Education Turns Into Social Services And Health Care

What do YOU believe is the role of school districts in providing health care and social services to families?

The Gwinnett Daily Post is reporting that with the failure of the Opportunity School District referendum, some state lawmakers expect the issue of how to improve failing schools to move toward providing more services, social and healthcare in particular, as an operational component of school districts.

Senator Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said one response to the proposed Opportunity School District being voted down in November is that the focus may shift from the academic nature of the issue, to reasons why children are sick, or have poor attendance.

Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, suggested an audit for schools that have high poverty rates to identify the core issues.

“What are the problems, is attendance bad? Well, what’s causing that,” Coleman said. “Is it illnesses? Are they sick a lot? Is it the fact they’re not getting enough food? Let’s analyze, audit, what do you think is the root cause that your school is failing. … Well, what are you missing, and then analyze and try to provide those services. That’s the first step, is to provide those needs because let’s face it, (if) the child’s not in school, they’re late, if they’re not present, if they don’t feel good, you can’t start the learning. But if they come on time, they come fed, they come without a toothache, they come feeling good, then you can get about the learning.”
Unterman and Coleman each admitted that school leaders and those who work in education would push back at this notion because their main focus is education.

Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

The DeKalb Board of Education met with the county’s state legislators a few weeks ago. I asked them

1. Does the state believe that tax payers should provide health care and social services to families? If so, then who should do that and how is it funded?
2. What does the state believe is the role of school districts in providing health care and social services to families?

Many school districts across the state attribute poor academic performance to the effects of poverty and family dynamics. Numerous school districts have departments dedicated to “Wrap Around Services” that try to mitigate these effects by providing additional services to students and their family.

Wrap Around Services at DeKalb Schools
DeKalb Schools has created a Student Support and Intervention Division to provide “Wrap Around Services” and address the diverse needs of students and families. The current profile of “Wrap Around Services” available to support students and families in DeKalb Schools include School Counselors, School Social Workers and Homeless Liaisons, School Psychologists, School Nurses, Student Support Specialists, Post-Secondary Transition Specialists, Parent Liaisons, EL Success Facilitators and Check and Connect Mentors.

Furthermore, DeKalb Schools is
• Giving stipends and signing bonuses to attract and retain talented, motivated teachers
• Appropriating $1.9 million for literacy and mathematics initiatives
• Spending $750K for the 10 Horizon schools to partner with Discovery Education
• Spending $398K to partner with IIRP(International Institute for Restorative Practices) to reduce the number of suspensions

I couldn’t disagree more with Sen. Unterman and Rep. Coleman in their assertion that school leaders will “push back” on the notion of adding services via the school district so long as the funding is provided. Mr. Unterman and Mr. Coleman need to refer to the Rules of Bureaucracy.

Rule #1: Maintain the problem at all costs! The problem is the basis of power, perks, privileges, and security.
Rule #2: Use crisis, and perceived crisis, to increase your power and control.
Bureaucracies are famous for their mission creep. Their incentive is always to address inputs and never results. As Thomas Sowell reminds us, “You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”

School districts that are already large and highly bureaucratic will be quite welcoming to enlarging their reach and responsibility. It makes them more powerful. The state has no enforcement mechanisms of any consequence. Giving the same people more money to do more things without any meaningful accountability measures means that your taxes are just going to purchase more failure.

What are your thoughts?

26 responses to “Education Turns Into Social Services And Health Care

  1. Students these days have mentally and emotional issue that need addressing, the home life, and peer pressure has them walking around like ticking time bombs. I work in the system and they are angry and upset, you say something to them and it escalates to a trip to the office to 3 days at home. Therapy needs to be included in DCS it should be a course just like health these kids have deep emotional wounds that need addressing. This is the service that should be put into education.

  2. Dan Whisenhunt

    sent via Facebook
    I think schools should be there to provide stability and structure for kids who have none, and I support paying more in taxes for this purpose. Schools and school systems are in a unique position to break the cycle of poverty that defines some communities.

