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Chang-Diaz pushing budget amendments on underperforming schools, alternative ed

The state Senate is scheduled to debate its version of the fiscal 2013 budget this week, and if it follows the House strategy, it'll happen in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it fashion. The debate is set to start on Wednesday, May 23rd.

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), the chair of the Senate's side of the Education Committee, filed a number of amendments, focusing on full day kindergarten, public health and youth violence prevention. Below the jump is a list of the amendments, provided by her office.

-- Full-Day Kindergarten: Full day kindergarten has been shown to lead to higher academic achievement, improve student attendance, support literacy and language development, and ultimately decrease public cost by reducing retention and remediation rates. Boston Public Schools guarantees full-day kindergarten for all 5 year-olds, and is working to expand the number of full-day kindergarten classrooms for younger ages. (Amendment: $24.9 million, up $2 million from last year.)

-- METCO: METCO benefits more than 35 school districts, both urban and suburban, and METCO students consistently surpass statewide averages in MCAS passage and high school graduation rates. Over 3,000 Boston students currently participate in the program. (Amendment: $19.3 million, up $1.7 million from last year.)

-- Summer Jobs Program for At Risk Youth: Youth jobs give people a positive vision for their futures and positive pathways for contributing to their families, while also building their skills. It is a highly effective strategy for protecting youth in the Second Suffolk District during the summer months when incidents of violence spike, lowering our dropout rates, and making our neighborhoods safer. (Amendment: $12 million, up $9 million from last year.)

-- Violence Prevention Grants: These 15 anti-violence programs are specifically designated to help prevent youth at risk from moving into high-risk categories through substance abuse, bullying, teen suicide, teen pregnancy, and dating violence education. (Amendment: $2 million, up $1 million from last year.)

-- Safe and Successful Youth Initiative: This grant program, initiated by Governor Patrick last year, distributes funds directly to the 11 cities and towns with the highest number of youth homicides and serious assaults in the state--and Boston is the biggest recipient of the money. It specifically targets young people who are at highest risk for being perpetrators or victims of gun violence. The program delivers education, jobs, trauma counseling, and street outreach services in the targeted communities. (Amendment: $10 million, level funded from last year.)

-- Targeted Intervention in Underperforming Schools: The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education utilizes this funding to provide targeted assistance to underperforming schools and districts—which is crucial to helping close the achievement gap. (Amendment: $9.3 million, up $2.6 million from last year.)

-- Preserving HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis Services: Supported by the HIV/AIDS organizations Project ABLE and Jamaica Plain-based AIDS Action Committee, as well as the Massachusetts Sheriffs Association, this amendment comes in response to federal cuts to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis treatment and prevention funding for the state’s county jails and houses of correction. This amendment would restore the $1.25 million Massachusetts will lose in federal funding.

-- Alternative Education: This program funds alternative education pathways for public school students who have not been successful in traditional schools and who have, in many cases, either dropped out of school, are at risk of doing so, or have been suspended or expelled. (Amendment: $4.8 million, up $4.6 million last year.)

-- Homeless Individuals Assistance: This funding is targeted at individuals who are homeless and to organizations that provide shelter and transitional housing. (Amendment: $38.9 million, up $1.2 million from last year.)

-- TAFDC: TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children) provides crucial temporary aid to families who are in economic distress and working to construct a ladder out of poverty. (Amendment: $318.9 million, up $2.9 million from last year.)