Making Sense of Funding Foreign Language Immersion
To start, I think that foreign language teaching is great and should be started in every elementary school. I would advocate for foreign language several times a week in every elementary versus what we have now which are four foreign language immersion elementary schools that are ONLY open to neighborhood children.
I did a previous post on this subject that covers some of the history. JSIS started as a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland "hey kids, let's open a foreign language school to honor a beloved superintendent." But, where was the discussion about funding, where those kids go AFTER elementary and how to expand the program? Nowhere.
Guess what? John Stanford International School was a wild success and left other parents clamoring for more.
It took the district nearly eight years to bring a couple more schools on-line and then McDonald in the last couple of years. (They did also finally get around to figuring out a pathway to middle and high school although those paths are not immersion.)
Next, I have absolutely nothing against the parents in the JSIS or McDonald schools. They didn't create their schools or how people get assigned there. (JSIS/McDonald are more closely matched than Concord and Beacon Hill.)
But I will also say that most people believe these programs should be Option schools. Plain and simple.
So from the start here, I am going to advocate for that change. I'm sure Tracy Libros in Enrollment will NOT be happy and say it can't be done but folks, they are changing the boundaries wholesale by the end of the year. If not now, when? I cannot see it happening if those changes don't come now.
Of course, you can leave the situation as is but, as I am going to tell the Board tomorrow night, let's all be clear that our Board and our district are okay with a totally inequitable program that exists in our district. As long as we say that out loud and everyone knows this, fine. And, that the district and the Board are voting to continue that inequity.
Here are some facts about the funding for these schools:
- every school received a 3-year funding from $75-100K to open. That covered pre-planning, opening year and the second year. JSIS also had grant funding from various sources but that has long ran out.
- the district did help fund McDonald's IAs last year. It seems that funding will not happen this year.
- Beacon Hill and Concord have their IAs funded through different low-income funds including Title One. That is why the discussion about funding IAs is more around what JSIS and McDonald do. However, if Beacon Hill and Concord had to pay for their own IAs, it would be interesting to see what the district would have done. Would they allow better-off foreign language immersion schools to fund IAs but the less fortunate ones would have to make do with just teachers? Hard to say but the inequity would be even more glaring.
- the district did not ever promise to fund IAs and, indeed, is under no obligation to do so. Other programs in other districts function without them. (This is not to say that they don't help; I'm sure it's a better program with them but it is quite costly.)
- the cost of the IAs - per school webpages - figures to be around $1,000 per student.
- to be clear, school groups - whether under the flag of a PTA or a separate booster or special fund group - may raise money to fund a staff position. Duggan Harmon verified that to me. So if your school wants to raise money, fine, but you might consider what Principal Floe at Ingraham has said in his "no" to staffing that way. It's too much pressure on parents. That will become clear later on in this thread.
So what is the issue at hand? JSIS and McDonald are raising over $250k each (JSIS hopes to raise $445k and McDonald hopes to raise $375k) to fund their IAs for next school year. Board policy says that for the district to accept any money over $250k, the Board has to approve it. That's why it's on the Board agenda.
I looked at both schools' websites and found some astonishing information. I can only say those are dedicated parent communities because that is a helluva lot of money to raise and be on the hook for every - single - year.
The district has had issues in the past with schools raising money for a staff position only then to either not raise enough and/or not get the person they wanted for the position hired. So the district has a new form that has to be filled out that the group raising the money will take responsibility for the costs as, in the past, some didn't and the district was left filling the gap.
Both JSIS and McDonald are pushing parents heavily on the money. McDonald, to my former PTA co-president mind, is being very aggressive. Let's look at what they say.
- They have both IAs and some interns (I think this may be true in any given year at any of the four schools).
- They wanted to raise $250k last year and raised $270k. This year they want to raise $450k. That is a brave goal. Is it a sustainable one? I just can't imagine that but here's what was said:
Numerous families have voiced their frustration regarding the lack of a dedicated IA in their child’s classroom. We heard you. And we (JSIS administration, staff and parent representatives) believe a dedicated IA is the ideal foundation for every child’s success. To achieve this goal, we need to raise $450,000 or $986 per student, to hire 10 IA’s for the 2013-2014 school year.
- They do a comparison to what it would cost to send your child to a private school (but there really aren't many private schools that do language immersion so it's not exactly an accurate comparison).
- They note that you could break your payments into $120 a month chunks that would equal $1200 by the end of the year.
- They put what I might call "muscle" in their "ask": In March, we will begin our direct ask campaign and will phone every McDonald International Family that has not given to ask for a donation and educate them about the Immersion Support Fund. You can avert this call, by giving your lump sum donation prior to the “Phone-A-Thon”. Or you can wait for your call and commit your donation right over the phone. I would not appreciate this phone call.
- I didn't ask Duggan but I'll ask the director, Karen Kodama, if every teacher in our foreign immersion schools is a native speaker. They claim this is true and that would seem quite a trick to find that many of them.
So, does this matter?
Does this mean that in the future, we only put foreign language immersion schools in wealthy communities that can pony up or poor communities where some costs can be covered by the feds?
Last, is this system equitable to anyone?