  3. Thad Mayfield

    sent via Facebook
    Not a new concept. Public schools have a very long history of being used to do more than academics, but also teach to patriotism, Christian concepts, vaccinations (e.g. polio, diphtheria), raise funds for non-profits (e.g. March of Dimes). It is my understanding the “Wrap Around Services” are actually being provided by the appropriate agenices (public & nonprofit) with the district serving in convener/facilitator roles with the purpose of removing social barriers to classroom management and academic performance. What will be most important are the effectiveness review, assessment, and change management regiments.

  4. This post makes me remember a Milton Friedman quote: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
    Additionally, DeKalb school district in particular, doesn’t have a successful track record with their core business – education. Expecting that DeKalb has the capacity to efficiently and effectively deliver “wrap around services” is not a rational expectation.
    I am sure there are school districts in Georgia that would benefit from additional funding for “wrap around services” and use the money wisely and to great effect. DeKalb County is not one of those districts. In fact, each additional dollar of funding going to DCSD will result in a dollar more of bureaucratic abuse. It will actually further burden our students and teachers who already suffer under the abusive, out of touch, heavy handed bureaucracy.

  5. chamblee getting screwed

    Maybe DeKalb County should focus on paying their teachers a competitive wage, maintain their buildings beyond third world design, and actually educate their students beyond being at the bottom tier of the state before we invest in programs like this. But that’s never stopped DeKalb before – see the current social engineering experiment that is happening with the SPLOST dollars.

  6. There are a host of societal issues related to students’ poor academic performance, but I’m not sure the school system is now or ever will be prepared to take on all off these tasks, regardless of whether or not it is their role to do so. What the school system can do for all of our students is:
    1) immediately address water quality issues in our schools. No more lead or other contaminants, please.
    2) install and maintain an adequate number of water fountains in all schools so that students and staff members will be well hydrated. Dehydration is a chronic problem and impacts academic performance. I know teachers who purchase bottled water for their students during standardized testing to improve their students’ performance.
    3) provide school buildings with appropriately-sized and adequately-staffed kitchens and cafeterias to allow students TIME to get their food and SPACE to eat it before returning to class. I know high schoolers who skip lunch daily because there isn’t enough time or table space to eat. Many of them are skipping breakfast, too. It’s no surprise their performing poorly.
    4) hire school nurses for every school. My children’s schools have had school nurse jobs posted for months without any hires. Fund these positions, so that they will be attractive enough to get an applicant or two. Provide building spaces and supplies for the nurses. Make sure they’re trained as first responders, so that teachers don’t have to miss instructional time to act as first responders.
    5) provide fair compensation for our high-quality teachers to keep them in DeKalb and get rid of teachers who are not cut out for the rigor of the job. Good teachers notice students’ health and social issues and communicate with counsellors and parents. Poor teachers don’t get involved.
    6) eliminate the bureaucratic busywork of creating a paper trails to “CYA”. Allow good, qualified teachers time to teach and serve their students’ needs.
    The school system cannot fix or address all of society’s ills. Citizens must band together to support parents and students in their own communities. That starts with knowing your neighbor, engaging with him or her, and supporting one another in good times and bad. That’s what being a neighbor in a community is all about. There are many foundations, civic organizations, and places of worship in our communities who are already supporting families in need. Allow them opportunities to make themselves known in our communities, but don’t duplicate their services.

  7. Regardless of how one might ‘feel’ about it, the only way to close the gap is to provide those critical wraparound services to children born into poverty and single-family homes. Schools are the ideal places to provide services. Of course, the people actually interacting with children and families should be employees of the state, not the local school district, but the most ideal location of services is our school buildings, or at least buildings very close by. This is the United States of America. We should not have children living in poverty with little access to healthcare. The current level of children living in poverty in our communities IS a crisis. These children need our support. It’s for the good of the futures of us all.

