Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Phillip Cantor explains why the Chicago Teachers Union rejected Rahm Emanuel’s contract offer.

The offer had some good things in it, but what killed it was a “poison pill” provision:

“The CPS offer basically froze compensation for most teachers for four years. I was OK with that… even though CPS has taken about $2 Billion from teachers in the past five years. I like the idea of getting rid of the pension pick-up, but don’t want teachers to suffer 7% pay cuts to achieve it. Some teachers would have come out with a tiny increase over 4 years, other teachers – longer serving teachers- would have had to take a significant pay cut.

“CPS’s offer also included a requirement – added at the last minute – that over 2000 CTU members take early retirement with the provision that if that number didn’t leave the profession the contract would be re-opened. In other words… the whole thing would be scrapped. To me this seems like a poison pill. How could CTU agree to a contract that forced a 10% reduction in teachers and school staff? How could CTU agree to a contract which had a self-destruct clause in it?”

So, layoffs now or layoffs later.

The CTU bargaining team unanimously rejected the deal. And now the CEO is threatening to impose deep cuts and layoffs without a contract.

CTU will hold a mass rally on Thursday afternoon to protest.

Mike Klonsky reports that Forrest Claypool, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, reacted to the Chicago Teachers Union’s rejection of his contract offer with a threat of layoffs and cuts.

 

 

“A letter sent by Forrest Claypool to the union Tuesday said that within 30 days, CPS would stop paying the teachers’ share of pension contributions (as if they’d been paying them up until now), order school administrators to cut $50 million by laying off 1,000 teachers and “re-shuffle” $50 million that goes toward general education funding to schools. That re-shuffling of Title I and II funds will hit hardest at kids with special needs and English-language learners.

 

“Claypool says he will drop the threats if the union would only agree to his contract offer which CTU’s bargaining team unanimously rejected. I believe that’s called blackmail. Or maybe — hostage taking.”

 

 

 

Yesterday, the Chicago Teachers Union rejected the city’s contract offer. This is the CTU explanation:

CHICAGO – After much deliberation, the Chicago Teachers Union has rejected the Board of Education’s most recent contract proposal because it does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the long-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city. Moreover, educators do not believe the Board will honor its promises because it has lacked the will to join with parents, students, community and others in identifying existing revenue solutions that can stabilize the district.

“Chicago Public Schools (CPS) challenges are a revenue-based problem because two of the three biggest cost drivers are things that have to be paid: pensions and debt service (which includes the swap termination payments),” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “The third biggest cost driver is charter school proliferation—and though they’ve promised to halt charter expansion there is a state commission that can override their decision. There are no guarantees.”

Lewis said CTU members have given more than $2 billion back to the district over the last five years, including $500 million from the 4 percent raise that was rescinded in 2011; $500 million from layoffs over this period, including from the school closings; and $1.2 billion from the three- year partial pension holiday between 2011 to 2013.

 

“Simply signing a contract with CPS will not bring them a windfall of resources from the state,” Lewis said. “We have to exhaust every option available, which includes terminating those swap deals, returning the TIFs to the schools and a financial transaction tax that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the city. Without some real movement on the revenue problems, we can’t trust that they will honor any words offered in a four-year contract deal.”

It should be noted that the CPS bond sale went south last week because investors are skittish about the real financial challenges the district faces. The downgrades came after investors’ concerns about the city’s inability to raise revenue. Also, the district is using short-term credit lines to manage cash flow because its cash flow is so limited. The money from property taxes is already spent – those short-term lines have to be repaid.

“CPS has been living on borrowing for too long,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Now to turn around and blame teachers and staff for that debt while letting bankers off the hook is not acceptable. We think bankruptcy is a bluff, but if it isn’t, the mayor and his handpicked school board need to examine our commitments to progressive revenue.”
CPS’ uses this math to plug its budget hole:

· $200 million from the state for pensions
· $150 million from the state in a school aid formula change
· $170 million from a new local property tax levy for pensions
· $150 to $175 million from eliminating the teacher’s pension pickup and from increased healthcare costs.

