NREA Weekly Updates: Feb. 4th, 2022

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News This Week
Teachers Are Quitting, and Companies Are Hot to Hire Them
Teachers Are Quitting, and Companies Are Hot to Hire Them
Burned-out teachers are leaving the classroom for jobs in the private sector, where talent-hungry companies are hiring them—and often boosting their pay—to work in sales, software, healthcare, and training, among other fields.
The rate of people quitting jobs in private educational services rose more than in any other industry in 2021, according to federal data. Many of those are teachers exhausted from toggling between online and classroom instruction, shifting Covid-19 protocols, and dealing with challenging students, parents, and administrators.
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Covid-Aid Spending Trends by City, Suburban, Rural School Districts
Covid-Aid Spending Trends by City, Suburban, Rural School Districts
The Covid pandemic can look different in a small rural school district than in a big city or suburb. Transportation challenges are often magnified with fewer students spread across wide areas. Internet access is frequently harder to find, and so are mental-health professionals to support students and staff. Such challenges —and shared priorities—are reflected in a new FutureEd analysis of how local education agencies are planning to spend the latest round of federal Covid-relief spending aid.
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From Secretary Cardona: 

In a major address (text and video) on January 27, Secretary Cardona laid out his vision for continued recovery through the pandemic and his priorities for broader investments in America’s education system to ensure all students can succeed and thrive (press release).
“[R]eopening schools -- and keeping them open -- while critical, is insufficient,” he said. “Our hardest and most important work lies ahead…. Our students’ success is at stake. Not just the students we serve today, but for those who have yet to be born…. Our task is not only to improve our education system from where it was before the pandemic, but also to take bolder action to elevate it to lead the world.”
In his remarks, the Secretary underscored the work the Biden Administration has done to help schools reopen for in-person learning over the last year. Because of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Education, expanded access to COVID-19 tests and testing resources, and the work of families, educators, administrators, and school communities, students have returned to classrooms across the country. And, while the Department continues to focus on keeping schools open, it is also focused on strategies to help students make up for lost instructional time and access needed mental health supports, invest in educators, and make improvements in the system to address inequities that existed long before the pandemic. Indeed, the Secretary explained how the ARP is supporting these efforts now, and how additional investments can spur even greater improvement.
He also discussed strategies to improve postsecondary education, including by creating stronger through-lines between the P-12 and higher education systems and making higher education more affordable.
Specifically, the Secretary highlighted four priority areas that will guide the Department’s work over the coming months and years (summative videos 12, and 3):

Supporting students through pandemic response and recovery (infographic and tweet)
  • Engaging families as core partners to educators
  • Addressing missed instruction through intensive tutoring, extended learning time, and other evidence-based practices
  • Increasing access to social, emotional, and mental health supports for all students
  • Encouraging every student to participate in at least one extracurricular activity

Boldly addressing opportunity and achievement gaps (infographic and tweet)

  • Increasing funding for Title I schools and for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in order to close gaps in access to educational opportunity
  • Providing every family the opportunity to start on a level playing field through free, universal pre-kindergarten and affordable high-quality child care
  • Investing in, recruiting, and supporting the professional development of a diverse educator workforce, including special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and bilingual educators, so that education jobs are ones that those from all backgrounds want to pursue
  • Challenging states and school districts to fix broken systems that may perpetuate inequalities in our school

Making higher education more inclusive and affordable (infographic and tweet)
  • Providing targeted loan relief to student borrowers
  • Holding colleges and universities accountable for taking advantage of borrowers
  • Ensuring borrowers have loan payment options that reflect their economic circumstances
  • Making long-term improvements to programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and creating a strong Gainful Employment rule so career programs are not leaving students with mountains of debt and without good job opportunities

