Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Whenever a superintendent speaks truth to ower, their voice should be heard. What is more, they deserve to be honored. I am glad here to honor William G . Hochgesang, Superintendent, Northeast Dubois public schools and to add him to our honor roll as a champion of public education. The politicians are hurting children, hurting teachers, and decimating public education. Thank you, Superintendent Hochgesang, for speaking up with courage and clarity for our kids and our democracy.

This letter from Superintendent Hochgesang came from another Indiana superintendent, Dr. Terry Sargeant:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Over the weekend, I received this letter through the Indiana Small & Rural Schools Association. It was written by Dr. Bill Hochgesang, Superintendent of Northeast Dubois Schools, to his school board the evening he asked them to approve their new teacher contract. In a nutshell, I have not heard the circumstances currently faced by Indiana Public Schools expressed any better. This letter is beginning to go viral in Indiana and I thought you might enjoy reading it. I agree with Bill 100% and I only hope that the political pendulum in Indiana will begin to swing the other direction soon – for the sake of our kids.

Most sincerely,

Terry

Dr. Terry R. Sargent
Superintendent
Jennings County School Corporation
34 W. Main Street
North Vernon, Indiana 47265
(812) 346-4483
tsargent@jcsc.org

“All children are gifted; some just open their packages earlier than others.”

– Michael Carr

​”​ Board,

I am recommending to the board this evening that they ratify the contract as presented. This contract for the second year in a row has a zero increase . Our Classroom Teachers Association does this fully knowing that zero isn’t in reality a zero. It is a negative as our insurance rate increased by 4% in 2013 and increased 8% for the 2015 school year. In the past there was a salary schedule for teachers that had an increment in place for experience . That option was taken away two years ago by our legislature. So this is a true pay cut for the second year in a row. Along with our teachers, all employees of Northeast Dubois have taken this same cut in salary the past two years . It saddens me to have to ask for this and accept this. But that is the reality of what we are currently dealing with.

It does however give me great pleasure to work in this school system where kids truly come first. Our school corporation is a system where people honestly put students’ needs ahead of their own as evidenced by these actions. Our school corporation is innovative as shown by our technology, our atmosphere and, of course, our success . Still we are never satisfied and continuously work to improve. Our school system strives to provide students the opportunity to pursue their passions and excel in many areas! Our school system is one where there is no talk of cutting any programs or enlarging class sizes in order to save money-yet. I worry about this trend continuing. Staff has shown their dedication to students by forgoing pay in order to protect these programs and class sizes.

I only wish I lived in a state where legislators cared as much for students as we do at Northeast Dubois. In 2009, $300,000,000 was taken from the education budget and never returned. Yet we all read in the news that the state has a $2,000,000,000 surplus. One doesn’t have to be a math expert in order to see where 75% of that money came from. Take five years times $300,000,000 and it is crystal clear that $1.5 Billion has come at the cost of the schools in Indiana. Many schools have turned to referendums, just to make ends meet. In fact, after the May election one out of every three schools in Indiana has run a referendum on the voting ballot. Yet, what do we as educators get from our legislators? We get higher standards, more accountability and forced competition, competition for money that is not increasing. We are forced to compete for students, as the money follows the child . We get forced competition where students are ranked, teachers are ranked and schools are ranked. Ranking always produces winners and losers, there is always a top and always a bottom, and in education there cannot be any losers! The education of every child in this state is critical. I am a firm believer that every school in this state is giving their best effort! I wish the legislators would truly see what great things are happening in our schools and begin to support our efforts . I feel they have forgotten the essential role education has played in the success in their own lives and that an education is the most important aspect in leaving a legacy for our children. Public education as we know it is in grave danger. Our legislators need to know just how much we care about our schools and we need their support!

Northeast Dubois is surviving like every other school corporation in this state; we are surviving by a slim margin. We are surviving because of our dedicated, caring and giving people. To all Northeast Dubois employees: Thank you for truly putting kids first! I am humbled to be a part of this school corporation. And hopefully better days are ahead! Let’s keep working together for all our students!

Thank you,

William G . Hochgesang,
Superintendent, Northeast Dubois ​”

The School Reform Commission of Philadelphia, controlled by the state, recently canceled the teachers’ contract to extract savings from the teachers’ benefits to plug a huge budget gap created by Governor Corbett’s $1 billion in cuts to education in the state. Corbett apparently hopes to privatize as many public schools as possible during his tenure. He likes to blame teachers for budget crises instead of his budget cuts. He is up for re-election in a few weeks. He should lose. He is a disaster for public education.

