FAQ: Partnership Fund & School Support Funds

  • BPS has used the Opportunity Index for the past three fiscal year cycles to allocate two central sources of funding: the Partnership Fund and School Support Funds. Together, these two funding sources – totaling approximately $9 million – represent almost 1 percent of the $1.29 billion BPS budget. BPS anticipates continuing to use the Opportunity Index to allocate these funds for the 2021-2022 school year (fiscal year 2022), pending approval from the Boston School Committee and the Boston City Council.

    What is the Partnership Fund?

    The Partnership Fund is a new way of allocating funding from the central office to a particular set of schools to select and engage external, non-profit partner organizations that provide ongoing direct services to BPS students, families, school staff, and/or other members of the school community. For FY22, the Partnership Fund plans to allocate about $6 million to schools.

    Which schools will receive financial support through the Partnership Fund?

    In FY22, schools with an Opportunity Index score greater than or equal to 0.56 will receive an allocation from the Partnership Fund. Each school’s allocation will be calculated based on student enrollment and its level of need, as determined by the Opportunity Index.

    How will schools spend their Partnership Fund allocations to engage partners?

    Schools will be empowered and held accountable to choose and fund one or more partners to provide services that best meet their needs of their school communities and advance their goals and priorities. Partnership funds are restricted to services that are provided by school-community partners.  BPS defines school-community partner as: an organization, group or coalition that intentionally collaborates with at least one BPS school to provide an ongoing direct service to BPS students, families, staff and/or other members of the school community.  Schools may use Partnership Funds to contract with partners that provide services that enhance the educational output of the schools, provided that such contracts have the effect of augmenting or supplementing services and personnel rather than replacing or supplementing them.  

    How has this funding source historically been allocated for partnerships?

    Historically, BPS has earmarked a pool of central office funds for nonprofit organizations to partner with a subset of schools across the district. Previous to the funding shift, BPS allocated about $5.7 million in central office funds to 15 partner organizations working in a total of 70 schools. In the past, central office leaders decided which partners were funded, how much funding they received, and which schools they served.

    Why did BPS take this new approach to allocating central office partnership funds?

    The current approach to allocating dollars to partner organizations presents a number of challenges, including the following:

    • Partnership services have not been equitably distributed across schools based on student need. Historically, there has been no mechanism to ensure that partners are assigned to the schools and students in greatest need of support. Some schools receive a disproportionate amount of partnership funding and services, while others receive none, with no systematic consideration for the level of school or student need.
    • Schools have had little to no voice in the selection of their partners or the work they undertake. For the most part, decisions have been made at the district level about which partners are funded and which schools they serve. As a result, schools often have had a limited, if any, role in selecting partners or identifying services based on their students’ needs and interests or their school improvement goals and plans.
    • Non-profit organizations not currently receiving partnership funding have had limited access to funding opportunities for working with schools. Most of the major contracts awarded through the current approach to partnership funding have been renewed annually, without much opportunity for other organizations to apply for funding or propose work with schools. 
    • There has been no transparent or open system for accessing partnership funds. The Opportunity Index provides an equitable mechanism for allocating this funding based on student need.

    How does the new Partnership Fund improve equity in allocating the funding?

    Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year (Fiscal Year 2019), the Partnership Fund was allocated equitably to a subset of schools identified as having the most significant need for partnership support. Funding is awarded through an allocation formula based on the BPS Opportunity Index.

    Are school and district partnerships funded in other ways?

    Yes. The Partnership Fund represents only a portion of BPS investment in contracts with partner organizations, because individual schools and other central offices also use portions of their budgets for contracted services with local, regional, and national non-profit partners.

    How does the new Partnership Fund give schools a greater role in decision-making about partnerships?

    BPS will empower and grant significant autonomy to schools for selecting the partners contracted through the Partnership Fund. Every school with an allocation will engage in a partner selection process led by the Principal or Headmaster, working closely with the Instructional Leadership Team and the School Site Council, and advised by the School Superintendent and Development and Partnerships. The school community will closely examine the needs of its students – based on achievement data and other indicators -- as well as the goals and targets in its Quality School Plan to prioritize the programs and services it seeks from one or more partner organizations. Schools will use the district’s Racial Equity Protocol to guide the selection process.

    How does district support schools in the partner review and selection process?

    The Office of Student, Family, and Community Advancement's (OFSCA) Development and Partnerships team collaborates with schools and other key central office departments to provide partners with supports to ensure effective implementation of the Partnership Fund.

    Partners selected for funding will receive the following supports:

