Nationally Recognized School Funding Experts Pair with State Advocates to Advise Charter School Leaders

Afton Partners, a national organization specializing in school funding and education policy, has announced via social media a new partnership with the Tennessee State Collaborative for Reforming Education(SCORE) and  The Tennessee Charter School Center(TCSC). The stated purpose of the budding collaboration is to help Tennessee’s charter school leaders better understand the operational and financial implications of Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement(TISA) – the state’s new funding formula for public schools. 

TISA was passed by legislators during the last General Assembly and is slated to replace the current funding formula for the 2023-2024 school year. Touted as a formula that funds students over systems, the bill establishes a base funding rate of $6,860 per pupil, then distributes additional funding for students considered as being economically disadvantaged, having unique learning needs, or living in rural or impoverished communities. Tennessee charter schools are considered public schools and therefore receive funding through their charter authorizer at the same rate as traditional schools. 

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Georgia Officials Use Federal Grant to Create School Safety Website, Training for School Districts

Georgia authorities are using a federal grant to fund a new website to disseminate school safety resources and updated training to Georgia schools.

The Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency are using a Bureau of Justice Assistance STOP School Violence Grant to fund the new Georgia Center for School Safety website.

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New Michigan Law Saves School Districts $8 Million in Interest

School bus

The School Loan Revolving Fund (SLRF) interest rate dropped to 1.19% last week, saving some local school districts about $8 million in interest.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law Senate Bill 618 that adjusted the SLRF interest rate.

“Every student, in every district, has a birthright to a phenomenal public education so they can pursue their potential,” Whitmer said in a statement. “With these cost savings, we will have even more resources to invest where they matter most – in our students, teachers, and classrooms. I am proud of the work the Michigan Legislature and I have done to close the funding gap between districts and increase per-pupil funding to its highest amount ever.”

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Commentary: Schools’ COVID-Aid Joy Ride Could Send New Hires off a Fiscal Cliff – Again

As school districts across the country grapple with declining enrollments induced by the pandemic, many are engaged in spending sprees like those of the past leading to widespread layoffs and budget cuts when federal money ran out.

Bolstered by $190 billion in pandemic relief funding from Washington, the nation’s public schools are hiring new teachers and staff, raising salaries, and sweetening benefit packages. Some are buying new vehicles. Others are building theaters and sports facilities.

Using such temporary support for new staff and projects with long-term costs is setting the table for perilous “fiscal cliffs” after COVID funding expires in 2024, some education budget analysts say. And that’s on top of doubts about whether money to battle the pandemic is being properly spent in the first place.

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Tennessee High School Graduation Rates Down for Second Year in a Row

The Tennessee Department of Education released the graduation rate for the 2020-21 school year and data shows that 88.7% of students graduated on time this year compared to 89.6% last year. According to a press release, 37 districts improved their graduation rates, and 37 districts graduated 95% or more of their cohorts.

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Texas Sen. Cruz Introduces Bill Prohibiting Vaccine Mandate for Minors

Ted Cruz

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation that would prohibit the federal government and any entity at the federal, state and local level that receives federal funding, including school districts, from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for minors.

“Parents should have the right to decide what is best for their children in consultation with their family doctor,” he said. “My view on the COVID-19 vaccine has remained clear: no mandates of any kind.

“President [Joe] Biden and his administration have repeatedly ignored medical privacy rights and personal liberty by pushing unlawful and burdensome vaccine mandates on American businesses, and now they are preparing to push a mandate on kids by pressuring parents – all without taking into account relative risk or the benefits of natural immunity.”

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Arizona Teacher Shortages Continue for Sixth Year

Public Schools Racist

About a quarter of teacher vacancies across the state remain unfilled in 2021, with 55.4% of the vacancies are filled by teachers who do not meet the state’s standard certification requirements, according to a Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association survey of 145 school districts and charter schools. 

This marks the sixth consecutive year of teacher shortages in Arizona. Approximately a quarter of teacher vacancies have remained unfilled a month into each school year since 2016, ASPAA’s press release said. 

Twenty-six percent of teaching positions were open a few weeks into the school year, a 6% increase from the 21% vacancy rate in 2019, even though there were 400 less positions to fill this year than in 2019. As of Sept. 10, 2021, ASPAA counted 1,698.67 vacancies in its Oct. 12 report. 

