Archives for category: Funding

Jan Resseger explains how the Ohio legislature, which is devoted to charters and vouchers, managed to cheat districts like hers while boasting about “fair student funding.”

In the new state budget, the Ohio Legislature supposedly fixed an inequitable scheme for funding the state’s extensive private school vouchers. But it was a bait-and-switch. Public schools were losers, especially in poor districts.

With the Ohio Legislature, Even When You Win, You Lose

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District will vote Tuesday on a funding scheme promoted by conservatives and neoliberals. Its promoters call it “student-centered funding,” but that’s a euphemism for the “backpack full of cash” idea, which encourages school choice. Critics of SCF say it introduces free-market principles into school funding and will benefit charter schools while harming public schools.

Jack Ross of the California-based journal “Capitol & Main” writes about the debate over student-centered funding.

Even though it is flush with cash from several federal relief packages, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) wants to switch funding models next year, instituting a controversial structure called Student Centered Funding (SCF) that ties a school’s funding to its student enrollment. Under SCF, schools are awarded a base rate for each child and receive additional funds if the student is considered needier — if they are learning English, for instance, or if they’re in foster care or qualify for free lunch.

If the student leaves the school, the funding goes with them as if they carried a “backpack full of cash.” This could pit schools against each other in a competition for students and the dollars they guarantee, critics say. The funding switch has its origins with Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education, who instituted grants for school districts to explore Student Centered Funding. Los Angeles received one last year

LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg says Student Centered Funding will fuel downward enrollment spirals that will shutter underfunded schools in poor neighborhoods. The more students leave, the less money a school has, and parents and children begin jumping ship at an increasing rate. Proponents of the model say SCF gives schools more flexibility to spend their money on what they need rather than locking them into certain programs designed by remote authorities, like the school board or the state or federal government.

Goldberg disagrees. “[SCF] says districts don’t need to spend the money, individual schools do, by trying to assemble the right combination of kids with the right combination of money,” she says. “A child that’s learning [English as] a second language and has a disability, you might get a lot of money for that student. What do you do if you’re a principal? You start recruiting those students — because they bring their money with them.”

LAUSD insists Student Centered Funding furthers equity by placing schools in better control of how they use their money, and by more directly targeting money at the neediest students. “It really is that iterative process of contending with, what do we do now to better serve our students?” Deputy Superintendent Pedro Salcido told the board. “Student Centered Funding really is that next iteration: How do we deepen the work, how do we deepen progress in our schools?”

In LAUSD’s own calculations of how SCF would affect its school budgets under a “fully loaded” funding formula, 348 schools were found to lose money under SCF, while 367 schools would gain

Sorting the data by percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch reveals further inequities. Ann Street Elementary in Downtown Los Angeles, which tops the list with 100% of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, will lose $3,197 per student and $268,568 in total. It’s not alone: Of the schools with 95% to 100% of students qualifying for free lunch, 29 will lose money under Student Centered Funding, the district found. Between the 85th and 94th percentiles, 141 schools face cuts.

Under a similar student-centered funding policy (lower-cased when we refer to the broader policy; capitalized when we refer to the LAUSD model), Chicago public schools went from 460 librarians in 2012 to 123 in 2020, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. More research on the implementation of student-centered funding in Chicago found teachers felt pressured to take on extra classes because of tightening budgets, while some teachers were just laid off.

“As we lose students, we have less and less resources for the things we need,” one participant says. “The librarian got pulled from being a librarian to be a special education teacher because it was cheaper and because she was certified in that area. So, staff don’t teach what they love, and arts education has to be sacrificed because they are deemed as less important….”

Jill Wynn saw student-centered funding up close. The former San Francisco school board member says the system can flourish — as long as it includes strong protections for low-enrollment schools.

A self-proclaimed charter skeptic, Wynn is a “big fan” of student-centered funding models, which she believes can guarantee extra funding for schools with the neediest children while freeing them from restrictive requirements on how that money must be spent.

But the system works only if it sets in place rules the schools must follow with their money, she explains. When it switched to its own student-centered funding model, the San Francisco School Board mandated that all schools had to use their allotted funds for library services and some music and arts programs, and schools were guaranteed a minimum amount of funding to protect small schools from closure.

What advice would she give to LAUSD if it adopts the model? “Put the guardrails in and make them high,” she says

A 4-3 pro-charter majority on the school board means opposition to SCF is, for now, probably futile. But with a year until implementation of the new model, and an outraged and organized teachers’ union, the fight over Student Centered Funding is likely just beginning.

