Close your eyes and think about your childhood.
What images begin to appear? What feelings come over you?
If you are like me, you think of smiling faces and of a string of people who guided you along the way.
You might remember some unhappiness, conflict, even deep sadness. But it wasn’t overwhelming. Just part of life.
Those images and feelings are part of who you are, and have impacted how successful you have been in managing your life now.
Today, we know there are children who don’t have positive influences most of the time. Family stresses impact how they interact with others. Learning struggles begin to define how they see themselves. Feelings of anger and disappointment are too common.
Images that will stay with them begin to take hold.
The school plays an extra large role in meeting these kids’ needs.
Students come to school already suffering; not ready to learn. And, sometimes the needs of children are more than what one classroom teacher can manage while ensuring all other students get attention, too.
That’s one story behind the budget for this year the Jefferson County Board of Education is set to finalize Monday night.
In my experience, there’s a personality of each budget; a priority set in response to a need.
Much of the budget is pretty automatic – schools get allocations based on recommended formulas, facilities must be maintained, state and federal regulations must be met, etc. But, because there is so much information about how students are doing, we can target flexible resources to address weaknesses.
This year, the priority is investing significantly in student mental and behavioral health services.
More than when I started on the Board eight years ago, I have heard from parents and educators about significant behavior issues with students. It is heartbreaking to think a young child has such internal turmoil.
The 2014-15 budget includes $6 million for mental health counselors, to staff Student Response Teams (SRTs) who mobilize quickly when a student is in need, and to establish safe places within schools where children can take a break and get their needs met.
The school system has placed a priority on training for educators to more effectively deal with these issues too. Teachers need support, as well as the kids. And, we are strengthening ties with community services through Louisville Linked.
Unfortunately, this investment is very needed. Fortunately, we have the administrative leadership and Board support to put real money toward meeting this need.
This, in addition to extra investments in preschool, early literacy and extended time for learning, will help more children get the healthy and happy start they need to move through school and graduate prepared.
When that grown-up student looks back at their childhood, it should not be with overwhelming feelings of despair and failure, but feelings and images of true caring and support that was offered along their path.
A budget is never just a budget. It says something about who you are. JCPS is focused on all children, no matter their needs and struggles. That’s what the Board members will be saying when we vote on the budget this year.