BESE Member James Garvey's Further SUBversion of the MFP

I got input from Dr. Mercedes Schneider tonight to get her take on Garvey's and White's emails regarding reduction in funding for gifted and talented. This is my version of her explanation: 
 
Scroll down in Garvey's letter to: WHAT CAUSED THE GROWTH. .
 
Go to paragraph 2:
 
In order to set up the incentive funding, the changes to the MFP moved some money from one part of Gifted and Talented and Special Education calculations and put an exactly equal amount into the incentive calculations for those programs. As such, there was no reduction in the funding to Gifted and Talented and Special Education calculations, that is, for the state as a whole. However, those parishes that have produced below average results with their students will receive slightly less money, next year. And, those parishes, such as St Tammany, that have produced above average results will receive slightly more money, next year.

The key words are "moved some money." That money has been "moved" to the general MFP calculation making it appear that the total MFP has increased. In a parish with lots of gifted and talented the MFP APPEARS to go up and in parishes with fewer G/T the MFP APPEARS to go down "slightly." White refers to these monies as a "block grant." He would not address my direct question about a reduction in G/T funding but only to the "block grant." Money was moved from one place to another (Mercedes used the analogy of paying off one credit card with another while not reducing the debt it makes one card balance disappear).

White is pandering to districts by letting them now make the decision to use those moved funds back to G/T services or to wherever they feel "best meets the needs of each student."

However, back at the ranch, charters with little or no G/T will obviously see insignificant to no reduction in that funding but WILL get an extra 30% per child that meets the academic requirements. Additionally, districts that don't have a full complement of AP or IB courses to qualify fully for the extra funding will be losing students to the virtual school and course choice offerings. As we have now discovered, those courses are funded out of the District MFP meaning there will be a further reduction of MFP money. That does not affect most charters because they have no taxpayer base to deduct from.

Most tenuous is the fact that cash strapped districts will now be able to use what would have gone to G/T to fill gaps elsewhere. Even in St. Tammany that could reduce the funding/services for GT (larger class sizes etc).

From: James_Garvey@hmhlp.com [mailto:James_Garvey@hmhlp.com]
Sent: Friday, March 15, 2013 3:49 PM
To: (redacted - Parent name)
Subject: Re: gifted and talented
Ms. (redactged - Parent Name),

Thank you for your email. I appreciate, and I share, your concerns for maintaining the funding for St Tammany’s Gifted and Talented program. In fact, my intent it to increase the funding that is available for the Gifted and Talented program. Please consider the following points.

FOR THE 2013-2014 SCHOOL YEAR, ST TAMMANY WILL RECEIVE MORE STATE MFP FUNDING THAT CAN BE USED FOR THE GIFTED AND TALENTED PROGRAM, NOT LESS FUNDING

The MFP that BESE approved last week, for the up coming 2013-14 school year, with the changes that were made to the Gifted and Talented and Special Education calculations, will result in St Tammany receiving an extra $36 per student in funding for all of its projected 36,908 students, which will mean an increase in funding to St Tammany Parish Public School System (STPPSS) of more than $1.3 million. This is an additional $1.3 million of funding for St Tammany which is not the result of an increase in St Tammany’s student population. As such, this additional funding can be used by the St Tammany School Board to increase funding for any program that it desires, including the Gifted and Talented program.

This extra $1.3 million dollars is “over and above” the extra money that STPPSS will receive as a result of an expected increase in the number of students that will be attending STPPSS schools. The number of students is projected to increase by 351 students. Those 351 new students will cause STPPSS to receive an extra, and separate, funding amount of more than $1.9 million.

And, the above two extra amounts are “over and above” the extra money that St Tammany families/students will receive as a result of the anticipated growth in the number of students that are attending one of Louisiana’s state operated schools such as NOCCA or the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, or that are attending a non-public school through the state’s scholarship program. These students are expected to increase from their current level of 101 to a new level of 202. Because of this increase in students, the state will increase its funding to those St Tammany families and students by an extra, and separate, funding amount of more than $900,000 next year.

