While last year’s teacher walkouts were focused primarily on stagnant wages and crumbling classrooms, the strike demands now are more far-reaching. Teachers are pushing back against education reform policies such as charter schools and performance-based pay. They’re also fighting for social-justice initiatives like sanctuary protections for undocumented students. Although some experts say there’s a risk of losing public support as teachers become more political in their demands, the strikes so far have retained community involvement and have all been relatively successful. Even as the protests move from red states to blue cities, there is still a coherent narrative in place: Teachers are underpaid, asked to do more with less, and fed up.
By preparing high-performing teachers to support their peers, Leading Educators is seeking to disrupt the multibillion-dollar professional development industry — one that research has repeatedly found “ineffective in supporting changes in teachers’ practices and student learning,” according to a study from the Learning Policy Institute… At roughly $880 per teacher, the program costs dramatically less than the $12,598 per teacher that a 2015 TNTP study conservatively estimated that large districts spend on traditional professional development… “I think we’re in a place and time where we as a field have realized we are not going to fire our way to improvement or recruit our way to improvement,” he said. “Of the 3.5 million teachers who are already teaching in the classroom, how are we helping create improvements in skill?”
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.
Chicago’s second charter school strike ended early Monday with the teachers union winning concessions on pay raises for teachers and paraprofessionals that will put their salaries on par with educators at non-charter schools. CICS had warned during the strike that it could face bankruptcy if it implemented all of the union’s demands. In a statement Monday, the network said that “In order to pay for such a significant salary increase, we will be forced to make certain cuts and compromises. For example, we will likely need to limit the number of instructional coaches, assistant principals and other valuable support staff members.”
Just like the years leading up to 2008, the last few years have yielded stronger growth in funds for schooling. And just like in 2008, there are signs of trouble ahead. For districts, a fiscal downturn can trigger the equivalent of a debilitating migraine: Pain comes from every direction and little seems to quell it. While we can’t predict how an economic downturn will affect every district, we can anticipate some big-picture trends, and in doing so potentially tweak the script. Dr. Marguerite Roza outlines these key trends that could help insulate school systems from needless churn, better equipping them to make it through the inevitable downturn ahead without extinguishing public good will.
Governors in recent years have been pouring money into school districts budgets, yet teachers’ pay has, for the most part, not budged. Driven in part by salary issues, teachers in Los Angeles went on strike, and teachers in Denver decided Wednesday to go on strike. So what’s up? Education Week outlines a few things district superintendents, CFOs, and school board members have said they think about when considering whether or not they should give their teachers a raise, including the dangers of using one-time money, back filling positions that were cut during the recession, reducing class sizes, and pensions.
The LAUSD-UTLA deal ignores the growing bite that retirement costs and underfunded pensions are taking out of the dollars earmarked for students and practicing teachers. Stanford’s Crane observes, “One-third of LAUSD’s retirement spending is for unnecessary, duplicative or excessive health insurance subsidies provided to retirees entitled to Medicare or ACA coverage. Terminating those subsidies could provide an immediate $10,000 salary increase for LAUSD teachers.” Yet, despite the ugly math, there are no indications that the LA deal does anything but kick the can on these profound challenges.
Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher told Education Week it will cost $11 billion and take from three years to seven years to bring the U.S. territory’s 856 public schools up to new building codes after they were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Keleher said she will try to secure $100 million of unspent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Category B financial assistance, which pays for urgent health and safety work including mold remediation. In a December 2018 news release, FEMA said work on the schools will focus on resiliency and energy efficiency.
Offering a one-time bonus could help keep high-performing teachers in high-needs schools and raise student scores, according to a new study published in Economics of Education Review. Previous research by…a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s school of education, and one of this study’s authors, found that the extra money did keep more high-performing teachers in these high-needs schools. This current study found that student performance improved as well: Reading scores at these schools increased by about .1 standard deviation, or between 8 and 11.5 additional weeks of learning, compared to similar schools that didn’t have the bonus program. Math performance improved as well, though the difference was only marginally statistically significant.
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.