Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Emily Richmond at The Atlantic reports on the exodus of teachers from Kansas.

“Frustrated and stymied by massive budget cuts that have trimmed salaries and classroom funding, Kansas teachers are “fleeing across the border” to neighboring states that offer better benefits and a friendlier climate for public education, NPR’s Sam Zeff reported.

To be sure, this is a tough time for the Sunflower State, where funding shortfalls forced a half-dozen districts to shorten their academic calendars, and teacher jobs are being advertised on billboards. But it’s hardly an outlier. Las Vegas, home to the nation’s fifth-largest school district, is undergoing a particularly brutal struggle to recruit, and keep, enough new teachers for the upcoming academic year. (After all, how many superintendents have been reduced to zipline stunts to draw attention to a hiring crisis, as was the case with the Las Vegas district’s Pat Skorkowsky?) And it doesn’t take much to find stories of teacher shortages in Arizona and Indiana, among many others….

“One solution: Residency programs that provide new teachers with intensive mentoring, coaching, and support for their first few years in the profession are gaining in popularity. But an underlying issue is that fewer people are opting to become teachers, and when they do, about half will quit within five years. Indeed, in last year’s Gallup poll, the percentage of people who said they didn’t want their children to become teachers jumped to 43 percent from 33 percent a decade earlier.”

The so-called reform movement has succeeded in making teaching an undesirable profession. Not only are teachers quitting, unable to live on meager salaries, but the number of people who want to be teachers has sharply declined. This fits the agenda of the reformers, who want to replace teachers with computers, encourage the retirement of costly experienced teachers, and turn teaching into a low-wage, high-turnover job rather than a profession.

Rahm Emanuel has made clear that he favors charter schools over public schools, as do many of his campaign contributors. So it should come as no surprise that the city plans to cut $60 million from the budget of the public schools while adding $30 million to the charters.

Public schools are losing enrollment. Charters are gaining. This is the result of the Mayor’s decision to close 50 public schools in a day. Mayor Emanuel is whittling away at the public schools. When all the public schools have been privatized, he can claim victory. The hedge fund managers and equity investors no doubt will throw him a party and pledge more for his next campaign. Rahm compares favorably with Scott Walker as a killer of public schools and unions. I doubt that FDR or Harry Truman or JFK would recognize Rahm Emanuel as a Democrat.

Stuart Egan, a high school teacher and public school parent in North Carolina, wrote the following letter in response to the legislature’s mass layoff of thousands of teaching assistants in the state’s elementary schools:

 

When public education has to defend itself against the state’s General Assembly in order to function effectively, those in government should reassess their priorities as elected officials.

Take for instance the political cartoon published in the Winston-Salem Journal on July 9, 2015 which parodies the iconic advertisement for the movie Jaws. It brilliantly depicts the NC Legislature as the man-eating great white shark lurking in the waters ready to devour public education. John Cole, the artist from ncpolicywatch.com makes reference to the battle over charter schools, vouchers, veteran teacher pay, retirement benefit cuts, and the latest development in the assault on public schools: the elimination of teacher assistant jobs.

 

Arika Herron’s front page news story in the same edition of the WSJ states, “By some estimates, the Senate cuts could mean as many as 8,500 fewer teacher assistants in elementary classrooms” in the state of North Carolina. When study after study published by leading education scholars (Ravitch, Kozol, etc.) preach that reaching students early in their academic lives is most crucial for success in high school and life, our General Assembly is actually promoting the largest layoff in state history.

 

As a voter, I am disappointed that the last three years with this GOP-led NCGA has fostered a calculated attack against public schools with more power and money given to entities to privatize education. By eliminating teacher assistants, the NCGA would simply weaken the effectiveness of elementary schools further and help substantiate the need to divert my tax money to segregate educational opportunities even more.

 

As a teacher, I am disheartened that my fellow educators are being devalued. Yes, teacher assistants are professional educators complete with training and a passion to teach students. With the onslaught of state testing, curriculum changes, and political focus on student achievement, these people fight on the front lines and advocate for your children and your neighbors’ children.

 

But as a parent, I am most incensed by this move to eliminate teacher assistants because my own child has tremendously benefited from the work of teacher assistants. Even as I write these words, my seven-year-old red-headed, blue-eyed son, who happens to have Down Syndrome, walks through the house articulating his thoughts, communicating his needs, and sharing his love to explore. And I give much of that credit to those who teach him in school: his teachers and their assistants.

