Archives for category: Budget Cuts

A new study in Michigan finds that the proliferation of charter schools has undermined the fiscal viability of traditional public schools.

David Arsen, a professor at the College of Education at Michigan State University, discovered that school choice and especially charters were diverting resources from public school districts, leaving them in perilous condition.

“Which Districts Get Into Financial Trouble and Why: Michigan’s Story” asserts that “80 percent of the explained variation in district fiscal stress is due to changes in districts’ state funding, to enrollment changes including those associated with school choice policies, and to the enrollment of high-cost special education students.”

In other words, the fiscal failings of DPS that we just addressed had less to do with poor spending on the part of district — though we’re sure there was some of that — and more to do with statewide policies, such as those that promote competition, that put the traditional district at a disadvantage.

“Overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent,” Arsen explained to education blogger Jennifer Berkshire (author of the website EduShyster) in a recent interview.

To read Jennifer Berkshire’s illuminating interview of David Arsen, open this link to her website.

Here is a portion of her interview:

David Arsen: The question we looked at was how much of this pattern of increasing financial distress among school districts in Michigan was due to things that local districts have control over as opposed to state-level policies that are out of the local districts’ control: teacher salaries, health benefits, class size, administrative spending. We also looked at an item that the conservative think tanks are big on: contracting out and privatization. We found that, overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent. We looked at every school district in Michigan with at least 100 students and we followed them for nearly 20 years. The statistics are causal; we’re not just looking at correlation.

EduShyster: There’s a table in your paper which actually made me gasp aloud—which I’m pretty sure is a first. I’m talking, of course, about the chart where you show what happened to Michigan’s *central cities,* including Detroit, as charter schools really started to expand.

Arsen: We have districts getting into extreme fiscal distress because they’re losing revenue so fast. That table in our paper looked at the central cities statewide and their foundation revenue, which is both a function of per-pupil funding and enrollment. They had lost about 22% of their funding over a decade. If you put that in inflation adjusted terms, it means that they lost 46% of their revenue in a span ten years. With numbers like that, it doesn’t really matter if you can get the very best business managers—you can get a team of the very best business managers—and you’re going to have a hard time handling that kind of revenue loss. The emergency managers, incidentally, couldn’t do it. They had all the authority and they cut programs and salaries, but they couldn’t balance the budgets in Detroit and elsewhere, because it wasn’t about local decision making, it was about state policy. And when they made those cuts, more kids left and took their state funding with them.

EduShyster: As you followed the trajectory of these school districts, was there a *point of no return* that you could identify? A tipping point in lost enrollment and funding from which they just couldn’t recover?

Arsen: When we looked at the impact of charter schools we found that overall their effect on the finances of districts statewide was modest. Then we looked to see if there were nonlinear, or disproportionate, impacts in those districts where charters enrolled very high and sustained shares of resident students. And then the results got huge. We saw very significant and large impacts of charter penetration on district fund balances for different thresholds, whether there were 15, 20 or 25% of the students going to charter schools. That was really striking. At every one of those thresholds, the higher the charter penetration, the higher the adverse impact on district finances. They’re big jumps, and they’re all very significant statistically. What’s clear is that when the percentage gets up to the neighborhood of 20% or so, these are sizeable adverse impacts on district finances.

EduShyster posts a guest column by a Denver teacher who tells the inside story of the reformers’ current “success” story.

Denver has gone all in for school choice, and the teacher was bombarded with messages to market the school, come up with a “vision statement,” even as she and other teachers were coping with budget cuts that eliminated electives.

The students at my school were among some of the neediest in the state in terms of free and reduced lunch funding, and some of the most affected by trauma. In other words, they were students who needed the most support. The budget cuts began in my third year there, and only got worse as students left to attend other *choice* schools that were opening nearby. For students, that meant the loss of our only school-staffed, non-academic elective other than art: drama. For teachers, that meant rationing paper, although we considered ourselves fortunate relative to schools that were rationing toilet paper and paper towels.

Disruption became the only constant.

This year, it became very clear that the Denver Public Schools has shifted focus. Nearly 500 staff were cut, most of them teachers, including 372 full-time positions that, according to one news report, *will be completely lost.* For Denver’s students, nearly seventy percent of students relying on free and reduced lunches, that will mean larger class sizes, taught by less experienced teachers, not to mention the absolute absence of electives from some schools. It’s all about the Return on Investment, but what, exactly, is DPS investing in?

Open shut
shutterstock_121985983.jpg (1000×631)Much of Denver’s school reform has focused on the creation of new charter schools. Since 2005, DPS has opened more than 70 schools, most of which are charters. One of these opened near my former school, causing our enrollment to decline, which then triggered more budget cuts in our already bare-bones staffing. But at least my school stayed open. Forty eight schools have closed in the past ten years. In fact, DPS officials attributed the enrollment loss that triggered the most recent round of budget cuts and teacher layoffs in part to school closures.

