It is week 182 in our new reality and we are thinking about what the fiscal cliff will mean for America’s students.
“It’s a perfect storm of financial chaos brought on by the abrupt ending of federal pandemic relief funds, falling district enrollments, and slowing state revenues,” Marguerite Roza and Katherine Silberstein write in their new briefing for the Brookings Institution. “The question now is whether leaders will take action to ensure that our most vulnerable students don’t once again feel the brunt of the effects.”
Without strong leadership, the impact of the end of federal emergency funding will likely be largest for the poorest students in the country. As Roza and Silberstein explain: “High-poverty communities will see sharper impacts to their school budgets in part because of how ESSER funding was structured: At the outset, ESSER funds were intended to provide greater levels of support for high-need schools.”
At the same time, in example after example, we see school districts struggling to get ahead of this reality by making hard choices. “At its height, San Francisco’s newcomer school — a beacon for Chinese immigrants who’d just landed in the city — served 200 students. Today, just 11 sit in the desks,” Jill Tucker writes in the San Francisco Chronicle. “With two teachers, a principal, a clerk and cafeteria workers, the district expects to spend about $832,000 this year to operate the school … Based on current enrollment, that’s $75,000 per student.”
Meanwhile in Texas, the Dallas Morning News reports that in the competition to build the most expensive high school football stadium, the bar has been raised again with Prosper school district proposing a new $94 million stadium to supplement their existing $53 million stadium. “Runners up include: Cy-Fair ISD’s $80 million stadium, McKinney’s $70 million coliseum and Allen’s $60 million arena, which at the time sounded like a lot. Now it sounds like a bargain,” writes Dave Lieber.
Between schools that should be closed but aren’t and stadiums that don’t need to be built but are, it’s worth pausing to ask: in the coming era of tight budgets, what will it take to focus on maximizing academic success?
Last week, we explored the end goal we are all working towards and put a spotlight on upcoming innovations in measurement. This we take a look at a breakthrough win on universal school choice in North Carolina and examine the steps needed to match an expansion of parental choices with better information for families to navigate these options.
FROM THE FIELD
Louisiana Kids Matter’s Kelli Bottger appeared on the local NBC affiliate to voice support for passage of the federal Educational Choice for Children Act, which would assist in filling the gap for private schools for eligible students. “This gives parents the flexibility to say, ‘You know, my public school isn’t catching up my kids as fast as they should, I can’t afford private school, but with this little bit of help I can make it work,” Kelli said.
The GeorgiaCAN team congratulates parent and former YouCAN advocate Dr. Latasha Adams on her acceptance as a Building Excellent Schools (BES) fellow.
HawaiiKidsCAN’s David Miyashiro, hosted a youth advocacy group from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which included meetings with local partners, funders and a sit-down with the Governor and his family.
Moment of Resilience
Nina Rees announced on Friday that she is departing the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools at the end of 2023 after eleven years at the helm. Her tenure saw an expansion of charter school laws to 46 states, a 60 percent increase in the number of students attending charters, and a 75 percent increase in the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) to $440 million a year. But Nina’s impact on the field extends far beyond these numbers to her powerful and relentless focus on the mission of her organization and the educational reform movement at large. Through all the dramatic shifts in the political landscape, Nina stayed focused on the power of expanding quality choices for kids. She helped bridge partisan divides and was a champion of new voices and new educational entrepreneurs. We have been honored at 50CAN to work alongside her these past 11 years and are proud to call her a friend. We can’t wait to see what she does next and we look forward to spotlighting it in this roundup in the coming year.