Archives for category: Budget Cuts

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.

At a public hearing, Chicago parents and teachers demanded to know why the city closed 50 public schools while opening charter schools.

“How could CPS continue to cut budgets at neighborhood schools while opening new charter and contract schools — even after shutting down a record number of schools just a year ago?

“We need to pull the money from the plan of expanding charter schools, reinvest in neighborhood schools in our communities,” said Scott Hiley, a special education teacher at Lincoln Park High School whose classes have so many desks jammed in that he has little room to move around.

“Still, “my school is fortunate. We’re still open. Kids don’t have to bring their own toilet paper,” he said at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, the West Side location of one of three simultaneous two-hour meetings held throughout the city Wednesday night on the proposed $5.76 billion spending plan.”

“That plan, to be approved on July 23 by the Board of Education, includes about $67 million in cuts to district-run neighborhood schools and $62 million in increases for charter schools over last year, including to the scandal-ridden UNO Charter Network, and the Concept Charter schools that are under federal investigation. Neighborhood high schools have suffered the largest cuts, according to budget documents. CPS links the cuts and raises to enrollment shifts.”

The audience erupted in laughter and derision at some of the officials’ efforts to justify cutting public schools while opening charter schools.

Just remember: It’s all about the kids.

Just remember: The children are our future.

In Detroit, where they enroll thousands of children who need a great education, the state-appointed emergency manager has decided to save money by increasing class size to 43. Students will not get individual attention. Students will not get the support they need. Teachers will spend time on crowd control instead of instruction.

Governor Snyder cut corporate taxes.

It’s all about the children.

Jason Carter, grandson of President Jimmy Carter, is running for governor of Georgia against incumbent Nathan Deal. Carter, elected to the state senate in 2010, is a graduate of Duke University who served in the Peace Corps in South Africa, the graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law. His wife is a high school teacher. Carter has made education a centerpiece of his campaign and has been especially critical of the devastating budget cuts imposed on the state’s public schools by Governor Deal. This year, election year, Governor Deal proposed to increase education funding, following years of budget cuts. Carter has emphasized that funding education is economic development, an investment in the future.

This showdown is a chance to build a bipartisan coalition to support public schools in every community.

Leading with His Chin: Deal’s Laughable Attack Ads

Ads Betray Vulnerability on Education Issues

ATLANTA—Two new attack ads from Gov. Nathan Deal show his campaign is desperate five months out from Election Day.

“Gov. Deal has the worst record on education in the history of this state,” said Matt McGrath, campaign manager for Carter for Governor. “It’s laughable that he thinks he can trick parents, teachers and students into believing his newfound interest in education funding is anything but an election year sham.

“That said, if Gov. Deal wants to talk about education and whose vision is better for Georgia families, we’re happy to have that debate.

“Jason has been a champion for investing in our schools. He has laid out a specific plan to make sure that students, parents and educators are treated like the priority they should be. Jason is the only candidate in this race with credibility any on education.”

Carter spoke about his plans to invest in education during a conference of Georgia school board members last week. Gov. Deal had been scheduled to speak at the same conference, but canceled at the last minute [Savannah Morning News, 6/13/14] [Creative Loafing, 6/16/14].

At the same conference, Republican State Superintendent John Barge said the governor has “a negative past in dealing with public education,” adding, “The positive things he’s to do this year will be viewed by most folks as election-year politics. And not sincere” [Creative Loafing, 6/16/14].

See below for a summary of Gov. Deal’s record on education:

Governor Deal Is Starving K-12 Education In Georgia

GOVERNOR DEAL’S ELECTION YEAR INTEREST IN K-12 EDUCATION IS TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

In an election year, Governor Deal made his first effort to close Georgia’s education funding gap, but still missed the target by three-quarters of a billion dollars [Georgia Department of Education QBE Report for 2015, accessed 6/5/14].

Forty percent of the budget increase for education in this year’s budget covers routine formula increases. The budget only restores $314 million of the year’s austerity cut of $1.06 billion. [GBPI, Jan. 2014]

Gov. Deal’s budget is failing to do what he promised it would. GBPI: “[T]he governor’s [FY 2015 budget] proposal does include money for salary adjustments for state employees, Board of Regents staff and K-12. But the increase is probably not enough for every state employee and teacher to receive even a token pay raise” [GBPI, 02/06/14]. This week, the Muscogee County School District announced it is laying off 42 employees after losing $1 million in state funding this year [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 6/16/14]. Other districts across the state are seeking waivers to raise their class sizes to as high as 36 students per class [WSAV, 6/10/14] [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 4/28/13].

