Hire highly skilled consultants to develop and implement behavioral change plans for specific schools, classrooms and individual children.
We need to hire a minimum of 5-10 roving Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) for the district in order to address the escalating issues with violence and disruptive behaviors. BCBAs are also highly qualified at creating motivational programs and incentivizing pro-social behavior; they also teach verbal language as well as social and play skills which are necessary for the younger children who now have severe deficits. BCBAs are essential consultants that also specialize in organizational behavior change and can develop behavior plans for individual schools, classrooms and individual students. BCBAs can train school staff and admin to make them more efficient but also teach them how to intervene with problematic behavior in specific classrooms or with specific individuals. Only BCBAs are qualified to institute treatment plans for organizational behavior change as well as individual behavior change. This would cost anywhere between $100,000- 500,000 per year and can be allocated through roll over funds within the budget.
Give students the resources they need to get caught up academically
Every school in the county should be making use of the Edmentum program (or one similar) which allows students to recover credits in areas where they have previously struggled. High schools should have at least two periods available to students where they can take the Edmentum program in lieu of an elective, and have their credits approved by a teacher who is certified in the subject matter. It is particularly important that our students are leaving high school with the knowledge and tools necessary to succeed in the real world.
Further, BCPS needs to prioritize essential subjects like reading, writing and math. How can we expect these kids to succeed in their academic careers or in the real world when the lack basic skills such as literacy?
Pay our teachers more. Show them we appreciate them
Teachers need a real wage increase. They have far too much on their plates and they are unsupported and underpaid. The school board continues to have “discussions” about pay increases for teachers yet they fall short on delivering. We are losing good teachers because BCPS refuses to provide job security or competitive wages, continues to force teachers to “teach to the test” and perpetually ignores the violence problem within the schools. In 2021 we had a 67% increase in the unfilled teaching positions in our county. We need to pay the teachers adequately, provide them with training in behavior modification and add support staff to classrooms that require it.
The teachers should also have access to mental health professionals as part of their employee benefits packages as they face enormous amounts of stress and pressure and their mental health is crucial. Without teachers, we have no schools.
Make the schools safer
Following the tragedy at MSD, BCPS has made some improvements in the safety of our schools. But we could be doing more. Additions such as video surveillance, metal detectors, and the systematic use of an alert/warning system are all additional changes that we should be working towards.
Extend the school day to allow for more education and exercise
I propose extending the school day by an hour for elementary and junior high students. This additional hour will allow for extra instruction to remediate the academic delays but will also provide us with an opportunity to re-introduce recess and physical activity back into the schedule. Florida’s requirements for instructional hours are lower than most other states and consequently we also have one of the lowest literacy rates. If other states have their kids in school for 7-8 hours per day, why can’t we?
State Education Practices (SEP)
Offering more groups, classes and clubs that directly address mental health and teach coping skills
Having school psychologists on staff for identified “at-risk children” is great but they are stretched thin. The average school psychologist is responsible for overseeing hundreds of kids, a task that is unfeasible. In addition to adding more school psychologists we could also add different psychological resources. Kids could benefit from an elective course or extracurricular club that addresses psychological functioning and teaches kids coping skills and effective ways for managing stress and interpersonal issues. Additionally, there are many graduate counseling programs within our area that we could work with to establish a program where their graduate level interns can provide psychoeducation and lead teen group counseling sessions; this will greatly reduce the cost for the county as we would only have to pay for the clinical supervisors who oversee these interns. Further, programs such as social work, marriage and family therapy, and clinical counseling have pools of interns that are equally qualified to facilitate these sessions which means we would have more options, some of which could be more cost effective.
Merit based bonuses for administrators based on benchmarks such as reduced violence and improved literacy within their schools.
Federal based incentivization programs exist that allot money to schools whose students are meeting certain benchmarks. I think our administrative pay in Broward County should be scaled according to benchmark standards as well. Those standards could include the students' proficiency in math and science, literacy rates and reductions in violence. Administrators will be motivated to meet these benchmarks as any increase in their salary will be dependent upon doing so.
Fill the libraries with books but allow parents to decide which they can check out
Finally, we need to increase the amount of books in the library, which I plan to do with donations. But once we do so, we need to also recategorize books to ensure that parents have knowledge of the type of material that is available to their children. We can implement a rating scale for the books (at no cost as there are plenty of parents that will volunteer to do this free of charge) where we identify books that may have controversial subject matter and leave it up to the parents to decide if their child can check out those books. This program would be in place for grades k-8 and if the parents decide that certain subjects are “off-limits” they can place a block on those types of books meaning their children will not be able to check them out at the library. This block will work essentially like a parental control on a tablet or tv allowing the parents to approve which books a child can check out. This will allow our libraries to be filled with all kinds of books. I have heard parents from both sides of the political spectrums advocating for the removal of certain books from our libraries. As a non-partisan organization, the school board has no business considering these suggestions. Any book written for children should be allowed into our libraries, and parents can decide which books (from that selection) they would like their children to read.
With a thorough forensic accounting analysis of the budget, I have great confidence we will discover plenty of wasted or unspent money in order to rework the budget and reallocate funds. We definitely do not need additional taxes.
Lastly, you may be wondering where we will get the funds for these proposed changes. We will get them from the existing budget. The budget is horrendously inflated and funds can certainly be reallocated. For example,
A recent sun sentinel article indicated that BCPS was overpaying employees for time not worked or for unapproved overtime.
BCPS “rolls-over” unused funds as opposed to reallocating them to areas where they could be used. With the teachers so desperately needing raises, unused funds getting rolled over into an already inflated budget feels outrageous.
There is a lack of transparency in the budget as well. How is it that after receiving $800 million in 2014 to repair BCPS schools, that many of these repairs were never done and yet the spending is sky high? The answer is likely that the board is giving these renovations contracts to companies in order to buy their favor as opposed to awarding contracts to reputable contractors. Constant change orders are driving up this budget but are the contractors being held accountable for their inappropriate bids? Is the board being held accountable for their shotty plan and lack of follow through? And why are they taxing the residents for more “construction and repairs” was 800 million not enough?
I think that a forensic accounting analysis could clarify where we can make budget cuts and then allow for us to allocate those funds to teachers, training, safety, and health measures. And we can do all of this without additional taxes.