Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Parents, educators, and other concerned citizens petitioned in opposition to adding a charter school representative to their school board.

PETITION: RCSD United Against Privatization 

Sign the petition against charter school affiliates being appointed to the Board of Ed here: https://forms.gle/uFScKtgxwk1SNo1N9

Write to the Board and tell them what you learned:

Van Henri White – van.white@thelegalbrief.com

This is the petition:

RCSD United Against Privatization 

In response to the announcement that Walter Larkin, current CEO of U Prep Charter School is a finalist for the open board of education seat:

We, the educators, parents, and citizens of the Rochester City School District stand united against the continued attacks on our public school system. We are opposed to the appointment of any charter school employees or affiliates to the board. Not only is this a conflict of interest, but the students and educators of the Rochester City School District deserve board members who trust and value PUBLIC education. Any affiliation with a charter school is a conflict of interest, and can only lead to the further privatization of our school district.

These attacks go beyond the appointment of a single board member. Our newest Superintendent has hired charter school executives such as Dr. Kathleen Black, as our new Chief Academic Officer.

We are also seeing gross inequity between what charter schools are able to offer, as they scoop up 6 times more CARES act funding than the RCSD was able to. Currently the students of the RCSD are being deprived of their right to a sound and basic education, while charter schools are able to offer in person schooling because they have access to funding that the RCSD does not.

The writing is on the wall, the Rochester City School District, which serves 80% of the students of this city, is being defunded and dismantled. Charter schools are being handed cash and are expanding exponentially. Not only have charter schools been shown to show NO better performance than traditional public schools, but they are also contributing to the immediate starvation of the RCSD, with over 80 million dollars coming from the RCSD budget to charter schools last year alone.

We demand a pro-public education replacement be chosen for the open board of education seat. We need someone who has shown a lifelong dedication to the success of public schools, and who has a vested interest in their continued success. Nothing else will be acceptable to the students, educators, and community members of the RCSD.

Open the link to see the names of the signatories.

NYC Schools: A Double Crisis! A Forum on Thursday  Nov. 12 at 6:30 PM

How have pandemic and policy exacerbated the inequity in NYC public schools? What can be done? 

Thursday Nov. 12 at 6:30 PM

Join us at our next virtual event as we discuss these issues with our excellent panelists.

Speakers: (list to date; parent panelist will be announced)
Kevin Bryant — Principal at NYC DOE High Schools and current candidate for a PhD in Education at Harvard
Leonie Haimson — Executive Director of Class Size Matters
Jonathan Halabi –High School Teacher, DOE, & Chapter Leader, UFT
Tracey Willacey –Teacher for the NYC DOE for over 25 years

Co-Moderators: 
Gloria Brandman, Retired Teacher, activist with Move the Money/NYC;
Natasha Santos, Program Coordinator, Brooklyn For Peace

See it on Facebook. Please RSVP and invite your friends!

Register now

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Adequacy and Equity, reports on the cost of school choice, relying on the data compiled by former legislator Steve Dyer. This is interesting because polls regularly show that the public is fine with choice if the money does not get subtracted from local public schools. It does. It always comes right out of the budget of local public schools. School choice always means budget cuts for public schools. There is no separate pot of money for charters and vouchers.

Bill Phillis writes:

Charters and vouchers took away over one-half billion in local revenue from school districts in school year 2019-2020

$525,187,286* in local revenue was deducted from school districts for privately-operated alternatives to the public common system. Columbus property taxpayers subsidized charter and voucher students to the tune of $76, 548,933* during the 2019-2020 school year.

Article VI §2 of the Ohio Constitution requires the state to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled four times that the system is unconstitutional. Yet the state removes hundreds of millions of dollars from school districts to fund the state’s pet projects. Incredible!

*Steve Dyer’s analysis

Sarah Jones is an amazingly perceptive writer who has trained her sights in the real crisis in American education: not low test scores, but underfunding and stark disparities of funding.

