Category Archives: Schools K-12

What’s Behind the Teachers’ Strikes: The Labor-Movement Dynamic of Teacher Insurgencies

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Dollars and Sense, no. 336, May/June 2018

As we watch—rapt—the unexpected teacher insurgencies in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, and Colorado, we’re also grasping for understanding: Why is this stunning revolt occurring where unions are weak, where labor rights are thin, and where popular politics are considered to be on the right? To understand the insurgency, we need to look at economics, and at political economy specifically. But we especially need a labor-movement analysis.

A labor-movement analysis starts by understanding the political and economic conditions that shape the objective conditions of a particular group of workers (or labor market) at a given moment—prevailing wages, benefits, work processes, structures of employment, stability of work, market forces in the sector, etc. Then we look at how workers respond to those material factors and conditions: how they understand their interests, how they see their own power (or lack of it), how they understand the interests of the employers and what influences them, and how they develop tactics, strategies, and institutions to bring their power to bear against the power of employers. Finally, the self-directed activity of workers (including their ideas, ideologies, methods of organization, decision-making, and what actions they take) can be embedded in the larger context of other sectors of workers, other social movements, and historical labor movements. Such an analysis can help us interpret the teacher strike wave and, perhaps, gain insights that can help us rebuild capable, fighting unions….

Colorado School District Gives Students 4-Day Weeks

Source: Suzannah Weiss, Teen Vogue, August 15, 2018

Many of us wish we could have longer weekends, but for about 18,000 students in Colorado, that wish is coming true. A school district outside Denver has decided to shorten its week to four days, and the first school year on this new schedule just started, CBS Denver reports. It began on Tuesday, August 14, because the day students get off is everyone’s least favorite: Monday.

While this may sound like a dream come true, it means students will have to sit through longer school days to make up for the hours they’ve lost, according to The Denver Post.

The decision wasn’t made just to give students more days off, though; it had practical motivations: to save money and attract better teachers. The district estimates that it will save $1 million by not having buses on Mondays, hiring fewer subs, and spending less on utilities, according to KUSA Denver. ….

…. Around 560 districts in 25 states include schools with four-day weeks, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but evidence is mixed on how the different schedule affects students’ performance. ….

Kansas Supreme Court rules in favor of K-12 public schools, a credit positive for districts

Source: Denise Rappmund, Matthew Butler, Moody’s, Sector Comment, July 18, 2018
(subscription required)

On June 25, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas (Aa2 stable) state legislature’s latest K-12 public school funding bills still do not meet the state’s constitutional standards for adequately funding public education. This ruling is a credit positive for Kansas school districts because it will mean a modest amount of additional operational revenue to districts, on top of the $643.9 million in additional funding over the next five-year period covered by the legislature’s current funding plan. Further, the court has also stated that the current plan is to remain in temporary effect with a stay on the ruling through June 30, 2019, during which time the state will need to re-submit to the court a remedy that will bring funding up to state standards for student achievement.

Are There Hidden Costs Associated With Conducting Layoffs? The Impact of Reduction‐in‐Force and Layoff Notices on Teacher Effectiveness

Source: Katharine O. Strunk, Dan Goldhaber, David S. Knight, Nate Brown, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Early View, First published: July 5, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Few studies examine employee responses to layoff‐induced unemployment risk; none that we know of quantify the impact of job insecurity on individual employee productivity. Using data from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Washington State during the Great Recession, we provide the first evidence about the impact of the layoff process on teacher productivity. In both sites we find that teachers impacted by the layoff process are less productive than those who do not face layoff‐induced job threat. LAUSD teachers who are laid off and then rehired to return to the district are less productive in the two years following the layoff. Washington teachers who are given a reduction‐in‐force (RIF) notice and are then not laid off have reduced effectiveness in the year of the RIF. We argue that these results are likely driven by impacts of the layoff process on teachers’ job commitment and present evidence to rule out alternate explanations.

Public K-12 school districts – Oklahoma – State’s top court rejects challenge to taxes for teacher pay increases, a credit positive

Source: Adebola Kushimo, Roger S Brown, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Sector Comment, June 27, 2018
(subscription required)

On June 22, the Oklahoma (Aa2 negative) Supreme Court rejected an effort to nullify a legislative package that increases state taxes to provide teachers with a pay raise. The court refused to permit a referendum that would have given voters a chance to block the tax increases, which include tax hikes on gasoline and oil production. The ruling is credit positive for school districts because it preserves state funding for the teacher pay increases, which came as teachers threatened to strike earlier this year and eventually did. The activists opposing the tax increases could still mount another effort to hold a referendum, hoping voters will overturn the tax hikes. The court noted that they have until July 18 to submit a new list of signatures that could lead to a November vote…..

State takeovers of schools are about political power, not school improvement

Source: Domingo Morel, The Conversation, July 3, 2018

When states take over local school districts – like they’ve done or are trying to do in Kentucky, Georgia and Mississippi – school improvement is typically the stated objective.

Although the research on the effects of state takeovers on academic outcomes is mixed, takeovers often have devastating political and economic implications for black communities. As states increasingly attempt to take over school districts in major Southern cities, it’s worth exploring whether school improvement is the real purpose, or whether political motives are at play.

I raise this issue as the author of the first systematic study of state takeovers of local school districts. I am also a researcher who focuses racial and ethnic politics, urban politics, education politics and public policy…..

