Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Good Jobs First entered the national scene when it produced documentation that the CARES Act was being used to funnel billions of dollars to private schools and charter schools. The charter schools were double-dipping, first taking money allotted to public schools, then getting millions more from the Paycheck Protection Program, which excluded public schools.

Now, Good Jobs First has released a new report, showing that students are paying for corporate tax breaks.

Abating Our Future:


How Students Pay for Corporate Tax Breaks
Executive Summary


Public school students in the U.S. suffered poorer schools—and local and state taxpayers paid higher taxes—in 2019 due to corporate tax breaks. Thanks to a new government accounting rule, we are able to prove that economic development tax abatements given to corporations cost public school districts at least $2.37 billion in forgone revenue in 2019. That is $273 million — or 13 percent— higher than two years before.


Across the country, 97 school districts lost more than $5 million each; 149 districts lost more than $1,000 per student.


Even though we looked at all 50 states and DC, these dollar amounts come from only 2,498 school districts in 27 states, which represent about 20 percent of independent school districts. For some of the states with no meaningful data, there are legitimate reasons, such as no independent reporting for school districts.

However, as we detail, some dozen states are failing to ensure that school districts and other local government bodies are adhering to the new accounting standard.


In essence, they are either exploiting loopholes in the rule or ignoring it altogether.


With no way of knowing how much revenue school districts are foregoing in these data-absent 23 states and the District of Columbia, it’s clear the harm of abatements is far greater than we can yet prove.


Those costs reduced school budgets, forced states and localities to raise their tax rates to offset at least some of the difference, or some of both.


In some of the states with the most complete disclosures, it is evident that the poor pay more. That is, school districts with the highest rates of poverty (measured by metrics such as the share of students who qualify for free or discounted school lunches) are likely to suffer the highest losses.


And because U.S. poverty is racialized, this means that Black and Brown students often suffer the greatest losses. Indeed, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark T. Bedell recently called tax abatements “systematic education racism.”

We hasten to add that these tax abatements are, in most states, granted by city or county governments, not by school boards. Even though state equity formulas try to offset the resulting losses, tax abatements effectively amount to what we call an “intergovernmental free lunch,” in which one body of government gets to spend another body’s revenue — a structural flaw that invites over-spending and defeats accountability.
Put another way, local school leaders not only have no say in whether their money should be given away, they often don’t even realize it’s happening.


This 2017-2019 surge in spending on corporate tax breaks also occurred despite the strong economic growth the U.S. enjoyed in that pre-pandemic time span. (Most school districts’ FY 2019 calendars ended June 30, 2019.) Indeed, the nation’s unemployment rate fell to record post-war lows during our study period.


We stress again: The $2.37 billion figure is a conservative summation based on incomplete data. Supposedly, all school districts that use the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) — set by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) — should report tax abatements. Though a minority of states do not require their school districts to follow GAAP, many of those districts still do use GAAP accounting, as Wall Street prefers it for rating bonds. Most states do mandate school districts to comply with GAAP, so when their abatement data is missing, we attribute this to either poor state oversight (state auditors, comptrollers or treasurers normally enforce such rules), or loopholes in how “tax abatements” are defined by GASB (or how those definitions have been specified in GASB’s annual Implementation Guides).


These definitional loopholes, or ambiguities of GASB Statement No. 77 (“GASB 77”) — especially regarding tax increment financing (or TIF) and Industrial Development Bonds (or IDBs) — are allowing some of these economic development tax expenditures to go unreported. We detail external evidence of these problems in several states. In other states, foregone revenue is offset through an increased local levy or by state aid. These states argue that GASB 77 does not apply to them because there was no foregone revenue to the districts themselves; instead all taxpayers contribute to the subsidy payouts.


We present in-depth case studies on five states with complete data:


▪ Missouri, where tax increment financing (TIF) proliferates, diverting much- needed revenues away from school districts.

