Stan Jester – Title I Comparability Payment
Michael Bell – The $431K in the monthly financial report was what we paid in December for comparability. The $1.191 million is our estimate and covers both years, ’14 and ’15.
Stan Jester – Where does that money go?
Michael Bell – It’s an assessment penalty that we pay to the state and they send it to the federal government.
Stan Jester – Is there any way to avoid that penalty?
Michael Bell – We have a lot of meetings and a lot of discussions. It’s a very complicated process. Dr. Preston is one of our internal experts.
Michael Thurmond (Superintendent) – The state has a willingness to reopen negotiations on this matter. I feel that we will come to an agreement on a number that is fair and equitable.
Stan Jester – $1.1 million is a lot of money that I would love to see spent in the classroom. In retrospect, we’ve been doing Title I for a long time. Was anybody held accountable for these penalties?
Michael Thurmond – The state began to calculate the numbers differently.
Dr. Morcease Beasley (Executive Director, Curriculum & Instruction) – Prior to last year, the state allowed the district to self report therefore you didn’t have many comparability penalties. The state is pulling in the data through the CPI report, the numbers speak for themselves. The numbers that we submit through that process is impacting the comparability.
Is anybody held accountable? HR, finance, Title I, budgets and allotment, we all work together to ensure that all schools are funded at par and equitably. We also work diligently to ensure Title I funded staff are in addition to what is provided locally.
When you have many moving pieces, sometimes it appears that equity ratios are impacted by various hirings.
Michael Thurmond – What’s driving this issue is our long standing commitment to provide high quality and educational support services to children with special needs. The state is just now recognizing how it impacts … two different programs under two different laws and rules. What we’re having to do is integrate the thinking and the state is beginning to recognize that we’re not going to back off on our commitment to educating children with special needs.
We shared that with the state. I’m encouraged the state is beginning to recognize that it’s not a matter of mismanagement or oversight, it’s just that you’re comparing apples to oranges. You’re comparing staff and teachers with a high percentage of special needs kids with schools with fewer special needs kids.
Dr. Morcease Beasley – We’re also comparing large schools to small schools. We have a commitment to small schools. Every staffing decision affects comparability. The penalty is because we have bought into supporting our students being educated in the least restrictive environment which means it appears we are providing staff members that impact the equity ratio.
We have to work to monitor that and in this situation, we received a penalty.
Michael Thurmond – I raised these concerns with the state that there are those who will take this and try to use it as a negative to allege financial mismanagement or lack of oversight when really it’s a commitment to help children with special needs.
Stan Jester – Is this commitment going to cost us another $1.1 million next year?
Michael Thurmond – If need be. If this is what it takes continue our commitment to children with special needs, then so be it. I think the state is going to rethink their position.
Stan Jester – I’d like to see the board make a policy decision on that.