It is a sad story. Remember it the next time you read something about Denver as a model of reform. In a way, it is. It shows how school choice destroys public education.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Chicago is experiencing an exodus of experienced principals.

Forty-two Chicago Public Schools principals resigned this year, the most since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office.

And 23 principals, out of about 515 total, decided to retire, a number somewhat higher than the last several years. The 65 school leaders departing this past school year saw more budget cuts, including unprecedented cuts midyear. Since 2011, the next highest number was 37 resignations in 2014. In 2012, only 13 departed, but 96 retired that year.

Mayor Emanuel has made his contempt for public schools clear, as well as his preference for privately managed, non-union charter schools.

CPS’ chief education officer Janice Jackson acknowledged the financial pressures, saying, “Our principals and teachers are leaving for jobs where their district doesn’t have to take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the classroom to fund their pensions.”

Ousted CPS principal Troy LaRaviere, who recently took office as head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, said the pressure has been building for years.

“It’s the cumulative effects of being consistently under the weight of a district that finds one way after another to undermine the efforts [principals] put forth on behalf of their students,” he said. “Our ability to do our job depends on resources, and they take more of them away every year impairing our ability to do our job more and more.”

Until Thursday, when a temporary state budget was finally approved, principals were bracing themselves for cuts to their school budget of 26 percent on average. That was on top of cuts earlier in the school year to special education and warnings to stockpile cash so CPS could afford $676 million toward teacher pensions. They still don’t have budgets for September — and won’t for at least another week.

In recent years, the district privatized school cleaning, taking away principals’ power to manage janitors in their buildings. CPS shuttered a record 50 neighborhood schools. Budgets were cut sharply the same summer that former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pushed a $20 million no-bid contract for principal training that participants immediately denounced as shoddy.

Mayor Emanuel is effectively driving the public schools and their personnel into the ground. He is a poor steward of public education. What public responsibility is greater than the education of the city’s children?

Stuart Egan, NBCT high school teacher in North Carolina, describes the latest disaster cooked up by the North Carolina General Assembly, which is dominated by Tea Party extremists: a constitutional amendment to lock in steep tax cuts.

The General Assembly majority calls it TABOR, a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Egan calls it “A Tourniquet Around the Bloodlines of Our Republic.”


GOP leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly are pushing for a proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would cap the income tax rate a 5.5% (currently it is 10%).

That proposal is a political tourniquet, pure and simple. And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a body, this measure would cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly disintegrate.

Chris Fitzsimon puts it very bluntly in his latest “The Follies” from June 17, 2016 (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/17/the-follies-253/). He states,

“As the N.C Budget & Tax Center points out, that cap would cut off a vital source of revenue that the state needs and make it virtually impossible for future lawmakers to use the income tax to increase state investments, even in times of emergencies.

It also locks in place the massive tax cuts for the wealthy passed in 2013 that will cost more than $2 billion a year when fully in effect, more than the entire budget of the community college system and early childhood programs combined.

The new lower tax cap could threaten the state’s coveted AAA bond rating and force increases in the state sales tax and could lead local governments to raise property taxes and fees. It’s a terrible idea that threatens funding for public schools, health care, and environmental protections and makes decisions for future members of the General Assembly that will be elected by the voters just like the current members were.”

That’s scary to think about. The very fabric, the very sinews of society like schools, healthcare, and environmental protections would be instantly jeopardized and it would take years to recover as part of the GOP’s plan is to change the constitution of the state.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last three years here in North Carolina.

Per pupil expenditures are lower, charter school growth is uncontrolled, and teacher pay is still low despite what the current administration wants to boast.

Medicaid expansion was denied and we as a state are still paying into a system that benefits other states but not ours because of political ideology and a dislike for the current president.

The fracking industry is being given an open door and permission to do whatever it wants. Duke Energy’s coal ash spills have still gone relatively unpunished.

How long will the people of North Carolina let these barbarians rampage through the state and destroy the public sector?

Steven Singer writes here on the theme: Online courses for the poor, teachers for the rich kids. (This is familiar to me; I discussed this subject near the end of The Death and Life of the Great American School System, recalling an article by the technology editor of Forbes, who predicted this development more than 30 years ago.)

Singer writes:

Pennsylvania has a long history of under-resourcing its public schools.

State Rep. Jason Ortitay has a solution.

The Republican representing Washington and Allegheny Counties envisions a world where poor kids learn from computers and rich kids learn from flesh-and-blood teachers.
It’s all in his proposed legislation, H.B. 1915, passed by the state House on Monday. It now moves on to the Senate.

The legislation would assign the Department of Education the task of organizing a collection of online courses for use by students in grades 6-12. Some classes might be created by the state and others would be made by third parties with approval for state use. If anyone so desired, the courses could be utilized by anyone in public school, private school, homeschool and beyond. The online learning clearinghouse thus created would be called the “Supplemental Online Course Initiative.”

