That charter schools struggle to find and finance adequate building space is a problem that has received well-deserved attention lately, but few reporters and analysts have documented the challenges charters face in entering the multi-trillion-dollar municipal bond market.
As they expand, more charters are turning to municipal bond markets to finance their building projects. When schools issue bonds, an investor essentially loans them money in return for regular interest payments until the bond “matures,” at which point the school repays the principal. School districts and other government entities issue bonds all the time, but many lenders continue to see charters as risky investments.
That perception has consequences for charters, which end up paying higher rates than schools districts, if they can find investors at all. And it’s a perception that seems to be based on a faulty picture of what makes a charter school viable for the life of a...
Has the U.S. government’s $3.5 billion School Improvement Grant (SIG) program delivered as promised? The data from Ohio indicates that the answer is no—but with a glaring exception.
SIG is a federal grant program, which has been funded heavily through the 2009 stimulus act. Its goal is to improve the academic performance of persistently low-performing schools. In March 2010, Ohio received a three-year, $132 million grant; the Ohio Department of Education then allocated funds to eligible schools based on a competitive grant process. In spring 2010, over 200 schools applied, and 35 schools received funding.
In return for the funds (up to $2 million per year for a school), the grantee is required to implement one of four intervention models: turnaround—replacing the principal and 50 percent or more of the staff; restart—closing a school and reopening under new management, possibly a charter school; school closure; or, transformation—leaving staff in place but implementing plans to improve instructional effectiveness, extend learning time, et cetera. Most schools in Ohio and across the nation have selected the transformation model, what we have argued is the “easiest” model.
Given the sizeable cash infusion, together with the required interventions to...
There’s no shortage of political gridlock and bad news when it comes to public-sector pension reform. (Consider recent goings-on in Chicago and Philadelphia.) But the reforms that Wisconsin undertook in 2011give cause for hope on this front—at least for the time being.
According to a technical report released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (an easier-on-readers summary report by Dara Zeehandelaar and Amber M. Winkler can be found here), authors Robert M. Costrell and Larry Maloney predict that the new authority granted under the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill—also known as “Act 10,” the measure that focused attention on the Wisconsin statehouse in 2011 and put newly-elected Governor Scott Walker into the spotlight—did much good for the Milwaukee Public Schools’ perilous fiscal condition. It reduced that district’s per-pupil spending on teacher retirement from a projected $3,512 in 2020 to a far more affordable $1,924 per pupil.
Good news, yes. (See media coverage here, here, and here.) But Act 10’s pay-as-you-go policy...
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has been called a lot of things over the past two years; many of these epithets are unprintable in this family-friendly publication. But according to a new Fordham report, he deserves one more: public-education hero.
Standards are not self actualizing; unless thoroughly implemented and properly assessed, they have scant traction. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons
That’s because his Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill of 2011—better known as Act 10, the endlessly contentious measure that shrank (to wages only) the scope of collective bargaining for Badger State teachers—defused the fiscal time bomb that otherwise would have blown up Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
Pre-Act 10, MPS was drowning in the rising waters of its retirement obligations (both pensions and retiree health benefits) to current and former teachers. In 2011, it spent $1,860 per pupil for this purpose, more than a tenth of the district’s budget. But the waters were slated to get far deeper.
The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project has produced another worthy read: Thirteen Economic Facts about Social Mobility and the Role of Educationis organized around three theses: inequality is on the rise against a backdrop of low social mobility; the U.S. is experiencing a growing divide in educational investments and outcomes based on family income; and education and smart interventions can help—such as those outlined in Caroline Hoxby’s Expanding College Opportunities project and Ben Castleman’s Summer Melt study. While the facts themselves are not new, the report offers an accessible and logical assemblage. Dig in!
In 2011, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) faced a dramatic and painful increase in employee retirement costs, driven primarily by a sharp rise in the bill for retiree health insurance, a program covered by collective-bargaining agreements between the district and its unions. In March 2011, however, the nation watched as Governor Scott Walker signed into law the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, also known as Act 10. By limiting collective bargaining to wages only, this measure gave MPS the authority to modify its retiree health program, and the Badger State’s largest school system has since acted upon that authority.
How did this happen? How much will it save? What would Milwaukee’s costs have been without this repair? How durable is the reform? What difference does it make at the classroom level? And what lessons might other states and districts draw from this experience?
In Milwaukee: Saved by Act 10…For Now, authors Robert M. Costrell and Larry Maloney analyze and project the future retirement obligations in Milwaukee and illumine how retirement reform can help to solve the pension-funding problem.
New York City’s graduation rate dipped very slightly in 2012—information that was hailed as a win by Mayor Bloomberg, given that the class of 2012 was the first cohort not given the option to graduate with an easier-to-obtain “local diploma.”
The United Federation of Teachers has announced its support for former city comptroller Bill Thompson’s bid for mayor of New York City—the union’s first endorsement in a mayoral election in more than a decade. But have no fear, ye other candidates—Mayor Bloomberg has derisively dubbed the union endorsement a “kiss of death” (to which the union responded by likening Bloomberg’s approval as “worse than a zombie attack”). And Gotham politics continue.
Earlier this week, New Hampshire Superior Court judge John Lewis bucked U.S. Supreme Court precedent and ruled that the state’s tax-credit-scholarship program directed public money to religious schools, in violation of the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment—a provision banning government aid to “sectarian” schools that has its roots in the anti-Catholic bigotry pervasive in the late 1800s....
According to the Times, ability grouping is back, after being unfairly stigmatized in the late 1980s and 1990s by misguided ideologues. We hope it’s true, because such grouping enables teachers to tailor their instruction to individual students appropriately—and can be used to match learning styles as well as achievement levels. (Free speech endures at Fordham, however, and not everyone concurs.)
Following school-board squabbles and the subsequent implementation of a new but compromised governance structure (by which the county executive appoints the district CEO and three school-board members), the Prince George’s County public schools have a new board chairman: NEA Director of Teacher Quality Segun Eubanks. We know and respect Eubanks and wish him the best of luck—but can’t help but smirk. What a classic case of the union sitting on both sides of the negotiating table.
To help close its $304 million budget deficit (brought on in large part by skyrocketing pension costs), the school district of Philadelphia announced that it has pink-slipped 3,783 employees: 676 teachers, 283 counselors, 127 assistant principals, and 1,202 noontime aides—a move that...