Financial Strategies To Aid In Addressing Barriers To Learning

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From the Center's Clearinghouse .*An introductory packetFinancial Strategies to Aid inAddressing Barriers to Learning(Revised fund2000.pdfThis Center is co-directed by Howard Adelman and Linda Taylor and operates under the auspice of the SchoolMental Health Project, Dept. of Psychology, UCLA.Address: Center for Mental Health in Schools, Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563Phone: (310) 825-3634 Website: http://smhp.psych.ucla.eduFor Information email: [email protected] Center encourages widespread sharing of all its resources. No permission is necessary.

PrefaceWhile it's true that throwing money at problems doesn't solve them, it is also true that complex problemscan't be dealt with effectively without financial resources.With tight budgets, a critical focus of all reform efforts is how to underwrite the costs of new interventionapproaches. Local, state, federal, public, private — all sources are being tapped and there is increasingdiscussion of how to develop new relationships/partnerships and blend resources. As noted by the Centerfor the Study of Social Policy,* the discussions focus on "political and financial strategies that use currentand future resources in new ways and that maximize all available sources of revenue." That Center beginsby stressing the following essential points:First is the central principle of all good financial planning, that programs drive financing, notthe other way around. Financial strategies must be used to support improved outcomes forfamilies and children. And financing strategies which cannot be adequately adapted to programends should not be used, even when they happen to generate more money than otherapproaches.Second, no single financing approach will serve to support an ambitious agenda forchange. Financing packages should be developed by drawing from the widest possible array ofresources. Many individuals or organizations are stuck on one approach to financing (usuallythe one that involves asking for more state or local general funds). Yet there are manyalternatives. Financing is an art not a science, and creativity is the order of the day. In the end,more general funds may be necessary to support system changes, but these will only beforthcoming and deserved if (we) first make the best use of existing resources. . . .With these points in mind, the Center for the Study of Social Policy offers the following four partframework as a guide to thinking about financing efforts to enhance programs and services for children. Redeployment: using available funds (e.g., investment based, capitation based, cutbased, and material redeployment) Refinancing: freeing funds for reinvestment Raising revenue: generating new funding Restructuring financial systems: using financial structures to effect change.At times, the challenge of financing needed reforms seems overwhelming, but each day brings-newopportunities and information on successful efforts. This packet is designed as an aid in identifying sourcesand understanding strategies.*Financing reform of family and children’s services: An approach to the systematic consideration offinancing options or “The Cosmology of Financing.” Document from The Center for the Study of SocialPolicy, 1575 Eye Street, Suite 500, NW, Washington, DC 20005.

CONTENTSWhat Will It Cost – No New Dollars13Rethinking District Budgets16Funding Stream IntegrationAnalyzing What is Being Spent in Addressing Barriers toLearning and Teaching19Using Grant Opportunities to Move Forward(even if you don’t get the grant)22Surfin’ for Funds39

Rethinking District Budgets to Unify and Sustain a Critical Mass ofStudent and Learning Supports at SchoolsWith each year's budget projections getting smaller and smaller, we are forced tothink of more efficient ways to do business. We know the tremendous responsibilitywe have to do the right thing for our children. . and we have to make toughchoices. The key is integrating educational funds to achieve the sustainability of"system change" for improved student outcomes.From Tools for Integrating Education Funds,Louisiana Department of Educationistricts across the country have had to cut staff and other resources to balance theirbudgets. Clearly, this is not a situation that is likely to facilitate school improvement.Indeed, the probability is that it will set back improvement efforts. While money isnot the only factor in making schools better, drastic budget cuts certainly are not a tenablepath to improvement. As administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and otherstakeholders consistently caution: "Wherever you cut, you are going to hurt the kids."DThe nation’s commitment to ensuring every student has an equal opportunity to succeed atschool requires balancing budgets in ways that do not completely undermine this ideal.Cutbacks increase the challenge of using every dollar and every resource in the mostproductive ways to improve outcomes for all students. Unfortunately, in many instances,budget cuts are decimating the capacity of schools to provide essential student and learningsupports. In turn, this is subverting teachers’ efforts to build effective learning connectionswith their students.Education cut-backs are likely to worsen over the short run. This makes it imperative forpolicy makers to reverse trends toward lopsided cutbacks that counter efforts to addressfactors interfering with learning and teaching. Furthermore, it is essential to move forwardin more cost-effective ways by unifying student and learning supports and braidingremaining categorical funding in ways that reduce redundancy and counterproductivecompetition for sparse resources. This brief highlights these matters.Lopsided CutbacksIf any major enterprise (corporation, hospital,legislature, school) disproportionally cuts segments ofits staff, it risks undermining its mission and maycompletely immobilize itself.In practice, there are three primary and overlapping componentsin ensuring students have an equal opportunity to succeed atschool: the instructional component – which includes all directefforts to facilitate learning and development the enabling or learning supports component – whichembraces direct efforts to address factors interfering withlearning and teaching the management component – which encompassesmanagerial and governance functions.3