“That’s about $700 million of the claimed $800 million deficit,” said Sharkey. “They want us to foot two chunks of that through property tax increases and classrooms cuts. We need a big fix to school funding at the state level through progressive taxes on wealthy people. The Board cannot continue to balance its budget on teachers and students by cutting our compensation and eliminating vital education services such as special education.”

 

Today, CTU took action to protest the city’s actions:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
Feb. 2, 2016 312-329-6250

 

CTU to close Bank of America account and challenge City of Chicago and CPS to do the same

News conference and action at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday

 

CHICAGO – The day after the Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool declared war on public school educators by threatening another $100 million in classroom cuts and the snatching of their pension pick-up benefit, the Chicago Teachers Union will engage in a series of non-violent direct actions to call attention to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s refusal to explore every revenue option available to him to stabilize the school district. Instead of working with the CTU to return toxic swap payments, tax the wealthy and restore the TIFS to the school district, the mayor would rather have Governor Bruce Rauner send in the Illinois National Guard to take over CPS.

WHO:
CTU Officers; toxic swap experts; community allies and others
WHAT:
Will close its account with Bank of America in the amount of over $700,000 and redirect those monies to Amalgamated Bank
WHEN:
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
10:00 a.m.
WHERE:
Bank of America

35 S. LaSalle Street, Chicago
WHY:
Bank of America and other financial institutions that sold CPS toxic interest rate swaps are demanding a payout of at least $228 million, which is almost the exact same amount as the recent cuts enacted by the Board to our schools and special education at the same time. In total, the City and CPS is expecting to lose $1.2 billion on the swaps. CTU has asked the Board to be a partner in challenging these rip off, toxic swap deals for years.

 

###

 

 

Mercedes Schneider posts that Pearson is downsizing by 4,000 jobs worldwide. In addition, it is shedding its CFO. She attributes Pearson’s bad economic news to its bet on Common Core. A bad bet.

Here is the BBC account.

According to The Guardian, Detroit teachers plan a sick-out onMonday.

 

Detroit public schools are in horrible shape. When the state took over, the district had a surplus but now it has a huge deficit.

 

“Detroit’s public schools have been a problem for Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, a Republican who ushered the city into the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. Most observers agree the success of Detroit is contingent upon whether its schools can be fixed.

 

“Snyder has made a $715m proposal to overhaul the failing district in 2016. It has so far received little support in the Michigan legislature.

 

“Asked about the spate of sickouts, David Murray, a spokesman for Snyder, said: “Detroit children need to be in school. In addition to their education, it’s where many children get their best meals and better access to the social services they need. There are certainly problems that [need] to be addressed, quickly.”

 

“Snyder’s plan would eliminate debt in the district that is equal to $1,100 per child, Murray said. That was “money that could be better spent in the classroom, lowering class sizes, raising pay and improving benefits”.

 

“Tom Pedroni, an associate professor at Wayne State University, said the governor’s plan was commendable for “taking seriously the notion that Detroit public schools needs debt relief”.

 

“We know that with the current debt figures if the issue is not addressed soon, Detroit public schools students will be losing [nearly half of the state’s per-pupil funding total],” Pedroni said, adding: “It’s unconscionable that students lose that to debt service.”

 

“The problem with Snyder’s plan, Pedroni said, was that it relied on governing the school district with a board of appointees, not elected members. Since 2009, under a state-appointed emergency manager, the elected board has been effectively neutered.

 

“There’s currently a lot of debate over whether those appointees for the new Detroit school board [in Snyder’s proposal] would be mayoral appointees or gubernatorial appointees,” Pedroni said.

 

“But to me, really all of those are inexcusable because what I think we see happening in the district in Detroit is really an indictment of the sort of heavy-handed power from the executive branch without any checks or balances.”

