ESF: Is Now the Right Time? (02.11.11)
Posted by Catherine Wilson on 3/17/2011 12:40:00 PM
John Scanlan, Deputy Superintendent of Administration
Beth Mascitti-Miller, Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
Is this the right time for Equitable Student Funding?
As the time draws near to present the 2012 budget, many concerns have been expressed about whether now is, in a time of declining revenue, a good time to roll out equitable student funding in the district. Experiences from districts all over the country that have transitioned to ESF have produced mixed feedback on this question. Our perspective has been unequivocal. Now is the best time to roll it out.
First, the children of Rochester schools are our highest priority. ESF places the focus of our resources on each student and puts the onus on district leadership to structure academic programming to meet their needs. Second, the transition to devolving decisions to the school level is long overdue. Principals have asked for greater flexibility and autonomy in making the decisions that affect their students and ESF allows them more of both. Third, when resources are pinched, the need to think strategically becomes paramount. ESF demands that resources be allocated where they will result in maximum academic impact for their school. There is no better lens through which we can make limited resource allocation decisions than through those who are working directly with students in each building.
It is important to remember that ESF is not the cause of this year's budget shortfalls and is not the reason that many difficult staffing decisions will be made this year. The stagnant economy has resulted in major budget cuts at the state level and the federal resources have dried up. As a result, the district is facing a budget reduction of over $80 million dollars this year. Whether ESF is rolled out this year or not, the same difficult staffing decisions and strategic alignment of fewer resources is going to be a reality. ESF provides a thoughtful model to make these difficult decisions and maximize the impact that the limited resources will have for the children in our district. Our experience with ESF this year will also provide a good lens on the future to learn what principals and their staffs believe are the most important components to educating our children and reaching our overall strategic goals. The road ahead will be challenging, but ESF is part of our strategic commitment to making this district better for every student we serve.