50-State Comparison: State Kindergarten-Through-Third-Grade Policies

Source: Louisa Diffey, Education Commission of the States, June 4, 2018

High-quality, early elementary years offer a critical opportunity for development and academic learning for all children. Key components of a quality, K-3 experience include kindergarten, qualified teachers, seamless transitions, appropriate assessments and interventions, family engagement, social-emotional supports and academic supports. Education Commission of the States has researched the policies that guide these key components in all 50 states to provide this comprehensive resource. Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons, showing how all states approach specific policies, or view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.

Key Takeaways
– Seventeen states, plus the District of Columbia, require children to attend kindergarten, although the length of day varies across states.

– Thirteen states, plus the District of Columbia, require the district to offer full-day kindergarten.

– Eighteen states, plus the District of Columbia, have policies in place to guide the transition from pre-K to kindergarten. This guidance often includes written transition plans, family engagement, teacher/provider meetings and assessment data linkages.

– Forty-two states, plus the District of Columbia, detail the interventions available to K-3 students, often including extended instructional time, parental engagement, evidence-based instruction, summer reading opportunities and small group instruction.

– Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have retention policies in place, which are designed to support students who are not on grade level by the end of third grade.

– Forty states, plus the District of Columbia, emphasize social-emotional learning in K-3 in statute, rules or regulations. Usually, social-emotional learning is emphasized in kindergarten entrance assessments, school readiness definitions and/or teacher training requirements…..

Which States Spend the Most Money on Their Students?

Source: Stephen Wheeler, U.S. Census Bureau, America Counts: Stories Behind the Numbers, June 2018

In 2016, public elementary and secondary schools across the nation received $353.2 billion in state and federal revenue, most of which goes into expenditures such as teacher’s salaries, transportation and other associated expenses.

So who’s spending the most on their students?

American Attitudes Toward Teacher Pay and Protests

Source: Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, April 2018

The April 2018 AP-NORC Poll asked 1,140 adults their views on teacher pay and recent protests advocating for more school funding.

​On April 19, 2018, teachers in Arizona voted to walk off the job to demand increased school funding, joining the movement for higher teacher pay that began in February in West Virginia and has spread to Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Colorado. In a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 78 percent of Americans say teachers in this country are underpaid, but fewer approve of walkouts by teachers to demand pay raises and increased school funding.

Fifty-two percent approve of teachers striking to protest low teacher pay and school funding cuts, while 25 percent disapprove and 22 percent neither approve nor disapprove. But who is to blame when teacher labor unrest disrupts students’ education? Americans say there is plenty of blame to go around. ….

…. Seventy-eight percent of adults say public school teachers get paid too little for the work that they do, 6 percent say they get paid too much, and 15 percent say they get paid the right amount. Still, only 50 percent would support a plan to increase their taxes in order to increase teacher compensation and funding for their local public schools, while 26 percent would oppose such a plan, and 23 percent neither favor nor oppose. ….

Related:
Most Americans believe teachers have the right to strike
Source: Ipsos/NPR survey on the public’s views of teachers, April 26, 2018

A recent survey conducted on behalf of NPR shows that just one in four Americans believe teachers in this country are paid fairly. Furthermore, three-quarters agree teachers have the right to strike, including two-thirds of Republicans, three-quarters of independents and nearly 9 in 10 Democrats. 

Though nearly two-thirds approve of national teachers’ unions, an equal number (63%) agree that teachers’ unions do make it harder to fire bad teachers. Half of Americans (51%) agree that teachers’ unions improve both the quality of education and teachers, though these two questions vary based on party affiliation. Two-thirds or more of Democrats agree that teachers’ unions improve the quality of education and teachers, compared to less than half of Republicans…..

HPU Poll: NC Republicans and Democrats Agree on Education Issues
Source: March 7, 2018

…. Teacher pay raises: Majorities of North Carolinians also say that public school teachers are paid too little (85 percent) and claim that they would be willing to pay more in taxes so that North Carolina school teachers could be paid at the national average within five years (73 percent). In fact, large majorities of Democrats (72 percent), Republicans (72 percent), and unaffiliated (76 percent) residents of North Carolina say they would pay more in taxes for such a teacher pay raise. ….

New polls find most Americans say teachers are underpaid — and many would pay higher taxes to fix it
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, June 1, 2018

Teachers Find Public Support as Campaign for Higher Pay Goes to Voters
Source: Dana Goldstein and Ben Casselman, New York Times, May 31, 2018

Pressure on states to increase K-12 education funding will continue

Source: Pisei Chea, Nicholas Samuels, Emily Raimes, Timothy Blake, Nadia Morelos, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, June 4, 2018
(subscription required)

Public demand to increase K-12 education funding has grown in many states, a reaction to years of restrained spending in this area since the 2008-09 recession. Between fiscal 2002-07, total K-12 funding from federal, state and local sources increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8%, then slowed to a CAGR of 1.8% from 2009-16 despite the economic recovery. The slowdown was driven by declining federal funding, slow state and local tax revenue growth, and generally more austere policy priorities in some state capitals. Teachers in a handful of states have recently organized walkouts to demand higher teacher salaries and increased education spending. States have significant flexibility to adjust their budgets to meet policy demands, especially as tax revenue growth has strengthened in the past year; willingness to do so varies, however, and states will continue to be pressured to balance K-12 spending with other program demands.
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