School Board Meeting, June 19
Before I get into demographics, I should mention the recent school board meeting. FORE did a nice roundup.
As expected, the board voted 5-2 to accept the football recommendation, meaning no football for now. Members Lane and Turnbull voted against the recommendation. As a consolation prize, the board voted to continue the football committee, so this will come up again. It appears reality has set in, with most people realizing that full or near-full outside funding is not a real possibility for the long term, so the district would be on the hook for a large part of the bill. We still have the problem of insufficient field space, with no room for football or any additional sports needed to address Title IX concerns.
The surprising discussion was about Title IX. I learned the district was currently involved in a Title IX lawsuit and that the main issue was less participation in girls' sports. Adding football would exacerbate the problem, increasing sports participation by perhaps 60 boys. Nonetheless, member Lane seemed to be advocating a course that would open up the district to more legal trouble. She said,
"While Title IX is gravely important, if it is fixed by either eliminating a sport that has 5 or 6 kids playing versus 60 according to what [the student representative] presented to us [...] that to me is the issue. [...] We can have all these discussions about Title IX but I think it's just a way of dodging the question."A "fix" that adds 54 boys is no fix at all, as we all learned at the meeting. Board members need to take issues of legality seriously, as they found out the hard way a couple of years ago.
The superintendent reported on two meetings with parents about All Day Kindergarten. While there is strong support for the concept, there was broad agreement that the tuition was too high, especially because as proposed K won't go until 5:30pm. A strong contingent thought the district should not be charging at all.
I made the point that it wasn't right to take money from district taxpayers to fund a program that takes business away from local daycares offering K. The superintendent assured me the local daycare businesses are in favor of free district full day K, which apparently frees up their slots for preschoolers who pay more. I should also mention that at the previous meeting the wording of the All Day K motion was retroactively changed so as only to authorize the superintendent to "explore" full day K.
Member Lane offered her own analysis of the economics of full day K:
"... and if we're trying to align ourselves so we can offer full day Kindergarden at no cost then we have to look at the nuts and bolts of why we have to charge for it: because we have a much more expensive staff than other districts do."I haven't crunched the numbers, but it seems likely to me that if providing full day K costs more in Oyster River it's mostly due to our class sizes. I think our policy says up to 19 for K, but lately I don't think we've been exceeding 16. The state allows 25.
Mike McClurken thought my tuition-related demographics tables were so terrible that he was moved to make his own, which he kindly sent me. Dr. McClurken has done his usual incredibly detailed and thorough job, which I am honored to present here. If you haven't already, please check out Mike's website, including the latest edition of The ORCSD By The Numbers, which is essential reading for all those interested in our district's performance and finances. I want to thank to Mike McClurken for another great contribution to the district.
Here's the link to the Google spreadsheet, which actually works much better than the embedded spreadsheet here:
Again, I don't think the embedded spreadsheet above works very well, so if you're going to spend any time looking at the numbers you're probably better off clicking here and then exploring the tabs at the top.
I largely left alone what Mike sent me except for some mangling I had to perform to convert to Google. To point out what stood out me when I went through it, I'll include a few charts here in addition to all the ones Mike supplied. What follows here is my own opinion, and not necessarily Mike McClurken's or anyone else's.
I was struck by the special education numbers:
The current tuition agreement has Barrington paying the full costs of special education services for Barrington students at Oyster River. When I look at these numbers I have to think that this was certainly the right way to go. I would want something similar with Deerfield.
With Newmarket, the talk is more about a deal where they pay Oyster River's cost per student as tuition. That price would include special education. In other words, the taxpayers of Oyster River would be taking the risk, essentially making a bet on the cost of special education for Newmarket kids. We make money if the special education cost per Newmarket student comes in less than that per local student. We lose money if they cost more per.
I would prefer a tuition deal where Newmarket pays our full cost for general education and pays for the special education of their own students. But if us taking on the risk is what it takes to get them to pay the full cost per student, I'd be hesitant but probably OK with it. From the chart it looks like that bet, which would almost certainly be a big loser for us with Barrington and Deerfield, is 50/50 with Newmarket. The possibility exists that Newmarket has a higher bar for special education than we do, which might lead to our taxpayers having to pay for the special education of tuition students given IEPs upon beginning ORHS.
I combined the population numbers into a single chart, then I zoomed in to ages 0-20 to see if I could get some insights into enrollment trends.
Nothing too deep to say here. You can see the kids leaving for college from Barrington and Deerfield and moving in to ORCSD and Newmarket. They seem to hang around Newmarket longer. Perhaps some of these are young families, who even now are rearing future tuition students.
The baby boom peak seems to be getting relatively younger, around 50 here, which is pretty much the tail end of the actual boom (born 1960). This is probably the effect of the younger folks dying less often.
Zoomed in, we can focus on enrollment. An increasing line, like ORCSD here, is predictive of a decline in enrollment, as there are fewer younger kids to replace older kids. Newmarket has more younger kids than older, so they should see a rising enrollment. Combining with them should somewhat alleviate the total decline. The Barrington and Deerfield lines look pretty flat to me so combining with them wouldn't have the same effect. I hope someone is looking hard at the actual enrollment forecasts of the towns rather than just guessing from the census.
I've shown charts I'd consider favorable to the Newmarket option, so here are some favoring Deerfield:
Why is mean (average) family income so much larger than median (middle) family income in most of the towns? That's the telltale sign of high-income folks among us. For example, if a family that makes $5 million a year moved into Madbury it would raise the town's mean income over $10,000 ($5,000,000/476 families) while raising the median income hardly at all.
The median is a robust statistic because it doesn't change much when an outlier is added to the data. I feel better just thinking about the rich as outliers.
The poverty data I posted last time was especially misleading, due to the presence of UNH students. Dr. McClurken uses a better data set which counts the fraction of families living below the poverty line. Using families eliminates most but not all UNH students.
Dr. McClurken notes almost all of the Durham families in poverty are families of graduate students living in Forest Park. If you could remove those families from the data, it's likely the Durham rate would be the same as or less than that of Lee and Madbury, and thus so would the rate for the district.
Of course the children of grad students need to be educated too. As a former grad student, I'm glad I never had to support a family on my stipend of $1,000 per month. But these children are presumably less likely to suffer the negative educational correlates of a low-income family, so it makes some sense to ask what the data would look like without the poor graduate student families.
The Free and Reduced-price Meals data should be largely unaffected by UNH students, and paint a similar picture: