It's budget season in school districts. Leadership teams are sitting around tables hammering out their FY16 allocations, priorities and next steps. This process varies from one city to another, but some things stay the same: there's never enough money. This is true for affluent areas too; no one thinks they have enough to do the job they want to do.
The first thing to review is the city budget: how much is the city going to provide for its schools? In most areas, this amount should be higher than it was last year. The economy has improved quite dramatically in most places, so tax revenues are up. This money is intended for services such as schools; however, the last 7-8 years have been hard on municipalities whose infrastructures have been neglected in order to take care of necessities. Those potholes on main street may be the size of China by now, and it will cost more to repair them over time. In general, though, your schools may have more city budget funds to use for educating children.
In large districts, business managers watch these numbers like a hawk. It's a comparison game; how much more or less do we have this year than last? Can we pull things off the long-term wish list to work on this year? How many teachers can we hire? When that number is firm, it's time to look at grant revenue to see how those supplementary funds will fit into the big picture. The key here is supplementary. Grants may not pay for basic functions, and if they've been used that way, someone is breaking the law. It's called supplanting, and financial regulators frown on it in a very big way.
We talked last time about Title I. These are the federal dollars earmarked for raising the academic achievement levels of the poorest and most challenged children. Please read that blog for some tips on how to apply for and use those funds. Another allocation districts receive is Title II-A, Improving Teacher Quality. The federal government distributes funds to states based on complex formulas and demographic information. The state education agencies distribute funds to local cities and towns for recruiting, preparing and keeping highly qualified teachers in the schools. Districts will see about the same amount this year (FY16) as last (FY15), perhaps a little more or less depending on changes in your population.
This is much more difficult than it sounds. In the '60s, teaching jobs were hard to come by, everyone wanted to be a teacher in those days. Not so much anymore. There will always be people who will gravitate to teaching, though; it's a calling for many. Districts now are thinking about how their Title II-A funds can be used to train, recruit and keep those highly qualified people in the fold.
For some, that will mean bringing in outside consultants to organize ongoing training sessions and professional development for teachers. Curriculum directors have been meeting all year to review the initiatives that have worked for your district and which ones need overhauling or scrapping altogether. Big buzz words in education these days are RTI (Response to Intervention) and Blended Learning, integrating technology into the classroom in a consistent, effective program. Stimulus funds in 2008-9 were used to upgrade technologies, laptop computers, tablets and network infrastructure. There must be an associated high-energy effort to make sure you use those tools to the best effect in the classroom. Another big thing in districts is distance education. Students who need a few more credits to graduate can use credit recovery services to log in and take those courses so that graduation is not such a remote possibility. There is every possibility that students can graduate on time.
Teachers will need ongoing support and training to stay up-to-date on these and other initiatives. I've provided some resources to sort out how you may use these funds. Generally, the money is not for staff, but it is acceptable to pay for a Curriculum Director and other key people to make sure you spend funds in the best way possible. Be sure you have a phone number for your state Title II-A liaison handy; that person can help guide decisions you will make. This year, the buzz I'm hearing is recruiting. This is a big issue and districts are becoming very sophisticated in finding high-tech ways to attract and keep bright young teachers.
- Recruiting Teachers
- Training Teachers
- Ohio Model of Teacher Quality
- Title II-A Regulations
- Your State Dep't. of Ed (find your II-A liaison)
- Blended Learning PD
Let me know your stories, I'd love to share them with everyone.
Current Grant Opportunities
Kids-to-Parks Day National School Contest from the National Park Trust - The purpose of the contest is to empower students to create and plan their own park experience. This national contest is open to all schools across the country and in the US territories. The students must research the park to find out what outdoor recreation activities, educational and park stewardship opportunities. Be creative; video entries and artworks are encouraged!
States: All States
Average Amount: $1,000.00
Address: 401 E. Jefferson Street Suite 203 Rockville, MD 20850
Telephone: 301-279-7275 x17
Website: National Park Trust
Eligibility: Public School, Private School
Program Areas: General Education, Science/Environmental, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
Improving Community Education Grants from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation - The foundation believes education, economic participation and community engagement are critical to moving low-income Americans toward greater prosperity. These three areas are the pillars of their program to address poverty in the US Funding is made under three objectives: Improving Community Education, Expanding Economic Opportunity and Building Organized Communities.
States: All States
Average Amount: $10,000.00 - $4,500,000.00
Total Amount: $90,000,000.00
Address: 503 S. Saginaw St., Ste. 1200 Flint, MI United States 48502-1851
Website: Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Eligibility: Public School, Higher Education, Other
Program Areas: After-School, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)