The district receives grant or categorical funding from the state and federal government designated specifically for certain student populations requiring added needs programming. These are typically students who have individualized special education plans, are English language learners, are considered homeless, or have a variety of conditions in school and out of school that would classify them as at-risk of not keeping academic pace with their peers.
Godfrey-Lee is home to many students who are eligible for programming under one or more of these grants. Nearly all of our students qualify for at-risk funding which is also known as 31A. This is state categorical funding that hasn’t been increased in many years and barely covers the many interventions and supports required by eligible students who have fallen behind academically. This year, Governor Snyder is proposing an increase in this funding which, although it won’t make up for the inflationary effects over the years on the original per-pupil grant, will help in some ways to address our 3rd grade reading goals. At the same time, it’s important to note the Governor also proposes a $75 per pupil increase in the foundation grant that provides funding for not only our core academic programs, but also things like our operational costs to keep the lights and heat on in our buildings. Simultaneously, he is proposing cutting two areas (best practices and performance funding) we have come to rely on in providing quality instructional programming in reasonable size classrooms, making the net increase a mere $15 per pupil. When normal inflation is taken into account, it’s actually a loss in revenue from this year to next.
Many of our students are English language learners and under Title III, federal funding which is distributed to our district by the state and then monitored by the state as to how it is used. This is a critical but small amount of funding that has allowed us to provide a basic level of academic supports for our EL learners. It has never been enough to provide a dual academic program that ensures not only that EL learners are developing strong English skills but are also keeping pace with their non-EL peers in the classroom. In fact, most funding from the state and federal government fails to meet the significant needs of the actual learners.
Now comes the state pointing out a new demand allegedly by the federal government that our EL staffing to student ration not exceed 1 to 60. I’m sure their intentions are honest but this again will cause us to have to divert substantial more general fund dollars from our shrinking foundation allowance to shore up the inadequate Title I, Title III and 31A funding. Below is the excerpt pointing out this requirement in a February 11, 2015 memo from the Michigan Department of Education Special Populations Unit:
It’s this kind of constant state and federal interference that creates problems for individual school districts like ours who have devoted many hours to developing school improvement plans that best utilize the dwindling financial resources being allocated by the state legislature and Congress. But most of the public are unaware of the burden of regulation and requirements that drain revenues and force schools to cut programs and expand class sizes. That’s because those who provide the funding are not honest and up front with the public on what they are doing and why.
But now you know.