Archives for category: Funding

Over the past decade or more, policymakers have spent zillions of hours discussing governance (charters, vouchers, state takeovers, etc.), while ignoring the basic issue facing public schools: adequate and equitable funding.

Jan Resseger writes here about the dramatic and much-needed response in Massachusetts to address the need to fund its schools appropriately: The legislature passed and the Governor signed, a bill to increase funding by $1.5 billion a year.

Resseger reviews the near collapse of funding in other states after the 2008 recession, a decade in which funding in the Bay State held steady but did not grow.

And she cites the determination of state leaders to meet the needs of today’s students.

She writes:

For NPR’s Morning Edition, Max Larkin reports: “The law is projected to add about $1.5 billion in annual state aid to schools by 2026, when it is fully phased in. The increase will reach most of the state, but it will be particularly targeted at urban districts with high concentrations of low-income students and English learners, and where many district funds now flow to charter schools.”

Larkin describes the reaction of Boston’s school superintendent to the new funding bill: “Brenda Cassellius, the new superintendent of Boston Public Schools… said… that she wants ‘to spend every single dollar’ of new aid that BPS receives on the district’s ‘neediest’ students.”

Schoenberg quotes Governor Baker’s remarks at the signing ceremony: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 63 years, it’s that talent is evenly distributed… What’s not evenly distributed is opportunity. There’s a reason why this is the Student Opportunity Act, because this legislation is about making sure that every kid in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, regardless of where they live, where they go to school, where they’re from, has the opportunity to get the education they need to be great.”

School funding ought not to be the kind of contentious partisan issue we see today across so many states. Kudos to Massachusetts’ legislators and Governor Charlie Baker for grappling actively with the cost of our public responsibility to provide equal opportunity in the public schools. The new Massachusetts Student Opportunity Act should be held up as a challenge to legislators in the 24 states recently identified by the Center on Budget Priorities where combined state and local school funding still lags below the 2008 level when adjusted for inflation.

Three years ago, the pro-charter, pro-voucher Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a study of Ohio’s voucher program. The study, conducted by David Figlio and Krzysztof Karbownik of Northwestern University is called “Evaluation of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program: Selection, Competition, and Performance Effects.”

The study concluded that the voucher program was failing to improve student achievement.

It said in its conclusions:

There appears to be positive selection, as measured by prior academic performance and family advantage, among voucher-eligible students into private schools as part of the EdChoice program. Although a substantial majority of the students participating in the program, as well as their peers remaining in public schools, tend to be from low-income backgrounds, those students leaving for private schools under the program tend to be more advantaged and higher performing than their peers who were eligible to participate in the program but who remained in public schools…the evidence regarding the effects of EdChoice program suggests that while higher-performing students tend to leave public schools to attend private schools under the EdChoice program, the students who remain in the public schools—at least, those public schools that were comparatively high achieving—generally perform better on statewide tests as a consequence of EdChoice vouchers being available to students in a school. On the other hand, those students who leave these comparatively high-achieving public schools to go to private schools appear to perform worse than they would have had they remained in the public schools (which we estimate to have improved as a consequence of the introduction of EdChoice). Together, it appears that EdChoice has benefitted the majority of students, but the students who actually left the public schools—at least those on the margin of eligibility—perform worse on statewide tests. Although test performance is only one measure of educational success, these findings suggest that a detailed exploration of the possible causes of the negative test-score results (for instance, which private schools participate in the program, policies on school-grade retention, test-curriculum alignment, and the like) may be warranted.

Thus, the students eligible to leave with a voucher do better if they stay in public school; the students who use the voucher, who come from more advantaged backgrounds, do worse in school.

This is the only statewide evaluation of the Ohio EdChoice Program, and not what one would call a ringing endorsement since those who use the voucher do worse in school than those who stay in public school and don’t use the voucher.

Such research did not impress the Ohio legislature. Under the  prodding of State Senator Matt Huffman (R.-Lima), the state has expanded the voucher program, so that students in two-thirds of the districts across the state are now eligible to get state funding to attend a religious school.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer wrote that the voucher expansion will hit the budgets of school districts hard, districts that in the past were not part of the voucher program.

A year ago, no students in the Parma school district used Ohio’s main tuition voucher program to attend private schools.

This year, thanks to changes in state law, 359 students are using vouchers.

For families paying tuition to send their kids to Parma-area private Catholic schools like Padua or Holy Name, a $6,000 tax-funded voucher toward tuition is a huge help.

For the district, it’s a $2.1 million hit to the budget that impacts teachers, books and supplies for its schools.