GOVERNOR DEAL HAS UNDERFUNDED K-12 EDUCATION IN GEORGIA BY BILLIONS

On average, Governor Deal has underfunded K-12 education in Georgia by over $1 billion per year since taking office [Georgia Department of Education QBE Reports for 2012-2013, accessed 4/16/14].

After just four years in office, Gov. Deal is responsible for more than half of the total austerity cuts (about $4.1 billion). In the 13 years since “austerity cuts” to K-12 education began in FY 2003, Georgia has underfunded Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding by a total of over $7.5 billion. Between FY 2003 (when “austerity cuts” began) and FY 2011 (when Gov. Deal took office)—a period encompassing the worst years of the Great Recession—the average QBE shortfall was just $380 million per year. Nathan Deal’s average has been more than 250 percent higher than that, at just over $1 billion per year [Georgia Department of Education QBE Reports for 2003-2015, accessed 6/5/14].

LOCAL TAXES ARE GOING UP, BECAUSE THE GOVERNOR HAS FAILED TO ADEQUATELY FUND K-12 EDUCATION AT THE STATE LEVEL

At least 91 Georgia school districts have had to raise local tax rates between 2010 and 2013, with at least 38 having done so in the last year alone “to offset the combined financial pressure of increased expenses and deep state budget cuts” [GBPI, 11/13; Georgia Department of Revenue Tax Digest Millage Rates for 2010-2013, accessed 6/12/14.]

THE NUMBER OF SCHOOL DAYS IN MOST GEORGIA DISTRICTS HAS FALLEN BELOW 180 DAYS, WHILE CLASS SIZES HAVE GROWN AND PROGRAMS ARE CUT

Each year since Gov. Deal took office, more than two-thirds of Georgia school districts have not taught the 180-day school year, with several districts cutting 30 or more days [Data from the Georgia Department of Education; GBPI, 11/13].

More than 95 percent of Georgia school districts surveyed by GBPI have increased class size since 2009 [GBPI, 11/13].

Public school class sizes in Georgia have increased as districts struggle with funding cuts and falling tax revenue. AP reports: “about 80 percent of Georgia’s 180 school districts approved plans to surpass class size caps last year. Districts are allowed to surpass class size caps as long as they get the decision to do so approved during a public meeting.” [AP, 7/28/13]

Eighty percent of surveyed Georgia school districts will furlough teachers this year, and the majority are slashing funding for professional development [GBPI, 11/13].

About 42 percent of surveyed districts are reducing or eliminating art or music programs and 62 percent are eliminating elective courses. More than 38 percent of surveyed districts are cutting back on programs that help low-performing students [GBPI, 11/13].

Increasing class sizes is a problem with educators trying to teach a more rigorous curriculum. AP: “[S]tudent performance diminishes when class size increases, and overcrowded classrooms can lead to a loss of discipline and more disruptions.” [AP, 7/28/13]

HAVING DRASTICALLY UNDERFUNDED K-12 EDUCATION FOR YEARS, GOV. DEAL NOW WANTS LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO TAKE THE BLAME FOR TEACHER FURLOUGHS AND STAGNANT TEACHER PAY

On his website, Gov. Deal attempts to wash his hands of responsibility for the tough choices his chronic underfunding of education has foisted on local school boards and says questions as to how to make too little money go far enough to meet each district’s needs are “up to your local school board to decide . . .” The website suggests that, if a citizen, parent, teacher or other stakeholder in Georgia’s public education system wants to see teachers better compensated for the critical work they do, he or she should join Gov. Deal in “calling on the school boards to pay teachers more.” [nathandeal.org/payteachersmore, accessed 6/12/14]

“[T]he Nathan Deal campaign is attempting to turn back [criticism that Georgia school systems are “broke” by pointing] dissatisfied parents to local school boards.” From the AJC: “Now the Nathan Deal campaign is attempting to turn back [criticism that local school systems are “broke”] – with this online petition that points dissatisfied parents to local school boards.” [AJC, 2/7/14]

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Jennifer L. Owens
Deputy Political Director
Jason Carter for Governor
jennifer@carterforgovernor.com
Cell: (404) 625-4377

A report by the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office in New York City has found that the New York City public schools are experiencing extensive overcrowding, even as federal and state funding has diminished.