Bruce Baker of Rutgers University is one of the nation’s foremost experts on school funding and spending. He reports here on the differences between charter schools and public schools. Back in the late 1980s, when the charter idea was first promoted, it’s advocates claimed that charters would be more accountable, would produce higher test scores, and would cost less. We now know—30 years later—that none of these promises were realized.

Baker writes:

Many of us are frequently bombarded with claims that district schools have a huge revenue and spending advantage over charter schools, and those claims are almost always cited to the same series of junk comparisons produced by the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform. The authors of those reports would have everyone else believe that no other research has even been produced on the topic. Time and time again, the same authors have engaged in a circle of self-citation and reiteration of bogus findings from the same bogus and painfully amateur analyses – analyses that first and foremost fail to appropriately assign or attribute revenues allocated to the relevant children served, and second and equally problematic, fail to compare schools providing services of similar scope, to similar populations. I will provide a follow up post which explains the correct methods for making such comparisons. But first, what do real studies, performed by competent researchers find? 

 Baker (yeah… that’s me, so some self-citation here), Libby, and Wiley (2015), in a peer-reviewed article, find that in Houston, the average charter school spent about $424 less than predicted and NYC charter schools were spending $2,000 more than predicted given their population characteristics.[i] That is, using models to compare otherwise similar schools, spending gaps vary by context, with modest spending gaps disadvantaging charter schools in Houston, but with charters holding a significant spending advantage inNew York City

More recently, Knight and Toenjes (2020), in a study of Texas charter schools, found “after accounting for differences in accounting structures and cost factors, charter schools receive significantly more state and local funding compared to traditional public schools with similar structural characteristics and student demographics.”[ii]

In a study completed on behalf of the Maryland Department of Education, authors from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found:[iii]

“in all districts except Frederick, the predicted expense is less than the actual charter expense, indicating that average spending would be less for these charter schools if they followed the spending patterns of traditional schools in their district.”

That is, when modeled by regression analysis, given a variety of student and school characteristics, charter schools were spending more than expected (meaning, more than otherwise similar TPS). 

Authors from AIR arrived at similar findings using similar methods in a study completed as part of the Getting Down to Facts project in California:[iv]

“The conditional analyses, accounting for student needs and grade configuration, show that average traditional and charter spending within our sample were not substantially different in 2014-15 and 2015-16. In 2016-17, Aspire schools were expected to spend $1,000 or more than traditional schools in both LAUSD and OUSD when controlling for student needs and grade configuration (Exhibit B). When special education spending was excluded, Aspire and Green Dot schools in Los Angeles spent more than otherwise similar traditional schools in Los Angeles.”

So, yes, the squishy bottom line in all of this is that it depends on the context, and also may depend on the charter operator within that context, depending on the types of children they serve as well as their access to supplemental resources. It is certainly NOT the case that charter schools are systematically shorted large amounts of funding compared to their district school counterparts serving otherwise similar populations in regular elementary, middle and secondary schools. The studies above include estimates of funding differentials in at least some of the same locations for which the University of Arkansas studies proclaim vast disparities. 

The authors of these studies have been informed more than once, with detailed explanation as to why their methods are wrong and their findings incorrect, and with reference to studies, like those above which actually apply relevant, appropriate and standard methods. Instead of making any attempts to provide more accurate methods, or simply cease reporting, these same authors have made more and more egregious errors (see their latest on special education funding) leading to similarly erroneous – politically convenient – conclusions. 

It’s either complete incompetence, or intentional deceit – or perhaps a little of both (see next post on correct methods for evaluating charter/district school – or any between school spending variations). 

Open the link to read the citations.


 

Peter Greene was reading a sports column and saw a reference to the coach’s staff. This reference sent him on a flight of fancy: what if every teacher had a staff?

What if every teacher had a secretary, an assistant, her own copying machine?

He knows it’s a fantasy, but what if?

Readers of this blog have followed the advance of privatization of public school funding for nearly a decade. We know the big foundations and individuals that support privatization. We have followed their activities and watched as all of their strategies have failed to match their promises. The great puzzle, to me, is the indifference of the mainstream media. While they cover political scandals of every variety, they are just not interested in the sustained campaign to divert public money to schools there privately managed,to religious schools, to other private schools, and even to homeschooling. The media rightly criticized Betsy DeVos’s crusade for school choice, but as soon as she left office, they lost interest in the issue. Meanwhile, red states are rushing to open more charter schools and fund more vouchers.

