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Feds cut violence prevention funds for schools

By Katy Murphy
Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 at 5:47 pm in students.

Violence prevention. Tribune file photo by Alison Yin

The federal government has pumped $3 billion into grants for schools with really low test scores. At the same time, it plans to eliminate a major source of violence prevention funding — money that, if used effectively, helps schools in the most violent of neighborhoods (often, the same schools with the lowest test scores) provide a safe environment for kids to learn.

Here’s the notice, provided to me by the Oakland school district:

NOTICE OF FORTHCOMING ELIMINATION OF TITLE IV PART A; SAFE AND DRUG-FREE SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES PROGRAM CATEGORICAL APPORTIONMENTS

The No Child Left Behind Act, Title IV, Part A of 2001, has provided entitlement funding to California public schools for the implementation of activities under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program (SDFSC). Under the federal budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, funding for this program has been eliminated effective June 30, 2010.

California’s legislature, too, has shifted money once earmarked for violence prevention into a general-purpose pot — which financially stressed districts are now free to use for other expenses.

These shifts could have a very real effect on Oakland’s schoolkids (and the people around them). The school district’s violence prevention unit — which is largely funded by the city’s violence prevention funds under Measure Y — faces possible extinction, and programs such as Second Step, middle school conflict resolution and bully prevention stand to lose most (or all) of their funding, at least at the central administration level.

Sure, teachers who have been trained to implement these programs can keep them going, even without district support. But I don’t know how sustainable that is, given their other demands and the high degree of staff turnover.

Coach Ilene Fortune read a letter to the superintendent and school board last week, imploring them to preserve the violence prevention unit. It ends like this:

Without your support, the Oakland Unified School District will not have an internal infrastructure for violence prevention curriculum and programs. Without this infrastructure, the District risks losing funding, including Measure Y, and will no longer be able to provide high quality social-emotional learning and violence prevention curriculum/programs to students, families, staff and administrators. If Oakland Unified School District is to fulfill its commitment to its students and to the City of Oakland, you must continue to utilize AB-1113 funding towards OUSD’s Violence Prevention Unit. We implore you to keep this promise.

Second Step

The school board and superintendent are in a difficult spot, as they must cut the district’s total operating budget for next year by 20 percent. They have said, repeatedly, that these decisions would have everything to do with the district’s priorities.

If you were on the school board, or if you were the superintendent, what would you do? Where would you go to find the funding to keep these programs alive?

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  • union Supporter-But

    Katy:

    While many schools were using funds for conflict resolution, caring and citizenship programs which do decrease violence and increase empathy; other schools were using the money for the “DARE” -Drug Awareness and Resistance Education – which has been proven over two decades to INCREASE drug use of students in high school who participated when they were younger.

    Programs that are proven to work should be funded, but programs, even those that many constituents love, but do not work should not be funded.

  • emily

    Hi Katy:

    I have two questions:

    1)The U.S. Department of Ed has been forcasting a grant opportunity under Safe and Drug Free Schools entitled “Improving the Climate for Learning”. I was assuming that this funding source was going to replace the Safe Schools/Healthy Students funding initiative implemented under the Bush administration which provided significant funds to school districts for violence prevention programming for chidlren ages 0-5 through high school. Do you know if this projected funding source will be impacted by this elimination?

    2)Are the eliminated funds the safe schools dollars districts recieve to support provision of evidenced based school wide violence prevention curriculum (a program which has been mandated by the CDE)?

  • Katy Murphy

    And I have three answers, straight from the director of OUSD’s instructional services, Mary Buttler.

    Buttler writes:

    1) I do know about the new grant opportunity. We are writing a grant and hope to be funded. For many years the Title IV funding came to the district as an allocation. It is now a competitive grant as I suspect the Federal Government does not have enough funding to give all schools a realistic allocation. We wrote several grants last year and were not funded but received high marks on the grant document. The level that the Federal government can fund at is really low.

    2) Yes…. The Federal government requires the Evidence Based curriculum as part of the LEA plan.(Local Education Agency = district)

    3) AB 1113 State Violence prevention funding is distributed by the District in multiple divisons. I have a certain amount and do not know where the other funding is. I suspect [the chief services officer] has it for her work with the FCO and the Restorative Justice initiative.

  • Oakland Resident

    After looking at ed.gov discretionary grant opportunities, I do not see a new grant opportunity listed for violence prevention curriculum/programs.

    The only competitive grant that I see from the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (Title IV) that would be applicable for our District is for the reduction of alcohol abuse (which is also very important).

    Am I missing something?