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Re: [mpls] Who made the decision to close schools and why?   |   Reasons to Keep Pratt Community School Open as a District Run School

Reasons to Keep Pratt Community School Open as a District Run School
Pratt School demonstrates how small elementary schools can cost less to run than the big ones, especially if 'untracked.'  If schools must be closed, close some of the big, prison-like schools.  By Doug Mann, 27 July 2004

Preface: I suspect that the district's chief objection to small schools is that the per-student overhead costs of "ability-grouping" are higher in small schools. The district has been aggressively promoting ability-grouping in the early elementary grades since 1997, which has likely increased the cost of operating elementary schools to a considerable degree, especially small elementary schools, while decreasing the quality of education for students not put on a college-bound curriculum track.

Subj:      [Mpls] Reasons to keep Pratt School open as district-run school
Date:     7/27/2004 9:19:02 AM Central Daylight Time
From: (Doug Mann)

I agree that Pratt Community School should be kept open as a district run school, and for the same reasons as outlined in the Position Paper Regarding Pratt Community Education Center:

1. Keeping Pratt Community School open is consistent with the goal of integrating the student population by race and socioeconomic status. Pratt serves a neighborhood with a school age population that is diverse in terms of race and
socioeconomic status.

2. A large majority of Pratt students live within walking distance from school, which greatly reduces transportation costs and makes the school more accessible to parents.

3. Educational outcomes have been positive. Moreover, as a small school, Pratt is under pressure financially to avoid or minimize the use of ability-grouping. Pratt is a K-5 school that would be fully enrolled with a student population of 143 (?), presumably with an average of one classroom per grade level. Small schools may have inherent advantages over large schools other than the impracticality of ability-grouping students into separate classrooms on a
part-to-full time basis.

4. Pratt School is a model for being part of a multiple use facility (K-5 / adult education / community center) that cuts some of the overhead costs for all of the programs which utilize the facility. Other small schools might also be able to  utilize some of their unused classrooms by sharing space and facilities with other programs.

5. Pratt is also a model for small schools with respect to its relationship with Tuttle School. Pratt and Tuttle share a principal, specialist teachers, social workers, interns, coordinators, and administrative resources, which reduces costs associated with economy of scale.

6. Pratt apparently meets the district's criteria for cost-effectiveness. Pratt required some cross subsidy due to under-enrollment, not high program costs. Program costs are low enough that Pratt school would actually be a very
"profitable" operation if fully enrolled. The analysis of Pratt's budget (Attachment A, Position Paper Regarding Pratt Community Education Center) offers evidence that Pratt School's current operating expenses in fiscal year 2002-2003 were $476,000, not $636,000 as alleged by board member Judy Farmer.  That reduces the "cross subsidy" for fiscal year 2002-2003 from $223,110 to $63,110. Cost savings for transportation, which was not taken into account in either analysis, would offset most of the $63,110 "cross subsidy."   In 2002-2003 Pratt was a K-3 school with 63 students that could accept up to 76 students with full enrollment defined as 19 students per grade level, and 92 students with full enrollment defined as 23 students per grade level.  Pratt would have reached a fiscal break-even point with just a couple more students (if you take savings in transportation costs into account.

7.  Pratt School's biggest drawback from a financial standpoint seems to be low enrollment rather than high program costs. However, the low enrollment is related primarily to demographic factors that predated Pratt School's resurrection, and Pratt School's existence may be drawing households with school age children into its attendance area.

The district has some options to deal with Pratt's low enrollment problem: Extend the schools attendance area, make Pratt an extra magnet option for students in part of the city's SE quadrant, and encourage enrollment of students from St. Paul.

Pratt school might be able to cut a class room position, and thereby reduce its under-enrollment problem, by replacing 3 or 4 single grade / age classrooms with 2 or 3 multiple grade / age classrooms.  

"Position Paper Regarding Pratt Community Education Center" and "Attachment A: Analysis of Pratt School Budget" can be found at the following web addresses:

-Doug Mann, King Field
Mann for School Board