    1. Partnership Fund Liaison: Every Partner selected for funding from the Partnership Fund will have a Partnership Fund Liaison from the central office who will support them in navigating the Partnership Fund process. Contact Margaret Farmer, Executive Director of Development & Partnerships at mfarmer2@bostonpublicschools.org with questions.
    2. Partnership Fund Planning Call: Partnership Fund Liaisons will schedule calls with any partner selected to receive Partnership Funds for the first time. Calls for all other partners selected for funding will be optional. The call will be used to familiarize partners with Partnership Fund process, discuss schools who have selected the partner.
    3. Partner Promotion Opportunities: The Development and Partnerships team puts together a variety of resources to ensure that schools are aware of the plethora of partner opportunities available to them. These resources include: the annual Opportunity Portfolio Catalog, Partner Showcases, and PartnerBPS.org.
    4. PartnerBPS.org: PartnerBPS.org serves as the system for managing the Partnership Fund. Partners will be able to use the site to access information about schools who have selected them for funding, as well as requisition and purchase order status. Email partnerbps@bostonpublicschools.org if you have any trouble logging onto or using the site.
    5. Brokering of Partnerships: Development & Partnerships will work with School Superintendents, school contacts, and partners to broker partnerships based upon schools’ Partner Preference Form.
    6. Partnership Procurement Support and Guidance: BPS central offices will be responsible for working with partners to complete the public procurement processes necessary to create funding contracts. This public procurement is an essential component of the Partnership Fund. It will not guarantee that all partners selected by schools receive funding, but it will ensure that the schools receive the partner services they need. Additionally, BPS will distribute guidance to partners and schools around partnership fund spending.
    7. Partnership Fund Evaluation: BPS Central Office will work with schools and partners to analyze the impact of the Partnership Fund on closing opportunity and achievement gaps. It will do so through annual collection and analysis of student enrollment data in programs funded through the Partnership Fund. This data will be shared back with schools and partners to support in future Partnership Fund decision-making.

    How will the new Partnership Fund create access for other non-profit partners?

    Under the new approach, schools may consider any local, regional, or national non-profit organization in which to invest their allocation. However, beginning in the spring of 2017, the Development and Partnerships team launched a process for partner organizations to apply for selection as Portfolio Partners. After a thorough review and vetting process, selected partners are identified as “preferred” BPS partners that have demonstrated particular skills, qualifications, expertise, and experience in supporting schools and students.  

    What additional resources are available to Portfolio Partners?

    BPS works closely with the Portfolio Partners to create a catalog to assist schools in identifying potential partners. The district also hosts a Portfolio Partners Showcase to give schools opportunities to meet providers in person to learn more about their programs and services.

    The Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) received partnership funds through the central office in FY18 but is not included in this new approach. Why not?

    The PIC is the official workforce development agency for the Boston Public Schools. As such, it receives funding from the federal government to provide services to our students. We are required by law to contribute to this work. The Commonwealth requires BPS to invest in career readiness for high school students, including work-based learning, and we are committed to doing so. In addition, the Commonwealth matches the BPS investment in school-to-career connecting activities through a complimentary annual grant, funded by the state legislature.  The PIC has developed relationships with over 150 employers who work through the PIC as an intermediary, rather than dealing with multiple high schools separately. No other organization is positioned to replicate this system. BPS will contract with the PIC for approximately $1 million in FY22.

    What is the financial impact of this new approach on schools and partners?

    This new approach to central office funding for partnerships has resulted in a significant reallocation of resources. The outcomes will be experienced positively by some schools and partners and negatively by others. The Boston Public Schools has acknowledged that these changes will be difficult, particularly in the first year or two of implementation, but that they are critical for affirming the district’s core values and advancing the district’s goals for student success.

    Can schools use their allocation to hire a partnership coordinator?

    Yes. Any school with an allocation from the Partnership Fund may use a portion of the funds for up to a 0.2 full-time equivalent (FTE) position dedicated to developing and supporting partnerships. Schools with an allocation of $150,000 or more from the Partnership Fund may be eligible to hire staff for more than 0.2 FTE, up to 1.0 FTE.

    Can multiple schools pool their Partnership Fund allocations for shared partnerships?

    Yes. If schools seek to pool their Partnership Funds to establish shared partnerships, they will work with their Partnership Fund Liaisons and the partner to determine the scope of service for this shared partnership.  Not all partnership program models are able to be shared across schools, so sharing partnerships is contingent upon the partner agreeing to this type of program. If the partner is amenable to sharing partnerships, then the schools, partners and the Office of Engagement’s School-Community Partnership will work to create and implement a shared school partnership model.

    Can schools enter into multi-year agreements with partners?

    Although our intent is for schools to enter into multi-year agreements with partners, Partnership Fund allocations are given to schools annually, contingent upon the availability of funds. For this reason, school funding agreements with partners must be renewed on an annual basis, contingent upon available funding. Continuation of any partner agreement also will be dependent upon both parties – school and partner – meeting the expectations outlined in the school-based partnership agreement, which will be reviewed annually.

    What are School Support Funds?

    The City of Boston has earmarked an additional pool of about $5 million for FY22 to allocate to schools, in part to assist schools through the transition to a new approach to partnership funding. These funds, called School Support Funds, also will be allocated using the Opportunity Index.

    Which schools will receive School Support Funds?

    In FY22, schools with an Opportunity Index score greater than or equal to 0.35 will receive an allocation, based on student enrollment and level of need. School Support Funds are unrestricted funding awarded centrally to support schools’ academic goals and priorities.

    What if a school does not use all of its allocation from the Partnership Fund or School Support Funds?

    If a school does not use all of its allocation, it could choose to share it with other schools that have significant need. The school should notify the Development and Partnerships team (Miriam Rubin, mrubin3@bostonpublicschools.org), who will help ensure that any unused funds are reallocated to the school(s) next “in line” in terms of Opportunity Index scores and need.

    Who should I contact with questions about the Partnership Fund?

    Questions about the Partnership Fund can be directed to Margaret Farmer, Executive Director of Development & Partnerships at mfarmer2@bostonpublicschools.org.