America doesn’t have enough teachers to keep schools open

“Studies in the US and around the world have found that student learning suffered when classes were remote, and many teachers were no fan of the system either, with educators ranking the challenges of virtual instruction among their top pandemic stressors in one recent study. At the same time, some fear that in-person school during omicron may simply become untenable. Sheikh’s school has one nurse for 2,500 students, making it nearly impossible to do any real contact tracing. “There’s no way to contain these Covid cases,” she said.”

Republicans eye new front in education wars: Making school board races partisan

“Republicans across America are pressing local jurisdictions and state lawmakers to make typically sleepy school board races into politicized, partisan elections in an attempt to gain more statewide control and swing them to victory in the 2022 midterms.

Tennessee lawmakers in October approved a measure that allows school board candidates to list their party affiliation on the ballot. Arizona and Missouri legislators are weighing similar proposals. And GOP lawmakers in Florida will push a measure in an upcoming legislative session that would pave the way for partisan school board races statewide, potentially creating new primary elections that could further inflame the debate about how to teach kids.

The issue is about to spread to other states: The center-right American Enterprise Institute is urging conservatives to “strongly consider” allowing partisan affiliations to appear on ballots next to school board candidates’ names, as part of broader efforts to boost voter turnout for the contests. A coalition of conservative leaders — including representatives of Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute and Kenneth Marcus, the Education Department civil rights chief under former Secretary Betsy DeVos — have separately called for on-cycle school board elections as part of sweeping efforts to “end critical race theory in schools.”

In Florida, school boards are among the last elected officials who blocked policies of Gov. Ron DeSantis. If Republicans succeed in pushing the state to strip school board elections of their nonpartisan status and gain more representation on school boards, they could break the last holdouts who regularly defy the governor.”

“Making school board races partisan could make an already heated political landscape even more contentious”

““I do think party labels would produce more informed voters,” West said. “But, at the same time, it would likely accelerate emerging trend of nationalization of local education politics.””

School Districts Are Using Their COVID-19 Relief Money on Vape Detectors, Tennis Courts

“Earlier this year, schools around the country received more than a hundred billion dollars from the federal government—American taxpayers, in truth—in order to recover from the pandemic and finally get back to the task of teaching kids.
The feds stipulated that 20 percent of that money be put toward addressing learning losses during the pandemic, but the bulk of it can be spent at schools’ discretion. Which means, of course, that many schools are using this sudden injection of cash to make improvements that have nothing to do with keeping COVID-19 at bay.

“Some districts are investing big money in initiatives that don’t appear at first glance strictly COVID-related,” notes Education Week. “Miami-Dade schools plan to spend $30 million, or $86 per student, on cybersecurity. Raleigh County schools in West Virginia lists a $9 million effort—more than $800 per student—to expand an elementary school, adding nine classrooms, upgrading the library, expanding the kitchen, and separating the cafeteria and the gym. The Newport News school district in Virginia is spending $840,000 for a new student information system to help teachers catalog students’ academic progress.”

An unnamed school district will use some of its COVID-19 relief funds to install vape detection devices, purchase new student ID cards, and build a tennis court.

Indeed, many districts seem to be spending significant chunks of money on upgrading athletic facilities and expanding stadiums, according to Education Week. Athletics can be an important part of many students’ lives, and letting kids get back to sports was a good reason (among many) to move away from the soul-crushing farce of virtual learning and get everybody back in school. But a slightly nicer football field probably isn’t going to improve students’ test scores or make them safer from COVID-19, which after all are the two primary justifications for all the spending.”

New Research Says Police in Schools Don’t Reduce Shootings but They Do Increase Expulsions and Arrests

“A working paper published last week by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University and written by researchers at the University at Albany, SUNY and RAND Corporation bills itself as the broadest and most rigorous examination at the school-level of how SROs impact student outcomes. Using national school-level data from 2014 to 2018 collected by the U.S. Department of Education, the paper found that while SROs “do effectively reduce some forms of violence in schools,” they do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents.

“We also find that SROs intensify the use of suspensions, expulsions, police referrals, and arrests of students,” researchers wrote. “These effects are consistently over two times larger for Black students than White students.”

The study found that the introduction of SROs to schools did appear to improve general safety and decrease non-gun-related violence, like fights and physical assaults. However, the authors say, those benefits come at the cost of increasing both school discipline and police referrals.”

“The number of police in schools has skyrocketed in schools over the past four decades, first in response to drugs, then mass shootings. Police departments and organizations like the National Association of School Resource Officers argue that well-trained SROs act as liaisons between the school and police department. A good SRO, they argue, can actually reduce arrests.

Civil liberties groups and disability advocates, on the other hand, have long argued that increases in school police and zero-tolerance policies for petty disturbances have fueled the “school-to-prison” pipeline and led to disproportionate enforcement against minorities and students with disabilities.

Other recent research has come to similar conclusions as the new working paper. For example, a study published last August by researchers at the University of Maryland and the firm Westat found that increasing the number of police in schools doesn’t make school safer and leads to harsher discipline for infractions.”

