BCSC seeks funds for programs: School district wants another $750,000 from city to aid workforce development

School district wants another $750,000 from city to aid workforce developmentThe Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is seeking $750,000 in tax increment financing funds from the city of Columbus for a second straight year to support school programs.

BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts made a presentation to the Columbus Redevelopment Commission on Monday to give an update on the district’s workforce development programs and the progress it has made in the past year year. The city awarded $750,000 in TIF funds to the district in 2016 for three workforce development programs — iGrad, STEM education and transition planning for special-needs students.

Then-Superintendent Jon Quick asked the city in May 2016 nearly $1.1 million in TIF funds for three straight years to fund workforce development programs in the schools. The redevelopment commission, followed by the city council, reduced the funded amount for 2016 to $750,000, with renewal required for each of the next two years.

Mayor Jim Lienhoop had supported the concept in his March 2016 State of the City address in March to increase BCSC graduation rates.

The BCSC iGrad program is designed to help at-risk students in grades 8 to 12 meet graduation requirements and move onto post-secondary education or into the workforce.

Roberts told the commission that the district’s graduation rate was 90 percent for the 2015-16 school year, compared to 80.6 percent from five year earlier in 2010-11, with iGrad contributing to that improvement. Roberts also said that the number of BCSC high school dropouts has fallen 59 percent during that five-year span.

The district is seeking $253,825 in TIF funds toward the iGrad program, the same amount it received last year, Roberts said.

Roberts reported on the Columbus-based district’s STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — program by highlighting goals and metrics. One of those goals included increasing the number of summer high school internships available for students, Roberts said.

He added that the district has partnered with Work One, which has provided résumé-writing services for students in fields such as welding, precision machining, pre-engineering and electronics. The Columbus Area Career Connection (C4) also supports students by helping them get summer employment, Roberts said.

The district has also hired staff and is certified in STEM courses such as construction and automotive programs, said Roberts, who requested $178,778 for capital projects intended to support middle and high school lab equipment that would supplement science textbooks and resources. In addition, BCSC is seeking $50,000 for professional development to support STEM science instruction on new equipment and resources.

Those two items add up to $228,778, which is about $20,000 less than in 2016, when the commission awarded $249,379 for the district’s STEM program.

BCSC is also seeking $267,397 that would be used to support transition planning, a program that helps special-needs students prepare for a career after high school. District officials received $246,796 in 2016 for transition planning, but Roberts said officials plan to provide initial training to new teachers and to provide additional training and support to teachers that were trained during the 2016-17 school year.

BCSC also plans to survey special education teachers to obtain feedback about transition planning, he said.

Commission president Sarah Cannon said the commission did not give the district certain metrics it was required to meet, but noted city officials wanted to see positive outcomes through the workforce development programs.

“I’m really pleased with their continued commitment to make it even stronger,” she said.

The commission is expected to consider the request for TIF funding during its Aug. 21 meeting. If a recommendation is made, it must receive final approval by Columbus City Council since the proposed amount exceeds $500,000.

Proposed funding breakdown

Here is a breakdown for $750 that Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is seeking from the city of Columbus for workforce development programs.

iGrad: $253,825 to support its iGrad program, which serves students in grades 8-12 to help them meet graduation requirements to move onto post-secondary education or the workforce.

STEM: $178,778 for capital projects to support middle and high school science lab equipment that would go with textbooks and resources for science; additional $50,000 for professional development to support STEM science instruction on new equipment and resources.

Transition planning: $267,397 to fund transition planning, a program that helps special-needs students prepare for a career after high school.

What's next

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission will consider a request from Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. seeking $750,000 in tax increment financing funds during its Aug. 21 meeting at Columbus City Hall. If a recommendation is made, the matter would require final approval by Columbus City Council.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com