Posts Tagged ‘
school funding ’
Education reform is well-meaning but does not always further teachers’ ability to teach. I would like to put forth a shopping list of teacher needs. Our primary need is to add back our lost funding, because our students are slipping through the cracks as programs are cut, and class sizes burst at the seams. Oregon teachers need to work in schools where the focus is not on cutting resources.
Secondarily, we need:
- Restore lost teaching days, and give us a longer school year. It’ll be interesting to see the results of Chicago’s experiment with a longer school year, but I bet more hours in school will mean greater learning gains.
- Limit the amount of time that we have to do administrative work like data entry. In Japan, teachers teach longer hours and have assistants who grade and do production work. We used to have instructional assistants that would handle some of this, but cuts to personnel and increased demands at the top for accountability through data collection has cut into our time to plan quality instruction. (more…)
John Tapogna is President of the economic consulting firm, ECONorthwest. He oversees the firm’s overall business strategy and operations and has built practices in education, healthcare, human service, and tax policy. In education, he has directed evaluations of dropout prevention programs, the impacts of small class sizes, and the efficacy of small schools for clients like the Chalkboard Project, Washington’s League of Education Voters and Seattle Public Schools.
For much of the last 15 years, Oregon K-12 educators have waited for additional revenue to boost school quality and achievement. A weak economy and growing medical and corrections costs have gotten in the way. And looking forward, the costs associated with an aging population, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and rising public pension costs will compete with classroom dollars. In short, K-12’s fight for sustained, significant increases in funding will be as tough in the next decade as it has been in the past.
While educators can, and should, advocate for additional resources, they must simultaneously evaluate how well they are deploying the dollars they have. Evidence suggests a weak relationship between per-student spending and achievement. In a classic debate, competing economists from Princeton and Stanford dug into the same set of rigorous K-12 spending studies. The Princeton economist concluded spending had improved achievement in about half of the studies’ findings. By the Stanford economist’s accounting, only a quarter of the studies exhibited a spending-to-achievement link.
So, does money matter? These dueling economists might say the answer ranges from “maybe” to “probably not.” (more…)
Kaitlyn Delaney is Chalkboard Project’s summer intern. She is currently in an elementary education teacher preparation program at Florida State. This is Part 2 in her series of blog posts on Florida’s school grades. Read Part 1 of Kaitlyn’s post here.
Last month I wrote about the school grading system in my home state of Florida and the grades’ unique relationship to standardized testing and school-wide funding. The Florida elementary school grades were just released for the 2011-2012 year, and boy, was there a change in scores. (more…)
I feel angry, conflicted and frustrated. I know schools took huge cuts (but was this really cuts to growth, but still more than last year?). I know class sizes had to be bigger (but was this really that unions would not budge?). I know specialties have been cut (but was this really staff inflexibility?). I know teachers are underpaid (but was this a balancing effort due to big benefits?).
All the things “I know” because my school district and the media tell me, yet I cannot make the facts fit with the numbers I saw at the legislature. The cuts to school budgets were not huge – the lack of increase was the key. So why so much change? No more library or computers at my son’s school. No more music options at my daughter’s school. Both have classrooms too big for even the best teachers. If we are just working with the dollars of last year, why are these schools so different?
Meeting agreed upon salary and benefit increases seem the answer to me – can any of you show where I am wrong?
The summer weather has finally arrived in Oregon and summer vacation is in full swing. Some kids are camping, some are at summer camp. Many teachers are taking a much-needed break, while others are enrolled in summer courses.
Summer vacation has been a tradition in the United States since the mid-19th century, but as the students of the United States fall behind in reading, math and science, the trend towards year-round education is gaining momentum. Is it possible that summer vacation is a tradition that is doing more harm than good for our children? Could year-round school be the key to improving our struggling public education system?
Public schools in the United States haven’t always had a long summer vacation; in fact, in the 1800s different areas of our country had different school schedules. In the city schools were open as many as 48 weeks a year while rural areas had a summer and winter term for school and a fall and spring break allowing children to help with planting and harvesting on the family farm. In the 1840s, popular educational reformers like Horace Mann proposed a blending of the two schedules citing the belief that year-round school was over-stimulating to children’s minds, but that 2 semesters wasn’t enough. And so it was. The “traditional” calendar was born: a 9 month school year with a long summer break. (Source)
The latest federal data show what parents who care about education in our state already know: Oregon is underfunding public schools compared to the rest of the nation, by a significant seven percent.
Combine this with a lingering, abysmal economy that is creating desperate circumstances for many, untenable PERS retirement benefits, and falling tax rates—Americans are paying the lowest tax rates since 1950—and here’s what it looks like on the ground in our schools.
Fields of study that provide the skills students need for 21st century jobs are being eliminated, and teachers of that coursework let go, meaning it will take years to restore them, if stable funding is ever restored. Given the last hired, first fired logic of our system, talented young teachers are reading the tea leaves and getting out of the education profession. “Non-essentials”—things we used to take for granted such as school sports, art, music, foreign language, vocational classes—are becoming dependent on private funds or going the way of the dodo.
