Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner unveiled his budget proposal, which includes $6 billion in cuts to universities, health care, and public sector pensions (except police and firefighters).

Rauner, a private equity investor until he ran for governor, proposed no new taxes on the wealthy.

““This budget is honest with the people of Illinois, and it presents an honest path forward,” Mr. Rauner said as he laid out what he deemed a “turnaround budget” before lawmakers in Springfield, the state capital. “Like a family, we must come together to address the reality we face. Families know that every member can’t get everything they want.”

“The fate of Mr. Rauner’s $31.5 billion spending plan, however, is uncertain, particularly given that Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the legislature. Democrats said it would harm middle-class families and the poor, while asking little more from wealthy residents. The proposed budget calls for no tax increases or new taxes.

“Governor Rauner’s plan includes proposals that will undermine access to health services, child care, affordable college and retirement security for working- and middle-class families,” said John J. Cullerton, the Democratic president of the State Senate, adding that the contents of the plan raised “significant questions about its viability” in the legislature.”

There has been much discussion on the blog about the “Coffee Cup” ad sponsored by the political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association. (See here and here.)

 

Here is the ad. 

 

Kayser is accused of being anti-public school, when in fact he has been a strong supporter of public schools and public school teachers. He is a strong critic of charters. That is why the CCSAA is spending big bucks to defeat him. He has voted to reduce class size, increase teacher pay, and restore programs lost to budget cuts.

 

The broken coffee cup, Kayser and his allies believe, is a subtle reference to his hands shaking because of Parkinson’s. Why else would he drop his coffee cup? If that was the intention of the ad, it is reprehensible. If it was not, CCSA has some explaining to do.

 

 

Peter Greene has done an amazing investigative review of the Boston Consulting Group. What is BCG? Why do reformers in so many cities hire this management consulting firm? What is its connection to the Gates Foundation and Arne Duncan?

Greene writes:

“Word went out today that immediately after Arkansas decided to make Little Rock Schools non-public, the Walton family called a “focus group” meeting “in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group. This is worse than finding the slender man in the back of your family portrait. For a public school system, this is finding the grim reaper at your front door. And he’s not selling cookies.”

Greene reveals BCG’s business strategies, which are totally inappropriate for education but beloved by reformers.

“Bottom line? Say a little prayer for the formerly public schools of Little Rock, because BCG is in town and they’re sharpening their axe.”

Thanks to reader GST for bringing this important story to our attention: a court in Pennsylvania ruled that the School Reform Commission may not cancel the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. This is a battle that has gone on for two years, as the unelected School Reform Commission looks for ways to cut the budget. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia schools are suffering from former Governor Tom Corbett’s deep budget cuts, and the Legislature has refused to fulfill its responsibility to the children of Philadelphia.

 

Commonwealth Court judges have handed a win to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, ruling that the School Reform Commission cannot throw out the teachers’ union’s contract and impose new terms.

 

The decision was confirmed by Jerry Jordan, PFT president, on Thursday morning.

 

“This is a very big victory,” Jordan said.

 

After nearly two years of negotiations, the district had moved on Oct. 6 to cancel the teachers’ contract and impose health-benefits changes that would save the cash-strapped system $54 million annually, officials said.
In the decision, judges said that neither the state Public School Code nor the Legislature have expressly given the SRC the power to cancel its teachers’ contract.

 

“This Court is cognizant of the dire financial situation which the Districtcurrently faces and the SRC’s extensive efforts to achieve the overall goal of properlyand adequately meeting the educational needs of the students,” Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote for the court. “There have been numerous difficult decisions that the SRC has been forced to make in an effort to overcome these economic hurdles, including a one-third reduction in staff and theclosing of 31 schools in recent years.”

 

But the law does not give the SRC the power to cancel a collective bargaining agreement.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/school_files/District-cant-impose-contract-court-rules.html#GVqP31QcrCMOdFmZ.99

Since 2011, the number of school nurses in the Philadelphia public schools has declined by 40%. At a meeting of the School Reform Commission, the appointed board that runs the district, nurses and principals testified about the dangers to children posed by the lack of nurses.

In 2013, a 12-year-old child died of an asthma attack at school; there was no nurse available that day.

