$50m in anti-truancy funding likely

$50m in anti-truancy funding likely

(Calif.) Programs aimed at keeping kids in school and out of the so-called “prison pipeline” would receive a big boost under a bill being carried by the chair of the Senate Education Committee that lays groundwork for the use of  millions of dollars in prisoner-release savings.

Sen. Carol Liu’s SB 527 establishes requirements for a new state grant that could provide as much as $50 million this fall to public schools for programs that improve attendance, reduce drop-out rates and support students who are victims of crime.

The legislation sailed through its first hearing Wednesday and now goes to the Appropriations Committee for passage to the Senate floor.

“The bill targets the funding of the grants toward LEAs that have developed three-year plans in their Local Control Accountability Plans to establish research-based, school-wide strategies addressing social, emotional and behavioral issues,” Liu said Wednesday.

The grant program, to be administered by the California Department of Education, was created last November when voters approved Proposition 47, which lowered penalties for certain non-violent crimes – including for thousands of prisoners who were able to secure release under the law.

The money saved by the reduction of inmates – estimated by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office to be between $150 million and $250 million this fiscal year – is to be split between three agencies, including CDE, for prevention and support programs in K–12 schools, as well as victim services, and mental health and drug treatment.

Under the measure, 25 percent of the funding must go to the CDE for the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund for grants to reduce truancy and support students who are at risk of dropping out of school or are victims of crime.

For an LEA to receive a grant under Liu’s proposal, it must develop a three-year strategy, either within already-required Local Control Accountability Plans or separately, that accomplishes all of the following:

  • Significantly reduce class and school removals, absences, violent incidents on campus, and referrals to law enforcement agencies.
  • Implement one or more research-based, whole-school approaches…to reengage and reconnect pupils who have been pushed out.
  • Identify and address disparities in areas specified in the bill and with respect to subgroups addressed by the Local Control Funding Formula, including English learners, foster youth, low-income pupils, pupils with disabilities, and ethnic subgroups.

Schools must also agree to using a “robust” data system to collect and disaggregate data that includes survey results measuring “students’ sense of safety and pupil connectedness” to monitor progress in these areas.

The system must provide for sharing de-identified data on an aggregate level and progress with respect to meeting the goals of the grant on an annual basis with the school community.

Finally, all programs must include an evaluation system to assess effectiveness related to addressing the social, emotional and behavioral needs of pupils, and to developing strong, supportive, and positive school climates.

Savings from each fiscal year must be calculated by the state director of finance no later than July 31, and the funds transferred to the administering agencies by Aug. 15.

The program is set to begin this fall.

There are several bills being considered that address Prop. 47 funding, and Capitol insiders say it will come down to Legislative leadership to determine which best meets their wishes. Liu’s bill is the most likely candidate given her influence within the building.

In addition to CDE’s annual 25 percent allocation, 10 percent is directed to the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board to make grants to trauma recovery centers to provide services to victims of crime.

The Board of State and Community Corrections gets the largest chunk – 65 percent – to administer a grant program to public agencies aimed at supporting mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, and diversion programs for people in the criminal justice system, with an emphasis on programs that reduce recidivism of people convicted of less serious crimes, such as those covered by this measure, and those who have substance abuse and mental health problems.