Show Me the Money!
By Peter A'Hearn, President
What do you need to support science at your school, your district, your community?
Is it professional learning on how to engage all kids in science, even the ones who don’t traditionally take the advanced classes needed to meet the A-G requirements? Maybe you could really use after school programs to engage families and community members in doing science and help kids see themselves as scientists? Maybe it’s helping support English Language Learners in using high quality hands-on science as a vehicle for learning academic English? Re-supply your classrooms with new lab equipment, supplies, and hands-on materials to get students really “doing science”? Is it new NGSS aligned curriculum and support for teachers to implement it? Partnering with a local university to support teachers getting their credentials in hard-to-staff subjects like physics and chemistry, or to support graduates from your community to come back and teach? Or is it all of that and more?
Well, my friends, the time to dream big is NOW! This year’s state budget contains LOTS of money to support science education. CASE and a coalition of partners interested in science education and equity lobbied hard this past year to get science education funded and boy did it pay off! But, If you’re paying any attention at all to the economy, you know this funding is not likely to be repeated anytime soon, so this is the year to make big things happen!
How do you get the money?
CASE worked with our statewide partners to create a document that shares all of the funding sources that can be tapped for science. The document contains information about how to access the funds. The legislative language is in the black boxes. The blue boxes are a brainstorm of possible uses and messaging around the uses.
Note that all of this funding can support other subjects and needs and will go back to the state general budget if it’s not spent. Some of it is automatically distributed to districts, but the district needs to file a plan that is approved by the local school board. A bunch of this money is sitting unused because districts have not filed plans. For example the Educator Effectiveness block grants have mostly not been spent because districts have not filed a plan and the date to file a plan has been extended until March of 2023. The HUGE $3.6 billion dollar Arts, Music, Instructional Materials block grant starts to get distributed in December, but again, districts need a plan to spend it. Note that although the plans need to be filled soon, each of these funds allows several years to spend the money, so you can develop plans to start next year and have ongoing funds for several years.
So why have districts not filed plans and spent this money? Because somebody needs to come up with a clear vision of what to do. That’s where you come in. Think about what you want to do to support science in your district and go to your supervisor to explain it. You will need to develop your plan along with other stakeholders and administrators. CDE has guidelines for writing effective plans.
Also you should strongly consider partnering with an organization that specializes in supporting science professional learning. They have experience working closely with districts and tailoring plans that meet their needs. These include your local county office, nonprofits like The Exploratorium, The Lawrence Hall of Science, STEM4Real, K-12 Alliance, and your regional branch of the California Science Project. And don’t forget about sending teachers and administrators to the CASE Conference!
We have created a spreadsheet of California PL Providers to share who the providers are in California. Make a copy and sort the table to find what you are looking for. This is a work in progress, so look for more providers and programs to be added. Also, look for a website sometime next year that has a searchable database for California PL Providers.
Ultimately you will want to involve your director of curriculum and instruction and need the superintendent’s blessing to go to your local school board. If you are in a small rural district, this might be something that you approach your county office to do, since your district might not have the capacity to run complex programs.
In my experience, administrators are overwhelmed with putting out fires and would gladly accept a well thought out plan. Just make sure they get most of the credit!
So what can you spend the money on?
Sending teams of teachers and administrators to the CASE conference is a great way to inspire them and connect them to an amazing statewide network of passionate science educators! It’s also great bonding for your science team. Make sure to plan for them sharing what they learned with other teachers at their site when they return. If your district allows it, you sign up teachers and administrators to be CASE Members, which will keep them connected all year long! Here is a sample budget from a Southern California district that sent 40 educators to this year’s conference and another from a district in Northern California.
Professional learning should be a priority for every district. The NGSS represents a challenging shift in how we teach science. Really supporting teachers in NGSS takes time and high quality professional learning is classroom embedded. Working closely with an organization that supports professional learning can be the key to creating an effective plan. Please see our list of California PL Providers and contact one today to help develop your plan. Budget streams that can be tapped for professional learning include A-G Completion, Learning Recovery, Educator Effectiveness, and Arts, Music, Instructional Materials.
We know from surveys that almost half of all districts have not yet adopted NGSS aligned instructional materials. Having effective materials is a key to supporting teachers in teaching NGSS. The Arts, Music, Instructional Materials block grant is a great funding source if your distinct hasn’t yet adopted. Once you have instructional materials, you will need classroom embedded ongoing professional learning to support teachers in using the materials. See the last paragraph for that. And if it’s lab supplies and materials you need to move science forward, look to the Arts, Music, Instructional Materials block grant.
Science doesn’t just happen in school. Some of the best science learning takes place in the community and outside of school. Most people who do work in a science field were inspired by an out of school experience. So engaging families, community organizations and local museums, zoos, and nature centers can be a powerful way to inspire learning. Several of the funding streams can be used for learning outside of school. These include Learning Recovery, CA Community Schools, and Expanded Learning. Our friends at the Education Trust West have a list of community partners and can help you connect to organizations in your community. This funding is an amazing one time opportunity to build strong community support for science!
Do you want to support former students to come back and teach science in their home communities? Or do you need to help teachers get credentialed in hard to fill subjects like physics and chemistry. Partner with other local districts and your university teacher prep program to access the Teacher Residency program.
Finally, the state budget also has $85 Million to support statewide and regional communities of practice in STEM. Consider supporting a leadership team of teachers and administrators to attend these and share ideas and best practices. There will be information about the Communities of Practice coming available in the New Year.
All of this information is being continuously updated, so make sure you join CASE to keep updated and informed!