Her latest article is brilliant. It begins:

Andrew Worthington’s public school was in trouble even before the coronavirus struck. “We have lead in the pipes,” the Manhattan-based English teacher said. “We have all sorts of rodents. There’s soot in the ventilation system. The bathrooms are constantly out of service.” When school is in session, Worthington said, most classes have over 30 students. About 80 percent of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch, and many lack the tech they now need to keep up with classes.

After the pandemic turned classrooms dangerous, Worthington’s students faced widening gaps. The iPads the school handed out could only do so much. “It’s hard for them to write essays on a tablet,” Worthington observed.

Like any natural disaster, the pandemic is a stress test for our systems and institutions. It locates their weak spots, and presses until something snaps. Public education could be its next casualty, advocates and experts told Intelligencer; a victim not just of the virus, but of something older and more deliberate, too. America’s public schools haven’t been properly funded for years. Twenty-nine states spent less on public education in 2015 than they did in 2009, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has reported. Local governments in 19 states cut per-pupil spending over the same time period; elsewhere, small increases couldn’t make up for drastic, state-level reductions. If schools buckle now under the weight of the pandemic, lawmakers bear much of the blame.

With school back in session, administrators and teachers alike must stretch already scarce resources to meet new demands. If school buildings reopen at all, social-distancing demands smaller class sizes and more teachers. If schools keep classes virtual, poor students need tools that their districts might not be able to afford. Because the pandemic helped spawn a recession, schools also face crippling cuts as state and local tax revenue contracts. A new report from the American Federation of Teachers projects a funding gap of $93.5 billion for pre-K–12 education, and an additional $45 billion gap for higher education. Unless Congress and Donald Trump can agree on a rescue package, the union estimates that around one million jobs for pre-K–12 educators will disappear.

Maybe no one could have prevented coronavirus, or something equally drastic, from transforming public life and public schools. But the situation didn’t have to be quite so dire, said Diane Ravitch, an education historian and the founder of the Network for Public Education. “We have been through a long period of devaluing public education, especially the education of children who are poor,” she told Intelligencer by email. “High-wealth communities invest in their schools. In poor neighborhoods, where children have low test scores, politicians have opened charter schools and offered vouchers, which saps funding from schools that need it most.”

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association, put matters in even blunter terms. “I hear the word ‘chronic,’ and that’s a good word,” she said. “But there’s another word that has to be put with it, and that’s ‘intentional.’” Lawmakers, she added, “are intentionally, chronically underfunding our schools.”

Over 600 faculty and staff at Penn have organized Penn for PILOTS and issued a statement calling on the university to make “payments in lieu of taxes” (PILOTs) to the Philadelphia public schools. As is well known, the public schools in Philadelphia are chronically underfunded, thanks to a hostile Republican legislature, and they are currently facing devastating cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Penn is the largest property owner in Philadelphia and the only Ivy League university that doesn’t pay PILOTs. Calls for PILOTs have surfaced for years, but support for the idea has now reached an unprecedented level. A significant number of Penn faculty and staff believe that it is time for the university to pay its fair share for public schools.

As the organizing statement of the group says, Penn is the seventh wealthiest university in the nation, and the Philadelphia schools are among the poorest in the nation.

This is the petition of the organizers. The statement begins:

We are faculty and staff at the University of Pennsylvania who believe that Penn has a responsibility to ensure adequate funding for the Philadelphia public schools. Penn is the largest property owner in the city of Philadelphia, but as a non-profit institution, it pays no property taxes on its non-commercial properties. In other words, it contributes nothing to the tax base that funds Philadelphia’s public school system—this in a city whose schools are underfunded and facing deep budget cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our Commitment

Penn should contribute to an Educational Equity Fund governed by the school district and city of Philadelphia. These would be payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs)—a fraction of what Penn would owe if it were subject to property tax assessment. We commit ourselves to seeing our university pay its fair share.

