Saturday, May 26, 2001

Educators cheer CPS fund plan

Schools all get same as Montessori

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Neighborhood school officials are thrilled their students finally will have some of the same benefits as their Montessori counterparts.

        To equalize funding among its schools, the Cincinnati Public Schools administration this week presented a budget adding $8.6 million to its neighborhood schools.

        That means more money for literacy programs, science kits, summer reading and math programs, literacy coaches and more.

        “We're excited,” said Bramble Academy Principal Christine Robertson. “We feel like for the first time we're planning a school year on equal footing with everyone else.”

    Magnet schools, which draw students from throughout the city to their specialized programs, were started in the 1970s as a voluntary desegregation alternative to busing.
    School officials have said they cost about 15 percent more than other programs because of special materials, high staffing and transportation costs.
    The state once funded the magnet programs, which became some of the most racially diverse programs in the city. But the annual $5 million state funding for the magnet programs was discontinued in 1999.
    Cincinnati Public Schools shouldered the cost of the successful magnet programs, including the arts and language schools, such as Academy of World Languages, though the programs were funded at a higher rate than neighborhood schools.
        Students such as 7-year-old Cheri Jordan of John P. Parker School, formerly Anderson Place Elementary School, in Madisonville, will have more access to computer technology because the school will be buying up to 10 more computer terminals with literacy software.

        “It's a really fun program. It helps me read stories,” Cheri said and broke out into a song taught to her via the computer:

        A sentence is a group of words that tells one idea like "See the bird.' A capital letter is at the start and it ends with a punctuation mark.

        John P. Parker will receive an additional $283,000 under the proposed budget.

        “Now we will be able to broaden and enrich our programs in the same way magnet Montessori schools have been able to broaden and enrich their programs,” said Principal Jerry Moore.

        Other benefits include:

        • More teacher development.

        • An enrichment summer-school program, both for kids mandated to attend and for students who want to attend.

        • Increased hours for after-school tutoring.

        • A new writing program with five teachers designated as writing coaches.

        For years, magnet schools with specialized programs, such as Montessori schools, have received more money, on average, per pupil than neighborhood schools.

        This school year, a regular Sands Montessori student received $4,426 while a regular Bramble Academy student received $3,917.

        Parents and school administrators have clamored for more money for the neighborhood schools, and the administration vowed to comply if voters passed a 6-mill levy in November.

        The voters passed the levy and now the administration is trying to keep its promise. The budget is expected to be final June 30.

        Next school year, neighborhood elementary schools will be funded at an equal rate with the elementary Montessori schools. For example, students in both Sands and Bramble will receive an average $4,629 annually. That means an additional $154,000 next year for Bramble's budget.

        All 40 neighborhood schools receiving additional funding submitted proposals on how they would use the money to improve achievement for 18,366 students.

        At the 872-student Quebec Heights Elementary school in East Price Hill, where 78 percent of students receive free- or reduced-price lunches, students will see an additional $393,000 invested in their school.

        The money will go toward early literacy programs, including enhanced computer technology, staff development for teachers to learn literacy techniques for students, and salaries for seven literacy coaches.

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