Report Examines State Funding Cuts – Inside Higher Ed

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities compares state spending on two- and four-year public colleges and universities over a decade, finding funding at the end of the 2017 academic year was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation.

On a per student basis, 44 of 49 states analyzed spent less in 2017 than in 2008, found the report, released today. The average state spent $1,448, or 16 percent, less per student.

Falling state spending has consequences, according to the center, a research and policy think tank focused on budget and tax policies that help low-income people. Today’s report draws heavily on data from two other well-known annual reports on higher education finance, the Grapevine survey and the State Higher Education Finance report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association.

“State spending on higher education is important because state and local governments provide just over half of the money that public colleges use for educational purposes,” said Michael Mitchell, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the report’s authors. “If that amount goes down, public institutions generally have to raise more funds through tuition, they have to cut their own campus budgets, or some combination of those two things.”

Since 2008, average annual published tuition at four-year public institutions has increased by $2,484, or 35 percent.

The report argues that families have had a difficult time shouldering higher tuition costs. Tuition costs can deter some students from enrolling in higher education, including students of color and low-income students, it said.

Federal aid may have helped some families keep up with rising tuition costs. Between 2008 and 2016, total Pell Grant aid increased by 68 percent. The average grant rose by 23 percent, to $3,034, as the grant’s value has in recent years been indexed to inflation. But low-income students are still saddled with heavy debt, according to the report. It also worries about the effects of proposals by Republicans to cut from the Pell program.

“Unfortunately, there are reasons to be concerned that federal student aid, including Pell Grants, will do less, rather than more, to help low- and moderate-income students afford college going forward,” said Sharon Parrott, senior fellow and senior counselor at the center.

The report concludes by saying that past higher education funding cuts would have been less necessary if policy makers had put in place a more balanced mix of spending cuts and revenue increases during the Great Recession. It calls for states to avoid tax cuts and consider options for raising new revenue in order to boost public higher education and its long-term benefits to the economy.

Report Examines State Funding Cuts

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities compares state spending on two- and four-year public colleges and universities over a decade, finding funding at the end of the 2017 academic year was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation.

On a per student basis, 44 of 49 states analyzed spent less in 2017 than in 2008, found the report, released today. The average state spent $1,448, or 16 percent, less per student.

Falling state spending has consequences, according to the center, a research and policy think tank focused on budget and tax policies that help low-income people. Today’s report draws heavily on data from two other well-known annual reports on higher education finance, the Grapevine survey and the State Higher Education Finance report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association.

“State spending on higher education is important because state and local governments provide just over half of the money that public colleges use for educational purposes,” said Michael Mitchell, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the report’s authors. “If that amount goes down, public institutions generally have to raise more funds through tuition, they have to cut their own campus budgets, or some combination of those two things.”

Since 2008, average annual published tuition at four-year public institutions has increased by $2,484, or 35 percent.

The report argues that families have had a difficult time shouldering higher tuition costs. Tuition costs can deter some students from enrolling in higher education, including students of color and low-income students, it said.

Federal aid may have helped some families keep up with rising tuition costs. Between 2008 and 2016, total Pell Grant aid increased by 68 percent. The average grant rose by 23 percent, to $3,034, as the grant’s value has in recent years been indexed to inflation. But low-income students are still saddled with heavy debt, according to the report. It also worries about the effects of proposals by Republicans to cut from the Pell program.

“Unfortunately, there are reasons to be concerned that federal student aid, including Pell Grants, will do less, rather than more, to help low- and moderate-income students afford college going forward,” said Sharon Parrott, senior fellow and senior counselor at the center.

The report concludes by saying that past higher education funding cuts would have been less necessary if policy makers had put in place a more balanced mix of spending cuts and revenue increases during the Great Recession. It calls for states to avoid tax cuts and consider options for raising new revenue in order to boost public higher education and its long-term benefits to the economy.

Report Examines State Funding Cuts Over Last Decade

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities compares state spending on two- and four-year public colleges and universities over a decade, finding funding at the end of the 2017 academic year was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation.

