Members of Community Education Council 18 (CEC 18) held their monthly calendar meeting via Zoom, on Monday evening, February 6th, during which they placed a major focus upon school budgeting procedures.
District 18 Superintendent Celeste Terry shared a special presentation with the group, offering them a rather in-depth look at Fair Student Funding (FSF), the main source of money for most schools, in an effort to both demystify the seemingly convoluted budgeting method that is used (a weighted pupil-funding model) and gain insight from the community that she could share with the Department of Education (DOE).
Terry explained that District 18 is comprised of 33 K-12 schools, not including District 75 schools (which are not funded by FSF), and that each school is uniquely comprised of students with a variety of different needs. On average, the DOE spends $31,000 per student each year. Such a large figure definitely caused some sticker shock, which led one parent to inquire as to how the whopping $31,000 per student breaks down and why she and other parents are still being asked to provide basic school supplies out of pocket for their kids’ classrooms. While the DOE had not provided the superintendent with a specific breakdown, she explained that the number includes major expenditures like staff salaries and assured the parent that she would share her feedback with the DOE.
Terry showed the group a pie chart illustrating District 18’s sources of income for the 2022-2023 school year, which was divided into three segments: $30.7 million (18%) from the Federal government, $51.3 million (31%) from State and local governments and $85.4 million (51%) from the FSF program, for a total of $167 million. She explained that the amount of FSF each school receives is largely dependent upon a weighting scale that estimates the cost of meeting the educational needs of each student. In other words, schools that need more intervention receive more funding. Students living in poverty, those who reside in temporary housing, students with disabilities and English Language Learners generally receive the most resources.
The superintendent explained that once a school receives funding, the principal has a great deal of flexibility in determining how that money will be spent. With the help of the School Leadership Team, the principal must develop a Comprehensive Educational Plan and create a budget that aligns with the program, which is then reviewed by the superintendent to ensure it is sound before it can be approved and ultimately enacted.
A parent inquired if it would be possible to allocate more funding, at any level, to increase mental health initiatives, like hiring more guidance counselors and social workers to help meet the social and emotional needs of students who are struggling to cope with issues surrounding the pandemic, bullying and school violence. Terry said that she would relay her feedback but also encouraged parents to email the DOE directly at email@example.com to share their insights, leaving the group far more informed on budget procedures and with plenty of food for thought.
The next meeting of CEC 18 is scheduled to take place on Monday, March 6th and will feature a special presentation from the FDNY.