During the recession many states had to make hard decisions regarding higher education funding and tuition at public universities. According to the 2013-2014 Tuition and Fees in Public Higher Education in the West report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, the enrollment-weighted average tuition and fees for residents and non-residents was higher for four-year institutions over previous years; while lower at two-year institutions.

The Odyssey School in Denver is a unique school with a common problem—like many schools across the country, the school’s funding level has dropped. Odyssey, a charter school that has 225 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, focuses on project-based learning, which often takes classes outside of the school building. Students are just as likely to be taking water samples from a local river as they are to be sitting at tables discussing the pros and cons of randomized drug trial statistics in math class.

Following three rounds of Race to the Top grants awarded to more than 20 states, the U.S. Department of Education is poised to award an additional $400 million in the next round of RTTT funding. This time, however, the money is being earmarked to local schools districts, not states.  The US DOE has announced it will award 15-25 grants to support school districts in implementing local education reforms that personalize instruction, close achievement gaps, and take advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and careers. 

On Monday, President Barack Obama officially unveiled his budget for 2013.  As he spoke from Northern Virginia Community College, Obama highlighted the more than $65 billion in education funding focused on resources dedicated to transforming K-12 and postsecondary education to ensure students have the skills and knowledge to succeed in the future.

Legislatures and governors recently have given increased attention to school district consolidation. Facing mounting budget shortfalls and searching desperately for avenues to cut spending, some state leaders have examined possible savings by forcing smaller districts to close. The number of school districts varies widely from state to state. Hawaii, for instance, has a single statewide school system. At the opposite extreme, 14 states have more than 300 public school districts. Legislatures in many states are considering whether merging smaller school districts would be a cost-effective way to cut costly overhead expenses and improve academic services. In many areas, however, there is fierce resistance to consolidation from parents who prefer small, community-based school systems.

Although they were not funded at the level they initially requested, seven states learned in late December that they will receive a $200 million 'runners-up' award.  Many of the reforms which now can be initiated include implementation efforts for the Common Core State Standards, improving data systems, advancing teacher effectiveness, technology supports, and STEM integration.  Those states include Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

A rosier than expected economic picture has allowed Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to recommend $89 million in proposed cuts to K-12 education be restored to the state budget. Hickenlooper has also called for restoring approximately $30 million in proposed cuts to higher education financial aid programs.

In a ruling that could have profound consequences for Colorado's budget, a Denver district court judge last week said the state's school-funding system is not "thorough and uniform" as mandated by the state constitution.

Although it should be of little surprise that many states have slashed funding for K-12 public education, the extent of those cuts is coming into a clearer focus. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has published an analysis that finds K-12 schools are receiving less funding than last year in at least 37 states. Furthermore, the report states schools are receiving funding below 2008 levels in 30 states.

The article about golden parachutes for school superintendents appeared in Education Week. At first, however, it seemed I was reading another article about contract buyouts for corporate CEOs in The Wall Street Journal.

We have grown accustomed to seeing headlines about corporate executives who are sent packing with generous severance packages. Remember Harry Killinger, former head of Washington Mutual? After the biggest failure in US banking history at that time, he left with $44 million. And then there’s Stan O’Neal, who left Merrill Lynch after 21 years with a $165 million severance package, even as the company posted $8 billion in losses.

The dollar figures may seem pale by comparison, but some public school superintendents are leaving their jobs with hefty contract buyouts, according to Education Week. Recently, Philadelphia school chief Arlene Ackerman received a $900,000 buyout to leave her position. That doesn’t include an additional $86,000 she received for unusual vacation and sick time.

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