Source of table at right: USA Today, 5/12/2010
At Summit High School in Bend, a seven-period schedule is being considered, up from a block schedule with four daily periods. Teachers who taught six out of eight periods this past year would now teach six out of seven, reducing their prep time while their work loads increase. Due to layoffs, one high school math teacher will be teaching four separate subjects—calculus, contextual geometry, financial algebra and Math 1—in six classes with roughly 210 students. A science teacher will be loaded up with an electronics section, two biology courses, and three physics sections, including an AP course.
In the middle of our nation’s major recession there are signs of an upturn here and there, but in the meantime, we are struggling to fund the most valuable piece of our future: Education. Unemployment is high, inflation is real and people are having trouble making ends meet. Simply put, there is less money to go around. So is it really any surprise that recent ballot measures asking Oregon taxpayers for even more money have failed? Where do Oregonians draw the line? To hopefully find an answer, I decided to take a look at our past.
As I reviewed Oregon’s ballot measures for the past 40 years, I noticed some not-so surprising patterns. Schools only asked for more taxpayer dollars during tough economic times. Schools suffer when people are making and taking home less money. Accordingly, during times of economic prosperity, Oregon would go years without a mention of educational funding on the ballot.
In general, voters have failed nearly every measure that proposed a tax hike to cover education costs. Since 1970, voters have failed at least 10 such ballot measures. Most recently last month, two local measures to fund education failed. Oregon City voters overwhelming turned down measure 3-376. It’s failure has forced the district to cut two school weeks from the 2010-2011 year in addition to numerous other deep cuts they have already made. Portlanders failed measure 26-121, which was earmarked for improving and repairing facilities.
I should note that voters have made some exceptions. Some measures have passed to keep schools open, keep class sizes down, and retain teacher jobs (Oregon Ballot Measure 2 in 1987; Oregon Ballot Measures 66 and 67 in 2010; and Portland Public School Measure 26-122 in 2011, respectively). But what did taxpayers really agree to? Measure 2 continued levies that were already in place; Measures 66 and 67 taxed businesses and the wealthiest Oregonians; and two other measures in the 1990’s allotted lottery funds for education. In most cases, the average citizen wasn’t giving up much.
There were tears in the hall again today. No, I don’t mean a child was crying. It was a teacher.
Many teachers have been laid off from their positions for next year. It is a hard time in the year already. It’s the time when we teachers have to say good-bye to the kids we’ve come to know and love, and for some of us, it’s time to say good-bye to the profession that we have extensively trained to do, and one that we feel is meaningful and important.
Unlike the business world, our customers have not disappeared. They need us more than ever. Many more kids take home food for the weekends. Many more kids come to school with learning delays and unstable situations at home. Our schools need to ramp up, but instead we are under attack.
I hear all the talk about how we need to change the system. Meanwhile, the funding is held hostage—no one wants to pay for the children. It’s funny, because in houses across the country and world, kids bring in no income and yet families will go to great sacrifices for their children. But as a society, we can’t seem to do that for the education of our children. We teachers generate no money and yet we “feed” children. We feed them knowledge, feed their self-esteem, and in doing so, we feed society. Yet, society is starving us.
Being a “veteran” educator, I have participated in many tight economies and the resulting effects on public funds for schools. None has been quite so nasty as the one here in Eugene, where we are in a fight over a ballot proposal for a four year local income tax to fund schools. But, for the first time in my career, I have found myself really having to consider my support for such a tax.
The tax funds are carefully ear-marked for lowering class size by re-hiring teachers who have received pink slips, many of whom are graduates of Pacific University where I teach. An independent committee will oversee the expenditures. The lowest income residents will not be taxed. What’s not to like?
First, there is a great deal of the unknown about the dollars that will actually be collected. At this point, the city has not even decided how and by whom the taxes will be managed; Portland, which apparently has experience with these school taxes, is the likely manager, but the woman who runs the Portland office is unsure of the management charges that will be allocated from the total tax collection.
Another unknown is the actual numbers of residents who will pay the taxes. One of the nastier attacks has been on the retired public employees who, because of their PERS income, will not being paying the tax. (Interestingly, my friends who are PERS recipients do not understand the law that permits this and many are planning on donating to the local school foundation.)
I was left to ponder that thought after reading a “Politifact” article about state senator Mark Hass’ claim that an Educational Service District (ESD) superintendent’s salary could pay for three teacher’s salaries. The article, written by Ryan Kost, sought to establish whether Hass’ claim was true. In reading on, through what seemed like multiple machinations about salary, Kost concluded, somewhat harshly, that Hass’ claim was “false.”
I could craft a separate article about the issues with the methodology that Kost utilized, but I wanted to discuss what the spirit of this article told me.
One the one hand, Mark Hass certainly didn’t do us any favors by trying to make a great sound bite that the Oregonian could take a crack at. But at the same time, I was disappointed at the approach of the Oregonian to undermine what Hass is after: a way to streamline costs for education. The Oregonian runs multiple articles about how schools are using money inappropriately. But when Mark Hass is trying to challenge the status quo of ESD offerings, the Oregonian, instead of remaining consistent and exploring what cost savings there may be, goes on the attack against him.
Reading articles like this one make me question if the Oregonian is going to be an ally in helping our educational system. It would seem to me that the Oregonian’s role in the education debate is not to “stir the pot” in order to fill up the blogosphere on Oregonlive.com. As essentially the only major publication in the state, they have a sacred responsibility to present information to the population that no other media outlet can.