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District council wants more equity with extracurricular programs

The Community Education Districtwide Advisory Council met Wednesday to discuss the current state of the district’s community education programs and how they can make the programs more equitable and available to the community.

A recent survey requested by the council polled all of the district’s before- and after-school programs and recorded each program’s schedule, cost, number of students and staff, number of students waiting, diversity and activities.

Program tuition and hours are consistent, education included in the programs varies and diversity is low, said Susie Poulton, director of health and student services with the district and co-director of the community education program. The survey also revealed that there are at least 328 students on waiting lists for the programs districtwide.

The council will use the results of the survey to instill more uniformity and equity between all the district’s before- and after-school programs.

“It is part of our responsibility to ensure that there is consistency across all the programs, and are there other things that we as a … council need to insist on?” council member Pete Wallace said.

Wallace said that because the programs are in district schools and in some cases receive district funding, there should be uniformity between programs.

Before the council was created, we didn’t have the power to insist on things, now I think we are in the position to request changes, Wallace said.

CEDAC was created as a provision of the School Infrastructure Local Option tax funding to oversee the district’s Community Education Program, which provides programs and services outside of those required by state law.

This includes services such as before- and after-school programs, summer programs and mental health services. Some district programs that fall into this category include the Healthy Kids School Based Health Clinics and the Family Resource Centers.

The council also approved its $600,000 budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which will provide $300,000 for six full-time family resource center employees. Almost $238,000 will be used as a learning match for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The remaining $62,000 will be used for additional out-of-school support and as funding to fulfill the council’s yet-to-be determined long-term goals.

Originally, the council was allotted $300,000 in SILO funding annually to run its programs, but a funding error over the last five years took money for the programs from the general fund instead of the SILO fund.

Article source: http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20120412/NEWS01/304120035/District-council-wants-more-equity-extracurricular-programs

District corrects funding error for programs

Over the past five years, the Iowa City Community School District has spent $1.5 million from its general fund to partially fund community education programs, which instead should have been funded from the School Infrastructure Local Option sales tax approved by voters in 2007.

Each year beginning in 2007, $300,000 in SILO funds has been allocated to the Community Education Program. However, the money could not be accessed until an advisory council and an official Community Education Program were in place, which did not happen until earlier this month. Community education programs include all services that the district is not required to provide, such as family resource centers, before- and after-school programs, summer programs and mental health services.

With district officials unaware that they first needed to establish an official Community Education Program to access the SILO funding, the programs were paid for out of the general fund.

Joan VandenBerg, coordinator of youth and family development for the district and the co-director of the Community Education Program, said this week that the allocation of SILO funding for the programs was the responsibility of the district’s business office, which was headed by Paul Bobek until he resigned in January.

School Board President Marla Swesey said the misstep is not unlike other situations the district has encountered in the past, and she hopes they can be avoided in the future.

“We want to move forward and we want to have everything put in place so that we don’t have those kinds of problems again,” Swesey said. “I think we are on the right path.”

Because of legal restrictions, however, SILO money that was supposed to have funded the programs from 2007 to 2010 cannot be repaid to the general fund, said Leslie Finger, director of business services with the district, who has consulted with the district’s lawyer.

While the district was working with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to receive pediatrician help at school-based medical clinics in 2010, officials realized the Community Education Program did not meet all federal and state requirements to use the SILO funding, said Susie Poulton, director of health and student services and co-director of the program. Poulton took over responsibilities for community education after Associate Superintendent Jim Behle left the district in 2010.

Even after the discovery in 2010, VandenBerg said she still assumed about half of the Community Education Program’s funding was coming from the set-aside SILO fund and the other half was coming from a mixture of grants, general fund money and other sources. She said she had no reason to think the SILO funding was not in place.

“I managed the family resource center budget, and I thought that money was being drawn down from SILO. I was not aware that it was being drawn from the general budget,” she said.

In June 2010, the School Board voted to create the Community Education Program after receiving a memo from the district’s attorney outlining the need for an official CEP to use the local-option sales tax money.

It was not until a few months ago that the district became aware that funding for the programs still was coming from the general fund, Superintendent Steve Murley said.

As a result of the Synesi report, a third-party audit of district operations released in January, the district is actively working to make changes to its procedures, Murley said.

“As we begin to put systems and standard operating procedure in place, things like this come to light,” Murley said. “And once they come to light, then it gives us an opportunity to ensure that our procedures can better monitor the funds that come in.”

The Community Education Districtwide Advisory Council, which will oversee the Community Education Program and make recommendations regarding the program to the board, met for the first time last week, 18 months after the initial discovery that an official program was needed. VandenBerg attributes this 18-month lag to the turnover in district administration, including both the superintendent and the assistant superintendent.

Murley said the most important thing is that the district has provided, and continues to provide, programs to assist students in need.

