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.
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?