For Immediate Release
October 15, 2014

Contact:
Kate Childs Graham
202-615-2424
kchilds@aft.org
http://www.aft.org

American Federation of Teachers Launches Political Ad Buy on Philly School Crisis

WASHINGTON— The American Federation of Teachers Committee on Political Education has launched an ad buy that tells the true story of the teachers’ contract in Philadelphia. The six-figure radio ad buy—which features Philadelphia educators Steve Flemming and Sharnae Wilson—started airing in the Philadelphia media market Oct. 14.

“You have to wonder why Gov. Corbett’s School Reform Commission is more determined to misrepresent contract negotiations as a pretext for imposing concessions than to work with the teachers and support staff in Philadelphia who have been the glue holding schools together,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Gov. Corbett has been blaming and attacking them for months on end. Now, weeks before he is up for re-election, his School Reform Commission pulls this stunt. It’s unacceptable and voters won’t stand for it.”

“Something doesn’t add up,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan. “We put $24 million in healthcare savings and $10 million in wage freezes on the table 14 months ago. The School Reform Commission refused the money and then stopped negotiating altogether in July. If they were serious about helping kids, they would work with us, not try to break us.”

Ad script

Steve: My name is Steve and I teach third grade. I absolutely love teaching.

Sharnae: My name is Sharnae. My passion has always been teaching.

Steve: The budget cuts are having a huge impact.

Sharnae: There are too many students in the classroom. We have to buy our own supplies.

Narrator: From old textbooks to outdated equipment to overcrowded classrooms, our Philadelphia teachers are up against many challenges … and yet they keep going.

Steve: We teach our hearts out every single day.

Sharnae: Hoping things will get better.

Narrator: Gov. Corbett cut $1 billion from Pennsylvania’s schools. Fourteen months ago, Philadelphia teachers put millions in healthcare savings on the table. But Gov. Corbett’s School Reform Commission refused to accept their offer. And now? The School Reform Commission is trying to pull the plug on our teachers’ contract. Choosing to spend money in the courtroom instead of the classroom.

Sharnae: The students are suffering.

Steve: Something must change.

Narrator: Send a message to Gov. Corbett and the SRC. Tell them to stand with our kids, our schools and our teachers. Vote Nov. 4.

Paid for by American Federation of Teachers Committee on Political Education. The American Federation of Teachers is responsible for the content of this ad.

Click here to listen to the ad.

###

Hannah Oh, of State Budget Solutions, wonders whether states and districts can afford the required technology.

Question: why should all tests be taken online? Whose idea was that? Why shouldn’t the federal government pay for the new technology? Why the windfall for the tech industry?

Florida never ceases to amaze. In 2012, the voters overwhelmingly defeated a constitutional amendment to permit school vouchers, yet the Legislature keeps finding ingenious ways to siphon off public funds for vouchers.

 

Now, Julie Delegal writes, a local school board member–presumably elected to strengthen and support his district’s public schools–has come out strongly in opposition to the Florida School Boards Association’s lawsuit against private school vouchers.

 

What you need to know to understand this story is that former Governor Jeb Bush loves vouchers, and everyone on his team does what Jeb wants.

 

This is how her article begins. It is worth reading it all to see how the privatization movement is trying to starve public education and send money to unaccountable private schools:

 

