I still owe KSN&C readers a breakdown of the Council for Better Education's study conducted by Picus Odden & Associates, but haven't been able to get to it. In the meantime...
This from the Bowling Green Daily News:
A report that proposes a new model for Kentucky public school funding has merit, local educators said.The 130-page report examines funding public education in Kentucky based on educational research, including comparisons with other states. The approach is called an evidence-based adequacy model, and there is an accompanying 28-page report that breaks down numbers for classified and certified positions, academic programs and other costs.The largest district in southcentral Kentucky, Warren County Public Schools would see an increase of about $62 million annually in public school funding using this model, according to the study by Picus Odden & Associates, increasing education funding from about $133 million to $195 million annually. The report was prepared for the Kentucky Council for Better Education, a consortium of 168 school districts in the state.“The report reveals that school districts are grossly underfunded in regard to the resources needed to provide our students with the quality of education each of them truly deserve,” Warren County Public School Superintendent Rob Clayton said in an email.“In addition, it validates the long-standing concern of funding inadequacy by superintendents and school leaders across the state of Kentucky. Nothing is more important to the welfare of our community than providing all students the highest quality education and educational opportunities,” Clayton said. “Our students deserve it and the future of our community is dependent upon it. We are hopeful that this report leads to significant improvements in how we fund our schools.”Bowling Green Independent School District would see a jump of about $15 million in public education funding according to the report, increasing from about $39 million to $54 million annually from the state of Kentucky.“It (the report) certainly would make you step back and take a look at how you are doing things,” Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Joe Tinius said. Tinius said about 30 years ago, Kentucky funded public education through what was called a minimum foundation program.“You received ‘X’ number of dollars for ‘X’ number of teachers based on enrollment,” Tinius recalled.“Under this approach, you look at what the research shows, then design the funding around areas to get the best return for investment,” he said. “What they have tried to do is tie minimum foundation funding to educational research” in the report, he said.The funding growth numbers for the city and county district are based on the evidence-based model in the report compared with the actual 2012-13 school year state funding.Report calculates cost based on ed researchThe evidence-based approach would be different from how public education in the commonwealth is currently funded: a combination of local and state taxes with federal grants thrown into the mix. For example, local districts receive Support Education Excellence in Kentucky funds from the state, and that allocation is determined through Kentucky Department of Education information given to the Kentucky General Assembly. Since the state education reforms in 1990, the funds are distributed in an equity approach so that tax-poor districts can measure up to tax-rich districts.The report broke down the money:“In 2012-13 Kentucky education revenues reached $7.83 billion, including $5.91 billion at the district level, as well as $1.10 billion in On-Behalf benefit payments, $20.95 million for Kentucky Department of Education, and $16.13 million for Kentucky schools for the Blind and Deaf at the state level,” the report noted. “During the 2012-13 school year, the EB (evidence-based) model suggests that all districts could reach adequacy with roughly $9.40 billion in the education system, or approximately $2.44 billion (25.98 percent) over the expenditures in the system. This $9.40 billion equates to $13,130 per pupil,” according to the report.The state SEEK money was set at just under $4,000 per student in Kentucky for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.While the cost of the new model has grabbed the headlines – $2.4 billion more in public support over the about $7 billion in state and local funds going to public education – local educators and the new executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents say that sticker shock takes away from the merits of the study.“We are not asking the state to fund an additional $2.4 billion in education; that is not the focus of the report,” said Tom Shelton, KASS executive director, former superintendent of the Fayette County Schools and immediate past president of The Council for Better Education. Shelton made his comments in a recent interview with the Kentucky School Boards Association’s Brad Hughes. Hughes is director of member support for the KSBA.The new model “says how much money should be put into education to adequately fund education,” Shelton told Hughes.
The Adequacy for Excellence in Kentucky funding study was conducted December 2013 through August. School districts throughout southcentral Kentucky helped pay for the report, and Shelton presented it to superintendents during a December meeting in Louisville.“The real focus of the report is that this is an all-new model for education in Kentucky, not a study of the current funding structure or system,” Shelton told the KSBA. He said the report will be circulated this year with the intention to start a debate on public education strategies in 2016, when the Kentucky General Assembly will once again take up the state’s two-year budget, of which about 56 percent is public education funding. At one time, public education funding was 62 percent of the state budget in Kentucky, House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said recently.