Nearly every other Ivy League university already makes payments in lieu of taxes. Penn would be joining the ranks of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, and Dartmouth in recognizing its financial obligation to the community of which it is a part.

The supporters of this demand explain their rationale:

This is not a matter of charity but of justice. Penn’s tax exemption is predicated on the notion that it is a non-profit institution that exists to fulfill a public purpose, not a for-profit corporation that exists to accumulate capital. That distinction must be made meaningful. Today, Penn is the seventh richest university in the country. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has the highest poverty rate of the ten largest cities in the United States. If Penn’s public mission is to have any meaning at all, the university must not be an exemplar or engine of urban inequality.

Yet the existing system of public finance ensures that Penn benefits from city services that it does not pay to maintain. Penn’s administrators, faculty, and staff rely on city schools, sanitation services, transportation, and other programs. Penn’s location in the city of Philadelphia is one of its defining characteristics that enables the university to attract faculty and students. When the university does not pay for the services and environment that make its work possible, other Philadelphians are left to make up the difference—or city schools and other institutions simply go without. Penn has a duty to contribute to the city that sustains it.

Here is their list of frequently asked questions.

The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about this remarkable movement.

I salute the faculty and staff at Penn who support this movement. The financial condition of the Philadelphia public schools is dire. They need all the help they can get. In this age on intense individualism and greed, it is wonderful to see people acting with a sense of social responsibility.

There is a charter school in San Diego called the Gompers Preparatory Academy. Since 2018, its private management has been fighting teachers who want to form a union. When the COVID crisis struck and the state planned budget cuts, Gompers laid off more than a third of the staff. By coincidence (!), nearly all the teachers laid off were the very ones who wanted to form a union!

Does the charter management know who Samuel Gompers was? Hint: the first president of the American Federation of Labor and a pioneer of the union movement.

Gompers Preparatory Academy announced Monday it had rescinded a decision made two weeks ago to lay off more than a third of the school’s teachers because of state budget cuts.

The layoffs would have increased class sizes from 19 students to 28 at the public charter school in southeastern San Diego. Ninety percent of Gompers students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and some may be the first in their families to attend college, the school has said.

Some teachers had criticized the layoffs as an attempt to end their recently formed union…

Nearly all teachers who received layoff notices last month were union supporters, a San Diego Education Association spokesperson previously told inewsource. Gompers leaders had maintained the cuts were necessary and said decisions were based on seniority.

This is a powerful editorial written by the editorial board of the York Dispatch.

The Republican-controlled legislature has imposed a funding system that is literally forcing the school district to starve in order to survive.

It is an outrage.

This should be a cover story in every national magazine. It isn’t, because it’s all too common.

When we starve our schools, we destroy the education of the children who attend them.

The editorial says:

York City School District is trapped in a death spiral.

It’s stuck under years-long state management that limits how money can be spent. Charter schools are annually sucking more than $25 million from its budget. Miserly state lawmakers foist the responsibility for funding public education on local officials, thereby fostering a system that rewards students in rich communities and punishes those in poor ones. And York City taxpayers are fed up with paying taxes that are up to double what’s paid in richer districts with more valuable property.

It’s no wonder that, under these conditions, York City Superintendent Andrea Berry presented a slash-and-burn budget for the 2020-21 school year containing $6.2 million in cuts. And, sadly, it’s no surprise the district’s school board went even further, last week approving a budget that axed 44 positions, including 32 teachers.

And, even so, York City’s 2020-21 budget still boosted taxes. That’s how bad things really are.

Really, what choice did district officials have?

York City school officials are trapped in a budgetary spiral that’s plagued poor, largely minority communities throughout the U.S. for decades. Under-represented at the statehouse, their calls for funding reform fall flat.

Like anything stuck in a trap, eventually the grisly choice of gnawing off one’s leg is the last, best available option.

Easily available metrics, such as test scores, drive the moneyed classes from the city, exacerbating blight and crashing property values.

The poverty increases the demand for not-for-profits, which, in turn, remove more property from the tax rolls.

