Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Michael Rothfeld of the Wall Street Journal has written the best, most balanced account that I have seen of the perilous condition of the Common Core standards. The article fails to explain adequately why 46 states adopted the standards, as if everyone was waiting and hoping for the chance to endorse untested national standards; it happened because of the $4.35 billion offered as a state competition, but only to states that agreed to do what the Obama administration wanted them to do, which included embracing the standards.

Rothfeld documents why states are dropping out. A few have repealed the Common Core standards. Half of the 46 states that signed on to one of the two federally-sponsored tests have backed out. It wasn’t simply the political controversy from right and left, from parents and educators. The cost turned out to be a deal-breaker.

Some states couldn’t afford the cost of retraining teachers. Some could not afford the technology. Some could not afford the new tests.

But the standards and tests arrived at a time when districts and states were strapped.

“The total cost of implementing Common Core is difficult to determine because the country’s education spending is fragmented among thousands of districts. The Wall Street Journal looked at spending by states and large school districts and found that more than $7 billion had been spent or committed in connection with the new standards. To come up with that number, the Journal examined contracts, email and other data provided under public-records requests by nearly 70 state education departments and school districts.

“The analysis didn’t account for what would have been spent anyway—even without Common Core—on testing, instructional materials, technology and training. Education officials say, however, that the new standards required more training and teaching materials than they would otherwise have needed, and that Common Core prompted them to speed up computer purchases and network upgrades.

“Much more money would be needed to implement Common Core consistently. Some teachers haven’t been trained, and some schools lack resources to buy materials. Some states haven’t met the goal of offering the test to all students online instead of on paper with No. 2 pencils….

“Common Core advocates hoped to make standards uniform—and to raise them across the board. Their goals were to afford students a comparable education no matter where they were, to cultivate critical thinking rather than memorization, to better prepare students for college and careers, and to enable educators to use uniform year-end tests to compare achievement. They wanted to give the tests on computers to allow more complex questions and to better analyze results.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which signed on to the effort in 2008, so believed in the cause that it has spent $263 million on advocacy, research, testing and implementing the standards, foundation records show. Vicki Phillips, a Gates education director, says its Common Core-related funding of new curriculum tools developed by teachers has led to student gains in places such as Kentucky.

“But after a burst of momentum and a significant investment of money and time, the movement for commonality is in disarray.

“Some states, including South Carolina, Indiana and Florida, have either amended or replaced Common Core standards. Others, including Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, New Jersey and North Carolina, are in the process of changing or reviewing them. A total of 21 states have withdrawn from two groups formed to develop common tests, making it difficult to compare results.

In California, the costs of implementation are staggering.

California has allocated $4.8 billion to local school districts that they can use for Common Core implementation, but some have asked a state commission to order more funding for giving the Smarter Balanced test.

“For some urban districts struggling to pay for basic educational needs, preparing for the standards has been challenging.

“The Philadelphia school district unveiled a plan in 2010 to implement Common Core and won a $500,000 grant from the Gates Foundation. But a budget crisis the next year resulted in nearly 4,000 layoffs, including of some putting the plan in place.”

There is something bizarre about pouring billions into untested standards and tests at a time when districts like Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, and many others are struggling to maintain basic services in their schools and at a time when privatizers are targeting the very existence of public schools.

The Chicago Teachers Union has shown that it is not afraid to strike. In 2012, its decision to strike was approved by a near unanimous vote. Now, teachers are bracing for more budget cuts, even as the Rahm Emanuel-picked Board of Education shifts resources and students to nonunion charter schools.

It it is a strange world we live in when a mayor of a major city calls himself a Democrat as he doubles down on his war against public schools and unions.

What do you call Mayor Emanuel? A Republicrat?

