Operations & Business Services Newsletter

Vol. 16                                                          Issue 8                                  October 12, 2021


1.4% Consumer Price Index Tax Cap For 2021 Levy To Cap Local Tax Revenues For The 2022-23 School Year

Last December 2020 the Consumer Price Index – Urban was 1.4%. That percentage is the cap on new local property taxes per the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) tax cap. This limit is below the revenues needed by our district to meet employee salary and wage increases, increased utility costs, and supplies and equipment. The ten-year average cap is 1.9%. The five-year average is 2.0%. The three-year average is 1.8%.

The Consumer Price Index for May 2021 was 5.0%, for June 2021 it was 5.4%, for July 2021 it was 5.4%, and for August 2021 the CPI was 5.3%. If this trend continues through December 2021 the PTELL Cap could be 5% affecting the 2022 Levy for the 2023-24 school year.

The Board of Education will review the Preliminary 2021 Levy to fund the 2022-2023 school year at their October 21, 2021 regular meeting and consider approving the levy at their regular November 17, 2021 meeting.

States Could Have To Show Equity For High-Needs Schools

Education Week reports The U.S. Department of Education released a proposal that would require states to show that they’re treating their high-needs schools fairly when it comes to funding and staffing, under a proposed requirement related to the most-recent federal COVID-19 relief package. As a condition of receiving funding the American Rescue Plan (ARP), states would have to publish information about how each eligible school district is shielding those schools from disproportionate cuts in the next few years. The "maintenance of equity" requirement is designed to prevent high-poverty schools from bearing the brunt of funding cuts at the state and local level. It is also designed to prevent such disproportionate staffing cuts. The provision applies to state funding of districts as well as how districts distribute funding to each of their schools. If adopted, the requirement could provide helpful data for researchers and policymakers seeking to understand the impact of ARP, and trends in school funding, over the next few years. 

Arizona Scolded Over Anti-Mask School Program Funding

The New York Times reports the U.S. Treasury Department sent a warning to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey last week about the state's use of federal COVID-19 relief funds for grant programs that circumvent school mask requirements. Ducey announced over the summer that the state would use the federal money, about $163 million, to increase the funding available to public school districts, only if they're open for in-person learning and don't require children to wear masks. A separate grant program provides money for students who attend schools that require masks, allowing them to use it for education expenses like transportation and tuition costs at a different school. Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale Adeyemo wrote: "We are concerned that two recently created Arizona grant programs undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Chicago Softens Quarantine Requirements

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the Chicago Public Schools softened its quarantine requirements to 10 days. Starting with new cases identified this Saturday or later, any unvaccinated students identified as close contacts to someone who tests positive for the virus will be directed to quarantine for 10 days instead of 14. Those kids will be granted access to virtual learning, while vaccinated students who are exposed still don’t have to quarantine. Of about 15,500 students who have been directed to quarantine so far this year, only 248, or 1.6%, have later tested positive. Those nearly 16,000 students who have been sent home because of exposure represent a little more than 5% of all CPS kids at non-charter schools.

'Probation' For Illinois Private Schools Violating Mask Policies

The Chicago Tribune reports Illinois State Board of Education officials now will reach out to private schools defying Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s school mask mandate to discuss compliance issues, with the schools required to submit a “corrective plan” within 60 days. The announcement comes just days after a state judge ruled in favor of a private suburban Christian school whose status was revoked for flouting the rule and labeled “non-recognized.”

Districts Turning To Medical Advisers To Help With COVID Policies

Education Week reports increasing numbers of school districts are turning to medical advisory committees to help them manage their health and COVID policies. Medical advisory committees don’t set policy themselves but help guide the governance of school boards and superintendents. Cheryl Watson-Harris, superintendent of the DeKalb County School District in Georgia, decided to set up the medical advisory committee shortly after assuming the reins at the suburban Atlanta district in summer 2020.

Formerly First Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, she says the summer surge there, and the accompanying death and hospitalization of students and staff, drove her to ensure access to the best information she could in her new role. "I felt it was very important to have as much of a scientific and clear way of decision making so that I wouldn’t have to float in the wind based on politics or just the varying perspectives on what should be done,” she says, adding: “I'm an educator; I am not a medical professional...”

Tik-Tok 'Slap A Teacher' Challenge Prompts Urgent Warning

The Los Angeles Times reports the California Teachers Association is warning educators and school staff about a disturbing Tik-tok challenge that emerged this month urging students to slap teachers while recording it on a video. The slapping challenge, which reportedly began this month, has put educators across the country on alert. So far, one elementary school teacher in South Carolina was hit in the back of the head, the Lancaster County School District said. The CTA alert comes a month after theft and vandalism provoked by another Tik-tok trend left some California school districts grappling with thousands of dollars in damage to their facilities. The September challenge encouraged students to share videos of their misdeeds online. The primary target has been bathrooms, where students have stolen and destroyed mirrors, sinks, and urinals, videos of the trend show.

FBI Will Address Violent Threats Against School Leaders

Education Week reports the Department of Justice (DOJ) said last week that the FBI will work with federal attorneys, as well as state and local leaders, to discuss strategies for countering threats against teachers, principals, school board members, and other educators. "Threats against public servants are not only illegal, but they also run counter to our nation’s core values," U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asserted, adding: "Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety." He said the DOJ  will also be launching a task force aimed at addressing the issue while attempting to determine how the federal government could use its powers to prosecute crimes and to assist local law enforcement in incidents that are not federal crimes.