To summarize the above information, for the coming year STPPSS and St Tammany families will receive an increase in state funding of over $4.4 million. Of the $4.4 million, over $1.9 million will be based on an increase in the number of public school students. And, over $900,000 will be based on either new students attending Louisiana state schools or for new students participating in the scholarship program. And, the remaining more than $1.3 million will be additional/new funding that will result from an increase in the per-student allocation, which in part resulted from the recent changes to the MFP calculations regarding Gifted and Talented students and Special Education students. (Note that the $0.3 million of the $4.4 million is not addressed here due to rounding of numbers and other similar miscellaneous issues.)


WHAT CAUSED THE GROWTH IN ST TAMMANY’S MFP IN A “NO GROWTH” MFP YEAR

Under the recent changes to the MFP calculations, St Tammany will be receiving additional/new funding from the BESE partly because the new calculations include “incentive” type allocations that reward school systems that are achieving above average results with their Special Education and Gifted and Talented students. Because St Tammany is achieving above average results, St Tammany will be receiving an above average amount of incentive funding.

In order to set up the incentive funding, the changes to the MFP moved some money from one part of Gifted and Talented and Special Education calculations and put an exactly equal amount into the incentive calculations for those programs. As such, there was no reduction in the funding to Gifted and Talented and Special Education calculations, that is, for the state as a whole. However, those parishes that have produced below average results with their students will receive slightly less money, next year. And, those parishes, such as St Tammany, that have produced above average results will receive slightly more money, next year.

And, in the year following next year, all parishes could end up seeing growth, or more growth, in their per student MFP funding. This is true because, in essence, the level of the bar has been set for determining the incentive funding. In most respects the level of that bar will not anticipated to change in future years. Any parish that achieves above that bar in future years, or that increases its achievement above that bar, will receive additional incentive funding. As such, if St Tammany improves its current and already high level of achievement with its Gifted and Talented and Special Education students, St Tammany will receive even more extra/new incentive funding, per student, in future years.


HOW MFP FUNDS CAN BE SPENT

State MFP funds are sent to local school systems basically with no strings attached. That is, BESE does not tell local school systems how they must spend state MFP funds. To use an example, if the MFP formula calculates that a local school system will receive an additional $10 million because of its large Gifted and Talented student population, that local system’s school board is not required to spend that $10 million on Gifted and Talented programs. The MFP formula did calculate the $10 million based on the school system’s Gifted and Talented population, but neither the MFP, nor BESE by association, allocates that $10 million to the Gifted and Talented program. The local school board can choose to spend that $10 million on any expenses or programs that it desires. The school board could decide to spend the $10 million on Special Education programs or on what ever other type of program that it wants.

The same is true for MFP funding calculations that are made based on a local school system’s Special Education student population, or its At-Risk student population, or its Vocational Education student population. None of the MFP funding that is calculated based on those student populations is required to be spent on those student populations.


A STUDENT’S INDIVIDUAL EDUCATION PLAN, NOT THE MFP, IS WHAT DICTATES HOW A SCHOOL BOARD MUST SPEND ITS FUNDING

As mentioned above, the MFP funding formula calculates some funding based on identified student populations, such as Gifted and Talented student populations. However, the MFP does not require local school boards to spend that funding on the particular student population upon which the funding was calculated. However, to the contrary, a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) does require a local school board to spend what ever amount of money that it takes in order to provide that student with the services that are called for in the IEP.

The importance of this point is that if a school board receives new/additional funding from a particular year’s MFP calculation regarding that school system’s Gifted and Talented student population, that school board can choose to spend the additional funding how ever it chooses. It can decide to spend the additional funding to provide new services to Gifted and Talented students, services that are above and beyond what is called for in those students’ IEP’s. Or, the school board can decide to spend the additional funding to provide new services to Special Education students. However, that school board must at least provide all of the services that are called for by its Gifted and Talented students’ IEP’s. This requirement also applies in the reverse situation. That is, if a school board received less funding from a particular year’s MFP calculation regarding that school system’s Gifted and Talented student population, that school board must continue to provide all of the services that are called for by its Gifted and Talented students’ IEP’s.

If you have any questions regarding these issues, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will do my best to get the answers for you.

Jim Garvey
Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann & Papale, L.L.P.

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