Archives for category: Funding

Rachel Cohen writes that the pandemic is encouraging many parents to consider home schooling and to pressure Congress to pay them to do it.

I disagree.

Before the pandemic, about 2 million children were home schooled, mostly by parents who were either evangelical Christians or who worried about the diverse culture of the public schools or bullying or low standards.

But parents who work don’t want to home school. Most parents prefer that their children learn from knowledgeable teachers alongside others and engage in the academic, social, and cultural activities at school.

The vast majority of parents are eager for school to resume so they can return to work.

Of course, the anti-public school lobby will take advantage of the pandemic to try to divert funding from public schools to private bank accounts.

The home school organizations have long been wary of federal aid for fear that it will open the door to federal accountability, which they don’t want.

Although the national media occasionally finds a brilliant child who was home schooled, there are few families that can muster the knowledge and experience that are provided by experienced teachers of English, history, science, mathematics, foreign languages, and other studies.

If home schoolers get federal funding, they should be tested to determine if they are adequately prepared. Their children should take the same tests as others in the state. Their homes should be inspected to ensure that they are safe spaces. Where public money goes, accountability should follow. And that’s why most home schoolers don’t want public money.

Stephen Dyer crunched the numbers and discovered that charter schools in Ohio received more than five times as much federal coronavirus relief money as public schools. Some received more than entire districts.

He wrote:

Included in the $2.3 trillion CARES Act passed in March to cope with the COVID-19 crisis was something called the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER. This fund set aside $13.2 billion for K-12 schools to cope with the new normal in preparing education spaces for COVID-19. Things like enhanced cleaning, or preparing online learning material, or maximizing spaces to ensure social distancing for potential return to school were the expenses contemplated for this money.

Every school qualified, including charter schools, for this money, some of which was passed out again last week. The money was and is essential to maintain public education through this crisis.

However, only charter schools would qualify for another program included in the CARES Act – the $669 billion Payroll Protection Program (PPP) — a fund meant to keep small businesses and non-profits afloat during the economic shutdown. Public entities like school districts and local governments did not qualify for the program, which has been essential to keeping businesses from collapsing.

But charter schools, which are organized as 501c3 non-profits, did qualify.

So did their sponsoring organizations.

So did their management companies.

All tolled, a charter school could receive federal money four ways:

Through ESSER, just like every school district in the country
Directly to the school through the PPP
Indirectly through their sponsoring organization through the PPP
Indirectly through their management company (which could be non-profit or for-profit) through the PPP

This resulted in the typical Ohio charter school receiving as much as $817 in total federal CARES Act funding while the typical Ohio public school district only received $150.

The disparities are mind-boggling.

Charter schools got the same aid as public schools. Then many double-dipped and collected federal PPP funds. Then their sponsoring organization picked up PPP money. And their management company collected more.

Dyer reminds us that charter schools are not public schools.

It is unfair that charter schools – which have for years insisted they are “public schools” – be granted more opportunities to access federal funding than the schools that educate 90 percent of our children simply because of their corporate structure.

What an outrage!

Jan Resseger reviews the Catch-22 situation in which schools are trapped: Trump demands that they open in a few weeks or he will cut their federal funding. The CDC says that a safe opening requires hyper-vigilance about health, safety, social distancing, small classes, cleaning, masks, etc.

But Trump and Congress have refused to pay for reopening.

Bottom line: schools can’t reopen unless it is safe for students and staff.

David Dayen explains why Florida’s teachers are suing to block Governor DeSantis’ order to reopen all public schools for full in-person instruction.

The short version:

1) Florida is in the midst of a surge in the pandemic.
2) Neither the state nor the federal government has put up the money to provide even minimal safety for students and adults.

First Response
Last Friday the governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, told a right-wing radio host that coronavirus would infect children and we all just have to put up with it. “If they do get COVID-19, which they will,” Parson said, “they’re going to go home and they’re going to get over it.”

