Archives for category: Budget Cuts

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.

 

Josh Waldron has repeatedly been honored by the local Rotary Club as high school teacher of the year. He loves teaching. He planned a career as a teacher. But he is leaving. He explains why he is leaving here.

You probably know why. It is always the same story. Budget cuts. Frozen salary. Every year, the district or the state invents new goals, new hoops to jump through. A parade of new ideas, the latest thing, new mandates.

What are the district’s priorities?

“I don’t fault our district for a worldwide economic downturn. I do fault it for how it’s handled it. For six years in a row, we’ve cut, cut, cut. And for six years in a row, students and teachers have paid the biggest price.

“When times are tough, human beings and institutions have the rare opportunity to reflect and refocus, to think differently and creatively. But instead of seizing the opportunity and gathering stakeholders for collective conversations and solution building, we’ve wandered around aimlessly hoping to make ends meet.

“We should have a clear plan for sustainability. Instead, we’re really just worried about balancing the budget.

“When we have a desperate need like football bleachers that have to be replaced, or turfgrass that isn’t up to par, we somehow find the money. We — through public or private avenues — meet those needs. Why can’t we find funds to address the areas that seem more pertinent to our primary mission?”

The pressure to get higher s ores every year has warped the classroom and the school:

“I’ve seen teachers cry over Standards of Learning scores. I’ve seen students cry over SOL scores. I’ve seen newspaper and TV reports sensationalize SOL scores. These are all indications of an unhealthy obsession with flawed standardized tests.

“SOL tests are inherently unfair, but we continue to invest countless hours and resources in our quest for our school to score well.

“This leads me to the following questions:

“Do we care more about student progress or our appearance?

“Why can’t we start a movement to walk away from these tests?

“Why can’t we shift our focus to critical thinking and relevant educational experiences?

“It’s tough to acknowledge that people in Washington, D.C., and Richmond (and sometimes decision makers in Waynesboro) develop systems and policies that affect my students and me negatively. But as they retire and sail off into the sunset, we’re the ones left with the consequences of ineffective measurements and strategies.

“Our new teacher evaluations focus heavily on test scores. But while teachers are continually under pressure to be held accountable, there seems to be very little accountability for parents, the community, or district offices.”

Josh concludes that until the community cares about education and respects educators, nothing will change. And he is leaving.

When will wake up to the fact that test-based accountability and other fake reforms is ruining education?

We can’t afford to lose our committed, idealistic teachers like Josh.

Well, we got to know a little bit about Zephyr Teachout, who was supposedly the chosen candidate of the Working Families Party. But in the last 48 hours, it became clear that Governor Cuomo wasn’t going to let that party line slip away from him. It is impossible to know what promises were made, whose arms were twisted, what deals were struck, but Governor Cuomo got the endorsement of the WFP tonight.

Lest we forget, this is the Governor who made a deal with the hedge fund crowd to assure that New York City could not charge rent to charter schools; that the city could not reject any of the co-locations hurriedly approved by Mayor Bloomberg’s lame-duck school board last October; that the city would be required to pay the rent of charter schools that rented private space; and that co-located charter schools could expand at will. Lest we forget, this is the Governor that insisted on a 2% tax cap for school districts, which can be lifted only with a supermajority of a 60% approval vote. Lest we forget, this is the Governor who insisted that test scores had to count for much more as part of every educators’ evaluation. This is a Governor of a state with highly inequitable funding. This is a Governor who loves charter schools, corporate tax breaks, and high-stakes testing. He is not a friend of public schools.

Here is the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WORKING FAMILIES PARTY, GOVERNOR CUOMO, MAYOR DE BLASIO, ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHNEIDERMAN, COMPTROLLER DINAPOLI, AND NEW YORK’S MAJOR UNIONS ANNOUNCE HISTORIC COALITION TO SECURE DEMOCRAT-WORKING FAMILIES MAJORITY IN STATE SENATE, DELIVER KEY PROGRESSIVE VICTORIES

Contact: Khan Shoieb, New York Communications Director, 347 596-6389

NEW YORK, NY – On Saturday, May 31st, at the Working Families Party Convention, the Working Families Party, Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Schneiderman, Comptroller DiNapoli, and 1199 SEIU, 32BJ SEIU, CWA District One, UFT, HTC, UAW Region 9A, UFCW Local 1500, RWDSU, MTDC, and the Teamsters announced a unified, unprecedented coalition to secure a Democrat-Working Families majority in the New York State Senate and deliver progressive victories on a number of key priorities in the early months of the next legislative session. The legislative commitments include a robust, statewide system of public financing of elections, funding 200 community schools, a commitment to fix the school funding formula to invest more money in high-need schools, the DREAM Act, the Women’s Equality Act, decriminalization of marijuana, and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 while indexing it to inflation and allowing localities to raise it up to 30% higher than the state minimum wage.

Mayor Bill de Blasio:

I was there at the beginning of the Working Families Party. And I’m proud to be with you today.

From the beginning, the Working Families Party has been the party that has stood up an economy that works for everyone and a democracy in which every voice was heard.

