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Washington Post, 8/27/18

2 in 3 Americans say public school teachers are underpaid

A new poll shows that most Americans say public-school teachers are underpaid. 73 percent said they would support public-school teachers in their community if they went on strike for higher pay. Support was even higher among parents of public-school students who would be most affected, at 78 percent. The survey also found two-thirds of people say teacher salaries are too low. That general impression was affirmed when people were asked about $39,000 as a starting salary — the national average; 65 percent said that was too low. Conversely, just 6 percent of all adults said teacher salaries are too high.

New York Times, 8/23/18

Betsy DeVos eyes federal education grants to put guns in schools

Back-to-back school shootings this year and inquiries from the state of Texas have prompted the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to examine whether to allow states to tap the school enrichment fund for another purpose: guns. Such a move would reverse a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weaponry. As recently as March, Congress passed a school safety bill that allocated $50 million a year to local school districts, but expressly prohibited the use of the money for firearms. The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in 2015, is silent on weapons purchases, and that omission would allow Ms. DeVos to use her discretion to approve or deny any state or district plans to use the enrichment grants under the measure for firearms and firearm training, unless Congress clarifies the law or bans such funding through legislative action.

Education Week, 8/28/18

With $92 million in grants, Gates Foundation launches newest strategy to improve K-12 schools

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced more than $90 million in grants to support networks of schools’ work to help students of color and low-income students into college—marking its first major wave of K-12 giving since announcing a significant change in direction last fall.  In all, the $90 million is the first of what Gates says will be about $460 million spent to coordinate networks of schools that will work to tackle specific problems that can trip up low-income students and students of color on their way to high school graduation and college.

Education Week, 8/24/18

District spending is about to get a lot more transparent. Are you ready?

ESSA requires districts to publish per-pupil allocations for actual personnel and non-personnel expenditures by each funding source (federal, state, and local funds), for each district, and school on their annual report cards. In the short term, superintendents and principals will need to get on the same page about current district allocation policies and practices, why some schools appear to get more resources than others, and how this all aligns with the stated vision and mission of the district. Over the long term, the new expenditure reporting requirements will push superintendents to be more strategic about managing productivity. This new transparency will make it easier for the public to investigate the relationship between academic and financial data.

Education Week, 8/22/18

Staff benefits are eating up bigger shares of district budgets, report finds

School districts are spending bigger chunks of their budgets on staff benefits, leaving less money to spend in the classroom, a new study finds. Nationally, from 2005 to 2014, instructional spending increased by 2.6 percent, while spending on benefits for instructional staff members grew by 24 percent. Since education budgets have been largely flat, this means that spending on benefits is eating up more of districts’ money, and fewer dollars are making it into the classroom. Benefits are largely composed of health care and pension costs. Over the last decade, spending on teacher health-care benefits is up 30 percent, and spending on teacher retirement costs is up more than 50 percent, according to the report.

Related, this article summarizes the report’s recommended steps to addressing the problem: “Skyrocketing Spending on Benefits Hurts Teachers and the Schools That Employ Them. 4 Steps Toward Fixing That.”

Finally, for a specific example of the impact of the increasing cost of healthcare, see “LAUSD Is Now Diverting $2,300 Per Student to Cover Health Insurance Costs — 36 Percent More Than 5 Years Ago. Why the School Board Is Rushing to Avert a ‘Fiscal Cliff’”

Chalkbeat, 8/15/18

Poll: Most residents want Michigan to change the way it funds schools

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.

WTTW, 8/8/18

CPS spending $10M on Sustainable Schools Pilot Program

Twenty Chicago public elementary and high schools will split $10 million in a new pilot program aimed at connecting school communities with local after-school, health and family engagement services. These schools, which are mainly located on the South and West sides of the city, will each receive $500,000 in district funding for the upcoming school year. CPS said that money will be used to help build supportive classroom environments that work with social support services to strengthen student achievement. Jaribu Lee, a coordinator with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, said the sustainable community schools model is built on six tenets: engaging curriculum, high-quality teaching, wrap-around supports, restorative justice discipline, parent engagement and inclusive school leadership.

The 74 Million, 8/20/18

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.

Education Dive, 8/20/18

Students of color in low-poverty, diverse schools still face achievement gaps

While faring better than their peers in high-poverty schools, students of color and low-income students in wealthier schools still lag behind their higher-income and white classmates. This is largely due to unequal access to educational, personal and sociopolitical resources outside of school, according to an extensive report by Public Impact, commissioned by the Oak Foundation. The authors recommend that leaders of low-poverty schools do more to provide “outstanding learning for all, secure and healthy learners, and a culture of equity within low- and moderate-poverty schools.” The report examined approaches with evidence of boosting outcomes for disadvantaged students without reducing the availability of advanced instruction.

Bloomberg, 8/21/18

Texas saved billions cutting special education. Now the bill comes due.

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.