Duval County School board member Jason Fischer is a nice young man. But in politics, I’ve learned, it’s the nice young men you have to watch.
His most recent actions reveal that he’s a foot soldier in the war to destroy public education. And his bread may be getting buttered by lieutenants in the Jeb-Bush-brand, school privatization movement — the ones who are affiliated with his employer, Uretek Holdings.
Fischer’s recent activities put him squarely in the camp that has been systematically destroying Florida’s public schools for more than a decade. As both governor and puppet-master, Bush has overseen the implementation of a punitive school-grades system and an overreaching teacher-accountability scheme.
Meanwhile, the Bush camp has promoted privatization — and the funding choices that go with it – while the Legislature has been starving our public schools. Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s claims that he’s boosted spending for education, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that, in real dollars, per pupil spending in Florida public schools is still not up to pre-recessionary levels.
Fischer has come out strongly against the lawsuit filed by the Florida School Boards Association, which questions the constitutionality of Florida’s private-school voucher program. He not only published a guest editorial in the Jacksonvlle Times Union, he also asked his fellow public school board members to pass a resolution condemning the suit.
Voucher funding now drains state coffers by more than $300 million yearly.
Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is on record saying that privatization — voucher schools, charter schools, etc. — could siphon away up to $70 million from Duval next year.
With support from the FEA, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Florida PTA, and other education advocates, the FSBA is asking a Leon County judge to declare the tax credit voucher program unconstitutional on two grounds. Plaintiffs say that by permitting corporations to pay their taxes to the voucher program called “Step Up for Students,” instead of to the Florida treasury, the program creates a separate, shadow school system. The Florida Constitution, the suit points out, calls for a single, “high quality,” and “uniform” public school system.
The Constitution also forbids aid to religious institutions, and the majority of schools funded by “Step Up” are religious schools.
The response to the lawsuit from voucher supporters is, essentially, “You’re picking on poor children who need to have ‘choice,’ you big meanies.”

 

Is there hope for public education in Florida? Yes. Parents must organize and fight this attack on their public schools. School boards must be vigilant against privatization. Working together, they stopped the “parent trigger” twice in the Legislature. They have the power, and they can’t let down their guard for a minute. The privatization movement never rests, and neither should the defenders of public education.

 

 

Philadelphia has been under state control since 1998, imposed in the midst of a financial crisis. A School Reform Commission was created to govern the schools. The city schools have been in financial crisis ever since, with the state providing little financial support. Under the current administration of Governor Tom Corbett, the Philadelphia public schools have been stripped to the bone, lacking essential resources. Corbett has slashed the state budget for education while lowering corporate taxes and refusing to tax the corporations that are hydrofracking across the state.

At one point, the state-appointed superintendent was Paul Vallas, who launched an experiment in privatization. The district’s public schools outperformed the privately run schools. Currently, the business and civic leaders of the city have advocated for more charters, even though several of the city’s charters have been investigated for financial misdeeds. They seem sure that privatization is the cure, despite the absence of evidence for their belief.

The School Reform Commission, trying to close the deficit created by Governor Corbett, canceled the teachers’ contract unilaterally. This follows on thousands of layoffs. The SRC will increase teachers’ payments to their health care and phase out benefits for retirees. Salaries will not be cut. State and city officials defended the action, saying it would save money and help balance the budget. It is not clear whether the SRC has the legal authority to cancel the contract unilaterally.

“The Notebook” reports on the disgraceful funding of schools in Pennsylvania, especially Philadelphia.

Corporate tax breaks mean more to Governor Corbett and the Legislature than children. Public schools don’t make campaign contributions. Charter operators and corporations do.

Says “The Notebook”:

“It’s hard to overstate the deplorable conditions facing Philadelphia school children again this fall: another year of bare-bones education, overcrowded classrooms, and gaps in essential services like counseling and nursing.

“But Philadelphia is by no means the only Pennsylvania district to see budgets slashed and the jobs of teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors eliminated. Districts across the state are reeling from four years of austerity. Here’s how some were responding this summer:

“Cutting activities: More than one-fourth of districts were expecting to cut extracurricular activities this year, according to a survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers.

“Laying off teachers: Allentown’s school district axed more than 60 teaching positions – on top of more than 400 cut in the three prior years.

“Eliminating the arts: A district near Scranton announced it can no longer afford music instruction for students through 2nd grade.

“Something is seriously wrong with this picture. Pennsylvania is not a poor state and is situated in one of the richest countries in the world. But many districts can’t provide our children with school personnel we once took for granted. Not to mention books, technology – and in some cases, soap and toilet paper.

“The Corbett administration would like us to believe that the problem in Philadelphia is that teachers haven’t sacrificed financially. But teachers deserve to be adequately compensated for their vital work and are right to resist a race to the bottom in education spending.”

Corbett is a disgrace.

Politico.com reviews a number of governor’s races around the country, and here is the takeaway: governors who cut education funding are on the defensive, even insisting that they didn’t do it.

Consider this:

” The fight is fierce in Pennsylvania, where Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting $1 billion in education funding, forcing 20,000 teachers out of the classroom and prompting 70 percent of school districts to increase class sizes [http://bit.ly/1llmers]. Corbett has countered with an ad accusing Wolf “and his special-interest groups” of spending millions to mislead the public, claiming that funding during his tenure as governor has increased each year to its highest level ever [ http://bit.ly/1rs9rXY%5D. But it’s Wolf who’s resonating with voters – he’s up about 17 percentage points in the polls [http://bit.ly/1rsawPz].

