Public schools hurting more in recovery than in recession

Via Ben Casselman of While the nation is slowly recovering from the economic recession, public schools are facing growing financial concerns, due in large part to a decrease in federal funding, and an overall drop in school funding in 2012 – the first time that has occurred in 35 years.

Casselman explains that U.S. public schools weathered the recession relatively well because federal stimulus dollars helped to plug the funding gap, offsetting the decrease in state funding. But between 2010-2012, federal per-student funding decreased 20 percent and has continued to drop since then. From the piece:

“The cuts are increasingly hitting classrooms directly. In the recession and the early stages of the recovery, superintendents were largely able to protect instructional expenses such as teacher salaries by cutting from other areas, such as administration and maintenance. But that has become more difficult over time. In the 2011-12 school year, classroom spending fell faster than overall spending.”

According to the piece, urban districts have been hit particularly hard by the federal aid cuts. Nearly 90 percent of big-city school districts spent less per student in 2012 than when the recession ended in 2009.

“The cuts haven’t been evenly distributed. Most federal education aid targets two groups, low-income and special education students, who are overrepresented in urban school districts. As a result, urban districts have been hit harder by the recent cuts. (For the same reason, urban districts also disproportionately benefited from the stimulus.) Overall, 64 percent of the nation’s more than 14,000 school districts spent less per student in 2012 than in 2009, after adjusting for inflation. But 82 percent of urban districts cut funding; in cities with populations of 250,000 or more, 89 percent of districts cut funding.”

casselman-feature-schools-4New York public schools are all too familiar with this reality. Superintendents and school officials around the state have been outspoken with their displeasure of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, holding rallies and even taking their argument of funding discrimination to court. They’ve also expressed frustration with state’s tax levy cap.

Question: Are you surprised by how widespread the funding epidemic is?


Friday Rundown 6.6.14

In honor of National Doughnut Day, we’re bringing you a “baker’s dozen” of education headlines from around the state in this Friday Rundown.

Common Core Learning Standards face a new wave of opposition (New York Times)

Videos: Toward a more huggable Common Core (Capitol Confidential)

U.S. needs to get to the root of students’ woes (Times Herald Record- Subscription may be required)

Look up your school salaries and spending data here  (Buffalo Business First)

NYSUT president: No early endorsement for Cuomo (Capital New York)

NYSUT president optimistic for teacher evaluation changes (Capital New York)

Better school lunches start with parents (Poughkeepsie Journal)

Common Core: Gipson wants NY to dump Pearson (Journal News)

In schools, social media intrudes with bullying (Glens Falls Post Star)

A curriculum to strengthen students against cyberbullying (New York Times)

Should teachers stop fighting for tenure? (Huffington Post)

School voter turnout plummets (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

Massena teachers wearing boots to raise money, remember D-Day Invasion (Watertown Daily Times)

Is handwriting proficiency a thing of the past?

Does handwriting matter anymore?

Certainly digital communication such as texting, tweeting and email has made our world more efficient, but does our reliance on technology put the written word at risk? Our school districts are not absolved from this question. Elementary schools across the country have dropped cursive instruction altogether, and the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards are placing a greater emphasis on computers and other technologies in the classroom.

Via Maria Konnikova of The New York Times:

“The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.”


Read Konnikova’s entire article here and let us know in the comments if you think handwriting proficiency is still a significant skill in today’s world.

Friday Rundown 5.30.14

Did you stay up late and watch the ending of the Scripps National Spelling Bee? If you did, you witnessed something that hadn’t occurred in over 50 years. Here’s your Rundown from the past week.