In policy, however, the enabling/learning supports component is notgiven the same priority and attention as the other two. Efforts toaddress interfering factors are enacted in a piecemeal and ad hocfashion and implemented in fragmented ways. And, as budgetstighten, the trend often is for such supports to be among the earlycuts and for the cuts to be lopsided. That is, student support staff (ascompared to other staff) often are disproportionately laid off. Insome instances, the ranks of school counselors, psychologists,social workers, nurses, and other support staff are decimated.Examples abound. Last year in Spokane, out of 238 layoff notices,55 went to school counselors. In Cleveland, layoff notices went outto all 15 district social workers and 32 nurses (about half the totalof nurses). In Seattle, the school board voted to eliminate theposition of elementary school counselors to help close its budgetgap. And these are not anomalies.In schools servinghigh numbers ofstudents who are notdoing well, learningsupports areinequitablyunderwritten.What makes all this especially unacceptable is that, in schoolsserving high numbers of students who are not doing well, learningsupports already are inequitably underwritten. For example, Heuer& Stullich (2011) report finding “from 42% to 46% of Title Ischools (depending on school grade level) had per-pupil personnelexpenditure levels that were below their district’s average for nonTitle I schools at the same grade level.”As can be seen in in recent reports from the National Center forEducation Statistics (NCES), the focus on student supports is highlycircumscribed and poorly defined and the budget allocation issmall. The NCES (Cornman, & Noel, 2011) categorizes districtlevel expenditures as follows: Instruction and instruction-related: Salaries and benefitsfor teachers, teaching assistants, librarians, in-serviceteacher trainers, curriculum development, studentassessment, technology, and supplies and services relatedto these activities. Student support service: Attendance and social work,guidance, health, psychological services, speechpathology, audiology, and other student support services. Administration: Expenditures for school and schooldistrict administration (school principal’s office, thesuperintendent and board of education and theirimmediate staff, and other local education agency staff. Operations: Expenditures for the operation andmaintenance of school and school district facilities, andexpenditures related to student transportation, foodservices and enterprise operations.4

In the period from 1990 through 2008, the proportion ofexpenditures in each of these categories has changed very little: Instruction and instruction staff services represent about65% of public school expenditures Student supports is about 5% of expenditures Administration, operations, transportation, food services isabout 22% of expenditures (NCES, 2010).The apparent reason for the small amount of student supportexpenditures is the tendency to think of such supports mainly assupplementary assistance for compensatory and special educationpopulations. As Baker (2001) notes:“The compensatory needs of at-risk students wereformalized in federal legislation in l965 as Title I of theElementary and Secondary Education Act. Statesresponded to the federal program by creating state levelpolicies to recognize and provide financial support forlocal districts to provide compensatory programs . for atrisk children in predominantly low-income schools. Thecase of limited English proficient children is . similar tocompensatory education in that the impetus for most statepolicy and local district program expansion was theimplementation of Title VII of ESEA in l976.”Moreover, population and school finance equity research has longstressed that it is low-income students, students with disabilities, andstudents with limited English proficiency who “require more inputs”(Wilson, Lambright, & Smeeding, 2004). And it is this body ofresearch that has made the case that “equal dollars do not buyequally productive inputs” or results.Cuts to studentand learningsupportsexacerbateinequities amongschools and furtherlimit availability ofessential supports.The tendency to think of student and learning supports mainly interms of compensatory and special education has been challenged,and approaches that address the needs of all students have beenformulated (e.g., see Adelman & Taylor, 2006). However, efforts todevelop such approaches are hampered by the trend to skew budgetcuts in ways that eviscerate student and learning supports (Center forMental Health in Schools, 2010; 2011a).In sum, school finance inequities are well documented (Addonizio,2009; Baker & Elmer, 2009; Baker & Ramsey, 2010; Duncombe &Yinger, 2004). And cuts to student and learning support resourcesexacerbate the inequities among schools and further marginalize andlimit availability of essential inputs. Given this, districts and schoolsneed to revisit the problem of lopsided cuts. By now it should beevident that no major urban district can ensure equity of opportunityfor all students to succeed without developing a unified andcomprehensive system to address barriers to learning and teachingand re-engage disconnected students.5

A major irony related to cutbacks that work against developing apotent system of learning supports is that such a system can helpa district enhance its finances. For instance, it is clear that “whileenrollment propels district costs, . revenues are largely driven bythe yearly average of students who attend” (EdSource, 2007).Given that absences drive down revenue, they not only jeopardizethe ability of students to succeed at school, they undermine thecapacity of schools to achieve their mission (Center for MentalHealth in Schools, 2011a). Absenteeism arises from a variety offactors, many of which can be countered by a unified andcomprehensive system of student and learning supports.Morever, such a system can reduce the amount of resourcesexpended in reacting to behavior problems and can decrease thenumber of inappropriate referrals for special assistance andspecial education. And all this can help increase graduation ratesand counter teacher dropout.Braiding CategoricalFunds to BetterAddress Barriers toLearning and EnsureEngagement (andRe-engagement) inInstructionWithin the constraints of government budgets, policy makershave addressed barriers to learning through categorical fundingstreams (e.g., targeted programs, “silos”), some of which weredesignated as entitlements (i.e., the dollars follow the students )and others were designed as competitions for funding. As Reyes& Rodriguez (2004) stress, such categorical programs areintended to “address either a particular or targeted educationpolicy goal or the special needs of a category of eligible studentpopulations.” As part of a school finance formula, these tend toreflect an acknowledgment by policy makers of the need foradditional resources at certain schools and for certain studentpopulations.The widespread failure related to addressing barriers to learningand teaching and the impact of special education encroachment ona district’s general operating funds have led to policy backlash.Categorical funding has been designated as too inflexible and asperpetuating a reactive “waiting for failure” approach. There havebeen increasing calls for block funding or at least waivers fromcategorical silos and for strategies that can stem the tide ofstudents requiring additional funding (Baker, 2001). Examples ofthe latter include