And, all the while, Republicans in the state Legislature tout the myth of “school choice,” a particularly insidious bit of libertarian conservative dogma — concocted in response to the integration of Southern schools — that conspires to privatize the American school system and funnel taxpayer dollars to religious institutions.

The results will be devastating for York City’s students and society at large.

Interested in the performing arts? Too bad.

Hoping to grow from an introduction in the humanities? Those options are even more limited now.

Programs such as these are, in a very real sense, the foundation of a well-rounded education, one that prepares students to take their place as active citizens in a representative republic. But, more often than not, society has decided that the liberal arts aren’t for poor kids.

Make no mistake, York City’s plight is one destroying urban districts throughout the country. Just ask Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, who, in 2016, wrote a blistering ruling that attacked the very foundation of the system under which public schools are funded in this country.

His 90-page ruling was an indictment of the disparity between rich districts and poor ones that the U.S. funding model breeds.

“So change must come. The state has to accept that the schools are its blessing and its burden, and if it cannot be wise, it must at least be sensible,” Moukawsher wrote.

And yet, with the inherent systemic flaws well-established, school districts such as York City remain trapped and must eat itself just to survive.

Officials there had little choice this past week.

But the fact that they were left without any other options is neither moral nor just.

Thanks to Peter Greene for sharing this blistering but accurate editorial.

Jeff Bryant noticed and documented a worrisome new trend: Charter operators are taking advantage of the pandemic to open new charter schools in suburban districts with good public schools.

Public school parents have spoken out, as he shows, because they understand that new charters will drain money from their good public schools and weaken them.

Because reopening public schools in the coming school year will be fraught with unprecedented challenges, experts say, and education budgets may get cut to the bone, news of charter school startups and expansions will undoubtedly spark heated opposition from public school parents and teachers, even in well-to-do suburban communities, like Wake County, that may have been insulated from the financial costs of school choice in the past.

“[These parents and public school advocates] should expect charter schools to drain financial resources from their communities’ public schools,” Preston Green told me in a phone call.

Green, a University of Connecticut professor, is the author of numerous critical studies of charter schools, including one in which he argued that the charter industry’s operations resemble the business practices of Enron, the mammoth energy corporation that collapsed under a weight of debt and scandal.

As evidence, Green sent me an email citing a 2018 study of five non-urban, North Carolina school districts. The study determined that these non-urban districts lost about $4,000 to $6,000 for every student enrolled in a charter school.

Green said that because controversial charter schools have so far been less widespread in the suburbs compared to inner-city communities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit, it’s likely that many suburban parents who previously were unfamiliar with the fiscal impacts of charter schools will increasingly express concerns about seeing new charter schools popping up in their communities.

“This fiscal impact is concerning,” Green explained, “because public schools have fixed costs, such as facilities and administration, that cannot be cut very easily.”

Jan Resseger writes here to refute Trump and Betsy DeVos’s ridiculous claim that school choice is a “civil rights issue.” As she points out, charter schools and vouchers divert funding from the public schools that most children of color attend. School choice is responsible for budget cuts to public schools.

Privatized educational alternatives like charter schools and vouchers for private school tuition not only extract public funds needed in the public school system to serve 50 million American children, but they also undermine our rights as citizens and our children’s rights. Only in the public schools, which are governed democratically according to the law, can our society protect the rights of all children.

The late political philosopher, Benjamin Barber, warns about what we all lose when we try to privatize the public good: “Privatization is a kind of reverse social contract: it dissolves the bonds that tie us together into free communities and democratic republics. It puts us back in the state of nature where we possess a natural right to get whatever we can on our own, but at the same time lose any real ability to secure that to which we have a right. Private choices rest on individual power… personal skills… and personal luck. Public choices rest on civic rights and common responsibilities, and presume equal rights for all. Public liberty is what the power of common endeavor establishes, and hence presupposes that we have constituted ourselves as public citizens by opting into the social contract. With privatization, we are seduced back into the state of nature by the lure of private liberty and particular interest; but what we experience in the end is an environment in which the strong dominate the weak… the very dilemma which the original social contract was intended to address.” (Consumed, pp. 143-144)

What she does not mention is that the demand for school choice originated with Southern governors in response to the a Brown decision. From its origins, school choice was rooted in racism. Last year, Steve Suitts of the Southern Education Foundation wrote an important monograph about the origins of school choice. It was supposed to block civil rights, not advance them.