Another Voice: Common Core will prepare students for the future (Buffalo News)…The real reason Common Core math is causing tears (Utica Observer Dispatch)…Business groups fighting back in support of Common Core (Capital New York)

Education Commissioner John King hopes Common Core controversy behind him (NY Daily News)

Once again, NY spends most in U.S. on schools (Journal News)

Michelle Obama hits GOP over school lunch plan (USA Today)

How do you spell T-I-E? National Spelling Bee has two winners (CNN)

SFOS: Science Research student studies Pediatric Migraine Associated Vertigo

This edition of Stories From Our Schools comes from the North Colonie Central School District. Shaker High School junior Dhanisha Nandigama is researching the condition known as Pediatric Migraine Associated Vertigo. Shockingly, the causes, diagnosis and treatment of this condition are unclear. Through her research, Nandigama is hoping to change that.

Stories_schoolsReoccurring migraines, dizziness and headaches affect 36 million Americans, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Furthermore, 70 percent of school-age children have had a headache at least once a year. The condition is titled, “Migraine Associated Vertigo”, and the causes, diagnosis and treatment are unclear.

But Shaker High School junior, Dhanisha Nandigama, is hoping to change that with her science research. Two years ago, one of Nandigama’s family members was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that affects balance and hearing. Nandigama says after her family member was told there is no cure, she started researching it. Nandigama’s research led her to begin to study Pediatric Migraine Associated Vertigo, an inner ear disorder that causes children to experience reoccurring episodes of migraines, dizziness and headaches.

More than ten percent of U.S. children experience migraines, exceeding the number of asthma and diabetes patients combined, making it a widespread condition, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.

“My hypothesis was to find a link between outside factors that could be a cause of the vertigo and migraine in the pediatric age group,” said Nandigama.

To begin, Nandigama created a survey, accompanied by data from the International Headache Society and the Migraine Research Foundation. She is looking for people to take her brief, 15 minute online survey. So far, informational flyers with a link to the survey have been distributed to all students at Shaker High School, but she would like her data compilation to extend beyond just the school community. Nandigama encourages anyone who has personally experienced or currently suffers from migraines, dizziness or headaches to contribute. This includes adults or children who were diagnosed between the ages 5 to 17.

Nandigama’s guide became an elective course at Shaker High School, called “Science Research.” During the three year course, Nandigama and her fellow researchers are advised by science teacher Nathaniel Covert on how to prepare and conduct successful research.

“The course is really not designed to do the research, the course is designed to coach kids while they do the research,” said Shaker Science Department Supervisor, Keith Bogert. “The students have research that is extremely far reaching and many of them will ride their research right to and through college. Mr. Covert has done an exceptional job on coaching these kids and trying to get them to do real, genuine scientific research.”

Bogert says the science research course has a record number of applicants this year, with interest continuing to grow. The course is also linked to the University in the High School program at UAlbany, and is potentially worth a total of 12 credits.

“Very few people take up projects on inner ear disorders, or the ENT field, because it’s so difficult to understand,” said Nandigama. “Research like this has been done for adults, but not many researchers have tried to find links in children, which is why I decided to do this.”

If you are interested in taking the survey, click here.

98 percent of NY school budgets pass

Voters throughout the state of New York came out largely in support of their school district’s budget yesterday.

According to initial reports, 98 percent of voters approved their school’s budget, with only 12 budgets from around the state getting turned down. That list includes:

  • Dover UFSD*
  • Minerva CSD*
  • Northville CSD*
  • Brookfield CSD*
  • West Irondequoit CSD*
  • West Babylon UFSD*
  • Sayville UFSD*
  • Rome CSD
  • Bridgehampton UFSD*
  • Addison CSD
  • Clifton Fine
  • Tuxedo UFSD*

*District attempted to exceed tax levy cap which required 60 percent supermajority for approval. (Note: Some district have yet to report, so we will update this list as information becomes available)

Most budgets around the state were tight this year in light of withheld funding due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, the continued state imposed tax levy cap, and a promised refund for taxpayers in districts that stayed within their levy limit.

Of the 645 districts that stayed within their maximum allowable tax levy limit, 99.5 percent saw their budget pass. According to the New York State School Boards Association, the average budget passage rate since 1969 is 84.5 percent. More recently, the average passage rate for the last five years is 95 percent.

