This is a quick primer of 12 groundbreaking education storylines we’ll be following in the new year, including: teachers unions, high school graduation rates, higher education debates, personalized learning, New Orlean’s next chapter, NYC’s turnaround plans, Illinois’ pension crisis and more.
In this spirit, here are three big, important questions for 2018, the answers to which have implications not only for the coming year, but for the next decade and beyond.
- Is education technology poised for a new wave of innovation?
- An increased focus on social-emotional learning opened an innovation window over the last few years. Has it closed already?
- Will our renewed focus on career and technical education stimulate smart investments in ways to better prepare all young people for the future of work?
Charter schools introduce market forces so that the revenue follows the child, and students can attend the school of their choice no matter where they live. This way, if schools fail to provide what students need and parents want, the school loses students and revenue. And gradually, as parents increasingly choose charter schools, the idea of competition in the production of education will gain a foothold in the public square and allow the political transition to purely private schools.
The state’s annual student count in September found about 6,000 more public school students than lawmakers had budgeted for when they passed the two-year state budget last year, potentially creating an $11.8 million gap in school funding. That would equate to cuts of about $11 per student, according to the analysis from the legislative services agency. The cuts would impact all schools that receive state dollars — traditional public, public charter and private schools receiving public vouchers.
Gov. Scott Walker is backing a plan — similar to one he recently vetoed — to let some school districts raise property taxes without voter approval to pay for programs and services. The proposal would affect so-called “low revenue” school districts — those that spend less than most others.
The financial lives of college students and universities took center stage this year in ways few could imagine. Higher education captured the attention of Congress with the sweeping Republican tax plan, resulting in an unprecedented move on college endowments. State authorities tangled with the new administration over the rollback of rules governing federal financial aid. And the nascent tuition-free movement gained momentum as New York joined the cause. These are among the influential events that shaped the economics of higher education in 2017.
Some districts are addressing this problem in creative ways. Portland Public Schools in Oregon, for example, redistributes a portion of parent donations through an equity fund. Other districts, like Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, limit how parent donations can be spent. In theory, this puts the responsibility on the district to provide schools with equitable core resources, particularly around staffing. Neither policy appears to significantly affect the level of parent contributions. But they have not always gone over well, with some more affluent communities advocating to keep donations in their own schools.
The more interesting story in coal and oil-dependent states is how those states’ politicians and school leaders are attempting to reorganize their public school systems to better prepare students for careers outside traditional industries which once provided six-figure salaries. Many states are creating career tech training for students to work in technology fields or on new wind farms being built in the state.
After salaries, energy is the district’s second biggest line item in the budget. In 2008, the school district began identifying energy efficiency opportunities across its existing campuses as well as building those economies into new construction. Since prioritizing conservation, the district has averaged a 45 percent reduction in energy costs across the board, or about $6 million, a year.
For higher education, one of the major concerns is how the tax bill and other federal policies will impact state funding models and charitable giving. At the conference, policy experts discussed a number of state priorities which may impact both public and private institutions moving forward.