Here is the latest from the Chicago Teachers Union:

November 2, 2015 312-329-6250

Chicago Teachers Union prepares the rank-and-file for possible labor strike as threats of mass layoffs continue

CHICAGO – Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked public schools chief announced a change in his proposed timeline to lay off 5,000 or more educators who are demanding a fair labor contract. CEO Forest Claypool claims teachers could start losing their jobs as early as January, shortly after the end of the holiday season. This is why the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is encouraging members to start saving a portion of their paychecks in order to weather a possible labor strike.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) continues with its plan to remove protections for experienced and qualified educators who lose their positions through no fault of their own. Massive layoffs only exacerbate the current 50 percent teacher turnover rate every five years — something that interferes with continuity and quality instruction.
“We are asking teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians in our bargaining unit to save at least 25 percent of their pay in preparation for a possible strike,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “With the uncertainty in Springfield, the continued chaos at the Board of Education, and the constant threats to our classrooms, we have to be prepared. Our families will depend on us being able to weather what could be a protracted strike.”

Lewis also said more than 200 schools have taken unofficial, independent straw polls testing the members’ strike-ready temperatures but the union will run its own mock strike vote this week. “Teachers are feeling the strain placed on them by principals who have to work with reduced budgets and cuts to special education and other necessary programs. Class sizes are ballooning and the district is crying broke when it comes to our demands for more teaching resources while at the same time cheering themselves on while opening multi-million dollar charter operations. This makes no sense. We have to take a stand for our profession and for our students and their families.”

On Thursday, November 5th, the CTU will run an official ‘practice’ strike vote and contract poll in all CPS school buildings. The exercise helps prepare members should they decide to take an official strike vote in the coming days. State law requires 75 percent affirmative vote from CTU’s entire membership. However, a strike authorization vote is an internal union affair of which the Board has absolutely no legal right to interfere in any way.

In three weeks, thousands of CTU members are expected to present a unified front on November 23rd when they rally in Grant Park at Butler Field, 100 S. Lake Shore Drive. In addition to hearing speeches from Union leaders, people will listen to testimonies from parents, community leaders, students and other labor leaders. The 5:30 p.m. event will include a tailgate, with free food and beverages, and include a special commemoration for CPS students who have been killed or impacted by gun violence.

Labor talks between the CTU and the Board remains in mediation and negotiations are ongoing. Should CTU members decide to strike it will the second teachers strike in the last three years, both of which will have occurred during the Emanuel administration.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 27,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at

Amanda Koonlaba, an art teacher in Tupelo, Mississippi, explains here that Mississippi is in a pitched battle to fund its public schools adequately. The issue is joined in a political struggle over Initiative 42, which would require the adequate funding of public education. Initiative 42 is opposed by the forces of privatization, which prefer to open privately managed charters, hand out vouchers for religious schools, and block any increase in funding for the public schools.

Koonlaba writes:

In 1997, the Mississippi Legislature passed a law promising to provide each public school district in Mississippi enough financial support to furnish an adequate education to every K-12 student. That law is called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), and has only been followed twice since its was passed. This has resulted in a shortfall of over a billion dollars since 2009. That is a billion dollars that would have provided textbooks, technology, and certified teachers. Instead, Mississippi’s students have just had to do without.

In 2014, nearly 200,000 Mississippians from every county and both political parties took a stand and signed petitions to have Initiative 42 added to the ballot on November 3, 2015. This would amend the state constitution in a way that makes public education a priority instead of an afterthought. Initiative 42 closes a loophole that has allowed the Legislature to break the MAEP law for so long.

After citizens signed these petitions, the very first thing the Legislature did when they went back into session was to pass an alternative to Initiative 42.

The alternative was intended to confuse voters, to protect the status quo, and to prevent any increase in funding for public schools.

The leaders of the opposition to Initiative 42 have ties to the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity.

And ALEC, the enemy of the public good, is involved too.