▪ Louisiana, where three of the poorest districts — located in the parishes of West Baton Rouge, St. James, and St. John the Baptist — not only suffered sizeable forgone revenue in 2019 but also large increases from 2017. Indeed, teachers in East Baton Rouge made national news in 2019 when they voted almost unanimously to walk out if the parish school board granted another abatement to ExxonMobil.


▪ New York, where we found statistically significant association between greater tax abatements and higher shares of Black and Hispanic students, after controlling for district size or total enrollment.


▪ South Carolina, where six school districts each lost more than $2,000 per pupil (and four of those have Black + Brown student majorities), while total state losses soared by 31 percent to $423 million in FY 2019.


▪ Texas, where the Chapter 313 program results in heavy per-pupil losses thanks to a system that essentially rewards districts for doling out business subsidies.


In our conclusion, we make seven recommendations to the states and two suggestions to the GASB itself.


The best, most equitable solution is for states to shield school revenues entirely from abatement programs. They can simply rewrite their incentive-enabling laws to exclude from abatements those shares of local property and sales taxes that would normally be apportioned to K-12.


Short of that, we recommend that states cap the share of each locality’s property and sales tax base that can be abated in the name of economic development, and at a very small share, such as two percent. We also recommend caps on dollars per student that can be abated, at $200 annually.


Short of an absolute shield or tight caps, we recommend that states give school boards control to opt in or out of tax-break deals (i.e., to give them equivalent powers enjoyed by cities and counties).


We also recommend four actions by the states now to ensure compliance with GASB 77. They should create clear authority and mechanisms (led by a state auditor, comptroller, treasurer, or education department) to review the financial reports issued by school boards, and if, necessary, correct them. They should require that all localities include a GASB 77 note in their financial reports, whether they have reportable abatements or not. They should require localities to disclose even “immaterial” abatement costs (rather than allowing arbitrary definitional decisions). And they should require all governments that are actively making abatement agreements to compute and report the costs of such deals to all affected jurisdictions in plenty of time for inclusion in annual financial reports.


To the GASB itself, we urge it to start over on tax increment financing (TIF) and issue a clean new Statement that treats all three forms of TIF as reportable abatements akin to those clearly covered by Statement No. 77.


We also urge the GASB to finish the process it began in 2018 and openly declare that property tax abatements that are bundled with Industrial Development Bonds (IDBs) are abatements covered by Statement No. 77.


These safeguards reflect what Good Jobs First has learned since we first explored the tension between abatements and school funding in 2003, and in our many blogs, articles, and studies since GASB 77 was issued in 2015.


Communities cannot determine if tax abatements given to corporations in the name of economic development are worth the price if they don’t know the costs, especially to education.

The charter industry has set its sights on Montana. This is an odd decision, since the state has no big cities and is almost 90% white. The African American population is less than 1%. The biggest city is Billings, with about 110,000 residents; the second largest is Missoula, which has about 75,000 residents. Montana ranks above the national averages on NAEP.

Montana has two existing charter schools, but the industry wants to make it easier to grow.

Alex Sakariassan of the Montana Free Press reported:

The Montana Legislature once more took up the issue of school choice during a lengthy hearing on a bill that would open the door to public charter schools in Montana.

Speaking before the House Education Committee Wednesday, Rep. Ed Hill, R-Havre, informed fellow lawmakers that Montana is one of only five states in the nation that has not yet embraced charter schools, which are funded by taxpayers but operate independently of the public school system. Hill said he hopes to change that with House Bill 633. The measure would authorize the establishment of such schools in Montana, grant them autonomy over their finances, their curriculum and their staff, and create a new commission and approval framework to oversee those schools.

“This public charter school bill will provide an option for innovation outside our current traditional public school,” Hill said. 

Hill and other speakers noted that legislation similar to HB 633 has been introduced numerous times in the past, specifically during the 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 sessions. None of those efforts cleared the Legislature.

“Montanans like choice, and we’re told we have choice in everything we do except when it comes to publicly educating our kids. Somehow when it comes to public education, we’re told, ‘No, that square peg is going to fit in that round hole or we’re going to make it.’”