Parma isn’t alone in facing new or increased costs to help students attend private schools. Changes to state law, have more than tripled the number of districts declared part of the voucher program, from 40 in 2018-19 to 139 this school year.

Next year, the program meant to help students escape being stuck in failing schools will grow further, to more than 400 districts, which represents more than two-thirds of the districts in the state.

Even Solon, always at the top of state test score rankings, has a school considered failing and whose students are now eligible for vouchers. Next year, add a school in each of the high-scoring Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Mayfield districts.

The change has school officials protesting and gathering to find ways to seek relief…

The use of vouchers within school districts is also increasing. The Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools saw 500 more students use vouchers this year than last year, mostly to attend Jewish schools. The district’s voucher bill increased by $3 million.

That change, said district Treasurer Scott Gainer, has the school board seeking a higher tax increase than planned this spring.

Shaker Heights Superintendent David Glasner, whose district is seeing a small bill this year, but faces a larger one next year, complained to the state school board last week about the hit that school district budgets are taking.

“There are school districts that are now expecting to lose millions of dollars in the course of one year as a result of the EdChoice [voucher] expansion,” Glasner said. “These are losses for which districts were unable to forecast or prepare.”

State Sen. Matt Huffman, one of the strongest supporters of vouchers in Ohio, said some of the rules are subtle and have changed a few times. But districts should have known, he said, and should be blaming themselves for not improving their schools…

Ohio has four “scholarship” or voucher programs that provide tax dollars to pay tuition at private schools, almost all of which are Christian schools. There is one program just for Cleveland, which was started in 1996, so Cleveland is not affected by the current changes.

The biggest is called EdChoice. Created in 2005 for students attending “underperforming” schools or who would be assigned to them, EdChoice has a student’s home district pay $4,650 toward tuition for kindergarten through eighth grade and $6,000 for private high schools.

Stephen Dyer, a former legislator in Ohio who writes a blog about education, called “BS” on Huffman’s claim that school districts should have known and should have been prepared.

Dyer says that the state rigged the grades and school report cards to produce failure and make more schools voucher-eligible.

This is where I call BS.

How can I do that? Simple: Over the last decade, the state report card grades upon which these new voucher building designations are being based have been deliberately and artificially deflated for the state’s school districts. And I’m increasingly convinced it was for this sole purpose: to ensure more districts and buildings are deemed “failing” by the state so more public money can be poured into private, mostly religious schools.

Don’t believe me?

Look at school districts’ overall grade performance since the 2012-2013 school year — the first for the A-F state report card system.

Notice anything? Like a massive jump in D and F grades between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015?

Let me ask you a question: Does anyone — and I mean ANYONE — actually believe that between the 2013-2014 school year and the 2014-2015 school year school districts became more than twice as likely to “fail” kids?

Of course not.

This is a classic case of grade manipulation by state lawmakers. You’ll also notice a steady decline in the rate of Fs since the high point of 2015-2016. Why were these grades so much worse? Because the state kept changing standardized tests. So teachers and students had no idea what the testing expectations were. Since they’ve remained the same, you can see a steady and precipitous decline in the rate of F grades, though the percentages of D and F grades remain far higher than the 2012-2013 school year.

To add insult to injury, a study examing the test performance of students who take vouchers found they did worse on state tests after taking the voiucher than before … according to the pro-voucher Fordham Institute. But that doesn’t matter to Huffman, whose hero is apparently the Titanic captain who kept plowing ahead, damn the iceberg.

Anyway, here’s where Huffman struck gold for those who are taking a public subsidy to send their kids to private, mostly religious schools — only 2 out of the three years’ grades count to have your building designated “failing” from 2013-2014, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. And once the building is eligible for vouchers, every student who gets a voucher gets to keep it forever, even if the public building becomes the highest-performing in the state…

But it’s all been a plan from the beginning:

1) Deliberately deflate district report card grades

2) Get as many buildings as possible eligible for vouchers

3) Market them like crazy to families in these districts so the rest of us taxpayers can subsidize their choices with our local tax dollars and/or fewer opportunities for our kids who remain in local school districts.

That’s not a district performance problem.

It’s Huffman’s plan.

