CCSD to school: Spend money we haven’t given you yet, and may not ever give you

no income tax tho!
Reorganization wasn't supposed to look like this. (Rush4 from Pixabay)

Dear Clark County School Trustees,

I was recently forwarded a letter that had been sent to you from your boss… er, employee… Jason Goudie, who is, of course, the Chief Financial Officer of CCSD. The letter was in answer to my last column in the Nevada Current, detailing the Academic Support Funds shortfall to Bailey Middle School.

Let me refresh your memory. (Quickly, because we need to get on to other matters.)

Principals got a letter that told them that “[SB]178 schools would transition to Academic Support Funding,” and the criteria were:

  • Scored at or below the 25th percentile on the following assessments:
  • 2019 Spring MAP Growth in Grades K-2;
  • 2019 SBAC English Language Arts (ELA) or Mathematics in Grades 3-8;
  • 2019 Science Criterion-Referenced Test in Grades 9 and 10;
  • 2019 ACT ELA or Mathematics in Grade 11

Bailey Principal Darryl Wyatt – who had received the SB178 funds that CFO Goudie told you the new funds would replace – said he had 614 students in 6-8 grade who were in the lowest 25th percentile for ELA or math. But he only got credit for 323 students, and was shorted $370,000 from his budget. Principal Wyatt speculated that the “or” that is bolded above was changed to an “and” because Bailey has exactly 323 students who are in the bottom 25th percentile in both ELA “and” math.

When I checked with CFO Goudie, he confirmed that the correct word was “or.”

His exact response was: 

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.

The memo he was referring to was the one sent to principals. It was also forwarded to you in CFO Goudie’s email about my column.

I was relieved to see this was sent to you. It makes clear that Principal Wyatt is correct, and that under the allocation criteria set out by CFO Goudie, Bailey should be getting funds based on 614 students.

I called Principal Wyatt to ask if this matter had been resolved. He told me – astonishingly – that he had not heard from one person in the district. Not even his Trustee!

OK, I wasn’t astonished. I’ve been covering CCSD for a very long time. Sadly, it’s right in character that district leaders would spend time assuring the board that what they were reading in the Current was “inaccurate” (without detailing exactly what they thought was inaccurate) and no time at all actually solving the problem or even communicating with the man who is trying to turn around a school that has at least 614 kids who are struggling.

It almost seems like damage control is more important to your bosses… er, employees… than serving student needs.

Which brings me to the next part, the part I didn’t address in the last column, ‘cause frankly, I didn’t have room. 

This part has to do with Carryover Funds. You remember Carryover Funds. They’re part of the reorganization of the school district. Sometimes that’s referred to as AB469. Sometimes – to those of us who actually like to read Nevada Revised Statutes – it’s referred to as 388G.

Anyway, the Carryover Funds allow schools to save money from one year to the next. This money is often saved when schools can’t get enough teachers to work for them, and rely on substitutes, which cost less. There’s a reason why schools with more economically struggling students have more carryover money – they can’t get and keep teachers who want to work with that population.

Also, if you’ve ever been poor, you know your instinct is to save money in case the rules change quickly or some catastrophe happens.

In both CFO Goudie’s email to me and his email to you, he emphasized that Bailey Middle School “had carryover of funds in the amounts of $690,000 in 2018 that carried over into 2019, $795,000 in 2019 that carried over into 2020, and $558,000 in 2020 that carried over into 2021. The school also received Title 1 funds of $478,000 in 2019, $543,000 in 2020, $561,000 and $576,000 to support lower income students.”

In other words, CFO Goudie is effectively saying the district thinks the school has enough money, so that’s why the school got shorted money in Academic Support Funds.

What I see is that Bailey spent about $250,000+ in Carryover Funds after Principal Wyatt took over in November 2018. That’s 31 percent of the carryover funds he inherited. I’m not going to speculate on what percentage of carryover funds should be spent in a given year. That depends on the needs of the school. Schools in, say, Green Valley or Summerlin, can spend $50,000 or more on brand new tech centers. And then fundraise to their parents and earn that $50,000 back in a heartbeat. Schools like Bailey cannot earn that money back, so their spending choices are more circumscribed.

Principal Wyatt says he’s spent about half the carryover funds he had at the beginning of last year. So he has about $260,000 left. And if he could be assured of that money, he wouldn’t have to cut four teachers. But the carryover money isn’t allocated till September. His staffing plan is due now. And they can’t rely on money that may or may not come after school starts.

“It’s like having money in the bank you can’t spend,” Principal Wyatt told me.

“The bottom line is, I don’t have the money now, I don’t have access to the money now, then when I do have access to the money, it will be September, when it will be too late to hire teachers.”

Also, what I said above, about hoarding money when you’re poor ‘cause you’re not sure if it will be there in the future? Principal Wyatt didn’t tell me this explicitly, but it’s been clear for a while that if Superintendent Jesus Jara – and some of you – had your way, the carryover funds would not be there for schools in the future.

I’m sure you remember when Supt. Jara tried a power grab for carryover funds during the special legislative session held last July. He asked the governor to put it in his proclamation for the Special Session – which was supposed to deal with COVID related issues.

The argument over carryover funds does not have anything to do with COVID. It has to do with who controls the money – schools or the central office.

But Gov. Steve Sisolak put it in his proclamation, only to get a frantic, last-minute request from Supt. Jara to take it out. Seems that Supt. Jara found out he was going to have to take responsibility for AB2 by presenting it to the Assembly. AB2 was supposed to “temporarily remove a requirement for year-end balances of certain local school precincts to be carried forward as restricted fund balances.” Supt. Jara didn’t want anyone to know he was trying to take control of money that principals had been saving. He wanted people to think it was the governor’s idea. Like a little kid with chocolate all over his face blaming his big brother for taking the last piece of cake.

Well, you know what happened there. The governor wrote a letter calling Supt. Jara a liar. The state superintendent wrote a letter calling Supt. Jara a liar. And you held a special meeting to talk about the consequences of having your boss… er, employee… lie, which was cut short by a procedural move by people who apparently thought his lies were just hunky dory.

It was not a good look for you. Stopping speech and discussion. It never is. It really makes the board look petty.

Now we’re at the beginning of a regular legislative session, and principals are worried about another sneak attack to take carryover money, which is part of the AB469 reorganization legislation. They’re also worried there might be a bill to overturn AB469 entirely. I should note that members of both the Senate and Assembly committees on education have told me they haven’t heard of such a bill.

If Principal Wyatt does count on money he doesn’t currently have but is promised in September, then your boss… er, employee… succeeds in taking that money away, what will happen to Bailey Middle School?

It’s not good fiduciary policy to spend money you don’t have. Even if it’s promised to you. 

I have no idea what will happen legislatively. But I know that Supt. Jara is mounting a regular assault on the reorg law. Just ask the guys at Data Insight Partners, who have lost 70 percent of their business and are engaged in a legal struggle with the district, whom they accuse of stealing their copyrighted material – and breaking AB469. They have a compelling case.

But looky here. I’m out of room again. We’ll talk about Data Insight Partners in my next column.

Sincerely (and I mean that sincerely),

Carrie L. Kaufman

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.