ATTORNEY GENERAL AUSTIN KNUDSEN

Throughout the more than two-hour discussion, supporters framed charter schools as giving Montana parents and students more choices in K-12 education

Public school supporters opposed the bill.

Opponents countered that HB 633 would stretch education funding in Montana and build a parallel and duplicative school system to the one currently overseen by the Board of Public Education. Amanda Curtis, president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, said that would equate to “growing government.” The issue was also addressed in a legal review note compiled by the Legislative Services Division, which said HB 633 could raise constitutional questions related to the BPE’s authority over public schools. Curtis also highlighted concerns about how the bill would ensure adequate oversight of newly established charter schools...

Curtis’ opposition was echoed by several other major public education associations, including the Montana School Boards Association and the School Administrators of Montana. BPE Executive Director McCall Flynn testified that charter schools established under HB 633 would be exempt from the licensing and accreditation standards required of public schools. Flynn added that an administrative rule adopted by the board in 2012 already allows for the formation of charter schools, citing the presence of the Bridger Charter Academy in Bozeman.

“This bill is unnecessary,” Flynn said. “The Board of Public Education already has a process in place to establish public charter schools.”

As the discussion turned to members of the committee, several lawmakers tried to gain a better grasp of the scope of HB 633’s impacts. MTSBA Executive Director Lance Melton fielded numerous questions about the financial implications a charter school system would carry. He noted that, as written, the bill would grant a separate basic entitlement to new charter schools, meaning those schools would draw money directly from Montana’s education budget. Depending on the number and size of such schools that crop up, Melton said, the added funding obligation to the state could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Keila Szpaller wrote in the Daily Montanan about the legislative debate.

Its leading opponent is Rep. Wendy McKamey, a Republican legislator, who insisted that families have plenty of choices already.

Opponents…said the bill is riddled with shortcomings and saddles taxpayers with higher costs.

For example, it could add $321,000 in public cost for each new high school in the state, according to the Montana School Boards Association. At the same time, it would take away a requirement that schools teach students with special needs or pay employees prevailing wages, according to the Montana Federation of Public Employees. And it would remove minimum teacher licensing standards, according to the Montana Board of Public Education.

“It’s my understanding that we wouldn’t want anyone off the street coming into our homes to do plumbing,” said McCall Flynn, executive director of the Board of Public Education. “Nor should we expect someone without any kind of educator preparation to teach our children in our public schools, even if that is a public charter school…”

Several representatives from Montana’s education associations argued against the bill, but they weren’t the only opponents. Kim Mangold, with the Montana Farmers Union, said students who attend rural schools in Montana are a vulnerable population.

Rural schools are critical to the largest farming and ranch organization in the state, Mangold said: “These schools are the lifeblood of rural Montana.”

“This act has the potential to remove resources from public schools, especially rural public schools, that are important to farm and ranching today,” Mangold said.

Lance Melton, with the Montana School Boards Association, explained the potential costs to both state coffers and local property taxpayers given the “technically flawed way” the bill was written. In short, he said it would require an elementary charter school with even just one pupil to receive $53,000, or a high school with just one student to receive $321,000.

If every Class I and II district in the state was converted into a series of public charter schools of 200 students each, the bill would end up costing the state of Montana $350 million — an estimated 25 percent on top of the money already going to fund all K12 public education, he said.

“You’d have a nice little gift-wrapped surprise when you arrived in the next legislative session if and when this was to occur,” Melton said of the extra costs.

A very bad bill for Montana that could blow a hole in the state budget and break up communities while enriching charter operators and corporate charter chains. If Montanans are conservative, they will reject this bill.

Thanks to reader “Montana Teacher” for sending these links.


Parents and educators overwhelmingly oppose the New Hampshire voucher proposal, which would be the most expansive in the country. In terms of turnout, voucher opponents outnumber proponents by 6-1. Proponents claim that it is only educators who oppose vouchers, but many parents turned out to testify against the legislation.

