Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Leonie Haimson provides an update on the battle over the city’s education budget. Parents and teachers are fighting budget cuts by Mayor Eric Adams.

She writes:

Dear folks–

Sorry to say that late in the day yesterday, the Appellate Court granted the City a stay on Judge Frank’s decision that the Education budget was illegally adopted, which means that the school budget cuts can legally remain in place until the court hears the City’s appeal on August 29.

What’s particularly infuriating is that the City could have asked for a speedy decision from the Appellate court to settle this matter, but instead asked that the hearing not occur until the end of the month, which merely prolongs the uncertainty and the chaos that the City complained about in its brief. The statement from the Attorney for the plaintiffs about this latest decision is on the website here.

We have also prepared an updated FAQ about the court decisions. We are now asking the Council to push the Mayor to agree to a budget modification to restore the cuts as soon as possible, and not wait for any decision from the Court so that parents, teachers and kids can be assured of a safe, healthy and positive learning climate when they return to school in September.

Tomorrow, Thursday August 11, at 1 PM, parents, advocates and teachers will gather on the steps of City Hall to urge the City Council Members to demand the Mayor propose a budget modification, as they make their way into a Council stated meeting. They will then hold a press conference at 2 PM to convey this message . Please join them if you can! We must all do what we can to stop these horrific cuts to schools.

More soon, Leonie

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
phone: 917-435-9329
leonie@classsizematters.org
www.classsizematters.org
Follow on twitter @leoniehaimson
Subscribe to the Class Size Matters newsletter for regular updates at http://tinyurl.com/kj5y5co
Subscribe to the NYC Education list serv by emailing NYCeducationnews+subscribe@groups.io

Host of “Talk out of School” WBAI radio show and podcast at https://talk-out-of-school.simplecast.com/

The New York Times Magazine recently published a startling article about Alabama’s tax system is designed to impoverish the poor and enrich the rich. Written by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, the article documents why Alabama remains a poor state with a high rate of poverty and underfunded public services. If you want to read a road map to how to institutionalize extreme poverty, racism, and underdevelopment, read “Alabama Takes from the Poor and Gives to the Rich.”

The author explains that the state constitution was written in 1904 by a convention controlled by rich landowners. It capped property taxes at a low rate, which meant that any public services had to be paid for by other taxes, fines, and fees. Fines and fees are assessed for almost every interaction with government.

He writes:

In states like Alabama, almost every interaction a person has with the criminal justice system comes with a financial cost. If you’re assigned to a pretrial program to reduce your sentence, each class attended incurs a fee. If you’re on probation, you’ll pay a fee to take your mandatory urine test. If you appear in drug court, you will face more fees, sometimes dozens of times a year. Often, you don’t even have to break the law; you’ll pay fees to pull a public record or apply for a permit. For poor people, this system is a trap, sucking them into a cycle of sometimes unpayable debt that constrains their lives and almost guarantees financial hardship.

While almost every state in the country, both red and blue, levies fines and fees that fall disproportionately on the bottom rung of the income ladder, the situation in Alabama is far more dramatic, thanks to the peculiarities of its Constitution. Over a century ago, wealthy landowners and businessmen rewrote the Constitution to cap taxes permanently. As a result, today, Alabama has one of the cruelest tax systems in the country.

Taxes on most property, for example, are exceptionally low. In 2019, property taxes accounted for just 7 percent of state and local revenue, the lowest among the states. (Even Mississippi, which also has low property taxes, got roughly 12 percent from property taxes. New Jersey, by contrast, got 29 percent.) Strapped for cash, all levels of government look for money anywhere they can get it. And often, that means creating revenue from fines and fees. A 2016 studyshowed that the median assessment for a felony in Alabama doubled between 1995 and 2005, to $2,000.

How did this unjust system take root?

In 1874, less than a decade into Reconstruction, the Democratic Party, representing the landowning, formerly slave-owning class, took over the state government in a rigged election and quickly passed a new Constitution that mandated taxes on property would remain permanently low.

In the next couple of decades, as cotton prices crashed, poor sharecroppers, both white and Black, banded together in a populist movement to unseat the elites who controlled the state. In response, in another set of contested elections, the elites called another constitutional convention to further consolidate their power over the state. “What is it that we want to do?” the convention president, John B. Knox, asked. “Establish white supremacy in this state.” But this time, he said, they wanted to “establish it by law — not by force or fraud.”