 

When my wife and I explored educational pathways for our son two years ago, we talked to both public and private schools about how they could serve our child. Interestingly enough, we were informed that really the only option we had was public schooling; most private schools will not take a child with Down Syndrome. Simply put, they were “not prepared” to teach him. But his current public school not only welcomed him, they nurtured him and valued him. And it is because of the people – the teachers and the teacher assistants.

 

The rationale for eliminating teacher assistant positions actually reveals the disconnect that our elected officials have with public education. Last month in the Greensboro News and Record, Sen. Tom Apodaca said, ““We always believe that having a classroom teacher in a classroom is the most important thing we can do. Reducing class sizes, we feel, will give us better results for the students.” The irony in this statement is not only obvious; it is glaring.

 

That’s what teaching assistants already do. They mitigate class size by increasing the opportunities for student interaction. More prepared people in a classroom gives more students like my son the opportunity to learn. Sen. Apodaca suggests that having two classrooms of 25 students with a teacher and an assistant is weaker than having two classes of 22 students with just a classroom teacher. That’s not logical.

 

Oddly enough, Sen. Apodaca and his constituents should already know the value of assistants. He himself has three on staff according to the current telephone directory of the General Assembly. Sen. Phil Berger has fifteen staff members, three with “Assistant” in their title and five with “Advisor”. Maybe dismissing some of these “assistants” would offer some perspective.

 

Public schools are strongest when the focus is on human investment. People committed to teaching, especially experienced professionals, are the glue that holds education together. Eliminating jobs so that some political agenda can be fulfilled really is like forcing a bleeding public school system to swim in shark infested waters.

 

And we already have had too many shark attacks in North Carolina.

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School
And Parent

 

 

Educate Nevada Now, which advocates for public schools, documents the damage that vouchers will cause to public schools and the great majority if students who attend them. ENN is funded by the Rogers Foundation.

 

ENN reports:

MOST NEVADA SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO FACE BUDGET DEFICITS

Las Vegas, NV – Proponents of the new “education savings account” (ESA) law, enacted in June by the Nevada Legislature, are touting ESAs as beneficial for public school children. On closer inspection, it is clear that ESA’s, the transfer of potentially large amounts of public funding to pay for tuition at private and religious schools and other entities, poses a grave threat to the 450,000 children enrolled in Nevada public schools.

The new law requires the State Treasurer to transfer public school funding to an ESA for any student who leaves Nevada’s public schools. These transferred public funds are similar to a “voucher” that can be used to pay for all or part of private or religious school tuition. But the Nevada ESA law goes beyond private school vouchers, allowing the public funds deposited into an ESA to pay for an unlimited array of services, fees and other expenses provided by any for-profit or non-profit “participating entity.”

The ESA law is intended and designed to divert millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools to pay for private and religious schooling. Moreover, it could support an unlimited variety of other services, with little or no accountability for education outcomes and the use of those dollars.

ESAs will impact Nevada’s public school children in three critical ways:

Reducing public school funding and resources,

Increasing student segregation and isolation in public schools,

Limited or no accountability for the private schools and other entities accepting ESA funds.

Reduced Resources

The ESA law requires the “statewide average basic support per pupil” — $5,100 per student and $5,710 for low-income, and students with disabilities — be deposited into each ESA from local district budgets, a process that will divert, over time, substantial resources from the public schools. Studies have shown that Nevada substantially underfunds K-12 public education. For example, calculations by the Guinn Center show that Nevada K-12 funding is over $3,000 per pupil, or $1.5 billion, below the amount determined adequate by a 2015 education cost study. A recent ENN analysis shows that, even after the Legislature increased funding in the biennium budget, most Nevada school districts, including Clark County, are once again facing shortfalls in their operating budgets for the 2015-16 school year.

ESAs will trigger an outflow of funds from already inadequate school district budgets, beginning in the 2015-16 school year. This loss of funding to ESAs will further impede districts’ ability to provide sufficient qualified teachers, reasonable class size, English language instruction, and gifted and talented programs. Furthermore, services for students academically at-risk and special education, will undermine the opportunity for public school students to achieve and graduate ready for college or the workforce.

As children leave public schools with ESA funds, some of the costs to educate those students, will leave with them. But, ESAs will cause a deficit for the local district, given the fixed costs of operating the school system for all children. As ESAs take funds out of the school system, the cost of educating the remaining students – e.g., providing teachers, maintaining buildings, offering rigorous curriculum – must still be covered by the district. As more ESAs are established, the budget deficits in the districts will increase, resulting in fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and cuts to gifted and talented, art and music, and other essential resources.