Yet the Republican sponsors of the bill are forging ahead, claiming that so few children want a voucher that it would have no impact on the budget. In fact, the bill would have the state pick up the cost of tuition for children currently attending religious and private schools, and would fund homeschoolers as well. Critics estimate the cost at $100 million per year.

As background to the discussion, take a look at the research on vouchers. This report from the Center for American Progress finds that using a voucher is equivalent to missing about one-third of a year in school. Yet 23 states, including New Hampshire, are going full speed ahead to enact a harmful and demonstrably ineffective waste of public dollars.

The Senate’s school voucher bill drew a crowd debating the merits and liabilities of the program that would allow parents to receive state money to find the best educational fit for their child.

But opponents called Senate Bill 130 the latest attempt to privatize education and alleged it would set up a parallel education system with one tier for the well-to-do and the other for those who cannot afford an alternative for their children.

They said the proposal would be the most expansive educational choice program in the country and the most lax, with little accountability or transparency.

Supporters said the pandemic has heightened awareness that every child learns differently and needs options and choices to reach their full potential.They said the program would not only help students, it would save state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, although opponents claimed it would cost the state that much money.

The House had a nearly identical bill, but the House Education Committee decided to hold the bill for a year to try to improve some of the flaws.The ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. Mel Myler, D-Hopkinton, urged his Senate counterparts to either do that or recommend killing the bill...

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, said the House hearing on House Bill 20 drew 1,100 parents in support showing grassroots support. And he said a recent poll indicates 70 percent of New Hampshire adults approve of vouchers.

He did not say that nearly 7,000 people signed in opposition to the House bill.“On one side you have lobbyists and advocates and on the other side are parents,” Cordelli said. “It is the school units versus the kids.”

Carl Ladd, executive director of the NH School Administrators Association took issue with Cordelli’s statement.“This school system versus student argument implies that advocates for public education are anti-student, that is a real disservice to educators,” Ladd said. “I really take umbrage at that particular characterization…”

The student’s parents would receive the basic state adequacy grant of about $3,700 as well as additional money if the student qualified for free or reduced lunches, special education services, English as a Second Language instruction, or failed to reach English proficiency.

The average grant is estimated to be $4,600.

Will $4,600 be enough to gain admission to an elite private school? No. It will be enough to pay for a low-quality private or religious school that hires uncertified teachers and cannot match the offerings or facilities of the public schools. Or you might think of it as a transfer of public funds to students already in private/religious schools and home-schooled.

The Commissioner claimed that between 0.01 to 2.43 percent of eligible students would use the voucher. So, choose your rationale: either vouchers are wildly popular or hardly anyone will want one.

Commissioner Edelblut’s goal is to wipe out public schools. The people of New Hampshire will have to stop him. He is not a conservative. He is an anarchist.

One of our greatest allies for public schools in the nation is the remarkable Pastors for Texas Children. They are active every day in Texas, urging the public to support and fund their public schools. Their leadership has helped to spur similar organizations in other states where public schools need help and where privatizers are making a play for public funds.

Here is their latest appeal for funding the public schools of Texas, attended by five million students:

After last week’s freeze, the Texas Legislature is back to work at the Capitol. Our focus on funding public schools fully and fairly is more important than ever.  As you know, our Texas Constitution says in Article 7, Section 1:  “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

 Here are three ways we can fulfill our constitutional obligation:

1. Federal COVID Relief Dollars
Last spring, Texas received $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funding earmarked to public education. The money was intended to equip schools for education during a pandemic, including PPE, technology, internet capabilities, and updating facilities. That package was not ever distributed to the local school districts, but was used to fill state budget holes.  

In December 2020, the state received the next federal relief package of $5.5 billion for public education purposes, which has not yet been distributed to school districts.  