The nonchalance of this comment reinforces the impression of the Republican Party as a literal death cult. Not only do children suffer serious injury, and yes, die, from the virus, but as Parson appears not entirely aware, kids don’t teach themselves. And teachers and school personnel aren’t as sanguine as the Governor of Missouri of being marched into a contagious environment and playing the equivalent of Russian roulette.

The flashpoint for this is Florida, where yesterday state and national teachers unions filed suit to block Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order reopening public schools. School districts in the state begin classes as early as August 10, and teachers must report a week earlier. So this is a last-minute effort to prevent a public health disaster.

“Teachers are scared, they have a high trepidation of going back into school buildings, given that Florida is the epicenter,” said Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “We can’t make our schools vectors for the virus, infecting parents and multi-generational families at home. Our goal is to not open schools, it’s to keep schools open.”
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Florida educators have a leg up in this case, because the state Constitution states explicitly that “[a]dequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.” The words “safe and secure” are paramount here, requiring the Governor and the Commissioner of Education institute policies meet that standard, the lawsuit explains. And they have not done anything close to that.

“The only thing the [DeSantis] executive order says is that there will be a brick-and-mortar option five days a week,” Ingram told the Prospect. No guidelines and certainly no money for social distancing policies have been included. If you need to cut class sizes in half to allow children to be separated from teachers, will there be money to hire twice as many teachers? Or give overtime to the existing ones to double their workday?

That’s just the beginning. No testing and tracing regime has been instituted. No money for PPE has been allotted. No decisions have been made on band or chorus rehearsals, recess, or assemblies. If a teacher gets sick and needs to quarantine for 14 days, there’s no understanding of whether they would get their job back. Air conditioning within the schools, a critical issue in Florida, that recirculate air would need to be altered. Buses would either have to run twice as much or with twice as many drivers hired. “I can go through a myriad of issues and we can talk into tomorrow,” Ingram said. Yet no money has been put toward this purpose, in a state that has historically underfunded its schools.

Reopened schools in several countries around the world have generally led to decent results, although that’s not universal. In Israel, schools had to be shut two weeks after opening after outbreaks raged through them, and new studies show children over age 10 can spread the virus as efficiently as adults. Critically, most countries getting back to school have low and decreasing levels of the virus, the opposite of what we see in Florida, which has registered 10,000 new cases every day for the last two weeks. The initial CDC guidelines on reopening generally call for a 14-day drop in cases.

The case, which has the support of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, includes several Florida teachers. One, Ladara Royal, is a young African American man with asthma, who according to Ingram would leave the profession if forced to go back to work. Another, Stefanie Beth Miller, spent 21 days on a ventilator in a medically induced coma from COVID-19. A third, Mindy Festge, has an immunosuppressed son that she’s keeping out of high school, and doesn’t want to bring the virus home to him.

“We’re forcing these parents and teachers to make lifelong decisions,” Ingram said. “We have other teachers making out their wills because they have to go back to school.” He noted that the state started last academic year with over 3,000 classrooms without a certified teacher. That shortage is sure to increase at a time when more would be needed to properly social distance.

The lawsuit calls for emergency relief to protect the first wave of teachers and students set to enter schools in just a couple weeks. A state where over 17,000 children have already contracted the virus would be home to a grisly and uncertain experiment unless the DeSantis order is stopped. The consequences of not opening schools are tragic for students who might fall behind and parents needing to concentrate on work during the day. But the consequences of creating thousands of death traps is worse.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, wrote an open letter about the steps required before schools can begin to reopen.

She wrote:


Last week, Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Health, and the NY State Education Department all came out with detailed guidance on what measures schools should take to reopen in the fall to ensure health and safety as well as provide instructional and emotional support to their students. If the COVID positivity rates of all regions of the state remain under 5%, as they do currently, schools will be eligible to reopen if they adopt the recommended protocols.

Yet nothing was said in these documents about how schools can afford the expensive health and safety measures, as well as the extra staffing and space necessary to keep students engaged in learning while attending school in person in shifts to ensure social distancing.

As the National Academy of Sciences pointed out, “Many of the mitigation strategies currently under consideration (such as limiting classes to small cohorts of students or implementing physical distancing between students and staff) require substantial reconfiguring of space, purchase of additional equipment, adjustments to staffing patterns, and upgrades to school buildings. The financial costs of consistently implementing a number of potential mitigation strategies is considerable.”

