Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Judge John Dietz ruled that the state of Texas is failing to provide adequate funding to its public schools and is violating the state constitution. He also ruled that school choice and vouchers are not a substitute for needed funding.

The Legislature cut school spending by $5.3 Billion in 2011 and never restored the cuts after the economy recovered.

In a recent article in the Houston Chrinicle, we read that business is mighty disappointed in the schools. They say they aren’t getting the trained employees they need. They think the schools are too easy. Some want more money spent in the schools that do well, as a reward.

No one seems to care that the Legislature slashed $5.3 Billion from the schools in 2011 and–despite a good economy–never restored it.

Here’s a challenge for those Texas businessmen who claim they can’t find workers because of the schools. Visit your local school. Spend a few days there. Ask them about their needs. Take the high school math test. Publish your scores.

If public schools are “failing,” find out who cut the budget and insist that it be restored as soon as possible. Nobody gets healthier on a starvation diet.

Jack Martin, the emergency manager for Detroitpublic schools, has canceled his proposal to cut teachers’ salaries by 10% and to increase class sizes to as many as 43. This is great news for the children and teachers of Detroit!

“In place of the pay cuts, Jack Martin will ask state education officials to extend the district’s five-year deficit elimination plan to seven years, consider layoffs for non-school employees and look to revenue increases from future property sales and possible student enrollment increases.

“Facing a fierce backlash from teachers, parents and even the state school superintendent, Martin announced the reversal of the planned cuts as part of the district’s plan to eliminate its $127 million deficit.

“The district’s deficit elimination plan, submitted to the Michigan Department of Education and approved last week, was intended to make up for the loss of a projected $18.5 million in revenue from a countywide school tax that voters rejected Aug. 5.

“Detroit Public Schools’ sole focus is and must remain providing the highest quality education possible to the children of Detroit,” Martin said during a news conference.”

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140826/SCHOOLS/308260087#ixzz3BWxXkqaf

Governor Rick Snyder long ago made it clear that the state of Michigan has no intention of saving public education in Detroit or anywhere else. The city’s emergency manager announced a 10% pay cut for teachers, larger class size, and the closing of 24 schools. The schools have a deficit of $127 million. The wage concessions by teachers will save $13.3 million.

“Parents, educators and community stakeholders met Wednesday morning in front of Ludington Middle School to denounce the cuts, as well as the district’s previously announced plans to increase class sizes.

“Brian Kindle has two children beginning Head Start in the fall, and a 15-year-old at Cody High School. He said he’s worried about how pay cuts will impact his kids.

“I say hands off first responders, kids and teachers,” he said. “I’m here to support parents and their children, and to ask Gov. Snyder not to vote for the proposal.”

“Kindle said he fears additional cuts will result in further neglect of students in the classroom.

“We should have classrooms on every corner, instead of liquor stores,” he said. “That would be great, but we don’t have a society that encourages it. But I will remain on the forefront supporting our children.”

Dr. Thomas Pedroni of the Detroit Data and Democracy Project contends that the cuts to classroom instruction are NOT necessary. He shows in this analysis that the emergency manager has allowed other categories of spending to grow, while cutting the single service that matters most: classroom instruction.

In a truly wonderful article in Sunday’s New York Times, David Kirp of the University of California at Berkeley lays waste the underpinnings of the current “education reform” movement. Kirp not only shows what doesn’t work, he gives numerous examples of what does work to help students.

Kirp explains in plain language why teaching can never be replaced by a machine. Although the article just appeared, I have already heard about angry grumbling from reformers, because their ultimate goal (which they prefer to hide) is to replace teachers with low-cost machines. Imagine a “classroom” with 100 students sitting in front of a monitor, overseen by a low-wage aide. Think of the savings. Think of the advantages that a machine has over a human being: they can be easily programmed; they don’t get a salary or a pension; they don’t complain when they are abused; and when a better, cheaper model comes along, the old one can be tossed into the garbage.

David Kirp dashes cold water on the reformy dream. Today’s reformers devoutly believe that schools can be transformed by market mechanisms, either by competition or technology. Kirp, author of “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools,” says that the tools for the improvement are not out of reach and do not depend on either the market or technology. His common-sense formulation of what is needed is within our reach, does not require mass firings or mass school closings, privatization, or a multi-billion dollar investment in technology.

But Kirp writes:

“It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.”

