In order to meet ESSA’s requirement that they calculate and report how much gets spent in each school, state and local officials have had to separate out overhead and classroom costs, an arduous, months-long process. Several states had to purchase new school finance software or rejigger existing school finance software in order to figure out new categories of spending. According to an analysis by Edunomics, a school finance think tank at Georgetown University, at least 14 states now have published school-by-school spending amounts. Using this data, state lawmakers in New York and Georgia already have used the school spending amounts as a tool to scrutinize how districts spend a growing pot of state funds. That process has been politically contentious.
After announcing last month that it would cut more than 150 administrative positions from its administrative staff, Denver Public Schools (DPS) has begun the process. The cuts will direct $17 million toward raising pay for district employees and teachers — who went on strike in February to demand higher salaries — and additional funds will go to special education services. Many blame inflated district administrations for suppressing teachers’ pay. Some critics say there aren’t too many administrators, and that these figures don’t make up a significant percentage of employees in public school districts. Additionally, others argue there are reasons for any growth in number of administrators. For one thing, if it wasn’t for these staff members, the tasks they complete would fall on the shoulders of faculty members.
America’s $23 billion school funding gap: Despite court rulings on equity, new report finds startling racial imbalance
Despite pivotal finance rulings, school funding in New Jersey, California, and New York remains among the most inequitable in the nation according to the new report by EdBuild, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on education spending. Nationally, EdBuild researchers found that school districts that mostly serve nonwhite students get $23 billion less in state and local spending each year than those with predominantly white student populations — even though they educate roughly the same number of children. Racial disparities in funding persisted even when poverty was considered. Nationally, poor white districts received nearly $1,500 more per student than districts serving poor nonwhite kids. Poor nonwhite districts got less money than low-income white districts in 17 states and they got more in 12 states.
Union report: Oakland teachers are set to strike. Just like in L.A., a ‘leap of faith’ will be needed to end it
A day after a state fact-finding panel released its report on Friday, the Oakland Education Association announced a strike date of Feb. 21. The union is demanding a cumulative raise of 12 percent over the three years of the contract. The district is offering 5 percent. The two sides still have differences over class sizes, charter schools and a handful of smaller issues. Panel chair Najeeb Khoury appears to have made progress on bridging those gaps. But his proposal for salaries will sound familiar to those who followed the Los Angeles teacher strike or recently negotiated contracts for other school employees across the state. “It is clear that [Oakland Unified School District’s] proposal of a 5 percent raise over three years will not keep pace with inflation,” Khoury wrote. “It is also clear that [the district] will have a very difficult time affording a 12 percent raise over three years, as it is in a structural deficit.” His solution? “I am recommending a 3 percent raise for 17-18, a 3 percent raise for 18-19 and an economic reopener for 19-20,” he wrote. Those numbers are similar to the settlement in L.A. and in other areas of the state.
The L.A. teacher strike may be over, but observers warn there’s no ‘clear path forward’ for how the school district can afford its new contract
The L.A. Unified school board has approved a contract with its teachers union that officials admit they can’t fully afford, calling the deal’s sustainability into question as the district receives repeated warnings from the county that it’s in severe financial straits. To shoulder about $840 million in added costs through 2021, district officials say they’re largely relying on more state funding and a 2020 California tax referendum — neither of which are guaranteed. District board members could also float a parcel tax, though it’s been unpopular in the past. Short-term fixes so far include cuts to the central office and the reassignment of some funds within the budget, a spokeswoman said via email.
In a December 2018 report, the U.S. Department of Education quietly noted an important milestone: spending by state and local governments, on average, was strong enough during the 2015-16 school year to return annual per-student spending to what it had been before 2008-9 recession and even grew above the pre-recession peak. This 2015-16 spending represents a 1 percent real improvement over that previous high point. These national numbers are just averages. Some states spent more than double what other states spent. While many states increased financing for schools, others did not. In a few states, such as Kansas and Oklahoma, education spending remained lower than it was before the recession, after adjusting for inflation. “There is more spread across states in state and local funding than ever before,” wrote Marguerite Roza, the director of the Edunomics Lab, in an e-mail. “While the national averages tell one story, that story may not apply to some states.”
The annual mean wage for teachers in California is $74,940 and $75,000 in the LAUSD, and while teacher pay is a significant issue for protesting educators, the current teachers strike in Los Angeles is also about class size. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Alex Caputo-Pearl explains why class size was such an important issue for educators. “Class sizes often exceed 45 students in secondary schools; 35 students in upper elementary grades; and 25 students in lower elementary grades,” he writes. “It is downright shameful that the richest state in the country ranks 43rd out of 50 when it comes to per-pupil spending.
The cost of sending students with disabilities to private schools has doubled since de Blasio was sworn in and has reached $325 million per year. Officials said 4,431 students with disabilities attended private schools paid for by the education department in fiscal year 2017, according to the most recent data obtained by Chalkbeat, a third more than in 2014. The sharp increase is notable because it suggests the city is increasingly acknowledging that it can’t provide an adequate education to students with disabilities within traditional public schools. Chancellor Richard Carranza acknowledged that the city doesn’t offer the full range of programs that are listed on student’s learning plans but argued it would be more cost effective for the city to create programs on its own.
How many K-12 public schools, districts, and students are there? And how much are we, as a nation, spending on the education of these youth? The Education Week library provides answers to these questions. In 2014-15, $625 billion was spent on public elementary and secondary education by local, state, and federal agencies. On average, the nation spends $12,536 to educate each student. These expenditures vary state to state. Vermont has the highest per-pupil expenditures in the nation at $20,795, as adjusted for variations in regional costs. At the other end of the scale, Utah spends the least at $7,207 per student.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other lawmakers have promised they will tackle “school finance” in the 2019 legislative session, but it’s already clear that not everyone is talking about the same thing. Those folks are all signaling an urgency, but their priorities differ: Property tax relief? Leveling the state and local shares of public education spending? More money for schools? This much is clear: They don’t have the money on hand to do much of anything with even one of those questions. That raises another question: How will they pay for whatever they decide to do? Even if it’s possible to line up the priorities, the numbers are daunting. Local taxpayers will be on the hook for 55.5 percent of the cost of public education in 2019, according to estimates by the Legislative Budget Board. The state will be responsible for 35 percent, and the federal government will make up the rest.