How School Districts are Using Their New Funding

Illinois enacted a new school funding formulain August 2017. Known as the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model, it calculates what adequate funding for a district would be and directs the majority of additional state funds to those districts furthest from adequacy. The legislature has committed to providing an additional $350 million per year for the next ten years. The first year of additional funding began last year, and last month the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) has released a special issue of their newsletter focused on how 50 districts from across the state are spending this new funding.

The report features stories from districts large and small located all over the state. The diversity of the districts still share one common theme—the additional funding has been a “godsend.” For too many years, Illinois has underfunded its schools (and continues to do so even with the EBF model), resulting in districts relying on property taxes to try and fill the gaps where they can, but in many cases having to cut funding for critical programs. With new funds coming to districts for the past two years, here’s a sampling of what’s been happening:

  • Adding reading supports in elementary schools in East Moline SD #37
  • Reducing the size of elementary classrooms, adding instructional coaches, and taking steps to address the teacher shortage in Galesburg CUSD #205
  • Maintaining class sizes, updating instructional materials, and providing additional mental health resources for students in Belleville TWP HSD #201
  • Addressing the social-emotional needs of students, especially those of at-risk students, in Quincy SD #172
  • Creating “innovation zones” at the elementary level in collaboration with its teachers to improve student achievement and lengthen the elementary day by 45 minutes in Rockford Public Schools #205
  • Hiring full-time art and music teachers and creating three STEM labs with smart boards, a 3-D printer, robotics, and computers for students to learn coding in Chicago Ridge SC #127.5

There are many more stories in the reportshowing how the new funding is making a difference for the students of Illinois. If the General Assembly stays committed to its promise to increase funding by $350 million years, all Illinois school districts will not reach 90% of their adequate funding level for another 30 years. It is essential that PTA advocates continue to ask legislators to increase the growth in education funding to bring our schools to adequate funding faster.

National PTA Response to Federal School Safety Commission Report

After eight months of public input, commission meetings and field visits across the county, the Federal School Safety Commission released its report on ways to keep students safe at school. The report includes several recommendations aligned with National PTA positions and A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools–joint recommendations written and endorsed by our nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners – on improved access to school-based mental and behavioral health services, threat assessments protocols, comprehensive school safety plans, and role of school resource officers (SROs).

However, we would have liked to see the Commission include common sense proposals to limit youth access to firearms, strengthen background checks, fund gun violence research efforts, and ban assault weapons. Our association believes any effort to improve the safety of our nation’s youth must be comprehensive and include gun safety and violence prevention measures.

National PTA supports positive school discipline policies that include a strong family engagement component and keep children in school and learning over exclusionary discipline. We are disappointed to see the report recommends the rescission of the 2014 school discipline guidance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Without this guidance, we are concerned that students of color and students with special needs will face even more disparate levels of discipline compared to their white peers.

Our association also believes that to promote positive school climates that encourage nurturing relationships, connectedness and mutual trust and respect among students, staff and families, there must be people and practices within the school building to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment. While the report focuses on the need for increased use of evidence-based frameworks to support and implement behavioral, health and mental health services, the report does not include a recommendation to increase the staffing ratios of school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and school nurses who can provide those supports.

“While the Commission’s report does not explicitly recommend arming educators, National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators. Teachers and administrators should be able to focus on their primary responsibility, which is to educate our children,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “Our association opposes any attempt to use federal funds to arm or provide firearm training for educators. National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for every community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

“All of us share the responsibility to create and ensure safe, supportive and welcoming learning environments. We look forward to working with the Commission, the administration, Congress, and state and local policy makers to shape policies based on evidenced-based best practices in school safety and climate, discipline, student mental health, instructional leadership, teaching and learning” said Nathan Monell, executive director of National PTA.

National PTA Response to Federal School Safety Commission Report

After eight months of public input, commission meetings and field visits across the county, the Federal School Safety Commission released its reporton ways to keep students safe at school. The report includes several recommendations aligned with National PTA positions and A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools–joint recommendations written and endorsed by our nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners – on improved access to school-based mental and behavioral health services, threat assessments protocols, comprehensive school safety plans, and role of school resource officers (SROs).

However, we would have liked to see the Commission include common sense proposals to limit youth access to firearms, strengthen background checks, fund gun violence research efforts, and ban assault weapons. Our association believes any effort to improve the safety of our nation’s youth must be comprehensive and include gun safety and violence prevention measures.

National PTA supports positive school discipline policies that include a strong family engagement component and keep children in school and learning over exclusionary discipline. We are disappointed to see the report recommends the rescission of the 2014 school discipline guidance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Without this guidance, we are concerned that students of color and students with special needs will face even more disparate levels of discipline compared to their white peers.

Our association also believes that to promote positive school climates that encourage nurturing relationships, connectedness and mutual trust and respect among students, staff and families, there must be people and practices within the school building to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment. While the report focuses on the need for increased use of evidence-based frameworks to support and implement behavioral, health and mental health services, the report does not include a recommendation to increase the staffing ratios of school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and school nurses who can provide those supports.

“While the Commission’s report does not explicitly recommend arming educators, National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators. Teachers and administrators should be able to focus on their primary responsibility, which is to educate our children,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “Our association opposes any attempt to use federal funds to arm or provide firearm training for educators. National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for every community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

“All of us share the responsibility to create and ensure safe, supportive and welcoming learning environments. We look forward to working with the Commission, the administration, Congress, and state and local policy makers to shape policies based on evidenced-based best practices in school safety and climate, discipline, student mental health, instructional leadership, teaching and learning” said Nathan Monell, executive director of National PTA.

300+ Digital Tools for Educators

Thomas Murray, who spoke at the 2015 National PTA Convention, has presented at Future Readyevents across the country. As part of that, he has had the opportunity to run sessions called “Tools for Engagement.” In these sessions, he would demonstrate a handful of tools for efficiency, management, and engagement, and then let the teachers attending explore them as well and crowdsource their favorite digital tools. Each participant left with the collaborative results of the session.

At a recent session, Mr. Murray was asked by a participant if they could share the list with their fellow teachers back at their school. He has done them one better by creating a Google doc with more than 300 digital toolsorganized by their use, complete with links to the tools, all crowdsourced by teachers in the classroom. PTA leaders, please share this list with the teachers and administrators at your school.