Reformers have made test scores “the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line.” The teacher whose students get high scores get a bonus, while those whose students get low scores get fired, just like business, where low-performers are laid-off. And, just like business, where low-profit stores are closed, and new ones are opened “in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.”

Kirp says bluntly:

“This approach might sound plausible in a think tank, but in practice it has been a flop. Firing teachers, rather than giving them the coaching they need, undermines morale. In some cases it may well discourage undergraduates from pursuing careers in teaching, and with a looming teacher shortage as baby boomers retire, that’s a recipe for disaster. Merit pay invites rivalries among teachers, when what’s needed is collaboration. Closing schools treats everyone there as guilty of causing low test scores, ignoring the difficult lives of the children in these schools — “no excuses,” say the reformers, as if poverty were an excuse.”

Kirp throws cold water on the reformers’ favorite remedy: “Charter schools,” he writes, “have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools. Vouchers are also supposed to increase competition by giving parents direct say over the schools their children attend, but the students haven’t benefited.”

As we have frequently noted, Milwaukee should be the poster child for both voucher schools and charter schools, which have operated there for nearly 25 years. Yet Milwaukee is one of the nation’s lowest performing cities in the nation on the federal NAEP tests. Milwaukee has had plenty of competition but no success.

What’s the alternative? It is obvious: “talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum.”

Kirp points to the management ideas of W. Edwards Deming, who believed in the importance of creating successful systems in which workers were chosen carefully, supported, encouraged, and enabled to succeed by the organization’s culture. The best organizations flourish by supporting their employees, not by threatening them.

Kirp identifies a number of models in education that have succeeded by “strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools.” He refers to preschools, to a reading and math program called Success for All model, to another called Diplomas Now, which “love-bombs middle school students who are prime candidates for dropping out. They receive one-on-one mentoring, while those who have deeper problems are matched with professionals.”

Kirp cites “An extensive study of Chicago’s public schools, Organizing Schools for Improvement, identified 100 elementary schools that had substantially improved and 100 that had not. The presence or absence of social trust among students, teachers, parents and school leaders was a key explanation.”

Similarly, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, “has had a substantial impact on millions of adolescents. The explanation isn’t what adolescents and their “big sibling” mentors do together, whether it’s mountaineering or museum-going. What counts, the research shows, is the forging of a relationship based on mutual respect and caring.

Despite the success of programs cited by Kirp, which are built on personal relationships, “public schools have been spending billions of dollars on technology which they envision as the wave of the future. Despite the hyped claims, the results have been disappointing.”

Kirp concludes that “technology can be put to good use by talented teachers,” but it is the teachers who “must take the lead. The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.”

David L. Kirp is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.”

Governor Cuomo oftens complains about spending on public schools. But he fails to mention budget cuts and inequitable funding. A new report by the Alliance for Quality Education lays out the facts and their consequences for Néw York’s public schools.

Good report /summary below of funding gap and education cuts since CFE.

New York state’s public schools have suffered devastating budget cuts over the past several years. As is so often the case around the country, the burden is overwhelmingly placed on the students and communities who most need support.

The details of this tragedy are described in a new report released today by the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) in partnership with Opportunity Action. “Billions Behind: New York State Continues to Violate Students’ Constitutional Rights” does more than illuminate the problem: it also lays out solutions to New York’s school funding crisis.

There is a way to more equitably distribute school aid across the state — it’s a formula called Foundation Aid — but seven years after its unveiling, policymakers in Albany have still refused to fully fund it.

Quality education is a constitutional right for every New York student, a right denied to many children thanks to these budget cuts. As AQE’s Zakiyah Ansari put it, “This report doesn’t just show a funding problem, it’s also a civil rights problem.”

In light of this week’s announcement of a $6.2 billion state budget surplus heading into next year, now is the time to close the funding gap and ensure an opportunity to learn for each and every New York student.

Read the full report here.

Read the press release here.

Opportunity Action
1680 Duke Street | Alexandria, VA 22314
http://www.opportunityaction.org | 703-838-6722

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Lisa Woods, who has taught for 25 years, explains clearly in this post why schools will never run like businesses. It originally appeared. In the Greensboro (N.C.) News-Record.

 

She asks readers to imagine a job where one’s compensation depends one’s “job performance and value” depend on the following conditions:

 

 

 

 

 

“* You are meeting with 35 clients in a room designed to hold 20.

“* The air conditioning and/or heat may or may not be working, and your roof leaks in three places, one of which is the table where your customers are gathered.

“* Of the 35, five do not speak English, and no interpreters are provided.