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Last Saturday I was on Meryl Johnson’s radio show, based in Cleveland, where she was a teacher in the public schools for many years. Meryl is an elected member of the Ohio State Board of Education, and she is very concerned about the explosion of vouchers. She alerted me to this disaster. I pointed out that there is one possible silver lining. Until now, the suburban districts in Ohio could ignore vouchers and assume they affected only Ohio’s urban districts. Now the cost of vouchers will hit their school budgets and their taxes will  have to go up so that a few students can go to religious schools, where they are likely to get a worse education than the one offered in their local  public schools. Their own schools will now feel the pinch caused by vouchers. Maybe this is the wake-up call that is needed to create a statewide coalition to stop defunding the public schools that enroll the vast majority of students in the Buckeye State.

Meryl sent me a screen shot of the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Will this wake up the citizens of Ohio? Will they realize that they must raise their taxes to pay for vouchers for the small number who leave their public schools? Do they know that the students who leave for religious schools will lose ground academically?

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The media received early copies of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s plan for K-12 education. Like Warren and Sanders, he proposes a large increase in funding for the neediest children and for early education. He wants to see a reduction in college tuition. He does not propose a wealth tax on the 1%. He is against for-profit charters but, unlike Warren and Sanders, would not eliminate or freeze the federal Charter Schools Program, which currently dispenses $440 million a year, mostly to big corporate chains like KIPP and IDEA.

Mayor Pete’s plan is a centrist program, which could have been drafted by the Center for American Progress, the think tank for the Obama administration.

Valerie Strauss describes the plan here.

She writes:

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is unveiling a broad new education plan on Saturday that pledges to spend $700 billion over a decade to create a high-quality child care and preschool system that he said would reach all children from birth to age 5 and create 1 million jobs.

The 37-year-old, openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., also promised to spend $425 billion to strengthen America’s K-12 public schools, targeting federal investments and policy to help historically marginalized students. He would boost funding for schools in high-poverty areas as well as for students with disabilities, and promote voluntary school integration. And he said he would ensure that all charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — undergo the same accountability measures as schools in publicly funded districts…The more than $1 trillion in his plan would be spent over 10 years and would come from “greater tax enforcement” on the wealthy and corporations, according to a Buttigieg campaign spokesperson, who asked not to be identified. He would not impose a new tax on the super-rich, the spokesperson said, who did not detail how much money the mayor believes he can realize from uncollected taxes…

Buttigieg’s new education plan details a push to help communities integrate their schools racially and economically, which research shows is beneficial to black and white students. The mayor pledged to invest $500 million into communities that want to undertake integration efforts. And he said he would reinstate Obama era guidance on the voluntary use of race in state- and district-level strategies to achieve integration, removing current restrictions on the use of federal funds to pay for busing that would be part of integration efforts.

He also pledged triple funding for Title I — the largest federally funded educational program, intended to help schools with high concentrations of students who live in poverty. But that added funding would be targeted to states and districts that “implement equitable education funding formulas to provide more state and local resources to low-income schools….”

Both Sanders and Warren have called for free college tuition for all, while the mayor’s recently released higher education and workforce development plan calls for lowering college tuition and fees on a sliding scale, with free college for those students whose families early up to $100,000. Former vice president Joe Biden, who has topped the polls more consistently than any of the other candidates, has also taken education positions less expansive than Warren and Sanders.

Buttigieg’s big initiative in this plan is around early childhood, for which he has pledged to spend $700 million to create a new system to provide child care and prekindergarten to all children, which he said is more than 20 million, and that would create 1 million new jobs in that sector.

For additional insight on Mayor Pete’s plan, read Matt Barnum and Kalyn Belsha’s account here in Chalkbeat. 

New Hampshire has divided government. The governor is a Republican, who chooses the State Commissioner. But in the last election in 2018, Democrats won control of the legislature.

The State Commissioner is a home-schooling parent who is hostile to public schools. He comes from the Betsy  DeVos mold.

Speaking of DeVos, she gave New Hampshire $46 million from the federal Charter Schools Program, which is her own $440 million slush fund to promote charters.

If spent, this money would double the number of charters in the state, a dramatic expansion.

But the Legislature used its powers to hold up the grant. They want answers to their questions about how the state’s public schools would be affected, and how the charter expansion would affect the state’s finances.

The pending charter expansion grant – the largest earmarked for any state – aims to double the number of charter schools in New Hampshire over the next five years. It is currently on hold, after Democrats on the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee cited concerns that building more charter schools would lead to unanticipated costs for the state and harm existing, non-charter public schools. 

Governor Chris Sununu criticized the hold, calling the money a “game-changing grant [that] would have cost New Hampshire taxpayers nothing.”

But an analysis by the public education non-profit Reaching Higher estimated that, because charter schools are typically funded by the state rather than local districts, the state’s plan to expand charters with this grant money could cost the state over $100 million in the next ten years.