In 2014, a 7-year-old child collapsed and died in school; there was no nurse available that day.

How many more children must die before the state supplies the funding to staff every school with a nurse every day?

Governor Jerry Brown’s Inaugural address includes the following remarks about education. Governor Brown understands that schools need adequate funding to succeed. One of his biggest challenges when he took office was to begin to restore the billions that had been cut from public schools by his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think he is wrong about Common Core, which caused California to ditch some of the best state standards in the nation and will draw hundreds of millions, if not billions, out of strained school budgets (Los Angeles was about to spend over &1 billion on iPads for Common Core testing until the deal fell apart a few months ago). But, reasonable people differ, and time will tell whether the investment in Common Core is worth it.

Governor Brown said:

“Educating the next generation is fundamental to our collective well-being. An issue that has plagued our schools for decades is the enormous barrier facing children from low-income families. When my father was governor, he sought to remedy the wide inequities among different school districts by calling for equalization of funding. His efforts were not successful.

“Now – decades later – we have finally created a much fairer system of school funding, called the Local Control Funding Formula. Under the provisions of this law, state funds are directed to school districts based on the needs of their students. Districts will get significantly more funds based on the number of students from foster care, low-income families and non-English-speaking parents. This program also breaks with decades of increasing centralization by reducing state control in favor of local flexibility. Clear goals are set, and their enforcement is entrusted to parents and local officials. This puts California in the forefront of educational reform.

“After years of underfunding and even borrowing from our local schools, the state now has significantly increased its financial support for education. Next year schools will receive $65.7 billion, a 39 percent increase in four years.

“The tasks ahead are daunting: making sure that the new system of local control works; recruiting and training tens of thousands of teachers; mastering the Common Core Curriculum; and fostering the creativity needed to inspire students. Teachers need to be held accountable but never forget: they have a tough job to do. They need our encouragement, not endless regulations and micro-management from afar.

“With respect to education beyond high school, California is blessed with a rich and diverse system. Its many elements serve a vast diversity of talents and interests. While excellence is their business, affordability and timely completion is their imperative. As I’ve said before, I will not make the students of California the default financiers of our colleges and universities. To meet our goals, everyone has to do their part: the state, the students and the professors. Each separate institution cannot be all things to all people, but the system in its breadth and diversity, through real cooperation among its segments, can well provide what Californians need and desire…..”

State Senator Phil Berger (and president pro tem of the North Carolina State Senate has championed budget cuts that hurt the public schools in his district. He has also championed charter schools, which have minimal accountability. Stuart Egan, a North Carolina teacher, explains what appears to be inexplicable:

“It’s getting deeper here in North Carolina. Literally.

“A recent news story in the Winston-Salem Journal highlighted once again that North Carolina’s General Assembly is bent on starving our public schools into submission with lack of funds and shortage of resources – even the most basic of necessities like toilet paper.

“Danielle Battaglia reports that the Rockingham County school system is literally having to rob “Peter to pay Paul” just to keep schools open and functioning. Classes lack textbooks; copy paper is unaffordable; basic janitorial supplies cannot be bought. You can read about that here: http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/rockingham-county-schools-short-on-the-basics/article_61b15a34-bcfd-5407-83a4-86a2830c5ab2.html.

“One really big irony here is that Rockingham County is the home of our current and newly reelected NCGA Senate President Pro Tem, Phil Berger, Sr. He was one of the champions of the current state budget that is crippling the very schools he serves, especially the ones in his hometown of Eden, NC. That current budget also is supporting the exponential growth of charter schools which are able to take public funds, surreptitiously hide how the money is spent while escaping oversight and eluding state standards that are in constant flux.

“One of those charter schools, Providence Charter, gained final approval from the state board this year to open in Rockingham County and will possibly enroll 500 students. Rockingham County Public high schools only have around 4200 students total. That amounts to well over 10% of available students being siphoned off to a school that can claim to be a public institution in order to get state funds, but then assert itself as a private entity so that it cannot be audited with the same transparency as public schools are. The fact that many who start and operate charter schools are financially motivated is not a secret. What makes this one charter school especially suspicious is that it is co-founded by Phil Berger, Jr., the state senator’s son. You can read about that here: http://www.newsadvance.com/rockingham_now/news/providence-charter-officially-approved-to-open/article_06f3390c-7976-11e3-904c-0019bb30f31a.html?mode=jqm.