We are asking our state leaders to release this and any future stimulus money for its intended purpose: to enable local districts to operate and educate safely without having to dip into reserves. Our friends at Raise Your Hand Texas have developed a helpful fact sheet about the federal stimulus funding. You can read that here, along with other resources.

1. Federal COVID Relief Dollars
Last spring, Texas received $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funding earmarked to public education. The money was intended to equip schools for education during a pandemic, including PPE, technology, internet capabilities, and updating facilities. That package was not ever distributed to the local school districts, but was used to fill state budget holes.  

In December 2020, the state received the next federal relief package of $5.5 billion for public education purposes, which has not yet been distributed to school districts.  

We are asking our state leaders to release this and any future stimulus money for its intended purpose: to enable local districts to operate and educate safely without having to dip into reserves. Our friends at Raise Your Hand Texas have developed a helpful fact sheet about the federal stimulus funding. You can read that here, along with other resources.

Read the Pastors’ legislative priorities here:

Curt Cardine of the Grand Canyon Institute has calculated the cost of the proposed Arizona voucher proposal, which would give public money for private choices to the overwhelming majority of students in the state. If the proposal passes, even if relatively few students take vouchers, it will defund every school district in the state. The public schools of Arizona, already underfunded, will take yet another hit from a state that refuses to pay to educate its children.

Cardine has a 45-year career in education; he has worked in both public and charter schools. He has documented the ripoff of public school funding by unscrupulous entrepreneurs. Please read his book Carpetbagging America’s Public Schools: The Radical Reconstruction of American Public Education. And his book Schooling Alone: The Cost of Privatizing Public Education.

In the attachments, Cardine shows how much money each school district in Arizona is likely to lose, using the most conservative estimates.

The West Virginia legislature is rushing–like other red states–to pass voucher legislation. They know that very few students will apply for vouchers but that the cost will be enormous. West Virginia Republicans want to have the most expansive voucher bill in the nation (they are competing with New Hampshire and Arizona to supply everyone with the chance to use public money to attend a private or religious school).

However, the House Republicans decided to slow down when they saw how much their proposal would cost. And, they also noted that students can get a voucher not to “escape failing public schools,” but to pay for the religious school they already attend. In other words, the “voucher program” would be simply a subsidy to the 25,000 students already in private/religious schools and in home school. And it would cost $112 million a year to subsidize students whose parents are currently paying for them. And this money would be diverted from the state’s public schools, which enroll the vast majority of students.

Ryan Quinn of the Charleston Gazette-Mail writes:

After passing what could be the nation’s least-restrictive nonpublic school vouchers bill Thursday — one that would give every family in West Virginia money to private- and home-school their children if they want to remove them from public schools — the West Virginia House of Delegates recalled the bill.

On Friday, in a voice vote with no dissent heard, the Republican-controlled House recanted its passage vote of the day before. Delegates then sent the legislation (House Bill 2013) back to the House Finance Committee.

The West Virginia Senate had yet to pass the bill. House leadership indicated that it plans to fix issues with the bill and pass it again.

House Finance Chairman Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, said the reason for the move was a fiscal note he saw Thursday night.

“That’s why I decided to let people know what I discovered, what I read,” he said. “And now we’ve also asked [the Department of] Education to prepare a fiscal note, too. So, just trying to do the right thing, cover our bases, make sure everything is right.”

However, the state Division of Regulatory and Fiscal Affairs said the note was posted on the Legislature’s website on or before 11 a.m. Wednesday — so lawmakers could have seen it before voting Thursday.

Fiscal notes estimate how much bills will cost, but Republicans had rushed this bill to passage by just the end of the second week of this year’s legislative session.

The problem Householder cited is connected to the fact that the bill doesn’t specify how long parents must have their students enrolled in public schools to be eligible to receive the estimated $4,600 per-student, per-year to withdraw them and start private- or home-schooling.

“Based on our interpretation of the eligibility criteria, a parent of a student currently in private- or home-schooling could enroll their child in a summer public school program, making them eligible to apply for the Hope Scholarship Program,” the fiscal note said, referring to another name for the bill. “Alternatively, they could enroll their child in the public school system to become eligible. As this would introduce new students into the eligible population, it has the potential to substantially increase costs.”

