Davis’ Budget Puts Kids on Hook
A key element in California Governor Gray Davis’ proposed budget for 2002-03 would require the state’s children to pay for the governor’s current budget deficit woes when they are grown and in their twenties, according to Pacific Research Institute Education Director Lance Izumi.
Although the proposed budget contains spending reductions of $2.7 billion, Davis’s main budget-balancing strategy involves not spending cuts but $5.6 billion in loans, transfers, and other internal shifts from various state special funds to the general-fund budget.
“One of those loans will not be repaid for more than 20 years,” notes Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Weintraub. “Children born this year would, as adults, still be paying for the operating expenses in this year’s budget. That seems neither fair nor responsible, and is eerily parallel to the ‘solution’ Davis devised to last year’s energy crisis.”
Davis blames much of the state’s $12.4 billion deficit on the recession and September 11, but Izumi points out that state general-fund spending surged by 37 percent during the first three years of the governor’s term, while population increased by only 5 percent.
Also, when Davis presented a revised 2001-02 budget in May 2001 to address a $4.2 billion deficit, state Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill warned then that he was not cutting ongoing spending enough, and predicted a large deficit for 2002-03.
Pacific Research Institute
January 18, 2002
District of Columbia
City Balks at Funding $14,400 Per Student
The District of Columbia school board in January voted to reduce its budget request from a 49 percent increase to only a 31 percent increase after the city council and Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) made it clear the initial request would not be funded because of the city’s post-September 11 fiscal problems.
However, city officials said the revised request was still far more than the District could afford and criticized the school board members for spending their time trying to get more money rather than using exiting funds more wisely.
With local funds currently providing $9,662 per student, the school board had asked for $979 million in local funding for the 68,000-student system, arguing that $14,397 per student reflected the true cost of improving the system. The revised request for $866 million would provide $12,735 per student.
January 18, 2002
Execs Missed Goals, Still Got Bonuses
Although private companies often are criticized for giving bonuses to undeserving executives who have missed profit targets or sales goals, the public sector has its share of questionable bonus payments, too.
Congress and the Bush administration are examining $32 million in bonuses–up nearly 25 percent over the prior year–given to federal civil service executives during the final year of the Clinton administration.
Many of the bonuses, which averaged more than $11,000 per executive, went to officials whose agencies failed to meet performance standards. One such agency was the U.S. Department of Education, where 39 executives got bonuses totaling nearly a half million dollars. The bonuses were awarded despite a General Accounting Office report that said the Education Department provided “no fiscal year 2000 data for many indicators, no discussion of why goals were not met, and no strategies on how the department would reach its goals.”
Fox News Channel
January 23, 2002
Fundamental Principles of Government Stressed
Arguing that “reason is the strongest weapon against the mindless fear the terrorist seeks,” Florida State Representative Jerry Melvin (R-Fort Walton Beach) has introduced a bill calling for the state’s public school students to start each day by reciting the opening words of the Declaration of Independence. The aim of reciting the words is to serve as a reaffirmation of the American ideals of individual liberty, and to provide students with a reasoned understanding of the principles of American government.
“In writing the Declaration of Independence … Thomas Jefferson set forth in 55 words a statement of the fundamental human principles of government upon which the new nation was to be founded, and this statement continues to have resonance long after the contents of the remainder of the document have been forgotten,” declares the bill’s preamble.
The portion to be recited is: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
“I love this country and am proud of the foundations our Founding Fathers used in putting together a Constitution and Government unequaled in history,” said Melvin.
News Release, January 14, 2002
Archdiocese Will Close 14 Schools
In January, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago announced the closing of 14 schools and hinted that two more struggling schools might be added to the list by the end of the year.
Cardinal Francis George said that after years of saying there is “a severe shortage of funds,” the closings should not have come as a surprise. He maintained the school system might be smaller but it would be stronger.
“A lot of other things besides Catholic schools are downsizing these days,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
The school system’s problems are widespread: Declining enrollments, a need for additional revenue besides tuition, low teacher salaries, and schools not located where most Catholics live.
Since tuition fees do not cover the full costs of the schools, the difference historically has been made up by contributions from the archdiocese, individual parishes, and private foundations. But the archdiocese’s own budget problems have curtailed its contributions in recent years.
Although officials are promoting the idea of students eventually paying the full cost of their education, they also are aware that increased tuition in 2000-01 may have contributed to the school system’s 3.4 percent decline in enrollment that year–the biggest drop in 10 years. To keep tuition affordable, archdiocesan officials announced the creation of a systemwide endowment fund to support school operations. Some 70 of the 261 archdiocesan elementary schools already have established individual endowment funds.
January 25, 2002
Teacher Credentials Now Online
If parents in Kentucky want to take a look at the credentials of their child’s algebra teacher or of an administrator at their child’s school, they need look no further than the Internet.
In January, the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, an independent agency attached to the Office of the Governor, established the Teacher Certification Inquiry Website, which shows the educator’s teaching certificates and the subjects and grades the teacher has the permission to teach.
Although creation of the Web site was spurred by concern about “out of field” teaching–where, for example, a gym teacher might be assigned to teach history–only 18 teachers in the state currently are teaching out of field, compared to as many as 10 percent of the state’s teachers in 1998.
