Archives for category: Budget Cuts

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?”

###

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.”

Last week, I posted Dave Cunningham’s excellent response to an editorial writer at Newsday who voted against an increase in the budget of the West Babylon public schools in Long Island, where his own daughters got a great education and went on to outstanding colleges. The budget went down to defeat, and a new vote was scheduled for June 17. Because of Governor Cuomo’s tax cap of 2%, school districts need a supermajority of 60% to increase their budget to meet rising costs. One district in New York was supported by 59.9% of voters (which would be considered a landslide in an election for public office), yet the whole school district lost the vote because of the lack of a single vote to reach 60.0%.

In his letter, Dave Cunningham pointed out that the West Babylon schools had lost $4 million a year for four years due to Cuomo’s “gap elimination” program. The schools were hard-pressed to provide the same quality of education that the editorial writer’s daughters had received before in the era before budget cutting became the new normal.

The district budget came up for re-vote yesterday, and it passed easily, with a yes vote of 72.5%. Any elected official would call that a landslide. The budget that passed involved deep budget cuts: “West Babylon’s budget will raise spending 0.63 percent and taxes 1.36 percent. In trimming that budget, the district cut the equivalent of 9.9 teachers, 18 hall monitors and a number of off-site sports.”

This is a report on charter school funding in Pennsylvania, especially the effect of excess special education funding for charter schools. It was
distributed by the Keystone State Education Coalition.

The KSEC writes:

“Each time charter schools skim marginal need special ed students out of public school districts, they artificially cause the average special ed cost to spiral higher for the next year’s special ed charter school tuition rate.

“YouTube Video: The $200 Million/Year PA Charter School Special Ed Funding Windfall For Dummies

“Would the special ed funding bill HB2138/SB1316 be the “end of charter schools as we know it”? It might be, especially for the operators of for-profit management companies that contract with charter schools. As best we can tell, instead of special ed money serving special needs students, it appears that the windfall has funded things like multi-million dollar CEO compensation, over 19,000 local TV commercials, a jet and Florida condo, generous political campaign contributions and a 20,000 square foot mansion on the beach in Palm Beach Florida. Here’s a three minute youtube video produced by KEYSEC Co-Chair Mark B. Miller that clearly explains how this happens.

Want more than a three minute video on this topic? Here’s a great piece by long-time ed writer Dale Mezzacappa for the notebook….

“City charters get $100M more for special ed than they spend; debate rages in Harrisburg”

the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on June 5, 2014 02:12 PM

Philadelphia charter schools received more than $175 million last year to educate special education students, but spent only about $77 million for that purpose, according to aNotebook analysis of state documents. That is a nearly $100 million gap at a time when city education leaders are considering raising some class sizes to 41 students and laying off 800 more teachers in District-run schools due to severe funding shortfalls. Payments to charters, which are fixed under law, make up nearly a third of its $2.4 billion budget.

The issue goes beyond Philadelphia. Statewide, charters, including cybers, collect about $350 million for special education students, but spend just $156 million on them, according to calculations from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). The Notebook used the PASBO analysis of state data to calculate the numbers for Philadelphia, which has half the state’s 170 charter schools.

http://thenotebook.org/blog/147324/special-education-funding-formula-changes-recommended

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor’s staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Visit us on Facebook at KeystoneStateEducationCoalition

Michael Dobie, an editorial writer at Long Island’s Newsday, wrote an opinion piece in which he explained with a certain amount of embarrassment why he voted against the school budget for the West Babylon public schools, where his daughters attended, graduated, and went on to outstanding colleges.

 

West Babylon asked voters to approve its budget because Governor Cuomo put a tax cap on every district in the state, and the cap can’t be raised unless at least 60% of voters approve. The budget in West Babylon was turned down. The assumption of the Cuomo tax cap is that schools will keep their costs down, but costs keep rising, so budget cuts are inevitable.

