Changes proposed to Fair Student Funding
City principals would get more control over special education dollars and financial rewards for improving students' academic performance under proposed changes outlined last night at a budget work session.
The meeting was called for the school board but attended by only four adult members, plus the student member, just about everyone in the CEO's cabinet, a few community activists and a few reporters. Dr. Alonso outlined some things we already know -- under current funding projections, the system faces a $55 million budget shortfall, and as many cuts as possible will come from North Avenue. -- and some things some of us didn't know.
The system has had committees of principals and others studying the first year of "Fair Student Funding," or decentralized school budgeting. The committee members were concerned that, with schools getting extra money for kids performing poorly, there was no incentive to move students to proficiency. The revised model, to be officially proposed to the school board Jan. 13 and up for a vote two weeks later, would redistribute the money schools get on top of a base allocation for each student. Schools would be rewarded for moving a student from the "basic" (or failing) category on the MSA to proficient, and from proficient to advanced, and for keeping students in the advanced category on tests. High schools would also see extra cash for increasing the number of students passing the HSAs. Schools would only be credited for overall improvement: In other words, if 30 students progressed and 10 slipped back from proficient to basic, it would get credit for 20.
As for special ed, the recommendation is to give schools flexibility over the money they get: 1) to run the IEP process (the legal process for determining and documenting a student's special needs and services), 2) to incorporate students with disabilities into classes with their non-disabled peers, 3) to provide special ed services during the summer, and 4) to support students and teachers beyond what's mandated in IEPs.
If there's money -- and that's a big if -- Alonso wants to continue expanding pre-kindergarten by moving toward offering it to all 4-year-olds in the city as well as workforce preparation programs. He's also interested in having the system provide its own transportation to middle school students, since there have been so many incidents on MTA buses.