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Yale Insights, 9/4/19

Equalizing school spending boosts lifelong income

Researchers have found that regional differences contribute to whether a person will achieve prosperity later in life. A child born into a family in the bottom quintile of the income distribution in Utah has a 14% chance of reaching the top 20%; in Tennessee, the number is only 7%. A new paper by Barbara Biasi, an assistant professor of economics at Yale SOM, shows that closing the gap in education spending between rich and poor school districts could make a substantial difference in economic mobility for poor children. Biasi’s study examined 13 school finance reform policies that were passed in 20 U.S. states between 1986 and 2004. She assessed how much each reform effort equalized per-student spending between high- and low-income districts. She then followed the students affected by each reform effort. She found that in those states where reform efforts led to greater equalization, the degree of intergenerational income mobility of students in the lowest quintile increased.

Education Week, 8/23/19

How another recession could test K-12’s resilience

Amid the economic warning signs there’s the recognition that a recession, in addition to shrinking K-12 budgets and spending, could upend policies that have developed over the past decade that have prioritized equitable funding and other resources. Jess Gartner, the CEO and founder of Allovue, an education management firm that helps districts create and plan budgets, acknowledged that conversations about consolidating or closing schools that are significantly below their enrollment capacity are often difficult. But it’s better to consider the possibility and do other budget diagnostics in relatively calm circumstances than “trying to do that in the height of a crisis.” “It may well be a matter of survival for the district” she said. She said it’s also important for districts to scrutinize contracts and other expenses every year, instead of letting bureaucratic inertia take over, and to be careful not to use one-time grant or other funding for teacher positions that can’t be sustained when circumstances crunch operating budgets.

The 74 Million, 8/27/19

Building a smarter (and cheaper) school bus system: How a Boston-MIT partnership led to new routes that are 20% more efficient and saved the district $5 million

A team from MIT’s Operations Research Center, created an algorithm that saved Boston schools $5 million and 1 million miles driven in its first year. One of the most expensive school transportation departments in the country was able to reduce its fleet by 8 percent, the largest single year-over-year drop in district history. “They were the clear winner,” says Will Eger, Boston Public Schools’ strategic projects manager — and that winning solution, which did in just 30 minutes what used to take a team of 10 staffers 3,000 hours to accomplish, can help districts all across the nation. The best solution turned out to be not the one with the fewest buses per each school, but one that reuses buses from school to school. The ongoing work the team is doing with Boston has led…an MIT professor, to launch Dynamic Ideas, a company marketing the product to other school districts, now in the early stages of adoption.

Union Leader, 8/22/19

NH gets record, 5-year, $46M charter school grant

New Hampshire received a record five-year, $46 million federal grant to expand its successful charter schools, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut announced Thursday. New Hampshire was one of only three states to receive 2019 grants from the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation & Improvement. The grant will cover professional development for charter school staff and board members, and spread best practices to public schools across New Hampshire. There will be $3.3 million available this year; the grant amount ramps up each year and reaches $15 million in 2023.

Education Dive, 8/8/19

Federal programs, partnerships can defray CTE costs

High school career and technical education (CTE) courses use computers, simulators and other forms of high-tech equipment and digital learning that can be overwhelmingly expensive for districts. To help offset the cost of these programs, the U.S. Department of Education provides about $1.3 billion per year for CTE courses at the elementary, secondary and adult levels. Recently, the Pathways to STEM Apprenticeship program provided $3 million to six states to help CTE students acquire post-secondary education and link them to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Other models for states short on labor include New Jersey’s efforts to use county-run, work-based programs to train high school students to enter the workforce. School leaders are developing relationships with businesses, industries and community colleges to better understand employers’ needs.

Education Week, 8/6/19

How each state distributes money for public schools and at-risk students

Across all 50 states, there are different ways in which states allocate K-12 funding to districts. Education Commission of the States has collected information on general funding model structure, base per pupil, special education, English language learner, at-risk, gifted and talented, and small school funding. In addition to identifying which states include mechanisms for base funding and special populations funding, this resource also provides information on how those mechanisms work. For example, how are states identifying at-risk students and making allocations to support them?

Education Week, 8/7/19

Education’s biggest problem is a lack of money, many Americans agree

Twenty-five percent of respondents to a recent national poll identified “a lack of financial support” as one of the biggest problems facing public schools in their communities. The findings follow waves of teacher activism to push for more state funding, salary increases, and other policy changes. While many of those demonstrations saw broad support, the public hasn’t always put its money where its mouth is. In Los Angeles, for example, voters struck down a ballot measure that would have helped pay for changes teachers won through strikes in the nation’s second-largest school district. Where should that additional financial support come from? Seven in 10 adults and six in 10 teachers responding to the poll said they would rather see cuts in other government-funded services than tax increases.

Hechinger Report, 8/7/19

Anatomy of a failure: How an XQ Super School flopped

Alec Resnick and Shaunalynn Duffy won the $10 million grant in September 2016 as an “XQ Super School,”…The two had spent nearly seven years designing a new kind of high school, Powderhouse Studios. Finances became an insurmountable sticking point for Superintendent Mary Skipper and school committee members, even with $10 million pledged from XQ. State law mandates that Innovation Schools must receive the same amount per pupil as the district’s average, which in Somerville was roughly $17,000 per student. It didn’t seem like Somerville’s comprehensive high school, which enrolls about 1,250 students, could afford to lose 160 students to the new school. Costs for building maintenance, teachers and counselors would change very little, but the school would have millions less to cover them. Justifying the financial toll of a new school is a universal challenge for school designers.

The 74 Million, 8/5/19

Report: As tuition rises, how private schools and microschools are working to increase access for low- and middle-income families

A new report from Bellwether Education Partners…seeks to offer a fresh look at how private K-12 schools are keeping their costs down, even as the share of students from middle-income families attending private schools has dropped by nearly 50 percent since the 1960s. “There are a number of private schools that are out there that are trying to serve middle- and low-income students,” said Juliet Squire, a partner at Bellwether and co-author of the report. “That’s not an easy proposition to do without” public funding, she said. About 500,000 private-school students in 29 states receive public dollars through some combination of vouchers, education savings accounts and tax-credit scholarships. But the public support that students do receive for their private educations isn’t enough to cover full tuition costs except in a few states. Some private schools that enroll a large number of low-income students rely on a mix of philanthropy, public funds and novel approaches to work-study or cost savings to reduce the tuition burden parents face.

Education Week, 8/2/19

State Auditor’s battle cry: Open the books on K-12 spending

West Virginia’s public school system, because of a series of technical, logistical, and political hurdles, is one of the last major government bodies in the state to detail for its citizens exactly how it spends its money. That’s inflamed mistrust between taxpayers and public school officials and left a $2 billion blank space (more than half the state’s budget) in the auditor’s popular and award-winning “WVCheckbook” website, where taxpayers can search through thousands of government transactions and salaries. “We need to make sure all the data that we maintain regarding student achievement and spending is available to the public in a way that they can understand,” State Auditor John “JB” McCuskey said. “This is the public’s data.”