Education Week - January 23, 2013 - (Page 17)

EDUCATION WEEK n JANUARY 23, 2013 GOVERNMENT & POLITICS State Finance Lawsuits Still Roiling Landscape Rulings complicate policymakers’ choices By Andrew Ujifusa As state budgets slowly recover from several years of economic contraction and stagnation, significant court battles continue to play a related yet distinct role in K-12 policy, even in states where the highest courts have already delivered rulings on the subject. This year, meanwhile, marks the 40th anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that was a turning point for the role of property taxes in financing school districts and that continues to complicate fiscal decisions for state policymakers. The 5-4 ruling, in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, held that the state did not have to justify the higher quality of education for wealthier districts that might result from their local property taxes. In a 2008 article for the Virginia Law Review, Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, wrote: “For better, for worse, or for more of the same, the majority in Rodriguez tolerated the continuation of a funding system that allowed serious disparities in the quality of the education a child received based solely on the wealth of the community in which his parents happened to live or could afford to live.” The 1973 decision has fragmented the fight over the intertwined issues of funding adequacy and equity, said Wade Henderson, the president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, based in Washington. “We are left to battle in the state courts primarily over whether the funding formulas used by schools and by the states are constitutional in providing that kind of meaningful access,” he said. Since the 1970s, lawsuits filed in 45 states have challenged the constitutionality of school finance systems, according to the National Education Access Network, a research group that tracks lawsuits related to education finance and equity based at Teachers College, Columbia University. Texas’ current dispute is among the latest—and largest. Following School funding lawsuits continue to bedevil several states still recovering from the economic downturn that began in 2007. The suits are at various stages, and concerns about the courts’ role in education finance have emerged. On Jan. 15, the Arizona Court of Appeals said that lawmakers were wrong to deny school funding increases to account for inflation. The court ruled that legislators did not follow a ballot measure approved by voters in 2000 that mandated K-12 funding increases for inflation. Texas A District Court judge is presiding over what began as four separate cases brought by hundreds of districts against the state after the legislature cut $5.4 billion from K-12 aid during its 2011 session. Districts allege that the structure of the current system creates inequalities between school systems based on wealth, and that the state has not provided the “efficient system” of public education as mandated by the state constitution. Kansas State Republican lawmakers indicated that they are considering changes to the state’s constitution in order to strengthen the state legislature’s power over K-12 finance and limit the state supreme court’s oversight. The move could be a significant counterpoint to a U.S. District Court ruling Jan. 11 that the state’s funding system is unconstitutional. Colorado Lawmakers and others are waiting for the state supreme court to rule in the Lobato v. State of Colorado case that could mandate an increase in K-12 spending by the state by anywhere between $2 billion to $4 billion annually. Washington Less than a year after the state Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. State of Washington that the state’s K-12 funding system was constitutionally inadequate and needed to be fixed, the state’s chief justice claimed lawmakers had not done nearly enough to remedy the problem. The impact of satisfying McCleary on the court’s terms could cost the state an additional $1.4 billion in the 2013-15 budget cycle. SOURCE: Education Week PAGE 19 > Stretched Schools Push to Extend Lifespan of Books By Mike James The Independent Even as dwindling state funding for new textbook purchases drives the search for alternative sources of information—mainly via the Internet, electronic databases, and licensing of e-books— schools in Kentucky are making do with the books they have, stretching out replacement cycles, and repairing worn volumes when practical. State funding has fallen from $21 million in 2008 to nothing in the current biennium, said Nancy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky education department. The department and the state board of education are lobbying for more money the next time around, but 2013 isn’t a budget year, she said. In 2001, when Matt Baker was the principal at Lewis County High School, his district received more than $50 per student from the state for textbooks, said Mr. Baker, now districtwide-programs director for the Greenup County, Ky., schools. “It has been several years since the state has financed the purchase of books,” he said. His district replaces books only when “absolutely necessary,” a term Mr. Baker said is up to teachers to define. And when the district does buy books, it uses money it otherwise would use for other purposes. There is plenty of free online educational material, and Kentucky provides resources through an online database teachers can use for free. Called the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System, it contains materials for lesson planning and classroom instruction in multiple subjects, all of which conforms to