April 9, 2019

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Kansas City Education News

Plan to reopen KC’s Southwest High dies as district ends talks with community group

By Mara Rose Williams, KC Star 

After a year of discussions over whether Kansas City Public Schools should hand over the closed Southwest High School building to a community group wanting to open its own school there, the district has said no. And it sounds final. “KCPS does not believe the (Uniting at Southwest) proposal meets the standards and outcomes required to move forward, particularly in regards to financial sustainability,” the district said in a press release Thursday afternoon. “In alignment with the Education Collaboration process, the KCPS administration is indefinitely suspending negotiations with USW.” Uniting at Southwest called the news “disappointing,” saying the district failed to be transparent and was slow to involve the community in the decision.  “In a phone call last Friday, Dr. Bedell, the Superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools, informed us that he does not want to work together to form a rigorous, innovative and welcoming middle and high school at Southwest High School,” the group’s leaders said in a statement to parents who, they said, had pledged to send as many as 2,000 children to the school if it were approved.  “While we have attempted to co-facilitate a community-driven, open, and transparent process to start having the tough conversations required for an ambitious opportunity like USW for all Kansas City kids, we have been unable to come to an agreement with KCPS regarding the timing and scope of a community engagement process.” …While district officials did not outline details about where the proposal had failed financially, the release did say that the process requires that proposals “contribute to a more coordinated system that provides for the educational needs of all children within KCPS boundaries.” And it said that proposals “shall not compromise the financial sustainability of the overall system, nor contribute to inefficiency or redundancy.”

 

Missouri Education News

A Heavy Lift to Make School Data Transparent—And Easy to Use

By Daarel Burnette II, Education Week

 

One of the biggest critiques of the No Child Left Behind Act was that it forced states to impose penalties on schools based solely on test scores and high school graduation rates. Measures such as state takeover or replacing a school’s entire staff were simplistic or misguided, practitioners and policymakers argued—and, worse, created incentives to game the system. Meanwhile, states dumped reams of sometimes-outdated test-score and graduation-rate data on their hard-to-navigate websites, making it almost impossible for teachers and principals to figure out what needed to be fixed and preventing parents from using the data as tools to push for change. Enter the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The revised federal law requires states to use measures beyond just test scores and graduation rates to rate schools. And it requires states to publish on their annual report cards a range of data points about schools never before seen by the general public, including school spending amounts, teacher-pay averages, and academic and discipline disparities between student groups.  This has provided both an opportunity and a challenge for state education departments.  While states’ new accountability systems are much more comprehensive today, there’s still widespread disagreement about what data should be used to determine what makes for a high-quality school. And, for a variety of technical and logistical reasons, states have had a difficult time collecting and reporting accurate information about their schools in a way that’s digestible to the general public.  Because state officials still can’t agree on how to comply with new federal data requirements on measures beyond test scores, some state departments such as in Florida, Indiana, and Utah are still operating separate federal and state accountability systems, something federal lawmakers explicitly set out to avoid in their ESSA rewrite.

Missouri charter schools say they miss out on millions in local revenue

By Lexi Churchill, St. Louis Post

State laws have excluded charter schools from millions of dollars in local revenue sources over the past decade, according to a fiscal review by the Missouri Charter Public School Association.  The funding inequities date to 2007, when the state Legislature changed laws governing how the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education distributes school aid. The charter school group noted that lawmakers did not grant charter schools all the local tax revenue that other public schools get, such as the merchants and manufacturers tax.  More importantly, the revisions froze a significant portion of local funding. Local property taxes and other regional fees for charter schools, for example, are calculated on figures from 2005. For other public schools, those taxes are based on the previous year’s revenue.  The association estimated St. Louis property tax revenue increased 28 percent from 2005 to 2017. Yet charter schools have not seen a financial boost.  “None of this was intentional,” Missouri Charter Public School Association Executive Director Douglas Thaman said at a recent Senate hearing. “It was the way the law was drafted and approved. It wasn’t some draconian plot. It’s just the way things worked out and created some unintended consequences.”

Orrick School District students won’t return to class until at least next week

By 41 Action News

Students in the Orrick School District will have another week off as cleanup continues following a devastating fire that damaged the school building.  A post on the district’s Facebook page said it initially expected students to return to class Monday. But air quality test results came back and determined that more cleaning was needed to remove soot and smoke.  Everything in each room will have to be cleaned, including books, carpets, ceilings and floors, according to the Facebook post. The district plans to ask the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for forgiveness of the days missed because of the fire. District officials hope the last day of school will be June 5, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  Seniors will graduate on May 12 at the high school, according to the post.

 

National Education News

Should money for classroom supplies be given to teachers or school districts?

By Amelia Harper, Education Dive

  • Mark Johnson, North Carolina’s superintendent of public instruction, and some Republican state lawmakers unveiled legislation last week that would provide $400 each to more than 93,000 teachers to buy supplies for their classrooms beginning next fall, Education Week reports.
  • If passed, the legislation would redirect roughly $37.4 million of the $47.5 million allocated for instructional supplies and equipment to teachers, rather than school districts, to spend as they see fit. The new plan, Johnson said, would allow teachers to buy what they need, keep districts from reallocating the funds to other priorities, and allow the state to better track supply needs for various grades and classes as they budget for the future.
  • The money would be dispersed and tracked through an electronic account called ClassWallet, Education Week notes. Similar electronic accounts are now being used in New Mexico and Florida.

Dive Insight:

Meeting teachers’ needs is now at the forefront of many state discussions, especially since the West Virginia teacher strike last year ignited a wave of teacher protests that are still going on nationwide. The North Carolina state superintendent proposes that the majority of state funds earmarked for classroom supplies be given directly to teachers in order to meet this need. And while this measure gives teachers more direct control over these funds and helps offset their personal costs, it also removes control of these funds from school districts.

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