The voucher for that amount is required to go to educational expenses, although that term is very broad in the bill.

Lawmakers had allowed for this cost increase by making the bill ultimately pay the $4,600 per-student, per-year for families who were currently home-schooling or private-schooling anyway. But they had added a provision saying those payments wouldn’t happen until fiscal year 2026-27 — the fiscal note said such costs could arrive much earlier.

“Based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics, there have been an average of 14,285 private-school students in West Virginia from 2003 to 2017, with no clear increase or decrease over time,” the fiscal note says. “For home-schooled students, we estimate approximately 10,000.

“Assuming current private- and home-school enrollment is similar, and assuming all of these students use one of these methods for becoming eligible for the Hope Scholarship, this could increase the cost of the program to the state by $112,300,882.65 per fiscal year, again assuming no increase in statewide average net state aid allotted per pupil.”

The note points out another potential problem with the likely unprecedented scope of the voucher program. Householder didn’t mention this issue, which is more fundamental to the bill.

The note said its participation estimates of 1% to 3% of current public school students that it used for calculating costs, even if the other problem were fixed, are based on the five states that have this kind of voucher program.

As a result of strong opposition, Republicans who control the New Hampshire legislature decided to postpone consideration of their “number one priority,” school vouchers. Under consideration was the most sweeping voucher bill in the nation. Thousands of people signed up to testify against the legislation.

A bill to create a school voucher-like system in New Hampshire is poised to be kicked to 2022, after Republicans on the House Education Committee said that it needed more time.

In a 20-0 vote Thursday, the committee recommended that the bill be retained, a move that if approved by the full House next week would put off any decision-making until next year’s session.

House Bill 20, named the “Richard ‘Dick’ Hinch education freedom account program” after the late House speaker, was a top priority for House Republicans this year. The proposal would allow parents to withdraw their children from public school and take the per-pupil state money with them.

Under the bill, that state funding, which amounts to $3,700 to $8,000 per student depending on the school, could then be used by the parents for a number of alternative expenses, such as private school tuition, college preparatory courses, school supplies, or transportation.

But a deluge of opposition to the bill from public school advocates and Democrats had slowed down its progress, resulting in contentious hearings and deliberative sessions that stretched through the day. Opponents argue the bill would drain resources from public schools and prompt cutbacks and increased property taxes; proponents say that it would provide new opportunities to families whose public schools aren’t working for their children.

Despite numerous tweaks and amendments, the bill didn’t have the votes to pass out of the GOP-controlled committee.

It is unclear if the committee would have had the votes to pass the bill even if the amendments were drafted correctly. Last week, NHJournal reported James Allard (R-Pittsfield) was likely to vote against the measure.

House insiders tell NHJournal that had a vote on the bill been held, the best-case scenario would have been a 10-10 tie vote in the committee, sending the bill to the floor with no recommendation. That would have set up a heated floor battle.

Attempts to sway Allard and other concerned Republicans included adding income-caps to the EFA eligibility formula. The cap would limit participation to those earning less than 375 percent of the federal poverty limit — roughly $99,000 for a family of four. That proposed income-cap would cut the number of eligible students in half.

Democrats on the Education Committee were pleased with the outcome.”HB 20 contains no protection for students against discrimination, little oversight, and is ripe for fraud…and would act as a tax-dollar giveaway to wealthy families. There has never been as much vocal opposition to a piece of legislation in NH,” Democrat leader on the committee Mel Myler said in a press release Thursday morning.

There’s still an Education Freedom Account bill in the Senate, giving supporters hope the legislation can still be amended and passed this year. In 2017-2018, the Senate passed SB193 – an education savings account program. That bill died in the House, after being heavily amended. The Senate then scrapped a separate bill and reintroduced SB193, the original version. Again, the proposal failed in the House.Democrats and teachers unions argued EFAs would increase property taxes, defund local district schools, and wreak havoc on New Hampshire’s education system. They celebrated Thursday’s win.