 

Dobie wrote (in a piece behind a paywall, sorry, so I can post only the beginning and I have no link):

 

What have I done?
I’ve been asking myself that a lot, after I did something for the first time since I moved to Long Island 24 years ago.
I voted against a school budget.
Until this year, I never had rejected a budget proposed by my district, West Babylon. Do it for the kids, right? But this time the district was pitching to pierce its 1.36 percent state tax cap by well more than double — in a year when taxpayers will receive state rebate checks for their tax increases when their districts stay within the cap.
So I said no, as did enough other voters to defeat the budget. My hope was that West Babylon would then turn to its teachers union — personnel costs are the bulk of every school budget — to get the savings needed to stay within the cap for the budget revote to take place June 17.
Instead, the district killed the high school bowling, gymnastics, swimming and golf teams, eliminated a bunch of clubs and activities at all grade levels, and fired 18 part-time hall monitors, among other things.
Officials saved $1.3 million and got within the cap, but look at the cost. Kids lost teams and clubs, and adults lost jobs.
I’m not naive — this is usually the way such things work out. But this is my first personal experience with the consequences of voting against a budget, and it’s distressing.
It turns out the administration didn’t believe it could ask teachers for concessions because two years ago, the union agreed to open its contract and spread out one 2.3 percent salary increase over three years. That helped the district in another difficult budget year.
But the teachers have continued to get step increases — essentially, annual longevity raises. West Babylon’s teachers are due an average 3.25 percent step increase next year, which, combined with the 0.75 salary increase, means they’ll get a 4 percent raise. Who gets a 4 percent raise these days?
Please understand, this is not a screed against teachers. It’s an argument against an unsustainable system…..

 

The rest of the article continues in that vein, inveighing against teachers’ pay.

 

Dobie thinks that the step increases for teachers must end. Period.

 

Dave Cunningham, a veteran teacher in the West Babylon schools, wrote to Dobie to explain why he was wrong. A native of Babylon and a graduate of its schools, Dave has taught elementary school and coached high school sports in West Babylon since 1990. Here is Dave’s letter:

 

Hi Mike,
I’m happy to see that some of your writing is appearing on Newsday’s pages again. In fact I’ve been meaning to contact you to see if Newsday had any interest in giving a full, honest analysis of the daily assaults on public education in our state and in our local communities. Alas, my hopes were dashed when I read your column this morning.

Newsday’s stance on public education can be summed up thusly: TEACHERS BAD! AND THEY GET SUMMERS OFF! You probably know that the chief purveyor of this nonsense is your education pointman/hachetman, John Hildebrand. He never pens a story without some part of his twisted agenda being validated. On the day of the recent budget vote, he did a great job of finding two aggrieved senior citizens, ages 79 and 81, who gave him statements to support his thesis. Who amongst us wouldn’t sympathize with elderly people living on fixed budgets, besieged by high taxes which according to Newsday, are fueled by the greed of public school teachers? I’m sure they’d make good use of a $98 check from the state. How are those checks not seen as a bribe, used to influence an election?
Had Mr. Hildebrand ventured inside of Santapogue School, (rather than using it for a convenient photo op) he would have found a thriving place where nearly 40% of our students receive free or reduced lunch. He would have seen an “international” school where ELL teachers perform daily miracles with children who speak one of fifteen different languages. Had he spoken with parents and teachers, he would have also discovered that due to the state’s gap elimination program, that West Babylon had lost about $4,000,000 in state aid per year over the last four years. Such facts don’t fit the narrative, so they’re not reported.
The overarching story that Newsday continues to neglect is the stealthy, insidious campaign to privatize public education , here and around the country. I’ll leave it to you to do some research for yourself, but any honest assessment of education in New York will show that NYSED is slowly and quietly outsourcing its authority, its operations, and its soul to the British conglomerate, Pearson. The truth is that the hard-working, overtaxed people of our state are seeing their money spent on tests, standards, curriculum, and materials produced by the non-educators hired by Pearson, often at minimum wage salaries. My experience has shown me that most anything that Pearson produces is either developmentally inappropriate, substandard in quality, or both. Yet the state and school districts continue to buy their products. Pearson writes the state tests, which are not “more difficult” as Newsday and other supine media outlets report. They are designed to produce failure, adding to the narrative of TEACHERS BAD! AND THEY GET SUMMERS OFF! A google search of Pearson/Campaign contributions will tell you all you need to know. Pols from both major parties have benefited from Pearson’s largesse.
Diane Ravitch’s blog, https://dianeravitch.net/ is a treasure trove of information about public education. Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post has an excellent blog which often features the work of Southside HS Principal, Carol Burris, who is one of the most sensible, articulate voices in the push back against the hostile takeover of our schools by corporate interests. There is a ton of excellent archived work on the site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/ If you still have anyone at Newsday who is interested in some honest, investigative reporting, (and maybe earning a Pulitizer, to boot!) please share these links with them. FOIA requests should yield information about how much school districts have been mandated and forced to spend on the implementation of Common Core and its attendant exams and assessments. In my 39 years in education I’ve never seen anything as onerous and threatening to education in this country. It’s costly, it’s wrong, and our people deserve better.
I assume that you struggled with your decision to throw the children of WB under the metaphoric bus. I’m sure today’s column wasn’t easy to write. So your takeaway that step increases are the big villain, while popular with the trolls who inhabit Newsday’s comment pages, misses the larger point. You state that the WB district was reluctant to ask the teachers for help because we probably wouldn’t be receptive. We as a faculty have “given back” on numerous occasions during the last ten years. You asked, “Who gets a 4% increase now?” Easy answer: the wealthiest. Since 2011, more than 90% of the income gains in this country have gone to the 1 %. Yet our feckless politicians, their corporate enablers, and an AWOL media rig the game against the working and middle class families who populate our communities.
On a personal note, you should know that I haven’t received a step increase in years. Since I haven’t maxed out my graduate credits, I’m nowhere near the top of the pay scale. So you and the other aggrieved taxpayers of WB are getting a bargain with me; a teacher with nearly 40 years experience at a salary of a 25th year teacher. Silly me, I should have been in grad school when I was coaching WB kids 24/7, 365 days a year. I have no regrets, my former players and students visit every now and then to say thanks and to let me know how they’re doing. Those moments represent the true rewards that a teacher receives. Those are things that nobody at Newsday will understand any time soon, apparently. Enjoy your reading assignments! I look forward to hearing from you. Pay it forward!

