Raise the topic of education finance and most will jump to the revenue side of the equation. But the spending side is equally important and gets shorter shrift. Parents and educators have not been asking, Is the district giving my school a fair share of its money? And local leaders have not asked what is purchased with that money and whether those purchases make the best use of the money. Part of the reason so much less time is spent on the spending side of the equation is a lack of visibility into how the money is spent. But that is about to change, thanks to a new provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act. In this Q&A, Dr. Marguerite Rosa shines a light on the pressing need to better support district and school leaders in their work on the spending side of the equation.
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.
Several Massachusetts superintendents are spending more money on schools that enroll mostly wealthy students than they are on schools that educate mostly poor students, even though the state designed its funding formula to do the exact opposite. And some schools are outperforming other schools even though they’re receiving significantly less money. That’s according to a new report by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education. Three bills under consideration in the state legislature could provide significantly more money to districts. But the distribution methods and amounts vary widely. MBAE found that under the current system, districts such as Brockton, Chelmsford and New Bedford, distribute their money between schools in an inconsistent way that often is not targeted toward the state’s neediest students. That dynamic isn’t always the case, the group found. Many districts in the state distribute more money to schools with more poor students and many others distribute their money evenly between schools.
Inside America’s child care crisis: Even after a ‘historic’ federal investment, today’s system only serves 1 in 6 eligible kids. Could more funding now be on the way?
Though advocates hailed the additional $2.37 billion of federal child care funding in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 as “truly historic,” they are seeking more funding for the program, which still only serves about 1 in 6 eligible children. Early-education groups asked Congress for another $5 billion for fiscal 2020; House Democrats proposed adding about half of that, $2.4 billion next year. Long-term, it would probably take about $100 billion annually to cover every eligible child, said Jay Nichols, director of federal policy and government affairs at Child Care Aware of America, based on current spending and the number of eligible children served. Policymakers would also have to address widespread child care deserts, where providers simply aren’t available. To allow states to make more long-term plans, much of that funding should come from mandatory sources, meaning it wouldn’t be subject to congressional whims, he added.
More than a year after teachers across the country began walking out of their classrooms en masse to demand higher salaries, at least 15 states have given their teachers a raise. And lawmakers in several more states are putting the final touches on plans to raise teacher salaries, according to an Education Week analysis. For their part, teachers have mostly welcomed the raises, but some have said the increases don’t go far enough, especially after what they see as years of legislative inaction. Here’s what you need to know about each state’s plan (as of June 17) to raise teacher pay.
What is the fiscal impact of charter schools on California’s school districts? This is a simple question with no simple answer. Yet policymakers are ready to act… It’s clear this topic (and more misleading studies) will come up in more states soon. Journalists, editors, and editorial boards should take time to educate themselves on it so the public can separate fact from hyperbole and scare tactics. Districts do have a hard time adjusting when enrollment declines because of charter schools or other reasons. Charter schools, as we have argued, did not cause the problem, but they can be part of the solution. Misleading studies only deepen the divisions. Journalists can help bridge these divides by providing skeptical coverage and digging into the details.
Parton: School-level spending data is coming under ESSA. Here are 5 things states must focus on when creating their new report cards
School-level spending data, from the 2017-18 school year, is required on states’ next report cards. Certainly members of Congress saw the value when they included the requirement, but states, along with a broad range of education stakeholders, still need to tell the public why this information is important. State leaders need to set the vision about the value of this information and the story it tells about school quality and student success. As the Data Quality Campaign’s research shows, “put information on a report card” isn’t always the same thing as transparency. It will take effort by state leaders to make sure the data are findable and easy to understand, and they should make it possible to view school spending data side by side with student outcomes. Guided by the vision they developed, states will need to help people understand the “so what” of the data. That includes providing some context, for instance, questions to consider, or a little information on how to interpret the data.
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.
If American taxpayers were to fork out a couple billion more on top of the $650 billion they annually spend on public schools, would academic outcomes improve? More money does, in fact, make a difference, a growing number of researchers say—provided that you spend enough, and in the right manner. They point to research in the past five years that provides examples of instances where politicians and taxpayers invested more money in teacher salaries, school construction, and schools with high populations of low-income students and saw students’ test scores jump. “It’s not that resources don’t matter and that they can’t matter,” Eric A. Hanushek, a nationally known economist and fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University said. “It’s that you can’t trust that you can just drop in a pile of money and expect good performance to come out. That doesn’t mean you should cut spending on schools. I think that there’s still a case to be made on targeting extra resources on schools to get better performance.”
“[School] system leaders often seem unaware of the unintended consequences of long-standing spending practices,” Marguerite Roza, the director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, and Carrie Stewart, managing director of the Afton Partners consulting firm wrote in an article for AASA, the School Superintendents Association. They suggest that digging into school-level-spending data can help in better understanding these patterns. Because of regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act and improving data systems, additional funding data are on the way. But analysts with the Education Week Research Center…have learned through experience that there is no perfect data set. And no matter how much data are available, researchers and policymakers will always want more. With that in mind, here’s a sort of researchers’ “wish list” for data that would further enhance any thorough look at the complex issue of school finance.