Maurice Cunningham explored this issue in a recent post on the blog of the MassPoliticsProfs. He chastises the Boston Globe, but the same complaint could be directed to most mainstream media.

He begins:

Suppose WalMart swept into Boston and spent millions to acquire Market Basket. The town would go ballistic. It would be covered every day in every media outlet, front page of the Boston Globe. But the Walton Family Foundation of Arkansas—the exact same heartless* mercenaries—spends millions of dollars to take over public schools and it gets ignored. Why is that?

He discusses “Hidden Politics” and “the Politics of Pretending.” He has written frequently about astroturf groups and how they present themselves to a gullible media as authentic spokesmen for parents or for some other groups.

That’s the PR facade, he says. What really matters is: who is funding these groups? Why doesn’t the media care?

I always thought that if out-of-state billionaires could be proven to have entered the state using local fronts to change Massachusetts education policy that would be a great, great, great story. I’ve been proven wrong again, and again, and again. I still think it’s a great story, it’s just a great story that only gets told at a small political science blog. Why is that?

Why is that?

The voucher movement should be dead, in light of the numerous evaluations showing that voucher schools do not get better results than public schoools, and in many evaluations, voucher students lose ground compared to their peers in public schools.

The GOP is determined to siphon public dollars away from public schools and send them to religious schools.

Missouri Governor Parson just signed a voucher bill that will allow students to attend low-cost private and religious school while reducing the state’s revenues and reducing funding for public schools.

This is choice for the sake of choice, not for the benefit of students. This is the Betsy DeVos model.

The Associated Press reports:

Missouri students as soon as next year could have access to scholarships for private school through a new tax credit program signed Wednesday by Gov. Mike Parson.

Under the voucher-style program, private donors would give money to nonprofits that in turn would dole out the scholarships. The money could be used for private school tuition, transportation to school, extra tutoring and other education-related expenses.

Donors to the program would get state tax credits equal to the amount they give, an indirect way to divert state tax dollars to private education.

Parson’s signature represents a long-sought victory for primarily GOP advocates of so-called school choice legislation, which has struggled to gain traction with Missouri Republicans in rural areas where public schools likely would be students’ only option regardless of changes in state law.

“This legislation will empower students and parents with access to resources and educational opportunities that best meet the individual needs of their child,” Sen. Andrew Koenig, a suburban St. Louis Republican, said in a statement.

Critics of school voucher programs have said they funnel money away from public schools by drawing students out of those districts, leading to a drop in attendance and a subsequent drop in funding.

“Missouri is 49th in the country in average starting teachers’ salaries,” Melissa Randol, who heads the Missouri School Boards’ Association, said in a statement. “We need to invest in Missouri’s high quality teachers, rather than funnel money to institutions that have no accountability to taxpayers for how they spend taxpayers’ dollars or how they educate our children.”

Only K-12 students in the state’s largest cities — those with at least 30,000 residents — would be able to get the scholarships. That includes St. Louis, Kansas City and many of their suburbs. It also covers Springfield, Columbia, Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City, Joplin and St. Joseph.

https://www.newstribune.com/news/news/story/2021/jul/15/missouri-governor-signs-school-voucher-bill-into-law/879201/

Readers of this blog are accustomed to the rule “follow the money.” Thus, you should not be surprised that the national campaign to discredit teaching about racism (aka critical race theory) is an obscure rightwing foundation.

Judd Legum and Tesmin Zekeria wrote on a site called “Popular Information” about the activity of the Thomas W. Smith Foundation. In 2020, the authors correctly write, few people outside of law schools had ever heard about CRT. In 2021, CRT has suddenly become “an existential threat” to our nation, a subject of constant discussion at FOX News and other media outlets.

The Thomas W. Smith Foundation has no website and its namesake founder keeps a low public profile. Thomas W. Smith is based in Boca Raton, Florida, and founded a hedge fund called Prescott Investors in 1973. In 2008, the New York Times reported that The Thomas W. Smith Foundation was “dedicated to supporting free markets.”

More information about the foundation can be gleaned from its public tax filings, which are called 990-PFs. The Thomas W. Smith Foundation has more than $24 million in assets. The person who spends the most time working for the group is not Smith but James Piereson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. According to the foundation’s 2019 990-PF, Piereson was paid $283,333 to work for The Thomas W. Smith Foundation for 25 hours per week.

