As classrooms and textbooks crumble from neglect and resources run thin, teachers from both parties are running for office in unprecedented numbers this year in hopes of gaining a political voice in Washington and in statehouses across the country. More than 300 educators are on ballots, more than double the 2014 and 2016 numbers, in a grassroots movement following strikes that shuttered schools in such states as West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado.
In its most recent ruling on the Texas school finance system, the Texas Supreme Court wrote that the system needed “transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid.” That’s why Governor Abbot urged the Legislature to create the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. It’s clear to the Supreme Court, and to most Texans, that just throwing more money at a flawed system isn’t going to fix anything. Instead, the focus must be on strategies that are most likely to help students achieve academic growth. “We need to pay our best teachers more, reward teachers and districts for student growth, prioritize spending in the classroom and reduce the burden of skyrocketing property taxes. I’ll add up front that I believe the state will have to provide more funding,” said Abbott.
Education advocates have insisted the state has skimped on funding its schools. But New York State already has the highest per-student funding rate of any in the country — could moving that number up make a difference? The answer is yes, according to a new study of over 600 districts across the state. The researchers found that increased per-student spending led to higher math and reading scores on state tests. “The fact that we find positive effects of increased spending even in New York State, which boasts the highest per-pupil spending in the country, suggests that resources are important even above some adequacy threshold,” wrote co-authors Philip Gigliotti and Lucy Sorensen, both affiliated with the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany.
Most Michigan residents believe the state’s current method of funding schools is both insufficient and unfair. Those were the findings of a new statewide poll that was conducted in June by the School Finance Research Collaborative, a prominent group of Michigan educators, policymakers, and business leaders that has called for major changes to the way schools are funded. The poll follows a report the collaborative released in January, which recommended sweeping changes to the way schools in Michigan are funded. Instead of sending schools the same amount per student, the report recommended providing schools with additional funds for students who are learning English, living in poverty or facing other challenges.
The state of school security spending: Here’s how states have poured $900 million into student safety since the Parkland shooting
Legislators in at least 26 states poured at least $950 million into school safety programs this year in the wake of the Parkland shooting and additional shootings in Maryland, Texas, and elsewhere. The amounts ranged widely by state, from $300,000 in Missouri to $400 million in Florida. They include only what’s being spent this year, though some states allocated a larger amount over a few years. Most of the money was spent on security upgrades and school resource officers, but the tally also includes funding allocated for mental health programs, violence prevention, emergency planning, and anonymous phone and texting tip lines.
Texas is facing a huge problem of its own creation: how to find, evaluate and properly teach as many as 200,000 students wrongly denied special education or overlooked as it sought to limit spending for the nation’s fastest-growing school population. And then there’s the question of how Texas, under orders from the U.S. government, will pay for it all. The federal mandate, intended to make up for a de facto cap put in place by the Texas Education Agency in 2004, may amount to the biggest single expansion of special education services ever.
Fortified by fences and patrolled by more armed personnel, schools will open their doors to students for the start of the new year with a heightened focus on security intended to ease fears about deadly campus shootings… In Florida, armed guards will be posted on almost every campus. In Indiana, some schools will be getting hand-held metal detectors. In Western New York, some schools plan to upgrade their surveillance cameras to include facial recognition… Six months after the rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, public schools have embraced expensive and sometimes controversial safety measures. For more detail on how Districts in Florida are working to fund the additional security resources, see ‘Florida schools struggle to meet security rule’.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other school choice fans were excited about the potential of a new pilot program in ESSA that allows districts to combine federal, state, and local dollars into a single funding stream tied to individual students. English-language learners, children in poverty, and students in special education—who cost more to educate—would carry with them more money than other students… So far, though, there haven’t been many takers. The law allows up to 50 districts to participate in the first few years of the pilot, with the possibility of more joining in down the road if things are running smoothly. But only one district—Arizona’s Roosevelt School District #66—has applied to use the flexibility in the 2019-20 school year by a July 15 deadline.
Some students have needs so severe that districts struggle to afford what it takes to provide them with a free and appropriate education, a right guaranteed by federal law. Seattle Public Schools, for example, enrolled a handful of students last year who required services that cost between $300,000 and $500,000 each. Now, a legislative work group is asking the public to weigh in on a draft list of recommendations that could make it easier for school districts to collect additional state and federal funds to help cover some of those costs.
Schools serving Navajo Nation, strapped for resources to transport kids long distances, hope for bus money
The bus service is a lifeline districts in and around the reservation struggle to pay for every year as they grapple with heavy costs associated with the long, often mountainous drives and a long history of cuts in education funding by the state. Gov. Doug Ducey announced in June that, using $38 million from a legal settlement, he would buy 281 buses across the state for low-income schools. The money would replace vehicles that have more than 100,000 miles on them or are more than 15 years old in districts where more than 60 percent or more students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.