On a per student basis, 44 of 49 states analyzed spent less in 2017 than in 2008, found the report, released today. The average state spent $1,448, or 16 percent, less per student.

Falling state spending has consequences, according to the center, a research and policy think tank focused on budget and tax policies that help low-income people. Today’s report draws heavily on data from two other well-known annual reports on higher education finance, the Grapevine survey and the State Higher Education Finance report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association.

“State spending on higher education is important because state and local governments provide just over half of the money that public colleges use for educational purposes,” said Michael Mitchell, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the report’s authors. “If that amount goes down, public institutions generally have to raise more funds through tuition, they have to cut their own campus budgets, or some combination of those two things.”

Since 2008, average annual published tuition at four-year public institutions has increased by $2,484, or 35 percent.

The report argues that families have had a difficult time shouldering higher tuition costs. Tuition costs can deter some students from enrolling in higher education, including students of color and low-income students, it said.

Federal aid may have helped some families keep up with rising tuition costs. Between 2008 and 2016, total Pell Grant aid increased by 68 percent. The average grant rose by 23 percent, to $3,034, as the grant’s value has in recent years been indexed to inflation. But low-income students are still saddled with heavy debt, according to the report. It also worries about the effects of proposals by Republicans to cut from the Pell program.

“Unfortunately, there are reasons to be concerned that federal student aid, including Pell Grants, will do less, rather than more, to help low- and moderate-income students afford college going forward,” said Sharon Parrott, senior fellow and senior counselor at the center.

The report concludes by saying that past higher education funding cuts would have been less necessary if policy makers had put in place a more balanced mix of spending cuts and revenue increases during the Great Recession. It calls for states to avoid tax cuts and consider options for raising new revenue in order to boost public higher education and its long-term benefits to the economy.

Keep the federal government out of school choice

Lindsey Burke directs the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy. Neal McCluskey directs the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. Vicki Alger is a research fellow at the Independent Institute, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and the author of “Failure: The Federal ‘Misedukation’ of America’s Children.”

School choice has many benefits. It frees people to select the type of education that will best serve their families. It makes educators accountable to the people they are supposed to work for. And study after study proves it typically leads to improved academic outcomes. But despite these advantages, that does not mean the federal government should push choice in a nationwide program. The dangers may be too great.

The Trump administration has made clear that it wants to support school choice. In his February address to Congress, the president called education “the civil rights issue of our time,” and he has pledged to direct $20 billion to advance choice. He also picked school choice stalwart Betsy DeVos as his education secretary.

Trump deserves credit for seeing the need to weaken a government monopoly, let parents choose the best education for their unique children and leave educators free to teach as they see fit. But there is great risk in federalizing choice: He who pays the piper calls the tune, and federal control could ultimately impose the same regulations on once-independent schools that have stifled public institutions.

We can glimpse what that might look like in higher education, where federal student aid makes schools and students dependent on Washington and drives the federal government’s regulatory tentacles deep into the education system.

In the 1970-1971 academic year, total federal aid for higher education was just $16 billion. Today it is around $158 billion. In 1992-1993, 45 percent of full-time, full-year undergraduates used some form of federal aid. By 2011-2012, that share had jumped to nearly 73 percent.

Attached to all that aid are volumes of regulations that have increased in scope and intrusiveness for years. There are rules eroding core legal protections for students accused of sexual misconduct and blunt measures of school quality that fail to account for even basic variables such as the composition of a school’s student body or big state subsidies. And colleges deal with a student body of adults — imagine the rules that could be instituted for children, who are not assumed to be capable of caring for themselves.

Of course, lots of college aid comes in the form of grants and loans, while the K-12 proposal getting the most attention is a tax credit for donating to organizations that provide scholarships. It’s appealing because it could fulfill Trump’s $20 billion promise without technically increasing the debt-ridden federal budget.