“When small school districts lose numbers like Rockingham County, they also lose the ability to petition for adequate funds. Imagine what happens to a school system when it loses over ten percent of its students; the financial impact can be staggering. Textbooks cannot be bought; facilities cannot be maintained. Bathrooms lack toilet paper. Students suffer. Communities stagnate.

“Providence Charter in Eden, NC will be the first charter high school in Rockingham County, but there already exists a charter middle school, Bethany Community Middle School. Who is on the board of that school? Yes, Phil Berger, Jr. In essence, Sen. Berger is allowing and enabling his own son to weaken the very public schools in his home district.

“This is not only a conflict of interest, but a growing trend to “reform” public education here in North Carolina. It would make more sense to take all of the resources, energy, and funds that would be siphoned off to the charter schools and work to improve the public schools that already exist. It seems to me that an elected official would make sure that as many people in his district as possible benefit from tax-payer money, maybe even enough to get some toilet paper and even new textbooks in schools that actually reflect the curriculum (which is about to change again).

“What hurts the most is that we as citizens keep electing these people to office and allow them to do detrimental things to our public schools under the guise of civic service and school choice. And it’s not just a school level problem; it’s an overall education problem.

“We as North Carolinians are not educating ourselves well enough to sift through political doublespeak and partisan propaganda. We are voting on perceptions and not truths. But it is hard to know the truth when facts are covered and avenues to learn are blocked and tampered with. What occurs is an environment where personalities are placed before principles. That causes people to suffer, especially our students.

“For example, last August a legislative assistant for Rep. Tim Moore named Nancy Garriss had an exchange with a veteran teacher on the phone and referred to the teacher as an “idiot” for even questioning the treatment of public education in the new state budget. This did not go unnoticed (http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/09/what-north-carolina-teachers-say-about-that-historic-pay-raise/). Yet once again, North Carolinians in Cleveland County, NC selected Rep .Tim Moore to go back to Raleigh and in another example of cruel irony, he was just elected by his GOP peers as the new House Speaker of the NC General Assembly to replace Thom Tillis, who defeated the incumbent Kay Hagan for the US Senate. Less than half of registered voters in North Carolina came to the polls for these past midterm elections and the results were not favorable to public schools. But that could change.

“The operative word here is “midterm.” As soon as one election cycle ends, another ramps up and begins to take shape, and this next one can be a great time to take back our public schools. Historically, more registered voters go to the polls during presidential and gubernatorial election years. And all NCGA members will again be campaigning (or not) to be sent back to Raleigh. Imagine if just over half of the registered voters in North Carolina went to the polls, then people who champion public education could be put into positions to help our students.

“Look at this metaphorically. As a teacher, I look at midterm grades as a marker of sorts. It is not the final course grade, but an indication of what work needs to be done and a way to reflect on how teaching and learning can be improved. Our midterm grades in North Carolina are not stellar by any means. Declining support of public schools, lack of medical insurance coverage for those who need it most, voting restrictions, and lost revenue only begin to explain what North Carolina faces. Yet, it can change. The “final” grade can be much better. I just hope no more damage occurs in our state before we learn the lesson.

“By then we may need more than toilet paper to clean it up.”

Stuart Egan, NBCT

West Forsyth High School

Clemmons, NC

Chris Fitzsimon describes what happened to the public schools in State Senator Phil Berger’s home district because of the budget cuts he pushed. Some schools can’t pay for textbooks, some can’t afford copy paper or toilet paper. Inspired by Republican and Tea Party rhetoric, voters rejected a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax.

Who cares about the children?

Myra Blackmon, a regular contributor to OnlineAthens (Georgia), here writes about the state’s devotion to failed education policies. If it isn’t working, do more of it:

Blackmon writes:

The clichéd definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. That may be true in some instances, but when it comes to education in Georgia, we have our own special crazy.

While education “reform” is an issue as old as the republic, Georgia’s approaches to it are crazier than any patchwork quilt. We bounce around from one quick fix to the next. We routinely ignore research about what works, and use ideas that have never been tested.

