Archives for category: Budget Cuts

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)

 

###

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. 

 

 

Jan Resseger asks the ultimate cost about vouchers, in response to the Ohio legislature’s recent decision to expand vouchers to two-thirds of all school districts in the state, including high-performing districts.

Should public money be subtracted from public schools to underwrite vouchers for private and religious schools? The state’s public schools will be hit hard by the voucher law. And since research funded by the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute showed that kids lose ground in voucher schools, the expansion of vouchers will lower the overall quality of education in the state. Does Ohio have a death wish?

As Resseger shows, the expansion of vouchers is not about education; it is not about improving opportunities for poor kids. It is about damaging public schools and compelling the public to pay for religious education for children who never attended public schools, ever. All the blather about opportunity is blather.

She writes:

Wisconsin and Ohio were the pioneers, the states which launched school vouchers—public tax dollars covering private school tuition.  Wisconsin launched Milwaukee vouchers in 1990, and Ohio followed suit in 1996 with a Cleveland voucher program.

What are the problems with the idea of vouchers?

Vouchers have always been endorsed by their proponents as providing an escape for promising students from so-called “failing” public schools—as measured by test scores.  But research demonstrates (see here and here) that test scores correlate not with school quality but instead with the aggregate income of the neighborhoods where public schools are located and the families who live there.  Research demonstrates that ameliorating student poverty would more directly address students’ needs.

The idea that vouchers help students academically hasn’t held up either.  A study by the pro-voucher Thomas Fordham Institute demonstrates that in Ohio, voucher students regularly fall behind their public school counterparts.  But proponents of school privatization (including the Thomas Fordham Institute itself) regularly ignore the evidence.

In a recent summary published in The Nation, Jennifer Berkshire explains that while there is a lack of empirical evidence justifying vouchers, their proponents support them ideologically: “But the GOP’s true policy aim these days is much more ambitious: private school vouchers for all. In Ohio, students in two-thirds of the state’s school districts are now eligible for vouchers, a ballooning program that is on track to cost taxpayers $350 million by the end of the school year. And in Florida, school vouchers are now being offered to middle-class students, the latest gambit by conservatives in their effort to redefine public education as anything parents want to spend taxpayer money on. ‘For me, if the taxpayer is paying for the education, it’s public education,’ Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis proclaimed earlier this year.”

In Ohio, based on state report card grades which legislators from both parties seem to agree are deeply flawed, vouchers are now to be awarded to students in so-called ‘under-performing’ schools in 400 of the state’s 610 school districts. The Columbus Dispatch‘s Anna Staver explains, “(T)he legislature has widened the definition of a low-performing school to the point of absurdity, expanding the list of districts with ‘under-performing’ schools from 40 in the fall of 2018, to 139 in 2019, and around 400—nearly two-thirds of all districts in the state—by 2020.”

And EdChoice, one of the Ohio’s four statewide voucher programs, takes the money through the deduction method, counting the voucher student as enrolled in the local school and then extracting $4,650 for each elementary school voucher and $6,000 for each high school voucherright out of the public school district’s budget. But a serious problem arises because in Ohio, state funding is allocated at different rates from school district to school district, and in many cases the vouchers extract more dollars per pupil from the local school budget than the state awards to that district in per pupil state aid.

This year’s state budget brought a new threat to public schools via an amendment quietly added and never debated. Until this year, to qualify for a voucher, an Ohio student must have been enrolled in the public school in the year previous to applying for the voucher.  But, secreted into the state budget last summer was an amendment providing that high school students may now receive a voucher even if they have never been enrolled in a public school…

What is rarely mentioned in the voucher debates is that no state legislature creating a voucher program has added a new tax to pay for it.  Instead the money always comes out of the coffers of the state education budget and, as in Ohio today, out of local school district budgets.

Please read the rest. As usual, Resseger is right on target with deep context and analysis, informed by her keen sense of social justice and equity.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes here about Superintendent Joe Roy, a champion for students and public schools. I add him now to the honor roll of the blog.

Superintendent Joe Roy is a fearless fighter for better opportunities for the students that attend his small city school district of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  His district is diverse, and about 60% receive free or reduced price lunch.
 
In 2016, he was the Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year. This is what he said when honored, “I’m one person out of 2,000 people in the district who do great work. So many people contribute, and it’s nice to have the recognition, but it shouldn’t be one person.”  That is who Joe Roy is.
 
