Education Week - February 24, 2016 - (Page 18)

Courts Push Lawmakers to the Wall Over K-12 Funding Kansas, Washington face hard deadlines By Daarel Burnette II Again and again, state supreme courts in Washington and Kansas have deemed their states' school funding formulas unconstitutional, in various rulings spread over a number of years. In response, state legislatures- in the view of the impatient justices-have either dragged their feet, backpedaled, or come up with inadequate solutions. Both courts seem to be fed up. A ruling by Kansas' high court earlier this month would effectively shut the entire school system down if lawmakers fail to come up with a formula the court finds equitable by June 30. The justices are expected to decide later this year if the state's current block grant formula is adequate in terms of overall funding. And in Washington, the state continues to pay $100,000 in fines into a special account-totaling more than $15 million so far-after the state supreme court decided last year the legislature wasn't moving fast enough to respond to the court's 2012 order to come up with a new formula and found the legislature in contempt of court. As of last week, both legislatures were puzzling over ways to pump millions more dollars into their school districts' budgets. BLOGS In Kansas, legislators met with school officials and financial analysts to discuss how to provide more money. The House passed an overall state budget that closed a $200 million budget deficit, resulting from a slash in personal income-tax rates in 2012 and 2013. But the budget doesn't answer the supreme court's demand that the legislature come up with an extra $54 million for the state's poor districts. Legislative Rumbles Some Kansas lawmakers and state officials are making rumbles about defying what they see as a court overstepping its boundaries. Washington's Senate last week passed a so-called "plan for a plan" that sets a deadline of the end of the 2017 session to come up with a new funding formula. Another bill passed by the house would allow districts to raise their local taxes. While some legislators believe the action will satisfy the court's mandate in McCleary v. State of Washington, others described it as telling schools "the check is in the mail." Randy Dorn, the state's superintendent of instruction, said the schools can't wait another year. "This is not just a funding problem," he said, citing a teacher shortage in the rural parts of the state and a yawning achievement gap between students of color and white students. "It's a civil rights issue." Although it's rare, courts some- times fine legislatures-as the high court in Washington state has done-or threaten to shut down schools over funding formulas, said Michael A. Rebell, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, who tracks battles over school funding formulas. Courts in New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia have held legislatures in contempt over school funding formulas they districts by June 30 or we'll pull out the atom bomb of all remedies.' That's surely going to get the attention from legislators." The most recent decision in Kansas stems from a 2010 lawsuit, Gannon v. State of Kansas, filed by the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Kansas City, and Wichita districts. They contended that the funding formula is both inequitable and inadequate and violates the state constitution. " They said, 'Give the money to the poor districts ... or we'll pull out the atom bomb of all remedies.' " MICHAEL A. REBELL Teachers College, Columbia University deemed unconstitutional, said Rebell. In 2005, the Kansas Supreme Court said it would "consider" shutting down the schools if the legislature didn't craft a funding formula the court deemed sufficient. But the legislature called a special session over that summer and devised a formula before school began. "This time they're not saying they're considering; they're saying, 'We'll do it,' " said Rebell of the latest decision by the Kansas justices. "They said, 'We're not going to stand for this. Give the money to the poor The state supreme court, in 2014, ruled in the districts' favor on the equity part of the lawsuit. The legislature then added $140 million to the funding formula and enacted a two-year block grant formula. Those districts sued again, arguing that the funding formula froze funds, forcing them to increase their local property taxes to provide teachers with raises. "There are essential things our kids are doing without," said Shelly Kiblinger, the superintendent of the Hutchinson schools. Kiblinger said the district increased class sizes, laid off administrators, and last summer raised property taxes to provide teachers their first raise in years. That cost, the high court decided this month, lies with the state, not local taxpayers. Soon after the latest decision was handed down, some state leaders said the court had overstepped its boundaries and had attempted to interrupt the budget process. "Kansas has among the best schools in the nation, and an activist Kansas Supreme Court is threatening to shut them down," Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, said in a statement. Some Kansas lawmakers said the courts were meddling in legislative affairs. And in a move that hinted to some observers that the state will defy the court's orders, the legislature earmarked $50,000 to pay for a lawyer to represent it in future school funding cases. In the meantime, a bill has been proposed to replace the temporary block grant formula with a formula based on class size. And a consultant firm's study that cost the legislature $2.6 million suggests that by districts' spending down their rainy-day funds, the state could save a potential $193 million over the next five years. "The state impoverished itself by drastically slashing its state income tax," said John Robb, the lawyer who represented the districts in the lawsuit. "Now, they claim they're broke and they can't fund the schools. It's a self-inflicted wound." A Handful of Education Secretaries Have Served as Classroom Teachers | POLITICS K-12 | Newly minted acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. , who has been officially nominated to head up the Department of Education, loves to weave his background as a social studies teacher into his speeches. It turns out King is the first former principal to serve as education secretary-or acting secretary. That got us wondering: How many other former classroom teachers have been at the helm of the department? How many had other sorts of teaching backgrounds? It seems that just four out of the 11 of the officials who have led the department as secretary or acting secretary since its inception in 1980 were full-time K-12 teachers at one point in their careers, according to our research team. Others, though, had done work in K-12 schools (like serving as a big city superintendent, as did King's predecessor, Arne Duncan), taught at the university level, or had other K-12 education policy or higher education experience. Here's a list of those with actual K-12 classroom experience, put together with the help of Education Week Library Interns Rachel Edelstein and Connor Smith: * Terrel H. Bell (served under President Ronald Reagan): Taught high school chemistry, physics, and athletics in Eden, Idaho. Plus, he served as the superintendent of a bunch of school districts in the West, including Salt Lake City. And he was the Utah state chief. * Ted Sanders (served as acting secretary under President George H.W. Bush): Taught in Mountain Home, Idaho, and for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Plus, he was the state chief in Nevada and Illinois (also Ohio after his stint in the cabinet). * Rod Paige (served under President George W. Bush,): Taught health and physical education, plus was a coach. 18 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 24, 2016 | Later, he became the superintendent of schools in Houston, where he won national superintendent of the year. * John B. King Jr. (serving as acting secretary under President Barack Obama): Taught high school social studies in Boston and Puerto Rico and co-founded a charter school in Roxbury, Mass. He was also a managing director with the nonprofit Uncommon Schools. And he later served as state chief in New York. -ALYSON KLEIN 2015 Saw Big State-Level Turnover In Educational Leadership Ranks STATE EDWATCH | An unprecedented turnover in statelevel educational leadership occurred last year, according to a new report from Achieve, an education advocacy group focused on state-level policy. In 2015-a year in which 14 new governors and a new District of Columbia mayor took office-31 states got new education chiefs. In addition, there were 95 new state school board members in 33 states, a turnover of almost a fifth of all the country's state school board members. In all, only seven of the 50 states saw no changes in educational leadership. And it may not be over. In 2016 alone, there are set to be at least six new governors and two new education chiefs, and many board members' terms will come to an end this year, the report says. As Education Week's Andrew Ujifusa wrote last year in describing the turnover in state superintendents, the change in leadership could be attributed to several things. Among them: Southern states such as Kentucky and Tennessee flipping from majority Republican to majority Democratic; education becoming more of a political lightning rod; and education leaders' jobs | becoming more complicated and under increased pressure to implement federal education statutes and regulations. -DAAREL BURNETTE II Could $1 Billion in Federal Grants Make Teaching World's Best Job? | TEACHER BEAT | Could $1 billion make teaching the best job in the world? Well, the U.S. Department of Education is banking that it can at least help make a dent in the perception of teaching as underpaid and not prestigious, anyway: It's pitching a $1 billion program toward that end as part of its fiscal 2017 budget request. Under its proposal, districts would use the funds to improve teacher salaries, working conditions, and professional development. Overall, the initiative also aims to help improve the distribution of teacher talent, something the agency has struggled to get states to do. The federal program, called RESPECT: The Best Job In the World (the acronym stands for "Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching"), would give out competitive grants of $50 million to $250 million to states, which would then offer subgrants to school districts. Does this all sound a little familiar? Well, as it happens, the department proposed a $1 billion teaching program last year, too (and a $5 billion one several years before that), none of which got any traction in Congress. The new program's emphasis does seem somewhat different, perhaps because Education Department officials say that it builds on educator feedback from its Teach to Lead project. Even though this is envisioned as a one-time, mandatoryspending program, funding prospects for it probably aren't any better than in the past, given Congress' tepid reaction to the overall budget request. -STEPHEN SAWCHUK

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 24, 2016

Education Week - February 24, 2016
ESSA Spotlights Strategy to Reach Diverse Learners
Will the Common Core Step Up Schools’ Focus on Grammar?
Disparities in Test Accommodations Eyed
News in Brief
Report Roundup
S.D. May Restrict Restroom Use For Transgender Students
Conn. Seminars Tackle ‘Religious Illiteracy’ In Classrooms
Seven Studies Comparing Paper and Computer Test Scores
To Offset Poverty, Ed. Groups Urge ‘Whole-Child’ Approach
Research on Deafness Yields Broader Insights
Analysis: Ill. Pension Woes Destabilizing Teaching
Blogs of the Week
Military Eyes Wider Access for Career-Aptitude Test Under ESSA
Scalia’s Death Muddies Fate of Key Cases
Courts Push Lawmakers to the Wall Over K-12 Funding
Blogs of the Week
5 Key Takeaways on Education From White House Candidates
State of the States
Preschool Suspensions Do More Harm Than Good
Personalization Isn’t About Isolation
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Why Preschool Matters for Student Success

Education Week - February 24, 2016