Archives for category: Budget Cuts

This interview on KPCC-NPR in Southern California by Larry Mantle was conducted a few days ago.

Mantle made it clear–at least to me–that he favors charter schools, so I was constantly asked to defend my criticism of them. I later learned that Los Angelenos know Mantle as a charter champion. One of the hypothetical questions are posed was “what would be wrong with a district that was half public schools, half charter schools?” Another time, he praised Eli Broad and wondered why I didn’t regard him as a generous philanthropist. You get the drift.

When the callers were put on the air, all of them were charter parents who challenged me.

There were no questions or comments from public school parents.

The parents who called in do not believe that charters divert funding from public schools, where most of the state’s children are. I suggested that they google Gordon Lafer’s study, “The Breaking Point,” which documents the many millions that three California districts lose to charters. I also suggested that California has been underinvesting in its schools for many years and is now below the national average.

I think every parent has the right to make the choice they think is in the best interest of their child, but I think every policymaker is responsible to improve and prioritize the public schools that enroll 85-90% of all American children.

In AIRTALK’s tweet about the show, which appeared pretty quickly on March 11, the show’s tweet says that I consider the 2010s to be “banner years” for public schools. This is ridiculous. Whoever wrote that line obviously did not read the book. The 2010s were a time of budget cuts, teacher shortages, the combined negative effects of NCLB and Race to the Top, VAM, Common Core, and worship of mandated standardized testing. It was a horrible decade for schools, with the only bright spot being the rise of the #Red4Ed movement in 2018. I am assuming that no one at AIRTALK read the book. The topic of conversation was: How dare you dare to question the need for and value of charter schools?

The show takes about 20 minutes. Listen and tell me what you think.

Bill Phillis is a retired state official in Ohio. As founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy, he follows the money. And he finds that nearly $15 billion has been diverted from public schools to charters and vouchers.

Educational opportunities lost in public school districts due to the state’s confiscation of $14,673,524,789 for the charter and voucher whims

Traditional public school students have been denied massive educational opportunities by the state’s confiscation of $14.7 billion from school districts. Much of the $14.7 billion has been wasted; hence, all students are being shortchanged.

The state’s constitutional responsibility is to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools. Instead of fixing the system as directed by the Ohio Supreme Court, the state has frittered away $14.7 billion of school district funds.

Some of the nation’s leading civil rights legal teams are supporting parents in Memphis and Metro Nashville who have sued to block the enactment of a voucher bill that applies only to their cash-strapped districts. The bill passed by one vote, after that legislator was promised that his own district would not get vouchers.

CONTACTS:
Ashley Levett, SPLC, ashley.levett@splcenter.org / 334-296-0084
Sharon Krengel, ELC, skrengel@edlawcenter.org / 973-624-1815, x 24
Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN, communications@aclu-tn.org / 615-320-7142
Christopher Wood, Robbins Geller, cwood@rgrdlaw.com / 615- 244-2203
Nashville, Tenn., March 2 – Public school parents and community members in Nashville and Memphis today filed suit in the Chancery Court for Davidson County challenging the Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher law as an unconstitutional diversion of public education funding to private schools.

In the lawsuit, McEwen v. Lee, the plaintiffs contend that diverting millions of dollars intended for Memphis and Nashville public schools to private schools violates public school students’ rights to the adequate and equitable educational opportunities guaranteed under the Tennessee Constitution. The lawsuit also charges that the voucher law violates the constitution’s “Home Rule” provision, which prohibits the state legislature from passing laws that apply only to certain counties.

The Tennessee voucher program would siphon off over $7,500 per student – or over $375 million in the first five years – from funds appropriated by the General Assembly to maintain and support the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and Shelby County (Memphis) Schools, according to the lawsuit. The controversial state law could go into effect as early as the 2020-21 school year.

The voucher law passed by a single vote in May 2019, over the objections of legislators from Shelby and Davidson Counties, as well as others.

If the voucher program is implemented, Metro Nashville Public Schools and Shelby County Schools will lose substantial sums from their already underfunded budgets, resulting in further cuts to educators, support staff, and other essential resources, the lawsuit states.

“We love my daughter’s school, but it is already underfunded,” said Roxanne McEwen, whose child is an MNPS student. “There isn’t enough money for textbooks, technology, to pay teachers, or to keep class sizes down. Taking more money away from our schools is only going to make it worse. I joined this lawsuit because I want to be a voice for my child and for kids who don’t have a voice.”

“I believe that Shelby County Schools do not have enough funding to provide all children with the resources they need to learn. At one of my son’s middle school, they do not offer geometry, and one of my other sons did not have a science teacher for two years in a row,” said Tracy O’Connor, whose four children attend Shelby County Schools. “If the district loses more funds due to the voucher program, I worry that we will lose more guidance counselors, reading specialists and librarians, and there will be more cuts to the foreign language and STEM programs.”

The complaint highlights numerous ways in which private schools receiving public funds are not held to the same standards as Tennessee public schools, in violation of the state constitution’s requirement of a single system of public education. Private schools do not have to adhere to the numerous academic, accountability, and governance standards that public schools must meet. They can discriminate against students on the basis of religion, LGBTQ status, disability, income level, and other characteristics. And they are not required to provide special education services to students with disabilities.

“Public schools are open to all children, while private schools receiving voucher funds are not held to the same standards,” said Nashville mother Terry Jo Bichell. “My son is non-verbal and receives extensive special education and related services in his MNPS school, including being assigned a one-on-one paraprofessional. I do not know of a single private school in the state that would be willing or able to enroll a student like my son. Even if a private school was willing to enroll my son, we would have to waive his right to receive special education.”

The voucher law also violates the Tennessee Constitution’s requirement that the General Assembly appropriate first-year funding for each law it passes. No money was appropriated for the voucher law, and recent hearings have revealed that the Tennessee Department of Education used funds from an unrelated program to pay over $1 million to a private company for administration of the voucher program.

