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.
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Monday, March 11, 2019
Ensuring Racial Equality – from Classrooms to Bathrooms – Depends on Federal Regulations Trump Wants to Roll Back
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.
Friday, March 8, 2019
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.
Thursday, March 7, 2019
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.
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.