Another presentation that I attended at the Closing Opportunity & Achievement Gaps conference was on breaking down funding silos and featured the work of the Federal Education Group. The two attorneys, Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, discussed many issues related to using federal funds more effectively and a couple of the most poignant pieces (and my commentary on those pieces) are below:
- “It’s not a funding problem, it’s a lack of understanding about the work.” (Sheara Krvaric). I see this all too often in my work with states and districts. There is a lot of money for school turnaround efforts, but SEAs and LEAs continue to plan for this work in a piecemeal way. SEAs and LEAs should begin with a set of goals, and then backwards map what needs to happen to reach those goals. Then, find the funds to implement that work. Until we have a better understanding of what the actual work is and how the funds can be used, we’ll continue to implement silo’d and ineffective practices – as opposed to comprehensive aligned systemic improvements.
- One of the attorney’s also noted that states are so fearful of auditor findings that it limits their creativity. Instead, she recommends using funds in innovative ways (as long as the compliance pieces are met) and then risk a finding from the auditors. If a finding occurs, appeal it. As long as the state is not breaking compliance requirements, the appeal will likely be effective.
- This is an area that is finally coming to the forefront of states and districts and several organizations are developing tools to assist states navigate the craziness that is federal funding.