The plaintiffs are represented by Education Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which collaborate on the Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) campaign. PFPS opposes all forms of private school vouchers and works to ensure that public funds are used exclusively to maintain, support and strengthen our nation’s public schools. The plaintiffs are also represented by the ACLU of Tennessee and pro bono by the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP

# # #

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit http://www.splcenter.org.

Founded in 1973, Education Law Center is a national leader in advancing the rights of public school students to equal educational opportunity under state and federal law through litigation, policy, advocacy and research. For more information, visit http://www.edlawcenter.org.

The ACLU of Tennessee, the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union, is a private, non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization dedicated to defending and advancing civil liberties and civil rights through advocacy, coalition-building, litigation, legislative lobbying, community mobilization and public education. For more information, visit http://www.aclu-tn.org.

Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP is one of the world’s leading complex litigation firms representing plaintiffs in securities fraud, antitrust, corporate mergers and acquisitions, consumer and insurance fraud, multi-district litigation, and whistleblower protection cases. With 200 lawyers in 9 offices, Robbins Geller has obtained many of the largest securities, antitrust, and consumer class action recoveries in history, recovering tens of billions of dollars for victims of fraud and corporate wrongdoing. Robbins Geller attorneys are consistently recognized by courts, professional organizations and the media as leading lawyers in their fields of practice. Visit http://www.rgrdlaw.com/.

John Thompson, historian and retired teachers, sees signs of disaster in the policies adopted by Oklahoma’s two biggest cities: Tulsaand Oklahoma City. “reform” (aka Disruption) means closing schools. This is a good time to remind readers that SLAYING GOLIATH, to whic he refers, does not say that Go,oath is dead.it says that Goliath (federal policy, billionaires, Wall Street and other agents of disruption) are brain-dead. They continue to advocate for policies that have failed again and again. They have no expectation of making schools better or improving the lives of children. They exercise power and impose failed ideas because they can. Another point to be drawn from this and other accounts: Wherever there is a Broadie Superintendent, anticipate the hiring of other Broadies and a wave of school closings.

Thompson writes:

What’s up with Oklahoma schools? Whether we’re talking about arming teachers or sextupling funding for Education Savings Accounts (vouchers) for private schools, or the latest charter school malfeasance, the controversies surrounding today’s scandals are grounded in pretty predictable, rightwing politics, as well as the Billionaires Boys Club’s technocracy. But the crises in Tulsa and Oklahoma school system are rooted in education policy and they get less attention.

https://www.ocpathink.org/post/trump-stitt-both-support-tax-credit-scholarships

So, I’ll quickly cover the Oklahoma-grown messes, and then address the most serious threats to public education in our state’s biggest cities. I’ll start, however, by hinting at the common cause of our urban school debacles by citing Diane Ravitch’s Slaying Goliath, and her account of how corporate reformers “admire disruptive innovation, because high-tech businesses do it, so it must be good.”

The online, for-profit Epic charter chain got its fair share of 2019 headlines after an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation affidavit alleged that Epic Charter Schools’ co-founders, David Chaney and Ben Harris, split at least $10 million in profits from 2013 to 2018. They were accused of aggressively recruiting “ghost students” in order to collect $800 per student from a state learning fund for homeschool students.

Epic recently made news when its lawsuit against State Sen. Ron Sharp, for allegedly making false statements against it, was dismissed.

But there was no need to worry about Epic dropping out of the limelight. In January, 2020, the State Education Department (SDE) fined Epic One-on-One virtual charter school $530,000 for excessive administrative spending.

And Epic just provided another nail in the coffin for the claim that charters don’t advance privatization. The Tulsa World explains, “On top of a 10% cut of every dollar of revenue, Epic Charter Schools is paying its for-profit management company millions more in taxpayer dollars every year for school expenditures that are never audited and which Epic claims are shielded from public scrutiny.” So, the World made another open records request.

Epic’s attorney responded, “Once the funds are paid to the management company, the dollars are no longer public funds and, therefore, the records of the expenditures of the learning fund dollars are not subject to the open records statute.”

Despite Epic’s refusal, the World obtained “other records that show the constant shifting of public dollars for the Learning Fund to Epic Youth Services, the private management company that law enforcement investigators say has made millionaires out of school co-founders David Chaney and Ben Harris.” It reports, “These transfers began at a rate of about $120,000 each, 10 to 13 times per year,” and they grew to “$20.3 million for the 2018-19 academic year.”

Not to be outdone, Dove Academy, which is associated with the Gulen charter chain, returned to the headlines. A 2016 audit by the state found that the foundation which manages Dove Charter School collected around $3.182 million more in lease payments for the Dove Science Academy-OKC school site than original purchase cost. Now, the Dove virtual school is being investigated by the OSBI after the SDE accused it of wrongfully obtaining records of 107,000 children who have never enrolled in Dove schools.

https://oklahoman.com/article/5655421/epic-charter-schools-lawsuit-against-sharp-dismissed

In The Know: The ‘Medicaid expansion showdown,’ Epic charter schools fined, and more


https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/epic-charter-schools-shielding-million-in-taxpayer-funds-from-public/article_445f6458-c147-5efa-ab29-781c72d64011.html
https://oklahoman.com/article/5655515/oklahoma-department-of-education-reports-dove-to-osbi?&utm_source=SFMC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Oklahoman%20daily%202020-02-22&utm_content=GTDT_OKC&utm_term=022220

Moving from the eye-catching headlines to the policy role of “Goliath,” the decline of the Tulsa public schools has been more gradual. A decade ago, the TPS accepted a Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant, which was followed by donations from local and national edu-philanthropists. Soon afterwards, Tulsa’s Project Schoolhouse was praised for its community meetings and “creative problem-solving” when closing 14 schools in order to save $7 to 10 million per year.