But that setup would not be protected from regulation. College tax credits can be claimed only for expenditures on accredited institutions, and the federal government regulates the accreditors. It is likely that a federal K-12 tax credit would start with a similar thicket of requirements for accreditation or eventually end up there. If something were to go wrong at even one or two schools accepting scholarship students, choice opponents and “accountability” hawks would likely head right to the regulatory presses.

Of course, such regulation can happen at the state level. But that is where federalism — states and Washington controlling different matters — can help. States are “laboratories of democracy.” They can try different policies, and do so without exposing everyone to possible failure. States also compete for residents and businesses, creating a much greater incentive to care about efficient and effective policy than Washington has.

If the federal government delivered choice through a new nationwide model, it would likely swamp these democratic labs and snuff out competition among differing choice policies, including vouchers, education savings accounts and other ideas of which no one has yet dreamt.

That does not mean the Trump administration can do nothing helpful. It can put the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program on a permanent and expanding footing. During nearly every budget cycle over the past eight years, the Obama administration attempted to zero out funding for choice in the District, a place where the feds actually do have constitutional authority to govern education. Thousands of low-income children could finally feel assured of their places in safe, effective, chosen schools.

The administration could also propose expanding choice to military families and children attending Bureau of Indian Education schools — the latter deemed the worst-performing schools in the United States.

Those offer major opportunities to create choices where few or none exist. Along with use of the bully pulpit to promote state-level choice, they would go far to advance the cause of educational freedom and opportunity.

Read more here:

Rahm Emanuel: It’s time to stop with the false choices on school choice

The Post’s View: Obama administration engages in voucher politics again

Lynsey Wood Jeffries: The District offers an object lesson on school choice done right

The Post’s View: The District’s smart plan for school accountability

Texas’s ESSA plan aims to align state goals with federal requirements

Since the Every Student Succeeds Act was made law in late 2015, the Texas Education Agency has been working to fit state and federal regulations together into one system.

The first draft of the state’s plan, all 75 pages of it, was completed last month and has been made public for interested stakeholders and public policy experts to review and provide comment.

ESSA: TEA opens public comment period for implementing federal law

If approved by the federal education department once the final draft is submitted next month, the state’s ESSA plan would streamline much of the administrative process within Texas, according to Mark Baxter, director of policy and planning at TEA in Austin.

“First and foremost, our No. 1 goal as we approached ESSA was aligning the federal plan with our state strategic plan,” Baxter said, adding there are four priorities within the strategic plan.

Those priorities are:

  • Recruit, support and retain teachers and principals:
  • Build a foundation of reading and math; 
  • Connect high school to career and college;
  • Improve low-performing schools.

The priorities plus three enablers — increase transparency, fairness and rigor in district and campus academic and financial performance; ensure compliance, effectively implement legislation and inform policymakers; and strengthen organizational foundations — dictated the direction those developing the ESSA response took, Baxter said.

One of the primary changes, Baxter said, comes in teacher qualification requirements. Most notably, the federal law eliminates the layer created under the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind law.

“Under No Child Left Behind, the states used to have high-quality teacher specifications,” Baxter said. “ESSA really opens it back up to what states would consider the necessary qualifications for teachers.”

Other changes relieve the state of other federal burdens like reporting requirements, Baxter said.

Two places Baxter places emphasis in the plan are in school accountability and school improvement. ESSA requires the state to identify its bottom 5 percent performing schools within the Title I federal funds system, a mission the state will hope to do through its revamped school and district ratings.

Accountability has been a priority within the chambers of the Capitol in Austin, as well, with changes made to the system in each of the last two legislative sessions. First, lawmakers instructed the TEA to develop a system evaluating schools on five different categories.

In May, though, facing backlash from a number of school districts and organizations, the Legislature reduced the scope from five to three categories. Schools and districts will be graded, eventually, on how students perform on standardized tests and in other categories.

These grades, using an A-F scale, will be used to hopefully identify the bottom 5 percent, Baxter said.