 

Nearly 450,000 students were enrolled in overcrowded buildings, defined as those at greater than 102.5 percent capacity, in the 2012-13 school year, the most recent covered by the report from the agency, the Independent Budget Office. The average class size is rising, too, particularly in the lower grades: The average elementary and middle school class had 25.5 children, up from 24.6 just two years before. This was true even as the total number of students in traditional and charter schools has hovered around 1.1 million for more than a decade, and as the city has created tens of thousands of new seats. Advocates have fought for years to get the city to use more state aid, known as Contracts for Excellence money, to reduce class sizes. Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy group, said the problem of overcrowding persisted for several reasons. First, she said, the city has been in the habit of placing more than one school into the same building — known as co-location — which leads to classrooms’ being converted into administrative offices or specialty spaces. Also, she said, the number of teachers has dropped — a topic the Independent Budget Office report also touched upon. The report said the ranks of general education teachers declined by about 2,300 between 2010 and 2013, but it noted that the number of special education teachers rose by about 1,400 in the same period. Ms. Haimson said more than 330,000 students were in classes of 30 or more last year. “That really shows how extreme the situation has become,” she said.

 

The number of homeless children increased from 66,000 to 77,000. The number of principals soared as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed 102 schools and replaced them with 432  small schools, each of which has its own principal and administrative staff.

The Pennsylvania legislature is hammering out the state budget, and it looks like education will once again face budget cuts. Why are legislators prepared to sacrifice the future?

This letter was sent yesterday to all Pennsylvania state legislators in the 5-county region as well as to press representatives by Higher Education United for Public Education, a group of educators at colleges and universities in the metropolitan region of Philadelphia. 150 professors, instructors, and administrators from 27 colleges/universities in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties signed on in support. Monday is the deadline for the state budget, and things do not look good for public education funding in Pennsylvania.

A small group of activists is conducting a sit-in in Governor Tom Corbett’s office in Harrisburg to demand a restoration of $1 billion in budget cuts to public schools.

Those of us who remember the 1960s recall that this tactic was frequently used by civil rights groups and anti-war activists to draw attention to their cause. It was effective in encouraging others to become involved and active.

 

 

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ron Whitehorne, 215-779-2672, ronw292@gmail.com

Jesse Kudler, 617-974-3684, jesse@fightforphilly.org

Happening now: Education activists sitting in at Gov. Corbett’s office until statewide education cuts are reversed through fair revenue plan
Parents, students, teachers, and activists demand full and equal funding for schools and fair revenue from taxing fracking, expanding Medicaid, freezing business tax cuts

Harrisburg, PA – Statewide education advocates escalated their fight for full funding for education Thursday evening, announcing a sit-in at the governor’s office until he supports undoing $1 billion in cuts to education statewide and raising revenue through fair measures. Parents and activists from across the state are staying at the Capitol every day until the governor signs a budget that restores funds for education and human services by making businesses and the gas industry pay their fair share.

Activists from across the state announced their plans at a 4pm press conference in the Capitol Rotunda. “The governor’s priorities are the problem. The budget is not the problem,” said Susan Spicka, a public school parent and Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley community liaison. “Last week, my daughter turned to me and asked me what would be cut next.”

“Our babies are dying because we don’t have enough nurses,” said “Irene Habermann, Gamaliel National Education Chair, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) Education Chair.

Kia Hinton, a Philadelphia public school parent and Board Chair of Action United, announced the sit-in at the governor’s office. “I’m joining the sit-in because I want lawmakers to look at our faces and remember the students and parents across the state when they vote on the budget,” she said. “Our education system is on the brink after devastating cuts, and our children deserve better. We’re not going to accept cuts anymore. We’re going to the Capitol to demand better from this governor.”

Protesters are calling for a budget that fully funds education and health and human services. They are demanding the governor and legislature expand Medicaid with earmarked federal dollars, enact a tax on fracking of the Marcellus Shale, and freeze business tax cuts. They are also calling on the governor to drop his demand for cuts to pensions for school employees and state workers before he will proceed on other budget items. Attacking hard-working PA families once again will do nothing to remedy the current budget situation.

Fair measures would raise hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to restore funds for education, healthcare, and human services. A 5% tax on fracking would bring an estimated $700 million in revenue to the state. Business tax cuts have cost the state billions of dollars in recent years. Medicaid expansion would add $620 million to Pennsylvania’s 2015 budget and add about $3 billion annually to its economy. It would support 35,000 new jobs by 2016 and 40,000 jobs by 2022.

Protesters will stay in the Capitol until the governor commits to a fair budget that works for his state, unlike all of his past budgets. In coming days, they will lobby legislators, hold “teach-ins” around the Capitol, and participate in dramatic actions to call attention to the dire need for more education funding.