Back then, the TPS was a better school system than the OKCPS. Last year, however, Oklahoma City borrowed from Tulsa’s methods and language in order to close and consolidate schools to fund “trade-ups” or ways to expand equity.

https://www.publicradiotulsa.org/post/project-school-house-released
https://www.publicradiotulsa.org/post/project-school-house-0

Tulsa had lost 5,000 students and faced a shortfall of over $40 million. The latest headlines have focused on this year’s $20 million in cuts. Schools were closed, janitors lost their jobs, class sizes in elementary schools are to be increased, and the administration reorganized. Since the TPS central office has had 13 Broad Academy graduates, and since patrons have recommended cuts the district’s teacher leadership and central office staff, that plan received more attention than before.

The Hit and Miss of Education Reforms


https://dianeravitch.net/2019/11/10/john-thompson-how-billionaire-reformers-messed-up-the-public-schools-of-tulsa/

Ever since NCLB used school closures as an accountability tool, some reformers have been devoted to that disruptive policy. Mass closures are often seen as praiseworthy examples of running schools in a businesslike manner. And they provide opportunities for major administrative reorganizations. So, it should be no surprise that Superintendent Deborah Gist chose to save $5 million by cutting 90 jobs, but not in a straightforward manner. One would ordinarily think that budget cuts, closures, and staff reductions would be enough of an “extraordinarily difficult” challenge. However, Gist described her plan as a path to “dramatic progress” and “transforming outcomes.”

National readers don’t need to dwell on Gist’s details but they should note the way she summarized a large part of her plan:

Delete 55 district office positions and 124 school support positions; and … create 51 district office, 136 school support and 20 school-embedded positions. The potential changes, if approved by our board, would impact our Information Technology, Innovation and Design, Finance, Bond, Campus Police, Talent Management and Teaching and Learning teams, and, most particularly, our Exceptional Student Support Services team.

https://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/columnists/deborah-gist-school-services-must-evolve-to-help-schools-in/article_b2fe5183-1b18-5a7a-8ecd-d906c47a2578.html

A couple of years ago, as the OKCPS rid itself of a Broad-trained superintendent, our district leaders praised Project Schoolhouse’s community conversations, while noting that Tulsa faced a worse mess than we did. Newly elected OKC board members seemed to understand that they had inherited a crisis created by reformers’ commitment to “transformational change.” They focused on building partnerships to provide trauma-informed and holistic instruction; restore counselors, science, music, and art, while moving away from teach-to-the-test; and started towards wraparound student services.

The OKCPS had been saved by immigration, but as it slowed and charters grew, the district lost 700 students per year. It was widely agreed that some schools needed to be closed.

But in a dramatic surprise, the goal of disruptive transformational change took over. The OKCPS used a school closure process, known as Pathways to Greatness (P2G), to “reinvent” schools. It closed 15 buildings and reorganized most of the rest. Again, national readers will be less interested in the details than the impossible length of the “to do” list that the district adopted.

It was supposed to be a virtue of P2G that it will:

Will impact every student, staff member and family in OKCPS … Our plans would likely include big changes such as new school boundaries, school consolidations or closures, the way grades are structured for Elementary, Middle and High School, as well as school buildings being repurposed to meet other needs in the community.

It also required structural changes in reconfigured buildings, the transfer of teachers to staff-reorganized schools, the reorganization of bus routes and hiring additional drivers by the first week of school. The third task proved impossible and resulted in students waiting for hours at bus stops. The district also chose to add to its list by changing application procedures for magnet schools, and reorganizing administrative services for “creating strategic systems and processes that will bring stronger support and accountability at the school level.”

Responding to the widespread backlash that P2G prompted, Superintendent Sean McDaniel said, “This was radical change that upset the apple cart for thousands of people, so we know that there was and still is heartburn and anxiety, and people are upset,”

McDaniel also summarized the additional changes:

We’re invested in this new ILD structure to allow for that additional instructional support. Our new consistent grade bands will provide support, collaboration opportunities. New feeder patterns will allow our students to stay together longer and feel more connected as they move through high school.

OKCPS acting superintendent: ‘We need to talk about feelings’

This year’s OKCPS to-do list has at least 30 big items


https://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/summer-of-change/Content?oid=6442542

This year’s OKCPS to-do list has at least 30 big items

So, how did P2G turn out?

The disruption almost certainly contributed to an increase in fights and suspensions. The rate of student population decline has doubled. If the district is correct, after P2G, the rate of student loss increased to an average of 1,000 per year over seven years. But the decline could become much worse. A district spokesperson cited research indicating that P2G could follow the pattern in other districts’ reorganizations, possibly resulting in a 10 to 15% drop in student enrollment.

According to the numbers the spokesperson provided, the price tag for such a decline could be about $20 to $30 million in state funding, not including lost federal funds. It would be unclear how much of those costs would be attributable to P2G. But, they would add to $32 million of transition costs which the district acknowledged near the end of P2G FAQ Update in February, 2019.

In other words, the OKCPS followed Tulsa down the path of transformational and disruptive change. Both exemplify the destructive feature which Ravitch documents in Slaying Goliath. My sense is that Goliath chose that path for Tulsa, while the OKCPS is inadvertently stumbling towards that outcome.

In her two previous, ground-breaking books, Ravitch changed the terms of debate over public education. She previously reframed the battle over the “Billionaires Boys Club” which drove “corporate reform,” and “privatization.”

Ravitch once said that her favorite line in my book manuscript was, “Inner-city schools need more disruption like they need another gang war.” (But that was years before editors could have read her full indictment of corporate disruption, and I couldn’t keep the phrase from being deleted.)

Ravitch now characterizes data-driven, choice-driven reformers as “Disrupters.” Across the nation, as well as in Oklahoma, “The most important lesson of the past few decades is that “Reform doesn’t mean reform. It means mass demoralization, chaos, and turmoil. Disruption does not produce better education.”

The second most important lesson for Oklahomans, who had seemed to have beaten back the worst of Goliath, is that we’re like the guy who killed a rattlesnake, but nearly died after being bitten by the decapitated head. In Oklahoma, the future looks much better for most public schools, but the TPS and the OKCPS could become the last casualties of our reform wars.