“We can’t predict how many will have an F rating, or how many will have a D rating,” Baxter said. “So our plan provides four options, in case the first two don’t work.”

Essentially, the state will take these bottom performing schools, Baxter said, and add in the lowest rated campuses receiving a C grade until that 5 percent threshold is reached, should it come to that.

On the school improvement side, the plan meets ESSA’s prescriptive steps needed to address these underperforming campuses, Baxter said.

Dealing specifically with both Title I (economically disadvantaged students program) and Title II Part A (teacher continuing education funds), Texas’ plan addresses many of the deficiencies created in the No Child Left Behind era when the state’s plan didn’t sync with federal expectations.

Instead, for Title I, the ESSA plan allows the state to try to be innovative with how those federal dollars are spent. Abilene, Wylie and other districts will be encouraged to enter into competitive grant opportunities, Baxter said.

“We’re creating these grant opportunities … to see how we can replicate successful models in education and see greater improvement in student achievement,” he said.

With Title II Part A funds, the state will also seek to create grants, especially in the realm of principal training. Baxter said the grants will support evidence-based trainings to help “them become better instructional leaders on their campuses.”

With the plan’s initial phase finalized, it’ll be up to groups like the Texas Association of School Boards, the Texas Association of School Administrators, teacher groups and parent organizations to review the document and make suggestions for improvement and criticisms.

Kristin McGuire, a policy analyst with TASB, said the finished plan comes with a lot of questions and concerns, especially about how accountability ties in to school improvement.

“It looks like (TEA) is still using (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) achievement to determine which schools are doing poorly,” she said. “We’d like to see if there’s any other objective indicator we could propose for that measure. Previous to House Bill 22, the accountability plan had the school engagement and community engagement indicator, which we thought might be a fit there.”

McGuire said the organization would be submitting comments by Tuesday, the state’s deadline for feedback on the plan.

 

Professor calls for federal guarantee of quality education for kids

American children, no matter where they live or what school they attend, deserve to be guaranteed a quality education, much as we guarantee a safety net for seniors, argued Professor Marta Tienda of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Without a federal guarantee to restore the “educational social contract,” she wrote, the United States will never close educational achievement gaps or restore its schools to their former international preeminence.


Writing in the August/September 2017 issue of Educational Researcher, Tienda recounted two trends in recent decades that are familiar to those who follow education policy. The first is the stubborn persistence of achievement gaps by income and by race/ethnicity. The second is the U.S. educational system’s fall from worldwide leadership to a decidedly mediocre place among developed nations, as measured both by K-12 achievement scores and college attainment.

Reformers seeking to reverse these trends have focused on a combination of setting academic standards (such as the Common Core mathematics and English language arts standards developed by US ) and using high-stakes testing to make schools and teachers accountable for their students’ progress. By themselves, Tienda wrote, these methods are bound to fail because they ignore the education funding disparities both within and between states that stem from the country’s lack of a right to a quality education and its deeply ingrained tradition of local control.

“Notwithstanding popular assertions that an educated citizenry is the backbone of democracy, today millions of U.S. children are denied equal opportunities to learn and to obtain an adequate education,” Tienda wrote. “In large measure, this is because the U.S. system of local control limits the hands of federal policy makers to guarantee an adequate, much less an excellent education.”

In the nineteenth century, decentralization helped to strengthen the educational social contract, leading citizens to accept local taxation to fund schools and encouraging experimentation with teaching and curricula. But it also entrenched resistance to a federal role in education—a legacy that persists today in the relative weakness of the Department of Education, compared to other Cabinet departments, Tienda said.

Local control has had other downsides, Tienda argued. In particular, spending on education varies widely from state to state. Historically, for example, states in the Deep South have spent much less per student than most other states. Although education funding disparities among states lessened by the mid-20th century, they began to grow again in the 1990s as some states slashed education funding to balance their budgets while others did not. The Great Recession only exacerbated state-by-state disparities.

