The Daily Quote: “If it’s not categorical funds, I guarantee the money will disappear and not reach foster kids,” Teacher Mike Jones, at left, Founder and Executive Director at Courageous Connection, Elk Grove Unified School District, Sacramento County.
UPDATE, May 22, 2013: The reality gap between boots-on-the-ground teachers and the generals back in Sacramento is underscored in the struggle to keep Foster Youth Services (see backstory below the jump) in categorical funding in the '13-'14 budget, as revealed in a story this morning on EdSource by Susan Frey.
("At Greater Risk: California Foster Youth and the Path from High School to College," a March 2013 report funded by the Stuart Foundation and written by Kristine Frerer, Center for Social Services Research, Cal Berkeley; Lauren Davis Sosenko, Institute for Evidence-Based Change; and Robin R. Henke, MPR Associates; gives critical statistics on California's 42,000 foster youth students: 1/4 have a disability; 1/3 are African-American; 56% are girls; 1/2 attend schools in the bottom 30% of performance; 1/2 score in the lowest two ranks on state tests; only 45% complete high school.
In the May revise, Governor Brown included a trailer bill that ostensibly solves the problem: foster-care students are a subgroup in the Academic Performance Index (other subgroups being ethnicity, low-income, special education, English learners). By making foster children more visible to academic evaluators -- and by rewarding their progress as measured by a district's goals -- the Brown administration is assuming that the financial carrots offered districts and county departments of education for achieving those goals will be sufficient incentive for channeling funds into foster-student specific programs (i.e., Foster Youth Services).
As Frey reports... these advocates, including [director of FosterEd for the National Center for Youth Law Jesse] Hahnel, are concerned that the requirements for county Offices of Education are not strong enough to ensure that the $15 million currently going to county offices for [FYS] will remain dedicated to foster children. Under Brown’s proposal, the money will continue to go to the county offices, but the funds can be spent on any educational purpose, while most of the accountability for foster children’s academic achievement falls on school districts...Under Brown’s proposal, county offices would act in more of a supervisory role if districts fail to meet their goals regarding foster children. The county offices are also expected to continue to coordinate services for foster youth with school districts and social service agencies and attempt to minimize changes in school placement...Michael Jones, a resource teacher who works as an advocate for foster youth at Elk Grove Unified, said the governor’s new accountability plan would work if the Foster Youth Services funding remains dedicated and is tied to services. He calls the governor’s proposal to lift restrictions on the funds “naïve and irresponsible.”
“If it’s not categorical funds, I guarantee the money will disappear and not reach foster kids,” Jones said.
March 15, 2013: In a commentary on Chronicle of Social Change, publisher Daniel Heimpel reported on the Sacramento hearings before the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education (chaired by Susan Bonilla, D-Concord) that focused on Brown's proposed Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Heimpel notes that "Despite a letter of protest from more than 50 organizations including several County Offices of Education [and] a call to preserve [Foster Youth Services] in the San Francisco Chronicle...it wasn't clear that the message was getting through to [Assemblymembers]..."
The message: that FYS, a state Dept. of Education program currently protected by the device of categorical funding, should not be thrown into the communal pot with the 41 other programs for which monies will be determined by local school boards under the LCFF.