The complexity of seeking safe and orderly schools

Oklahoma City Public School District announces drop in enrollment


https://www.okcps.org/Page/3746

Mississippi boasts about its gains on NAEP reading scores, but those “gains” were largely the result of holding back students who didn’t pass the third grade reading tests. It’s a form of “gaming the system,” aka cheating.

This article by Bracey Harris for the Hechinger Report tells a different story, a story of unequal opportunity for black children in the state, a history of racism and segregation, a legacy of underfunding black schools, of crumbling schools and high teacher turnover.

Large proportions of black children live in deep poverty, and their schools are ill-equipped to prepare them for college or career.

State leaders offer nothing but gimmicks that have failed elsewhere: merit pay, A-F grades, bonuses for new teachers, and state takeovers. What they have not offered is the funding necessary to give the schools and students and teachers the resources they need. The conservative white legislature has not been willing to do what is needed.

State leaders have attempted to improve the state’s poor educational outcomes in recent years by requiring third graders to pass the state reading test before they can enter fourth grade, offering $10,000 bonuses for Nationally Board Certified teachers to work in the Delta, assigning schools and districts A-F ratings and, on occasion, taking over failing school districts. Mississippi’s newly elected Gov. Tate Reeves, who took office in January, has also proposed paying new teachers a one-time $10,000 bonus to instruct in struggling areas like Holmes.

Mississippi has also made some positive traction after investing $15 million per year, in part to train and coach the state’s teachers on the science of reading and reading instruction, an investment that some officials said helped boost the state’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Mississippi ranked No. 1 nationally in gains in fourth grade reading and math, and near the top in eighth grade score gains in math.

To some observers, the NAEP scores suggest the state’s focus on these reforms have helped, a lot. But locals say the reforms don’t go far enough, failing to address the deeper issues of racism and poverty that are embedded in the marrow of the Mississippi Delta. Each year, districts in the region hold back dozens of third graders. At one school in Holmes, Durant Elementary, more than 80 percent of third graders failed the reading test on their first try.

Ellen Reddy, an advocate who has pushed to improve education in Holmes County said the state’s solutions haven’t reduced the challenges that dominate the average school day. Reddy, executive director of the Nollie Jenkins Family Center, said the state has to step in to help districts that struggle to raise money. “The reality is we’ll always fail. We’ll always be a step behind until they put in more resources,” she said. “You get what you pay for.”

Strapped for cash and teachers

Strapped for cash and teachers

Children in communities with a high rate of poverty are at a greater risk of poor health and high levels of stress that require more support in the classroom. Years of research have documented that poverty “creates constant wear and tear on the body” and that safe learning environments, coupled with “responsive parenting and high-quality childcare” can help children progress. But it costs money to train teachers on how to support students and to hire support staff like guidance counselors.

Never underestimate the power of poverty and racism.

Trump proposes to eliminate the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, which are very small appropriations, but which Republicans have always hated. I seem to recall that he wants to eliminate NOAA so the weather service can be completely privatized, and the public will have to pay to find out what the weather is and might be.

Laura Chapman adds:

In addition to the cuts to education programs, consider these cuts too.

Cuts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $2.8 billion Can’t have the EPA telling us we should be able to drink lead and contaminant-free water, breath clean air, save the land from more degradation from fracking, stop save the oceans from oil spills and micro plastics and so on.

Eliminates National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Grants and Education programs (-287 million) Can’t have full staffing of the agency that keeps information flowing about climate change. Can’t have scientists perpetuating “fake” news or predicting where hurricanes might fall, fires may flair, forests threaten by disease.

Eliminates the Institute of Museum and Library Services (-$229 million) “Musing” is dead. Move fast and break things. While you are at it trust the internet for all information, never trust a librarian. Nobody but a few elitists want to preserve these programs with full staff.

Eliminates the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (-$455 million) Everyone knows that this is a LIBERAL, news and entertainment outfit and that billionaires can fund it.

To the shock and consternation of charter school advocates, the Trump budget proposal abandons the controversial federal Charter Schools Program, turning it into a state bloc program that turns the money over to the states. 

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools issued a scathing denunciation of the axing of the federal charter school programs, which has enriched the big corporate charter chains.

The Network for Public Education issued two reports on waste, fraud, and abuse in this program, showing that nearly 40% of the federal money was spent on charters that either never opened or closed soon after opening, with waste of nearly $1 billion. See the reports here and here.

Trump and DeVos are backing their chief priority: vouchers, which they prefer to call “education freedom scholarships,” at a proposed cost of $5 billion. They want America’s children to be “rescued” from public schools that hat have been burdened by harmful federal policies like high-stakes testing, and punishments attached to testing. They want them to attend religious schools that are low-cost and have no standards or accountability, and are free to discriminate against students, families, and staff they don’t like.

The erstwhile Center for American Progress lamented the proposal to cut federal spending on charter schools, even though Democratic support for them has substantially declined. Apparently, CAP is the last to know that school choice is a Republican Policy.

Chalkbeat reports:

The Trump administration wants to create a new stream of funding for disadvantaged students that would consolidate current spending on Title I — which gives money to schools serving low-income students — and 28 other programs.

This school year, the department spent $16.3 billion on Title I grants to states and districts and $7.8 billion on the other programs. Under the proposed budget, it would all become a $19.4 billion pot that would be distributed through the Title I formulas — a $4.7 billion cut, if the budget were enacted.

The individual programs on the chopping block include:

  • 21st Century Learning Centers, which supports after-school programs in places like Detroit and New York City ($1.25 billion)
  • Arts in Education ($30 million)
  • English Language Acquisition ($787 million)
  • Homeless Education ($102 million)
  • Neglected and Delinquent, which offers grants to states to educate incarcerated students ($48 million)
  • Magnet Schools, which offers grants some districts use for desegregation ($107 million)
  • Migrant Education ($375 million)
  • Rural Education ($186 million)
  • Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, which is also known as Title II, Part A, which districts can use for teacher training and to reduce class sizes ($2.1 billion)

This move, the budget documents say, would reduce the federal government’s role in education and pave the way for less spending on department staff.

