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Shell Games

June 4, 2012

The legislature is adjourned for the year. Teachers and students are (mostly) home for the summer. There’s nothing to see here, right? Wrong.

The SDE is going to have some choices to make, and I think we’ve all seen this movie before. In spite of a “flat funding” year, the agency will have a shortfall in excess of $14 million – funds that will be cut from programs such as Professional Development for all teachers; Reading Sufficiency for first through third grade students; and ACE Remediation.

I’ve discussed in previous posts the number of reforms being simultaneously enacted right now. While teachers and principals are typically good at doing the things the state asks them to do, it helps if they understand the changes being made to those things. Developing a deep level of understanding of any new initiative takes collaboration time, training, and a budget. School districts can expect to lose all their Professional Development money for a second straight year.

Funding for Reading Sufficiency has been touch and go since Sandy Garrett’s last year in office. With the new requirements for third grade promotion going into effect in two years, we don’t have time to waste not funding this highly effective program.  If the SDE thinks the usual suspect “whiners” around the state are frustrated with graduation requirements for seniors, just wait until third graders with borderline reading skills are retained and the funding that would have helped them was diverted to fund other initiatives within the department.

As for the ACE Remediation funding – what do they think has kept the number of students not graduating as low as it is (and it’s not low). Knowing that students learn at different rates and sometimes need extra help, it won’t be a pretty sight if the SDE holds onto the money designated to help those students.

If you’re reading this, what you can do is contact your legislator. Contact state board members. Contact the governor. Groups representing teachers, administrators, and school board members around Oklahoma are already trying to get commitments to these programs. Add your voice to theirs. Don’t make it easy for them to take funds from the programs that need it most.

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