The purpose of the bill is to help financially stressed districts, not by funding them but by giving them a cheap alternative.

This bill provides an alternative for schools where the local tax base isn’t enough to fund traditional classes presided over by living, breathing teachers.

In the distant past, the state used to made up some of the slack to level the playing field for students born into poverty. However, for the last five years, the legislature has forced the poor to make due with almost $1 billion less in annual state education funds. This has resulted in narrowing the curriculum, the loss of extra-curriculars, increased class size, and plummeting academic achievement.

While the majority of voters are crying out for the legislature to fix this blatant inequality and disregard for students’ civil rights, Ortitay’s proposed bill lets lawmakers off the hook. It allows legislators to provide a low quality alternative for the poor without necessitating any substantial influx of funds.

Where is the curriculum coming from?

Internet-based classwork – like that which would be collected in the clearinghouse – makes up the curriculum at cyber charter schools. Moreover, these online schools have a proven track record of failure and fraud.

A recent nationwide study found that cyber charters provide 180 days less of math instruction than traditional public schools and 72 days less of reading instruction.
In addition, researchers found that 88 percent of cyber charter schools have weaker academic growth than similar brick and mortar schools.

They have an “overwhelming negative impact” on students, according to researchers.

And THAT kind of curriculum is what the state House voted to increase using public money!

Singer reminds readers that Pennsylvania cybercharters have experienced major frauds, and two cybercharter leaders are currently under indictment. Cybercharters have a sorry track record in Pennsylvania and everyone else.

That makes them just right for children who live in financially distressed districts. No one in the legislature cares about educating THEM.

The Chicago Teachers Union plans a protest rally tomorrow, calling on Mayor Emanuel to fight for funding for the public schools. The schools face an intolerable 39% budget cut because of the failure of the city and state to fund them.


CTU to protest Mayor Emanuel’s refusal to stabilize Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has turned an imposed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) furlough day into a “fight back” day and will lead a series of demonstrations throughout the Loop on Wednesday, June 22. The Union, parents, students, education justice activists and others are calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago City Council and other lawmakers to fund public schools and implement a series of measures that will lead to long-term sustainability of the district.

Last month, the CTU released details of a $502 million CPS revenue recovery package and called on Emanuel and the City Council to stabilize the district. The Union said this act of “self-help” will ensure lawmakers in Springfield that local leaders are fully committed to restoring funding to our schools.

The following is for planning purposes:

WHO:

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey & CTU Members
8:30 a.m.
United Center Protest @ Willis Tower

Chicago Teachers Union Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle & CTU Members
8:30 a.m.
Chicago Board of Education Protest/Elected School Board
42 W. Madison

Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary Michael Brunson & CTU Members
9:30 a.m. Civilian Police Accountability Council Protest/Elected Police Board
City Hall, 121 N. Lasalle

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis & CTU Members
11:00 a.m.
All Member, Parent & Community Rally/Speak Out @ JR Thompson Center
WHEN:
Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Parents in Kansas are disgusted with Governor Sam Brownback’s massive budget cuts. The cuts were inevitable after Brownback and the legislature enacted the biggest tax cuts in the state’s history in 2012 and 2013. They must have been following the Reagan playbook of trickle-down economics, but it didn’t work. The State Supreme Court ordered the legislature to enact an equitable and adequate plan to finance the public schools.

And now parents are gearing up to fight for their public schools.

The struggle over school funding in Kansas reached a new crisis point when the State Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Republican-dominated Legislature had not abided by its constitutional mandate to finance public schools equitably, especially poorer districts with less property wealth. The court, in an effort to force legislative action, reiterated a deadline that gave the state until June 30 to fix the problem or face a school shutdown.

The ruling exacerbated tensions over budgets enacted by Mr. Brownback and the Legislature that education officials say have led school districts to eliminate programs, lay off staff members or even shorten the school week….

Of even greater concern to many parents is a sense, they say, that the state leadership does not support the very concept of public education.

“People are saying, ‘This is not the Kansas I know,’ and ‘This is not the Republican Party I know,’” said Judith Deedy, who helped start the group Game On for Kansas Schools.

As in other states, the effect of reduced funding varies from one district to another. In poorer districts like Kansas City and Wichita, students are crammed into deteriorating buildings with bloated class sizes. One district in southeast Kansas, facing a budget shortfall, recently pared its school week to four days.

Parents who are Republicans feel betrayed by Governor Brownback and some plan to run against their incumbent representatives.

Educators are struggling to meet the needs of their students:


In Kansas City, school officials say they have been shortchanged by tens of millions of dollars over the past five years because the Legislature has not taken into account their needs when financing poorer districts like theirs. Ninety percent of the students in the Kansas City school district qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and 40 percent are nonnative English speakers.