People like Knox weren’t just racist; they were virulently classist, too, and hoped to exclude all poor people from the political process. The result of the 1901 Constitution was the mass disenfranchisement and subjugation of poor people — white and Black. The Constitution established the basis for a literacy test, a poll tax and stringent residency requirements. By 1943, according to the Alabama Policy Institute, an estimated 520,000 Black people and 600,000 white people had been disqualified from voting by different aspects of the 1901 Constitution. “In most counties more whites were disenfranchised than registered,” the historian Wayne Flynt writes in his authoritative book “Alabama in the Twentieth Century,” “limiting the vote to a select elite.”

This system of minority rule starved public administration in the name of small government. The result was a “government of, by and for special interests,” writes Mr. Flynt. “The citizens of Alabama did not control their government. Trial lawyers, the Business Council of Alabama, ALFA, A.E.A. and their cohorts did.” And this government went about protecting the property owned by some of the wealthiest families and businesses in the state from any meaningful taxation. In 1920, property taxes accounted for 63 percent of state revenue, but by 1978, it was down to a measly 3.6 percent. In 1992, it was below 2 percent, he writes.

Alabama is an “internal colony,” controlled by out-of-state corporations and an elite, with no interest in change, progress, equality, or justice.

Sounds un-American to me.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of the advocacy group Class Size Matters (and a board member of the Network for Public Education), reports that parents won their lawsuit against the City of New York and the Department of Education for budget cuts. The city rushed the process and failed to follow the procedures required by law.

As the opening of school draws near, principals are uncertain how to plan their budget. Have their budgets been cut or not? Are they laying off teachers or not?

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is imposing budget cuts on the public schools, and teachers of the arts are getting laid off first. Cutting the arts is incredibly stupid. Many students are motivated to attend school because of their involvement with the arts. Anyone who cuts the arts cuts joy, cuts creativity, cuts love of learning. Is Mayor Adams trying to drive students to charter schools to satisfy the billionaire hedge funders who supported his election?

On June 13, Paul Trust was called into the principal’s office at the PS 39 elementary school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where he had taught music for over a decade.

In the meeting, the school’s administration told Trust that his job was in jeopardy and letting him go was the “worst-case scenario.” But after the principal met with the Borough Central Office to discuss her 2023 budget, that scenario became the reality: Trust would be “excessed,” or laid off from his position. And the school told its only other music teacher Nick Deutsch, who had been there for six years, the same thing, effectively eliminating its music department.

PS 39 was forced to decrease spending by 14%, one of approximately 1,200 district schools in New York — 77% of the city’s total — that were told to cut their budget by a specific dollar amount after Mayor Eric Adams slashed school funding by over $200 million. The cuts are tied to enrollment declines, which the majority of NYC schools experienced over the course of the pandemic. Budget decisions are at the discretion of the schools’ principals, and arts departments, already under-funded despite representing a “core academic subject,” are not protected…

In NYC, there are no allocations or guidelines mandating arts funding in schools. Reversing a 1997 initiative that earmarked arts spending per student, Mayor Mike Bloomberg eliminated mandates for the 2007 school year, allowing school principals to use previously allocated arts funding on anythingthey chose. The impact was immediate: That year, the percentage of schools without a certified art teacher rose from 20% to 30%, and spending on art supplies fell by 63%. …

The 2023 budget cuts could shrink NYC arts education programs even further, threatening the careers of public school arts teachers and leaving them with an uncertain future.

What is happening to the America that we swore allegiance to every day in public school? what happened to the America that was “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”? How did we get a rogue Supreme Court that recklessly demolishes women’s rights, the separation of church and state, gun control, public safety, and efforts by government to prevent climate disasters? Who kidnapped the conservative Republican Party that believed in stability and tradition? From whence came the people who scorn the commonweal and ridicule Constitutional norms?

Former state legislator Jeanne Dietsch has an answer. Connect the dots by looking at what has happened to New Hampshire. The coup failed in Washington, D.C. on January 6, she writes. But it is moving forward in New Hampshire, with many of the same characters and all of the same goals.

If you read one post today, read this.

She writes:

During the last few weeks, US House leaders documented the nearly successful January 6 coup piece by piece, before our eyes. That personal power grab failed. Meanwhile, the steps clinching takeover of our government by radical reactionaries have nearly triumphed. A plan decades in the making. A plan nearly invisible to the ordinary public.