“- Check out this new roundup of campaign trail reaction to GOP governors who’ve cut education funding, exclusive to POLITICO [http://politico.pro/1wLJO4C]. American Bridge President Brad Woodhouse tells us governors like Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker are getting “slammed … dealing a major blow to their electoral futures.”

On California it is a close race for state superintendent between educator Tom Torlakson and investment bbanker-charter cheerleader Mardhall The fight is fierce in Pennsylvania, where Democratic challenger Tom Wolf is accusing Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting $1 billion in education funding, forcing 20,000 teachers out of the classroom and prompting 70 percent of school districts to increase class sizes [http://bit.ly/1llmers]. Corbett has countered with an ad accusing Wolf “and his special-interest groups” of spending millions to mislead the public, claiming that funding during his tenure as governor has increased each year to its highest level ever [ http://bit.ly/1rs9rXY%5D. But it’s Wolf who’s resonating with voters – he’s up about 17 percentage points in the polls [http://bit.ly/1rsawPz].

- Check out this new roundup of campaign trail reaction to GOP governors who’ve cut education funding, exclusive to POLITICO [http://politico.pro/1wLJO4C]. American Bridge President Brad Woodhouse tells us governors like Rick Scott, Sam Brownback and Scott Walker are getting “slammed … dealing a major blow to their electoral futures.”

In California, it is a right race for superintendent between educator Tom Torlakson and privatizer Marshall Tuck. The future if public education in that state hangs in the balance. If Tuck wins, expect more charter schools and attacks in due process rights for teachers.

Professor Helen Ladd of Duke University, internationally renowned economist of education, and her husband Edward Fiske, former education editor of the New York Times, recently wrote about a sneaky move by the North Carolina legislature to undermine the funding of children in public schools. Not content to fund charters and vouchers, the legislature is directly attacking the basic funding formula for the state public system. The overwhelming majority of children in the state attend public schools. Why do their parents elect these people who short-change public education?

Ladd and Fiske write:

“In a last-minute change that was taken with no hearings and no prior publicity, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has undermined the fundamental building block of school finance in North Carolina.

“Ever since the state took over responsibility from the local districts for funding public schools during the Great Depression, state funding in North Carolina has been based on the number of students served. When a local district’s school rolls increased or decreased, the state would adjust the funding up or down accordingly, using a variety of formulas, all of them driven by the number of students.

“Under legislation enacted last month, the legislature has scrapped this system. From now on, every spring the state will make an initial commitment of state funds to districts for the following year based on the number of students currently enrolled rather than, as in the past, on their projected enrollments. In other words, districts with growing enrollments will no longer be guaranteed an increase in per pupil funds to cover the costs of educating the additional students.

“Any additional funds will have to be negotiated as part of the legislature’s more general budgetary process later in the year.

“Local and state school finance officers describe this change, seemingly quite technical in nature, as the most fundamental, even “drastic,” change in school finance in North Carolina in nearly a century. It constitutes a direct attack on the state’s ability to carry out its constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education to all children in the state.

“Here’s how the system has worked since 1933. Every February or March the Department of Public Instruction notifies local districts what their per pupil allotments will be for the coming school year. The calculation is based on the prior year’s statewide per pupil funding levels or a range of expenditures, from teachers to textbooks, multiplied by the number of students projected for the district for the following year. Districts then use this figure as they construct their budgets and make plans for hiring teachers and other spending decisions.

“Now that the legislature has struck down this system, districts with growing enrollments will no longer be guaranteed a proportionate increase in funding to cover their additional students.

“The legislature will still have the option, through its budgetary process, to provide additional funding, but it will have no obligation to do so. Funding to cover growing enrollments will have to be negotiated and compete with other state priorities.

“The practical implications of policy change are huge for two reasons. First, it undercuts the basic pupil-based structure for distributing state funds to local districts that has served the state well for many decades. Second, it undermines the ability of district officials to do responsible financial planning. Whereas districts normally hire teachers for the coming year in the spring, they will now have to wait until the legislature gets around to adopting a new budget, which this year was August, before they can make firm commitments.