Is this a pig in a poke?

 

Jennifer Hall Lee lives in Pasadena, California. Her child is now enrolled in the high school, but Lee continues to volunteer and raise money for the middle school, where she is needed. In a note to me, she said that 45% of the students in Pasadena are attending private schools, charter schools, or home schooled. The public schools are suffering because of this splintering of civic energy.

She explained why she cares about the middle school:

The annual fund committee raises money throughout the year to help Eliot pay for teacher salaries, supplies, programs, technology and more–all of which keeps Eliot an arts magnet school. Annual funds, once the staple of private schools, are now necessary for many public schools. Pasadena Unified doesn’t receive money from a parcel tax and California ranks very low in per-pupil spending. Let me explain that by referring to the words of Pasadena School Board Member Pat Cahalan as he explains the funding disparity well: “Wisconsin funds public education at about $2,000 more per student. If California funded PUSD at that rate, the district would have over $30 million more every year.”

Eliot is a Title 1 school, which means that our student body is over 50% socio-economically disadvantaged. Moreover, we have to deal with reality: low statewide spending on students, no parcel tax, and misperceptions about PUSD. When the annual fund committee meets to discuss fundraising ideas, we have to deal with those three realities. They are in the room with us, underscoring our ideas as we decide which events to hold and what monies we can reasonably expect to raise. It’s difficult, but also joyful.

During the first year of the Eliot annual fund, we reached the goal of $50k; believe me, it was a huge lift. It took 12 months, but we succeeded, and I have to say this: we couldn’t have done it without everyone, including community members who had no children in Eliot but who participated, reached out to us, donated, and encouraged us. We are so grateful.

In today’s political climate we need everyone’s generosity and interest in our school to help us succeed. Children need to know that everyone in their community cares about them.

 

The celebrated Boston charter City on a Hill is closing one of its schools and imposing budget cuts at another due to falling enrollments.

Once a shining star in the Boston charter school world, City on a Hill Charter School is facing a massive financial crisis, prompting trustees on Monday to enact a series of dramatic budget cuts: It will lay off 23 teachers, administrators, and other staffers at its Roxbury and New Bedford campuses and will close the New Bedford campus in June.

This is a really difficult decision and we don’t take it lightly,” said Cara Stillings-Candal, chair of the trustees in an interview following their Monday morning board meeting. “We wouldn’t have made these decisions if it wasn’t in the best interest of families and students.”

The sweeping budget cuts represent the latest turbulent turn for the nearly 25-year-old charter school, which has been struggling with high leadership turnover, lackluster academic performance, and financial woes. Earlier this year, state officials placed the New Bedford campus on probation, and a year earlier teachers at all three sites unionized, a rarity for independent charter schools, which place a premium on operational autonomy.

The severity of this fall’s financial crisis emerged after headcounts at the three campuses revealed enrollment had dropped for a second year in a row. That, in turn, will lead to a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in per-student aid from the state and federal governments. The three campuses operate as independent schools overseen by a single board of trustees and an executive team.

Just 570 students are currently enrolled in grades 9-12 across City on a Hill’s three campuses, leaving 270 seats empty. The Boston campuses receive about $20,000 per student in state aid and the New Bedford site gets about $15,000 per student. Last year’s enrollment drop resulted in an $842,000 loss in state and federal aid.

The decline in charter enrollments mirrors a trend seen in a few states, like Michigan, where charters have lost their luster.

Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, is a specialist in “follow the money.”

He writes in his latest post that the Waltons are targeting Elizabeth Warren not so much because of her stance on charter schools but because of her proposed wealth tax.

He writes:

If the Waltons hate anything so much as unions, it would be taxes. The family and WalMart are huge into tax dodging. And guess who has a plan for that? Elizabeth Warren. So yes the Waltons are big into charter schools but they are bigger into their own wealth. Disrupting Warren on any grounds is a good thing to them. Remember, dark money is never what it seems.

Here in Massachusetts the Waltons have their own political operation as I showed in The Walton Family’s Massachusetts Political Team, 2019.

And the beauty of these political operations the Walton Family Foundation backs in Massachusetts and around the country? They are mostly tax deductible at the top rate of thirty-seven percent. The Waltons pick up about sixty-three percent of this and you, the grateful taxpayer, pick up thirty-seven percent.

When the Waltons push charter schools, what they really mean is lower state and local taxes on Wal-Mart. When the Waltons try to shout down Elizabeth Warren, it’s about the wealth tax. The Waltons do all this with tax deductible political fronts. Taxes, taxes, taxes.

