Rural schools have trouble recruiting and retaining good teachers and principals because housing is so limited, pay is so low and working conditions so difficult, education advocates say. Trump has decried failing public schools that are “flush with cash,” but many rural schools — hobbled by a poor local tax base and weak state support — struggle with tight and often shrinking budgets.
Because education funding takes up so much of states’ budgets, the debate over how much schools get tends to dominate legislative sessions. But there are some states this year that are in deep debates on how to reform their education formulas, which could dictate how millions of dollars are distributed to school districts for years to come. Here’s a rundown of a few states he and other school finance hawks are watching closely.
Alaska and New York pay teachers nearly double the salaries of those working in Mississippi and Oklahoma, says a new study by GoBankingRates. According to the finance website, teachers in Alaska and New York are paid each year on average $77,843 and $76,953, respectively. By contrast, the averages in Mississippi and Oklahoma are $42,043 and $42,647, respectively. To be fair, many of the states with higher teacher pay also have higher costs of living.
Connecticut is one of seven states where high-poverty districts have fewer teachers per student than better-off districts, and the state is in 44th place for how competitive the salary of a 25-year-old teacher is in an impoverished district, the Rutgers Graduate School of Education reported last week. Research prepared for the school funding trial showed mixed results on whether more money helps lead to better student outcomes, and Connecticut has had a long line of task forces study and recommend changes for state education aid.
The state would have to spend an additional $1.86 billion over the next three years to offset inflation and cuts that have ravaged education funding since the Great Recession, according to the Florida School Finance Council, which advises the state commissioner of education. “School revenue is back to where it was in 2007, (but) does anybody believe costs are the same?” asked Malcolm Thomas, superintendent of the Escambia County SchoolDistrict. “I think where we’re feeling the pinch now is just the operational costs to really support and educate your kids.”
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts allow parents to take money that would otherwise go directly to their local public school, and put it toward private-school tuition, homeschooling, tutoring, therapy, and other education-related expenses. Critics of the program say it siphons money away from public district schools, and over time, could substantially erode school funding.
Indiana: Schools would have more control over their money under GOP plan, but it’s unclear whether students would benefit
House Bill 1009, authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, and Rep. Tim Brown, R- Crawfordsville, would collapse several pools of money schools and districts use down into three beginning for the 2018-19 school year: education, operations and debt service. Cook says the move gives schools more flexibility to control how they spend money at a local level and could lead to more money for the classroom.
The current system funds Texas public school districts arbitrarily and inequitably across the state and is held together by short-term fixes that have not been revisited in decades. Educators have repeatedly asserted the funding formulas do not provide them with enough money to meet the state’s academic standards. In May, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the state’s existing funding system as constitutional, and at the same time tasked state legislators with reforming it.
Mississippi: The per-pupil cost would depend on several variables, including how much would be spent on technology, classroom supplies and professional development for teachers. Wealthier school districts could be in line to receive less money from the state. But schools could receive more for educating low-income students and those who don’t speak English as their first language.
Changes to the way spending on schools must be reported under the Every Student Succeeds Act—along with a dramatic political fight in Washington about proper use of federal money in schools—are part of the picture as schools prepare for the new environment under ESSA come the 2017-18 school year.