It has been well documented that students who leave public schools for voucher schools lose ground academically. Vouchers will not only hurt the state’s poorly funded public schools, it will hurt the children who use vouchers. It is a lose-lose for everyone except the religious schools that win public funds.

The Education Law Center has developed an excellent presentation on the shortchanging of public education in the years since 20008. The great majority of states did not keep up with the costs of educating their children. Only a handful did: Wyoming, Alaska, Illinois, Connecticut. The rest saw a sharp drop in their effort to fund the education of their children.

The two absolutely worst states, as judged by their failed effort to fund their schools, were Arizona and Florida, followed by Michigan. It is not coincidence that these are states that have put their efforts into choice, as a substitute for funding.

The report from ELC begins:

In the decade following the Great Recession, students across the U.S. lost nearly $600 billion from the states’ disinvestment in their public schools. Data from 2008-2018 show that, if states had simply maintained their fiscal effort in PK-12 education at pre-Recession levels, public schools would have had over half a trillion dollars more in state and local revenue to provide teachers, support staff and other resources essential for student achievement. Further, that lost revenue could have significantly improved opportunity and outcomes for students, especially in the nation’s poorest districts.

The states dramatically reduced their investment in public education in response to the 2007 Great Recession. Yet as economies rebounded, states failed to restore those investments. As our analysis shows, while states’ economic activity — measured as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — recovered, state and local revenues for public schools lagged far behind in many states.

This “lost decade” of state disinvestment has put public schools in an extremely vulnerable position as the nation confronts the coronavirus pandemic. Once again, state budgets are strained by declining revenues. And once again, school districts across the country are bracing for state aid cuts and the potential for reduced local support.

This report builds on our Making the Grade analysis of the condition of public school funding in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Instead of a one-year snapshot, this report provides a longitudinal analysis of the effort made by states from 2008 to 2018 to fund their public education systems. We measure that effort using an index that calculates elementary and secondary education revenue as a percentage of each state’s economic activity or GDP.

A key goal of this report is to give advocates data and information to use in their efforts to press governors and state legislatures not to make another round of devastating “pandemic cuts” to already underfunded public schools.

Open the report to see where YOUR state ranks in its effort to educate its students.

Arizona and Florida are the two most shameful states in their neglect of the future of their children.

Jan Resseger reminds us of the traditional Masai greeting, “How are the children?” The assumption is that if the children are well, the village or society is well. Many of our children are not well. Too many live in poverty and lack adequate nutrition, decent medical care, and a safe place to live.

Sadly, as Jan explains, the Republican moderates who asked Biden to cut his COVID relief package focused their cuts on aid to children.

She begins:

This week a group of so-called moderate U.S. Senate Republicans proposed to negotiate with President Joe Biden about his proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus bill.  But even the ten senators, who profess themselves to be moderates and who came forward with a $618 billion alternative proposal, proved themselves willing to neglect the needs of America’s children. The United States, the world’s richest nation, posts an alarming child poverty rate, but, apart from the voices of a handful of social justice advocates, any level of concern about child poverty is inaudible. Hardly anybody seems to have noticed that one of the great strengths of Biden’s American Rescue Plan is the President’s inclusion of funding for programs that would significantly ameliorate suffering among America’s poorest children.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Chuck Marr did recently recognize the significanceof the pro-child provisions in Biden’s new American Rescue Plan: “President Biden’s $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan includes a Child Tax Credit expansion that would lift 9.9 million children above or closer to the poverty line, including 2.3 million Black children, 4.1 million Latino children, and 441,000 Asian American children. It also would lift 1.1 million children out of ‘deep poverty,’ raising their family incomes above 50 percent of the poverty line. To do that, the Biden plan would make the credit fully available to 27 million children—including roughly half of all Black and Latino children—whose families now don’t get the full credit because their parents don’t earn enough….”