I can barely believe myself how this story weaves from Kansas to Concord to DC to the fields of southern Michigan over the course of six decades. It starts in Witchita. Koch Industries is the largest privately held company in the US, with over $115 billion in revenues, mostly fossil-fuel related. For many years, two of the founders’ sons, Charles and David Koch, each owned 42% of the company.


The younger, David, studied in the engineering department of MIT for 5 years, simultaneous with young John H. Sununu. Both finished their Master’s degrees in 1963.

1980: THE KOCHS SET THEIR GOALS


Seventeen years later, David Koch ran for Vice President of the US on the Libertarian ticket. The campaign was largely funded by Koch interests. The Libertarian platform of 1980, shown below, may look disturbingly familiar to those following news today.

Open her post to read the Koch Libertarian platform of 1980.

Libertarians demanded the abolition of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, public schools, aid to children, the Post Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and more.

The infrastructure for achieving that platform was founded two years later. It was called the Federalist Society. It was a plan by a “small but influential group of law professors, lawyers, and judges.” Its goal?

To train members of their professions to believe in “originalism.” Originalists “strictly construe” the Constitution as they believed the Framers designed it way back in 1787. This matched David Koch’s 1980 platform. It would leave corporations free to do whatever profited them most without regard for social costs or regulations. Older Federalist Society members used their influence to advance their followers to higher judgeships.

SUNUNU FAMILY ROLES


Meanwhile, John Sununu became governor of New Hampshire, then Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush. In that role, John thwarted a plan for the US to join the international conference to address climate change in 1989. Actions like this, that benefitted Koch and the rest of the fossil-fuel industry, would become a hallmark of the Sununu family.


In 1993, an executive of Charles and David’s Koch Industries Michigan subsidiary, Guardian Industries, became a founding trustee of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy [JBC] in NH. Its mission was to advance many of the policies listed on David Koch’s platform of 1980. John Sununu, and later his son James, would chair the JBC board through today. Another of Sununu’s sons, Michael, would become a vocal climate denier and industry consultant. Still another, Senator John E. Sununu, would oppose the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003. But the Sununus were not coup leaders, just complicit.

BUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE COUP


But let’s jump back to the Federalist Society. Its mission was succeeding. They were stacking the lower courts.?..Those justices hired young lawyers as clerks. From 1996-97, Thomas employed a Federalist Society clerk named John Eastman.


Twenty-three years later, Eastman would meet secretly with President Donald Trump. He would convince him that Vice President Pence could refuse to accept electoral college ballots on January 6. But back in 1999, Eastman became a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. “The mission of the Claremont Institute is to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life.”


Now we’re almost at the secret clubhouse of the coup. The Claremont Institute was run by a fellow regressive named Larry Arnn.(Photo below) In late 1999, Arnn was in the process of replacing the president of Hillsdale College because of a scandal that made national news. Hillsdale promotes conservative family values. Yet its leader was having an affair with his daughter-in-law. She committed suicide. Hillsdale was the central hub for Libertarian radicals so they needed a strong leader to pull them out of the mud.

Please read the rest of this fascinating post. There is one blatant error: she refers to “Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer” as Koch justices, but Breyer was a liberal justice appointed by Clinton. She must have meant the crackpot Alito.

If you are like me, your head is spinning about the conflicting signals about New York City’s public schools. The state legislature voted to mandate smaller class sizes, which will cost money, but the City Council voted to cut the schools’ budget.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, encourages everyone to fight back. She has spent more than 20 years arguing for reduced class sizes as the most effective reform for schools.

Here is her message:

Dear folks – 

Sadly, late Monday night the NYC Council agreedto a city budget that will make at least $215M in cuts directly to schools, by a 44-6 vote. These egregious cuts, the largest since the Great Recession of 2007-2008, were made despite billions more in the city’s reserve fund, an expected city budget surplus of more than $1B next year, and nearly $5B in unspent federal stimulus funds meant for our schools. These cuts will likely cause class sizes to increase and the loss of critical services for kids, who are still recovering from the disruptions caused by more than two years of the pandemic.

There are three things you can do now to help us fight back:  

1.Sign our petition to Gov. Hochul, urging her to sign the new state class size bill, S09460A10498,as soon as possible, passed by the New York State Legislature on June 3 by a vote of 147 to 2 in the Assembly and 59 to 4 in the State Senate. Once she signs the bill, it will give us a legal avenue to try to reverse or limit the damage of these inexcusable cuts. The petition is co-sponsored by NYC Kids PAC, AQE and the Education Council Consortium.