 

“Pedroni said this was similar to what has taken place in the nearby city of Flint. There, a state-appointed emergency manager has been alleged to have decided to use a local river as the city’s main water source. The move has been linked to an increased level of lead in household water supply.

 

“When in 1999 the state first stepped in and overhauled the governance of Detroit schools, the district’s budget carried a $93m-surplus. According to an analysis by the Citizens Research Council, a Michigan-based policy research group, in the most recent fiscal year the district reported a budget deficit of nearly $216m.

 

“An estimated 41 cents out of every state dollar appropriated for students is spent on debt service, according to the council’s report.

 

“Despite being under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager since 2009, Detroit public schools, the state’s largest district, is failing academically and financially,” the report said.

“Despite a depleted school enrollment, class sizes have increased and teachers have repeatedly taken pay cuts. Only one-third of high school students are proficient in reading, according to Snyder’s office.

 

“Teachers say students are being judged unfairly. In an open letter to the Detroit public schools emergency manager, Darnell Earley, who blasted teachers for the sickout protests last week, fourth-grade teacher Pam Namyslowski said pupils had been “set up to fail in every way”.

 

“We ARE [the students’] voice,” Namyslowski wrote. “We are on the front line, working side by side with them every day, trying our best to overcome numerous obstacles.

 

“In the winter, we often work in freezing rooms with our coats on with them. In the summertime, we survive with them in stifling heat and humidity in temperatures that no one should have to work in. We wipe their tears and listen when they are upset.”

 

“Successes in the classroom typically go unnoticed, Namyslowski continued, as “most cannot be measured or displayed on a data wall”.

Claymont City Schools demanded that the state of Ohio refund $2.6 million that was subtracted from its budget to pay for charter schools and online schools. When a city leaves the district for a charter school, her funding goes with her (including local funding), but the district still has to pay for staff, maintenance, and services. Other districts have sent a bill to the state for reimbursement of the losses that the state is encouraging.

 

Charter schools in Ohio have a reputation for poor academic performance and, in some cases, financial malfeasance and political maneuvering to avoid accountability.

 

Following a growing trend statewide, Claymont City Schools has billed the Ohio Department of Education for the $2.6 million the district says it has lost to charter schools since 2002.
“We’re just trying to make a statement — not that we’re going to get the money back,” Claymont Superintendent John Rocchi said.
His district is losing money to online schools and charter schools, some of which have a poor academic reputation.
“We don’t agree with that,” Rocchi said. “We think local tax dollars should stay with the kids in our district.”
The board of education unanimously approved a resolution Monday authorizing Claymont’s treasurer to invoice the state “for all the funds extracted from the Claymont City Schools District for charter school students.”
In response, Kim Norris, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education, said, “The Ohio Department of Education does not establish funding for schools.”
Claymont is not the first public school district in Ohio to ask for its money back. In March, the Woodbridge Local Schools Board of Education near Akron billed the state for $5 million. In November,
Parma City Schools sent an invoice to the Ohio Department of Education seeking a refund of $46.1 million.
Woodbridge’s chief financial officer, Deanna Levenger, told the Washington Post in October that $6,890 is transferred from the school district for each student who attends a charter school. The state only provides about $680 per child in basic education funding, so the rest of that amount comes from local tax dollars.
Rocchi said the money Claymont has lost to charter schools could be put back into the district’s budget and used for such things as new technology and facility upgrades.
“Local taxes need to stay local,” he said.

 

What sense does it make to cut the funding for the majority of public school students so that a small percentage of students can attend low-performing charter schools and online charters?

 

 

 

 

Matthew L. Mandel, a National Board Certified Teacher in Philadelphia, is dumbfounded that Superintendent William Hite got a new contract when the district is in disarray. Please note, when you open the article, that the newspaper/website added a photograph with a caption that contradicts what Matthew wrote. In the article, he explained why it was too soon to give a new five-year contract to the Superintendent but the caption reads: “Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. deserved to have his contract extended.” The point of Matthew’s article is: No, he doesn’t.