But the proposed elimination of these streams of funding raised alarms among civil rights advocates, who said this would enable states to spend less money on vulnerable groups like students who are English learners, homeless students, students involved in the juvenile justice system, or migrant students.

“History has shown us that … unless the federal government says you must serve migrant children, and here are funds to help you do that, migrant children are lost and forgotten,” said Liz King, the education equity program director at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The purpose of the dedicated pots of money … is to make sure that the most powerless people in our country are not lost.”

Advocates for other programs expressed concern, too. During a question and answer session with education department officials, a member of the National Association for Gifted Children asked why the administration had proposed eliminating a $13 million program that supports gifted education.

Jim Blew, one of DeVos’s assistant secretaries, and a former official at the Walton Family Foundation, said that advocates for these programs should lobby the states to fund their favorite programs.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is in charge of the appropriations for most social programs. She released this list of the programs that the Trump administration wants to slash or gut. She stands in his way, which illustrates the importance of re-electing a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and electing a Denocratic Senate to stop the attacks on needed, successful federal programs.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 10, 2020

CONTACT:

Will Serio: 202-225-3661

 

DeLauro Statement on President Trump’s 2021 Budget

 

WASHINGTON, DC Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, today released the following statement on President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

 

“For the fourth year in a row, President Trump has released a budget decimating programs that help working people and the middle class. With $19 billion in cuts to programs at the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, President Trump has once again shown his disdain for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Among the programs President Trump wants to cut or eliminate are Social Security, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act subsidies, home energy assistance for seniors and people with disabilities, groundbreaking medical research, tools that help local communities fight poverty, job training programs, programs to combat climate change, funding to enforce our trade agreements, pre-school grants, teen pregnancy prevention programs, anti-hunger programs like SNAP, afterschool programs, federal work study programs, and much more.”

 

“As with his previous budgets, this one is going nowhere. Instead, House Democrats will continue working for the people on an agenda that recognizes our biggest economic challenge: that people are working in jobs with wages that do not keep up with the rising cost of healthcare, child care, housing, and education. As Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, we are going to continue investing in working people, the middle class, and the most vulnerable—not millionaires, billionaires, corporations, and special interests.”

 

President Trump’s budget proposes significant cuts to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, including:

 

Department of Labor – $1.3 billion cut

  • Cuts Job Corps by $728 million
  • Cuts the Bureau of International Labor Affairs by $77 million
  • Cuts Women’s Bureau by $11 million
  • Cuts National Dislocated Worker Grants by $110 million
  • Cuts YouthBuild by $10 million
  • Eliminates job training for Native Americans (-$55 million)
  • Eliminates job training for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers (-$92 million)
  • Eliminates Senior Community Service Employment Program (-$405 million)
  • Eliminates Susan Harwood Training Grants (-$12 million)

 

Department of Health and Human Services – $10.1 billion cut

  • Cuts the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $3.3 billion
  • Cuts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by $678 million
  • Cuts the Health Resources and Services Administration by $742 million
  • Eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) (-$3.7 billion)
  • Eliminates the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) (-$1.7 billion per year)
  • Eliminates the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) (-$740 million per year)
  • Eliminates Preschool Development Grants (-$275 million per year)
  • Eliminates the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (-$108 million per year)

 

Department of Education – $6.2 billion cut

  • Cuts K-12 education programs by $4.7 billion, eliminating 30 altogether, including:
    • Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants (-$2.1 billion)
    • Afterschool programs (-$1.2 billion)
    • Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (-$1.2 billion)
    • Arts in Education (-$30 million)
  • Cuts higher education and student financial assistance programs by $2.3 billion.  The President’s budget:
    • Eliminates Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (-$840 million)
    • Eliminates Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) (-$365 million)
    • Cuts Federal Work Study by $680 million
    • Cuts Federal TRIO Programs by $140 million
    • Cuts Childcare Access Means Parents in Schools by $38 million
    • Level funds the maximum Pell Grant at $6,345

 

In addition, the President’s Budget:

  • Cuts Social Security, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act subsidies by over $1 trillion
  • Contains a woefully inadequate paid leave proposal that falls short of what the nation needs
  • Cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by more than $18 billion per year, on average
  • Reduces Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by more than $2 billion per year
  • Cuts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $2.8 billion
  • Eliminates the Community Development Block Grant (-$3.4 billion)
  • Eliminates the Institute of Museum and Library Services (-$229 million)
  • Eliminates the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (-$455 million)
  • Eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service (-$797 million)
  • Eliminates National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Grants and Education programs (-287 million)

 

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delauro.house.gov

 

Jan Resegger summarizes the disastrous Ohio plan to expand vouchers and how grossly unfair it is to public schools, which enroll nearly 90% of the children in the state. As she points out, most of the children drawing money away from her district never attended public schools, yet now their tuition will be extracted from the budget of the public schools. Read her post in its entirety.

She writes:

On Tuesday afternoon, I went to a meeting of my monthly book discussion group—all of us retired and over 70.  But as we sat down with our coffee and before we discussed the book we had all been reading for the month, we found ourselves distracted by the topic that is tearing our community apart: the changes the Ohio Legislature made last summer in the fine print of the FY 20-21 state budget—changes that exploded the size of the state’s EdChoice school voucher program.

I wonder whether legislators have any real understanding of the collateral damage for particular communities from policies enacted without debate. Maybe, because our community has worked for fifty years to be a stable, racially and economically diverse community with emphasis on fair housing enforcement and integrated schools, legislators just write us off as another failed urban school district. After all, Ohio’s education policy emphasizes state takeover and privatization instead of equitable school funding. The state punishes instead of helping all but its most affluent, outer ring, exurban, “A”-rated school districts, where property values are high enough that state funding is not a worry.