Cynthia Lane, the superintendent of schools in the Kansas City district, said preparations were underway in case schools are shut down, as the Supreme Court has threatened. Schools are usually busy during the summer months, with administrators and members of staff preparing for the upcoming academic year, she said. The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 15.

“If we can’t pay bills, how do we keep our utilities on, how do we keep our security system on?” she said. “Folks are really frustrated and embarrassed that Kansas is the butt of jokes across the nation. He continues to say things are fine, when they are not fine.”

The Wichita School Board voted on May 18 to eliminate more than 100 jobs and to close an alternative high school, as part of efforts to trim about $18 million from the district’s budget.

At that meeting, Mike Rodee, the vice president of the board, blamed state officials for forcing budget cuts. “We need to look at all the people that are doing it to us,” he said at the school board meeting. “Our legislators, our government, our governor — we are the ones who are fighting to keep the schools alive, and they are fighting to close them.”

Some school principals say they are resigned to making do with what money they have. At Welborn Elementary School in Kansas City, classes are held in two aging buildings and students dash back and forth during the day. Teachers keep a watchful eye on them as they cross an active parking lot between the buildings.

“I don’t need much,” said Jennifer Malone, the principal, one recent afternoon. “I just want a building.”

Governor Brownback has called a special session of the legislature to enact a new funding formula. Just hope that he doesn’t fund the schools by cutting the universities or other public services.

Bernie Sanders said recently that tax rates under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower were as high as 90% for the highest income bracket.

 

Politifact assessed that claim and shows here that it is true.

 

What if Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, the Koch brothers, Art Pope, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Tudor Jones, John Arnold, Jonathan Sackler (Mr. OxyContin) and all the other billionaires had their income taxed at Eisenhower rates? We would be able to repair our schools, pay our teachers, hire school nurses, and provide a world-class education. No wonder they prefer to promote school choice. It works for them.

Daphne Stanford left the following comment on the blog. Idaho, she says, doesn’t care about education. It doesn’t care about its own children.

 

 

Yes, there is a problem with education in Idaho; however, it’s not the fault of the teachers or the schools. The problem is much more complex than that. As a former high school English teacher who has also taught college-level composition, I can testify to the woeful state of education funding in Idaho: while I was teaching in Riggins, for example, the district had to pass an emergency bond levy for more school funding simply in order to keep the schools open. That’s ludicrous. I’ve also never heard of high schools actually charging students to take choir or art, for example, or to participate in team sports. It’s painfully obvious to me that part of the problem is not only that there is a lack of funding; there is also, sadly, a lack of belief or trust in education and educators–especially in rural Idaho. As one of the reddest states in the U.S., our state is especially prone to private corporations hijacking public education in the name of progress or technology. However, it’s not that simple. What is simple, however, is the formula that makes for good education: small class sizes, teachers who are adequately paid & supported, and a community that also supports and believes in education. If class sizes are bloated and overcrowded, if funding is non-existent, if teachers are overworked and underpaid–guess what? Education is going to suffer. It’s really not that complicated.

The Kansas Supreme Court threw out the legislature’s latest school funding plan and told the legislature to draft a new, equitable one by June 30. If the legislature fails to enact such a plan, the Court will close the schools.

 

Governor Sam Brownback has very little wiggle room because of the tax cuts enacted when he was elected. He is threatening to cut higher education and Medicaid to direct more funding to K-12 schools.

 

 

“The ruling was the latest volley in a long battle over public education in Kansas. A lawsuit from a coalition of school districts led the Kansas Supreme Court to order the Legislature in 2014 to increase funding to poorer districts.

 

“The court and the Legislature have been at odds ever since. In February, the court said that a solution proposed by lawmakers, to use block grants to allocate funds, had failed to address inequities in schools. In response, the Legislature passed a bill that it said gave poorer districts a fair share of funding. Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, signed the measure in April.

 

“In a 47-page ruling, the court rejected that bill, saying the Legislature’s formula “creates intolerable, and simply unfair, wealth-based disparities among the districts.”

 

“This case requires us to determine whether the state has met its burden to show that recent legislation brings the state’s K-12 public school funding system into compliance with Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution,” the ruling said. “We hold it has not.”

 

“The Legislature is expected to meet Wednesday before it officially adjourns for the session.
Ray Merrick, the House speaker, said in a statement, “The court has yet again demonstrated it is the most political body in the state of Kansas.”

 

“Dumping the ruling at 5 p.m. the day before a long weekend and holding children hostage,” Mr. Merrick said. “This despite the fact that the Legislature acted in good faith to equalize the record amounts of money going to schools.”

 

“Satisfying the court could mean spending tens of millions more on public schools, a measure that Mr. Brownback said could be achieved by making more cuts to higher education and Medicaid.”

 

 

 

 

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