The article continues:

Piereson has made clear that he opposes efforts to increase racial or economic equality, even if these efforts are financed by private charities…

In a 2017 column, Piereson criticized liberal philanthropists for focusing on “climate change, income inequality, [and] immigrant rights,” describing these as “radical causes.” He stressed the need for “a counterbalance provided by right-leaning philanthropies.”

Piereson also opposes classes dedicated to the study of women, Black people, or the LGBTQ community in universities, saying these topics lack “academic rigor.”

In the 1960s, universities caved to the demands of radicals on campus by expanding academic departments to include women’s studies, black studies, and, more recently, “queer studies.” These programs are college mainstays, making up in ideological vigor what they lack in academic rigor.

How did CRT, a complex theory that explains how structural racism is embedded in the law, get redefined to represent corporate diversity trainings and high school classes on the history of slavery? The foundation funding much of the anti-CRT effort is run by a person who opposes all efforts to increase diversity at powerful institutions and laments the introduction of curriculum about the historical treatment of Black people.

It’s hard to generate excitement around tired arguments opposing diversity and racial equality. It’s easier to advocate against CRT, a term that sounds scary but no one really understands.

The article goes on to describe the 21 organizations that have been funded by the Thomas W. Smith Foundation to attack CRT. They include the Manhattan Institute, ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, Judicial Watch, and the American Enterprise Institute.

This post appeared on the Network for Public Education website.

Paul Huang and Olivia Peebles: It’s time to pass a Fair School Funding Plan

This op-ed from Cleveland.com was written by a pair of students from Shaker Heights High School. Paul Huang is a senior; Olivia Peebles in a junior. Both are members of the Shaker Heights High School Student Group on Race Relations. In this op-ed, they lay out a defense of their high school against Ohio’s flawed school rating system.

In Shaker, we are fortunate to have educational opportunities ranging from honors courses and AP/IB classes to vocational training. We are also fortunate to have an administration and staff that strives to close achievement, opportunity and wealth gaps that stem from systemic racism.

Yet the Shaker Heights City School District has three so-called “failing” schools and received an overall “C” average on the Ohio Department of Education’s annual report card.

The school report card is based heavily on standardized achievement data, which is linked to socioeconomic status. Standardized tests do not consider the specific challenges some districts have, such as high poverty.

Schools with larger numbers of Black and brown students or children whose families have low incomes are more likely to be deemed “failing.”

The report card also grades districts on closing a “racial achievement gap,” without considering the opportunity barriers communities of color face due to years of segregation, discrimination and exploitation.

When the state considers a school to be “failing,” it can send the district’s funding to private schools via vouchers. This gap-closing metric actually widens achievement gaps by underfunding the schools that need extra resources to close them.

Read the complete op-ed here.

You can view the post at this link : https://networkforpubliceducation.org/blog-content/paul-huang-and-olivia-peebles-its-time-to-pass-a-fair-school-funding-plan/

In recent decades, states have reduced their subsidies to institutions of high education, shifting the financial burden to students and families. After World War II, the federal government recognized that investing in higher education would benefit society as a whole. The rise of libertarianism in the past forty years has promoted the view that the consumer, not society, should pay for what is now seen as a personal benefit. This attitude exacerbates inequality, since those at the top can more readily pay for their children’s education than those with less money. It’s worth mentioning here that all higher education in Finland is tuition-free. The Finns consider education to be a human right, which people should not be required to purchase.

Making college free for all creates problems, to be sure. What about students and families already deeply in debt? Shouldn’t their debts be forgiven? What about those who already sacrificed to pay staggering debt?

Two Connecticut professors—Stephen Adair of Central Connecticut State University and Colena Susankreed1 of Gateway Community College— review some of the issues here, in an article that appeared in the New York Times.

The last 40 years have seen an ever-widening income gap between those with college degrees and those without. Over that interval, incomes have soared for those with advanced degrees and declined for those with high-school diplomas or less. As a result, the route to economic security for young people depends increasingly on access to higher education. Yet it keeps getting more expensive.