 

All the Best,

 

Dave Cunningham

Teachers and administrators continue to feel the pain of budget cuts, long after the end of the recession of 2008. While politicians complain about the cost of schooling, those who work in schools are aware of an era of austerity and disinvestment in education.

This article explains what happened. Federal stimulus dollars helped the schools weather the worst of the recession, but when federal stimulus money ran out, the schools were hit hard.

“Federal per-student spending fell more than 20 percent from 2010 to 2012, and it has continued to fall. State and local funding per student were essentially flat in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. The result: Total school funding fell in 2012 for the first time since 1977, the Census Bureau reported last month. Adjusting for inflation and growth in student enrollment, spending fell every year from 2010 to 2012, even as costs for health care, pension plans and special education programs continued to rise faster than inflation.1 Urban districts have been particularly hard-hit by the cuts in federal education spending: Nearly 90 percent of big-city school districts spent less per student in 2012 than when the recession ended in 2009.2

“The cuts are increasingly hitting classrooms directly. In the recession and the early stages of the recovery, superintendents were largely able to protect instructional expenses such as teacher salaries by cutting from other areas, such as administration and maintenance. But that has become more difficult over time. In the 2011-12 school year, classroom spending fell faster than overall spending.”

The budget cuts, which occur at the same time as widespread attacks on teachers’ due process rights, creates a harsh atmosphere in the schools, one that sends a negative signal to teachers and administrators, showing the nation’s lack of concern for education and educators.

John Merrow says that the laws struck down by the Vergara decision are indefensible.

 

Teachers get tenure after 18 months, but in most states it takes three or four years.

 

Seniority, he says, discourages young teachers, who are first fired.

 

The process of removing an ineffective teacher is far too complex, requiring some 70 steps.

 

My view: The legislature should promptly remedy these defects in the fairest way possible to assure that it is not easy to fire teachers, but that teachers who face charges get a fair and timely hearing. I agree with Merrow that it should take 3-4 years to get tenure, not 18 months. As to seniority, I defer to the wisdom of David B. Cohen, who explained why seniority matters and how it can be improved.

 

All that said, the decision did not prove that these laws, whatever their defects, discriminate against minority children.

 

In a footnote, Merrow notes that California spends less on public education than almost every other state, at least 30% less than the national average. Let us see if Students Matter fights for adequate funding of the state’s public schools. I doubt it.

 

If we seek to remedy the needs of minority children, abolishing tenure outright is not a logical starting point.

 

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