Ensuring pathways through higher education leads to successful careers (infographic and tweet)
  • Reimagining the connection between P-12, higher education, and workforce
  • Collaborating with the Departments of Commerce and Labor to invest in career preparation programs that meet the needs of today’s economy
  • Prioritizing grant programs that allow students to return to postsecondary education or pursue career and technical education programs at any point in their lives and careers
  • Investing in colleges and universities that serve under-represented groups and increase access to and funding for programs like federal Pell Grants
The American School District Panel is the first nationally representative standing panel of school district and charter management organization (CMO) leaders in the United States. The panel provides an opportunity for superintendents and CMO leaders to share their perspectives and contribute to decisions about education policy and practice.
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Ed Dept asked to extend deadline for school upgrades under relief funding
Ed Dept asked to extend deadline for school upgrades under relief funding
Two of the three school buildings in Evergreen School District #50 in Kalispell, Montana, have aging air systems that provide poor ventilation and lack air conditioning. The district is setting aside about 75% of its Emergency and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funds for HVAC replacements later this year.
But even after a year of planning and designing for the upgrades and more than two years to go until the Sept. 30, 2024, ESSER deadline for obligating those funds, the timeline is making Superintendent Laurie Barron nervous.
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Entrepreneurship as Rural Development: Investing in a Vibrant Local Economy
Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of a community’s economy, including in rural areas. As such, investing in entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them represents the best chance for rural economies to thrive in the future. So, how can rural community leaders effectively invest in and support these critical players in their community? Join us on February 15 at 12 p.m. ET for a conversation with leaders from three organizations successfully supporting entrepreneurship in rural communities across the United States. The panelists will share insights into their work – including the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing rural entrepreneurs and the organizations that assist them – what other rural entrepreneur-support organizations across the country can learn from their experiences, and how potential partners can best support efforts like theirs.
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Appropriations update – After a long silence about the status of negotiations on long-overdue fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations, leaders of both parties yesterday sounded a guardedly optimistic note (yesterday’s very detailed article in the Washington Post lays out many of the issues). Democrats say that had been waiting for a Republican counteroffer on the spending total and the split between defense and non-defense spending, as the House had made its funding levels clear in the 9 bills it passed last summer and the Senate Appropriations Committee had put forward its draft bills by last fall.  Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Richard Shelby (R-AL) wants an increase for the defense that is greater than the 5% increase in the enacted defense authorization act, which was the level in the Democrat bills proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The House-passed bills had a 2% increase for defense funding and a far greater 16% increase for non-defense, which included the historic increases for education and education-related programs. There are also policy questions still to be resolved, making it clearer than ever that Congress will have to pass another short-term extension of government funding before full-year funding can be finalized. The concern of many advocates for increases in non-defense funding is that a stalemate in negotiations would lead to a full-year extension of the FY 2021 funding, which would mean missing out on the huge increases for education that the President proposed and that the House passed.  I am still optimistic that there will eventually be an agreement on FY 2022 funding and Congress will enact large increases for education, although not as large as what the President requested. CEF is planning to continue our advocacy in support of full-year FY 2022 funding with large investments for education; we are meeting with Hill staff, we sent a letter to Congress this week, are active on social media, and have some other actions in the works that we’ll share soon.
NREA Guest Blog Post...
Wind Energy Development Delivers Significant Revenue To Local School Coffers, Driving Capital Spending, Berkeley Lab Study Finds

Eric Brunner, University of Connecticut; Ben Hoen, Berkeley Lab; and Joshua Hyman, Amherst College
Wind energy has grown substantially in the United States over the past decades, contributing ever-greater revenue to states and local jurisdictions, including school districts. However, the impact of new wind energy installations on school revenues, expenditures, and student outcomes has not been well understood.

How have those windfall revenues been spent by these districts? Have those new monies translated into improved outcomes for their students? Is there evidence that some of the new revenue has been used to lower local tax rates for all property owners in the district? 

Using the universe of U.S. wind installations through 2016 and school-district-level data on revenues, expenditures, staffing, enrollments, teacher salaries, and student achievement, researchers from Berkeley Lab, University of Connecticut, and Amherst College, investigated these questions as described in a working paper.

The study finds wind energy installations led to large increases in per-pupil revenues (Figure 1) due to increased local revenues, with minimal offsetting reductions in state aid. 

Large per-pupil expenditures were also evident (Figure 2). State aid formulas often penalize locally financed increases in current operating expenditures and, as such, districts spent the new revenues primarily on capital outlays. This caused dramatic increases in capital expenditures and modest increases in current expenditures (Figure 2) relative to normal overall spending. Before getting a wind project, districts spent about $9.50 for current expenses to each dollar of capital investments. But they spent new wind revenues in an opposite pattern, with twice as much for capital as current.  

Because of these allocation decisions, we find little to no reductions in class sizes or increases in teacher salaries overall, which tend to have a larger impact on student achievement. Accordingly, we find no change in student test scores. If state and county goals were to improve test scores and other student outcomes at the expense of capital improvements, tax policy would need to direct a greater proportion of new revenues toward current spendings, such as to hire additional staff to reduce class size. As it stands, new revenues are directed more toward capital expenditures, resulting in new or improved school infrastructure and equipment.

Finally, there is an additional way school districts may benefit from wind energy installation: property tax relief. The large increases in local revenues from wind energy installations suggest that districts did not take all these windfalls as tax relief, but did they take any? We looked at two states, finding property tax rates fell by 13% in Illinois school districts after the installation of wind projects, but they rose slightly in Texas.  

The study, “School District Revenue Shocks, Resource Allocations, and Student Achievement: Evidence from the Universe of U.S. Wind Energy Installations”, merged data from the DOE-funded U.S. Wind Turbine Database with data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) and Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA).

The study represents the first national study of its kind and provides important information to stakeholders involved in the siting, permitting, hosting, and developing of wind projects about outcomes for school districts across the nation.

A webinar covering the results of the study recorded on March 26, 2021, can be viewed here.
A version of this report has been published as an open-access journal article in the Journal of Public Economics and can be downloaded here

Support for the research was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office.
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