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PCAPS is a coalition of students, parents, and teachers with an unwavering commitment to improving Philadelphia’s school system. Members of the coalition include ACTION United, American Federation of Teachers PA, Fight For Philly, Boat People SOS, Jewish Labor Committee, Jobs With Justice, JUNTOS, Media Mobilizing Project, Neighborhood Networks, Occupy Philadelphia Labor Work Group, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Philadelphians Allied for a Responsible Economy(PHARE), Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Philadelphia Home and School Council, Philadelphia Student Union, SEIU 32BJ, UNITE HERE, Youth United for Change.
http://www.wearepcaps.org

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
June 26, 2014 312/329-6250

EMANUEL CONTINUES ASSAULT ON CITY’S TEACHERS

CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis released the following statement regarding today’s announcement of 1,150 teacher and school support staff layoffs by Chicago Public Schools (CPS):

“The decision by the mayor and his handpicked Board of Education to lay off 1,150 teachers and school support staff today in yet another brutal attack on public education in Chicago is bitterly disappointing and an example of the continued destruction and decimation of neighborhood schools. In a little over a year, CPS student-based budgeting has led to the removal of close to 5,000 teachers, teacher assistants, librarians, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs), technology coordinators and instructional aides from classrooms as severe cuts cause principals to make the difficult decisions that the district cannot. This loss of teachers and staff will directly impact the quality of instruction offered in our schools, and is unnecessary and shameful for a district that claims to provide a high-quality education for its students.

“With this latest round of layoffs— the fourth time in the past five years in which we have seen summer layoffs in excess of 1,000—and the hundreds of positions lost at the three schools slated for turnaround this year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Board continue their war on our educators by doing nothing to salvage school budgets other than forcing principals to terminate valued teachers and staff.

“Of the 1,150 layoffs announced today, 550 are teachers and 600 are Educational Support Personnel (ESP). Approximately 250 of these ESPs are Chicago Teachers Union PSRPs. The layoffs stem from the low level of per-pupil funding which CPS Central Office set for schools, meaning that all over the city, principals are being forced, for example, to choose between keeping a veteran teacher and keeping a program library. Current budgets are so low that schools can’t keep both.

“While the district claims that most of the cuts are due to drops in enrollment, there are an ever-increasing number of charter schools siphoning students out of public schools and contributing to a system of dysfunction and instability that leads parents to seek other options for their children. The situation serves to underscore the unacceptably low level of funding that Chicago’s neighborhood schools receive, as every time teachers and other staff are cut, it is harder for schools to serve communities, and the teachers who remain have to shoulder more and more of the burden.

“This decision further demonstrates the disdain for public education and the lack of leadership and vision for the city from our mayor and his handpicked Board. Do we want “Star Wars” museums or public, neighborhood schools? Do we want presidential libraries or librarians for every child?”

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The state-operated school district of Philadelphia bluntly admitted it could not afford to provide a sound basic education to the children of the district. It sought court approval for continuing to short-change the children of Philadelphia.

The Education Law Center reports:

“In March, Philadelphia’s state-operated school district filed an extraordinary legal complaint with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The lawsuit asks the Court to approve changes in school staffing levels and the way teachers are transferred and laid off, effectively nullifying portions of a collective bargaining agreement between the Philadelphia School District and the teachers union.

“Much attention has focused on the district’s request for changes in teacher staffing and work rules. But unnoticed is the district’s stark admission of the deplorable conditions that Philadelphia’s school children must endure after 17 years of direct state control over their education.

“In the court filing, the district says it wants to ease lay-off and transfer rules caused by an “unprecedented gap” between available funding and what’s needed just to maintain services at “prior year” levels. The district then describes the services it hopes to maintain, levels so palpably inadequate as to fall far below even minimum education standards.

“The complaint details the sub-basic education programs and support services now in district-operated schools. The district describes teacher and support staff as “bare bones,” at levels “20 percent smaller than the year before and 33 percent than just three years ago.” The district concedes it has made “very steep” layoffs, a one-third reduction in employees in just three years, leaving schools with “barely adequate” staffing.

“The district goes on to catalogue a parade of resource deficits plaguing the system: over 40 schools with no guidance counselor of its own; three-fourths of schools with no librarian assistant; and “significant cuts” to instructional materials and supplies, enrichment opportunities for students, extracurricular activities, administrative support and school cleaning services. And, of course, as parents of Philadelphia children know all too well: closing 24 neighborhood public schools.

“The complaint also acknowledges the “short supply” of school nurses, a fact familiar to Philadelphians in light of the deaths of two young students in schools lacking a full-time nurse in recent months.

“Even more remarkable, the district pinpoints the state’s $300 million aid cut in 2011-12 as being at the “root” of these serious deficiencies. And the district presents no evidence that the relief it asks for — making teacher layoffs and transfers easier — will generate any real budgetary savings. The district doesn’t offer the Court a plan for bringing teacher and support staff back to reasonable levels, reducing class size, providing interventions to struggling students, and keeping neighborhood schools open, safe and clean.

“The district’s filing is the legal equivalent of asking the Supreme Court for permission to rearrange deck chairs on a fast-sinking ship.”

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