Category Archives: Schools K-12

Many U.S. Public Schools In ‘Air Pollution Danger Zone’

Source: Pollution Online, August 19, 2008

One in three U.S. public schools are in the “air pollution danger zone,” according to new research from the University of Cincinnati (UC).

UC researchers have found that more than 30 percent of American public schools are within 400 meters, or a quarter mile, of major highways that consistently serve as main truck and traffic routes.

Research has shown that proximity to major highways–and thus environmental pollutants, such as aerosolizing diesel exhaust particles–can leave school-age children more susceptible to respiratory diseases later in life.

The National School Lunch Program Background, Trends, and Issues

Source: Katherine Ralston, Constance Newman, Annette Clauson, Joanne Guthrie, and Jean Buzby, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service Economic Research Report No. (ERR-61), July 2008

From an overview:
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the Nation’s second largest food and nutrition assistance program. In 2006, it operated in over 101,000 public and nonprofit private schools and provided over 28 million low-cost or free lunches to children on a typical school day at a Federal cost of $8 billion for the year. This report provides background information on the NSLP, including historical trends and participant characteristics. It also addresses steps being taken to meet challenges facing administrators of the program, including tradeoffs between nutritional quality of foods served, costs, and participation, as well as between program access and program integrity.
See also:
Summary

AASA Survey Finds Rising Fuel, Energy Costs Stressing School Budgets

Source: American Association of School Administrators, 2008

From the press release:
Rising fuel and energy costs are taking a toll on school system budgets nationwide, according to the results of a new survey released today by the American Association of School Administrators. The eight-question AASA Fuel and Energy Snapshot Survey asked school superintendents about the effect of rising fuel and energy costs on their school districts. Ninety-nine percent of respondents reported these rising costs are having an impact on their school systems. Further, they reported that conserving energy, cutting back on student field trips and consolidating bus routes are among the top steps districts are taking to minimize the impact of rising fuel and energy costs. Meanwhile, few states are stepping forward to assist school systems struggling to meet escalating these rising costs.
See also:
Survey Results
Charts and Graphs
Snapshot of Superintendents’ Responses

Revenues and Expenditures by Public School Districts: School Year 2005-06

Source: Lei Zhou, National Center for Education Statistics, July 2008

From the description:
This brief publication contains data on revenues and expenditures per pupil made by school districts for school year 2005-06. Median per pupil revenue and expenditure data are reported by state, as well as values at the 5th and 95th percentiles. Data for charter schools are reported separately. There are also discussions on the different types of school districts, and other resources that may be helpful in analyzing school district level data. Revenues and expenditures for the 100 largest school districts are included, as well as federal revenues by program. For total revenues and expenditures for public education made by states and the nation, readers should refer to the state-level “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2005-06″ (NCES 2008-328)

Budgeting on Shifting Sand

Source: Kathy Christie, Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 89 no. 10, June 2008

The headlines are daunting. Plunging home values, skyrocketing fuel costs, declining state revenues, and a multitude of other budget worries add up to nightmares for state budget officials and school business directors. Even the most conservative observers will admit that budget cuts in most districts go beyond trimming fat and are cutting deep into the meat.

The Equity Gap in State Funding

Source: Kevin Carey, Education Sector, April 14, 2008 (Originally published on Inside Higher Ed.)

In 1971, a lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court that would have a profound impact on the way American schools are funded. Serrano v. Priest was the first in a wave of elementary and secondary school finance cases that would touch nearly every state in the nation and continues to this day.

Existing funding regimes have been torn down, constitutional crises provoked, and billions of dollars spent in the name of achieving financial equity between school districts that serve the rich and the poor.

Nothing similar has ever happened in higher education. Desegregation lawsuits have brought some increased equity, but states have never had to defend the fairness of their higher education financing systems in court–at least not on grounds of economic discrimination as opposed to racial bias.

Study Shows School Cleanliness Affects Learning

Source: Alan S. Bigger and Jeff Campbell, APPA, 2008
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a direct corrrelation between cleanliness and the resulting academic grade(s) of students. In 1992, APPA published the first edition of Custodial Staffing Guidelines for Educational Facilities; the second edition was published in 1998. This seminal document set the precedent for correlating levels of productivity and cleaning of facilities and has been used as justification for appropriate staffing levels at institutions. In addition, ISSA has long established cleaning times and guidelines that also address productivity issues.

However, such data is now being brought into question as performance indicators are being used to address specific outcomes of maintenance programs. The principal investigators led a team of researchers representing APPA and ISSA to collect data, review and research relevant literature, and determine whether levels of staffing and cleaning have an affect on the academic achievement of students.
See also:
Press release

Soaring Food Prices Are Making it Harder for Schools and Child Nutrition Programs to Provide Healthy Meals to Children, Witnesses Tell House Education Committee

Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Education and Labor, Press release, July 9, 2008

With Americans already feeling the strain of higher grocery costs, soaring food prices are making it more difficult for schools, child care programs, and summer food service programs to provide healthy, low-cost meals for children, witnesses told the House Education and Labor Committee today. Today’s hearing was the first held by Congress to examine how rising food costs are affecting U.S. child nutrition programs and the millions of families who rely on them.

According to preliminary results of a new survey unveiled by the School Nutrition Association at the hearing, to help cope with higher food costs in the coming year, 75 percent of school nutrition directors plan to increase school meal prices for students, and 62 percent plan to reduce staff. In addition, 69 percent of the survey’s respondents reported they will have to dip into their “rainy day funds” intended for capital improvement projects.
See also:
Testimonies (PDFs) and archived webcast

Facility Planning: School Renewals

Source: James E. Rydeen, American School and University, June 1, 2008

1950s-’60s schools: Obsolescence or longevity?

Forty-three percent of existing public schools were built in the 1950s-’60s era. This era seems to have gained the reputation of cheap, energy-inefficient buildings that were not intended to last more than 30 years.

A study at one school district estimated it would cost $2.1 billion to fix its aging buildings. Many buildings were well-kept and clean, but their mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were old and inefficient; the food-service equipment needed replacing; and the facilities did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Most of the buildings are only 30 to 50 years old and are showing signs of water damage, and wear and tear.

Experience has proven that public schools must be designed for long-term use — much longer than 30 years.

Many institutions keep up with most of their annual facility maintenance, but not with replacing major systems and equipment because annual budgets cannot cover the costs. Avoiding such dilemmas requires planning, scheduling and budgeting for the eventual upgrades.

Characteristics of the 100 Largest Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts in the United States: 2005-06

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Statistical Analysis Report, NCES 2008-339, June 2008

From the summary:
This annual report provides basic information from the Common Core of Data about the nation’s largest public school districts in the 2005-06 school year. The data include such characteristics as the numbers of students and teachers, number of high school completers and the averaged freshman graduation rate, and revenues and expenditures. Findings include: In 2005-06, these 100 largest districts enrolled 23 percent of all public school students, and employed 22 percent of all public school teachers. The districts produced 20 percent of all high school completers (both diploma and other completion credential recipients) in 2004-05. Across the districts, the averaged freshman graduation rate was 69.5 percent. Three states — California, Florida, and Texas — accounted for almost half of the 100 largest public school districts. Current per-pupil expenditures in fiscal year 2003 ranged from a low of $5,104 in the Puerto Rico School District to a high of $18,878 in the District of Columbia Public School District.