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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.”

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 7/22/19

State policy snapshot: Facilities funding for public charter schools

One of the biggest challenges to the continued expansion of charter schools is the fact that many charter school laws place the ultimate burden of obtaining and paying for facilities on charter schools themselves. This document provides a snapshot of the 31 jurisdictions that have enacted at least one of the following charter school facilities funding policies:

  • Providing a per-pupil facilities allowance to charter schools (18 states)
  • Creating a charter school facility grant program (15 states)
  • Ensuring that charter schools have equal access to all existing state facilities programs and revenues for district-run public schools in a state  (11 states)
  • Providing a charter school facility loan program (14 states)

Providing charter schools with access to local property tax dollars generated for facilities (5 states)

The Atlantic, 8/1/19

The whiter, richer school district right next door

EdBuild, a nonprofit focused on equity in school funding, defines an isolating border as one that divides one school district from another that is at least 25 percent whiter and receives at least 10 percent more funding per student. Across the United States, in 42 states, there are 969 of these isolating borders, according to EdBuild’s recently released report. The average disparity in funding along these borders was roughly $4,000 per student.  As a report from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy shows, roughly 36 percent of K–12 funding comes from these [local property] taxes. That means inequality is often baked into district lines; wealthier communities will have more money to spend on their students.

Forbes, 8/5/19

America’s school funding struggle: How we’re robbing our future by under-investing in our children

In 2015, the most recent year for which national data are available, only 12 states allocated more funds to districts in which student poverty is high than to districts in which there is little or no poverty. And of these 12 states, only five — Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Wyoming — also funded education at a level of adequacy that enables students to receive the resources they need. This article outlines steps that federal and state governments can take to make a difference in achieving greater equity and adequacy in school funding, including redesigning school finance formulas to focus on pupil needs, for example, through weighted student formulas that add additional funds for pupil characteristics such as poverty.

Education Week, 7/23/19

He’s fighting for details on how Hawaii spent $2 billion on its schools

The state education department told the Education Institute of Hawaii that it didn’t have the technological tools to give a line-by-line accounting for much of the $2 billion in K-12 spending, including teachers’ and administrators’ salaries. State departments of education across the country this year have been under intense pressure to open their fiscal books to the public, a technologically and politically complicated feat. Hawaii also is among several states with antiquated data systems that can’t track the thousands of transactions school districts make throughout the school year. Department officials are blaming those data systems for high-profile glitches that have occurred this year as state legislatures seek to boost teacher pay and states look to comply with a new federal requirement to break out school spending amounts. “To have any sense of empowerment, you have to have an idea of the fiscal health of the department,” said former state assistant superintendent and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Ray L’Heureux.

Equitable Facilities Fund, 6/26/19

Charter School Bond Sector: 2018 Year in Review

Despite the charter school tax-exempt bond sector’s record volume for each year between 2012 and 2017, last year’s financing activity ended with a material decrease of 17.1%, at $3 billion, compared to 2017’s volume of just over $3.5 billion.  For most market participants, this bond issuance trajectory reversal was expected due to the acceleration of deals that came to market in late 2017. The substantial 2017 increase in volume was primarily due to a reaction to congressional debate over tax reform that began in earnest in November and was driven by the fear of the loss of authority for private activity bonds (which ultimately did not occur) as well as advance refundings (which took effect on January 1, 2018). The extent of this sector’s 2018 decline, however, was not quite as pronounced as the overall tax-exempt market reduction of 21.6%—a nod to the continued high demand for affordable fixed-rate long-term charter school facility financing. Specifically, charter schools were responsible for 129 distinct transactions in calendar year 2018, totaling just shy of $3 billion of tax-exempt bond issuance. The range in par amount was extraordinarily wide this year—spanning from less than $2 million to over $350 million.