What this year’s EdChoice voucher expansion means for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district where the members of my book discussion group all live is that—just to pay for the new vouchers—our school district has been forced to put a property tax levy on the March 17 primary election ballot. Ohio’s school finance expert, Howard Fleeter explains that in our school district, EdChoice voucher use has grown by 478 percent in a single year.  Fleeter continues: “Cleveland Heights isn’t losing any students…. They are just losing money.’” “If this doesn’t get unwound, I think it is significant enough in terms of the impact on the money schools get to undermine any new funding formula.”

Ohio deducts the price of the vouchers students carry to private and religious schools from the local school district budget even though, in the case of Cleveland Heights-University Heights this year, 94 percent of those students have never attended the public schools in our district. The state counts the voucher students who live in our community as though they are enrolled in our school district and then deducts the voucher from the local school budget, but the cost of each voucher is more than the state allocates per pupil.  In fact, in the current Ohio biennial FY20-21 state budget, state public education basic aid funding is frozen, which means our district actually gets no new state funding for each voucher student, but one hundred percent the cost of each voucher is deducted anyway.

Why are the people in my book group so upset about the voucher explosion and another levy on the ballot in March?  We are not a bunch of old ladies grousing about the burden of our taxes.  Two of us co-chaired a successful school levy campaign back in 1993; one person served on the board of education; and the rest were teachers in our school district. As we read the conversation threads on Next Door, where people are accusing our district of mismanaging funds, or paying teachers too much, or hiring too many school psychologists, we worry about all the undocumented misinformation floating around. Members of our group are anxious about our grandchildren and our neighbors’ children who depend on the public schools we have spent our lives supporting and protecting.  But it is difficult to explain what happened in the budget, our plight this winter set in motion last June and July in the budget conference committee, when amendments were added to the state budget without debate. It was done so quietly at the time that people across the state only began to grasp the impact later in August when the Ohio Association of School Business Officials alerted school treasurers about the potential impact.

Fortunately the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District sponsored a special public meeting on January 9, 2020, to explain the changes in the EdChoice Voucher Program and begin quelling the anxiety that is tearing our community apart. The school district has posted the powerpoint presentation from the meeting, and at the meeting,  the school district distributed a clear, factual brochure about the legislature’s changes in the EdChoice Vouchers.  The brochure explains: “(T)he program was expanded to the point of unsustainability. Ohio had fewer than 300 buildings deemed eligible for vouchers in 2018-2019; that number has exploded to 1,200 for 2020-2021. When the Ohio General Assembly passed its biennial budget in July 2019, it froze receipts at 2018-2019 levels. This means that for every new voucher used, none of the cost would be offset by state aid. Legislators also removed the provision that required students to attend a public school prior to using the voucher. Unable to prepare financially for the change, the District was forced the following month to negotiate one-year contracts with the teachers union, as opposed to multi-year contracts. In CH-UH, approximately 1,400 students, 94% of whom have never attended our K-12 public schools, are taking scholarships to attend private schools. This has amounted to an actual loss of $4.2 million for us last fiscal year and an estimated loss of $6.8 million this fiscal year.” Each time a student secures an EdChoice Voucher, that student can keep the voucher, paid for by the school district deduction, every year until the student graduates from high school.

The school district’s information handout continues: “The CH-UH City School District will ask the community for a new 7.9 mill operating levy in March. The current funding issues with EdChoice are the major reason for this millage. In fact, the District would not need to ask for a levy until 2023 if it weren’t for the way EdChoice was funded, and the millage would be significantly less.”

School districts across Ohio are demanding that the Legislature do something about what has become a crisis for many school districts. It is important that the Legislature act quickly, before the February EdChoice Voucher enrollment period for next school year. The Heights Coalition for Public Education, a community organization, has prepared a list of short-term voucher fixes which the Legislature should consider:

  1. Remove budget language from House Bill 166 (the current state budget) expanding vouchers in grades 7-8 and for high schools.  Restore voucher language to pre-budget language.”
  2. Limit state report card ratings on which EdChoice schools are designated to 2017-18 and 2018-19.  Currently districts are held accountable all the way back to 2013-14, and considerable changes in school programming have occurred in the seven ensuing years.
  3. “Restore funding for school districts that have lost funds to voucher students who were not part of their 2019 Average Daily Enrollment.”
  4. “Cut the loss of funds for high poverty (50% economically disadvantage) districts at 5% and other school districts at 10%.”
  5. Adopt the funding methodology for EdChoice Expansion (another Ohio voucher program) which awards vouchers to needy students and pays for the vouchers fully with state funds (not the school district deduction).

State Senator Matt Huffman has long been among the Ohio Legislature’s strongest proponents of school vouchers.  Earlier this week, the Plain Dealer‘s Patrick O’Donnell reported that Senator Huffman himself supports the fifth voucher fix listed above: “State Sen. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, wants a bigger change. He is resurrecting his 2017 proposal to offer vouchers to any family in Ohio whose income falls under certain limits… His proposal would have the state, not districts, pay for the vouchers of $4,650 for grades K-8 and the $6,000 a year for high school. That would eliminate many district complaints that voucher costs are killing their budgets.  He said the state can control costs by limiting how many students can use vouchers in a given year. Some extra money is already available in the budget, he said. ‘That seems to be the only way, really, to do this in a fair way,’ he added.”

There is reason for caution here, even though Huffman’s assessment is correct that eliminating the school district deduction method for funding vouchers is the only fair way to address what has become an urgent crisis for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Schools and for many other Ohio school districts. We all remember Naomi Klein’s 2007 warningabout the danger of adopting “shock doctrine,” privatization policies in a hurry in the midst of a crisis. We need to be sure that any so-called fix isn’t just an opportunity for the Legislature to grow the state’s voucher programs in some other way.  After all, in the case of Ohio’s current voucher mess, the Ohio Legislature itself created the crisis by expanding school privatization with explosive growth in the EdChoice school district deduction.

This blog has emphatically and consistently opposed private school tuition vouchers paid for with public funds, because vouchers undermine public funding for public education. Education privatization is never in the public interest.