Our legislature tries to micromanage our schools, the governor controls the policy-making state school board and we elect the state school superintendent, who is not required to know anything about education policy or the business of running schools.

We passed a new school funding formula in 1985, adjusted it several times, but never actually appropriated enough money to actually implement it. After 15 or so years of that, our elected representatives decided that there was too much “fat” in the education budget and proceeded to whack away at it.

While piling on new requirements each year, the legislature has slashed some $7.5 billion from a budget that was never fully funded in the first place. We’ve had additional, often severe cuts at the local level triggered by falling property taxes. At the same time, our public school enrollment has grown by more than 246,000 students.

As our student population has grown, we have lost or cut teaching positions. In its 2013 report “Cutting Class to Make Ends Meet,” the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute found Georgia had lost at least 9,000 teachers in four years. And in 2014, we have 2,500 fewer teachers than we had for the 2011-12 school year. The budget cuts have resulted in more than 100 districts with school years shorter than the mandated 180 days. The cumulative reduction in instructional time from budget cuts alone is significant and can produce only a negative impact on student achievement. There are also fewer courses available, thus narrowing opportunities for student growth.

What has been our response to this crisis? First, there was the great outcry about “failing schools,” based on the scores from poorly constructed, invalid tests. From there, we moved on to teacher-bashing, with a loud determination to rid our schools of the mythical hosts of bad teachers. Multitudes of experienced teachers have left the profession and today more than half of new teachers leave the field within their first five years. Surely the bad ones are about gone….

That’s right, we cut money for a decade, complaining all the while about low test scores and then decide to make it all even harder.

The “reformers” are telling us that the solution to our children’s lack of educational achievement is to make it more difficult. Test them more! Then make it harder next year again! Friends, we are buying this snake oil by the gallon. It’s just plain nuts.

Students in grades 3-5 will spend about 30 hours just taking state-mandated tests this year. And that doesn’t include all the practice tests and test preparation time that further reduces their actual learning time. That adds up to several weeks of learning time that could be put to much better use….
.

And while our schools are limping along on life support, we insist on substituting testing for learning, swapping test prep time for projects and enrichment, and setting expectations so high the failure rate is bound to go up. That is what crazy looks like in Georgia. We could stop it if we wanted to.

Myra Blackmon, a local Banner-Herald columnist, works as a freelance writer, consultant and instructional designer.

http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2014-12-06/blackmon-georgias-patchwork-approach-education-isnt-working

“Reformers,” as we all know, want to raise standards and improve education. Or so they say. To reach their goals, they say our schools are failing, our economy and national security are at risk, and our educators are rotten apples. their propaganda war against public education is relentless and has the financial support of the U. S. Department of Education, the Gates Foundation, the far-right Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Arnold Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Foundation, and many more.

“Reformers” close community public schools, fire teachers and principals, insist on tests that most students fail, and create constant disruption. Eventually the public realizes that they must choose a charter school or voucher school because there is no neighborhood school or its best students have been lured away by charters.

What’s going on?

Brett Dickerson explains that there is a carefully orchestrated plan to liquidate public education.

He writes:

“Plans are under way for investment corporations to execute the biggest conversion – some call it theft – of public schools property in U.S. history.

“That is not hyperbole. Investment bankers themselves estimate that their taking over public schools is going to result in hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, if they can pull it off….

“There are very clear plans being made for just such a thing.

“The plan has been and still is to execute the complete conversion or liquidation of public schools property built up at taxpayer expense for generations.

“It involves raiding pensions that have been hard-won from years of legislative work by teachers and their unions. I reported on ideas being floated in Oklahoma along these lines in this piece that I did for Red Dirt Report earlier this year.

“It will all be done through the control of legislatures that have been mostly compliant with lobbying efforts due to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allowed huge corporate money, mostly unidentified, to flow into elections. The Andre Agassi Foundation is just one of many who have worked this angle for their own return on investment….

“Offer to buy out a profitable company that has little or no debt.

“Silence the work force by tricking them into thinking life will be better with the new owners.

“Once the purchase is complete, fire the workforce.

“Liquidate the pension fund.

“Liquidate the company for the cash value of its paid-for property.

“Leave the host community in financial ruins.”

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