Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Schools in Texas have been forced to absorb huge budget cuts in recent years.

One casualty was the two KIPP schools in Galveston, Texas, which could not afford to continue. They will close.

“Galveston ISD paid KIPP $5.5 million this year – about $1.5 million more than it would have spent on those students in district-run schools….

KIPP, which operates 141 campuses that serve 50,000 students nationally, has closed or returned schools to local districts eight times nationally, but this is the first time it is to happen in Texas, where KIPP started 20 years ago….

“The Costal Village elementary and middle schools opened in the months following Hurricane Ike in 2008 to help draw families back to the island. After the contract was negotiated, the 6,800-student Galveston ISD lost $7.4 million in state funding for the biennium in 2011. About $1.7 million was restored by the Legislature last year, Nichols said.

“The original agreement was no longer workable after GISD had to live with quite a bit less money,” the superintendent said.

“KIPP leaders said they couldn’t maintain their model, which includes a longer school day and year, for less money. The charter chain spends about $6,200 per student in Galveston, compared to Galveson ISD’s $4,623. And KIPP’s costs were higher earlier in the contract, officials said.”

Blogger Yinzercation describes Governor Tom Corbett’s latest proposal as a “Race to the Top” that will benefit the highest-performing, most affluent districts. He learned his lesson from Arne Duncan. Forget about equity. Forget about restoring the draconian cuts he made to the state’s suffering urban districts. Forget about the have-nots. Forget about Philadelphia, whose schools were stripped of basic services and programs. Reward excellence!

Please support this wonderful new organization of parents and other citizens in Tennessee, organizing to reclaim public schools from bad policy and corporate takeovers.

Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence

MISSION:

TENNESSEANS RECLAIMING EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE (TREE) IS ROOTED IN FIGHTING FOR STRONG, EQUITABLE PUBLIC EDUCATION AND IS COMMITTED TO GROWING CHILD-CENTERED EDUCATION POLICY.

CORE VALUES:

THE FOLLOWING ARE THE CORE VALUES THAT WILL GUIDE THE ADVOCACY EFFORTS OF TENNESSEANS RECLAIMING EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE (TREE.) THESE ARE THE PRINCIPLES TO WHICH WE ADHERE, AND WHICH WE WILL SEEK TO ADVANCE IN TENNESSEE’S EDUCATIONAL POLICIES.

Quality Investment

We believe Tennessee must make high quality investments that reach all students by:

Fully funding BEP 2.0 (Basic Education Program 2.0), the funding formula set by the legislature to fund Tennessee schools.
Since the adoption of BEP 2.0 in 2007, Tennessee schools have not received the full amount of funding which the law requires.
Reducing spending on standardized tests and redirecting those funds to classrooms.
Developing compensation, evaluation, and support plans for teachers that make Tennessee a top destination for professional educators.
Providing the student services and support needed for students to achieve.
Providing all students with the arts, physical education, music, and learning opportunities that are essential to a quality educational experience.
Refusing to divert scarce taxpayer dollars away from already underfunded public schools into a bailout program for struggling private schools via vouchers.
Ensuring manageable class sizes.
Funding universal, voluntary public pre-kindergarten programs.

Transparency & Accountability

We believe Tennessee must ensure transparency and accountability by:

Requiring all taxpayer funded schools and entities, including the state Department of Education and related offices to make public all their funding sources, budgets, and expenditures, so that the taxpayers have a clear understanding of:

how public dollars are being spent,
what influence private donors/interests may have on publicly funded institutions,
the true per pupil cost of services being provided.
Examining whether Tennessee’s school accountability systems are based on appropriate and reliable data.
Providing a full accounting of the determination of achievement test proficiency cut scores and value-added scores, so that citizens and parents know how accurate those data are.
Requiring all schools to provide parents with information regarding standardized testing, including what tests are given, when the testing occurs, the purpose of such tests, and the costs associated with the tests.
Informing parents of what educational and personal data are being shared with third party corporations.

Local Control

We believe Tennessee should keep decisions regarding local public schools in the hands of local citizens by:

Allowing each community to determine whether and where to open schools funded by its local property tax money.
Keeping public schools accountable to local voters, rather than remote, unelected/unaccountable state-level bureaucrats.
Ensuring that Tennessean communities, not corporate out-of-state special interest groups, direct Tennessee children’s educations.
Limiting top-down, underfunded, and untested mandates.
Ensuring that parents and teachers have meaningful input into education decision making.

Post Office Box 218554 · Nashville, Tennessee 37221 · (615) 295-8733

©2014 Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence

Jere Hochman, superintendent of the Bedford Central School District in New York responds here to Tom Friedman’s column in the New York Times:

 

 

I could scream!
That is my reaction to Thomas Friedman’s column, “Obama’s Homework Assignment”
Mr. Friedman sees the big picture on every issue. This column is a shocker.

They put in annual high-stakes testing – that didn’t work.
They labeled districts – that didn’t work.
They tried small high schools – that didn’t work.
They diverted funds to charters – that’s not working.
They beat up on teachers – that didn’t work.
They’ve prescribed curriculum, scripts, and more testing – that’s not working.
So – why not blame parents until that doesn’t work?