Since the Great Recession, the public portion of the operating costs for state universities and colleges in Connecticut, where we teach, has declined 20 percent; since the 1980s, it has declined by nearly half. In the 1960s, tuition for a Connecticut state university was $100 a year, which could be earned by working fewer than 100 hours at minimum wage. Today, a student needs to work nearly 1,000 hours at the state minimum of $12 an hour to pay the $11,462 required for tuition at the least expensive state university in Connecticut.

Our state is hardly unique in abdicating its responsibilities to the next generation. By 2018, only four states had returned to prerecession funding levels at public two- and four-year institutions. In Arizona the decline has been especially acute: 2018 per-student higher-education funding was down 55.7 percent from 2008, and average student tuition costs at four-year institutions increased by 91 percent. In Louisiana, these figures were 40.6 and 105.4 percent, respectively.

The Biden administration has proposed reforms to ease the student-debt crisis. But a real solution must upend a system of cascading inequities. Restoring the dream of higher education as an equalizer requires a holistic solution that attacks all the sources of the problem: a lack of investment in common goods, growing tuition and student debt and exploitative labor practices that undermine the quality of education.

The rise in tuition costs, combined with the growing economic value of a college degree, fuels the crisis of student debt, which today totals $1.7 trillion. To pay for a year of school, three-quarters of American families pay at least 24 percent of their average family income, even after grants are distributed.

As students pay more, they often receive less. Nationwide, nearly 75 percent of all faculty positions are off the tenure track, often without benefits or long-term job prospects. Ironically, hundreds of thousands of some of the most educated people in the country now shuttle to and from campus, juggling gigs to try to eke out a living while unable to give students the attention they deserve.

While President Biden’s American Families Plan includes a provision for free community college, this is an incomplete solution.

The College for All Act of 2021, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal, would address the crisis in full. In addition to making community college tuition-free for all, it would make two- and four-year public colleges and minority-serving institutions free for poor and middle-class students and increase funding for programs that target students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Nationally, in 2016, the net average price of college attendance (the total cost minus all grants awarded) for students coming from the lowest family income quartile amounted to 94 percent of total family income. Unsurprisingly, poorer students are less present at higher levels of education nationwide. In Connecticut, students of color are overrepresented at the introductory levels and increasingly underrepresented at higher levels.

We stand to exacerbate racial and class divides if we create a dead end for poorer students by cutting off funding at the associate level, stunting their progress or requiring them to take on debt to continue. By including both two- and four-year institutions and by expanding Pell grants so they can be used to cover living and nontuition expenses, the College for All Act would help bridge the significant earning gap between those with some college education and those with bachelor’s degrees.

The measure would also address the labor precarity corroding learning conditions: It would require that at least 75 percent of courses be taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty members and help transition short-term and part-time faculty members to those positions.

To fund these reforms, the bill proposes a tax on trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives, to raise more than $600 billion over the next decade.

The College for All Act complements recent efforts in states like California, Connecticut, Georgia and New York to boost two- and four-year institutions. While these efforts are distinct, they all seek to facilitate the movement between two-year colleges and public universities and improve equity...

To the extent that higher education reinforces existing inequities, it contributes to the affliction it is supposed to ease. Solving this problem will expand opportunities for individuals, grow the middle class, improve the skills of America’s work force and strengthen democracy. But this won’t happen on its own; it needs a push. So let’s push.

During the 2020 Presidential campaign, candidate Joe Biden pledged to educators that if elected, Betsy DeVos’s priorities, such as charter schools, would be gone. That’s what he said in a nationally televised forum in Pittsburgh for educators in December 2019 (start about 4:40). In Pittsburgh, he also promised to end the federal pressure for standardized testing. In his campaign documents, he promised that no federal funds would go to for-profit charter schools.

So far, his batting record is poor. The first consequential decision, made before the confirmation of Secretary Cardona, was to insist on the resumption of federal testing in the midst of the pandemic.

Now we know he backtracked on charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program—though riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse, though used in North Carolina to fund segregation academies—will receive the same funding as under DeVos ($440 million a year).

Here comes the next insult to the nation’s public schools: Secretary Miguel Cardona will be the lead speaker at the National Charter Schools Conference. Contrary to President Biden’s statement in Pittsburgh, charter schools will not be gone.

Will Secretary Cardona tell the attendees that he is cutting off federal funding to charters that operate for profit? Will he tell them that the federal government will no longer fund charters operated by for-profit managers? Will he explain why he kept the wasteful federal Charter Schools Program at the same level as it was under Betsy DeVos?

Don’t count on it.