Report: Deepest Funding Cuts in Virginia Hit Highest-Poverty Schools

school funding

Reposted from the Lynchburg News & Advance:

During the economic downturn, Virginia dealt its deepest education cuts to its highest-poverty school divisions, according to a new report from a Richmond-based policy group. “The state made a series of cuts to education during the recession to close the state budget shortfall, but the way they did it did not protect high-poverty communities in Virginia,” said Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. The Commonwealth Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said a review of Census figures and superintendents’ reports found the steepest cuts in state aid were sustained by communities with the highest poverty rates among children.

In Virginia’s poorest school divisions, nearly 30 percent of students live in households under the federal poverty line, it reported. Those same divisions saw their state aid drop by an average of $1,490 per student — or about 21 percent — during the four-year cycle between 2008-09 and 2012-13. In contrast, school divisions with the most affluent student bodies saw their state aid drop by $511 per student on average — or about 11 percent — during the same period, according to the Commonwealth Institute.

Lynchburg Superintendent Scott Brabrand is adamant all children can succeed in school, but said some may need more instruction time and one-on-one attention — which carries a cost. “As we ask schools to achieve higher standards with less support, we’re going to have to have these conversations if we want to see strong outcomes for all kids, regardless of economic background,” he said. “We’ve got to be sure we’re giving our kids the necessary supports … You can’t cut systems with large numbers of kids in poverty and expect them to do better.” Like many school divisions, Lynchburg’s state aid and overall operating budget still lags behind the pre-recession peaks reached in 2008-09.

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Is Free & Equitable “Public” Education a Myth?


Reposted from Salon:

The gap in the mathematical abilities of American kids, by income, is one of widest among the 65 countries participating in the Program for International Student Achievement. On their reading skills, children from high-income families score 110 points higher, on average, than those from poor families. This is about the same disparity that exists between average test scores in the United States as a whole and Tunisia. The achievement gap between poor kids and wealthy kids isn’t mainly about race. In fact, the racial achievement gap has been narrowing. It’s a reflection of the nation’s widening gulf between poor and wealthy families. And also about how schools in poor and rich communities are financed, and the nation’s increasing residential segregation by income.

As we segregate by income into different communities, schools in lower-income areas have fewer resources than ever. The result is widening disparities in funding per pupil, to the direct disadvantage of poor kids. The wealthiest highest-spending districts are now providing about twice as much funding per student as are the lowest-spending districts, according to a federal advisory commission report. In some states, such as California, the ratio is more than three to one. What are called a “public schools” in many of America’s wealthy communities aren’t really “public” at all. In effect, they’re private schools, whose tuition is hidden away in the purchase price of upscale homes there, and in the corresponding property taxes.

Rather than pay extra taxes that would go to poorer districts, many parents in upscale communities have quietly shifted their financial support to tax-deductible “parent’s foundations” designed to enhance their own schools. About 12 percent of the more than 14,000 school districts across America are funded in part by such foundations. They’re paying for everything from a new school auditorium (Bowie, Maryland) to a high-tech weather station and language-arts program (Newton, MA). “Parents’ foundations,” observed the Wall Street Journal, “are visible evidence of parents’ efforts to reconnect their money to their kids.” And not, it should have been noted, to kids in another community, who are likely to be poorer.

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States Slashing Education Spending

cash cut

Reposted from 24/7 Wall Street:

State-level K-12 education spending has fallen dramatically in many states since 2008. In that time, 29 states cut per pupil spending, shifting the burden of financing education to local school districts and, in many instances, forcing schools to cut costs and even teachers. Based on the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) 2014 report, “Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession,” 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 14 states with at least 10% declines in state general education funding between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2015. In Oklahoma, per pupil spending fell by nearly 24%, the largest decline nationwide. These are the states slashing school spending.

Click here to see the states slashing education spending.

According to Michael Leachman, director of State Fiscal Research at the CBPP, “the Great Recession was very damaging for state finances, and states have varied in their policy responses.” State lawmakers needed to decide whether to raise taxes during an economic downturn, or cut school funding. A majority of the states with the largest reductions in school spending have cut income tax rates in recent years. Leachman argued that “at a time when the recession is still causing damage to state finances … these states have just made it harder for themselves to recover.” To make matters worse, major federal education aid programs for states have also been drying up since the recession. For example, federal aid for K-12 education for schools with high proportions of low-income families decreased by 10% between 2010 and 2014.

Leachman pointed out that school spending is essentially a long-term investment, especially as jobs continue to require more educated workers. “The jobs of the 21st century are jobs that require a highly educated workforce … and if we are underfunding the education of our children, that’s going to hurt our economy and all of us in the long run.” Many of the states cutting funding the most are also among those with the poorest educational outcomes.This states in particular are arguably the ones that can least to make these cuts. Students in six of the 14 states with the largest funding cuts performed worse than students across the nation on math and reading standardized tests. These states also have among the lowest educational attainment rates. While nearly 30% of the nation’s adults had completed at least a bachelor’s degree last year, 11 states had lower educational attainment rates.