This spring, the Legislature passed a school voucher bill straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) playbook. ALEC helps corporations, idealogues, and their political allies pass legislation that privatizes schools. This legislation is written behind closed doors and then passed around from state to state. All a lawmaker has to do is fill in the blanks with the name of their particular state. It benefits large corporations and directs public tax dollars to private entities. ALEC is funded by the Koch Brothers. Interestingly, Jeb Bush, who is also closely connected to Americans for Prosperity, attended [Governor] Phil Bryant’s signing of this bill in Jackson.

The passage of Initiative 42 is crucial for the future of the children and public schools of Mississippi. It is a chance for the public to say NO to the 1% that rule ALEC and the other privatization advocates.

It is a chance for citizens and local communities to stand up for their public schools and stop the corporate assault on them.

Koonlaba writes:

Initiative 42 is a light in the darkness of this attack on Mississippi’s public schools. It is a chance for the citizens of Mississippi to stand up to the Legislature and remind them that they work for citizens not privatizers. Mississippians want their public schools to remain public and be fully funded.

However, Mississippians need help sorting through what the Executive Editor of the Clarion Ledger, Sam R. Hall, called “a load of horse crap” from the opposition to Initiative 42. Luckily, several groups are working to help Mississippians do this to get the initiative passed.

The Parent’s Campaign and the Mississippi Association of Educators have been working to educate the public on the initiative. 42 for Better Schools is the actual campaign to pass Initiative 42 and is a coalition of Mississippi public schools supporters and organizations. A grassroots group called Fed Up with 50th emerged to support school funding issues. They write on their Facebook page that

“We are law-abiding, tax-paying Mississippi voters—Republicans and Democrats—and we are FED UP! We are FED UP with failing schools, low graduation rates, poor teacher support, crowded classrooms, crumbling buildings, not enough textbooks or computers—all the things that make us 50th in education year after year. More than anything, we are FED UP that our legislators continue to BREAK THE LAW and underfund our schools, STEALING from our children and SELLING OUT their future to special interests.”
If Initiative 42 passes on November 3, Mississippians will have won a major battle but will have much work still left to do. If it doesn’t pass, the war will be lost.

Initiative 42 is a chance for Mississippians to tell the corporate entrepreneurs that their children and their public schools are not for sale.

If they stand together, the people of Mississippi can beat the 1%.

Who stands up for the neediest, most vulnerable children in Chicago? Not Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Not the Mayor’s hand picked Board of Education. Not the Superintendent Forrest Claypool, who imposed what he himself calls “unconscionable” cuts to special education.

Who stands up for the children? Educators.

Principal Troy LaRaviere (who was previously warned by CPS about speaking out too much) describes here the principals’ revolt, and the CPS officials’ sneaky effort to announce the cuts in a Friday afternoon (when they would get minimal media attention), with only one day to appeal.

If this what reformers stand for? Hurting defenseless children?

LaRaviere writes:

“Whenever I try to take a break from writing about CPS to focus on other aspects of my professional and personal life, CPS officials do something so profoundly unethical, incompetent and/or corrupt that my conscience calls me to pick up the pen once more. This time, they’ve targeted special education students. Obscured in the latest round of CPS budget cuts is an unprecedented move to cut legally required special education services. Educators are often asked if a school based budget cut will affect students. The answer is always “yes.” Each person in a school provides a service to a group of students. When CPS decides to cut the dollars that fund a school-based position they are, in effect, taking the service away from students.

“One district official was quoted in the Sun-Times stating, “CPS continues to work with our principals to prepare for these adjustments.”

“Adjustments” is CPS’ latest euphemism for cuts to student services. If they keep it up, they’re going to “adjust” students out of their education entirely. CEO Forrest Claypool often repeats a talking point that the cuts CPS will “have to make” are “unconscionable.” If one thinks the cuts are “unconscionable” then one does not give those cuts a false euphamistic name like “right-sizing.” Yes, that’s the actual term they use to describe their efforts to reduce services to special education students. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, CPS took an additional $13.3 million worth of services from CPS students with their latest “adjustments.” The article includes a spreadsheet detailing the cuts to schools across Chicago. For example, Ogden school lost five special education teachers and three special education assistants, while Austin High School lost two teachers and four assistants.