Disparities among states exist side by side with a growing tolerance for educational inequality within states, Tienda wrote. Court rulings during the post-Civil Rights era dismantled laws that mandated racial segregation in schools. But in practice, de facto segregation has not only continued but has accelerated in recent years. Today, one child in six attends a highly segregated school that is poorly supplied with resources, staffed by less experienced teachers, and unlikely to offer advanced coursework. In essence, the quality of the education children receive depends on the neighborhood they live in. Unlike segregation that’s written into law, such de facto segregation has proved largely impervious to legal challenges.

No amount of standards and high-stakes testing will reduce educational disparities among and within states, Tienda said. Instead, the must step in, as it has several times in the past. She reviewed how, at favorable points in our nation’s history, Washington has moved to play a larger role in education.

The Morrill Acts of the late 1800s contributed land and money for public colleges (though they also allowed the creation of a segregated higher education system). The National Defense Education Act of 1958, which came in response to the Soviet Union’s lead in the space race, sent nearly one billion dollars to the states over four years to strengthen science and technology education. And the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, passed in 1965 under the umbrella of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and renewed many times since, enlisted the federal government as a full partner with the states in the effort to eliminate achievement gaps.

But, Tienda stated, “the federal government has been complicit in aggravating educational inequality by not guaranteeing free, as a basic right” during such propitious political moments.

The United States could recognize education as fundamental right by passing a constitutional amendment. But that’s unlikely, Tienda said. However, she argued, there’s a way to approximate the same result. The federal government could amplify ESEA by guaranteeing a level of public education funding and academic quality below which no school may fall, regardless of the state in which it’s located or the social background of its students.

Such a new entitlement program could be coupled with a powerful new youth-centered lobbying organization, Tienda said—”a functional equivalent of the American Association for Retired People (AARP)” that would “give youth a voice in matters that govern their future.”

Two precedents exist for such a federal social safety net, Tienda noted: Social Security and Medicare. Neither required a constitutional amendment, and both have been highly effective in reducing or preventing poverty among seniors. Because they’re grounded in the federal budget—which can run a deficit, unlike state and local budgets—they’re protected against cost-cutting during fiscal downturns. Moreover, as a “powerful watchdog for seniors’ rights,” the AARP has effectively lobbied to protect these programs. Although in the legal sense these entitlements for seniors don’t represent a constitutional right to a minimum income and basic medical care, in practice they’ve become much the same thing, for now.

In the face of formidable international competition, Tienda said, “The United States is overdue for major upgrades in the way it delivers public education.” The biggest challenge, she said, will be “finding the political will to restore the educational social contract so that it truly broadens equal educational opportunity.”


Explore further:
Is educational attainment associated with lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease?

More information:
Marta Tienda “Public Education and the Social Contract: Restoring the Promise in an Age of Diversity and Division,” August/September 2017 issue of Educational Researcher

Federal grant keeps Passaic County Head Start above water

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A solar eclipse, Jersey tomatoes and a Smokey Robinson benefit concert – all in “7 things to know this week in New Jersey.”
John C. Ensslin

RINGWOOD — An injection of more than $5 million in federal funding will allow the Center for Family Resources’ Head Start programs in Passaic County to continue as planned this year, officials said Monday.

The money approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and announced last week, will support roughly 500 low-income children in 14 Passaic County municipalities with early education and health services for the next 12 months, said Elaine Ruhl, executive director for the Center for Family Resources.

While a study from the federal department released in 2014 has cast doubt on Head Start’s benefits on cognition, health, and parenting practices when compared to other early education options, Adriana Hernandez, a program parent, said the program can sometimes be the only viable option.

“If I didn’t have Head Start I probably would have had to stay home, and she would have had to stay home,” Hernandez said of her now 12-year-old daughter. “As a very young mother trying to work and everything, Head Start was very helpful with a whole bunch of stuff. They helped her read and do math, socialize and recognize patterns.”

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The federal government established Head Start 52 years ago as a public preschool program for impoverished families. The program currently serves about 1 million children and costs taxpayers about $9.2 billion each year.

