Thursday, March 14, 2019

Maryland and New Hampshire Plaintiffs File School Funding Lawsuits within One Week of Each Other, What Gives?

For the second time in a week, plaintiffs have filed major school funding lawsuits.  A few days ago, plaintiffs in Baltimore filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that the state was way out of compliance with the terms of its previously agreed upon settlement and funding formula.  Data indicates Baltimore schools are underfunded by about $300 million.  Yesterday, plaintiffs in New Hampshire filed their own, claiming that the state's school funding formula grossly miscalculates the cost of providing an adequate education.  The formula entirely excludes some costs and underestimates several core ones like teacher salaries and facilities.

These cases are also of particular interest not just because of their timing, but because they come in states with relatively high funding levels. Both rank around 11th or 12th in terms of their funding levels.  New Hampshire also has relatively few low-income students, meaning that education needs and costs would presumably be lower than the average state.  None of this is to suggest the claims lack merit.  Baltimore city schools educate large percentages of low income students.  Even if Maryland's statewide funding levels look impressive, they are largely irrelevant to Baltimore.  And a school funding formula that is regressive in terms of district poverty levels will create huge disadvantages in Baltimore.  Bruce Baker estimates that Maryland's highest poverty school districts require about $22,000 per pupil to achieve average academic outcomes, but only have about $15,000.  Similar funding appears more than sufficient in the rest of the state's school districts.  In other words, average funding in Maryland masks a huge problem in Baltimore.

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March 14, 2019 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Maryland, Once a Surprising School Funding Success Story, Is Heading Back to Court

MarylandMaryland was one of our school funding success stories, and an oddball of sorts.  The first part of the story follows the script.  In 1994, Baltimore City plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the state of Maryland, alleging that state funding was insufficient for student to receive an adequate education.  The trial judge held that the plaintiffs had stated a valid claim.  But on the eve of trial, the story turned. Maryland did what almost no other state has.  It settled and agreed to a consent decree under which it would develop a management and student achievement plan for the schools and substantially increase funding in the Baltimore City Schools: $30 million more in the first year and then $50 million more in each of the following four years. 
 
In 2002, Maryland went one step further.  Based on recommendations by the Commission on Education Finance, Equity, and Excellence ("Thornton Commission"), Maryland implemented an entirely new funding formula designed to ensure that schools and school systems have the resources necessary to provide every child with an adequate and equitable education.   The formula paid special attention to meeting the needs of low-income, special education, and limited English proficiency students.
 
Plaintiffs are now alleging that the state has slipped back into its old habits and is failing to fund its education formula.  In 2008, the state stopped funding inflation increases, creating a large funding gap over the last decade.  Based on the existing funding formula, the gap is at least $1.6 billion statewide.  A state sponsored study by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates found that the gap between current spending and what is necessary for adequate education outcomes is actually even larger.  It recommended in 2016 that school funding increase by $2.9 billion – $1.9 billion from the state and $1 billion from local governments.  Below is a chart from that report showing the gap for Baltimore schools and others.

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March 12, 2019 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ensuring Racial Equality – from Classrooms to Bathrooms – Depends on Federal Regulations Trump Wants to Roll Back

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Preventing discrimination in the classroom. Shutterstock

Derek W. Black, University of South Carolina

The Trump administration is considering eliminating one of the federal government’s most basic tools for preventing racial discrimination.

When the government runs or funds programs, those programs are obligated to ensure that everyone gets equal access and treatment. This duty comes from something called “disparate impact regulations.” These regulations require the programs to pay careful attention to whether their policies cause racial disparities.

From my perspective as a scholar of discrimination law, abandoning these regulations would be a major departure from the federal government’s mission since the 1960s of ensuring racial equality.

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March 11, 2019 in Discipline, Discrimination, Federal policy, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 8, 2019

DeVos Attempts to Roll Back Student Protections Once Again Crumbles Before the Judiciary

800px-Betsy_DeVos_official_portrait_(cropped)For the second time this school year, Betsy DeVos got a judicial smack down for attempting to eliminate regulations from the prior administration.  In September, it was over protections for student loan borrowers.  Yesterday, it was over racial disparities in special education.    

In both cases, DeVos’s justifications for reversing Obama-era regulations amounted to little more than "I'm in power now and I don’t like Obama’s regulations.”  The dressed up justification has been that the Department needs to pause the regulations so that it can “study” the issues more. 

The problem, the federal courts have told the Department, is that it cannot just scrap regulations because it doesn’t like them, particularly when those regulations have already gone through a rigorous process of notice, comment, study, and justification.  Reversing existing regulations requires a showing that the existing regulations are wrong.  That requires evidence and logic—something that does not seem to interest the current administration.

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March 8, 2019 in Federal policy, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Charter Schools Exploit Lucrative Loophole That Would Be Easy to Close

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Some charter school operators make profits by leasing space to themselves at unusually high rates. By Ilya Andriyanov from www.shutterstock.com

Derek W. Black, University of South Carolina; Bruce Baker, Rutgers University, and Preston Green III, University of Connecticut

While critics charge that charter schools are siphoning money away from public schools, a more fundamental issue frequently flies under the radar: the questionable business practices that allow people who own and run charter schools to make large profits.

Charter school supporters are reluctant to acknowledge, much less stop, these practices.

Given that charter schools are growing rapidly – from 1 million students in 2006 to more than 3.1 million students attending approximately 7,000 charter schools now – shining a light on these practices can’t come too soon. The first challenge, however, is simply understanding the complex space in which charters operate – somewhere between public and private.

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March 7, 2019 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)