Two years ago, I spoke with Joe Roy who told me how his district is being drained of funding by charter schools and cyber charters. I was shocked by how much they cost. You can read about our conversation and what I learned here.
 
Now Joe is fighting side by side with other superintendents of Pennsylvania city districts whose finances are becoming unsustainable due to charter school drain. Joe therefore has become a target of the charter lobby. At a public meeting he said the following.
 

“During the question-and-answer portion of the news conference, a reporter asked Roy why parents choose charter schools. The superintendent listed a variety of reasons like academic programs, transportation — for some parents the limited busing to the district’s neighborhood schools is a turn off — and uniforms. The longer school day at some charters paired with the bus ride can mean real child-care savings for families, Roy said.

And some parents send their children to charter schools “to avoid having their kids be with kids coming from poverty or kids with skin that doesn’t look like theirs,” Roy said.”

What Joe Roy said, which anyone who has ever worked in schools knows, is that some parents engage in  “white flight.”  They do so through curriculum tracking or leaving a district for a private or charter school. 
 
The charter lobby of Pennsylvania was outraged! He is calling white parents who choose a charter school “racists”, they claimed. They called for a public apology. They called for his resignation. They did what many charter proponents have been doing lately since pushback against charters has begun–they twisted a statement and then bullied their target.
 
But Joe Roy works for a good board elected by the people of Bethlehem. This was their response:
 
“This board, all nine publicly elected members, support Dr. Roy and echo his comments,” board President Michael Faccinetto said. “We will not back down in this fight for charter reform, and we will not ask Dr. Roy to back down or be silenced because a few unelected lobbyists disagree with the facts.”
 
You can read the full story here
 
Joe Roy is a hero. He does not hate charter schools. But he hates what the 30 million dollars his district must handover to charter schools is doing to his students and taxpayers. He is seeing neighboring districts fall into real financial crisis. He believes in public education and so does his Board of Education.
 
Hooray for the leadership of Bethlehem for speaking the truth to the powerful charter lobby!

John Thompson is a historian and a retired teacher, who blogs often, here and on other blogs. He has keen insight into what’s happening in Oklahoma.

He writes:

Since 2015, the Tulsa Public Schools have cut $22 million from its budget, even dipping into its reserve fund to balance the books. Now it must cut another $20 million.

Given the huge support for the TPS by local and national edu-philanthropists, patrons should ask why it faces such a crisis, even after the state has started to restore funding. Despite the assistance of the outcome-driven Billionaires Boys Club, the TPS has lost 5,000 students, especially to the suburbs and online charters. But that raises the question of why Chief for Change Superintendent Deborah Gist and her staff of Broad Academy administrators have produced such awful outcomes.

https://www.gkff.org/what-we-do/parent-engagement-early-education/prek-12-education/

After a series of community meeting, Gist recommended school closures designed to save $2 to 3 million. Gist also seeks $3 million in saving by increasing class sizes. Then, Gist proposed $13 to 14 million in cuts to district office administrators.

It’s great that most of the burden will be carried by the central office. But that raises the question why the district has such a well-funded administration.

Even though the Oklahoma press wouldn’t dare ask what the corporate reform-subsidized administration has accomplished, Tulsans should ask why the district in near the nation’s bottom in student performance from 3rd to 8th grades. Why does it have more emergency certified and inexperienced teachers than other districts after being awarded Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grants?

https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/tulsa-public-schools-patrons-weigh-in-on-million-budget-cut/article_fecdcb9d-f914-578c-913a-433ecb90d7b7.html

Participants in the recent community engagement process “were most willing to make budget reductions related to student transportation and bell times, teacher leadership opportunities, building utilization and district office services.” Perhaps as a repudiation of the Gates Foundation’s experiment, cutting teacher coaches was the recommendation that received the most votes. Tulsans were most protective of teacher pay, class sizes, and social-emotional learning and behavioral supports.

The fear is that closures and increased class sizes will result in more patrons leaving the district. Community participants also expressed concerns that closures will lead to more charter schools. The Tulsa World’s report on community meetings noted the worries of a parent, Wanda Coggburn:

Many shared Coggburn’s suspicion of a charter school taking over Jones or the other targeted elementary school buildings. But Gist said the needs of the six TPS-sponsored charter schools did not factor into the recommendation to close the schools.

