BOE’s Define the Gap project aims to stop teachers leaving

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Beyond crafting a budget for a new fiscal year that helps keep the lights on, some members of the city’s school board aim to determine the fiscal gap between what the district needs and what it needs. is likely to get.

Board Vice Chairman Matt Wilcox, calling it the “Define the Gap Project,” said the goal was to determine what it would cost to staff the largest school district in the country. state at a level that it could compete with other districts.

This would mean raising salaries to keep teachers from leaving, providing more, and bringing in additional counsellors, psychologists and other staff to help undo the impact of poverty and other factors facing district students.

“We have to put numbers around this,” said Wilcox, who chairs the board’s finance and operations committee.

Board member Orlando Yarborough III said not only was he in favor of the idea, but that he would support the push for whatever the full prize was in the first year. , as opposed to a phased approach.

“We have to be bold,” he told a convened finance committee meeting this week. “I know the resources are there.

The district expects a modest surplus of $47,688 with the close of the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to Linda Hannas, the district’s chief financial officer.

It would be the third year in a row that the district ended in the black, but largely due to several mitigation strategies and the use of federal grants.

The district spent $291.6 million in the fiscal year just ended. Of this amount, $101 million came from grants.

“(Elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds) have helped a lot,” Hannas said.

The problem is that the federal fund, intended to offset the impact of the pandemic, is set to expire by the end of 2023. So the additional teachers and programs provided by the grant will disappear.

Hannas said the use of grant funds was necessary, but not the way things should be.

“When grants go, how do we operate when so many dollars have been funded by grant sources,” Hannas said. Figuring out the size of the gap will be a lot of work, Hannas said. The first step would be to develop a staffing model that could be used in all 44 schools in the district.

Wilcox favors forming an additional board committee or task force to work on the project. It would invite union and community participation.

He also said he wants to act quickly because with the new legislative session, there will be a new push to fully fund the state’s education cost-sharing formula.

The state funds less than half the cost of public education, with local property taxes making up much of the rest. Even if a plan to fully fund formula by 2030 were accelerated, it wouldn’t give many districts what’s needed to level the playing field, according to three recent studies of how the state funds formula. education.

Collectively, between $338 million and $1.7 billion should be spent in addition to the $2 billion currently being spent.

Even so, a fully funded ECS formula would give the district $19.2 million more than it currently receives, Wilcox said.

Illustrating how that money would be used could help the cause, Wilcox said.

“To be able to say, these positions, in these places for these students… That’s a good first goal,” Wilcox said. “Our children deserve it.”

In the meantime, the district enters the 2022-23 school year with approximately $17 million remaining on its $35.6 million ESSER II allocation.

Much of that will be spent on teachers reducing class sizes in grades one through three. Any remaining funds by June will be used to fund the 2023 Summer School Program.

“We don’t anticipate any spending issues in the fund,” said Michele Bonanno, magnet school assistance program coordinator for the district.

Most of the money went to efforts to make up for lost learning during the pandemic. In addition to funding 72 additional teaching slots, tutoring positions were created, as well as extended day academies and a leadership institute.

Efforts have been made to strengthen family and community ties, improve school safety and enhance social-emotional well-being. School water fountains were replaced with water refill stations and each student received a bottle of water. There have also been purchases of technology and software.

The state also allows the district to use a portion of the funds to provide one-time staff bonuses.

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