2. You can also let DOE know directly how you feel about these cuts at the final C4E hearings tonight, Wed. June 15. You can sign up here, starting at 5 PM; the hearings begin at 6 PM. The public comments are required to be summarized, posted and sent to the NY State Education Department to help them decide whether to approve the city’s C4E plan. It goes without saying that “Excellence” will be harder to achieve than ever in our schools, given these devastating cuts. Some additional talking points are here.

3. Please also attend our Annual Skinny Award celebration, on Monday June 27, in which we will honor the state leaders who made the new class size bill possible.   You can find out more about our honorees and how to purchase your tickets here. This is the first fundraiser Class Size Matters has held in three years — and we can really use your support. The education leaders who will be there to receive their awards also deserve your thanks.

But don’t forget to sign our petition to Gov. Hochul today! I will be up in Albany tomorrow and will deliver it to her office if there are enough signatures by then.

Thanks, Leonie 

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
phone: 917-435-9329
leonie@classsizematters.org
www.classsizematters.org
Follow on twitter @leoniehaimson
Subscribe to the Class Size Matters newsletter for regular updates at http://tinyurl.com/kj5y5co
Subscribe to the NYC Education list serv by emailing NYCeducationnews+subscribe@groups.io

Host of “Talk out of School” WBAI radio show and podcast at https://talk-out-of-school.simplecast.com/

Please sign up now for our Annual Parent Action Conference on Saturday June 4 from 4 PM to 6 PM EST, co-sponsored by NYC Kids PAC and held via Zoom.  

Invited keynote speakers include Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Sen. Robert Jackson and NYC Council Education Chair Rita Joseph.

We will also brief you on the proposed budget cuts to NYC schools, and what parents can do to prevent them from happening.

This will be followed by a choice of workshops on these important issues:

  • Reforming Fair Student Funding
  • Resources for parents navigating the special education system
  • How DOE puts your child’s privacy at risk
  • Literacy in NYC: How parents forced a change
  • The problems with charter schools
  • Parent organizing and advocacy

Please register now at Eventbrite here or at https://tinyurl.com/PACconference22  

A flyer you can download and share is here.

Hope to see you there!

thanks Leonie

PS Please keep those calls going to your Legislators about including requiring that class size be reduced in any agreement on Mayoral control; links to their contact info as well as a script is posted here.

This report comes from the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University. The Leandro case ordered equitable funding for the state’s public schools, but the funding has not been delivered due to the Tea Party Republican control of the legislature (General Assembly). Republicans have chosen to focus on charters and vouchers, not equitable funding.

Seeking to end the long-pending Leandro/Hoke litigation, Superior Court Judge David Lee last June approved a comprehensive, 8-year plan that aims to ensure all students in the state the opportunity for a sound basic education guaranteed by the state constitution. When the legislature failed to approve the initial funding to support the plan, in November, the Judge ordered the state of North Carolina to transfer $1.7 billion from its reserves to fund the first phase of the plan. At the end of November, the North Carolina Court of Appeals overruled Judge Lee’s order, holding that although the lower court was correct in saying that the state must fund the plan, it is not within its power to order money be appropriated.

Late last month, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby, a registered Republican, suddenly replaced Judge Lee, a registered Democrat, as the presiding trial court judge for the case, without any advance notice. Justice Newby then ordered special Superior Court Judge Michael Robinson, a registered republican, to take over the case. Judge Robinson is required to determine how much of the $1.7 billion that is necessary to fund a comprehensive remedial school improvement plan was included in the current state budget. Judge Robinson must present his findings to the state Supreme Court by April 20.

Education advocates put a measure on the ballot in Arizona to raise taxes on the highest-income taxpayers to increase education funding. Voters passed the measure. But a judge struck it down because it exceeded the state constitution’s limit on taxation. This report comes from the Center on Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University.

AZ JUDGE INVALIDATES PROPOSITION THAT WOULD HAVE BOOSTED FUNDING FOR EDUCATION

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah has ended the nearly two-year controversy swirling around the constitutionality of Proposition 208, a measure recently adopted by the voters, by ruling last month that the measure is invalid. The Proposition would have boosted the income-tax rate for high income earners by 3.5%, with the money directed primarily to salary increases for teachers and school support personnel. But the judge ruled last month in Fann v. State, that the money the Proposition would raise would exceed the amount permitted by the state’s constitutional spending limit.