“What this essentially has done is inverted the process,” he said. “We funded the programs initially from our general fund and now we’ll fund them from those dollars that are available under SILO and that will extend the life of these programs beyond the expiration of SILO itself. I believe that what that does is ensures that our students will continue to have access to these programs that we’ve created to provide the level of assistance that we know that they need.”

VandenBerg said that because the money cannot be repaid to the general fund, the Community Education Program plans to use some of its money to create and support programs that otherwise could be funded by the general fund.

“What we are looking to do is to align some of our other resources a little differently. I think there is a way that this will still meet our district needs, just for how we are distributing the funds,” she said.

The advisory council now has the equivalent of $600,000 to spend on community education programs annually until SILO funding ends in 2017, VandenBerg said.

“It sounds like it actually might be a good thing for all these programs because now they have a longer way of having that funding help them,” Swesey said. “We’ve had the programs for a long time, but now the money is coming from the right place to help them be sustainable for a little while longer anyway.”

With the extra funding, VandenBerg said she and Poulton will recommend that the advisory council continue supporting Family Resource Centers and also support 21st Century Extended Day programing over the next five years.

VandenBerg said she is unsure where funding for the Community Education Program will come from after SILO expires in 2017 but having programs in place will make it easier to find funding streams.

Moving forward, VandenBerg said the advisory council plans to assess the needs and resources in the community and work to provide coordination between programs.

“I think sometimes in a district of our size, we don’t always have the big picture of what we are doing to meet those non-academic needs of students, those barriers to learning,” she said. “I think we want to get a better picture of what we have and what we need.”

Article source: http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20120227/NEWS01/302270017/District-corrects-funding-error-programs

School Budget Cuts: How Students Say Slashes Are Affecting Them

As school districts are facing massive budget cuts across the country, school programs, teachers and students are taking the hit.

Across the country, 120 school districts had, as of October, moved to four-day school weeks while others are canceling field trips, shuttering after-school programs and charging students to play sports.

The cuts are seen in Keller, Texas, where the district opted for a pay-for-ride transportation system versus cutting busing as a whole; In Georgia, where 20 days were slashed from the pre-kindergarten academic year; In California, where nearly half the districts axed or whittled away at art, drama and music programs.

But these are all reports from school officials — from the top down. To get a sense of how these cuts are really changing things, Teen newspaper L.A. Youth went straight to the source — students. They asked readers about budget cuts at their schools, and received more than 1,850 teen responses.

943b6 SCHOOL SURVEY School Budget Cuts: How Students Say Slashes Are Affecting Them

The survey asked students a series of 15 questions. Findings showed that nearly 60 percent of all students had to hand-copy information from an overhead because the school couldn’t afford paper to make copies. Half of all students also reported that their school didn’t have enough computers or functional computers, nor were their enough textbooks for each student.

School infrastructure showed to suffer the most in areas like restrooms, graffiti-covered walls, internal heating and cooling and classrooms and desks. Students also reported having to personally pay for sports uniforms more than other school items.

Most telling is the discrepancy between what students think schools should cut versus what school officials have on their to-ax lists. The top three items students said schools should cut are school newspaper or broadcast outlets, summer school and field trips — in that order. The last items on students’ “should-cut” lists, starting from the bottom, are teachers, administrators, “other,” guidance counselors and sports — all items that schools have shown to most commonly choose to cut first.

943b6 SCHOOL SURVEY School Budget Cuts: How Students Say Slashes Are Affecting Them

And of the respondents, 97 percent said they are planning to attend college, and 64 percent plan to apply to an in-state four-year public institution. Although just 13 percent said budget cuts affected their ability to get the classes they need to graduate, cuts to just programs and teachers — leading to fewer opportunities and larger class sizes — have shown to affect students’ college readiness.

According to a report released last October by the Campaign for America’s Future, evidence suggests that cuts to education funding are leading to cutbacks from early childhood education programs, increases in class sizes and termination of art, music, physical education and other elective subjects. Special programs are also being cut as a result — including those that assist students with special needs as well as Advanced Placement courses, extracurricular activities and special academic programs for science, foreign language and technology.

943b6 SCHOOL SURVEY School Budget Cuts: How Students Say Slashes Are Affecting Them

Mifflin County, Pa. is no exception to the phenomenon, according to PBS NewsHour. Facing a 12 percent drop in state funding and declining enrollment, the school district has closed 40 percent of its schools, dismissed 11 percent of its staff, increased class sizes and decreased the number of courses offered.

The $4 billion in cuts to Texas public schools last summer led to a huge hit to unemployment as hundreds of educators were laid off. An estimated $5 billion cut from California’s education budget would start with a hit to school busing programs.

Quick Poll

Also on HuffPost:

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Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/14/la-youth_n_1277182.html

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    Welcome , today is Thursday, July 24, 2014