  8. ps. Many of our childrens’ teachers are already providing ‘wraparound’ services. They often pay for it themselves. They could use some professional staffing support as well.

  9. Stan,
    I am not disagreeing with you, but want to point out your conclusion isn’t supported by your post.
    A better conclusion would be: Given that the state has no enforcement mechanisms of any consequence, giving the same people more money to do more things without any meaningful accountability measures will likely mean that your taxes are just going to purchase more failure.
    What measures of transparency are the BOE asking the administration to report regarding wrap around services? I remember Mr. Thurmond promising to report ROI for “The Bridge Initiative” but the administration didn’t even document how much money was spent on it. As with all things Thurmond related, the BOE gave him a pass and did not follow up.
    With Morley’s new found fiscal concerns, it appears you may have some common ground where you can work together to ask the administration to show how it is spending money and the results those funds are creating.
    This comes back to the BOE providing oversight by requesting information. The GaDOE does not enforce anything, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be daylight on all things.

  10. In DeKalb County, almost 20% of the population is in poverty. Income (or lack of) directly impacts student achievement and performance in school. I feel we need to meet the needs wherever we can to help these kids and families succeed. If it is in school, so be it. I voted NO against OSD because I felt the State could do so much more to help children and families pull themselves up. However, these are huge challenges and it’s much easier just to take over a school without fixing major problems in our society (poverty, child abuse, lack of affordable and safe housing, no safety nets, lack of decent paying full-time jobs). In October 2016, the AJC ran several articles on what schools are doing to help kids who need it. In Forsyth County (which has the highest median income in the state), they are adding food pantries to schools. There were students that created ‘CARE’ closets in their high school to provide basic necessities to other kids who need them and they hope to expand this to every high school. I don’t think the school necessarily needs to do all of this – there are students and parents who could mobilize to support kids in need.

  11. Discovery Education, for example, will support the following elementary schools: Allgood, Cedar Grove, Chapel Hill, Fairington Way, Flat Shoals, Oak VIew, Barack H. Obama, Panola Way, Snapfinger, and Stoneview.
    Measuring for Impact: Impact will be measured via:
    • Student Performance data as measured by District benchmark assessments (SY2016-17)
    • Learning Walks Data – Noting changes in teacher practices
    • Student proficiency rates in grades 3, 4 and 5 as measured by the GA Milestones End of Grade assessment (results in May/June 2017)
    • Overall CCRPI Scores for each of the Horizon Schools (score summaries as released by the GA DOE/GOSA).
    Additionally, the Research, Assessments & Grants Department will conduct a program evaluation through Hannover Research to determine the correlation between the Discovery Education processes and the aforementioned data.
    During the board meeting, the administration assured me there were no other programs like this at these schools and the student achievement results could be disaggregated.

  12. chamblee getting screwed

    Where you getting the money to pay for program’s like these Cere? I guess out of the pockets of our teachers? I think we need to work first on providing a decent education in DeKalb – which by all accounts is way behind the test of the country.

  13. There are 50+ school districts that have a higher percentage of students on Free/Reduced lunches, spend less per student than DeKalb and get better academic results (as measured by CCRPI). We should figure out what those school districts are doing before we reinvent that wheel.

  14. Like I said, these should be state funded, state provided services, even if provided in local school buildings. I agree that DeKalb schools administrators can’t be trusted with the budget or the task. As far as the actual cost goes–we can pay now or pay later–as our schools now often serve as prison pipelines. And we all know how expensive jails and prisons are.

  15. sent via Facebook
    You’re right Angela, these students who cannot function in a regular classroom need to go, and not 3/4 into the school year.
    By providing even more social services in the schools, we are ENABLING the parents to be even less involved. Why not use funds for programs to hold parents accountable for being responsible for their own children.

