Education Equity for trauma-impacted children:
from failing funding to fair funding.
Be part of the solution!
A heartfelt tip of the hat to the Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) of Pennsylvania ! They have led us, the nation, to a place in history where we get to be part of the “tipping point” of a dramatic turn toward educational equity.
No doubt that the task was daunting. Education funding-concerns are very weighty and very high-profile in Pennsylvania. House Bill 1738 set up the BEFC and tasked it to “develop a basic education funding formula and identify factors that may be used to determine the distribution of basic education funding among the school districts …”
No doubt BEFC research and analysis, coupled with focus, persistence and thoroughness have produced a historic recommendation.
A recommendation worthy of equally profound action from each of us.
The BEFC recommended factors required for fair funding. Eight factors are included in a proposed ‘formula’ and eight factors are recommended for consideration by the full General Assembly.
The most pivotal equity-factor is found on page 69 of the document entitled “BEFC Report and Recommendations” (June 18, 2015):
“The [PA] Department of Education should consider devising protocols and measures to identify students in trauma.”
The BEFC recommendation continues with:
“The Commission recognizes that students in trauma may be more costly to educate and the application of weights to this factor based on reliable data may be merited.”
Childhood trauma is the “most pivotal factor” in education equity because of both its wide scope and its deep impact on children’s ability to learn. It will be historic for any state to attack this inequity, via an explicit funding mandate, statewide, across five-hundred school districts. The possibility is right there in black and white . . . quite amazing when you think about it !
The full blogpost continues here for those interested in the overview of childhood trauma.
Otherwise, Legislator contact info is linked at the end of the blog, for those who are immediately ready to lobby for implementation.
Photo credit Maestro Pastelero
Several members of the BEFC rightly raise crucial questions about how we can get to specific measures of scope and the cost factors for trauma. Follow-up papers here will provide detail regarding screening measures and cost factors. However, a key perspective is that we are leading the way, the front line of equity for trauma-impacted children. A poignant awakening for us all. We can choose to start with best-estimates and adjust as we go. Conversely, delaying for every detail to be precisely quantified is too costly and too inequitable.
A starting point for screening can be as simple as the “ACE score” derived by counselors as part of annual school registration or re-registration. A wide range of other screening measures is available at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.
A starting cost-priority in addressing the learning impacts of trauma is training of teachers and staff. The most efficient approach is through the “first responders” already seeing the children every day. Training must be an on-going requirement for all adults in a district, as part of a priority to: 1) deliver “safety”, 2) understand complexity of teaching trauma-impacted children, and 3) respond appropriately, including avoiding re-triggering old trauma. Training options include “Institute for Family Professionals” (IFP), a division of Lakeside Education Network, in Pennsylvania, and Sanctuary Institute, a division of ANDRUS.
Other crucial incremental costs will include smaller class-sizes, with limits on trauma-impacted children per classroom. Also, dedicated appropriate space(s) for children to de-escalate, and on-site counselors, that is District counselors, who build on-going relationships with the children and families in the school community. These are all starting points, to be refined as we go.
What remains is the immediate priority for the full General Assembly to act formally. We need them to explicitly acknowledge the power of childhood trauma by acting to include it in a “fair” funding formula as per the BEFC recommendation (weighting and costs to be estimated and then refined as we go). The kids are waiting.
Join the movement: Be part of the solution !
Photo © Ada Gonzalez Kauffman
Please take a moment to write to your own legislators now, whether in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. Sample below.
Pennsylvanians: Please write or call now. Simply click on this link, or search “find your legislator, PA General Assembly”, then click on a single legislator’s name. (Most have an email link. Many have a Facebook page.) Thirdly, cut and paste the short note below (or compose your own) into their contact form with your name/address. Please add your voice today!
Those from out-of-state can write the Co-chairs of the BEFC here. Equally important, those from afar can further expedite ‘tipping’ by raising nationwide visibility of trauma-impacted children and Pennsylvania’s dramatic and comprehensive shift in equity(share this post widely). We all have the chance to participate in the tipping point toward equity for trauma-impacted children. It’s an exhilarating time. Join us as we all together make history.
Sample note to General Assembly legislators:
Thank you for establishing the BEFC and charging them with the daunting task of creating a fair funding formula!
Please continue the profound work the BEFC started by adding childhood trauma as an explicit factor to the “Fair Funding Formula” Please authorize a high priority effort to identify screening protocols and weights for the costs of educating trauma-impacted students. Meanwhile, please endorse best-effort estimates of those measures (to be refined as we go).
Again, thank you for your part in getting us to this exciting tipping point toward Pennsylvania’s new leadership in educational equity.