“Perhaps the most far-reaching aspect of the new policy is that it undermines the state’s constitutionally mandated commitment to provide sound basic education to all young people in North Carolina. While politicians in the past have debated about what constitutes adequate per pupil funding, now, for the first time, they will also be debating whether to appropriate any additional funding simply to cover the costs of additional students. Such funding will now be a matter of political give and take.

“The new policy will clearly have the most obvious effect on districts with growing student populations. Although a majority of North Carolina school districts, especially those in rural areas, are currently experiencing population declines, the overall number of students in the state continues to increase, and six of the eight largest districts are dealing with a growing number of students. Wake County schools are projected to see an increase of more than 8,000 students over the next three years, while Charlotte-Mecklenburg is facing growth of more than 9,000 during the same period. Even districts with declining school populations will be hurt because available state funds will have to be spread among a larger total student population….

“So why would Republican leaders adopt a policy that weakens the state’s ability to provide quality education for all students and makes it more difficult for district officials to engage in responsible planning? Perhaps one answer is that, since the large tax cuts Republicans implemented last year have reduced the revenue available for major state expenditure items such as education, they are now scrambling to find new ways of reducing support for education without seeming to be doing so. A related answer lies in the overall thrust of their education policies.

“Since taking power in 2012 Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican leaders have enacted a series of efforts aimed at weakening the state’s commitment to public education. They have, among other things, reduced the number of classroom teachers, teacher assistants, assistant principals, guidance counselors and nurses in North Carolina schools They have cut funding for textbooks and other learning materials and eviscerated teacher professional development – all the while giving favored treatment to charters and adopting a voucher program that diverts funds from public schools and puts them in the hands of religious and other private schools immune from public accountability…..

“The sleight of hand continues.”

Helen F. Ladd is professor of Public Policy and Economics at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Edward B. Fiske, formerly Education Editor of The New York Times, edits the Fiske Guide to Colleges.

Read more here:

It is not bad enough that Governor Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania legislature are starving the Philadelphia public schools of basic necessities. Here comes the charter lobby to launch an expensive media campaign to persuade parents to pull their kids out of the public schools and put them into charters.

Politico reports:

“SCHOOL CHOICE HITS THE AIRWAVES: Proponents of school choice have launched a major PR blitz in Philadelphia. For the next four weeks, they’ll saturate both morning TV and the evening news, on all four major channels, with 30-second spots featuring parents talking about why their kids are thriving in charter schools. Similar messages will pop up on Twitter and in web ads, and organizers are considering adding radio, too. The goal: Prod civic leaders and school officials to open up the system by making it easier for students to transfer among district-run schools – and, above all, by authorizing more privately-run charters. The campaign is organized by Choice Media, a nonprofit news service that focuses heavily on school choice. Executive director Bob Bowdon won’t name his funders; he told Morning Education that he wants to keep the focus on parents and students, not the money behind the (decidedly pricey) campaign. Watch the ads:http://bit.ly/1s9H2rw and http://bit.ly/1pkXhKG”

Bob Bowdon is a choice zealot. in 2009, he produced a movie called “The Cartel,” mostly about public education in New Jersey. He portrayed the teachers’ union as akin to a mafia-type organization and the public schools as rife with corruption. His solution: vouchers and charters. He surely won’t mention the 18 Philadelphia charter schools that were the subject of federal investigation for financial mis dealing.

Nevada is giving more than $1 Billion in tax breaks to woo automaker Tesla to build a huge factory to produce electric batteries.

The deal is controversial but not among Nevada legislators, who expect it to produce economic benefits and 6,500 jobs.

Education also produces economic benefits and jobs, but legislators don’t mind underfunding their schools, increasing class sizes, and short changing the next generation of Nevadans.

The Néw York Times says that Nevada is paying about $200,000 for each job that might be created.

Did Tesla really need the tax break to locate in Nevada?

“Richard Florida, a global research professor at New York University and a frequent critic of development incentives, said the factory would probably have been built in Nevada even without the generous subsidy.

“They had the site picked out; they started on it,” he said in an email. Companies like Tesla “exploit that information asymmetry,” creating uncertainty in a potential host state, he said. “They know where they want to locate, and then essentially game the process to get incentives from states. It is wasteful and it should be banned.”

Angie Sullivan, a teacher in Nevada who keeps me informed, sent out this Roseanne Barr video as a reaction to the Tesla handout: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0hmfBtk0WaE

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