Here we go again. Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Cedrick Gray went complaining to the Clarion-Ledger that JPS is about to crash due to budget cuts. The newspaper dutifully complied with his histrionics by penning the headline "JPS in financial crisis, superintendent says" to the story. Unfortunately for the readers, the reporter took every word spoken by the education guru as gospel and didn't challenge him anywhere in the press release, oops, make that article.
The newspaper reported:
The superintendent of the Jackson Public Schools said the district is in a financial crisis, and the culprit, he said, is inadequate funding by the state's lawmakers.
With less than one month left in the school year, Cedrick Gray, superintendent of the Jackson Public School District, said the 2015-2016 Mississippi Adequate Education Program budget will take an "impactful" hit of $559,555.
If the reporter had used the calculator on her Iphone, she would've found that this so-called cut is literally 0.2% of the JPS budget if one uses the 2014 budget of $265 million*. However, Dr. Gray claims later in the story that the budget is $211 million. The $559,555 cut is only 0.265% of the budget. However, math seems to escape reporters at the state newspaper. Dr. Gray then points out JPS will suffer more serious cuts next year:
The 2016-2017 MAEP allocation, pending Gov. Phil Bryant's signature, will be reduced by $4 million, Gray said.
"We've already budgeted it so that means we're going to have to really pull back the reins in a lot of ways," Gray said Monday. "Not fully funding MAEP was already costing us. Now it's going to cost us an additional $4 million which means we'll have to figure out what we're going to do with it and how we're going to adjust."
Make no mistake. $4 million is a great deal of money and JPS will have to make some changes. However, $4 million is all of 2.0% of the JPS budget. If the budget is $265 million as it was earlier, then the $4 million cut is approximately 1.5% of the budget. However, the Superintendent says people will have to suffer if these draconian cuts take place:
"We've already budgeted it so that means we're going to have to really pull back the reins in a lot of ways," Gray said Monday. "Not fully funding MAEP was already costing us. Now it's going to cost us an additional $4 million which means we'll have to figure out what we're going to do with it and how we're going to adjust."JJ is so glad he mentioned the $500,000 cut and what he could do with it. Did these needs cross Dr. Gray's mind when he paid off his friends on the $118 million bond refinance last year? If Dr. Gray wants to know where to find some money, perhaps he should go look in the mirror.
Several options include closing schools, taking away programs like art and music and increasing class size.
"At this point, all of that's on the table," Gray said. With 28,000 students in the district, JPS has a current operating budget of $211 million and approximately $15 million in its rainy day fund.
The $500,000 cut for the current school year could fund the salaries for 10 teachers, Gray said. It could also fund an HVAC unit in need of repair at one of the district's 16 schools.
Plagued with aging school buses that are 15-22 years old, the district could use $500,000 to buy five new school buses. It currently operates with 150.
However, all of those needs are on hold with more potential cuts to come. Rest of article.
JPS refinanced $118 million of 2008 bonds lasts year. The professional service fees (bond lawyers, underwriters, and other bond pimps) were $538,416 in 2008. However, Dr. Cedric Grey and his pals raised that cost to $1,233,824 last year*. A difference of nearly $700,000. $700,000 is more than $565,000 even in Common Core math. $600,000 went to lawyers. $350,000 went to a "financial advisor" who is not even registered to sell securities. Dr. Gray said nothing about school buses or teachers when he was doling out the money. JPS doesn't even have any invoices for these payments.
Dr. Gray also tried to award the "financial advisor" a $500,000 contract in 2014 to draft budgets and review finances despite having CPA's on staff at JPS. Perhaps JPS should also quit spending an extra $50,000 for "minority participation" on its waste collection contract. Then there is the $3.5 million consulting contract JPS recently awarded but federal money paid for that contract so hey, that's ok. Then there are the two attorneys. JPS has two sets of lawyers at every school board meeting. One attorney is employed by the district. The other is an outside lawyer paid by the district. Most school districts have counsel that is either an outside law firm or a district employee. JPS can't decide which course to take so it hired Buzzsaw and retained Dynamo. The more lawyers, the merrier and the best part is, the Clarion-Ledger will just call it a "lucrative contract".
The state newspaper makes no mention of these fees nor the bonds as the reporter just dutifully reported everything Dr. Gray said at face value, no critical reporting needed in this story. The rest of the story is written in the same vein.
*2014 audit submitted to the Office of the State Auditor.