However, currently in Ohio, an existential crisis for local school districts demands an immediate solution. The Legislature has saddled school districts with a school privatization program whose size the Legislature has no incentive to control because the money quietly washes out of local school district budgets. Neither can school districts control what is happening to their local budgets when the Legislature has set up an uncontrollable flow of dollars into the vouchers.

Huffman’s proposed solution would not solve the bigger problem of Ohio school vouchers. On the other hand, Huffman’s plan would pay for the vouchers out of the state budget, and as he points out, if it were to be so inclined, the Legislature could control costs by limiting how many students can use vouchers in a given year. Huffman’s idea would address the immediate school district financial crisis. It would then be up to all of us to pressure the Legislature to control the size and number of Ohio school vouchers awarded each year. Perhaps we can motivate a future legislature to eliminate vouchers entirely and return to a system where public dollars serve the mass of our children in the public schools.

Oklahoma is famous for underfunding it’s schools. The legislature is under the thumb of the oil and gas and fracking industry, which wants low taxes and no regulations. Teachers revolted and went on strike in 2018 but the legislature continues to starve its schools, opting to satisfy its funders and forget about its children and its future.

The superintendent of Tulsa, Deborah Gist, is a Broadie who previously served as State Superintendent of Rhode Island, where she made her mark by threatening to fire everyone who worked for the Central Falls School District, a high-poverty district that was and remains the lowest performing district in the state.

As superintendent of Tulsa, she has worked with business leaders to cut the deficit by cutting the budget. Apparently the legislature’s neglect is just a given that Tulsa’s civic and business elite don’t want to bother by asking for more funding.

 

A parent sent me this analysis of the surgery Gist is performing on the schools—closing schools and laying off staff. To protect his children, he requested anonymity. Since I know his credentials, I agreed.

He writes:

How To Create A Zombie Public School District And What That Means For Tulsa Parents

Last week at the Tulsa Public Schools board meeting, Superintendent Deborah Gist and her administration laid out part of their plan to resolve a questionable $20 million budget deficit for the 2020-21 school year due to a declining enrollment.  Most of the attention has been focused on the four school closings (actually five), and little attention has been made of the other hits that are occurring.

Last fall, the administration held so-called community meetings to take input on what parents, teachers and students thought was most important for the district. These meetings mirrored the process in 2016 when the district was reeling from nearly a decade of budget cuts to education from the state. Both in 2016 and for the most recent cuts, the district listed identical items to absorb the loss, and asked people at community meetings to prioritize what they felt was important to save from cuts. The surveys included the following recommendations: reduce transportation by changing bell times; reduce costs through efficient use of buildings and operations; reduce central officeservices; increase class sizes; provide less professional development; reduce athletics and on and on.

The 2016 budget reduction outcome results were the following: Close three elementary schools and consolidate them into a fourth, consolidate a middle school and high school, eliminateover 142 teaching positions, increase class sizes, reducecustodial services and a create a supposed $1M savings in district office reorganization, among other items.

The survey results from the community meetings for this year’s(2020-21) budget reduction showed that respondents were leastwilling to: reduce teacher compensation; increase class sizes;reduce social emotional learning and supports. Respondents were most willing to save money in the following areas: change student transportation and bell times; reduce teacher leadership opportunities; provide more efficient building utilization and district office services.

After collecting and ostensibly reviewing the community survey results, the district recommendations for the 2020-21 school year were to: reduce district office services ($13-14 million); close and consolidate schools ($2-3Million); and change the elementary staffing plan, i.e. increase class sizes ($3 million)

Wait a minute. Didn’t the community just say they were least willing to increase class sizes?  Not only is Superintendent Gist recommending increasing the class size, she is also calculating it based on SITE totals rather than GRADE level totals.  What does this mean?  

Say you have a school with 400 students and one grade level has 66 students. A 24/1 ratio gets you 2.75 allocations or 3 allocations. Do this for every grade and you end up being allocated 18 teachers based on grade level counts. However, when teachers are allocated to schools based on the school total rather than the grade level total, a school with 400 students at the site will be allocated only 17 teachers (16.66).  So who gets the extra-large class? Principals are normally reluctant to have large classrooms, so they look to cut other allocations such as art teachers, music teachers, librarians, councilors, gifted & talented teachers and on and on.

And what does “office services” mean? No more school supplies? No more copies?  No more textbooks? Reducing social and emotional services?  So far, the district administration has not shared what “reducing district office services” means.

While TPS was having a “budget crisis” in 2016, what nobody was taking notice of at that time was the district’s declining enrollment (which puts the most pressure on the budget) at the same time that charter schools were quickly expanding. In 2015,enrollment in TPS stood at 39,451 and enrollment in charterschools stood at 1402. In 2019-20, enrollment in TPS is 35,390, a decline of nearly 10%, and enrollment in charters stands at3,119, a 120% increase.  In addition, in December of 2018, the TPS Board approved the expansion of an additional 875 seats for charter schools.

At the same time TPS is scheduled to close four elementary schools, the district is also poised to expand a so-called “partnership” school called Greenwood Leadership Academy(GLA).

The Founder and Chairman is Dr. Ray Owens, Pastor of the MET Church and GLA was supported by the usual charter-loving foundations and organizations: George Kaiser Family Foundation, Schusterman, Zarrow, Walton, Loebeck/Taylor and the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center.  

Greenwood Leadership Academy has been a train wreck since it opened in 2017.

In May of 2018: “Greenwood Leadership Academy staff member no longer employed after allegedly leaving student in locker.”  

A few months later, the principal who was a part of the Tulsa TFA cohort of 2013, unexpectedly resigned:  

TPS partner Greenwood Leadership Academy to replace principal”    “I am resigning from my role as principal because I feel led by God to do so. I am, unashamedly, a man of faith,” Asamoa-Caesar.

But, fear not, he landed at 36 Degrees North, an entrepreneurial incubation organization, also supported by George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Loebeck/Taylor Foundation. Asamoa-Caesar has now decided to run for congress.

