Category Archives: Schools K-12

Trusting states to do right by special education students is a mistake

Source: Matthew Brock, The Conversation, September 28, 2018

On Sept. 20, the U.S. Department of Education released a new framework to “rethink” how the department oversees special education services for students with disabilities.

As part of this framework, the department plans to provide states with “flexibility” and to “acknowledge” that states are “in the best position to determine implementation of their programs.”

This flexibility relates to how states satisfy the provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – a federal civil rights law known as IDEA meant to ensure all students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education.

In my opinion, the assumption that states are in the best position to determine implementation of their programs related to the IDEA law is a faulty one. So is the notion that relaxing enforcement of these provisions would have a positive impact on students.

Low Pay Has Teachers Flocking to the Sharing Economy

Source: Alia Wong, The Atlantic, August 17, 2018

One in 10 Airbnb hosts in the U.S. is a teacher, a new report shows.

Airbnb, the popular platform that lets people rent out their homes and apartments, released the results of a volunteer survey this week containing the striking statistic that nearly one in 10 of its hosts in the United States is an educator. In some states the trend appears to be even more pronounced—more than a quarter of all Airbnb hosts in Utah and Wisconsin, for example, work as teachers or in education (the company includes in that category administrators and college professors). This is especially noteworthy given that an analysis of census and National Center for Education Statistics figures suggests that just less than 2 percent of adults in the country work as full-time K–12 teachers.

Many of these 45,000-plus educators in the U.S. are presumably using Airbnb to supplement their regular income, as teachers struggle with stagnant, if not declining, pay. The average annual salary for K–12 public-school teachers is roughly $58,000, and they typically spend a sizable chunk of that on classroom supplies integral to their jobs. Teachers’ frustration with the situation has become so acute that it drove educators en masse to the picket lines in certain parts of the country this past spring.

Schools in Florida are spending thousands on active shooter insurance

Source: Sarika Ram, MuckRock, August 16, 2018

Recently released records show districts budgeting up to six figures on insurance policies, safety training, and police presence

High profile school shootings in recent years have offered enterprising insurance companies with a business opportunity – and burdened districts budgets with thousands of dollars in new expenses.

This school year, some Florida public school districts have invested in active shooter protection insurance policies and other security-related programming, such as active shooter response training.

According to the insurance policy obtained in a recent public records request, Palm Beach Public School District has paid a $100,000 premium to McGowan Program Administrators, a leader in the active shooter insurance industry, for active shooter protection this academic year.

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…..