“Chicago’s mayor and CPS officials often cite the need to “sacrifice” in order to “save money” as a justification for such cuts. However, all too often CPS and City Hall pretend not to see opportunities to save money by making those who can most afford it sacrifice. Instead they turn their avaricious eyes toward those who can least afford it: our students. They didn’t make the banks that swindled CPS out of $100 million sacrifice by suing them to recoup their losses; they prefer to make students sacrifice by increasing their class sizes. They didn’t makes SUPES Academy sacrifice by denying the organization a $20 million no-bid contract; they prefer to make students suffer by cutting their sports programs. They didn’t make the scores of basement dwelling for-profit charter school management organizations suffer (88% of charters are in the bottom half of CPS performance in student reading growth); instead they took funds used to provide programming for students in more successful neighborhood schools. They didn’t make Aramark and Sodexo Magic (an Emanuel campaign contributor) suffer by canceling their custodial management contracts when they failed to keep schools clean; CPS and City Hall prefer instead to make special education students sacrifice by cutting their legally required educational services.”

Where are the lawyers?

Mike Klonsky reports that Chicago Public Schools is cutting special education.

“Our autocrat at City Hall appears bent on dismembering special education in Chicago by a thousand cuts. SpEd took its first major deep cut over the summer eliminating 500 positions at CPS. More cuts announced late Friday mean approximately 160 schools would lose special education teachers, while 184 would lose aides.”

Let the lawsuits begin. There is a federal law to protect children with disabilities.

David Rutherford is in his first year as a member the the school board in Plainfield, New Jersey. He dug into the budget and discovered that the state of Néw Jersey is cheating the children of Plainfield. Since the election of Chris Christie, the state has ignored a law requiring that it fund schools based on student needs. Plainfield has been shorted by millions of dollars. Rutherford estimates that Plainfield is owed $70 million by the state.

Guess who has not been shorted? Charter schools, which have the backing of several prominent hedge fund billionaires in Néw Jersey.

Charter schools have been sucking students and dollars out of the Plainfield public schools.

Until now, the fiscally responsible Plainfield district had been running a surplus. But it won’t last.

Rutherford writes:

“But surplus is a finite resource, and long term the picture is far more grim. The state of New Jersey’s refusal to pay districts the funds they deserve and the over-funding of charter schools will become growing problems for which this district, and many others, must find difficult long term solutions. Millions of dollars in lost money will undoubtably have a grave impact on students and the community.

“Applying the Pressure

“We must demand that Chris Christie and the New Jersey State Legislature cease to steal from the neediest public school districts while keeping charter schools afloat. Language that allows for charter over-payment must be removed from next year’s budget.

“The Highland Park and Paterson Boards of Education have already passed resolutions demanding that the Legislature take a stand and eliminate that language. In fact, you can read Highland Park’s resolution, which has been accepted in principle by the New Jersey School Boards Association and should be up for vote at the next School Board Delegate Assembly meeting on November 26th.

“Seven million dollars in over-payments on top of $70 million in underfunding over the course of the past six years is nothing short of theft, and the blame falls on a bipartisan coalition of our leaders in Trenton. This includes the two-thirds Democratic State Assembly and Senate. They must be held accountable.”

If policies like Néw Jersey’s stay in place, districts like Plainfield will go bankrupt, setting them up for privatization. There will be many others in the same situation. Good news for hedge fund managers who want to destroy public education. Bad news for kids, teachers, public education, and democracy.

Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey appointed a commission to fix school funding. The commission has decided that The schools don’t need more money, even though the state is one of the lowest spending in the nation. What’s needed is more funding for charters. The pie stays the same, but the underfunded public schools will lose money to the charters.

A large proportion of the students in Arizona are of Hispanic origin. I wonder if any of their parents served on Governor Ducey ‘s commission?