ESAs also create instability in district and school budgets. Districts will not know how many students will exit and how much money will be taken out of the budget during the school year. This unpredictability will make it difficult to manage public school budgets, as local administrators won’t know how many teachers and staff to hire, whether to fix buildings in disrepair, or how to allocate funds to provide sufficient resources to schools throughout the school year. It is also difficult for districts to increase or lower the teacher workforce during the school year, as hiring is done in the spring and summer before the start of the school year. Teacher vacancies and reliance on unqualified substitutes – already a major problem – could rise, impeding the recruitment and retention of effective teachers.

Student Isolation and Segregation

ESAs, by design, will increase segregation of students by disability, economic status, and other factors. The ESA law does not require the private and religious schools and other entities accepting ESA funds to educate students with special needs, does not prohibit discrimination, and does not ban selective admissions practices, such as pre-testing. Similar to the current record of Nevada charter schools, ESA schools will serve disproportionately fewer students with disabilities, students in poverty, and students learning English, than many public schools serving the same communities and neighborhoods.

Because the ESA per student amount does not cover the full cost of tuition at private and religious schools, families must have the personal means to cover any remaining tuition. This will also include the cost of fees, uniforms, books, transportation and other expenses associated with private and religious schooling.

The ESA law has no limit on the income of households that can obtain ESA funds. There is only a handful of private schools in Nevada with tuition low enough to be covered by $5,100 or $5,710, the annual ESA amount. ESAs are designed to be a “subsidy” by more affluent families who can already afford to send their children to selective private and religious schools. Conversely, ESAs are insufficient for students from low-income families, and those who need more costly English language instruction or special education services. At-risk students will stay in the public schools, therefore, increasing the segregation of students based on race, socio-economic status, disability, English language proficiency, and other factors in those schools.

No Accountability

The ESA law is vague, allowing ESA funds to pay for tuition, services, fees and other expenses, not just to private schools, but to any “participating entity,” including for-profit businesses. ESAs can be used not only for private or religious schools, but also online education, a tutor or tutoring facility, or, as one lawmaker testified, reimbursement for home schooling. The law also allows ESAs to buy textbooks and curriculum, pay for transportation, and even to reimburse financial institutions to manage the voucher “savings account” itself. Any ESA funds not spent on K-12 can be reserved for post-secondary tuition or fees.

In enacting this law, the Legislature cites no evidence that private and religious schools, online schooling – or the unlimited array of services offered by for-profit and non-profit providers – paid for by ESA funds, will produce better education outcomes for Nevada’s public school children.

The ESA law has virtually none of the accountability measures imposed by the Legislature on public schools. The law requires student tests in math and English language arts, but the tests can be any “norm-referenced achievement exams.” They need not be comparable to Nevada public school tests. There is no requirement that private school teachers be qualified or offer a curriculum based on Nevada common core standards. The law provides no way to know whether students are achieving sufficient outcomes, and there is no protection for parents and students from being victimized by low-performing, under-performing and non-performing schools or other “participating entities.”

The ESA law has no meaningful mechanism for state oversight or review, let alone the type of rigorous fiscal and education standards public schools must adhere to. For example, there is no mechanism for investigating and closing schools or sanctioning “participating entities” that fail to properly educate students.

Unlike Nevada public schools, the private and religious schools accepting ESA funds are not prohibited from discriminating based on race, gender or disability. Although they will receive funds appropriated by the Legislature for public education, the private institutions, businesses and other organizations that participate in the ESA program are exempt from the most basic protections that prevent discrimination of disadvantaged and vulnerable student populations.

Finally, the private for-profit or non-profit education providers that accept ESA funds can use their admissions rules, including competitive pretesting, transcript evaluation and letters of recommendation. These schools and entities are free to select students based on who they decide fit their religious or secular mission, culture and program. In contrast, Nevada public schools have a constitutional duty to educate all children, including those with disabilities and other special needs, and those children whom private and religious schools choose not to admit or decide to remove from school.

ESAs Harm Public Schools and Students

ESAs, by design, will weaken Nevada’s public education system and undermine the efforts of public school teachers, administrators and parents to improve outcomes for all students, including at-risk children. Over half of Nevada public school students are economically disadvantaged. Nevada has the largest percentage of English language learner students in the nation. ESAs will further concentrate and isolate those students in the public schools while taking away critical resources necessary for a quality education.

ESAs are a serious setback for Nevada public schools and students. ESAs will erode already inadequate funding and budgets, reduce essential education resources, widen achievement gaps and increase segregation. Most important, ESAs will impede progress in ensuring that all students have a meaningful opportunity for a sound basic education as guaranteed by the Nevada Constitution.