The World also reported the fears of parents with disabilities. The parents of a child who has cerebral palsy and a developmental delay that causes behavioral issues say he was moved from a special education to a general education class against their wishes, and “they worry that adding more students would hinder his progress even further.”

Betty Casey of TulsaKids also describes the protests of parents whose deaf children attend Wright Elementary, which the superintendent wants to close. She talked with a mom who said of Wright:

She fears that it will be given to Collegiate Hall Academy, a charter school which currently shares space with Marshall Elementary. She wants her child to continue at Wright, not a charter school. She pointed out that Marshall has two gyms and a swimming pool currently not being used that could be put to use by public school students. Why not close College Bound Academy and put those students in Wright and Marshall? Closing a small charter school without a building would be much less disruptive.

https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/tulsa-s-jones-elementary-school-was-closed-once-before-and/article_2a08579f-2236-5bb8-b2a5-feb9db156682.html
https://www.tulsakids.com/where-does-tps-find-20-million/

Why would patrons have such fears? Maybe it’s because Gist responded to a question about a closed building saying “she’s confident the growing TPS-sponsored charter schools are interested in the potential space and are closely watching this process.”

I previously said that the traditional press hasn’t dared to investigate the results of corporate reform in Tulsa. However, Ms. Casey’s TulsaKids is a parents’ magazine that asks the questions that journalists have ducked. She recently wrote:

Why is it that when public schools are starved, and resources are stretched to the breaking point, that TPS is supporting a parallel school system of charters that drain more resources from the public schools? … The savings in closing schools is a drop in the bucket, but once the school is closed, it’s very difficult to go backward. Didn’t the superintendent say she was going to try to draw families back to TPS? Where will those returning families put their children? If Wright becomes a College Bound Charter, the families who wish to remain at a neighborhood school will have only one “choice” of a charter school.

Casey further explains:

I’m glad that Superintendent Gist has vowed to interview all the families leaving TPS. But, it seems a little late to wonder why people are leaving as they walk out the door. Why not work to create public schools that families love right now? …

Maybe it’s time to look at the “reforms” being implemented by the superintendent, and prior to that, Dr. Ballard’s acceptance of Gate’s Foundation money (MAP testing), and admit that those changes aren’t working for our kids, and families are leaving as a result.

https://www.tulsakids.com/where-does-tps-find-20-million/

Angie Sullivan teaches in a Title 1 elementary school in Carson County, Nevada. She teaches the children who were left behind.

She sent this post to every legislator in Nevada:

A small group of vocal teachers, parents, and activists have been publicly concerned about national public school privatization for two decades.  
 
Diane Ravitch is the leader of that pack.  
 
Her new book is coming out soon.  
 
Her last books included characters who are national culprits in destroying American Public Schools.  Some have come from my state of Nevada.  
 
Reform was meant to change a system of education that needed to change.  Still needs change. Admittedly we need to improve.  No one argues against that.  Teachers have always been willing to improve.  
 
This reform was not ever meant to improve.  
 
Change came.   The wrong kind.  
 
Big bad horrific and public school destroying change came.   
 
It was bad change bought by corporations who do not love children, will not love children, and seek money even if harm comes to children. 
 
Wrecking ball.  
 
National level well funded and crushing. 
 
Reformers will not use the data – they supposedly worshipped – to admit – they were wrong. 
 
Devastatingly wrong. 
 
Wrong in ways that were really destructive over two generations.   Destroying the central fabric of America – attacking our local public schools.  Kids were warehoused in experiments.  Kids without teachers.   Kids hooked up to innovations that made money but did not educated.  
Billions spent on reforms:  disruption, return on investment, testing, take over, turnaround, triggering, attacking teachers, standardization, score chasing has barely moved American Students on the NAEP Assessments.  
 
The data is back. 
Business reformers failed.   Return on investment was zero.  
 
Reform has been successful at systematically privatizing huge amounts of education cash.  It has segregated.  It has devastated.  It has destroyed public school communities.  And disenfranchised students are further behind than ever before. 
 
The teachers were crushed and millions left. 
 
This expensive business-type reform did not improve education.  
 
