U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued final guidance Thursday on how districts can comply with a rule that federal funds are used to supplement and not replace state and local dollars for education. The guidance says districts must show the methods they use to allocate state and local funds are “Title I neutral.” In other words, schools should receive all of the state and local funds they would receive if they were not Title I schools — but districts are not required to spell out which costs or services paid for with Title I dollars are supplemental. The new rule is intended to “reduce administrative burden, simplify compliance and promote effective spending,” according to the Department of Education press release.
Analysis: Historic 14-day teacher strike in New Haven, California, ends with deal in which educators lost money
Teachers in California’s New Haven Unified School District voted 302 to 200 Sunday to ratify a two-year contract, ending a 14-day strike. The union’s bargaining chair “acknowledged that teachers overall lost 7.5 percent of their salaries while striking, so those retiring this year will lose money for their efforts.” Not just retirees. A $75,000-a-year teacher lost $5,625 during the strike, leaving her $341 in the hole even at the end of the second year. And that’s assuming the district was offering nothing. In fact, the district’s last offer before the strike was a 3 percent bonus and a 1 percent increase. That’s at least $3,000 in additional money without a strike, depending on whether the increase was for the first year or second.
Despite years of states pumping more money into schools, at least 22 states plus Washington D.C., up through 2017, still had not reached pre-recession funding levels, according to the CBPP. In Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Florida, funding remains more than 10 percent below pre-recession levels, according to the study. The threat of another recession has school finance analysts warning districts to judiciously spend any extra money they get this year. Set aside money in an emergency fund, they advise, and think twice before giving teachers permanent raises that might be unsustainable.
Officials from Chicago Public Schools and most city charter school networks have agreed on a new formula setting the amount of taxpayer dollars that go from the district to each privately managed, publicly funded campus. The new formula returns the charters to the student-based budgeting model that district schools use, including a 2.5 percent increase that amounts to a funding boost of $19 million, according to CPS. CPS said the formula needed tweaking in the wake of the state’s new school funding formula, passed in 2017; the new formula is credited with greatly improving the perennially cash-strapped district’s financial footing. It also resulted in a windfall for charters, requiring districts to provide between 97 and 103 percent of per-capita tuition to charters, up from the 75 to 125 percent range previously required.
Roza & Drew: L.A. District is asking for a $500 million parcel tax. In return, let the schools decide how to spend their new funds
For LAUSD, a decentralized model would be a smart move as it asks local voters to approve a $500 million annual parcel tax on June 4. Trust in the district’s financial leadership is low, schools feel squeezed with reports that performance is lagging, and the district is bleeding cash to cover commitments made in years past. Some groups are rightly asking for financial reform in return for approving the parcel tax. Health care benefits alone consume a whopping $2,300 per pupil per year (much of it for retirees) — more than in within-state urban peer districts. And yet LAUSD leadership has been unable to muster the support needed to rein in these expenses. That’s where a decentralized model can help. When finances are shifted to schools, schools get to make trade-offs with their money, choosing where and how to trim to save valued staff. Where those choices bump up against labor contract provisions, schools can and should make their case for more flexibility. In the long run, doing so could influence negotiations between the district and union.
Five years ago, Seattle residents voted for a ballot measure to raise property taxes, generating $58 million to fund an overhaul of existing preschools, some of which are run by nonprofits or out of homes, and create new ones. By the 2017-2018 school year, students in Seattle Preschool Program schools had made significant gains on vocabulary, literacy and math tests compared with a nationally representative sample of children who took the same tests. In November, 68.5 percent of Seattle voters agreed to continue the tax increase to pay for even more preschool seats. Public preschool isn’t just a West Coast trend. Cities throughout the country are offering first-rate, affordable preschool to low- and middle-income families squeezed by rising housing costs. Cincinnati voters said yes to higher property taxes. “We can’t wait around for support at the state and federal level,” said Shiloh Turner, executive director of Cincinnati Preschool Promise. “That’s precisely why so many local efforts to fund preschool have popped up. You can make it happen at the local level because we know the community’s needs best.”
New historical federal data shows school spending in recent years continued to climb as state and local sales, income and property tax revenue rebounded. The National Center for Education Statistics this week reported that K-12 revenue was up 3.2 percent between fiscal years 2015 and 2016 and spending in fiscal year 2016 climbed 2.4 percent to around $10,800 per student. The report provides an annual detailed look at the most recently available federal, state, and local spending on districts across the country. While lagging by three years, it shows that K-12 revenue and spending since the recession continued to tick upward for rural, suburban and urban districts across the country.
Across sectors, adopting new technology is the easy part. Much more difficult is implementing those tools smartly, learning how to use them well, taking care of them over time, and evaluating whether they’re actually effective. When the former consistently happens, but the latter does not, people are bound to roll their eyes at promises that “innovation” will bring about dramatic improvements. Six months after becoming superintendent, Doug Brubaker began rolling out a new, community-driven strategic-planning process. It culminated last year with Fort Smith voters approving their first tax hike to support public schools in more than three decades. Included in the new millage proposal: $825,000 a year in recurring, reliable funding to expand the Chromebook initiative and make sure the devices can be refreshed every four years.
A report released by Education Trust last year revealed that, after adjusting for the additional costs of educating low-income students, the highest poverty districts in Rhode Island receive $2,282 or 14% less per student in state and local funding than those with the least poverty. What is causing this gap for Providence? City leadership has flat-funded K-12 education for almost a decade, despite unavoidable cost increases (including building maintenance, busing, and cost-of-living adjustments). District leadership has had no choice but to cut critical supports and services to provide a balanced budget to the city. State leadership has increased education funding to Providence each year, but not by enough to meet the needs of our growing low-income and English Learner student populations… Basic supports for strong learning environments, such as teacher assistants and training for school staff, should be increasing, but, instead, are at constant risk of being cut.
Most Chicago schools will get a budget boost this fall as the city adds new programs and props up spending at schools with low enrollment. But a third of city-run schools will see their budgets decline amid a shift in the way Chicago funds school budgets. Overall, Chicago Public Schools will send $60 million more to schools next school year, according to numbers shared with principals on Monday. That total reflects nearly $90 million in new programs — and a $30 million loss at several schools because of overall declining enrollment. A large portion of the money — $31 million — will go to “equity grants” to 219 schools that are struggling with enrollment. The money is intended to help those schools maintain or even bulk up programs with the aim of attracting more families. The district will spread another $6 million among 100 or so schools with the highest concentrations of English language learners.