First Baptist Church has been partnering with Bessemer Elementary since August. We have provided ministry through classroom supplies, volunteers, and financial resources. Our blog is provided by Ron Dixon, principle of Bessemer Elementary, who helps us understand the finances of today’s NC Schools.
Site-Based Spending In Today’s NC Public Schools
by Ronald Dixon, Bessemer Elementary Principal
As we all are much aware of the continued decrease in the appropriation of general funds in North Carolina public schools; each school in Guilford County Schools (GCS) has been affected by budget crunches in some way or another. GCS heavily relies upon local funding for at least 33% of its operating budget; and this year the Guilford County Board of Commissioners did not approve the proposed plan which resulted in 18 million dollars of budget cuts for the school system. Highly Impacted schools are greatly impacted by these cuts. While budget allocations are a fairly complex concept to explain; I will candidly share the unique fiscal aspects of a highly impacted school in Southeast Greensboro, namely Bessemer Elementary School.
- Title One-100% Free and Reduced Lunch (meaning No students pay for breakfast or lunch.
- 530 Students and 35 classrooms
- $25K for Instructional Supplies (state and local combined) and $260K total in Title One Funding
At first glance, when you see that school has been given almost $285K to operate, you naturally have questions regarding the stewardship of those funds. Here is a general break-down of the how Title One Funds are used at Bessemer Elementary School:
$235,000 are allocated to actual positions at Bessemer- Social Worker (state only funds ½), Curriculum Facilitator (local only funds ½), three classroom teachers (two Second Grade teachers and one Third Grade teacher), in order to satisfy the teacher–student ratio requirement for “Equity Three” schools. Equity Three schools have to have less than 20 students per class in grades K-3. Title One schools must utilize their own funds to purchase these teachers. We have also purchased a much needed Reading teacher who works with students who are critically below grade level, for remediation.
After spending $235K for positions, we are then required to allocate at least $4k for Parental involvement and $8K for Professional Development (based on federal guidelines) and $2k set aside for substitutes. This leaves Bessemer with a firm $11k to actually spend on Instructional supplies and tutors. I chose to spend $4K on a tutor and use the remaining $8k on Instructional technology software and maintenance equipment and library books.
Local Instructional supply dollars are used to spend copy paper, level texts printing for guided reading; classroom supplies (pencils, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, colored pencils, construction paper, etc.).
As you can see, this allocation leaves our school with no ability to increase its technology inventory and we must rely upon fundraisers and donations to do so. When I arrived to Bessemer in 2012, there were only a total of six laptops, LCD projector, document cameras and Smart Boards. I have used Title One funds for the past two years to more than double this inventory; and yet it is still not enough. All of our students should be afforded the opportunity to have their instruction enhanced by technology as many other schools do. Research shows evidence of how instructional technology directly impacts student achievement levels; and so we are striving to make this a priority in what is supposed to be a 21st Century learning environment.
Let it also be noted that there was not an active PTA at Bessemer (as is the case in extremely impacted urban schools) until my arrival as principal in 2012. We now have an enhanced PTA participation which includes fundraising. However, the operating budget for the PTA is less than $500.
Respectfully, every school has in own unique set of dynamics, with respect to its budget. However, I believe that when the public gets a true sense of how schools operate fiscally; the support of our governments and non-profit agencies will strengthen. On the same token, schools and central offices must be completely transparent and equitable in this regard; in an effort to win and build the trust of those who have the power to support public education.