“* Fifteen are there because they are forced by their “bosses” to be there but hate your product.

“* Eight do not have the funds to purchase your product.

“* Seven have no prior experience with your product and have no idea what it is or how to use it.

“* Two are removed for fighting over a chair.

“* Only two-thirds of your clients appear well-rested and well-fed.

“You are expected to:

“* Make your presentation in 40 minutes.

“* Have up-to-date, professionally created information concerning your product.

“* Keep complete paperwork and assessments of product understanding for each client and remediate where there is lack of understanding.

“* Use at least three different methods of conveying your information: visual, auditory and hands-on.

“The “criterion” for measuring your “worth and value” is that no less than 100 percent of your clients must buy and have the knowledge to assemble and use your product, both creatively and critically, and in conjunction with other products your company produces, of which you have working but limited knowledge

“Only half of the clients arrive with the necessary materials to be successful in their understanding of your product, and your presentation is disrupted at least five times during the 40 minutes.

“You have an outdated product manual and one old computer, but no presentation equipment. Your company’s budget has been cut every year for the past 10 years, the latest by a third. Does this mean you only create two-thirds of a presentation? These cuts include your mandatory training and presentation materials (current ones available to you are outdated by five years).

“You have no assistant, and you must do all the paperwork, research your knowledge deficiencies and produce professional-looking, updated materials during the 40 minutes allotted to you during the professional day. You cannot use your 30-minute lunch break. Half is spent monitoring other clients who are not your own.

“Your company cannot afford to train you in areas of its product line where you may be deficient, yet you are expected to have this knowledge and incorporate it into your product presentation in a meaningful way.

“You haven’t had a raise in eight years and your benefits have been purged, nor do you receive a commission for any product you sell. Do you purchase all the materials needed so your presentation is effective? Will you pay for the mandatory training necessary to do your job in a competent and professional manner?”

What business could succeed under those conditions?

In an interview with “The Notebook,” civil rights attorney Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia explains why previous litigation failed and what should happen now to assure that all children get a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” as the law requires.

Here is a small part of a very informative exchange:

Q.: What other legislative or policy fixes could help settle the District’s long-term finances?

A. There are lots. The charter funding formula is absolutely crazy, one of the worst in the country.

But that’s small potatoes compared to our single biggest problem – the state puts in too small a share of funding. Pennsylvania appropriates about 35 percent of the cost of public education. Pennsylvania needs to get up to about 50 percent of the cost of education.

And while they’re figuring that out, they need to calculate real costs – like the cost of educating kids in poverty. When you do that, you’ll take care of the problems. Everything else is just cosmetic – moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic, as people like to say.

We do actually have a commission to look into a new funding formula that’ll start this summer. But we know the solutions. It’s not a mystery. What’s lacking is political will.

Q.: What about the city? Is it contributing enough?

A. Philadelphia used to be near the bottom of local contributions. Now we’re contributing above the median of the rest of the state. This is clearly now a state problem, not a Philadelphia problem.

Q.: Last time we had a funding formula, it didn’t last. Is there any way to compel legislators to use whatever they create?

A.: Most other states have found that the judiciary will step in and say that the constitution [which in Pennsylvania requires a “a thorough and efficient system of public education”] has to be upheld.

In the 1990s, Pennsylvania’s judiciary decided they would not step in. They had some reasons why, but many of those have changed.

For example, we don’t have local control at the level we used to. The state now sets graduation standards. The state sets testing standards. The state tells districts how they have to spend money.

Therefore, there are much stronger grounds for judicial intervention to make sure that the state is providing adequate funding. That’s my thought on the matter. We’ll have to see whether the judiciary agrees.

And here is another exchange:

Q.: Let’s go back to charter finances. What are some policy changes that could stabilize the whole system?

A.: There’s a whole range of numbers that need to be looked at so that there’s some relationship to cost.

For example, charters have been paid for special education at a rate that’s completely phony, year after year. Chester gets paid $36,000 per special-ed student. But most of them are getting “language and occupational therapy” once a week. That’s a minimal expense.

The cyber charters, which are the fastest-growing section of the charter movement, don’t have any of the same costs as brick-and-mortar charters, but they get the same money. The state hasn’t been able to fix that one, even though the auditor general has been writing reports about it for six years. It’s a complete waste of valuable resources.

And then, there needs to be a complete new set of transparency rules, so we know what charters are spending and accomplishing, and we don’t have the kind of waste and fraud we’ve seen.

