Hard times are here for schools

 Public schools will have to learn how to do more with less, concludes an Education Next analysis.

In California and Washington, bad budget cutting has already begun. Governors in these two states have acquiesced to employee demands and have protected educator jobs at the expense of students’ time to learn.

 Inflation-adjusted per-pupil school spending has increased over the last century by, on average, 2.3 percent per year,” write James Guthrie and Elizabeth Ettema. As a result, the U.S. spends more per pupil than every country except Switzerland. Most of the spending increases have gone to hiring more school employees.

School productivity — brains for the buck — “has declined dramatically.”

While waiting for technology to extend teachers’ effectiveness — which could be a long wait — schools need to stop wasting money, they write. 

States and districts can discontinue costly practices that have not been shown to enhance student achievement, including paying educators for out-of-field master’s degrees and salary premiums for experience; following “last in, first out” personnel provisions; relying on regular classroom instructional aides; and adhering to mandated limits on class size. Regulations that mandate inefficiency, such as legislatively precluding outsourcing, requiring intergovernmental grants to “supplement not supplant” existing spending, and prohibiting end-of-budget year surplus carryover, can also be revised to encourage smarter spending.

. . . states and districts can adopt strategies that foster efficiency at both the school and district level, such as adopting “activity-based cost” (ABC) accounting; empowering principals as school-level CEOs; adopting performance-based dollar distribution formulas and school-level financial budgeting; centralizing health insurance at the state level; and outsourcing operational services where proven to save money.

Fiscal austerity is the new normal, they conclude.

Teachers are less satisfied

Teachers are less satisfied with their jobs, but parents are more engaged with their children’s schools, according to the new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.

Teacher job satisfaction has fallen by 15 percentage points since 2009, the last time the MetLife survey queried teachers on this topic, from 59 percent to 44 percent responding they are very satisfied. This rapid decline in job satisfaction is coupled with a large increase in the number of teachers reporting that they are likely to leave teaching for another occupation (17 percent in 2009 vs. 29 percent today).


Not surprisingly, more teachers say their job is not secure. Two-thirds of teachers reported layoffs in their schools; three-quarters said there were budget cuts in the last year. Sixty-three percent said average class size has increased in their school.

Parent involvement has increased since it was first surveyed.  Sixty-four percent of students say they talk about things that happen at school with their parents every day, compared to 40 percent in 1988.

Back to college? It’s not easy

Twenty percent of working-age adults have some college credits but no degree. persuading college dropouts to try again is a key part of the “completion agenda.” But college can be just as hard the second time around, especially if adults try to take classes designed and scheduled for 18- to 22-year-olds.

President Obama’s 2020 goal — the U.S. will be first in the world in college graduates — requires community colleges to graduate many more students. But state budget cuts will make it very difficult to increase the number of graduates, say most state community college directors. Sixteen states have de facto enrollment caps at community colleges.

CC students become ‘freeway flyers’

California’s community colleges have cut classes to balance budgets, turning students into “freeway flyers” who must “swirl” from one campus to another to find the courses they need.  In the San Jose area, community colleges are closing child-care centers to save money, making it hard for low-income single parents to take classes — if they can get in.

Some states slash universities, trim CCs

Some states are planning deep cuts to state universities and smaller cuts to community colleges.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Do nurses need a bachelor’s degree?

LA Times hits college construction waste

Mismanagement, waste and shoddy construction plague the Los Angeles Community College District’s $5.7 billion rebuilding program, reports the LA Times.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Facing $400 million in budget cuts, California community colleges may stop subsidizing classes for students who aren’t moving toward a degree and “activity” classes such as yoga, dancing and drawing.

Short but sharp

Fordham’s Mike Petrilli and Diane Ravitch debate school budget cuts in New York City — in 140 characters or less on Twitter.

I’m up to 954 followers on Twitter, where I tweet as JoanneLeeJacobs.

Class sizes grow in California

Fourteen years ago, California offered $1,000 per student to districts that cut K-3 class sizes to 20 students. Smaller classes were wildly popular, but had little effect on achievement, in part because the surge in hiring put less qualified teachers into classrooms. Now class size is growing, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The trend accelerated last year after the Legislature changed the rules for incentive pay, agreeing to pay districts a percentage of their class-size reduction award even if they went over the 20-student limit. For example, schools that raise class sizes to 25 students and higher can still receive 70 percent of the state incentive.

Given the choices – bigger classes or broader cuts – most districts have opted to grow class sizes despite the howls of parents and teachers.

Natomas school board president B. Teri Burns “said after-school programs, sports, counselors and school nurses have proven impacts on learning, while data do not show class size makes a significant difference.”