Cash-Strapped School Districts Left Behind by Wealthier Neighbors

POOR SCHOOL SYSTEMS across the country are being left to wither as wealthier districts shut the door on their cash-strapped neighbors, and states are doing little to stop it, a new report finds.

Because schools are funded in large part by local property taxes, they are vulnerable to the same economic swings as the communities in which they are located. When things go south, many states do little to ensure the struggling districts that can no longer afford to operate schools are absorbed by their more well-heeled neighboring districts.

“What happens when the local economy bottoms out like we’ve seen in a lot of Rust Belt states in part? What happens to the kids that are left there?” says Rebecca Sibilia, CEO of EdBuild, an education nonprofit that focuses on school funding. “School districts are forced to go hat in hand to all of their neighbors and beg them to take their kids.”

Full story at US News

GAO: Less Than Half of School Districts Test Water for Lead

WASHINGTON (AP) — A survey of school districts around the country finds that less than half test their water for lead, and among those that do more than a third detected elevated levels of the toxin, according to a federal report released Tuesday.

Lead can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in children.

The report, released by the Government Accountability Office, is based on a survey of 549 school districts across the United States. It estimates that 41 percent of school districts, serving 12 million students, did not test for lead in the water in 2016 and 2017.

Of the 43 percent that did test for lead, about 37 percent reported elevated levels. Sixteen percent of schools said they did not know whether they test for lead, the report says.

Full story at US News

Where School Employees Can’t Afford Housing, Some Districts Try to Help

In some of the nation’s hottest real estate markets, school districts are trying new tactics to help employees cover the spiraling costs of renting or buying a home.

The Denver district, for example, is teaming up with a lending company to help teachers, principals, custodians, and others who work in schools put down as much as half the down payment on a home.

In Florida’s Miami-Dade County, the school district and the county are floating a proposal to build apartments—with first preference for teachers but spots for others who work in the district—on the campus of a brand-new middle school.

Full story at edweek.org

New Data Show House Republican Bill Would Allow Billions in Cuts for Largest School Districts Serving High Populations of Black and Hispanic Students

The U.S. Department of Education is releasing new data today detailing the impact of potential cuts to school districts serving high concentrations of Black and Hispanic students as a result of proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The data show that the House Republicans’ proposal would provide the largest 33 school districts with high concentrations of Black and Hispanic students over $3 billion less in federal funding than the President’s budget over six years. The cuts in education spending would be the result of locking funding at sequestration levels and allowing states to divert money from schools serving vulnerable student populations to wealthier districts.

“The partisan proposal in the House flies in the face of what ESEA was created to do—give every child an equal opportunity to be successful. This bill is bad for children and would turn back the clock on progress. At exactly the time we should be expanding opportunity for America’s students and helping schools recover from the recession, this bill would allow unconscionable funding cuts. Our teachers and students deserve better,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Full story of bill to allow school district cuts at ed.gov