Q.: What’s your plan to influence the governor’s race this fall?

A.: I believe that by the fall, we’ll be engaged in the kind of litigation like we talked about, to lay out the facts as to why 50 percent of the schools in Pennsylvania do not meet the standards the state has set for itself.

That’s a massive failure, and it’s closely related to underfunding – which has been known since 2007, when the state issued a report about real costs. We’ll bring that to the attention of the courts and the public.

Q.: The counter-argument is that we need to reduce costs, not spend more. Why shouldn’t Philadelphia be thinking about strategically increasing charter enrollment? Would that drive costs down?

A.: There’s no evidence that that really does, or that it’s sustainable over any length of time. That strategy relies on churn — lots of young teachers who turn over constantly. That is the enemy of a slow-and-steady progress model.

In Chester, for example, they have the largest charter population of any district in the state [by percentage], but they’re no further ahead than other students. But it does cost a great deal more, and a lot of that money is being funneled off into private payrolls.

I think everybody’s been surprised at some of the good things we’ve seen in charters that can be used in regular schools.

But we need to find ways that we adapt those, rather than create so much change that it sets back progress. We don’t want a two-tiered system. We don’t want public schools to be only for those who can’t figure out how to get out of them. What happens inevitably as you privatize is, things become stratified. To me, that would be far too high a price to pay.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has stormed the state with the message that public pensions are bankrupting the state.

But Joe Markosek, Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, says that Corbett is wrong.

Corbett’s $3 billion in education cuts has hurt every district in the state, far more than pensions, forcing districts to raise property taxes to keep their local schools open.

Jeff Bryant notes that many in the national media were stunned when the NEA called for Secretary Duncan’s resignation. For years, they believed the Secretary’s press releases instead of investigating the festering discontent against his ill-informed policies. Many journalists are oblivious to the protests by teachers–like the one at Garfield High school in Seattle– against the use of student test scores to judge their quality. Many journalists never noticed growing protests by students against obsessive testing in cities like Providence. Many never heard about parent groups objecting to profiteering by test publishers or dismissed them as publicity stunts. Many have been oblivious to the devastating effects of budget cuts by state legislatures that at the same time that they open unsupervised charter schools that impoverish community public schools. With some notable exceptions, like the Detroit Free Press and the Akron Beacon Journal, the mainstream media has simply ignored a widespread assault on the principle of free public education, democratically controlled, open to all. Instead, they print press releases written by corporations about “miracle schools,” where every child graduates and goes to college, without bothering to check facts.

Reporters quote spokesmen from rightwing think tanks that support privatization or from groups like Democrats for Education Reform, which represents hedge fund managers even though they are neither teachers nor parents nor have any other claim to authority (DFER recently referred to NEA as “the lunatic fringe” in the New York Times for denouncing Duncan, even though NEA speaks for three million teachers and DFER speaks for a handful of fabulously wealthy equity speculators).

What is most astonishing is to see the almost total indifference or ignorance of the mainstream media to an unprecedented and well-coordinated effort to privatize public education. Reporters don’t care that certain individuals and corporations are accumulating millions of dollars in taxpayer funding while schools are cutting their budgets and closing their libraries and increasing class sizes. Reporters don’t care that state authorities are allowing schools to open whose founders are not educators and may even be high school dropouts. Nor do they care when charter corporations claim to be “public schools,” yet refuse to permit the state to audit their expenditures, and in some states, refuse to share financial information with their own board. Has anyone tried to explain how a school can be “public” if its financials are not? Reporters know, but don’t care, that major charter chains contribute millions of dollars to state legislatures to make sure that no one investigates their use of public funds. A few reporters in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida have dared to pry into the cozy relationship between the charters and the legislature, but their exposes are followed by silence and inaction.

If present trends continue, the U.S. will have a dual system in another decade. Some cities will have no public schools, only charters that choose their students and exclude those with disabilities and those who can’t speak English. The few remaining public schools in urban districts will enroll the charter school rejects. The great irony is that privately managed schools don’t get better results than public schools on average for poor students yet they are a gold mine for their founders. What is at stake is the great tradition of public schools, open to all, supported by all, controlled by the public, not corporations. This is a principle worth fighting for, yet the public cannot fight if they are uninformed. It is up to a free press to sound the alarm when private interests seek to undermine, exploit, monetize, and control our democratic institutions. To date, with rare exceptions, the press has not sounded the alarm.

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