Our schools’ desperate need for more funding has been aggravated by the fact that Governor Cuomo hijacked the extra dollars that were funded by Congress in the CARES ACT to fill holes in state aid, instead of sending these funds to schools to help them deal with the additional expenses caused by the COVID crisis.

Now is the time for the Governor and our State Legislators to stand up for our schools and protect our children by providing them with the funds that are badly needed. They could do that easily by boosting taxes on the ultra-wealthy, including the Ultra-millionaires Tax (S.8164 / A.10364) on residents who earn above $5 million annually; or above $1 million annually (S.7378/A.10363); and the Pied-a-terre Tax (S.44 / AA.4540), a surcharge on non-primary residences worth over $5 million.

There is no doubt that the ultra-wealthy can afford this. In NY State, 118 billionaires saw their wealth increase by $77.3 billion during first three months of the pandemic. Michael Bloomberg saw his net worth increase by $12 billion during this period alone. All New Yorkers, including the ultra-wealthy, need to pitch in during this time of need, to ensure the health, safety and education of our kids. Below are links to your Legislators’ contact information and a script you can use. They are back in session today.

Thanks Leonie

Directions: Call your Legislators in their district offices – unless their phones are busy and then please call their Albany offices.

You can find your Assemblymember’s phone number here and your State Senator’s phone number here.

Script: Hi, my name is ________ and I am a constituent.

Our public schools desperately need more state aid to deal with the pandemic. I want to urge [Elected Name] to support the Fund Our Future package, including the Ultra-Millionaires Tax, the Billionaire Tax Shelter Tax and the Pied-a-terre Tax, so our kids can attend school safely next year. Can I count on [Elected Name] to sign onto these bills, and to ask the Legislative leaders to bring them to a vote?

Afterwards, if you have time, please enter their responses into our Google form here. Thanks!

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
phone: 917-435-9329
leonie@classsizematters.org
http://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/

This is an excellent message from the Bidens about reopening schools safely.

They say what most educators and parents say.

We want schools open but we want them open safely.

Job one: lower the infection rate in the community.

Job two: Make sure schools have the resources so that students and adults are safe.

Biden pledges to follow through on both.

Trump demands that schools open in a few weeks regardless of the pandemic, regardless of the inability to provide a safe building and smaller classes.

Vote for Biden.

Everyone wants schools to open but Congress and the Trump administration don’t want to pay for it. That cost includes reduced class sizes for social distancing, additional teachers, cleaning services, nurses, ventilation improvements, personal protective equipment, and whatever is recommended by CDC.

In places where the disease is out of control, reopening will not be possible. First control the disease, then reopen schools. Trump could start the process by wearing a mask in public, whenever he is in public. His refusal to do so has spread the virus by encouraging his admirers to do as he does, which violates the strong advice of medical professionals.

Where reopening is possible, Congress must foot the bill because the stayes’s coffers have been depleted by the economic toll of the pandemic.

Thus far, Congress has been generous to high-income individuals and employers, but stingy with the nation’s schools, as David Dayen of “The American Prospect” explains here. To see the links and open them, go to his post here.

Dayen writes:

As we head into crunch time on coronavirus relief, the demands coming from the White House threaten to upset the entire deal. Donald Trump remains obsessed with a payroll tax cut, which nobody in Congress, really, wants. Any payroll tax cut with any real impact on people—a three-month holiday would run around $300 billion—would cut deeply into the other White House demand for a relief bill topping out at no more than $1 trillion.

The proper amount of spending for this bill is “whatever it takes.” If you don’t like the cost, maybe you shouldn’t have completely botched the policy response such that major regions of the country have to shut down again. The same people whining about expense are the ones who drove the country into despair. The cost of a continued runaway virus is much higher than the cost of emergency measures to ensure millions of people have adequate food and shelter during this crisis.

