When Hoover High School…began building the next year’s master schedule, school leaders discovered something concerning. Some of the students who needed extra support—English learners, special-education students, and others in need of academic interventions—were more likely to be scheduled in larger classes with less experienced teachers. To systematically address these inequities, decision-makers must understand the processes that create them. Increased funding alone will not address endemic achievement gaps, because equity is more than just a fiscal or pedagogical challenge; it is also an operational one. A school’s schedule…dictates fundamental elements of the student experience: the teachers and peers they interact with throughout the day, the size and composition of their classes, their access to additional supports and services, and whether or not they take courses and electives aligned with their interests, graduation or college entry requirements.
Amid the teacher strikes and activism that roiled the nation last fall, school districts in California, Colorado, and Washington signed labor contracts they now say they cannot afford. In order to avoid budget deficits as a result of negotiated increases in teacher salaries and overall school spending, administrators in districts as large as Los Angeles and as small as Puyallup, Wash., say they will have to lay off hundreds of teachers and central office staff, increase class sizes, shutter after-school programs, and take other actions they warn will have devastating academic effects for years to come. The impacts are immediate and severe in some cases. Denver has laid off more than 150 central office staff positions to free up more than $17 million to pay for teacher pay raises negotiated in February. A county audit in Los Angeles says that the district risks insolvency after it signed a contract to end a six-day strike in January. That district will ask voters this June to raise their taxes by $500 million annually for 12 years to bail them out.
Roza: DeVos proposed $50 million for districts to decentralize federal money, to put schools in the driver’s seat. It’s a smart idea.
A provision that could bring more autonomy to schools in how they serve their most vulnerable students has been largely overlooked — $50 million in incentive grants for districts to decentralize their federal dollars to schools. At issue is whether school leaders and staff can have a say in how federal resources are used in their buildings for their students. Under the status quo, the heavy red tape attached to federal dollars presumes a top-down approach to spending decisions in which district leaders make all the programming and staffing decisions for schools. This process virtually erases school leaders from playing a role in decisions on how best to use the federal money in their buildings. The budget proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would reverse that through a pilot program for up to 10 decentralized districts that would send federal dollars directly to schools, putting principals and teachers in the driver’s seat on how to spend those dollars.
Research finds Pre-K enrollment, spending stagnant, as key federal early learning grants are about to dry up
Overall, about one-third of the country’s 4-year-olds and less than 6 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded programs in the 2017-18 school year, according to…an annual report by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Those numbers represent small increases from the previous year, with “much of the increase” in enrollment of 4-year-olds coming from federal Preschool Development Grants, the report found. Those federal funds, which went to 18 states, are coming to an end this year; the grants were announced in December 2014 and paid out over four years. “Those grants go away this year … States are going to have to find a way to fill that budget hole,” Steven Barnett, co-director of the institute, said on a webinar with reporters Tuesday. About half of the 18 states that received the grants, which totaled $244 million last year, have plans to sustain the funding through other sources, he said.
Hampshire College serves as a case study for the growing ranks of small liberal arts schools in financial jeopardy. For private colleges, pressures have intensified in regions where the student supply is stagnant or dwindling. Several here in New England are closing or merging. Others around the country have slashed prices, hoping to generate buzz and revenue. Moody’s Investors Service estimated last year that about 1 of every 5 small private colleges is “under fundamental stress.” Inside Higher Ed and Gallup found in a national survey of college and university presidents that one-third predict six to 10 schools will close this year. Nearly as many believe more than 10 will close.
Count educators as part of the population taking a keen interest in a major U.S. Supreme Court case about whether President Donald Trump’s administration properly added a question about U.S. citizenship to the 2020 census. The arithmetic behind the issue is this: The decennial census is the foundation for allocation of billions of dollars of federal aid to states and localities, based on formulas involving population and poverty. A federal district judge in January found that adding a citizenship question to the census would lead to a decline in the response rate of at least 5.8 percent of households with at least one noncitizen and would also likely result in an undercount of Hispanic households. The Great City Schools council says in its brief that a 5.8 percent undercount of households with one noncitizen would—by itself—result in a “misallocation” nationwide of $151.7 million in Title I funds alone. An accurate count “is especially important for public schools, who serve all students, regardless of immigration status,” said Francisco M. Negrón Jr., the general counsel of the National School Boards Association.
The nation’s school districts spend about $46 billion less per year on facility upkeep than is needed to maintain “healthy and safe” learning environments, according to a 2016 report from the 21st Century School Fund. Although most states help pay for some construction costs, almost half pay less than 10 percent. That means that, for the most part, districts in those states are at the mercy of voters to finance capital projects, such as building new schools and making major renovations to existing ones. Affluent communities with a strong tax base are able to borrow money and pass bond measures, while low-wealth districts — particularly in rural areas — struggle to do so.
In this opinion piece, Tom Vander Ark outlines problems with the way we build, manage and maintain public school buildings. Most communities have a mixture of old and new problems–a need for modern flexible spaces and a mismatch between taxing authority and need. That’s why it is time to separate school operations from facilities provisioning. Vander Ark provides a proposal to change how facilities are provided for public education programming, which includes moving facilities into a public trust, providing state fixed asset funding, and using performance contracts for operators.
State per-student spending on higher education is rebounding, though it is only halfway back to its pre-recession levels, according to a new report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). Just nine states are back to pre-recession funding levels, while nine have had no recovery. Colleges have relied on tuition for a growing share of their revenue over the past decade, the report found. In 2018, however, net tuition revenue didn’t rise, suggesting that colleges’ reliance on this funding source may be leveling. The flattening of tuition revenue suggests public colleges and universities are responding to market pressure on price growth, the SHEEO report notes. Still, “heavy reliance on tuition revenue has become the new norm for how state higher education system are funded,” SHEEO President Robert Anderson said in a news release. Some state budgets are proposing tuition freezes or limits on increases in exchange for more access to public funds.
At the beginning of this year, the National Conference of State Legislatures predicted there was a chance that more than half of states could finally overhaul the antiquated—and, advocates say, often inequitable—formulas that have been dictating their K-12 funding for years. But balancing state and local resources, deciding which districts should get what, and figuring out how to distribute money in a way that will spur academic achievement is tricky. While there’s a strong chance that states such as Maryland and Texas are likely to see major changes to state spending patterns as a result of decisions made this legislative season, others, such as Idaho and Nevada, have had a hard time getting funding formula replacement efforts off the ground. Here’s a snapshot of some of the most animated political battles this legislative season to replace, update, and legally grapple with school funding formulas.