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Articles: Budget

On Election Day, California voters passed Proposition 30, a temporary tax increase that will prevent a nearly $6 billion cut to the state’s public schools. Backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the proposition is the first general tax increase passed in the state in two decades. It will increase sales taxes by a quarter of a cent for four years on the state’s base rate of 7.25 percent, and income taxes for those earning more than $250,000 for seven years.

It’s a common situation: A school district in desperate need of additions or renovations and technology upgrades borrows money from investors, to be paid back with interest. But for the Poway Unified School District in San Diego County, Calif., there is a twist: They don’t need to make any payments on the $105 million they borrowed in 2011 until 2033, so the district’s debt will continue to grow as interest on the loan amasses. In the end, taxpayers will be charged $877 million in interest alone.

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra is biting his nails. “It does keep me up at night and usually, nothing does,” says Tangorra, who leads the 1,700-student Ilion Central School District in upstate New York, not far from Utica. “It’s becoming a problem.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie imposed salary caps on superintendents causing many stellar district leaders to seek work outside the state.

Roy Montesano had a distinguished career in New Jersey, where he had been a middle school science teacher and principal, a director of curriculum and technology, and for the past 12 years, a superintendent in the Westwood and Ramsey school districts. Montesano was the 2012 New Jersey Superintendent of the Year. In the 2012-2013 school year, he will lead the Hastings-on-Hudson (N.Y.) Union Free School District.

DA: Why did you retire after this past school year and accept a superintendent job in New York?

With no end in sight for the budget crisis facing districts, the Texas State Board of Education approved a plan in July that would allow 3.3 percent of the state’s Permanent School Fund to be distributed to public schools for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The expected payout is roughly $830 million each year—or $1.7 billion.

What changes have you accomplished that will make this school year different from last? In an era of having to doing more with less, what progress have you made?

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Will there be more of an emphasis on critical-thinking skills and deeper understanding of concepts in your schools?

In July, San Bernardino became the third city in California to file for bankruptcy. California isn’t alone, however. In Scranton, Pa., for example, the mayor made a bold move by paying the city’s workers minimum wage, prompting a universal “gulp” from public employees across the country.

congress, sequestration

Update [7/23/12]: On July 23, the U.S. Department of Education released a memo to chief state school officers announcing that major K12 programs will not be subjected to the 8.4 percent across the board sequestration cuts in the middle of the 2012-2013 school year that was originally predicted.

 Putting a Price Tag on the Common Core: How Much Will Smart Implementation Cost?

As school and state leaders across the nation prepare to implement the Common Core State Standards in the fall of 2014, a new report proposes three options—with three costs—to use.

I interviewed Jerry Weast last year soon after the announcement that he would be retiring as superintendent of the Montgomery County (Md.) School District. Over his 12 years as superintendent, he became renowned for his bold whole-district transformation, which included raising academic standards and narrowing the achievement gap for over 145,000 students in the 17th-largest school district in the nation. I also kept up with Joshua Starr, who from 2005 was the superintendent of Stamford (Conn.) Public Schools, a district that happens to lie next to our Norwalk office.

Greenville Schools Create Renewable Energy

In late 2010, Greenville Public Schools, a rural district in Michigan, ranked in the 95th percentile nationally for sustainable schools. The district has since applied for LEED certification, the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system, following completion of a green energy project with Johnson Controls.

The New Tech Network, which began in 1996 as a nonprofit school improvement organization, made a splash at the Educon conference in Philadelphia earlier this year, explaining how it reformed 86 schools in 16 states. And the difference with the model is that communities, not schools, fund them. Through fundraisers, donations and other contributions, the community “invests” in the change that happens.

Move over Groupon and Living Social; Schoola is the newest deal-of-the-day Web site, and its mission is to help schools raise money.

Schoola, launched by Savvy Source in February, helps school supporters, such as Parent Teacher Associations, work with businesses in their community to create a deal. Schoola hosts and facilitates the fundraiser online, handles the purchases and sends the proceeds to merchants and schools. To reach a larger audience, schools can partner with other schools to reach a larger audience and increase visibility.