But if you really, really must constrain the response, and you really, really must have this payroll tax cut, then I have an idea: get rid of all the other long-term tax cuts mostly targeted toward the rich, many of them passed in the very last coronavirus relief bill.

They don’t get much discussion but there were a host of tax provisions in the CARES Act, passed in March. In fact there was a payroll tax holiday, but for the employer side, not the employee. Not only can employers delay payroll taxes to next year, they can eliminate them if they retain employees. The two measures are estimated at about $66 billion, and the savings falls on the business.

A bigger tax break has been termed the “Millionaire’s Giveaway” by Americans for Tax Fairness. This $135 billion tax break allows people with partnerships or other structures to carry forward losses from previous years and offset gains in their taxes in future years. It only affects people making half a million dollars in income from the partnership or more. The same type of deduction for businesses costs another $25 billion; the oil and gas industry in particular has been using that one, converting their losses in recent years into corporate welfare checks. There’s also an interest deduction available to larger corporations ($13 billion). Certain aviation taxes were suspended ($4 billion); see if that shows up in a lower ticket fare.

Add it up and that’s $243 billion in tax giveaways to rich people and corporations in the CARES Act. If the White House wants a payroll tax cut it can come out of that. Most of the benefits from those changes don’t hit until next year and the payment of 2020 taxes, and beyond. It makes sense to pull up spending (tax breaks are spending through the tax code) to when it’s needed now.

The Heroes Act, the House Democratic bill, actually accomplished a form of this, by cancelling the Millionaire’s Giveaway permanently, as it was due under the Trump tax cuts to come back in 2026 anyway. That brings in $246 billion overall, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, enough for a decent-sized payroll tax holiday.

And as long as we’re talking about the Trump tax cuts, we could eliminate the measures most tilted to the rich and powerful—the corporate tax cut, the S-corporation pass through for rich people who set up partnerships, the deducations for dividends on foreign earnings, and the inheritance tax cuts—and take in about $3 trillion. If the next relief bill simply has to be capped at $1 trillion, then you could do $4 trillion in spending and add these measures in and hit that number.

Again, I think it’d be ridiculous to offset anything for emergency relief. But playing by the rules set up by the White House isn’t an obstacle, thanks to the trillions of dollars in offsets Trump created with his tax law. There is also a case to be made that rebalancing the inequality baked into the tax code is good public policy anyway, and if it can facilitate critical crisis spending under the stupid strictures of straitjacket budget politics, all the better.

Unfortunately, Chuck Schumer is trying to leverage the new bill to get a tax cut for well-off people, particularly in his own state, by removing the cap on the state and local tax deduction imposed in the Trump tax cuts. That was also in the Heroes Act (albeit just a two-year suspension). There’s no need whatsoever for this kind of long-term help for people who itemize when the unemployed and the poor are in desperate trouble right now. Wealthy people don’t need another champion to engage in special pleading for them.

David Dayen of The American Prospect reports in his series “Unsanitized” that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are hammering out a new coronavirus relief bill, but its main beneficiaries will be businesses and hospitals that want liability protection. Are you surprised?

There might be funding to help schools reopen but it will likely be too little and too late. It’s tough to plan an opening in late August or early September in the midst of a pandemic when the money to pay for health measures does not yet exist.

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.

Ralph Ratto is a retired teacher in New York State. In this post, he reminds readers of the importance of school ventilation systems, which are seldom in a good state of repair, and the necessity of paying to clean and upgrade them for the safety of students and staff.

He asks: Why is Congress willing to fund banks and big corporations but not the health of our nation’s children and their teachers.

If school ventilation systems fail to provide fresh air before Covid, what do you think will happen with Covid? So my question is really this, why haven’t school districts, and states remediated while school buildings were closed?

This is not rocket science! Clean those univents and filters in classrooms, install new ones where needed, and add exhaust fans.

Spacing desks 6′ apart is not enough, cleaning surfaces is not enough! If the air quality is poor all of that will not matter.

The Feds and states must pour money into our school infrastructure if they want to open the economy. Forget the corporate bailouts, for once in my lifetime I would love our nation to put schools at the top of a national priority and support them with the funding needed.