Considerations for private schools and their allies amid budget cuts

In August, Bellwether Education Partners wrote for Education Next about how the pandemic was affecting private schools — especially those dedicated to serving high-need students — and the factors that can influence whether a school is able to pivot during uncertain and disruptive times. But as state budgets tighten, private schools that rely on vouchers or tax-credit scholarship programs to serve high-need students are not wholly in control of their own destiny. Rather, just as school responses have varied widely, policymaker responses will vary as well. 

Lessons from Europe, where cases are rising but schools are open

Across Europe, schools and childcare centers are staying open even as much of the continent reports rising coronavirus cases, and even as many businesses and gathering places are shut or restricted. Countries like France, the U.K., Germany and Italy appear to be following the emerging evidence that schools have not been major centers of transmission of the virus, especially for young children. And experts say these nations are also demonstrating a commitment to avoiding the worst impacts of the pandemic on children. The U.S. has taken a different approach. As new cases climb above 100,000 per day, there are very few places in the U.S. where classrooms have remained full even as restaurants and bars are empty. 

Assessing the efficacy of online credit recovery on student learning and high school graduation

School districts across the country are increasingly using online courses to expand credit recovery options for high school students who need to recover credit after failing a course. However, the growing use of online credit recovery for high school students has considerably outpaced the research. AIR, in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), received a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to study online credit recovery. The study focuses on first-year high school students who failed Algebra 1 or ninth-grade English (English 9) and retook the course during the summer before their second year of high school.

Massive school bond issues support distance

Nationwide, school districts are approving bonds that will pay for high-speed Internet, software updates and student computers. But some worry that the bonds aren’t going to give districts flexibility for future updates. New school bonds will help pay for computing devices and internet connectivity that schools from California to Texas to New Hampshire need to continue remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rotherham: This has been a golden era of education spending. Our aging population is about to put an end to it, whatever politicians do

The Census Bureau projects that by 2034, Americans 65 and over will outnumber those under 18. That’s unprecedented. As my colleague Jennifer O’Neal Schiess explains, state tax dollars pay for a range of services, with the largest proportion in most states going to K-12 public education. As the older population grows, we’ll see more states going the way of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Illinois, all of which spent more on Medicaid than K-12 education in 2018. Most states have a balanced budget requirement, so as health care costs take up a larger share, school budgets will have to shrink unless taxes increase.

Parents are watching like never before. ‘trust us’ isn’t enough

Since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools across the country, district leaders and educators have worked to navigate the challenges of this “new normal” in education. And nowhere have the challenges been steeper than in districts like one in Baltimore. Like other districts already battling historic and systematic disinvestment in our schools and communities, Baltimore schools have advocated for everything that our educators and students need. Education Week has zeroed in on the digital divide, using precious funds to connect students with devices and hotspots, while rallying for free internet for our students and families.