That percentage doesn’t include the local taxes and federal funding streams used to help pay to educate the schoolchildren annually; money that contributes to the about $7 billion price tag in Kentucky.The report shows that over the past decade Kentucky has consistently funded its schools below the national average, but funding levels have shown varied results against comparable states, according to a news release from The Council for Better Education.“The advantage of the report is the hours and hours of research that is now at our fingertips,” Logan County Schools Superintendent Kevin Hub said. “It is disappointing that it is not financially feasible, but it does address the impact of student enrollment on student achievement.”Shelton said the report becomes a resource for school districts in Kentucky.“The model and its resources can still be used and are viable, even if the schools don’t get another dime,” Shelton said in the KSBA interview. “It saves districts a lot of time because they have all the research in one place and a handbook that they can use.”Staffing concepts could changeShelton uses an example to illustrate his point.“For example, the research shows that instructional coaches have one of the biggest impacts on improving student achievement, so if your district has limited resources and is trying to decide how to best use them, then the model shows that you should choose instructional coaches because of their impact,” he said.With Kentucky’s current funding model, when a school district wants to think outside of the box – such as hire a college and career specialist as was done by Bowling Green High School at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year – the district has to scramble to find the money to fund the position, according to Tinius.Both Bowling Green and Barren County schools have hired college and career specialists. Districts are placing more emphasis on college and career readiness for students. A college and career specialist works with students to help them determine definite career pathways following graduation.
Tinius said the report has merit. “Maybe what could come out of this is, for example, how districts are paid for professional development,” Tinius said. “There are pieces (of the report) you could turn to.”Areas such as professional development, textbook purchase or technology upgrades have been funded unevenly by the state the past decade. So the report recommends a six-year textbook adoption cycle, where $120 is allocated for replacement books for each student at the elementary and middle school levels and $150 per student at the high school level. The report also recommends $250 per each preschool through 12th-grade student to pay for computer technology in classrooms.Principal Gary Fields at Bowling Green High School said if a new school staffing approach was used at his school, “we would have to wipe the slate clean,” erasing all the specific certifications and placements of teachers and assistant principals throughout the building serving 1,200 students to embrace the new model.“You almost have to start from zero,” Fields said.The college and career specialists being hired at high schools in southcentral Kentucky is an example of school administrations reacting to the most-recent Kentucky Department of Education programming emphasis.Educational approaches switch back and forth“The pendulum swings one way, and then it swings back the other way,” Fields said. “It is currently swinging to career focus. It had been swinging to college focus.”Basing many staffing decisions on evidence-based practices would change the approach, he said.
“You build from the ground up. It is daunting, but doable,” Fields said.Superintendent Jim Flynn of Simpson County said the time spent to let the report sink into the public consciousness will allow public education funding priorities to be developed once the budget discussions begin in Frankfort in 2016.“There is no (current) model to determine an adequate amount of money for public education” in Kentucky, Flynn said. The report can be the start of that discussion, he said.“What is best to raise instructional achievement” is a large focus of the report, Allen County Superintendent Randall Jackson said.“We will look at staffing for central office, our school centers (Pre-K-3, 4-6 and 7-8) and Allen County-Scottsville High School,” Jackson said. “It is a good starting point as we work on our tentative budget.”
This from the Kentucky School Advocate:
In Conversation With ... Dr. Tom Shelton, on the new K-12 school funding report
In Conversation With…features an interview between a leader or figure involved in public education and a representative of the Kentucky School Advocate. Dr. Tom Shelton became executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS) on Jan.1, after heading first Daviess County and then Fayette County school districts.
Q: The report “Adequacy and Equity for Excellence in Kentucky” has made headlines because it estimates that it will take another $2.4 billion, on top of the $7 billion spent now, to adequately fund K-12 education in the state.A: We thought about not putting a number in the report because that is just side information, but we also knew people would ask how much it would cost. The real focus of the report is that this is an all-new model for education in Kentucky, not a study of the current funding structure or system.We started with a prototype, a model of a successful school based on research. We looked at how an elementary school, a middle school and a high school should be staffed and how supplemental support should be provided from the district. We calculated the total costs. In costing out the model, we found it would require $9.4 billion. That is both state and local funds. We are not asking the state to fund an additional $2.4 billion in education; that is not the focus of the report.Q: Explain the difference between Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the report.A: Volume 1 includes the model, all of the research and the comparative state analysis – a comparison of high-performing states as well as states that are considered our peers. In effect, the report says: This is what research on successful schools tells us that needs to happen.Volume 2 includes tables and charts that detail the funding associated with the model. Volume 2 is much smaller, with district-specific numbers. The model is built in Excel so you can go down to the individual school level and see the (funding) impact. We will be posting that information on the CBE website.Q: The model spells out exactly what is required to ensure that students reach proficiency. Could you review these assumptions?A: The first big assumption is universal preschool