Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Conley Report, Part IV: What Could I Do With More Money?

Fourth in a series looking at the new Washington Adequacy Funding Study by Dr. David Conley, released by the WEA last Thursday.

Last week my local council put on a Take the Lead Talk, sharing numbers and making an exceptionally strong case that school funding hasn’t kept up with inflation, that the schools haven’t gotten the same level of fiscal support that they did 20 years ago, and showing why this is considered a crisis by many. One of the numbers that they’re using is that each student on average comes with $548 less than they did 13 years ago, adjusted by inflation. The Conley report suggests that the state would need to spend $3,613 more per child to meet the “paramount duty” clause of the state constitution.

My district has about 2000 students, 600 of which attend my school. Using the Take the Lead figure would provide about $1,000,000 more for my district, while the Conley figure would mean $7 million dollars more. Conley seems pie-in-the-sky, so let’s play with the Take the Lead number. If my district received a million dollars, about $300,000 would come to my school. Here’s what I would spend that money on:

*A gifted education program for my school. Daily pull-out for math and reading with effectiveness measured by the NWEA MAP assessment that we do in the fall and spring. Some of the money could be used for programs like EPGY from Stanford or the CTY program through Johns Hopkins that would allow those kids to work at their own pace and take the experience home with them. We’re told that a teacher costs about $65 to $70 thousand dollars a year; let’s use the high number and give them a $5,000 budget to work with. Total cost: $75,000.

*Expanding the intervention programs we have in place. I receive 3 hours a week of per diem time for running the before school intervention for 1st and 2nd grade, which is a $100 a week for 20 kids (I’m cheap!). In the course of a 36-week school year that’s only $3,600.

The trick is that not every kid who needs intervention can attend the before school program; if I could also offer an after-school program I could probably double the number of kids served. Under our contract the after-school programs are treated a little differently, so it would cost about $600 for every 15 hours of the program. Let’s double that to pay for extended school hours for two paraprofessionals, so $1200. We could work 10 different 3-week sessions into the school year. If someone else did 3-4 and 5-6, you’d multiply it by 3, then by 10 for the number of sessions. Total cost: $36,000.

*A dedicated science teacher. Not a science coach—someone like the art teacher or the music teacher with their own classroom, who can work through the kits with the kids, who can handle the set-up and clean-up, monitor supplies, and keep abreast of everything that’s going on in the state with the science GLEs and the expansion of LASER in my area. The costs would roughly be the same as for the gifted ed teacher, but I’ll give the science teacher double the money for materials. Total cost: $80,000.

*Expanded summer school. Last year we only had enough money in our extended learning fund to offer a four-week ½ day program, which ended up only being 14 days because of the 4th of July holiday. Double the time to 8 weeks and add another hour a day. Also, if we could pay for a bus to pick up those kids who go to summer school we’d get a lot better attendance. Total cost: $20,000.

*Playground aides. At my school the paraprofessionals have to do recess duty, which sends them out for a half an hour a day. The first and second grade teachers have a half hour of lunch duty, which could be used for common planning, data analysis, or remedial activities. Total cost: $15,000.

* A dedicated parapro for our kindergarten classroom. We have three sessions in the morning and two in the afternoon; if there was a full-time person available that they could use for intervention, it would make a big difference. Total cost: $30,000.

*Finally, a session of full-day kindergarten. It would only be for the kids who are identified as needing it, and maybe that involves a shuffle after a few weeks of the year as we recognize which ones need the intervention and which ones don’t, but I firmly believe that any kind of gap (economic, racial, or otherwise) can be eliminated IN ONE YEAR if we use the right programs and do the right things. For the cost basis, assume half a teacher. Total Cost: $35,000.

*There’s $291,000. Put the rest into professional development, and that’s that.

There’s also a laundry list of things that I didn’t include: reading coach, math coach, money to buy-out the contract and extend the school day an hour (that would take the whole $300k), an assistant principal, software packages, more field trips, offering breakfast, giving me a raise, books for the classroom, bookshelves, a dedicated computer teacher who could use the national tech standards to make sure our kids are on track, an upgrade to our network, etc., etc.

These are examples of just some of the choices we have to make. Granted, some of those are luxuries, but should the school have to choose between luxuries or basics?

At a meeting I was at the other night someone threw out this quote:

You can build a child or repair an adult.

It’s time to get serious about building kids.


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5:19 AM  

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