Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Budgeting and Figuring Out Priorities

There's an article in the Times this morning about IB funding, particularly at Rainier Beach High School.  It reflects a pattern in Seattle Schools that truly has to be addressed.  That pattern is for the district - with a flourish and applause - likes to roll out new and "innovative" programs that are usually wildly popular.  And fund them with seed money and then expect them to continue on (finding the funding themselves.)

I truly dislike that the district - and many school boards - like to start programs that they have no idea how to continually fund.  

I'd have to claw back in my memory but my first thought is John Stanford International School.  Started in memory of our late superintendent - it was his idea - it has been packing them in ever since the day they opened their doors.  But, there were two issues - one, the money that is needed for a decent dual language program and two, expanding a popular program if only for equity reasons.

But JSIS carried on, greatly and mightily, supported by the parents who loved the program.  I would go so far as to say JSIS might not exist (or be a shadow of a program) if not for the (now) millions that parents poured into that building.

There had always been a plan to scale this out and up because, as we all know, kids do age out of K-5 and then what?  So the program expanded to middle and high school (albeit in a "world school" fashion rather than immersion.)  The immersion program expanded to more elementaries throughout the district.

(And I'll pause here to point out that in other states, this kind of program generally happens with charter schools.  But our district proves that you can innovate without charters.)

One of the main issues for a K-5 dual language program is having two adults in the classroom to get all those little people thinking and speaking in another language.  That means a teacher and an instructional aide.  For the dual language schools that are Title One, they can fund that IA using those funds.  But for those non-Title One schools, the parents bear that cost.  I myself understand that it's cheaper than enrolling your child in a private dual language school (but I don't even know how many of them there are in our city) but it's still a lot of money to donate every - single - year.

In yet another important move, the district then decided to start an International Baccalaureate program at Ingraham High and it was successful.  But I recall a parent whose son was in the program, telling me how hard the IB coordinator had to work with no help because of the strict requirements of the program.  And how the principal (that would be Martin Floe) had to figure out how to fund that position because, of course, the district wasn't.

That gets us to today and the Times article which says this.
Despite the challenge, educators insist that more students doing advanced level work - even if they do not pass end-of-course IB exams - lifts the entire schools.  And their approach appears to be working.  Enrollment has grown steadily, and graduation rates are soaring.  Last June, 84% of seniors left with a diploma, an enormous leap from the 53.7% five years ago.  

Yet IB at Beach is not funded past next year.
Luckily, Senator Pramila Jaypal is trying to find state funds to help RBHS but that is really just a short-term solution.  Parents at Beach, unlike those at Chief Sealth and Ingraham, cannot raise the funds to support the program.  (And again, it's a hardship for those at Sealth and Ingraham as well.)

The Times reports that 117 juniors and seniors are saying they will take the IB tests this coming spring, up 26 kids from last year.  A whopping 39 kids are trying for the complete IB diploma.

I would venture this is very much the kind of progress for mostly African-American students that the district is aiming for.  Why not fully fund RBHS's IB program with these kinds of results?

I think as the budgeting process goes forward for next year's SPS budget, these kinds of programs should receive more consideration especially if they are helping low-income, at-risk students.

Naturally, if the state would fully-fund education, we wouldn't have so many opportunities for these kind's of Sophie's choice decisions.


Charlie Mas said...

The Seattle Times just loves, loves, loves the IB program at Rainier Beach High School. They love to use it as both a way to talk about what's working in the district and, as in this case, as way to talk about what's wrong with the district.

Anonymous said...

The only reason there is an IB program at Rainier Beach is a small group of moms insisted on investment in the school and higher expectations for the school at a time that the wrongheaded opinion of Goodloe-Johnson was 'close the school'. The school succeeded in spite of downtown not because of it. Massive community and not-SPS political pressure forced downtown to capitulate. In the past year the city poached arguably the school's strongest principal in years. Bad for RBHS.

Time to get busy activists. To expect downtown to find a solution without a public push is unlikely.


Anonymous said...

Any idea how much it would cost to fully fund the program at Rainier Beach?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, the article cited $250K but I don't know for certain.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to respectfully disagree with the comment that the Chief Sealth parent community has the means to raise funding for its IB program. That may have been the case when the IB program was first established at Chief Sealth, but the student population has dramatically changed in terms of family incomes since then. In 2014-15, 63% of Chief Sealth students qualified for free/reduced lunch. Not as high a percentage as Rainier Beach but the Chief Sealth community doesn't have enough deep pockets -- or access to deep pockets -- to fund IB.

- CSIHS parent

Anonymous said...

@CSIHS parent - thank you for pointing out that Chief Sealth does not have the resources to support IB. So true. SPS should support all three programs. At Sealth, the school funds a .8 IB Coordinator position. This is FTE that could be going to create much-needed classes for students (to reduce class sizes, to offer electives or support classes). Chief Sealth has made IB as inclusive as possible as opposed to a school within a school. With the exception of some SPED and ELL students, ALL 11th graders take IB English. The numbers of students taking IB History has increased. Starting next year, there will be a section of IB History of the Americas taught in Spanish as part of the Immersion Continuation Program (another program that has had no district support). Sealth is scraping by - there are no levy funds to dip into. Enrollment went down this year. Please don't advocate for supporting only RB's IB program. Support all three. A good first step would be to fund the coordinator positions centrally as most other districts do.

Support IB

Melissa Westbrook said...

I absolutely wrote this thread because the district needs to support the programs THEY start. All of them.

Maureen said...

Ingraham has more community resources than the other two programs, but the reality is that even there, fundraising only pays for things like textbooks and subsidies for low income student test fees. Staff FTE are coming directly out of the building budget, so to the extent IB requires more staff (i.e., the coordinator) that comes at the expense of the school as a whole. IHS has had IB for a long time (over 10 years), so what ever seed money SPS provided for books and materials is long gone. The program is also much larger than that at either Sealth or Beach. The only IB specific fundraising we do is to pay for test fees (an alum family set up a foundation for that.) All other IB program requests go through the same Friends of Ingraham process as all grant requests at the school.

Eric B said...

$250K to fully fund the RBHS IB program sounds a little bit high to me, but not too far out of the ballpark. The difference between the real number and that is pretty much sofa change to SPS budgets.

Jan said...

Well, as someone who has consistently voted for the FFEL levies (but may never do so again after the fiasco and dishonesty of the City's early ed program), I would LOVE for my FFEL dollars to go to support those three programs. If Mayor Murray would pull his head out of the ed reform sand for a minute, maybe he would realize that he would garner FAR more good will by throwing the city's support behind the three IB programs than anything else he could do with those monies.

cmj said...

I have to agree with Eric B. $250K is sofa change for SPS.

We've got a program that is revitalizing an under-enrolled, historically poorly performing school. It's a program that was meant to help disadvantaged kids succeed and we know that it's working. So is SPS going to continue funding it? Of course not. Why would they bother funding a program that's closing the achievement gap, one of their stated priorities, when they could spend the money on more administrators for JSCEE?