What’s Happening in Next Year’s Budget for Education?
Education and public schools almost always rank at the top of any priority list for DC residents. So how did schools fare in next year’s budget? Overall funding for education increased, though there were cuts to funding for school librarians, special education coordinators and staff for out-of-school-time programs.
Perhaps most notable next year is funding for four new pilot initiatives championed by DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown. The Council’s actions last week boosted funding for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education by $3.3 million, largely toward implementation of the “Raising the Expectations for Education Outcomes Omnibus Act of 2012.” The legislation creates pilot efforts focused on four things: identifying student needs earlier; preparing students for post-secondary education; increasing incentives for effective classroom instruction; and supporting the growth of the community school model in the District.
How does it do this? A quick explanation:
- Early Warning and Support: This pilot program will track students in grades four through nine in four different feeder school groups. The goal of the program is to identify students who are at risk of dropping out of school and to provide them with more individual attention and assistance to get them back on track for high school graduation.
- Post-Secondary Preparation: The legislation requires the mayor to develop a plan to ensure all DC public schools and DC public charter schools students take the SAT or ACT and apply to at least one college or other postsecondary institution before graduating from high school. The mayor is also directed to collect data on the number of students enrolling in post-secondary institutions.
- Highly-Effective Teacher Incentive: This pilot program will offer incentives for highly effective teachers that are willing to serve in high-need DC schools for a minimum of three years. The incentive package includes annual bonuses of $10,000, access to housing assistance programs, tuition assistance, and income tax credits. Up to five teachers at four high schools will participate in the pilot.
- Community Schools Incentive: The fourth pilot program in the legislation awards multi-year grants to public-private partnerships between public or public charter schools and non-profit and community organizations. These “community schools” are to provide and coordinate a wide range of services, including health care, academic enrichment activities, early childhood education, and job training programs. A Community Schools Fund will be established to support the initiative with the assumption that DC will seek out additional federal and private resources to sustain community schools. The Office of the State Superintendent for Education will administer grants of up to $200,000 to each of the five pilot schools selected for participation.
What else is happening? Last week, over 100 schools submitted applications for the $10 million “Proving What’s Possible” grant competition administered by DC public schools. The goal of the grant competition is to reward educational innovation and allow schools to develop proposals based on what works in their school. Applicants were encouraged to focus their proposals on how time, talent and technology can improve academic achievement, such as extending the school day, using technology in innovative ways, and increasing staff capacity. However, due to the staffing shortages some schools face, winning schools might end up using the money to plug these funding holes. DCFPI will write more about the “Proving What’s Possible” grants in coming weeks.