Tucked into a report filed with the $1.3 trillion government funding bill passed last week is a reminder to states — through the federal Education Department — that their ESSA accountability plans must include assurances that they’ll require districts to use school improvement dollars for organizations or individuals “that have practical expertise in the development or use of evidence-based strategies and programs to improve teaching, learning, and schools.”
Indianapolis, Puerto Rico, and three other school districts have applied to join the Every Student Succeeds Act’s weighted student-funding pilot during the 2018-19 school year. Participating districts can 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.
The walkout in Oklahoma — which could stretch for days — is part of a wave of educator revolts striking states where tax cuts have drained state funding for schools. In Kentucky, teachers rallied Monday in Frankfort, the state capital, against teacher pension reforms, shutting down schools in a dozen districts. In Arizona, teachers have threatened to strike if they do not get a 20 percent raise and an infusion of money into schools.
The survey asks districts about whether they offer financial incentives either to help recruit new teachers or to target bonus payment to specific teachers. The survey provides eight different financial incentive options. The first four types of incentives are intended as recruitment tools and are, by nature, short-term rewards. The remaining four incentives are intended to reward specific types of teachers or those filling specific needs the district may have, and the reward is generally more permanent.
Beaverton is one of a rapidly expanding network of districts in the Smarter School Spending coalition, which uses so-called “continuous improvement” tools to integrate budget and academic staff and planning in schools. Instead of a small circle of staff poring over spreadsheets in marathon budget meetings once or twice a year, the districts involve everyone from finance officers and principals to teachers and janitors in ongoing conversations about solving instructional problems in sustainable ways.
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In one such study, infusions of dollars to poor school districts, as a result of court-ordered reform, led to a 10% increase in the predicted graduation rate for students from low-income families and a projected 10% rise in their lifetime earnings. Other research found that increasing K-12 spending by 10% added a half-year of schooling and a wage boost of nearly 10%. “A 22 percent increase in per-pupil spending,” the study concluded “is [estimated to be] large enough to eliminate the education gap between children from low-income and nonpoor families.”
Over a nine year period, pension funding in the state’s budget increased from $624 million in 2008 to $1.5 billion in 2017. Such increases divert funds from other government priorities such as public education, or force the government to take on more debt through increased deficit spending, thereby worsening the state’s financial position even further.
A plan to provide taxpayer-funded accounts for parents looking to enroll their kids in private schools was hailed Thursday as a viable option to spur educational choice. But critics said it could siphon money from already cash-starved public schools struggling to meet students’ needs.
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He said the commission has also heard from school leaders with innovative ideas on subjects such as how to keep the best teachers at the most challenging schools and how to use full-day pre-K to get students at an academic baseline early in life. “Those two things without question cannot be funded or sustained with the current funding levels we have,” Bernal said. “Even the districts that piloted it said they were about to run out of money.”
The change is expected to save the district about $1 million a year, but Brighton Superintendent Chris Fiedler previously told Chalkbeat that the biggest benefit will be “to attract and retain teachers” in a district whose salaries are among the lowest in the metro area. “I realize this will be a significant change for our students, their families, and the communities we are so fortunate to serve, but our district can no longer be expected to do more with less financial resources,” Fiedler said in a press release.