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Seeking Funding? Four Key Questions that Define True Innovation


Reposted from Hanover Research Insights:

Innovation has become a major buzz word in the grants world. Funders increasingly want to support social experiments that will yield positive, cost effective solutions to problems, and they want to do so by investing in models that provide scalable solutions in new, novel ways.

One of the latest examples is First in the World (FITW). This U.S. Department of Education (ED) grant program was announced May 16, which set aside $75 Million in funding for higher education institutions that can demonstrate innovative models to improve student access, retention, and completion. The grant program is part of President Obama’s larger plan to make college more affordable, so that more students enter and graduate. The catch: grantee hopefuls must articulate proposed innovation in their applications. While the Department wants applicants to innovate, it also wants applicants to outline their strong theory of action and existing evidence of promise for the proposed methodology.

Advance planning and preparation is key in developing an innovative program or practice. The basic rule of thumb is to think outside the box and propose something unique; repackaging existing programs as an enhancement or expansion simply won’t pass the innovation test. If your organization is truly ready and able to innovate, take the time to know the existing practices in your field, what works well and what does not, and who the appropriate collaborators are for you to work with to build a solution that will bridge the gaps.

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The Trust Challenge: $1.2 Million in Grant Funding to Foster Trusted Online Learning Environments

WASHINGTON – June 17, 2014: HASTAC and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, responding to a landmark Aspen Institute report, announced a $1.2 million challenge to foster trust in online learning environments and help educators harness one of the most powerful tools of the digital age – online networks.

The 5th Digital Media and Learning Competition, dubbed The Trust Challenge, will offer year-long development grants of up to $150,000 to teams with the most promising innovations for fostering trusted learning environments online. The open invitation for proposals is supported by the MacArthur Foundation through a grant to the University of California, Irvine, administered by HASTAC, an alliance of more than 14,000 humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to transform the future of learning.

The Trust Challenge is a response to a new report by the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet that called for innovations that enable people to pursue learning experiences online in an environment that is safe and private. The task force focused on American education, but the Trust Challenge is an international competition because the challenge is global.

“The Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet has highlighted the transformative role that digital media can play in helping every learner to reach his or her full potential,” said David Theo Goldberg, a HASTAC board member and the director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute. “Our competition seeks to advance solutions that build the trusted environments learners need online so they can safely and confidently access the rich learning opportunities the Internet affords.”

In the Task Force report, Learner at the Center of a Networked World, also made public on Thursday, Honorary Co-Chairs Jeb Bush and Rosario Dawson argue a trusted online environment is necessary for effective learning. “Technology should revolve around the learner, not the other way around,” they wrote. “And the learner should possess the digital age literacy tools to use and understand the media in both the virtual and physical worlds.”

The Aspen Institute report envisions a future of openness and innovation in education if America can shift away from a fear-based approach to using the Internet that unwittingly blocks access to valuable learning resources.

“Just as the digital revolution changed many industries, its promise is now being realized in learning environments inside and outside schools,” said Connie Yowell, MacArthur’s Director of Education and a leading proponent of Connected Learning. “The Internet is a vital link, and innovative educators are helping learners create unique and personalized learning pathways as they follow their interests online, connect to supportive peers and mentors, and become the creative makers and producers today’s economy rewards. Our goal is to support this explosion of interest-driven learning by ensuring all learners can safely and confidently leverage these rich digital resources.”

The Trust Challenge is open to museums, libraries, school districts, schools, higher education institutions, community organizations, developers, researchers and others committed to creative, open connected learning. Successful projects will develop digital projects and tools designed to build privacy, security, and safety into its digital offerings and build awareness around data and trust. Projects might include web or online applications, digital badge systems, data management platforms, online learning content or other innovations.

Winners will receive grants of $10,000 to $150,000 as well as a year of programming designed to support successful project development. Grantees will be networked with each other and more broadly into a highly innovative, cross-disciplinary community of technologists, educators, scholars and leading thinkers.

Organizations and institutions can also win three $5,000 People’s Choice Awards that will support the purchase of approved technology. People’s Choice Winners will be determined by an online vote.

For more information about the Trust Challenge, visit


  • Sheryl Grant, Director of Social Networking
    HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition

Useful Links:


An Education Conundrum

An Education Conundrum

Those who claim to be good stewards of public monies claim to watch education’s bottom line. Meanwhile we spend more on public education than any other nation on earth, and then cut back on education programs all over the board to claim fiscal responsibility. What’s wrong with this picture?