School District. 

“Quite honestly, I haven’t really been given an explanation,” Wyatt told me last week, after speaking out in a combined School Organizational Team (SOT) meeting the week before.

Let’s stop here and lay some background.

Basically, SB178 was a bill passed in 2017 that allocated $1,200 per pupil, given to schools with high populations of students on free and reduced lunch or English language learners that perform in the lowest 25th percentile on achievement tests. This meant that schools with entire populations of kids who qualified under federal Title 1 money for free and reduced lunch were able to get state SB178 money for every kid in their school who ALSO was in the lowest 25th percentile on standardized tests in either math or English language.

For Bailey Middle School, that was $699,000 in 2020, based on 2019 SBAC scores.

Keep this either/or thing in mind. This is important.

Also, keep the 2019 test scores in mind.

This summer, in one of their special COVID sessions, the Legislature zeroed out funds for 178, which could have possibly meant a loss for many schools. Cashman Middle School, for instance, got $571,000 in 2020. Mack Middle School got $602,000.

But, the federal government came to the rescue, and CCSD was able to restore money to schools at a rate of $1,015 per pupil, under the same conditions, based on the same 2019 SBAC scores.

Wyatt, who was brought in to rescue Bailey in November of 2018, breathed a sigh of relief. He’s got 614 students in the bottom 25th percentile in ELA or math – roughly 50 percent of his school’s population. At $1,015 a pupil, that comes to $623,210. About $77,000 less than what he is currently getting. In a pandemic recession, he’d take it.

Which is why Wyatt wasn’t worried when Clark County School CFO Jason Goudie pointed out in an email to principals that the federal money – called Academic Support Funding – would be allocated based on pupils, not schools who had a predominance of at-risk students.

The numbers for this year were still based on 2019, since standardized testing was suspended in 2020. Wyatt was expecting the same calculation, less $185 per pupil.

What he got was $328,000. A cut of 53 percent. Which left him flabbergasted.

What bothered him was that in the 2019/20 school year, 4- and 5-star schools did not get 178 money. But this year, with the new program, there are schools in that category that got a couple of hundred thousand. While Bailey lost $370,000.

“How is it that we’re being so negatively impacted while other schools are gaining money,” asked Wyatt in a SOT meeting the day the budgets came out. “There seems to be a double standard.”

Goudie doesn’t see a double standard. In an email, he pointed to a memo, which Wyatt had also forwarded to me, in which he explained to principals that “the allocation methodology was changed to be consistent with the concept of the weighted funding formula in the new funding model expected to be adopted by the legislature in the 2021-2022 school year.”

The memo goes on to say schools that don’t receive Victory or Zoom funding will be eligible. And, the memo says, “Accountability measures will apply to ensure the funding is utilized to support the academic performance of students performing at or below the 25th percentile.”

Let’s take these statements one at a time.

The first one refers to the new funding formula, which is intended, as former Senator Joyce Woodhouse has told me hundreds of times, to “have the money follow the student.” This means that Del Webb Middle School, in Anthem, will get money for every kid it has who is GATE (gifted and talented education), or has English as a second language, or lives in poverty, or is disabled, or scores in the lowest 25th percentile. Even if that’s 10 kids, they will get money per pupil.

And if schools like Bailey happen to have 10 kids that don’t live in poverty and have higher SBAC scores and aren’t GATE and speak English as a first language and don’t have a disability, then they will get less money for those 10 kids.

But as education advocate Sylvia Lazos points out – and has been pointing out for the better part of a year at meetings of the Funding Commission, which is charged with implementing the new funding formula – “Location, race and poverty all coincide. 

“You want to make sure these schools that are triply impacted are getting the attention,” Lazos told me in a phone conversation this weekend. “They’re saying ELL and poor in Green Valley is the same as ELL and poverty right behind the Stratosphere.” 

The other issue with CCSD using per pupil funding as their formula for meting out replacement funds for 178 is that the Funding Commission, on which Goudie sits, has not made their presentation to the Legislature yet. Which means that there are no public formulas to back up the decisions Goudie made regarding the newly created Academic Support Funds.

How was this calculated? And why didn’t the cut in funding impact schools proportionately?

Now, let’s look at the second statement. Bailey Middle School is not a Zoom or Victory school – though it qualifies to be a Victory school – and they have 614 “students performing at or below the 25th percentile.”

So why were they shorted money?

Wyatt says he called Goudie to find out what the issue is. Goudie referred him to the academic testing office, which Wyatt thought was odd.

The person in the academic testing office thought it was odd, too. Why would a financial matter be referred to her?

The best she could tell Wyatt is that it looked like instead of counting the 614 in the 25th percentile in either math or English, they were counting the 323 Bailey students who were in the 25th percentile in both math and English.

“That’s not what Goudie said in the memo,” Wyatt pointed out.

Indeed. The memo very clearly says “or.” And when I asked Goudie about it, he answered: 

“As explained in the memo, the allocation is based on the lower performing students in ELA or math. Schools have been provided with this information and principal’s were communicated with directly that the criteria is ‘or’ and that is also documented in the memo that you reference.”

hmm
CCSD record indicating Bailey Middle School had 614 students that should have been counted toward additional SB178 funding.

I had to read that a few times when I got the email from Goudie, which, by the way, is written in an incredibly condescending tone. Darryl Wyatt is saying he has 614 students in the 25th percentile in either math or English language. He even has paperwork from the district that shows that.

And Goudie, in arguing that Bailey MS doesn’t deserve the money… is agreeing with him?

I also want to note here that Goudie insists Bailey and every other school in the district did not get a funding cut. It’s semantics. Goudie is touting that the base funding is the same. But many schools in the district are heading into FY2021 planning with less money than they had in 2020.

Wyatt is hoping that this is just a mistake – somebody calculated wrong at the end of a long day. He is mystified as to why they just “won’t own up to it.” 

It may be more than that. Because the money has already been given out to all the schools, based on what may be a mistake. I can’t imagine the uproar if the district were to go to Lied or Del Webb or Greenspun and be like, “Oh, hey, we were mistaken. We’re taking the money back.”

I mean, the people whose kids go to those schools have clout. The people around Sunrise Mountain do not.

Given that this district is rife with retaliation, I asked Wyatt if he’d done anything to piss anybody off. He said he didn’t think so. Though he acknowledged his anger about losing funds was bound to piss off people now.

“I’ve been in this district for 29 years,” Wyatt said. “This is a passionate stance that I need to take for my students and my staff.”

You can listen to the full interview with Darryl Wyatt on IMPACT.

Carrie Kaufman
Broadcast, digital and print journalist Carrie Kaufman has covered the Clark County School District for public radio and The Nevada Voice since 2015.