Parents working three jobs don’t show up often but they want what’s best for their child.
Parents who do show up want high standards; not standardization.

Let’s see –
They cut funding for Parents as Teachers (most evidence based school readiness program there is).
No funding for early childhood, language development, and play.
No dangled RTTT grants for home visit programs.
Writing standards for 5 year olds.
Ignoring poverty.
Lowering taxes which depletes public schools and services.
Diverting funds to charter factories.
Obsessed with testing.
Broad brushing every school in the U.S. as the same.
Double and triple testing kids with disabilities and those learning English
Ignoring thousands of success stories.
Handcuffing states with egregious regulations.
Forgetting we educate every child.
Bowing to publisher lobbyists.

It’s so simple:
Attend to pre-natal and birth to five language development and play.
High standards, rich curriculum, professional development, innovative lessons, and meaningful evaluation.
Cap high school class sizes at least under 30, preferably 25
Provide comparable technology, resources, and funding in all districts
Focus on learning, not testing.
Systems thinking, not factory models.

Most educators and even most legislators seem to recognize that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have failed to “reform” American education. After 13 years of test-based evaluation and school closings, no one claims success. We need what: More of the same! Congress doesn’t know what to do to change a failed status quo. Feckless Arne Duncan, having failed in Chicago, now looks for scapegoats for the failure of the Bush-Obame bipartisan consensus.

Duncan has one sure ally: Tom Friedman of the Néw York Times

They are certain that American schools are terrible, even though test scores and graduation rates are at a historic high. They want us to be just like South Korea, where exams determine one’s life (see Mercedes Schneider on examination hell in Korea).

They blame parents. They blame teachers. They blame students. They blame schools.

They blame everyone but the obvious perpetrators: failed federal policies that undermine the autonomy of teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, and states; budget cuts that have increased class sizes and narrowed curricula, closed libraries and eliminated social workers, nurses, psychologists, and guidance counselors; the highest child poverty rate of any advanced nation; the largest inequality gap in a century; rising levels of segregation; a popular culture that celebrates instant success, not the earnest hard work required for academic success; the ubiquity of distracting electronic toys: the intrusion of philanthropic behemoths like Gates, with its own failed solutions; a media indifferent to a rapacious privatization movement that cares more about budget-cutting and profiteering than education.

They are looking for blame in all the wrong places.

There was much buzz on the Internet yesterday because Governor Tom Corbett announced his intention to visit a public school in Philadelphia! Imagine that!

But today, after hearing that protestors might show up, he canceled the visit and retreated to the local Chamber of Commerce.
He boldly announced that he never runs away from anything as he ran away.

Jake Blumgart reports:

““I don’t run from anything,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said on Friday, after running away from a planned event at Central High School in North Philadelphia. Speaking at a press conference several miles to the south, held at the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s headquarters in The Bellevue, a swanky Center City office building, Corbett insisted, “I make decisions head on, but I was not going to be a distraction to the school day or the school students.” The students may well have been distracted by the fact that they had waited for a speaker who cancelled at the last minute.

“Education has dogged Corbett since the early days of his administration, when he proposed a $1.2 billion cut to public school funding in his first budget. A crippling reduction exceeding $865 million made it through the legislature, with the poorest school districts bearing the brunt thanks to the elimination of a mechanism that provided more money for schools with greater needs. (As the Education Law Center put it, “the cuts have been up to 10 times larger in poor districts on a per-student basis.”) Now, in a difficult election year, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that his budget address early next month will contain between $100 million and $200 million in restored education dollars, funded by pension reforms.

“Friday’s event at Central could have been another aspect of Corbett’s attempt to improve his image on public education. At the planned presentation ceremony, he would have given the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Academics to three high schools: Central, Masterman, and George Washington Carver. This comes during a school year where the Philadelphia School District faced a budgetary gap of more than $300 million, forcing deep cuts. Now many schools are forced to share nurses, counselors and other essential support staff. Funding for most extracurricular activities has been zeroed out, while arts, music and physical education have been decimated.”

Parents might understandably be unhappy with Corbett since his budget cuts have stripped the Philly schools of basic staff and resources. Last fall, a 12-year-old student died of an asthma attack because her school lost funding for a full-time nurse.

Corbett’s poll numbers are very low, giving one hope that voters across the state want a change.

Bill Boyle has come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards are “one more step in the decimation of the common good.”

He got into a Twitter debate with an advocate for the standards, then realized that this–like so many other controversial issues–has no neutral ground, no set of facts that will dispassionately settle the questions.

There is a narrative surrounding the Common Core that has been used to sell it: that it was “created by the states”; that the federal government had nothing to do with creating or promoting the CCSS (which would be illegal); that it will benefit all children; that it will close the achievement gap; that it will raise our national test scores and make us “globally competitive.”