Every state is facing financial catastrophe because of the economic consequences of the pandemic. Jan Resseger argues that Congress must pass legislation to avert draconian cuts to education, public health, and other vital public services. The states are facing a national crisis not of their making, and a responsible Congress would promptly enact fiscal relief. Under Mitch McConnel, we do not have a responsible Congress.

Resseger begins:

There is plenty of confirmation from the experts about the 50 states’ desperate need for additional federal relief dollars for school districts to open public schools next fall. Without immediate help from Congress, state budget cuts will diminish educational opportunity especially for the school districts that serve our nation’s poorest children. We must not take for granted that public schools will be able to provide the same programs for our children as they did before what promises to be a deep recession. The pending school funding crisis—across all 50 states—has received scanty coverage in the press, which has paid more attention to whether, how, and when schools can reopen. Here are the grim fiscal realities.

On May 15, the House passed a new federal relief program—the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act), but the U.S. Senate went on a Memorial Day Recess prior to even taking up the bill. Education Week‘s Evie Blad reports: “The HEROES Act would create a $90 billion ‘state fiscal stabilization fund’ for the U.S. Department of Education to support K-12 and higher education. About 65 percent of that fund—or roughly $58 billion—would go through states to local school districts. The bill would also provide $1 billion to shore up state and local government budgets that have been hard hit by declining tax revenues as businesses closed to slow the spread of the virus.”

The HEROES Act passed by the House on May 15 is far from perfect. The New York Times Editorial Board explains: “The Democratic-led House passed a $3 trillion relief package on May 15. That bill was imperfect but it was something. Mr. McConnell, on the other hand, has repeatedly said he’s in no hurry for the Senate to offer its own proposal. He has put talks on an indefinite pause, saying he wants to see how the economy responds to previous relief measures. The Senate may get around to putting together a plan when it reconvenes next month. Or perhaps it will be in July.”

School districts cannot plan for essential staff like teachers, counselors, nurses, social workers, and librarians when their state budget allocations are being reduced right now before the fiscal year ends on June 30—with more state budget cuts projected moving into next fiscal year. The director of state policy research for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michael Leachman explains: “As economic projections worsen, so do the likely state budget shortfalls from COVID-19’s economic fallout. We now project shortfalls of $765 billion over three years…. States must balance their budgets every year, even in recessions… The coronavirus relief bill that the House passed on May 15, the HEROES Act, includes substantial state and local fiscal relief… States will need aid of this magnitude to avoid extensive layoffs of teachers, health care workers, and first responders….”

The Economic Policy Institute’s Josh Bivens rejects Mitch McConnell’s argument that Congress should wait and see about the need for additional federal stimulus dollars: “Congress is currently debating a new relief and recovery package—the HEROES Act—that would deliver significant amounts of fiscal aid to state and local governments—more than $1 trillion over the next two years, all told. This is a very welcome proposal. The incredibly steep recession we’re currently in is guaranteed to torpedo state and local governments’ ability to collect revenue. Further, nearly all of these governments are tightly constrained—both by law as well as by genuine economic constraints—from taking on large amounts of debt to maintain spending in the face of this downward shock to their revenues… Recent justifications for denying aid to state and local governments sometimes rest on claims that this spending has been profligate in recent years. This is absolutely not so—growth in state and local spending has been historically slow for nearly two decades. Given the importance of what this spending focuses on (education, health care, public order), this decades-long disinvestment should be reversed, not accelerated due to an unforeseen economic crisis.”