 

Mandel writes:

 

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. referred to a recent education bill passed by the Pennsylvania Senate as a “recipe for disaster.” That phrase also describes the School Reform Commission’s decision to extend Hite’s contract by five years, with two years remaining on the original.

 

In a statement, SRC Chair Marjorie Neff said it was the right time to lock in Hite for the long term, lauding him for demonstrating “strong leadership through an extraordinarily difficult time.” I wonder if she feels the same about losing scores of superb classroom teachers who left to work somewhere they feel valued and respected, or the many more who retired because they couldn’t take the conditions and mistreatment in the School District of Philadelphia anymore.

 

Neff, a retired teacher and principal, nearly discarded 50 years of collective bargaining progress when she supported cancellation of the teachers’ contract last year. She called that decision one of the most difficult of her life. She doesn’t appear nearly as troubled, however, that a district on financial life-support has spent millions on bad contracts and the endless pursuit of judicial relief from its obligations.

 

One could argue that Hite has achieved everything he was hired to do and, thus, has earned another contract….

 

 

I’m puzzled by the apparent urgency to get this contract extension done now, with no state budget, stagnant test scores, unhealthy and deplorable conditions in school buildings, and taxpayers who believe they have no voice in education decisions. Could it be that the district was afraid of losing him? If so, it points to another troubling pattern that has festered under state control of Philadelphia’s schools.
In a district with the highest child poverty rate in America – and dedicated but demoralized employees that have gone four years without a raise – the unelected and unaccountable SRC continues to place its emphasis on meeting the needs of central office management and charter-school operators rather than of the children and educators who spend their lives in Philly’s public schools.

 

“This contract extension is just the latest example of how the SRC’s priorities don’t align with what’s important to the district’s educators, children, and caregivers. And the latest example of this dichotomy should serve as a rallying cry to return to local control of our schools.

 

“Our district educates some of the nation’s neediest children, but lacks even basic supplies and enough critical staff to compensate for the unfair hand dealt to many of our kids. Yet, the SRC has prioritized a contract extension that affords Hite the security that Philadelphia’s teachers, children, and caregivers can only dream of.”

 
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20151221_Hite_contract_deal_shows_SRC_s_misplaced_priorities.html#qubrOcQL8XRcy17G.99

 

 

Scott McLeod, a blogger in Iowa, explains how politicians are following a script that details how to kill public education. Watch what they do. The same game plan is being repeated in other states.

McLeod knows that Iowa is not the worst-hit state, but it is being targeted for privatization.

Follow the steps. See if your state is suffering the same treatment at the hands of “reformers.”

He writes:

*underfund schools so that they can’t keep up with operational costs, will struggle to meet educational mandates, and will have to reduce personnel (bonus: fewer union members!)

*maintain claims about ‘fiscal accountability’ and future revenue concerns, even when they require ignoring strong revenue generation and projections

*reduce existing revenue streams in order to bolster claims of fiscal hardship (bonus: less government!)

*employ bait-and-switch funding mechanisms that supplant rather than supplement and/or disappear at the last minute

*ignore legal requirements to timely establish school funding levels that would allow districts to adequately plan and budget

*implement new, supplemental ‘bread and circuses’ initiatives (say, STEM or financial literacy) that distract the general public from the year-to-year erosion of base school funding

*give as little policy attention as possible to the known educational needs of students who live in poverty or don’t speak English as their primary language (and thus struggle academically), even as those student and family populations increase markedly within the state

*deflect the blame for your underfunding of schools by alleging schools’ inefficiency and superintendents’ mismanagement

*frequently change state standards and assessments and/or make them more difficult so that educators and students struggle to keep up and have less chance of hitting the moving targets
use selective data (say, NAEP scores) to manufacture educational crises that feed your rhetoric of public school failure

*create school grading and ranking schemes that shame struggling schools, demoralize the educators within them, and alarm parents
implement teacher evaluation schemes that are guaranteed to be unfair, demoralize educators, and confuse the public

