Category Archives: Schools K-12

Inside a Long, Messy Year of Reopening Schools

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, New Republic, March 8, 2021

Teachers unions were accused of being obstinate and compromising education. The real story is a lot more complex.

Last month in Chicago, after months of heated negotiations, the teachers union and Chicago Public Schools emerged with one of the most detailed school reopening agreements in the nation. Brad Marianno, an education policy professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has been studying these agreements since last spring, called it the most comprehensive he’s seen, citing its inclusion of things like testing protocols, measures that might lead to reclosing schools, and vaccination commitments. Among other things, the union succeeded in negotiating accommodations for hundreds more members at higher risk of Covid-19 complications, or who serve as the primary caregiver for someone at higher risk, than the district had originally agreed to accommodate.

Stacy Davis Gates, the vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said one of the most important components of the agreement was the so-called “school safety committees” a demand the union put forward in December to hold leadership accountable to the health and safety promises it’s made. The school-based committees include up to four CTU members, the principal, the building engineer, and a “reasonable” number of other employees like janitors, lunchroom staff, and security guards. On a regular basis, they will flag to the principal any issues that arise and can hold the school liable if they go ignored. ….

Job Stress and Health of Elementary and Secondary School Educators in the United States

Source: Paul A. Landsbergis, Elina Shtridler, Amy Bahruth, Darryl Alexander, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 30 Issue 3, November 2020
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From the abstract:
Elementary and secondary school educators face many work stressors, which appear to be increasing due to economic, political, and social trends. Therefore, we analyzed data from a 2017 national American Federation of Teachers survey of U.S. education staff, including data from two New York School districts that have adopted collaborative labor-management practices. The national American Federation of Teachers sample of educators reported significantly higher prevalences of several work stressors and poorer physical and mental health compared to the U.S. workers overall, adjusted for age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Compared with educators nationally, educators in districts with collaborative labor-management practices did not have a consistently higher or lower prevalence of work stressors or poorer health. Findings suggest the importance of reducing work stressors among U.S. educators. Results should be interpreted with caution due to the low educator survey response rate.

The Risk Of Severe COVID-19 Within Households Of School Employees And School-Age Children

Source: Thomas M. Selden, Terceira A. Berdahl, and Zhengyi Fang, Health Affairs, Vol. 39 no. 11, 2020
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From the abstract:
Across the United States, school districts are grappling with questions of whether and how to reopen and keep open elementary and secondary schools in the 2020–21 academic year. Using household data from before the pandemic (2014–17), we examined how often people who have health conditions placing them at risk for severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were connected to schools, either as employees or by living in the same households as school employees or school-age children. Between 42.0 percent and 51.4 percent of all school employees met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) definition of having or potentially having increased risk for severe COVID-19. Among all adults with CDC-defined risk factors for severe COVID-19, between 33.9 million and 44.2 million had direct or within-household connections to schools.

“Defund the (School) Police”?: Bringing Data to Key School-to-Prison Pipeline Claims

Source: Michael Heise, Jason P. Nance, Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper 20-23, August 23, 2020

From the abstract:
Calls across the nation to “Defund the Police,” largely attributable to the resurgent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, motivated derivative calls for public school districts to consider “defunding” (or, at the very least, revisit or modify) school resource officer (“SRO/police”) programs. To be sure, a school’s SRO/police presence—and the size of that presence—may influence the school’s student discipline reporting policies and practices. How schools report student discipline and whether it involves referrals to law enforcement agencies matter, particularly as it may fuel a growing “school-to-prison pipeline.” The “school-to-prison pipeline” research literature features two general claims that frame key debates about changes in how public schools approach student discipline and the growing calls to defund school resource officer programs. One is that public schools’ increasingly “legalized” approach toward student discipline increases the probability that students will be thrust into the criminal justice system. A second, distributional claim is that these adverse consequences disproportionately involve students of color, boys, students from low-income households, and other vulnerable student sub-groups. Both claims include important legal and policy dimensions as students’ adverse interactions with law enforcement agencies typically impose negative consequences on students and their futures. We subject both claims to the nation’s leading data set on public school crime and safety, supplemented by data on state-level mandatory reporting requirements and district-level per pupil spending, and explore three distinct analytic approaches in an effort to better isolate the possible independent influence of a school’s SRO/police presence on that school’s student discipline reporting behavior. Results from our analyses, largely robust to various analytical approaches, provide mixed support for the two claims. Specifically, and largely consistent with prior research, we find that a SRO/police presence at a school corresponds with an increased probability that the school will report student incidents to law enforcement agencies. However, we do not find support in the school-level data for the distributional claim.