The Arizona Supreme Court had indicated that allocation of funds for education under Prop. 208 would likely contravene the Education Expenditure Clause of the state constitution, a constitutional cap that was adopted in 1980. The case had been remanded to the trial court to calculate whether, as most observers anticipated, the amount raised by the proposition would, in fact, exceed the cap.

More than 100 school districts in Ohio have joined a lawsuit against the state of Ohio opposing vouchers.

Bill Phillis, former deputy superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education, now leads a pro-public school advocacy group called the Ohio Coalition of Equity and Adequacy. He and a new group called “Vouchers Hurt Ohio” have organized the campaign to have the voucher program declared unconstitutional. This is their website.

Bill Phillis posted this description of the lawsuit when it was filed in court in Ohio in early January:

Vouchers Hurt Ohio and Ohio E&A Coalition

File Lawsuit Against Private School Voucher Program

COLUMBUS – A coalition of public school districts filed a lawsuit today in Franklin County Common Pleas court challenging the constitutionality of the rapidly growing private school voucher program that is siphoning away hundreds of millions of dollars from public school students, teachers, classrooms and communities.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice and current Columbus City Schools board member Eric Brown said the lawsuit asks the judicial system a simple, but critical question:

“Where does the Ohio General Assembly get the power to fund private school vouchers? That power is nowhere to be found in the Ohio Constitution. In fact, the Ohio Constitution forbids it. Lawmakers have the authority and responsibility to fund “a” system of “common schools,” with common standards and resources for all of Ohio’s taxpayers, parents, and students,” Brown said at a press conference today outlining the lawsuit.

“Funding schools that aren’t for everybody is not the business of the Ohio General Assembly, and it is not the responsibility of Ohio taxpayers to pay for these private schools,” Brown said. “The Ohio General Assembly either knows they are violating the Ohio Constitution and doesn’t care or the members who support expanding the private school vouchers need a history lesson themselves.”

William L. Phillis, executive director for the Coalition of Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, was instrumental in leading the successful court challenge to the way Ohio pays for public schools during the ‘90s.

“The DeRolph school funding lawsuit was the case of the 20th century. The EdChoice private school voucher lawsuit we filed today is destined to be the case of the 21st Century,” Phillis said. “In fact, the private school voucher system is siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars from an already underfunded system of public schools. The legislature and the governor are putting our state and our public school children at risk and they admit it.”

Nneka Jackson, a school board member with the Richmond Heights School District in Cuyahoga County, said private school vouchers are making school segregation in Ohio worse, not better.

“If someone tells you this is about helping poor minority children, hook them up to a lie detector test asap and stand back because the sparks are going to fly,” Jackson said.

About 40 percent of Richmond Heights residents are white. Before the EdChoice private school voucher program, about 26 percent of the students in the Richmond Heights School District were white and 74 percent were students of color. Today, after EdChoice, Richmond Heights is three percent white and 97 percent students of color,” Jackson said.

“Private schools are allowed to discriminate, plain and simple, based on disability, disciplinary records, academic standings, religion and financial status. These are often proxies for race and other protected characteristics. Ohio is essentially engaged in state-sponsored discrimination in admissions and retention. You know who can’t do this? Public schools. Common schools,” Jackson said.

Dan Heintz, a school board member in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District, said his district lost more than $27 million to private school vouchers, and this forced voters to pass two levies to raise property taxes.

Heintz said 95 percent of our EdChoice voucher users have never been enrolled in one of our schools. 

“So, contrary to the narrative, these families aren’t fleeing a failing school.”The only thing they’re fleeing is a tuition bill. A private school tuition bill that is now being paid by Ohio taxpayers,” Heintz said.

Eric Resnick, a school board member for Canton City Schools in Stark County, said high school students receive a $7,500 voucher while public school students receive far less from the state in basic education funding.

There is no truth to the claim by voucher proponents that “the money follows the student,” Resnick said. “To those who say the money should follow the student, I ask why the discrepancy? Why should voucher students get $7,500 and some public school students get one-fifth or less than that amount? If the money was truly following the student, then each public school student would also receive $7,500.”

The complaint can be read here.

School districts in the Vouchers Hurt Ohio coalition can be found here.

The E&A Coalition is working with Vouchers Hurt Ohio, a growing coalition of public school districts that have come together to sue the state over the unconstitutional and harmful private school voucher program. Vouchers Hurt Ohio now has nearly 100 member school districts in 47 of Ohio’s 88 counties that open their doors wide and welcoming to more than 250,000 public school students.

This is Jan Resseger’s commentary about the lawsuit.