Diminished state budgets, eroded by the most recent recession, have walloped the finances of public colleges and universities, which educate more than 70 percent of the nation’s undergraduate students. Consequences range from rising tuition and student loan debt to furloughed faculty and closed campuses that curtail class offerings and deflate completion rates.
Two new reports, one from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the other from the association of State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), warn that the decline of state investment in public higher education will make it increasingly harder for students to access and complete higher education, threatening the future competitiveness of the American workforce and the country’s economic promise.
Just one day after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released his vision of how to reduce the federal deficit by slashing education spending and maintaining across-the-board cuts, Senate Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray shared a very different financial plan, one that would end the sequester and increase investments in education.
Last week Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) released his vision of how to reduce the federal deficit. This year’s budget parallels the proposal he introduced for fiscal year 2013. It once again suggests repealing the Affordable Care Act and, under the cover of simplifying the tax code, proposes reducing individual tax rates to two brackets — 10 percent and 25 percent — and lowering corporate tax rates. It also assumes the continuation of sequestration, which has imposed across-the-board cuts on all federal agencies. And, it cuts funding for such non-defense discretionary programs as education, nutrition, and other social safety net programs below the already-reduced levels set by the Budget Control Act. Conspicuously, it does not similarly reduce defense spending.
Here’s a puzzle: If high school students have been taking increasingly advanced mathematics courses over the past 20 years, and their GPAs in those courses have been improving, how come their math achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) hasn’t budged? One hypothesis is that students are not being challenged in their courses any more than they were 20 years ago, even if course titles suggest they are. By examining the content and rigor of textbooks for high school Algebra I and Geometry courses, the National Center for Education Statistics begins to unearth some answers in its new report, "Algebra I and Geometry Curricula: Results from the 2005 High School Transcript Mathematics Study." The authors find that curricular rigor, as evidenced by the textbook, often does not correspond with the title of the course. And in some cases, students of color receive less rigorous content than white students, even when their course titles are identical.
Despite the large — over a billion dollars — funding cut to the Department of Education imposed under the sequester, there is some promising news in education. Two bills have been reintroduced in the House of Representatives that will improve our nation’s schools: the Securing Teacher Effectiveness, Leadership, Learning, and Results Act of 2013 (STELLAR Act) and the ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act.
Click here to read the Center for American Progress Action Fund letter of support for the STELLAR Act.
A new study from the Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR) finds that far too many high school seniors fail to take a challenging course load, one that would prepare them for college and make them competitive candidates in the college admissions process. The study also finds big differences across schools in course-taking patterns for similarly qualified students, underscoring the importance of counselors and teachers in helping students choose courses that challenge them and prepare them for post-high school demands.
Most consider quality school leadership a prerequisite for successfully turning around and managing schools. But, effective school leaders are not a dime a dozen; districts have to proactively build a cadre of strong leaders and continue to support them once they show up for the job. Drawing on a decade of work with districts throughout the country, The Wallace Foundation shares strategies for developing and supporting principals in its new report, "Districts Matter: Cultivating the Principals Urban Schools Need." A number of districts are taking on the tasks of identifying, training, and supporting great principals, and they are tailoring these efforts to meet their local needs.
On March 1, a set of across-the-board cuts went into effect at all federal agencies. Known as sequestration, the automatic cuts require the Department of Education to eliminate $1.9 billion in aid to the nation’s 15,000 school districts, including money designated to help educate poor and disabled children from kindergarten through 12th grade. For example, Title I will be slashed by $725 million and special education by $600 million. Since most districts have already received their federal dollars for the current school year, the impact of these cuts likely would not be felt before fall.
The recent release of the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher generated a lot of attention around teacher and principal satisfaction. But one important, yet typically overlooked, finding is that principals and teachers working in low-performing or disadvantaged schools rate fewer of the teachers in those schools as excellent. The Education Trust has long been concerned that our low-income students and students of color are being shortchanged when it comes to the quality of their teachers. The survey’s results further suggest that this is a reality.
For-profit institutions of higher education have been repeatedly criticized over the past year for their aggressive, sketchy recruitment of active duty military personnel and veterans. In response, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) set up a commission to look at its schools’ practices toward veterans. APSCU recently released the results of the commission’s work — a paper identifying best practices for serving military and veteran students interested or enrolled in these institutions. Unfortunately, the suggested best practices are not yet coupled with promises of action by APSCU’s member institutions.