Specialist training will be made available for local school boards and administrators to assist them in recognizing behaviors that constitute a threat, as well as helping them report the incidents to appropriate law enforcement agencies while preserving evidence to assist in the prosecution of crimes. The announcement came less than a week after the National School Boards Association wrote to President Joe Biden asking for the federal government to step in and help education officials deal with what the group called a rising tide of harassment, threats, and criminal conduct targeting them.

Education Department Issues Guidance On IEPs During Pandemic

Disability Scoop reports Federal officials say that individualized education program (IEP) teams must consider everything from goals to masks to compensatory education to ensure that students with disabilities are being provided the free appropriate public education they’re entitled to during the pandemic. A 41-page document from the U.S. Department of Education, the second special education guidance released from the agency since the start of this school year, offers input on how IEPs should be modified to address changes brought on by COVID-19. Schools and IEP teams must account for the needs of students with disabilities who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If an IEP team determines that COVID-19 prevention strategies are necessary for a student to receive a free appropriate public education, those measures must be included in the child’s IEP. This could include wearing masks, cleaning, or other mitigation steps. If state or local laws or policies limit IEP teams from making sure these measures are in place in the least restrictive environment, that would be a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Further, if an IEP team is unable or unwilling to address the health and safety needs of a child with a disability who is at increased risk for COVID-19, parents can utilize the dispute resolution procedures available under IDEA.

Teachers Leaving Profession In Record Numbers

The Hill reports teachers are quitting or retiring in record numbers amid a surge in COVID-19 outbreaks due to some states banning mask mandates, exacerbating shortages that existed prior to the pandemic. “A Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) as a subject matter or grade level within a state in which there is an inadequate supply of elementary or secondary teachers. The shortage may be caused by teaching positions that are unfilled or are filled by teachers who have temporary certification or teach in an academic subject other than their area of preparation,” according to Teach. In Florida, there is a teacher shortage in career and technical education, English as a second language, language arts, math, science, and special education. Florida teacher vacancies increased 67% in August 2021 compared with August 2020.

Republicans Continue Attacks On AG Garland’s Push To Curb Threats Against School Boards

The New York Post reports Republicans on Wednesday continued to attack Attorney General Merrick Garland for “weaponizing” the Justice Department over his plan to use federal law enforcement to crack down on threats at school board meetings. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the crackdown was part of a “disturbing trend” in which Democrats are trying to muzzle parents and stop them from having a say in their children’s education. McCarthy said in a statement, “This latest decision by President Biden is yet another example of him using his executive power to federalize every sector in our society.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also “accused Garland of breaking his vow not to weaponize the DOJ.” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) wrote on Twitter, “I just asked the Biden DOJ to name one instance in American history when the FBI has been directed to go after parents attending school board meetings to express their views. There isn’t one”.

Analysis: Some Pandemic-Spurred Changes To US Education Will Become Permanent

USA Today reports that education experts say some systemic disruptions caused by the pandemic “will stick permanently, thrusting education into a more personalized, modernized, responsive space that sets up more students for success through high school and beyond.” For example, most K-12 students “got a tablet or a laptop, plus an internet connection – though shortages continue for lower-income students and many who live in rural areas.” One positive is that “virtual learning finally provided a consistent link between home and school.” Yet, remote learners “lost more ground in math and reading compared with kids who spent more time learning in person.” To counter learning loss, “more schools are changing long-held schedules to better accommodate students and promote more steady academic attention.” In addition, the pandemic “compelled many parents” to try out alternatives to public schools, including private school or an online program. USA Today adds student mental health and assessing standardized tests are other key issues for educators.

Report: Median Lifetime Earnings Rise With Each Additional Level Of Education

Higher Education Dive reports “workers’ median earnings rise with each additional level of education, according to a new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, bolstering previous research showing degrees tend to pay off in the job market.” Those “with less than a high school diploma earned an average of $1.2 million during their lifetimes, compared to $2.8 million for workers with bachelor’s degrees and $4.7 million for workers with professional degrees.” However, substantial variation “within each category means some workers with less education can earn more than workers with more education.” Typically, these differences “are due to field of study and occupation.”

Some School Districts Use COVID-19 Aid For Athletics Projects

The Associated Press (AP) reports “one Wisconsin school district built a new football field.” In Iowa, “a high school weight room is getting a renovation.” Another in Kentucky “is replacing two outdoor tracks – all funded by the billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief Congress sent to schools this year.” The money was “part of a $123 billion infusion intended to help schools reopen and recover from the pandemic.” However, “with few limits on how it can be spent, The Associated Press found that some districts have used large portions for athletics projects they couldn’t previously afford.” Critics “say it violates the intent of the legislation, which was meant to help students catch up on learning after months of remote schooling.” However, “schools argue the projects support students’ physical and mental health, one of the objectives allowed by the federal government.”

More Districts Use “Test-To-Stay” Programs To Minimize Need For Home Quarantines

Education Week reports more school districts are implementing “test-to-stay” programs that can “safely keep nearly all exposed students and staff in school if they monitor them with frequent COVID tests.” These programs can help “spot and manage outbreaks, but also, more recently, to minimize home quarantining.” Under such a program in Georgia’s Marietta City school district, “staff or students who are exposed to COVID-19 at school may take rapid-antigen tests each morning for seven days, at a drive-through in a church parking lot. They get results in 15 to 30 minutes and can proceed to school if they’re negative. Those who don’t want to test daily can ride out their quarantine at home.” However, experts warn the “logistics of running a large-scale testing program can be daunting,” as districts “must often siphon some of their own staff time to help contracted test-providers.”

Quote of the Week

“Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.” – Mark Twain