NY School Budget Vote Rundown

Get out and vote today!

622x350Residents across New York state will head to the polls today to vote on their school budget. We here at Ed Speaks encourage you to vote and exercise your civic duty. The school budget is an important matter in any community, and more importantly it allows you to participate in our democracy. We hope you make the time to vote today.

Be sure to check your school district’s website for polling times and locations.

We’ll have a complete recap of school budget results from around the state tomorrow.

School budgets put to vote tomorrow

Tomorrow, schools across the state will put their proposed 2014-15 spending plans up for vote. We at Ed Speaks encourage you to get out and vote tomorrow and exercise your civic duty. To get you in the voting mood, here is a Top 10 list of reasons why you should vote tomorrow on your school’s budget.

10. It’s a great opportunity to teach your children about civic responsibility, AND a good chance to practice for November.

9. So you can cancel out someone else’s vote. Whether it’s your spouse, your boss or that buddy you refuse to talk politics with, you probably know someone else who is going to vote the opposite of you — but you can even the score in the voting booth.

8. Because if you vote and a friend or neighbor doesn’t, you can tease him or her about it forever.

7. Because Election Day is the one day each year when every resident is equal. Your vote has the same impact as anyone else’s.

6. Because elections are often decided by only a few votes.

5. Because we will live with the consequences. Whether you agree with the decisions made by your district’s Board of Education in the final budget or not will be moot if you don’t exercise your right to vote.

4. Because they are our children and our future. The people we elect, the budget we accept or reject: these will both have far-reaching impacts. Be sure your opinion counts by voting.

3. Because in the case of low voter turnout, a minority of the residents can determine an entire district’s future.

2. Because you’ll be really steamed if you forget to vote, then wake up Wednesday morning to find the result isn’t what you wanted.

1. So YOU can decide. Why let other people decide what is best for you when you have a voice? Your vote is your voice. Don’t silence it…vote!

And our BONUS reason to vote: “I VOTED” makes a great Facebook status or Tweet!

Friday Rundown 5.16.14

Good morning! Here is your Rundown from the past week.

New York education reform sidelined by the Common Core (Poughkeepsie Journal)…Opinion: The trouble with Common Core (The Wall Street Journal)

John King ties Brown v. Board of Ed. 60th to Common Core (Albany Times Union)

King: Cuomo, lawmakers should learn from year one of pre-K (Capital New York)

SED deputy commissioner leaves for Skaneateles schools post (Capitol Confidential)

Pre-K availability varies by state (Utica Observer Dispatch)

School districts getting creative in order to prevent cuts in sports and the arts (Buffalo News)

Evaluating teachers with classroom observations: Lessons learned in four districts (Brookings)

Finally, a reminder that schools throughout the state will be holding their annual budget vote and board election this coming Tuesday, May 20. The school budget is an important matter in any community, and more importantly it allows you to participate in our democracy. We hope you make the time to vote on Tuesday.

SFOS: TVHS students work to #BringBackOurGirls

Stories_schoolsToday’s Stories from our Schools entry comes from Tech Valley High School® where students recently added their voices to the growing global chorus calling for the release of nearly 300 Nigerian school girls and, in the process, raised awareness of the girls’ plight.

The students, some of whom were not previously aware of the situation, not only learned on Friday about the kidnapping, but the power of social media. The Tweet from the school, sent Friday at about noon time,  featured most of TVHS’ students posing in front of the Albany skyline holding signs that state #BringBackOurGirls. The hashtagged-phrase has become an international rallying cry for the release of more than 270 Nigerian school girls who are being held hostage by terrorists in Nigeria.

The TVHS tweet  one of more than 1 million that has been sent  drew a “Thank You” tweet from a Nigerian entrepreneur and media coverage, including a story on NBC news’ international page and another story on a global news website.

Read more