  16. To Cere’s point on the State being the right steward for such efforts I know that at CK we have had homeless students saved a disasterous fate by being identified by counseling office staff as candidates for a State run work/study program. This type of opportunity allowed the students to help their families, gain a sense of hope, learn to apply classroom skills on the job and ser themselves up for permanent employment.
    What these kids and their mentors accomplish is inspiring and yields results not seen otherwise.
    I’m sure much thoughtful dialog on Stan’s question will be impossible in this format because it is prone to ideological and blind arguing. I encourage those truly interested to go to your head counsellors at your local HS and MS and even broach the aubjext with your ES front office. An enormous amount of good and positive academic results come from such efforts (and, no, all efforts are not effective).

  17. To Stan’s point, Dekalb County as a system has shown HORRIBLE results. When there are 50+ counties with more free and reduced kids on lunch than Dekalb and still perform better academically, then Houston, we have a problem. The Dekalb County School System is ridiculously incompetent. I think we need to work on block and tackling first. As one posted indicated above, the county is more about trying to equalize everything to mediocrity (or below) and move chess pieces in the form of students around than by trying to actually educate. Pathetic.

  18. @RunAmok,
    I disagree with your last full sentence. That was true under previous administrations, however, Dr. Green has really tried to change the goal to something higher than mediocrity. He is being hampered by incompetent regional superintendents along with friends-and-family principals and APs.
    My belief is, if he started a massive housecleaning of poor performing staff, the district would see rapid gains on all metrics.

  19. You are giving Greene way too much credit. I see nothing different. I see an administration that ramrodded a SPLOST initiative through by not telling voters what was going to be in it. When the time came to discuss what was going to be in it, the administration went against the very will of the schools that are going to be most impacted by the decision and showed little, if any, willingness to listen to opposing viewpoints. So far, Greene is 0 for 2 in my book.
    Waiting for the shoe to fall on the inevitable corruption charges somewhere in 3…2…1…..

  20. I’m with you Run Amok. Kirk, Green has had 18 mons to work on massive housecleaning starting I. The central office yet he promoted Tyson to Chief of staff, has kept friends and family like the Guillories, Josh Williams, Stacy Stepney, Ralph Simpson, etc. Solid measurable goals and action plans to improve academics, keep best teachers, provide specific wrap around services, etc. seem to be a bit sparse.

  21. The district does have measurable goals in the Strategic Plan. For some reason, the administration doesn’t discuss them.
    In November, I asked about “RFPs/RFQs: % awarded thru purchasing” and why only 81% were. Despite Dr. Green’s assurance that someone would contact me about that, nobody has.
    Regarding wrap around services, I will believe the metrics when they are shared with the BOE. Before Dr. Green, there were lots of promises by administrators and very little follow through. I believe Dr. Green will deliver.

  22. Cindy Cheatham

    sent via Facebook
    I believe schools should be open to and proactive in pursuing partnerships with organizations that can bring health and other support services to the children and their families. Schools alone cannot do the job of helping kids succeed with education if other issues are in the way of their education

  23. I’m reminded of an article I read recently: . Attendance in high-poverty areas increased significantly with the addition of a clothes laundering program.

  24. @Mark,
    DeKalb would have a hard time adding a clothes laundering program because most schools don’t have any space or hot water.

  25. Russell Carleton

    An analysis of a similar WRAPAROUND program in Boston found that for every dollar spent on providing these comprehensive services, there were three dollars in benefits. The full report may be read here:
    I would trade one dollar for three.
    The benefits come mostly in the form that the kids who received these services were more likely to graduate from high school. We know that people who graduate from high school are more likely to be employed (and pay taxes), less likely to rely on social welfare programs, and less likely to be incarcerated (both of which cost taxpayers money).

  26. Kim Gokce (DIO's Butt Munch)

    Though a bit of a tangent I thought readers who are considering policy in these areas would appreciate this article on addiction and some recent learnings. A very narrow case of the many cases our schools have to operate with and around every day. Offered for thought without a point more complicated than somethings are complicated:
    Highly recommend the associated TED talk at the bottom of the article as a summary of the topic.