Despite GLA’s questionable past, an article in the Tulsa World reported on the intent of the TPS administration to expand GLA. “Tulsa school board to vote on accelerating Academy Central Elementary’s conversion into Greenwood Leadership Academy”  

Tulsa School Board Member Jennettie Marshall, district 3,expressed concern about closing a public school to expand Greenwood Leadership Academy, a partnership school, which, arguably, is a failing school.

The article states: Marshall said she’d rather vote on the proposal after the final testing cycle is completed and noted the board typically doesn’t vote to renew GLA until the summer. Her concern stems from a history of underwhelming proficiency rates and disciplinary issues at the school.

She cited a recent data report showing a steep decline in third-grade proficiency. The report states 6% of GLA’s original student cohort, who now are in third grade, were proficient in math during the fall semester, compared to 31% in fall 2018. Their reading proficiency also declined from 27% to 13% during that time.

That’s right, Gist is recommending that those same third graders now enter the fourth and fifth grades under this “partnership” school. But what isn’t mentioned is that TPS promised the North Tulsa Community Task Force a moratorium on its school closures. Greenwood Leadership Academy is co-located in Academy Central Elementary’s building. Apparently TPS doesn’t consider a school closed if they transfer all the students out of it and let a privately run “partnership” school take over the building.   Why not allow Academy Central Elementary to “absorb” GLA, and then work to improve Academy Central Elementary?  

To further complicate the matter, TPS School Board Vice President Suzanne Schreiber works for the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF)/Tulsa Community Foundation.  One would think if your boss was a major donor to the school (GLA) that is before the board for approval (or for that matter any of the other seven charter schools that have received GKFFdonations), you would have some sort of conflict of interest. Schreiber spoke in support of GLA at the January school board meeting:

These are our partners,” Schreiber said. “We need to trust and support them. We’ve seen really robust data and a trajectory going (upward). So I support this recommendation. I’m excited for Greenwood to accelerate to fifth grade, and I just expect that they’re not going to do anything but continue to provide a high-quality education for our kids.”

Let’s rewind:  

5.56% of GLA’s third graders are proficient in math – that’s three students out of 53.  THREE!

13.21% of GLA third graders are proficient in reading.  That makes 7 students.

Who in their right mind thinks that is providing a high-quality education and an upward trajectory?

Shouldn’t the Board Member Schreiber be trusting and supporting the public school, Academy Central Elementary, in the community she works for, or is she working on the school board for GKFF? Where is her first responsibility?

In addition, school board member Jania Wester works for Community in Schools and shares an office with her husband who is the Executive Director of Growing Together, a GLA partner which has also received millions of dollars from the George Kaiser Family Foundation.  No possible conflict of interest there.

And in the category of “You just can’t make this stuff up,” over the winter break Dr. Gist married Ronnie Jobe.  Congratulations!   The groom is Senior Vice President and Manager – Institutional Markets for Bank of Oklahoma.  BOK is the largest bank in Oklahoma and its majority shareholder is one George Kaiser.

And speaking of transfers, what also isn’t being talked about is TPS’s new open enrollment, or as they explain it to their charter partners, “Unified Enrollment.”  This is where anyone can go down to the TPS Enrollment Center and enroll their child in any school if there is an open seat. That’s right, TPS will assist you in enrolling your student in any public school or private charter school merely for the asking as long as there are seats available.  

Do you remember at the beginning of this article when I mentioned the budget deficit was due to declining enrollment?  Does anyone else see a problem here?

To make the process even easier, TPS administrators are also recommending a re-alignment of schools so all elementary schools are configured the same.  That way if you want to leave your public school, you will fit right in to the private charter schools.

To top it off, the charter schools now need space to expand.  Where are they going to get it?  The closed school buildings of course.  And just to make sure those spaces are nice, at the end of December the TPS Board voted to spend $1.6M not for the benefit of TPS students, but to benefit the private Legacy Charter School to improve its building. Simultaneously, one of the public elementary schools slated for closure has plenty of students, but the district plans to shutter it because the building is in need of repair and that would be too costly. Maybe they want those students to move to Legacy Charter School since it’s getting a nice refurbishment.

Tulsa Collegiate Hall has its eye on Wright Elementary, one of the schools slated to close at the end of this year.  Crossover Preparatory Academy wants the Gilcrease school building, which was recently closed in north Tulsa.    Crossover Preparatory Academy was recently visited by governor Kevin Stitt to tout the so-called benefits of the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act which primarily grants scholarships to Christian schools .  Tulsa Honor Academy has reached out to the Walton Foundation for a $1 million donationto apparently go at it alone through Level Field Partners.  Does anyone else see a transfer of public dollars to private schools and real estate LLC’s in the future?

Nobody is talking about the costs associated with closing the schools. It isn’t zero. Nobody is talking about what an utter nightmare it is going to be to bus the students who under open enrollment can supposedly go to any school, with district transportation provided. TPS has enough problems trying to get students to school on time, now imagine buses taking any student to any school.

This last Friday it was announced that employees had been notified of the intent to eliminate their positions.  While Gist repeatedly assured the community that her staff would do everything they could to transfer teachers to other schools within the district once the schools were closed, the process is the equivalent of being fired and then having to re-apply for a job as if you had never been with the district.  I can only imagine the high morale of employees who have that to endure.

In five years, Superintendent Gist’s merry band of Broadies haveclosed at least eight schools, lost 10% of the enrollment, expanded charter schools by over 120%, re-aligned all the schools to make it easier for students to leave the district, helped them fill out the paperwork to do so, spent Bond dollars meant for TPS students for private charter schools and are cutting central office services while increasing class sizes.

If you’re a parent like me and are interested in saving public schools, you might want to look at two truly grassroots organizations that take no funding from reformer foundations or those who wish to privatize public schools: Network for Public Education and the Badass Teachers Association.

 

Addendum: The Oklahoma City School Board approved Superintendent Gist’s school closings and budget cuts.