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Education Week, 5/7/19

Limited impact so far from ESSA’s school-spending data

School district leaders in 2016 were seemingly apocalyptic once they realized that a tiny provision buried in the Every Student Succeeds Act would by summer 2020 require them to report to the public how they divvy up funds among their schools. But in at least 13 states where education departments have in the past two months started reporting school-by-school spending amounts a year ahead of schedule…most of those administrators’ fears have yet to come to fruition. So far, with exceptions such as New York state and North Carolina, there’s been little media coverage of spending disparities between schools, and few school boards appear to be using the numbers to craft their budgets for the coming school year. “I hope that the numbers will be used to drive conversations about inequities and the way we resource and fund our schools,” said Ary Amerikaner of the Education Trust. “For that to happen, the data needs to be reported in a way that’s understandable, usable, and widely distributed.”

Also see this related article, The coming storm for financial transparency.

Education Week, 5/14/19

K-12 spending climbed from 2015 to 2016, NCES reports

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.

Institute of Education Sciences, 5/9/19

Weighted student funding is on the rise. Here’s what we are learning.

Weighted student funding (WSF) is a funding method that aims to allocate funding based on individual student needs. While large districts are increasingly using WSF systems, little research exists to assess their effectiveness. In this guest blog, Dr. Marguerite Roza, Georgetown University, discusses her team’s ongoing…research study that seeks to document and understand WSF designs and features as implemented in the field, and to gauge the extent to which WSF designs are associated with reducing achievement gaps.

Education Next, 5/8/19

How to fix teacher pensions

Much of the debate over teacher pensions is framed as an either/or: Either we keep current defined benefit plans or we shift teachers to low-cost 401k-style defined contribution plans like in the private sector. A recent paper by Bellwether Education Partners shows that this is a false dichotomy. There are cost-neutral alternatives, such as cash balance plans or well-designed defined contribution plans, that could do a better job of providing all teachers with retirement security than the typical defined benefit plan does today. Yet adopting a wholly different model is not the only option for state policymakers who want to provide more teachers with adequate savings—and that’s probably a good thing, since defined benefit plans are likely to be with us for a while. Bellwether estimates that under current plans about 80 percent of new, young teachers will leave before qualifying for retirement benefits that meet our definition of “adequate” retirement benefits. This post explores ways to improve that figure using existing defined benefit pension plan structures.

Education Week, 4/24/19

One superintendent’s approach to pragmatic, sustainable tech leadership

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.

Providence Journal, 4/24/19

My Turn: Elaine Farber Budish: Our schools are not failing – they’ve been abandoned

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.

Education Week, 5/7/19

Oregon teachers plan walkout to push for classroom funding

Tens of thousands of teachers are expected to walk out across Oregon this week, adding to the string of nationwide protests over class sizes and education funding. Schools around the state, including Oregon’s largest district, Portland Public Schools, will close for at least part of Wednesday as educators press for more money from lawmakers. Oregon schools have some of the highest class sizes and lowest graduation rates in the United States. Districts have just one librarian, or none at all, fewer than the recommended number of counselors and been forced to cut programs like physical education and music. But unlike other states, Oregon teachers want to make it clear they’re not pushing for pay raises or other union demands. They say they’re walking out to highlight the conditions inside the classroom and how years of lower funding has affected children’s learning opportunities.

New York Times, 5/2/19

Tuition or dinner? Nearly half of college students surveyed in a new report are going hungry

A survey released this week by Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice indicated that 45 percent of student respondents from over 100 institutions said they had been food insecure in the past 30 days. In New York, the nonprofit found that among City University of New York (CUNY) students, 48 percent had been food insecure in the past 30 days. Although the college food-pantry movement is well underway, as there are now over 700 members at the College and University Food Bank Alliance, efforts have recently expanded to include redistributing leftover food from dining halls and catered events, making students eligible for food stamps and other benefits, and perhaps most important, changing national and state education funding to cover living expenses, not just tuition.

Education Week, 4/30/19

Which states have the highest and lowest teacher salaries?

The National Education Association has released its annual analysis of teacher salaries. The national average public school teacher salary for 2017-18 was $60,477—a 1.6 percent increase from the previous year. NEA estimates that the national average salary for the 2018-19 school year is $61,730—a 2.1 increase from the prior school year. But there’s a wide discrepancy between states. New York, California, and Massachusetts retained their spots at the top of the list, while Mississippi and West Virginia stayed at the bottom of the rankings. These rankings do not account for regional cost-of-living differences. Last year, an analysis from NPR and EdBuild showed that the rankings changed when cost of living is taken into account—for instance, New York dropped to No. 17 on the list.

CRPE, 4/29/19

Assessing charter schools’ impact on districts: Too important to get wrong

Several months ago Robin Lake critiqued a report by Dr. Gordon Lafer and published by In the Public Interest (ITPI)…the report continues to inform policy deliberations in California, where a commission is weighing charter school policy changes and lawmakers are considering a five-year moratorium on new charter schools. Lake outlines methodological concerns with the report which include (among others), the “fiscal impact” analysis’ focus on charter school growth, ignoring the many other causes of district enrollment loss, and the assumption that all students attending charter schools had transferred from a district school.