What happened in Georgia is that a taxpayer subsidized unit of the political front of one of America’s richest families attempted to shut down a political candidate. Expect more of this.

Money never sleeps. Follow the money.

At this very moment, Walmart is suing various states (even Arkansas) to lower their property taxes! That means less money available to support public schools and other public services! This is a family whose collective wealth is more than $160 billion, and they think their property taxes are too high!

Maurice Cunningham played an important role in the referendum about charter school expansion in Massachusetts in 2016 by revealing Dark Money and its sources; I write about him in my forthcoming book SLAYING GOLIATH. And the first page of the book quotes his memorable line: “Money never sleeps. Follow the money.”

 

After Elizabeth Warren released her bold K-12 education plan, with massive funding increases for poor students (Title1) and for students with disabilities, the charter lobby reacted with outrage because she also announced that she would eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program. The CSP has been not only wasteful and ineffective but has been used by Betsy DeVos as her personal slush fund, to reward corporate charter chains and charter advocacy organizations.

Carol Burris and Kevin Welner explain here why Warren’s plan would benefit all needy students, including those enrolled in charter schools. Educators should welcome her plan, whether they are in public schools or charter schools.

Please share widely, tweet and distribute.

This is good news for everyone who cares about the constant encroachment of Big Money and Dark Money into American education. The school choice movement has been an effort to substitute changes in school governance for equitable and adequate funding. Diverting funding from public schools to support charters and vouchers injures the vast majority of students, who are enrolled in public schools.

 

November 21, 2019
ELC WELCOMES PARTNERSHIP FOR EQUITY & EDUCATION RIGHTS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Education Law Center (ELC) today announced a new collaboration with the Partnership for Equity & Education Rights(PEER). Established in 2017, PEER is an innovative network of state-focused advocates, community organizers and public interest lawyers working to ensure all children have access to an excellent public education.
PEER has partners in seven states, all of whom have made fair school funding their top advocacy priority in the network. PEER brings a new vision and energy to growing state-by-state effort to improve school funding, resource equity and student outcomes by connecting lawyers, advocates and organizers. Sharing resources, expertise and experience, they collaborate and support campaigns seeking greater state investment in the nation’s public schools.
PEER also provides a much-needed platform to enhance the capacities of network partners in their efforts to advance fair school funding. PEER’s capacity building includes identifying model policies, litigation opportunities and strategies, research, and organizing tactics for successful campaigns.
“We are thrilled to welcome PEER to the ELC family. PEER is a natural fit with our state-based work on fair school funding and other equity challenges,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “We know collaboration is essential in addressing the tough challenge of ensuring every child in our nation has the educational opportunity they deserve and are entitled to.”
PEER members include: 482 Forward (MI), Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (IL), Georgia Appleseed and Gwinnett SToPP (GA), Legal Aid Justice Center (VA), New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty (NM), North Carolina Justice Center (NC) and Unite Oregon (OR).
“I’ve long admired ELC’s commitment to equity and education rights for all students,” said Jennifer Doeren, PEER Managing Director. “On behalf of all PEER members, we are honored that ELC has welcomed us with open arms. I’m more excited than ever about our potential to improve educational opportunities for American students.”
PEER is supported by funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). Thanks to WKKF support, PEER works to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for vulnerable children across the nation.
“The connection with ELC will strengthen all of our organizations and the PEER network,” said Wytrice Harris, Co-director of 482Forward. “We look forward to a robust collaboration to improve opportunity for public school children across Michigan and across the country.”
Founded in 1973, Education Law Center(ELC) has become one of the most effective advocates for equal educational opportunity and education justice in the United States. Widely recognized for groundbreaking court rulings on behalf of at-risk students, ELC also promotes educational equity through coalition building, litigation support, policy development, communications, and action-focused research. For more information, visit www.edlawcenter.org
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal innovator and entrepreneur Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special attention is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org
Press Contact:
Jennifer Doeren

Both houses of the Massachusetts legislature unanimously passed a major funding bill for education, directing $1.5 billion mainly to the neediest districts.

Massachusetts has long had the most successful public schools in the nation. The state is poised to build on its record of success.

The majority of the $1.5 billion set aside in the bill will go to lower-performing and underfunded school districts, which means adding more teachers, bringing back art and music classes, and increasing funds for students from low-income households.

When voters were asked to pass a referendum to expand charter schools in 2016, they overwhelmingly said no. (I write about this epic battle in my forthcoming battle in my forthcoming book SLAYING GOLIATH).