Tonight, that has happened again, because of the WFP, an unprecedented coalition is now committed to making a progressive vision for New York a reality.

Bill Lipton, New York State Director, Working Families Party:

The WFP stuck to its values. Tonight was about fighting to give New Yorkers a better job, a stronger school, and a government that actually hears their voice. Tomorrow, New Yorkers will be closer than ever before to seeing a real wage increase. They will be closer to having justice for immigrants, women, and young people of color. They will be closer to having a government that works for them, not just the wealthy and well-connected. And that’s where a real commitment to progressive principles can get you.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:

Our coalition has never been stronger and our team has never been better. The Governor, the Comptroller and I are committed to transforming the state senate and then following through to transform the great state of New York.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli:

I am proud to stand with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the Working Families Party and New York’s labor community in the fight for New York’s progressive future. Together, we are restoring New York’s reputation as the state that leads the nation in the fight to end income inequality and stands strong for working and middle class families.

George Gresham, President 1199SEIU:

1199 SEIU’s 250,000 New York members are proud to stand together with our leaders to support a strong Democratic majority for the New York State Senate. Together with Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio, labor and the Working Families Party we will deliver a progressive future for New York’s families.

Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU:

We are proud to stand with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and the Working Families Party today and show what’s possible when progressives, unions and elected officials put the interest of working families first. We are committed to mobilizing our members statewide to take back the state Senate and ensure the passage of legislation that will raise wages, provide educational opportunity for all, including immigrants, and improve the lives of working people throughout New York.

Chris Shelton, Vice President, CWA District One:

For decades, CWA has fought against an entrenched Senate majority opposed to the progressive, pro-labor policies working people need. Now, standing united with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and all labor unions and the Working Families Party, we are in a position to win reforms we’ve fought for all these many years, including public financing of elections, the DREAM Act, a minimum wage increase tied to an index, the right for localities to raise their own wages, greater educational justice, marijuana decriminalization, and [anything i don't know about]. It’s quite a list, and finally within reach. We urge the Working Families Party to support Governor Cuomo for re-election to achieve the progressive victories this state needs

UFT President Michael Mulgrew:

We look forward to working with the state’s leaders and a Democratic majority in the State Senate to bring real innovation to our schools, and to stop the privatization and “corporatization” that have done so much harm to our children’s education.

Peter Ward, President of the Hotels Trades Council:

We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and all New York Democrats in electing a unified Democratic government that fights for working people and progressive values.

Julie Kushner, Director, UAW Region 9A:

Today is an historic moment, creating a grand coalition thathas the potential to bring real change to the hard working people of New York. I am proud to stand today withMayor deBlasio and Governor Cuomo in building this coalition that will begintoday to take on the hard job of winning back the NYS Senate so together we canenact laws that will change the day-to-day experience of millions of workingpeople in our communities. UAW membersare ready to win transformative legislation that will protect womens’reproductive rights, decriminalize marijuana, improve funding for our schools,recognize our DREAMERS, raise the minimum wage and deliver fair elections forall of New York. This is a great day anda great beginning. Let’s get to work.

Anthony Speelman, Secretary-Treasurer, UFCW Local 1500:

UFCW Local 1500 proudly stands alongside the Governor, the Mayor, and labor in supporting a unified Democratic Party. This unity will bring a real progressive agenda to our members, New York State, and the entire labor movement.

Stuart Applebaum, RWDSU:

“The RWDSU is proud to stand with Governor Cuomo and Mayor Deblasio in calling for a governing democratic majority in the State Senate. With a democratic majority, progressive and pro-labor legislation can be moved forward to better the lives of New Yorkers.”

Mike McGuire, Political Director, Mason Tenders District Council:

“The Mason Tenders’ District Council supports the concept of a unified democratic government because that is the best way to advance the cause of organized labor in New York State. We are proud to follow in the footsteps of or friends Gov. Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and our colleagues in organized labor in achieving this goal.”

Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda:

The Teamsters stand with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and the Working Families Party in working with all Democrats for a stronger more equitable New York. Organized labor has always been the path to equality for workers, immigrants, the downtrodden and the poor. A unified Democratic Party can only stand to strengthen organized labor in the sectors that need it most, such as our burgeoning immigrant workforce.


Khan Shoieb
New York Communications Director
Working Families Party / Working Families Organization
o: (718) 222-3796 x219
c: (347) 596-6389
Follow me on Twitter @KShoieb


Khan Shoieb
New York Communications Director
Working Families Party / Working Families Organization
o: (718) 222-3796 x219
c: (347) 596-6389
Follow me on Twitter @KShoieb
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to nystakeholders+unsubscribe@workingfamilies.org.

Carol Burris eloquently explains why she will vote for Anybody But Cuomo.

She remembers when Democrats fought for good public schools for all.

She remembers when Democrats saw funding public schools as a civic obligation, not as “throwing money at the problem.”

She wants a governor who believes in public schools, and that is not Andrew Cuomo.