for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds for the entire state. Also, full funding for kindergarten (currently we receive only half funding); funding based on membership or enrollment instead of attendance; and a reduction in class sizes. In the model, kindergarten through third grade is staffed at 15:1 and fourth grade forward is 25:1. That is a big, big difference compared to the state caps now.The fifth assumption is instructional coaches for all schools. Instructional coaches would work with teachers in development and training to improve the quality of instruction. Sixth is using certified teachers, which is what the model calls tutors and what we call instructional intervention and support beyond basic classroom teachers.Q: Are other assumptions called for?A: Yes. Other assumptions are nursing services, behavioral services and other instructional support services for all schools and additional support services for schools based on three areas of population: students in poverty, English language learners and students with some form of disability. The model expands the definition of poverty to those who qualify for free lunch and reduced-price lunch.In the model, teachers would get 10 professional development days. Currently they get only four. That is a big change; it says that teachers need more time and recognizes that the effectiveness of teachers will determine the achievement level of students.Q: The consultants who prepared this report and model have worked with 11 other states. Does Kentucky’s model look just like the models used in those other states?A: No. We used an advisory council of Kentucky educators and stakeholder panels so that it didn’t look the same as say, Arkansas or Wyoming. We started with a model that was national, and we Kentucky-ized it by using the experience and knowledge of people within our state.Q: You and others have said the report is a valuable planning tool, regardless of whether funding is received. Can you explain?A: The model and its resources can still be used and are viable, even if the schools don’t get another dime. It saves districts a lot of time because they have all the research in one place and a handbook that they can use.Q: Can you give an example of how this could work?A: That is why we did such a long explanation of the model when we presented it, to show how the research can be used. For example, the research shows that instructional coaches have one of the biggest impacts on improving student achievement, so if your district has limited resources and is trying to decide how to best use them, then the model shows that you should choose instructional coaches because of their impact.Another example: Let’s say a district is trying to reduce class size, but it doesn’t have the resources to reduce class size to 15:1. The research says that unless the class size is 15:1 or lower, it is not effective. So if a district is working to lower student-teacher ratio from 24:1 to 21:1, well, that’s good but it has not been proven effective by the research, so maybe the district should use its resources in a different way.Q: Can the report aid school boards in their work?A: Yes. School boards approve staffing. This report has good information for boards to look at as to how schools are staffed. Using the information there, they can look at how their district is using its resources. Good policy decisions could be made based on the research the report provides.Q: What happens next?A: 2015 will be a year of education on the project. We wouldn’t ask the General Assembly to take action before 2016. It wouldn’t be fair to someone in General Assembly or otherwise who hasn’t had adequate time to study this report.Q: How will information about the report be shared with educators, legislators and others?A: We started with school superintendents at KASS in December because they needed to know and understand the model so they could discuss it with their constituencies. Everyone left the conference with copies of the report; the report can also be emailed in PDF format along with the PowerPoint presentation that the consultants used.We anticipate doing sessions at Kentucky School Boards Association meetings and for other regional groups throughout the state.I also hope that superintendents will be having retreats and work sessions with their staff to review the model so they can look at their own district to see how this model would play out and work. Everyone’s implementation will look different. The model is not intended to be prescriptive; the model basically says these are the resources needed for successful schools for all students.Q: Other states have implemented similar models. How have they done so?A: Some have been implemented into law. We don’t know about (doing) that. Some started as a concept bill; in other words, they said ‘We believe conceptually in the model but we don’t have funds’ so they adopt the model in concept, all or in part, and work to fund it over time.Q: You have said it could take five to seven years to implement the model? WhyA: Because it would cost $2.4 billion, and there are no additional funds at the state level and limited funds at the local level. It will take time to get to that level of investment.Q: Does the entire model have to be implemented at once?
A: We have had discussions: Do you implement the whole model, but only do it at 70 percent and then ramp it up to 100 percent or do you implement the pieces of the model that are priorities? We can cost out each component of the model. So, if we know that preschool has a big impact and the cost is approximately $572 million, maybe we say that is the first priority and then the other components are done over time.Q: How is this approach different than the current approach to funding?A: This report is not meant to say that anyone is doing anything wrong or that SEEK is not appropriate. It is proposing a methodology that everyone would know and understand so we didn’t have to have same discussion all the time. We will be able to say we need more money and what we need the money for and what the impact would be.There is currently no funding model for education in Kentucky. SEEK is an allocation model. It takes the funds that the General Assembly arbitrarily allocates and it allocates the funds among the school districts to provide equity. Our formula is a model that says how much money should be put into education to adequately fund education.Q: You make an interesting point about the difference between equality and equity.A: Equal is not equitable. Students start from different places. We have to make sure resources are equitable based on the needs of students. The analogy I use, told to me by a friend, is “Equal means everybody gets a pair of shoes. Equitable means everyone’s shoes fit.”