Contact: Stavan Corbett | Director of Outreach
702.657.3114 | scorbett@educatenevadanow.com

http://www.educatenevadanow.com

About ENN

Educate Nevada Now! (ENN) is a non-partisan coalition of education stakeholders whose mission is to bring equity to the distribution of Nevada State educational funding. ENN’s membership is comprised of education groups, teachers, community organizations, parents, and students across the State. The reform of the State education funding will ensure that all of Nevada’s children receive the same educational opportunities regardless of location or wealth of the community.

Amy Moore has a simple proposal for the governor and legislature of Iowa: If you won’t fund our state’s public schools adequately, then let us have the freedom to teach.

Moore teaches fifth grade and writes frequently for the Des Moines Register. She taught second grade for many years. She wrote this article after Governor Terry Branstad vetoed a $56 million increase in school funding. The legislature had approved the increased funding to compensate for having earlier granted an increase of 1.25%, not enough to cover rising fixed costs.

Republicans in the legislature–and the governor–expect the schools to do more with less.

Moore writes:

What improvements can educators make without cost? She has some ideas.

“The first thing that would make a great impact is to bring back play-based curriculum in the early childhood grades. There is a recent, almost comical, “new” movement being highlighted by the media to restore play in kindergarten. I say comical because some of those touting its importance are acting as if early childhood educators haven’t been screaming for years that traditional academic materials and learning approaches are not appropriate for our youngest.
The thing that is not funny at all is the lost childhood many of our babies are suffering as they are pushed to do things earlier than they should and in ways that are detrimental to their development. One positive that has emerged is newer research is proving little ones have neurological connections that are made when exploring their worlds through play and being forced to learn in other ways can actually be harmful.

“So if we want to improve our schools programs without purchasing anything, we should discontinue the use of any scripted curricular materials in the earliest grades. That is not how young kids learn. There should not be multiple choice tests, but instead only teacher created assessments along with observation.

“God bless those administrators who haven’t gotten caught up in data hysteria and who have allowed their teachers to continue to implement lessons that are suitable for little girls and boys. For the rest, we should allow our teachers to dust off their dramatic play areas, their sand tables, and their art easels and let them be used.

“Early childhood educators have known for years how to use these tools to enhance academic skills with what appears to others to be “just play” and, at the same time, our young ones will again learn essential life skills such as problem solving, cooperation, communication, persistence and creativity. The most important thing of all that children can gain through play is a lifelong love of learning. There is such a thing as the wrong kind of teaching. It’s happening in many of our schools and we have the power to stop it. It won’t cost a dime.”

Here is another no-cost idea:

“No single textbook company or method of teaching can be a good fit for all. If districts have spent thousands of dollars purchasing materials that all are expected to follow then that’s great. Have them available to the teachers to use at their own discretion, in their own time, with their own supplements as they see fit. That’s called teaching. Not only will it not demand additional money but it will reduce the exodus of great educators from the profession because they will once again be allowed to do the job for which they were trained. It will set us back on the path to the highest quality of teaching and learning possible.”

Moore advises teachers to get involved in the Presidential primary. Study the candidates’ records on education. Ask them questions.

“The last thing is an easy one for those of us in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. We need to pay attention to the political races and, ultimately, cast our vote for candidates who will make schools a priority. We have the opportunity to shake hands with many of these people. We can ask them directly how they plan to fight poverty and inequity, to strengthen public schools, to keep the decision-making process away from business interests and with educators….

“Have these candidates supported taking away teacher job protections? Have they promoted a test-based culture? Have they allowed taxpayer money to go to for-profit schools? We need to ask about their beliefs about using artificial measures such as test scores to judge teachers. Showing up at a forum and posing these types of questions will cost us only the gas money to get there.”

Good advice for parents and teachers in every state.

Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago, challenges Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claim that he could not avoid layoffs and could not fund educators’ pensions.

Not true, writes LaRaviere.

“However — as I understand it — we do not want to stop at just
being functional. We want to be effective. We want to be excellent.

“For that to happen, we need early at-home interventions for preschool-age children from low-income households, smaller student-to-teacher ratios, thoughtful training for teachers, a competitive compensation and benefits package to attract skilled professionals. We need a rich arts curriculum, exceptional educators whose efforts are focused on the children who come to us less prepared than their peers, a rigorous curriculum tailored to local student needs and the thoughtful use of technology in schools.

“The 2013 budget cuts meant that many of our students lost some of those things — the resources that move a school from being functional to being excellent. The 2015 budget cuts will mean that my students — and students across Chicago — will lose even more.

“Politicians frame this as pension payment vs. classroom investment — as if those were the only two expenses our tax dollars are used for and one of them has to be sacrificed. This is patently false. City Hall has had many opportunities for sacrifice in other areas, but it has refused to make those sacrifices.