*pitch tax credits and private/religious school vouchers or ’scholarships’ (‘money that will follow students in their backpacks’) to the general public as natural recourses to the failures of public schools

*write legislation that expands public school alternatives such as charters or homeschooling, particularly ones that can siphon funds away from public schools

*create double-standard school and educator ‘accountability’ provisions that apply to public schools but not non-public alternatives

*accept policy proposals, money, and political influence from seemingly anyone other than actual educators
affiliate with anti-public-school organizations (say, ALEC) that will feed you ‘model’ legislation proposals, connect you with successful players and tactics from other states, and provide ongoing encouragement to stay the course

*hold yearly education summits at which educators can only listen passively to carefully-vetted speakers who feed your desired agendas

*publicly dismiss, disparage, intimidate, or try to silence educators, parents, researchers, and others who speak out against your policies

Governor Cuomo has called himself the “students’ lobbyist,” but if so, he is not doing a good job. He has cut school budgets with a tax cap and other mechanisms. Apparently, his idea of breaking the “public school monopoly” is to starve the public schools that 90% of the children in the state attend. This letter was sent to Governor Cuomo by the PTSA of Hastings-on-Hudson:

 
Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
℅ Lisa Eggert Litvin, Co President (917-881-3266)
hastingsonhudsonptsa@gmail.com

 

Dear Governor Cuomo:

 

We write to urge that full funding be restored to our public schools. Specifically, Foundation Aid should be paid in full to all school districts this year, and past due funds should be paid as well. In addition, funds diverted away from schools via the Gap Elimination Allowance (GEA) must be paid up, and use of the GEA must end immediately.

 

This gross underfunding all public school districts has lead to two unacceptable outcomes:

 

1. Schools statewide have been forced to cut meaningful and effective programing and staff. Class sizes have grown; language and advanced courses have been cut. Supports like summer school and after school have been cut. Positions that insure safety like bus monitors, security workers, social workers, and more have been cut or remain not fully invested. And more.

 

2. Our taxes have gone up in order to pay for the state’s shortfall. With full funding, many districts would have and should have instead seen tax decreases. As an example, had Dobbs Ferry received its full state funding in 2013-2014, it could have easily covered its budget increase of $1.5 million and avoided that year’s tax hike. But instead, the state diverted $2.25 million and Dobbs’s taxpayers were hit with a tax increase of 4.5%. (A full explanation is available at http://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/11/30/view-school-taxes-rise-state-withholds-aid/76379942/.

 

Our state is flush with funds now. During Governor Cuomo’s re-election bid, he announced that our state has a $2 billion surplus. This grew by an additional $5 billion last spring, from a legal settlement. There is no excuse whatsoever to continue shortchanging our schools and avoiding paying what has been owed over the past several years.

 

Our schools cannot handle the lack of funds — which is rightfully due to them. And our property taxpayers cannot continue to shoulder these unnecessary increases, all the cover a debt of the state, a state that promotes a surplus.

 

Sincerely,
The Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA Executive Board
Lisa Eggert Litvin and Jacqueline Weitzman, Co Presidents

Steven Singer is a teacher in Pennsylvania. This is a moving post, and he gave me permission to post it in full. It has many links. If you want to read them, open the article.

 

 

Pennsylvania lawmakers are ready to help all students across the Commonwealth – if only they can abuse, mistreat and trample some of them.

 

Which ones? The poor black and brown kids. Of course!

 

That seems to be the lesson of a school code bill passed with bipartisan support by the state Senate Thursday.

 

The legislation would require the Commonwealth to pick as many as 5 “underperforming” Philadelphia schools a year to close, charterize or just fire the principal and half the staff. It would also allow non-medically trained personnel to take an on-line course before working in the district to treat diabetic school children. And it would – of course – open the floodgates to more charter schools!

 

It’s a dumb provision, full of unsubstantiated facts, faulty logic and corporate education reform kickbacks. But that’s only the half of it!