Federal funding covers roughly 85 percent of the Center for Family Resources’ annual $5.7 million Head Start program costs. Four years ago, it was reeling from a 5 percent funding cut that forced an enrollment reduction of 36 and a staff reduction of five.

Another cut under a new president was not a concern this year, “since the administration is so new,” said Laura Rotella, the center’s education manager and a former program parent. However, if a funding cut does come down the road, Rotella said it could throw off a delicate balance.

“We have just enough money to run as we would expect to run,” she said. “Any quirk in the system really affects all the other systems, because the Head Start program is so integrated with all its components.”

Like many other Head Start providers, the Center for Family Resources mostly serves families living below the poverty line. Children in foster care, homeless children and some additional students with family incomes above the poverty lines are also admitted.

The center helps pay for food, rent, and utilities in some cases, Ruhl said. The center also provides social, parenting, education, and health services, including referrals for dental care and immunization reviews, she said.

“We do things like make sure the children are up to date on their immunizations, because a lot of families are living such chaotic lives that that’s not a priority for them. Some of these families are homeless. Some of these families are living traumatic lives,” she said. “No child should be barred from getting an education based on the circumstances they were born into.”

The center’s Head Start programs provide all-day and in-home care and are based in eight child development centers. Four are in Clifton. There are also centers in Ringwood, West Milford, Wayne and Pompton Lakes.

The programs serve all municipalities in Passaic County except for the cities of Paterson and Passaic, which have their own programs.

Children ages 3 to 5 years are entered into Head Start, while children ages 2 months to 3 years and pregnant women are funneled to Early Head Start. The two programs share a similar mission, promoting cognitive, physical, social, language and emotional development, Ruhl said.

The programs are designed to give young children and pregnant women “the opportunity and capacity to succeed,” Ruhl said. Hernandez, for example, now works for the Center for Family Resources. Her 5-year-old daughter is set to graduate the program this month.

Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said he is pleased to see the federal department’s renewed investment in the center’s programs and federal tax dollars returning to New Jersey to the benefit of local children and their families.

“For every dollar invested in Head Start, we see a $7 to $9 return on our investment,” Gottheimer said. “The more we can encourage local organizations and municipalities to apply for and claw back these federal funds, the better return on investment New Jersey families can expect to see.”

Improvement grants available to poor-performing La. schools


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has launched a $20 million annual effort to improve poor-performing public schools.

The education department announced Monday it is seeking applications for school improvement grants, with the first deadline set for Sept. 29. The effort stems from an accountability redesign plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The Advocate reports the plan requires school district officials to devise improvement proposals for schools rated D and F in Louisiana’s accountability system for three consecutive years. The state has 225 public schools repeatedly rated D and F, 17 percent statewide.

State officials will award improvement grants for the best ideas. Schools will get the assistance for three years, financed through a 7 percent set-aside of certain federal education dollars.

Improvement grants available to poor-performing La. schools

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has launched a $20 million annual effort to improve poor-performing public schools.

The education department announced Monday it is seeking applications for school improvement grants, with the first deadline set for Sept. 29. The effort stems from an accountability redesign plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The Advocate reports the plan requires school district officials to devise improvement proposals for schools rated D and F in Louisiana’s accountability system for three consecutive years. The state has 225 public schools repeatedly rated D and F, 17 percent statewide.

State officials will award improvement grants for the best ideas. Schools will get the assistance for three years, financed through a 7 percent set-aside of certain federal education dollars.

Federal grant aims to improve telehealth options in rural Maine

AUGUSTA – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding a $325,000 grant to an Augusta firm to improve telehealth services in Maine.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King say the money will go to Northeast Telehealth Resource Center.

They say the firm provides technical assistance and education to local health care providers in New England. It also works to improve telehealth opportunities for rural residents.

Collins and King say telehealth can be a “critical lifeline” for people who live in rural Maine. They say it can help residents connect with health services and make health care more accessible.


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