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel had a chance to sacrifice the diversion of $55 million in taxes to a hotel near McCormick Place. He could have invested some of that tax increment financing money in the pension system instead.”

LaRaviere lists other savings that were there for the Mayor, but he never asked business to sacrifice. Only the children.

He writes:

“Emanuel says one thing, but his behavior says another. He has put investor profits over investing in our teachers and their classrooms.

“He wants us to get used to that. I will never get used to that.

“And neither should you.”

By the way, the tag line on Principal LaRaviere’s email is: “You can’t put students first if you put teachers last.”

Most people have no idea about the privatization movement. They don’t know that the narrative of crisis (“our schools are failing, failing, failing”)–repeated again and again–is intended to clear the way for privatization.

Peter Greene explains the insidious plan here.

Step one, create a crisis.

Step two, take power away from the community, dissolve the local school board, give it to the mayor, the governor.

Step three: cash in.

Mike Klonsky writes that Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner have brought the city and state to their knees with their austerity budgets.

“Mayor 1% finally made his long overdue payment to the teachers pension fund, but not without extracting his pound of flesh — 1,400 teachers being laid off and another $1B in borrowing, another windfall for his bankster patrons and another attack on the teachers union and teachers’ collective bargaining rights.

“Aside from the hardship the layoffs will bring to the teachers and their children and families, think about what the loss of so many union jobs means to the community and the continuing destruction of the city’s middle class.

“Think also about spiraling class sizes and program cuts in city schools and what that will mean, especially for the neediest of students who need personalization more than ever. It also makes another teachers strike that much more likely.

“By my figuring, 1,400 teacher jobs lost means minimally, about $84 million in yearly taxable income that won’t be spent in neighborhood groceries, auto dealers, hair salons and shoe stores. That translates to hundreds more lay-offs from local businesses, millions more in lost revenue for the city and state and the further pauperization of the community’s working class and small businesses owners.”

“Likewise for our sociopathic billionaire governor who will shut down the state government, with an even greater civic toll, rather than taxing his corporate and LaSalle St. cronies even one penny more on their speculative windfall profits.”

Mike Klonsky writes a post with one of the best titled ever.

He tries to figure out why reformers don’t care about class size. They say there’s no evidence for smaller classes. Well, there is plenty of evidence, but they brush it aside.

It turns they don’t care about evidence. They are not data-driven. They want to take your funding and your schools. They want to save money, but not to spend it on smaller classes.

It is a universal truth, well known, that when budget cuts are imposed by the state, teachers of the arts are the first to go. I recently met with a leader of the arts community in Houston who told me that she wanted to make a gift of art supplies but could not few elementary schools with art teachers.

Some advocates for the arts–music education, especially, claim that the study of music increases test scores.

Peter Greene says: Don’t do that! See here too.

There so many important reasons to treasure music, and the pursuit of higher test scores is not one of them.

“Music is universal. It’s a gabillion dollar industry, and it is omnipresent. How many hours in a row do you ever go without listening to music? Everywhere you go, everything you watch– music. Always music. We are surrounded in it, bathe in it, soak in it. Why would we not want to know more about something constantly present in our lives? Would you want to live in a world without music? Then why would you want to have a school without music?
Listening to music is profoundly human. It lets us touch and understand some of our most complicated feelings. It helps us know who we are, what we want, how to be ourselves in the world. And because we live in an age of vast musical riches from both past and present, we all have access to exactly the music that suits our personality and mood. Music makes the fingers we can use to reach into our own hearts.
Making music is even more so. With all that music can do just for us as listeners, why would we not want to unlock the secrets of expressing ourselves through it? We human beings are driven to make music as surely as we are driven to speak, to touch, to come closer to other humans. Why would we not want to give students the chance to learn how to express themselves in this manner?….

“In music, everyone’s a winner. In sports, when two teams try their hardest and give everything they’ve got, there’s just one winner. When a group of bands or choirs give their all, everybody wins. Regrettably, the growth of musical “competitions” has led to many programs that have forgotten this — but music is the opposite of a zero-sum game. The better some folks do, the better everybody does. In music, you can pursue excellence and awesomeness without having to worry that you might get beat or defeated or humiliated. Everybody can be awesome….

“Do not defend a music program because it’s good for other things. That’s like defending kissing because it gives you stronger lip muscles for eating soup neatly. Defend it because music is awesome in ways that no other field is awesome. Defend it because it is music, and that’s all the reason it needs. As Emerson wrote, “Beauty is its own excuse for being.” A school without music is less whole, less human, less valuable, less complete. Stand up for music as itself, and stop making excuses.”

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