Changing the flow of money remains key challenge as school district reorganizes

First, the Clark County School District had its organizational structure upended to place more decision-making power in the hands of principals, staff and parents at individual schools.

Now, the nation’s fifth-largest school district is grappling with how to transfer 80 percent of its unrestricted dollars to schools by the next academic year — per a requirement of the massive, state-mandated reorganization plan.

The funding-transfer issue was discussed during a meeting Wednesday of the Community Implementation Council (CIC),  a nine-member body that’s shepherding the school district through the reorganization process. Education funding not earmarked for a specific purpose by state or federal law or the Nevada Department of Education is considered unrestricted.

The problem: School officials and the consultants hired to help the school district with the reorganization disagree about how much of those unrestricted dollars have been pushed from central services down to the school level.

The consultants told CIC members that the district has allocated about two-thirds of its unrestricted funds to the schools. TSC² Group, the firm doing the consulting work, estimates the school district has about $1.819 billion worth of unrestricted funds but is only allocating $1.212 billion to schools. The district would need to allocate $240 million to $330 million more to schools to satisfy the reorganization mandate, the consultants said.

School district officials, however, contend that they’ve allocated 70 percent to 73 percent of unrestricted funds to schools.

“The difference is in the details and drilling down behind those basic numbers that they’re using from open book and going into specific budgets line by line and determining which of these people are actually in schools and which are central services,” Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said after the meeting.

The money shuffling — designed to give schools greater decision-making authority to help students succeed — highlights the challenges that still loom as the district races to implement the reorganization plan by the next school year.

Tom Skancke, president and CEO of the TSC² Group, acknowledged that the superintendent and other top leaders are working feverishly, often from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., on the reorganization. But he said there’s still a contingent of district employees who have not bought into the concept and think they can simply ride out the changes because they’ll go away at some point.

While changing the culture of an organization is never easy, Skancke said school district employees need to understand that this reform is here to stay because it’s the law.

“We as a community need to continue to assist in this effort,” Skancke said at the meeting. “We all need to be positive and try to encourage the effort that is going on. Is it perfect? No, it’s not. Is it new? Yes. We say our work is going to be done Oct. 31, but in many ways, the work will just begin after we’re finished.”

Newly formed “school organizational teams,” made up primarily of parents, principals and staff, are in the process of finalizing strategic budgets for the next school year. The teams must submit their school’s budget to the district by Feb. 22.

Caption: The Clark County School District administrative offices on Monday, Jan 16, 2017. Photo by Sam Morris.