During this pandemic, public school funding is critical. The American public deserves to know as best as possible how their tax dollars are being spent on education and every area for that matter. That’s why it’s disappointing to review Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s recent spending of $185 million on education innovation and acceleration.
Program emphasis is on STEM, social-emotional learning, and teacher professional development. There’s no mention of reading, geography, the arts, or child-find programs to locate children who did not sign up for school due to the virus.
A teacher’s needs when it comes to remote learning are not well addressed. Nor is there specific attention to math, aside from STEM. It has been stated that students are behind in math, although those reports seem faulty.
Mental health is vaguely addressed by SEL programs, but not necessarily by school psychologists, social workers, or professionals at the school level. More local outreach is needed.
I asked her this question on Twitter, and am still waiting for an answer. I will likely wait a long time.
Wondering @BetsyDeVosED…Do you have specifics? Lots of unanswered questions for so much school $$$ going to groups during the pandemic. Could you provide more info?🧐
— Nancy E. Bailey (@NancyEBailey1) December 16, 2020
DeVos spent $185 million on grant funding, she says, for 28 school districts, higher education institutions, and nonprofit organizations, but it’s unclear exactly how this money will help students and teachers. There seem to be only 3 or 4 school districts that were given money directly, and even here, it isn’t easy to see what they are doing with the funding.
Devos says of $72 million of those funds:
I have heard clearly from classroom teachers from around the country: teacher professional development is broken, and teachers know how to fix it. I am encouraged that these new grants will be used to empower teachers to choose their own professional learning and recognize that teachers should have the ability to choose the right direction for their professional growth. When you empower teachers to do what they know is best, teachers benefit—and so do students.
Teachers might not like professional development, but DeVos’s funding doesn’t go to teachers. Her Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program is sketchy. Entrepreneurial, a word tied to risk, is used in the description.
Here’s a description of some of the groups that received funding.
What Do These Grants Fund?
The University of Alaska Fairbanks indicates they have some interesting programs on their website, including an Indigenous teacher preparation program. It’s called SILKAT, and it has partnered with Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. It isn’t clear where the SEL funding will go.
WestEd is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit research, development, and service agency — works with education and other communities to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth, and adults. WestEd has 17 offices nationwide. Do they deserve is $8,000,000 to study SEL? How will they help teachers and students?
New Teacher Center is an alternative teacher program with funders that include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The University of Southern California has this report Enacting Social-Emotional Learning Practices and Supports Employed in Core District Schools on their website, focusing on mindset, dispositions, emotions, and behavior. Is this what will be funded?
Orange County Superintendent of Schools gets STEM funding. Is it their TIF Program mentioned here? It’s sketchy. Does this connect to the multi-million dollar investment by Lockheed Martin to the school district for science in 2015? How did that turn out?
American Institutes for Research focuses on Spotlight on Personalized Learning and Are You Ready to Assess Social and Emotional Development? While there are many concerns about SEL, they do provide a lot of information about it.
Digital Promise Global is a nonprofit pushing digital schooling and emphasizing next generational learning and other technology-based learning ideas.
Computer Science Teachers Association, LLC is a nonprofit that seems to teach computer science to teachers.
YouthForce NOLA helps high school students connect to employers. This is critical, but don’t high school counselors do this? YouthForce NOLA includes influential partners, like JP Morgan and more. *See Michelle’s comment below!
Jobs for the Future, Inc. is about driving economic advancement.
The Curators of the University of Missouri Special Trust support the University of Missouri, but how will they work with teachers?
Niswonger Foundation is a charitable organization with the motto Learn Earn Return, and they have a leadership program for students. The $8,000,000 they will get is for STEM. How will that help public education? They advertise online classes for blended learning.
Virginia Advanced Study Strategies (VASS), a nonprofit that is supposed to develop best practices in K-12 settings aligning learning with employer needs. VASS began in 2007 with a $13.2 million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative through ExxonMobil. It garnered over $33 million in public and private funds in 12 years. They claim to provide intensive professional development by preparing college students to research the U.S. Department of Education. One PDF file describes instruction for teachers to use Khan Academy and TED-ED videos in their lesson plans. It seems like teachers could figure this out on their own.
A full list of recent awardees is below. Most of the recipients are universities and nonprofits. Some have partnered with corporations.
|Name||State||Award Amount||Project Type|
|University of Alaska Fairbanks||AK||$7,999,712||Social-Emotional Learning|
|New Teacher Center||CA||$7,998,782||Social-Emotional Learning|
|University of Southern California||CA||$7,998,815||Social-Emotional Learning|
|Orange County Superintendent of Schools||CA||$3,964,304||STEM|
|American Institutes for Research||DC||$7,999,777||Social-Emotional Learning|
|Digital Promise Global||DC||$3,996,372||STEM|
|Duval County Public Schools||FL||$3,502,713||STEM|
|School Board of Miami-Dade County||FL||$12,000,000||Teacher PD|
|North American Native Research and Education Foundation INC||ID||$3,568,382||STEM|
|Computer Science Teachers Association LLC||IL||$10,492,565||Teacher PD|
|Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative||KY||$3,999,633||STEM|
|Jobs for the Future, Inc.||MA||$4,000,000||STEM|
|Education Development Center, Inc.||MA||$3,999,826||STEM|
|The Johns Hopkins University||MD||$5,879,943||Social-Emotional Learning|
|The Curators of the University of Missouri Special Trust||MO||$3,932,204||STEM|
|Missouri State University||MO||$3,996,749||STEM|
|Appalachian State University||NC||$11,999,692||Teacher PD|
|Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey||NJ||$4,000,000||STEM|
|Charleston County School District||SC||$11,932,890||Teacher PD|
|Voorhees College||SC||$5,822,638||Teacher PD|
|Texas A&M Research Foundation||TX||$7,999,563||STEM|
|Intercultural Development Research Association||TX||$3,898,640||STEM|
|Region 18 Education Service Center||TX||$9,053,450||Teacher PD|
|Virginia Advanced Study Strategies||VA||$10,864,212||Teacher PD|
|Educational Service District 105||WA||$4,000,000||STEM|
This isn’t just a Betsy DeVos problem, although it’s true that she has repeatedly spent money on her pet projects. Americans should always demand a better explanation of where school funding goes.
- Who gets funding?
- How is it used?
- What are the results?
Years ago, I managed a $27,000 state grant for a small program for teens. I was encouraged to attend a grant-writing workshop, and the grant had to be written outlining specifics. Later the program was evaluated to see if teachers and students were benefiting. This was a serious process that enlisted a lot of time and effort on the part of teachers and staff. It turned out to be successful but is the same protocol followed today, especially for larger grants? It’s troubling to see funding dolled out without seeing the actual plans or learning later how those programs worked.
Let’s hope the next administration will direct funds more fairly, showing Americans clearly how the money is spent, how it is used, and how it will improve instruction. Funding should directly support teachers to do their jobs.
If you know more about these programs, positive or negative, please share.