Gem State Inequalities: Examining the Recent History of Idaho Public School Funding

Source: Ali Carr-Chellman, Taylor Raney, Dan Campbell, Journal of Education Finance, Volume 45, Number 4, Spring 2020
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From the abstract:
This article focuses on the application of Savage Inequalities-based analyses of data from the state of Idaho with a focus on equitable rural school funding. While Kozol’s famous 1991 book-length work examining school inequalities was focused on urban centers and completed several decades ago, this article offers an updated examination of imbalances in funding and practice across the primarily rural state of Idaho. By examining state documents through a secondary data analysis, this paper extends an earlier exploration of the intricacies of school funding such as implications for casino income as well as the recent history of state level funding1. Findings from the current examination indicate that while per-pupil funding by school district in the state of Idaho was equalized by state distributions through 2008, impacts of state cuts at that time increased inequities again when comparing school funding across the state. Because of this, rural, remote, and tribal schools are often dramatically underfunded relative to perceived need.

Collective Bargaining Organizations and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown Decision

Source: Ed Dandalt and Marybeth Gasman, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 71, Issue No. 2, Summer 2020
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From the abstract:
In a scholarly context where most legal research on the implementation of the United States Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision has evolved around the militancy of civil rights organizations for school desegregation, this article examines the leadership undertaken by federal teacher associations (American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association) at the national level to support the implementation of this hallmark decision during the modern civil rights movement. The analysis of this article is limited to the national desegregation services provided by these collective bargaining organizations to their locals. Findings from the primary materials that were reviewed suggest that the leadership provided by these organizations contributed to the desegregation of locals and was a catalyst for union mergers in public education.

States will cut K-12 education funding, pushing budget pain to school districts with varying ability to cope

Source: Moody’s, June 23, 2020
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Many states suffering revenue declines because of the coronavirus outbreak will cut K-12 funding, leaving school districts having to raise revenue, reduce expenses or draw down reserves. Raising revenue or reducing expenses generally lowers credit risk the most, while spending reserves, particularly large single-year drawdowns, tends to carry the greatest risk. ​

Antipolitics and the Hindrance of Performance Management in Education

Source: Jeffrey W Snyder, Andrew Saultz, Rebecca Jacobsen, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Volume 29, Issue 4, October 2019
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From the abstract:
Performance management reforms are a popular way to try to create responsive and improving government. These types of reforms have become commonplace in education policy and the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (JPART) has been one of the leading venues for research on these topics. However, under-analyzed are the ways in which performance management policies represent antipolitical bent to education reform. We outline an argument that avoiding political decisionmaking in favor of reforms that create authoritative or purportedly neutral data risks undertaking policy change are not as meaningful as hoped. We select eight articles that represent research on performance management broadly and are thought provoking for a broader consideration of performance management in education policy.

Thriving cities, challenged schools: teacher strikes highlight districts’ credit issues

Source: Helen Cregger, Denise Rappmund, Naomi Richman, Leonard Jones, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, September 17, 2019
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Given enrollment declines, high housing prices, tighter labor markets and a growing proportion of legacy fixed costs, meeting teacher pay and staffing demands will continue to challenge districts, especially those with more constrained finances.

The Effects of Performance Audits on School District Financial Behavior

Source: Paul N. Thompson, Mark St. John, Public Finance Review, Online First, Published September 8, 2019
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From the abstract:
Performance audits are a form of weak financial oversight intended to curb inefficient spending and help alleviate financial problems. This study examines the effect of these performance audits on school district finances in Ohio, where performance audits are used on their own and within the context of the state’s fiscal stress labeling system—a strong financial oversight system. Using a difference-in-differences analysis, we find school districts do reduce expenditures as a result of these performance audits. These changes in financial behavior are found even for performance audits in nonfiscal stress districts, suggesting that weak oversight programs may be an effective means toward changing fiscal behavior. Despite the financial changes in nonfiscal stress districts that receive audits, there appears to be little impact on school district proficiency rates. These results suggest that audits may provide a useful mechanism for changing financial behavior of school districts without much associated efficiency losses.