Category Archives: Schools K-12

Thanks To A Strong Economy, California’s School Districts Can Face Continued Pension Increases–Though Will This Last?

Source: S&P Global Ratings, November 8, 2018
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Key Takeaways

– School revenue increases, driven by a strong state economy, have far outpaced nominal growth in required pension contributions.
– Although the share of district expenditures for pension contributions has increased, and will likely continue to grow, increases to median carrying charges have been sustainable.
– Most districts are more than two-thirds through the scheduled rise in pension contributions, and we expect growth in contribution rates will slow and stabilize over the next several years.
– Districts have not made significant pension-driven cuts to their operations to date, but may reduce salary increases and headcount through attrition moving forward.
– If the state experiences a recession, volatility in state funding could be a more likely source of adverse credit pressure for some districts.

Lessons from Teachers on How to Strike and Win

Source: John McGough, Labor Notes, October 15, 2018

Teachers across the country this year are breathing new life into the strike—galvanizing members and winning gains.

These strikes are fueled by rank-and-file anger. Many were coordinated not from above by the official union leadership but by networks of activists. The size of the mobilizations and level of organization have caught many by surprise.

The teachers have put the strike—labor’s most powerful weapon—back in our playbook. They’re showing what can be done when workers unite, organize creatively, and take to the streets.

Teachers have wiped away some of the stigma attached to strikes and shown how a strike can be built by rank-and-file members. Here are a few lessons: …..

Related:
Teacher Strike Wave: By the Numbers
Source: Jasmine Kerrissey, Labor Notes, October 4, 2018

In the Pacific Northwest, the First Paraeducator-Led Strike of the Teacher Uprising

Source: Dan DiMaggio, Labor Notes, November 16, 2018

Paraeducators in Port Angeles, Washington, are on strike. In this year’s wave of teacher strikes, it’s the first one led by paraeducators.

Teachers have refused to cross their picket lines, shutting down the district’s schools Thursday and Friday.

The 115 paradeucators in this small coastal city, just across the water from Canada, assist with everything from reading lessons to recess. Paraeducators play an essential role in today’s schools, offering extra attention and care to students who need it—especially those with disabilities…..

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
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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.