Rarely do I come home from a school board meeting without wanting to scream, ?Call in the National Guard!??
To change metaphors, I could spin the globe, eyes closed, and put my finger just about anywhere on our little school district map to find what to my eyes looks like a train wreck and to others, based on the reactions,?the regular delivery van.?
Last night, our board received a ?hand carry? sheet titled, ?2011-12 Budget Development Information.?? (A ?hand carry? is always bad news; by definition, it is what the administration wants to spring on the board, at the public meeting, so it has no time to review it or prepare.)? Our tiny New York state district ? 2,000 kids ? faces a budget gap, according to the sheet, of $3,688,033 and a choice ? this is only preliminary, mind you -- between raising local property taxes 14.9% and laying off 32 teachers (16% of the total faculty) or raising taxes 3.9% and shedding 71 teachers (35%).? If it sounds Hobbesian, it's meant to.?
Sure, the district is overburdened with too many overpaid administrators and too many underpaid aides, too many uncoordinated programs, too many bad teachers, too many special ed kids, no curriculum -- but chopping-block budget numbers are always limited to teachers so that?parents will start conjuring up images of classrooms of 50 and 60 students.? Oh horror!
The real horror, however, was on a one-page sheet ? this was not on
As Alyson Klein of Ed Week reported yesterday, the House GOP offered a ?slice and dice? funding bill on Friday night that cuts federal education funding ?far below current levels and far below what President Barack Obama wanted in his never-enacted fiscal year 2011 budget request.?? ?Nearly $5 billion would be cut from DOE's 2010 $63.7 billion budget, reports Klein, if the Republicans have their way.? ?
Title I money would be cut by $693.5 million, special education by $557 million, and Head Start by a cool $1 billion.? The GOP rejected Obama's request for another $1.3 billion for Race to the Top ? and there's ?no money? for the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program.?
The list of specific cuts can be scary ? Even Start ($66m), Striving Readers ($250m). Literacy Through Libraries ($19m), Civic Education ($35m), New Leaders for New Schools ($5m), Teach for America ($18m), and 21st Century Community Learning Centers ($100m).
Though this is a first shot over the budgeting bow, as Klein points out, the proposal is for a fiscal year that started last October ("never enacted") ?-- another reason for stocking up on the survival gear in the basement ?-- or applying for another credit card.
Stay tuned to Fordham; this is the time for reform realism.
?--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Alyson Klein at K-12 Politics (Education Week) is reporting what?may not be too surprising: that conservatives on the Hill don't much care for increased federal education spending.? But it's the setup to the Cato Institute's always understated case against federal meddling that is priceless:
Just in case the message hasn't gotten through, school districts should know that the new Republicans in Congress really don't think that more money equals better student outcomes. The most popular item at the hearing today? A chart by the Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson essentially saying that the federal government has spent $2 trillion over the past half century, with nothing to show for it in terms of student results.
A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon we'll be talking real money.
As Mike has emphasized (see the podcast here?or with Chris' Treat the Disease post earlier today) the current fiscal challenges facing school districts will not solve any of our education problems unless we take advantage of the crisis to weed the garden of costly, nutrient-sapping ?non-educational practices like single-salary schedules and tenure.?
?There were questions on issues like teacher retention, and even whether school districts can save money and boost student achievement by cutting back transportation costs and making more parents drive their kids to school,? reports Klein about House Education committee hearing.? But, "the big, overall consensus?
The feds need to set high goals and then get out of the way and let states
Last year at this time I was unveiling my Share the Pain plan (I liked the coincidence that STP is a famous fuel additive, ?with the racer's edge"), which included a staff salary freeze and cutting out busing for anyone who lived within a half mile of school.? Those two items alone would have saved nearly a million dollars and the jobs of a couple dozen teachers.? Alas, unlike the racer's edge, my STP went nowhere and a lot of teachers and other staff went looking for work.
This year, I'm mainly watching as the crowd gathers at the cliff's edge.? I did, however, pass on Stretching the School Dollar to my board colleagues and do also share suggestions that come my way, including this wonderful stream-of-conscious Blackberry email from a veteran elementary school teacher: ?
Ok, well, here are some thoughts.?
Co-integrated classrooms are not working.? We need more self-contained special education classes.? Instead of having two teachers in a classroom.? Have one.? Extra Content classes in [the school] are horrible and a waste of time and not working.??Have one special area teacher to one class for even one period a day- it would be better.? Give us more time in the class!? More teaching time....?? As for our building... we have four counselors that really don't do a hell of a lot.? Cut them, and make the ones work.? Or, have them?act as behavior person.. one period a day.. so
- Stretching the School Dollar
- Common Core Watch
- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
- Choice Words
About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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