She writes:

“I stood with one thousand others on a Wednesday evening outside the recent Democratic Convention. The chant of the crowd was clear—ABC—Anybody but Cuomo. There was a hunger in the crowd for a candidate who will respect the work of teachers. There was hunger for someone who will respect the pleas from parents to roll back testing and the Common Core. There was hunger for someone who instead of claiming he will be the “student lobbyist” will actually stand up for all children, by equitably funding their schools rather than cutting taxes on millionaires. Words and commissions are not enough. A change in direction is what is needed.

“Now is the time to courageously stand and say we will not be bullied by the fear posed by false choices. The Working Families Party must put forth a candidate who respects its ideals if it is to have credibility and voice. I want to be able to respond to the question, “Where will you go?” with an answer. I want that answer to be, “I will go to the WFP who believes in our public schools.”

“If you feel the same, contact the Working Family Party today. Email director Bill Lipton at blipton@workingfamilies.org.

“Let him know that you too want an alternative to Andrew Cuomo, too!”

Camden, Néw Jersey, is one of those impoverished districts that lost local control and was taken over by the state in 2013. Recently, the Chris Christie administration hired a young, ex-TFA, ex-Joel Klein guy as superintendent, and it was clear that the district was headed for demolition.

This past week, the trouble started as layoff notices went out to more than 200 teachers. Students walked out in mass protest, but the plan began to reveal itself. Nothing innovative about it. Layoffs, charter schools, TFA, community outrage, officials indifferent to community outrage.

Thanks to Race to the Top, which dovetails neatly with the privatization goals of rightwing governors and relies on TFA scab labor, the demolition of public education in Camden is underway.

A reader added this note:

 

1) Buried in the numbers is the fact that the layoffs are only of general education NOT special education teachers. The reason being that as charter schools expand in Camden they cream and refuse to take special needs kids leaving almost all of them in district schools.
2) While firing staff, Paymon brought on a score of staffers from Tweed. None of them has any direct experience supporting schools. They are all young office workers with little knowledge of schools or of teaching.

When people write Pennsyvania Governor Tom Corbett to complain about the devastating effects of his budget cuts on the children of Philadelphia, he responds by blaming the teachers’ union for not accepting even deeper cuts. A few days ago, a first-grader died; there was no school nurse on duty. Her position had been cut from five days a week to one day a week plus another occasional day. This was the second child to die in a school where Corbett’s budget cuts had eliminated the full-time nurse. Corbett blames the teachers.

Governor Corbett accepts no responsibilty. His response to critics betrays a guilty heart, or a man without one.

This teacher, Steven Singer, describes what happened when he wrote a letter to Governor Corbett.

“Wow! I am flabbergasted by PA Gov. Tom Corbett’s reaction to the second Philadelphia student dying at school without a nurse on duty! As many of you did, I wrote him a letter asking him to please increase funding so tragedies like this are not repeated. He must be getting some heat because this is the first time he’s ever actually answered any of my correspondences.

“His answer was basically: (1) how dare the Philadelphia Teachers Union intrude on the family’s suffering to make a political point and (2) if only the teachers union would take concessions and work for less money, the state would have enough to pay for nurses!

“The deaths of these two students are direct consequences of Corbett’s education policies! He slashed education funding by close to $1 billion every year for the last 3 years! This resulted in 20,000 teachers being laid off, class sizes skyrocketing, the elimination of art, music and extra curricular activities – and, yes, school nurses! If this is not the time to address the issue of his malfeasance, when is!? Once people have time to forget? He did nothing after the first student died. Hadn’t the time come yet to address that issue before the second one died!? Will there be time to address the issue before another child dies? Would rushing to judgement after three years be too uncouth!?

“And then he blames teachers for asking to be treated fairly! Sure if we all just accepted sweat shop conditions, think of the money the state could lavish on our schools – to Pearson and Common Core!

“We had very low voter turnout during the primary that put Democratic candidate Tom Wolf as Corbett’s November challenger for governor. If people don’t show up to kick this bum out of office, we will all deserve what we get! Correction: we’ll deserve it, but the kids who mostly aren’t old enough to vote, will continue to be the innocent victims of this poisonous political hack!

“Here is Corbett’s letter:

“Putting the safety and educational needs of our students first must continue to be our top priority. There is an appropriate time and place to call for education policy discussions. Right now, our thoughts should be with the child’s family, friends, school and community who have all been through an extremely traumatic situation.

I am deeply troubled that the union leadership of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers – and by extension the American Federation of Teachers – would use the recent tragedy at Jackson Elementary as an opportunity to make a political statement. For more than a year, we all have asked the union leadership – who are disconnected from the great teachers in Philadelphia who are in the classroom every day – to come to the table and engage in meaningful negotiations to assist in the financial recovery of the Philadelphia School District.

The Commonwealth, the School District, the School Reform Commission and City Council are all working to contribute to the success of Philadelphia’s schools and students. I will continue to ask the union leadership to put the children of Philadelphia first and engage in a meaningful dialogue and a shared vision for the future of the children of Philadelphia.

Tom Corbett”

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