Governor Scott Walker continues his war of attrition against public education, especially in Milwaukee. Despite the fact that the public schools of Milwaukee outperform its voucher schools, Walker is cutting the budget of the more effective public schools and increasing funding for the less effective voucher schools.

The following article was written by Molly Beck of the Wisconsin State Journal.

“The state will spend $258 million in the 2016-17 school year on private school vouchers, a new estimate shows.
At the same time, the amount of state aid sent to public schools will be reduced by $83 million to offset the voucher spending, for a net cost to the state of $175 million, according to an analysis drafted by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau in response to a request from Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, who opposes vouchers.

“The amount spent each year on vouchers will have increased by 77 percent next school year over 2011 levels, according to the estimate, as lawmakers have expanded the number of vouchers available to students and where they can be used.

“The amount of money spent has risen from $146 million in the 2011-12 school year to $236 million this school year.
The state spent $5.2 billion on public schools in 424 school districts last school year, according to the LFB, when it spent $213 million on vouchers used in 159 private schools.

“Over the six school years, $1.2 billion will be spent on school vouchers and about $30.6 billion will be sent to public schools during the same time, according to LFB and Department of Public Instruction data.

“The number of students using school vouchers to attend private schools grew from 22,439 during the 2011-12 school year to 29,609 last school year, according to the DPI. At the same time, 870,650 students attended public schools last year — which is about the same number that did in the 2011-12 school year. Enrollment grew to 873,531 in the 2013-14 school year before decreasing last school year.

“Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers have created new voucher programs in Racine and statewide to join the program in Milwaukee, created in 1990 as the country’s first.

“Milwaukee and Racine school districts have been allowed to raise property taxes to offset their reductions in state aid.

“Starting this school year, each voucher used outside of Milwaukee will be paid for using aid set aside for school districts. The districts won’t be able to raise taxes to make up the money, but will be able to start counting students using vouchers in their enrollment to determine state aid levels and revenue limits.

“Voucher payments are $7,210 for K-8 students $7,856 for high school students.

“Earlier this year, the LFB estimated between $600 and $800 million could be diverted from public schools over the next 10 years.”

The Wisconsin government has slashed funding for K-12 public schools while expanding and enriching the state’s voucher program. This is a clear-cut victory for ALEC, the corporate-funded lobby for privatization.

“Since Republicans took over our state Capitol in 2011, they have cut $1.2 billion from public K-12 education. Under this latest budget, 55 percent of school districts will get less general student aid than they did last budget cycle and Wisconsin is spending $1,014 less per public school student than it did in 2008.

“Yet for the private school special interests, this budget was like Christmas morning, with presents that blew the student enrollment caps off the statewide private school voucher program, diverted an additional $600-800 million from public schools over the next decade and increased per-pupil spending in the statewide private voucher system more than what even Governor Walker had proposed. The cherry on top was the last minute, late night passage of the special needs voucher program, which funds private schools for special needs students without requiring specialized instruction, teacher training or current legal protections.”

Way to go, Scott Walker, in meeting your goal of destroying public education. Way to go in destroying a historic democratic institution.

I posted recently about the growing exodus of teachers from Arizona due to low salaries, testing, mandates, and poor working conditions. Do the legislators and governor understand the consequences of their actions? This teacher says they do. They know exactly what they are doing.



Here is his comment:


“I’ve been teaching in Arizona for 16 years (having come here from Texas). It is harder now than it’s ever been. I happen to live in a community that strongly supports public education. However, the community itself is poor with one of the highest non-reservation levels of unemployment. Still, the board is seriously looking at raising tax rates to try to compensate for salaries that have been frozen for 8 years. While the state has shrugged off its obligation to fund public education, it has made the problem worse by making it more difficult for local communities to raise funds themselves. It is difficult to look at the mess we are in here and come to any other conclusion than that this is a concerted effort to destroy public education.”


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