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.
America’s schools are starved for funds, and teachers are paying the price. Recent strikes are only a symptom of this disease.
These strikes are the symptom of a larger disease within our education system, where the support our students and teachers are receiving is as crumbling as the infrastructure of the schools. The strikes prove that our educational system’s problems are deeper and broader than individual protests about teacher wages and benefits. Everywhere, America’s schools are pressed for resources and facing dire conditions that unfairly hinder students’ ability to succeed. Our lawmakers are not adequately investing in education. Following the 2008 recession, many states sacrificed school funding in an attempt to make ends meet. However, in 29 states, total state and local school funding combined fell over the next eight years. Rather than tamp down teachers’ right to strike, as some states are looking to do, we must acknowledge these walkouts as a sign of the need for long-term solutions and increased investment in education.
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.