 

The bill is part of a budget framework agreed to by Governor Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature necessary to finally pass a state-wide spending plan. The financial proposal has been held hostage for almost half a year!

 

The major sticking point has been school funding. Democrats like Wolf demand an increase. Republicans refuse. And the worst part is that the increase would only begin to heal the cuts the GOP made over the last four years.

 

Republicans just won’t clean up their own mess.

 

They slashed public school budgets by almost $1 billion per year for the last four years with disastrous consequences. Voters who could make little headway against a GOP legislature entrenched in office through gerrymandering rebelled by kicking the Republican Governor out of Harrisburg and voting in Wolf, a new chief executive who promised to support school children.

 

But for the last 5 months, the Republican-controlled legislature simply refused to spend money on – yuck – school children! Especially poor brown and black kids who rely more on state funding! Barf!

 

Finally a bargain was struck to put the money back, but only if it screws over more poor black and brown kids.

 

As usual, Philadelphia Schools are the state’s whipping boy.

 

For decades saddled with a host of social ills yet starved of resources, Philadelphia Schools simply couldn’t function on funding from an impoverished local tax base. The 8th largest school district in the country needed a financial investment from the state to make up the difference. However, in 2001 the Commonwealth decided it would only do this if it could assume control with a mostly unelected School Recovery Commission (SRC). Now after 14 years of failure, the state has decided annually to take a quintet of Philly schools away from the state and give them to – THE STATE! The State Department of Education, that is, which will have to enact one of the above terrible reforms to turn the schools around.

 

Yet each of these reforms is a bunch of baloney!

 

Hiring non-medical personnel with on-line training to treat diabetic kids!? Yes, two children died in Philly schools recently because budget cuts took away full-time school nurses. But this solution is an outrage! Try proposing it at a school for middle class or rich kids! Try proposing it for a school serving a mostly white population!

 

More charter schools!? Most new charter companies aren’t even interested in taking over Philly learning institutions. There’s no money in it! The carcass has been picked clean!

 

Privatizing public schools has never increased academic outcomes. Charter schools – at best – do no better than traditional public schools and – most often – do much worse.

 

Closing schools is a ridiculous idea, too. No school has ever been improved by being shut down. Students uprooted from their communities rarely see academic gains.

 

And firing staff because the legislature won’t provide resources is like kicking your car because you forgot to buy gas. You can’t get blood from a stone.

 

But this is what Republicans are demanding. And most of the Democrats are giving in. Every state Senator from Philadelphia voted for this plan – though reluctantly.

 

Is this really the only way to reach some kind of normalcy for the rest of the state? Do we really need to bleed Philadelphia some more before we can heal the self-inflicted wounds caused by our conservative legislators?

 

The bill includes a $100 million increase for Philadelphia Schools. But this is just healing budget cuts made to the district four years ago. Until Republicans took over the legislature, Philadelphia received this same sum from the state to help offset the vampire bite of charter schools on their shrinking budgets. Now – like all impoverished Pennsylvania schools – that charter school reimbursement is only a memory.

 

So this money only puts Philly back to where it was financially a handful of years ago when it was still struggling.

 

It’s a bad bargain for these students. Though some might argue it’s all we’ve got.

 

A sane government would increase funding to meet the needs of the students AND return the district to local control.

 

Republicans demand accountability for any increase in funding but how does this new bill do that exactly? Charter schools are not accountable to anyone but their shareholders. The School Recovery Commission has been failing for over a decade. Since most are political appointees, who are they accountable to really?

 

A duly elected school board would be accountable to residents. If voters didn’t like how they were leading the district, they could vote them out. THAT would be accountability. Not this sham blood sacrifice.

 

The state House is set to vote on this bill soon and will probably pass it, too. Maybe that’s just as well. Maybe there really is no other choice in the twisted halls of Pennsylvania politics.

 

However, let’s be honest about it. This is some classist, racist bullshit.

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