More than 40 ONE by ONE delegates and citizens attended the first part of the "Cash to Classrooms - Where Do You Stand?" series last night here at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.
The participants first got a primer on how school funding works from Dr. Jason Rose, Director of Data & Research here at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. Check out his presentation below. You can also see the live tweets here.
Long story short: The amount of money that each district gets per student is set by the state based on a formula. And about 40 percent of the district's budget is pre-designated for "categorical" items - meaning that the local district has no control over how it is spent. The general fund is just under a billion dollars, with most of it generated by state sources such as sales tax, and local sources, mostly property taxes.
Following the presentation, participants got into small groups facilitated by ONE by ONE delegates and brainstormed what they think are the key questions that should be posed to Superintendent Nikolai Vitti at next week's meeting.
The questions were generally shaped around the main strategic plan and ONE by ONE Community Agreement priorities:
- How is the money going to be distributed based on the strategic priorities of the district?
- What are your specific plans for funding your Whole Child strategic priority?
- We applaud Dr. Vitti's commitment to providing an art or music teacher in every school. What change occurred to allow this to happen?
- What amount of funding is going towards student support services to help at risk students to be successful? How does this compare to last year?
- What is the role of the school police officers and does the budget allow them to make sure children walking to and from school are safe?
- How does the district make decisions about allocating support for students such as guidance counselors, art, P.E., PTs/OTs, etc. to individual schools and what are the checks and balances to make sure they are being utilized?
Great Educators and Leaders
- Do you have plans for developing principals, teacher leaders, and for improving the relationship between principals and their teachers?
- How will teachers be provided with enough support to effectively differentiate teaching for students with different needs?
- What will be done about teachers having to buy their own supplies for students, including books and basic lesson materials?
- How do you propose increasing teacher engagement in the school budgeting process?
Caregiver & Community Involvement
- How can the public and community inform/influence the school budget process? Can we have a say in how the money is distributed locally?
Equitable, Efficient and Effective Use of Resources (DCPS Strategic Plan)
- How can we ensure that resources are used in the most efficient and effective way in the schools?
- How can we have more detailed information about how the money is spent in the district?
- How can we make sure there is equitable funding for technology for all schools and all students?
- What is the number and cost of under-enrolled schools in the district and what are plans to address that?
- How is it decided which schools get what amounts for specific things such as technology improvement and ESE support staff/equipment?
- How are individual school budgets "rolled up" into the larger district budget? How much control (or autonomy) does the principal have in designing the school's budget?
- How do you plan to meet class size limits and what would you say to those unhappy with previous choices by the district to pay the penalty rather than fully comply, considering many in the district voted to institute these limits as a priority issue?
Policy & Political Reform (ONE by ONE Community Agreement)
- How can we lobby to the state level about the distribution of money coming from local taxes?
- Does the district have any flexibility in using the mandated charter school capital dollars for traditional school needs?
- Deirdre Conner