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Publications & Media

Learn more about Bellwether’s work by reading our publications, news articles, press releases, and case studies.

  • Publication
    Max Marchitello
    Justin Trinidad

    "Preparing Teachers for Diverse Schools: Lessons from Minority Serving Institutions" looks at how schools can revise policies, practices, and curricula to address the impact of race, gender, and class, and thereby better prepare educators to serve an increasingly diverse student population.

  • Publication
    Max Marchitello

    What effect does spending on educator benefits, such as pensions and healthcare, have on district and state K-12 education budgets? In a new report, “Benefits Take Larger Bite out of District K-12 Education Budgets,” we track ten years of spending data in nearly 14,000 districts across the country. The results are alarming.

    Our analysis shows that nationally benefit spending consumes a greater share of K-12 spending overall in 2014 than it did in 2005. Nationally, 19 percent of K-12 spending goes toward benefits, an increase of more than 3 percentage points. At the low end, some states devote as little as 8 percent of their spending toward employee benefits, whereas at the high end, some states devote more than 30 percent of their K-12 budgets toward benefits. All but three states saw the share of their spending dedicated to benefits increase in the window of our analysis.

    Overall, state education budgets increased only 1.6 percent from 2005 to 2014, after adjusting for inflation. In contrast, over the same period benefit spending increased 22 percent. This pattern holds in many states. In fact, 23 states effectively sent less money to the classrooms in 2014 than they did in 2005 due to the combination of stagnant or decreasing investments in K-12 education and burgeoning benefit costs.

    This should worry teachers and legislators alike. Indeed, a considerable amount of benefit spending goes to pay down debt rather than for current employee benefits. That is, the higher spending is not translating into more valuable pensions or more generous healthcare benefits. And legislators may be frustrated that their investments in K-12 education are not reaching classrooms.

    The problem of rising benefit costs will continue and likely grow for the foreseeable future. There are no easy fixes to these problems, but it will be critical for legislators to find solutions that balance paying down past obligations with contributing to the education of current students.
    cover of Bellwether slide deck

  • Publication
    Max Marchitello
    Kirsten Schmitz
    Chad Aldeman

    Most educators are women, and yet male educators outearn women in terms of annual salaries and retirement benefits. Given that school districts typically operate with uniform salary schedules that, on their face, appear neutral, it may be surprising to see gaps emerge along gender and racial lines.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman
    Anne Hyslop
    Max Marchitello
    Jennifer O'Neal Schiess
    Kaitlin Pennington

    The 2015 passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ushered in a new era for state accountability systems. ESSA provided states an opportunity to help all students succeed by rethinking both how they identify schools that need to improve, and how those schools might be improved. The law requires states to submit a formal plan to the Department of Education for peer review and then begin implementing that plan in the 2017-18 school year. Read our findings after reviewing the accountability plans for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

  • Publication
    Chad Aldeman
    Max Marchitello

    Following the first ESSA plan submissions to the U.S. Department of Education in April 2017, Bellwether Education Partners — in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success — convened a group of 30 education experts to independently review 17 state accountability plans. During the review, the experts, who represented national and state perspectives from both sides of the aisle, identified best practices in providing a strong statewide accountability system that will help ensure a high-quality education for all students.

    Because the first round of reviews was designed to help provide important context for the remaining state plans being submitted in September 2017, we conducted interim reviews of draft plans released by California and New York, using the same rubric and a process that closely mirrored our first set of reviews. We recognize that these pre-reviews represent a snapshot in time and that the states may make revisions prior to formally submitting their plans to the U.S. Department of Education. Given the size of California and New York’s diverse student populations, as well as their geographic diversity, we felt that feedback on their draft plans was important in not only strengthening these state’s final submissions, but also in providing information for other states still writing their plans.

    We intend to conduct full reviews of all second-round states following their final submissions in September.

    Read our reviews of the draft California and New York state plans here.

  • Publication
    Max Marchitello

    What effect does teacher pension spending have on school funding equity? In our new report, “Illinois’ Teacher Pension Plans Deepen School Funding Inequities,” we analyze 10 years of Illinois’ educator and school demographic data to track changes in funding equity.

    Our analysis shows that pension funding is yet another way in which states and districts invest fewer resources in the education of low-income students and students of color.

    Among our findings, the most alarming is that pension spending increases existing poverty-based inequities by over 200 percent, and race-based inequities by over 250 percent. These disparities are the product of Illinois’ pension system and cannot be fixed by pouring more money into the funds. In fact, the greater the contribution rate, the larger the inequities become.

    Given the magnitude of the effect, pension spending should be included in analyses of state school finance equity. Otherwise an important source of disparities can be masked, and efforts to make school funding fairer may be undermined.

  • Media

    The 74 Million -- The bill would benefit all existing retirees, all current teachers, and the vast majority of future teachers. And yet unions are opposing it. This is why pension politics can make you cynical.

  • Media

    The 74 Million - Even with this disheartening defeat of the mass mobilization of those opposing DeVos, it is actually a great time to be progressive on education policy.

  • Media

    USA Today -- Education nominee is losing Senate support over a reform agenda that won't help areas Trump won.

  • Media

    Education Post -- Do dues-paying teachers realize that their pension funds may be invested with private equity firms that destroy unions as they buy and sell companies?

  • Media

    The 74 Million -- Both teachers and NFL players are among the very few careers that offer a pension for retirement. The problem is that the pension system really isn’t very good for either.

  • Media

    The 74 Million -- Live blog coverage of the 2016 Democratic National Convention

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