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Goldwater Institute Issues Report Showing Arizona School Boards Are Being Forced to Fund Critical Race Theory at Taxpayer Expense

The watchdog Goldwater Institute has discovered that the Arizona School Boards Association is controlling much of the teaching within Arizona’s K-12 public schools, which includes Critical Race Theory. Schools are locked into the agenda, because if they try to opt out, the ASBA will accuse them of copyright infringement for using their own previously adopted policies or replicating those of other public bodies.

According to a new report the Goldwater Institute put out about the problem, the ASBA uses the messaging of “equity,” asserting that it is not CRT. But “retreating to the less revolutionary sounding term ‘equity’ reflects a distinction without a difference.” The purpose is still the same, “replacing the principle of legal equality with practices and government mandates forcing people to treat their fellow Americans differently based on race — inflicting racist policies on people today in order to balance out the racism of centuries past.”

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Critical Race Theory Debate Heating Up in Ohio General Assembly

Ohio State House

School districts, teachers unions, student groups and parents lined up at the Ohio House to testify against two bills that would stop schools from teaching what sponsors called “divisive concepts” in the classroom.

The House State and Local Government Committee heard more than three hours of testimony Wednesday during the third hearing for both House Bill 322 and House Bill 327. Each prohibits teaching concepts that are part of the nationwide critical race theory movement critics say purports the U.S. is a fundamentally racist country.

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Demand for Gov. Ducey’s School Vouchers to Leave Arizona Schools That Mandate Masks or Require Unvaccinated Students to Quarantine Exceeds Funds

Doug Ducey

Just three weeks after Gov. Doug Ducey announced that school districts issuing mask mandates or requiring vaccinated students to quarantine would be penalized by diverting money to students to use as school vouchers to attend elsewhere, demand has exceeded the $20 million he allotted by twice the amount. Ducey announced on August 17 that money the state received from the federal government through the pandemic-generated American Rescue Plan to boost per-pupil spending would not go to any of those schools.

Ducey made the announcement immediately following a demand on August 11 from Republican state legislators to take action regarding those school districts. They suggested that Ducey could withhold federal funds and offer vouchers, which he did, but he did not go so far as following their recommendation of suing the school districts.

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Pima County Republican Chair Calls for Arrest of Officials Mandating Vaccine or Masks

Shelley Kais

The chairman of the Pima County Republican Party is calling for the arrest of local officials who mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or masks. In that lower part of the state, the City of Tucson requires vaccinations and the Marana School District requires masks. 

Shelley Kais told the Arizona Daily Independent, “On September 29, any school board member, city councilman, or supervisor who requires masks or vaccines mandates and passports should be arrested ” She went on, “The power grab by our elected officials to play this ‘game of chicken’ is nothing more than political and follows neither science nor good public policy. We will continue to fight for our first responders, our teachers, and the children in Pima County.” 

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Arizona Republican State Legislators Ask Governor to Take Action Regarding School Districts Violating Law on Mask Mandates

Doug Ducey and Jake Hoffman

Twenty-six Republican members of the Arizona Legislature signed onto a letter drafted by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) asking Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to take four steps of action in regards to several school districts that appear to be violating state law by imposing mask mandates in schools. A high school biology teacher recently filed a lawsuit over the mandate implemented by Phoenix Union High School District. The school districts contend that the law, A.R.S. 15-342.05, doesn’t apply yet since bills do not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, but the bill contains a retroactive clause. 

“It borders on anarchy and destabilizes the very foundation of our society to have local governments effectively refusing to comply with the law. It must not be allowed to stand,” the legislators said. “Any local government that willfully and intentionally flaunts state law must be held accountable.”

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Commentary: Seven Stats on Per-Pupil Spending in US Schools from the New Census Report

by Joe Carter   Earlier this week the US Census Bureau released a report that reveals how much US school districts spend per-pupil. Here are seven figures from the report you should know: The amount spent per-pupil for public elementary and secondary education (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) for all 50…

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JC Bowman Commentary: Just Follow the Law

U.S. Supreme Court

If a teacher or administrator has done something that warrants a reprimand or suspension, then address that issue and allow due process to take place. When school districts try to avoid following the law, the recourse will eventually and most certainly end up in court.

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JC Bowman Commentary: Mandates Must Include Funding

US Capitol

State mandates must include funding, and if districts use their own resources then they should be free to create their own program, modify the RTI2 program or discontinue it all together. The question legislators must answer: Does the RTI2 program work? If the answer is yes the program is working, then the state should indeed fully fund it. If the answer is no, then that message will also be sent by the Tennessee General Assembly.

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