Dallas ISD projects less dismal budget picture

May 26, 2011

Generally, Texas school districts need to lock down their school year budgets by about the end of April.

Of course, that’s not possible this year.  As of this morning, it looked as though the Texas Lege could not agree on school funding, and they will have to return for a special session to set education budgets in June or July.

Can you imagine being the budget officer for a Texas school district?

But, sorta good news in Dallas:  Budget officers, making their best guesses on what will  happen, created Budget 5.0 (the fifth iteration of this process — one is usually all a district gets, or needs).

Here’s the message from Downtown on the school’s internal communication system:

Budget Plan 5.0 presented to trustees

Budget Plan 5.0 was presented to trustees today during a budget workshop. The administration is optimistic that this particular scenario, which envisions a $90 million cut in state funding to the district, will be closest to the final budget presented to the board for approval in June.

Here are some of the highlights of Budget Plan 5.0:

  • No additional layoffs at the campus level will be necessary.
  • There will not be an additional loss in the number of teaching positions. The early resignation incentive offered earlier in the spring cut enough from the payroll to make any additional loss of positions unnecessary. It must be noted, however, that some reassignments will need to occur to level campuses depending upon staffing needs.
  • Full day pre-kindergarten for eligible Title I students, which has been a priority of the Board of Trustees, will be funded.
  • Certain teacher stipends will be eliminated.
  • Secondary schools will be staffed at a 27-1 class-size ratio, an increase over the current level of 25-1. While this is not ideal, it is preferable to earlier budget versions that included a 35-1 ratio.

Texas lawmakers remain gridlocked on the funding mechanism for schools yet have indicated an agreement in principle on the amount that will be available. The latest funding scenarios from the state give the district confidence to move forward with Budget Plan 5.0, with the possibility of some modifications, prior to its approval by the Board of Trustees in June.


Chronic drought complicated by chronic denialism

May 26, 2011

Which is worse:  To be in the depths of a drought, or to deny drought where it exists?

I ask the question because, as one cannot tear one’s eyes away from a train wreck about to occur, I watch Steve Goddard’s blog.  Occasionally Steve or one of his fellow travelers says something so contrary to reality or fact that I can’t resist pointing it out.

In some discussion over there, Goddard suggested that because there is above-average snowpack around Salt Lake City and in Northern Utah, Lake Powell’s decade-long struggle with extreme drought is over.  Therefore, to Goddard, global warming does not exist.

(No, I’m not really exaggerating.  Seriously.  Go look.  No one there seems to have ever had a course in logic, nor in English composition and essay writing.  If Al Gore got svelte, one suspects half the commenters there would never be able to speak again.)

It is true that this year, contrary to the past decade, snowpack is high along the Wasatch Front and in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, and in Wyoming and Colorado areas that drain into the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Consequently, forecasters say that Lake Powell may gain a few feet of depth this year.  Powell is down about 50 feet, however, and even a record snowpack won’t erase the effects of drought on the lake.  (Yeah, I know:  The Wasatch doesn’t drain into the Colorado system — it drains to the Great Salt Lake, as indeed do many of the streams that have great snowpack in Utah — so a lot of the record snowpack won’t get within 400 miles of Lake Powell.  That’s geography, and it would be one more area that commenters would embarrass themselves in.  Don’t ask the pig to sing if you aren’t going to spend the time to teach it; if you need the aphorism on teaching pigs to sing, look it up yourself.)

Since Lake Powell won’t lose a lot of elevation this year, the Goddardites (Goddardians?  Goddards?  Goddardoons?) pronounce the U.S. free of drought.

Right.

Check it out for yourself, Dear Reader.  Here’s an animation from the National Drought Center, showing drought measurements in the contiguous 48 states plus Alaska and Hawaii, over the past 12 weeks:

Drought in the U.S., 12 weeks ending May 17, 2011, National Drought Mitigation Center, U of Nebraska-Lincoln

Drought in the U.S., 12 weeks ending May 17, 2011, National Drought Mitigation Center, U of Nebraska-Lincoln - click on map for a larger version at the Drought Monitor site.

Here’s the drought outlook map from the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA:

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook Map, released May 19, 2011, NOAA and the Climate Prediction Center

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook Map, released May 19, 2011, NOAA and the Climate Prediction Center - click image for a larger version at NOAA's site.

It would be wonderful were these droughts to break soon.  But that is very unlikely.

So, why would anyone deny it?

Then, just to indicate the bait-and-switch logic these guys use, Goddard came back with a claim that the 1956 drought in Texas was worse, as if that means the current drought doesn’t exist.  Fore reasons apparent only to those whose heads get pinched by tinfoil hats, he also notes the CO2 levels for 1956.  I think I know what point he’s trying to make, but someone should tell him that apples are not oranges, and comparing apples and oranges to pomegranates doesn’t increase the supply of tennis balls.

Let’s just stick to the facts.  The experts who must operate the dams and lakes and get water to Mexico on schedule say the drought along the Colorado persists.  Who are we to gainsay them?

Resources:  

GEOSat photos of Lake Powell and drought, 2000 to 2004 - Dr. Paul R. Baumann, SUNY - Oneonta College

GEOSat photos of Lake Powell and drought, 2000 to 2004 - Dr. Paul R. Baumann, SUNY - Oneonta College


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