Money, Money, Money, Money 

Post by CJN

Rose in LAToday’s New York Times posted an article about New York schools’ Renewal program, an attempt to improve 94 failing public schools is failing to raise the scores and reduce absenteeism enough. So, after 3 years (2015-2018), only one-third of the schools improved out of the program. Why?

Renewal based its model on the idea that a student’s academic achievement would increase if the schools “were given a wide array of school services and teachers were better trained.” New York Times, “New York Kept Children in Schools Likely to Fail”, October 26, 2018. And the services were substantial – mental health clinics, dentists, and food pantries at the site – which studies show are needed to improve student achievement in impoverished communities.

So, why stop now? Is it the money spent and what is the result? “We should stop ourselves from spending money on things that don’t work,” said James Kemple, the executive director of the New York University’s Research Alliance for New York City Schools (Ibid).

Students, however, still must attend school. Wouldn’t it serve them better if the Renewal project people went over the model, looked at more research, and make changes to spend money on things that DO work.

Look at California schools which have had to make do with less money since 1978 when the infamous Proposition 13 was passed. At that time schools reaped the money from local property taxes that placed California high on the U.S. list of funding per public school. Once the proposition passed, money decreased significantly, and now the state provides 60%, local funds provide only 30% and federal money (mostly from Title I) provide 10% to some schools.

In an attempt to find out how to improve the California public school situation, an October 2018 study from American Institutes for Research (AIR) shows that, from all resources, California in 2017 actually spends $12, 204 per student. An adequate amount per student is $16,890. The actual amount spent per student places California 41st of all public schools in the nation.

An “adequate” amount is quantified from the average California school enrollment and demographics like numbers of free-reduced price lunches, English Learners, special education students.

The “adequate” amount is also computed by including teacher support for sufficient planning and training; hiring experienced, flexible teachers; student opportunities outside the classroom (STEM, arts, other extra-curricular activities); high quality early childhood education; engagement for families at the school; English language Learning with home-language support; and, most important, social-emotional support for students and families.

For schools with high numbers of EL, special ed, and free/reduced price lunch students, additional amounts to retain small class size, richer special education programs, and extra professional development for teachers, early childhood education programs, and extended day/year (for remediation and enrichment) are necessary.

After every ‘extra’ program was eliminated in schools because of the decrease in funding, the consequences of the passage of Proposition 13 in California is that every adult lost confidence in public schools. In fact, you can see the video A Rose in LA from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) about the systematic disinvestment even in 2018 in Los Angeles public schools serving black, brown, and low-income students.

The conclusion of the AIR report reminds us that the actual expenditure per student doesn’t account for central administration, maintenance, transportation, or food service needs for a school district. The report also identifies the other multiple factors that define how students learn including their socio-emotional feelings and physical health.

The AIR findings tell us what must be done to truly improve student achievement from California to New York. Recognize that just throwing money at a school may not lead to success but deciding the programs that each school needs and funding those programs is the key. It is a model that takes far more than three years of relentless, consistent attention.

A model that does show promise of using money on something that works is the Schott Foundation for Public Education-supported Community Schools – a model with most of the needs described above that can succeed and is worthy of the attention. The Partnership for the Future of Learning has put out the Community Schools Playbook for anyone to see.

Also the W.K.Kellogg Foundation with the Schott Foundation supports a program to reduce racial bias, reduce harsh discipline policies, and support positive school climate.

Two models that are available to New York’s Renewal and California to begin the road to recovery and success for every student.

 

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