business partners

Walcott urges public-private partnerships as city funding shrinks

Chancellor Dennis Walcott praises the Pencil program at a breakfast meeting to honor the parternships the program has created between local principals and business leaders.

Addressing city principals and business leaders this morning, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said pro bono partnerships between schools and local businesses could alleviate some of the pressures of mounting budget cuts.

Walcott was speaking at a breakfast event held to celebrate more than 300 school-business partnerships that have been created through the PENCIL program, and to announce plans to expand the partnerships to twice as many public schools this year.

PENCIL, a non-profit founded in 1995, facilitates relationships between principals and local business leaders, who offer schools free consulting and guidance to boost student achievement through field trips, internships and school-based projects, according to organizers.

“These leaders can meet principals around their specific needs,” Walcott said. “One of the principals said she was doing something and her corporate partner said, ‘there’s a better way you can do it.’ That’s the type of value these partners are adding to the system.”

Talana Bradley, principal of the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn, said her school’s partnership, Jayun Kim, a business consultant, has helped her develop a long-term strategic plan for the growth of her school, which was founded in 2008, and plan for coming budget cuts.

“There’s never enough money. I’m so upset that they’re going to continue making cuts,” she said to the audience. (“So am I!” Walcott called back from his seat.) “It’s hard to stay motivated. What this partnership does is help us see the forest for the trees.”

Steve Altman, an attorney, has been partnering with M.S. 22 in the Bronx for three years. There, he encourages 6th-grade students to complete homework on time by providing students who finish their assignments with regular pizza lunches and two field trips each year. He asks clients and friends of his to lead the lunches and talk to students about ways they stay on-task with their work assignments at home.

Altman said he was initially skeptical of how much value he could actually contribute to the school, which has been struggling with student performance and was identified by the state as a low-achieving school this year: “I’m a lawyer, a businessman. What can I do?” he thought. But, “Teachers have told us that the response is hugely positive.”

 

money matters

Report: Trump education budget would create a Race to the Top for school choice

PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participate in a tour of Saint Andrews Catholic in Orlando, Florida.

The Trump administration appears to be going ahead with a $1 billion effort to push districts to allow school choice, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The newspaper obtained what appears to be an advance version of the administration’s education budget, set for release May 23. The budget documents reflect more than $10 billion in cuts, many of which were included in the budget proposal that came out in March, according to the Post’s report. They include cuts to after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, and more:

… a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).

The documents also shed some light on how the administration plans to encourage school choice. The March proposal said the administration would spend $1 billion to encourage districts to switch to “student-based budgeting,” or letting funds flow to students rather than schools.

The approach is considered essential for school choice to thrive. Yet the mechanics of the Trump administration making it happen are far from obvious, as we reported in March:

There’s a hitch in the budget proposal: Federal law spells out exactly how Title I funds must be distributed, through funding formulas that sends money to schools with many poor students.

“I do not see a legal way to spend a billion dollars on an incentive for weighted student funding through Title I,” said Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “I think that would have to be a new competitive program.”

There are good reasons for the Trump administration not to rush into creating a program in which states compete for new federal funds, though. … Creating a new program would open the administration to criticism of overreach — which the Obama administration faced when it used the Race to the Top competition to get states to adopt its priorities.

It’s unclear from the Post’s report how the Trump administration is handling Gordon’s concerns. But the Post reports that the administration wants to use a competitive grant program — which it’s calling Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS — to redistribute $1 billion in Title I funds for poor students. That means the administration decided that an Obama-style incentive program is worth the potential risks.

The administration’s budget request would have to be fulfilled by Congress, so whether any of the cuts or new programs come to pass is anyone’s guess. Things are not proceeding normally in Washington, D.C., right now.

By the numbers

After reshaping itself to combat declining interest, Teach For America reports a rise in applications

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Memphis corps members of Teach For America participate in a leadership summit in last August.

Teach for America says its application numbers jumped by a significant number this year, reversing a three-year trend of declining interest in the program.

The organization’s CEO said in a blog post this week that nearly 49,000 people applied for the 2017 program, which places college graduates in low-income schools across the country after summer training — up from just 37,000 applicants last year.

“After three years of declining recruitment, our application numbers spiked this year, and we’re in a good position to meet our goals for corps size, maintaining the same high bar for admission that we always have,” Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote. The post was reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The news comes after significant shake-ups at the organization. One of TFA’s leaders left in late 2015, and the organization slashed its national staff by 15 percent last year. As applications fell over the last several years, it downsized in places like New York City and Memphis, decentralized its operations, and shifted its focus to attracting a more diverse corps with deeper ties to the locations where the program places new teachers. 

This year’s application numbers are still down from 2013, when 57,000 people applied for a position. But Villanueva Beard said the changes were working, and that “slightly more than half of 2017 applicants identify as a person of color.”