Some of these assertions can actually be tested, in the sense that the evidence for the assertions does not exist. We will know in 12 years which–if any–of these assertions are true. Unfortunately, in matters of ideology, true believers have a tendency to stick with failed ideas no matter what the facts are (see, USSR).

In the meanwhile, the most vociferous supporters of Common Core seem to be in the corporate world. I keep wondering how many people at Exxonmobil, State Farm Insurance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other cheerleaders have read the standards and how many of their executives could pass the CC tests.

The only path I see out of the present dilemma is to impose a three-five year moratorium on the Common Core tests. Invite experienced teachers from every grade level in every state to revise the standards to make them sound, age-appropriate, and to correct errors of judgment.

That still leaves in solved the staggering cost of implementing the standards: professional development, new resources. And the biggest cost is the budget-killer: the purchase of tablets, laptops, and other technology to administer the tests. Best to put that massive cost off for another’s hte-five years until teachers nd students have had time to make the necessary adjustments.

And then it will be time to assess whether schools should invest in testing or in the arts; testing or social workers and guidance counselors; testing or smaller classes; testing or libraries and librarians; testing or pre-kindergarten.

No, there is no neutrality. There are real costs and real choices to be made.

A post from the wonderful Jan Resseger:

A Special Christmas Wish for What Children Need This Year: Quality Teachers

The Rev. John Thomas, the former General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, is now a professor and administrator Chicago Theological Seminary. His wonderful blog post for this Christmas is about the importance of quality public school teachers: All I Want for Christmas.

“While the old holiday song suggests that children might want two front teeth for Christmas, this year I’d like to suggest an alternative: “All I want for Christmas is a teacher.” Sunday’s New York Times reported the stark impact of the recent recession on schools, namely, the massive loss of public school teachers since 2008. According to Labor Department statistics, public schools across the country employ 250,000 fewer people today than they did prior to the recession. Meanwhile, pupil enrollment has grown by 800,000 students. To maintain pre-recession staffing ratios, public schools nation-wide would have had to add 132,000 jobs.

“What does this look like in the classroom? In Coatesville, Pennsylvania, a declining steel town forty miles outside of Philadelphia, the professional workforce of 600 prior to the recession has been cut by twenty percent. This means that some of the thirty students in one fourth grade class sit halfway into a coat closet. In a middle school social studies class one teacher handles twenty-five students, ten with special education needs, four who know little or no English, and several others who need advanced work to stay engaged. He used to have two aides to help; not any more.”

Thomas concludes by sharing the story of the public school music teacher who composed the song, “All I Want for Christmas.”

He wrote:

“This year many of our children, whether they know it or not, want – and need – a teacher for Christmas. But unless our priorities change, unless we radically rethink how we allocate resources for all of our public schools, and unless we begin to recognize the real value of highly trained, well paid, experienced teachers, many of our children will find little more than the proverbial coal in their stockings.

“By the way, the song “All I Want for Christmas” was written in 1944 by a public school music teacher who had asked his second grade pupils what they wanted for Christmas. He noticed that almost all of the students answered with a lisp because they had at least one front tooth missing. Chances are Donald Gardner wouldn’t be teaching these days. More and more school districts are laying off their music and art teachers, their guidance counselors, librarians and nurses. Local property taxes simply won’t provide this crucial component of a full education. And programs like Obama’s “Race for the Top,” on which much federal funding is based, don’t test whether children are learning how to sing or play a musical instrument. That’s more than sad in this merry season.”

We know the formula by now for destroying public education and handing it off to entrepreneurs who can cut costs, package it, extract a profit (or remain nonprofit while paying exorbitant executive salaries):

Cry “crisis.” Set impossible targets (100% success on tests normed on a bell curve). Demoralize teachers. Fire the most experienced teachers. Hire low-wage temporary teachers who will leave within three years, thus eliminating future pension obligations. Close schools and disrupt communities. Turn schools over to entrepreneurs, to amateurs, to non-educators, to sports stars, to charter chains. Watch as public schools are dissolved and disappear. Watch as people become consumers, not citizens.

But now others get it, even if most of our major editorial boards do not.

Robert Freeman writes here about the public theft that is underway.

The New York Times has a predictable editorial about gifted students, referring to PISA scores as evidence of failure and complaining that educators are not nurturing the talents of the best and brightest students.

What is notable about the editorial is what is missing:

1. Little to nothing about budget cuts that have devastated most state and district education budgets in recent years.

2. Little to nothing about the billions diverted to standardized testing, which does not encourage gifted students.

3. Nothing about the appalling poverty rates that crush the spirits of gifted students who are living in terrible circumstances. Perhaps the Times should think about their recent series about a homeless child (“Invisible Child”) in New York City, likely very gifted, but living in abject squalor.

4. Not a word about the resurgence of racial segregation, which dims the hopes of children of color.

5. Frankly, the editorial’s assumption that nations with the highest test scores contain the most gifted students is dubious. There is no evidence that the test scores of 15 year olds predict anything about the future economy or the future winners of Nobel prizes.

Once again, the New York Times editorial board demonstrates the limits and pitfalls of conventional wisdom.

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