“The authors of the new working paper say that school districts should weigh the benefits of safer hallways against the high cost of putting more kids in contact with the criminal justice system.”

What Did Public Schools Do With COVID Relief Money? Whatever They Wanted.

“The federal government sent around $190 billion in aid to public schools across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is a lot of money by any standards, but in terms of federal spending on primary education, it is a shockingly large amount: as Reason’s Matt Welch explained when surveying the Biden administration’s weak moves toward promoting public school reopening back in February, that’s more than four times as much as the federal government tended to push toward K-12 education a year in pre-COVID times.

Is the money being diligently used for its intended purpose? Of course not. A survey by ProPublica found, when examining some of the “provisional annual reports…by state education agencies” for about $3 billion worth of the aid from March to September of 2020, that “just over half of the $3 billion in aid was categorized as ‘other,’ providing no insight into how the funds were allocated.”

Over the last school year, 15 states constituting around a quarter of the total U.S. population didn’t even manage to achieve 50 percent effective in-person education, the alleged purpose of all that federal COVID money.”

“”The law places few restrictions on how districts can spend the federal aid, as long as the investments are loosely connected to the effects of the pandemic,” ProPublica explains, while noting that various districts, as reported by the Associated Press, are diverting the cash to athletics. The schools are supposed to spend all the money by 2024. The Associated Press reports that although schools “are required to tell states how they’re spending the money…some schools are using local funding for sports projects and then replacing it with the federal relief—a maneuver that skirts reporting requirements.””

Families Are Fleeing Government-Run Schools

“A joint Stanford Graduate School of Education/New York Times study of 70,000 public schools in 33 states three weeks ago showed that those offering remote-only learning at the beginning of 2020–21 experienced a 3.7 percent decline, while those with in-person schooling went down 2.6 percent. “In other words,” Stanford education professor Thomas S. Dee told the university’s publicity department, “going remote-only actually increased the enrollment decline by about 40 percent.”

New York City, despite being mistakenly held up by Democrats and teachers unions as a model for school reopening, rattled parents’ nerves all 2020–21 with repeated school-year delays, capricious shutdowns, hybrid scheduling, and hair-trigger building closures. Meanwhile, private schools, and public schools as close by as Long Island, remained open all year, without ever becoming “superspreaders.”

It makes intuitive sense that parents with means would seek both greater predictability and better educational outcomes for their kids, whether that means moving to a more reliable school district or shelling out the money for private options.”

“If the New York example plays out nationwide—and keep in mind, the 2020–21 K-12 decline happened absolutely everywhere—then the impact on public education, local and state governance, and politics itself could be profound. About one out of every five state-government dollars is spent on primary and secondary education. Spending formulas tied to enrollment will see major declines; those that aren’t will face political pressure from taxpayers rightly wondering why the bill is so high for a service fewer people want. The trend toward tethering education spending to students rather than school buildings will continue shooting upward.”

Cops at the schoolyard gate

“School resource officers appear in all 50 states. They are visible in both urban meccas and small towns. In 1975, only 1 percent of US schools reported having police stationed on campus. By the 2017–18 school year, 36 percent of elementary schools, 67.6 percent of middle schools, and 72 percent of high schools reported having sworn officers on campus routinely carrying a firearm. In raw numbers, there were 9,400 school resource officers in 1997. By 2016, there were at least 27,000.

Because police operate under many different titles in schools, these numbers are surely low. Tallies often miss private security guards and neighborhood officers assigned by the local police department to patrol several schools without any formal agreement with the school district.”

“Even when school resource officers are expressly hired to respond to emergencies and protect students from guns and serious threats of violence, they are quickly drawn into the more routine activities of law enforcement on campus. Forty-one percent of school resource officers surveyed in 2018 reported that “enforcing laws” was their primary role on campus. Police often arrive with little or no training on how their traditional law enforcement roles should differ within the school context and even less training on developmental psychology and adolescent brain development.”

“Ultimately, more police in schools means more arrests — three and a half times more arrests than in schools without police. And it means more arrests for minor infractions that teachers and principals used to handle on their own.

When I was in high school in the mid-1980s, we were sent to the principal’s office when we acted out. Sometimes we had to stay after school for detention. I even got suspended once for “play fighting” with one of my classmates, but I was never arrested. Today, children get arrested regularly at school, and mostly for things kids do all the time: fighting or threatening a classmate, breaking a window in anger, vandalism and graffiti, having weed, taking something from someone on a dare, arguing in the hallway when they are supposed to be in class.”

San Francisco School Board President Says Critics of School Renaming Are Undermining Anti-Racist Work

“the president of San Francisco’s school board thinks schools should be renamed even if the renaming committee erred in its thinking, and the vice president of the school board thinks merit is a racist concept and any attempt to measure merit represents the antithesis of justice. Are these schools in good hands? Would any parent willingly trust the members of this board to tutor their children, let alone plan the entire educational experience of thousands of kids?”