Unfortunately, the folks driving reform were not teachers – nor were they interested in authentic education.   Billionaires who were successful in business took over.  They bought the top levels of government and spread cash from the top down.  Both parties.   Anyone with power.   And policy makers and leadership sold out hard. Money taken from public schools to be spent on scams and fads. 
Billions wasted.   
 
Money and people who chase dollars should never be in charge of education policy.  Neoliberals and corporations who hide from liability will never create the synergy, caring, and community building that teachers can do in a school building. 
 
Now the billionaires know – public school teachers will fight.  Activists will engage.  Those who love children will activate. 
 
Take that Goliath.
 
A band of loud people who care – will fight with any small stone we can find. 
We are not scared – because we are right.  
 
Time for policy makers and leadership to buy a book.  
 
O God hear the words of my mouth – hold us in Your Hand because we are small against those seeking to harm kids.  
 
The Teacher,
Angie Sullivan. 

 

Thomas Ultican, the chronicler of the Destroy Public Education movement, writes here about the calculated destruction of the Oakland Public School District, which has suffered at the hands and by the wallets of billionaires.

In 2003, the district had a deficit of $37 million.

The state forced the district to take out a loan of $100 million.

In return, the state took control of the district.

After six years of state control, the district’s deficit increased from $37 million to $89 million.

Unfortunately for Oakland, the billionaire Eli Broad decided to turn the district into his petri dish.

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown welcomed the state takeover.

The Broadies romped.

A California central coast politician named Jack O’Connell was elected California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2002. He selected Randolph Ward, a Broad Academy graduate, to be Oakland’s state administrator. When O’Connell ran for state superintendent, his largest campaign donors had been Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ($250,000), venture capitalist John Doerr ($205,000), and Eli Broad ($100,000). Brown described the state takeover as a “total win” for Oakland.

The Broadies of Oakland

2003-2017 Broad Academy Graduates and Superintendents of OUSD

Broad Academy graduates are often disparagingly called Broadies.

The OUSD information officer in 2003 was Ken Epstein. He recounts a little of what it was like when Ward became the administrator:

“I remember a school board meeting where Ward and the board were on stage. Each item on the agenda was read aloud, and Ward would say, “passed.” Then the next item was read. In less than an hour, the agenda was completed. At that point, Ward said, “Meeting adjourned” and walked out of the board room and turned out the lights, leaving board members sitting in the dark.”

When Ward arrived in Oakland, the district was in the midst of implementing the Bill Gates sponsored small school initiative which is still causing problems. The recently closed Roots that caused so much discontent in January was one of the Gates small schools. Ward opened 24 of them (250-500 students) which in practice meant taking an existing facility and dividing it into two to five schools. He closed fourteen regularly sized schools.

When Ward arrived in Oakland there were 15 charter schools and when he left for San Diego three years later there were 28 charter schools…

Kimberly Statham, who was a classmate of Ward’s at the Broad Academy, took his place in 2006. The following year a third Broad Graduate, Vincent Mathews took her place.

After a short period of no Broadie in the superintendent’s seat, Antwan Wilson was hired in 2014. Shortly after that, the New York Times reported that the Broad Foundation had granted the district $6 million for staff development and other programs over the last decade. The Broad Center also subsidized the salaries of at least 10 ex-business managers who moved into administrative jobs at the district office.

Kyla Johnson-Trammell, an Oakland resident who and educator with OUSD, was named to replace Antwan Wilson in 2017. When he left to lead the Washington DC’s schools, he left a mess in Oakland. Mother Jones magazine says Wilson saddled the district with a $30 million deficit. They continue, “A state financial risk report from August 2017 concluded that Oakland Unified, under Wilson, had ‘lost control of its spending, allowing school sites and departments to ignore and override board policies by spending beyond their budgets.”’

The preponderance of the problems in OUSD are related to the state takeover, FCMAT and the leadership provided by Broad Academy graduates.

The usual billionaires have selected several of the OUSD board members and showered them with donations from out-of-district and out-of-state.

The fundamental problem is Oakland has a dual education system with 37,000 students in public schools and 15,000 in charter schools. It costs more to operate two systems. Every school district in California that has more than 10% of their students in charter schools has severe financial problems. Oakland has the largest percentage of charter school students in the state with 29% so financial issues are the expectation.

This is an education crisis that was manufactured by the super wealthy and implemented by neoliberal politicians.