Do Republicans not care about our children? Why is military spending more desirable than spending to save the lives of the neediest and most helpless?

Everyone should read The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, which demonstrates that societies are happier when there is more equality.

Steve Nelson was head of school at the Calhoun School. He is now in retirement. He writes frequently about the need for child-centered education.

“RESIST!”  Bernie Sanders? AOC?  Malcom X? Saul Alinsky?

No, this was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s plea to Education Department staffers as she ends her term in office. As reported in The Hill, she specifically implored them to “Be the resistance against forces that will derail you from doing what’s right for students.”  DeVos evoking the language of progressive activism is rich – almost as rich as DeVos herself.

She has gotten scant attention in the chaos of these last days.  It seems unjust to allow her to go so quietly from the party.  It is only in the shadow of Bill Barr, Scott Pruitt, Michael Flynn, Wilbur Ross, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Mike Pompeo, Ben Carson, Stephen Miller and many others that DeVos’s breathtaking awfulness would go uncelebrated.

I am here to right that wrong.

As with other Trump appointees, her most luminous qualification for the position was absolute disdain for the mission she was tapped to lead.  She had demonstrated  decades of hostility toward public education and her antipathy has continued unabated on the job.

Her educational “philosophy” is built on several premises that have informed her life’s work. 

Her education activism and support of reform are, in her words, “a means to advance God’s Kingdom.”   She has proclaimed that “the system of education in the country . . . really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run.”  To this end she has been a tireless advocate for voucher programs which allow parents to use tax dollars for their children’s enrollment in religious schools.  In Florida, for example, 80% of vouchers, to the tune of $1 billion, go to religious schools, where evolution is just theory, gay students are unwelcome and every course is offered through a Christian lens.

Her advocacy for charter schools is built on the second premise: Profit is a divine right and any budding entrepreneur who can walk and chew gum is qualified to give education a shot. In her home state of Michigan this has resulted in a checkerboard of charter schools that fail as often as Trump casinos and where the odds of getting a good education are like playing the roulette wheel.  The shifting of public money to charters has hollowed out the public system in Detroit, for example, where kids of color are often shuffled to and from a half dozen startups and shutdowns in just one school year.  To extend the simile, it’s a bad deal for children.

This manifestation of her “activism” seems very much like the source of her immense wealth:  Amway.  The very American Amway system also allows  any budding entrepreneur who can walk and chew gum to give Amway a whirl. The odds of success are similar to the odds of success for charter startups – meaning very low indeed.  Unless, of course, you are at the top of the pyramid. Every sucker who loses is a gain for the house.  

Amway aside, her business acumen is a bit suspect.  She was a major investor in Theranos, a remarkable scam whose founder is facing felony counts of fraud.  She and her husband are also up to their corrupt ears in another corporate scam, Neurocore, which has been charged for using unapproved (FDA) devices and deceptive (FTC) marketing.  As a kicker, they invested in a Broadway show that closed after three weeks.  Like her patron saint Trump, it’s just so much winning.

I would be remiss if not pointing out that she is, in these respects, an iconic representative of the contemporary Grand Old Party which is committed to the same principles: that we are a Christian nation and that everything done for private profit is de facto better and more efficient than anything done for public good.

A few other highlights:

She supports using federal funds to arm teachers.

She dramatically altered Title IX to give more rights to boys and men accused of sexual misconduct and to significantly limit the authority of educational institutions to support women or use their own discretion.

In her confirmation hearing, she knew nothing about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), saying states should do whatever they want.

She called historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) “pioneers of school choice,” seeming to miss that they were the result of segregation and that they were founded because black students had no choices.  It’s like admiring a particularly fine porcelain drinking fountain in Jim-Crow-era Alabama and praising it as a pioneer in hydration choice.

President-elect Biden has selected Dr. Miguel Cardona to replace DeVos.  He is a vast improvement.  For those who continue to work  in the Department of Education, we must say, “Resist!”