current educational standards. It is available only to educators, and teachers log in to use it. Costs Drive Policies For students to access and use information electronically, districts still have to spend money, either to license some e-books or to buy computers and other devices. In some cases, that means developing new policies. The state’s Russell district is doing that so students can use their own smartphones and tablets, said Chief Academic Officer Debbie Finley. Doing so will require protection against misuse, such as equipment to filter inappropriate sites, she said. In the small and decidedly un- wealthy Fairview district, As- new life to books without resorting sistant Superintendent Brant to homemade duct-tape fixes. Creech ordered bookbinding supMiddle school students, in parplies he and some teachers have ticular, seem to be hard on books. Teachers learn to be aware of the condition of the books their students are carrying. Mr. Creech’s district also tries If you’ve to stretch the life of books beyond their typical replacement schedule. got a book a That doesn’t mean Fairview demiddle school pends entirely on books. The district has bought e-book readers, student has and Mr. Creech sees that, along with licensing copies of texts, as a jammed in a long-term trend. Some, like Ms. Finley, foresee an locker, and it’s all-electronic text future. But Ms. only two years Finley predicted licensing prices would remain steep. old, it should Electronic texts have one advantage—currency, she said. Because still be in good there is no lag time between writshape.” ing, design, printing, and distribution, the contents are more up to BRANT CREECH date when they arrive in schools. The future is likely to be a comFairview School District bination of texts and teacher-generated resources, said the Ashland district’s curriculum coordinator, used to fix battered books. Richard Oppenheimer. “A good “If you’ve got a book a middle teacher teaches beyond the limits school student has jammed in a of the textbook anyway,” he said. locker, and it’s only two years old, it should still be in good shape,” he Copyright © 2013 McClatchy-Tribune said. Book-repair supplies bring Information Services “ 17 POLICY BRIEF DOCKET UPDATE Arizona n Hawaii Moving Ball On Race to the Top Well past the midway point of the original $4 billion Race to the Top grant program, Hawaii is still officially in trouble with the U.S. Department of Education over its struggles in carrying out its plans for teacher and principal evaluations. But save for that one big thing, the state has made notable progress in delivering on the promises it made to win its $75 million grant in 2010. In fact, the state has completed 90 percent of the tasks outlined in its grant contract with the federal Education Department, according to its latest progress report. And in an interview, state Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said she feels Hawaii’s work improving its data system and implementing the Common Core State Standards is particularly strong. ■ The vast majority of the work Hawaii had to do was frontloaded in the first two years of its Race to the Top proposal. But that also means that in the last half of the grant period, the focus changes. “We are really focusing now on implementation in the classroom,” Ms. Matayoshi said. “These next two years are about how are we supporting teachers and principals with all of these different initiatives. It’s about really scaling it up and really doing the work.” She said one priority is getting the “complex area” superintendents for Hawaii’s single, state-run district more professional development to help implement the Race to the Top plan. She said that task is especially challenging because professional-development days are scarce to nonexistent. But the big missing piece in Hawaii’s Race to the Top plan is an approved teachers’ contract, which is needed to put teeth into a new teacher-evaluation system that’s being expanded from a small pilot phase to include all schools. Although Hawaii believes it has the authority to implement the new evaluations, it needs an approved, long-sought contract—which is mired in negotiations that resumed this month—to tie those evaluations to such decisions as salaries. The question remains: Is a 90 percent completion rate enough to get at least part of Hawaii’s Race to the Top grant out of the federal department’s “high-risk status”? A site visit by federal officials in April will help determine the answer.  —MICHELE MCNEIL

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 23, 2013

Education Week - January 23, 2013
Nation, Districts Step Up Safety
Colleges Overproducing Elementary-Level Teachers
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Calif. Districts Link To Push Shared Goals
Loss of Veterans Doesn’t Hurt Scores
News in Brief
Report Roundup
FOCUS ON: CHARTER SCHOOLS: Charters Prepare for the Challenges Of Common Core
Civil Rights Groups: Discipline Excessive In Miss. Schools
Children Still Prefer Print Books to E-Books
Mainstream Video Games Move Into Ed.
Blogs of the Week
Obama Presses School Safety, Mental-Health Efforts
State Data: Use With Caution
State Finance Lawsuits Still Roiling Landscape
Stretched Schools Push to Extend Lifespan Of Books
Policy Brief
STATE OF THE STATES: Vt. Governor Launches Four-Point Education Initiative
State of the States
MARTIN CARNOY & RICHARD ROTHSTEIN: International Tests Reveal Surprises at Home and Abroad
DAVID T. CONLEY: What’s in a Name
ALAN C. JONES: Schools for Other People’s Children
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
PETER GIBBON: A Timeless View of Education From 1899

Education Week - January 23, 2013