“There’s no reason parents shouldn’t know what teachers are qualified for,” parent Robert Jenkins told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “I think especially if there was a problem with a particular teacher, it would be a resource to use.”
The URL for the Web site is www.kde.state.ky.us/otec/epsb.
January 16, 2002
Deficit Forces Detroit Public Schools to Cut Jobs
Facing an estimated budget deficit of between $122 and $135 million, Detroit Public Schools officials have laid off 69 maintenance workers, privatized the management of maintenance operations, and cut 70 of 277 upper-level administrative positions. In total, the district has eliminated 688 jobs because of the looming shortfall. That number would have been 3,000 higher if the maintenance operations themselves had been privatized.
Five of the administrators will be assigned to fill empty principal positions, but most will be reassigned to classrooms, where–under the rules of seniority–they will bump others from their jobs. The employees with least seniority will be laid off. District chief of staff LaVonne Sheffield pointed out there was “a silver lining” to everything.
“We’re going to have more certified teachers in the classroom,” she said, noting the district now has about 1,300 non-certified teachers in classrooms.
Parents seemed to agree. “If you have to save money, save it at the top,” Maxine Wright told the Detroit Free Press. “Get rid of the upper echelon and leave the teachers alone,” she said.
Detroit Free Press
January 17, 2002
January 19, 2002
House Declares State Supreme Court Was Wrong
A 55 percent majority of New Hampshire House members voted in January to support a resolution declaring that recent state supreme court rulings on school finance in 1993 and 1997 were wrong. The measure, which has no legal effect, is seen by supporters as the first shot in a battle by the state legislature to reassert its control over school funding.
“The court is wrong and today we are doing something,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Alukonis (R-Hudson).
In 1997, the state supreme court ruled that funding public education through local property taxes with widely varying rates was unconstitutional since public education was a state responsibility requiring a uniform statewide tax. Although the court did not tell the legislature how much to spend on education or how to raise taxes to pay for it, legislators reluctantly adopted a statewide property tax in response to the court ruling.
As a result, towns with high property values have seen very large increases in real estate taxes, while towns with low property values have seen substantial decreases. Voters from the so-called “wealthy” towns advocate constitutional amendments to put the legislature back in charge of funding decisions.
“We are changing a philosophy of subservience,” said Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Mock.
January 18, 2002
History Standards Omit Historical Figures
The latest revision of the New Jersey Department of Education history standards omits major historical figures and substitutes the word “conflict” for “war” in material dealing with the colonization of the New World and the later expansion of the United States.
The state’s existing history standards, approved in 1996, already exclude most historical figures and had been rated “F”–“useless”–by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
The revised standards now also exclude: the Pilgrims and the Mayflower, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. However, some new names were added, such as slavery opponents Theodore Dwight Weld and Angeline and Sarah Grimke.
The exclusion of the Founding Fathers’ names is “political correctness at the end of the nth degree,” commented Penn State University education professor David Saxe, who reviews state history standards for the Fordham Foundation.
But Jay Doolan, acting assistant commissioner of the state’s Division of Academic and Career Standards, said the standards would undergo 20 public hearings before approval. If people are upset with the new standards, he said, “then they should let us know at the public hearings.”
January 28, 2002
Parents Will Choose Tutors in Governor’s New Program
Parents in Pennsylvania now have access to a new and innovative program to help their poorly achieving schoolchildren get the additional educational support and tutoring they need.
The program, established by Governor Mark Schweiker’s administration, offers parents of eligible children in grades three through six grants of up to $500 to purchase after-school tutoring in math or reading.
“We believe parents deserve choices when it comes to their children’s education,” said Schweiker’s Education Secretary Charles B. Zogby. “And we built ‘Classroom Plus’ on that idea–give the grants directly to parents, and let them choose the best way to get their children the extra help they need.”
Qualified applicants will receive grant certificates together with a list of approved providers. When a student completes the program, the provider completes verification information on the certificate, which the parent then redeems for up to $500 through the Department of Education. Pennsylvania is the only state in the country to offer this type of program to parents.
Providers may include public schools; colleges and universities; certified teachers employed by a school entity; private schools; and nonprofit or for-profit organizations, such as the YMCA, Boys/Girls Clubs, or Huntington Learning Centers. A complete list of approved providers is available on the PA PowerPort at www.state.pa.us, with keyword “tutoring grants.”
Pennsylvania Department of Education
News Release, January 25, 2002
Expansive School Choice Bill Introduced
Three school choice supporters, Vermont State Senators Hull Maynard (R-Rutland), Julius Canns (R-Caledonia), and William Corrow (R-Orange), introduced an expansive school choice bill on January 9. The measure, S. 227, is designed to reimburse parents for expenses they incur in educating their children.
Specifically, the bill would require school districts to pay up to “an amount equal to 50 percent of the calculated net cost per pupil in average daily membership” to parents who choose to send their children to any approved sectarian or nonsectarian public or independent school. The money would be in the form of reimbursements after the school year was completed. Home study parents also would qualify for reimbursements.
The bill’s preamble notes that “parents are the natural guardians of their children” and points out the Vermont constitution not only requires towns to maintain public schools but–in the same section–also provides for the encouragement and protection of “all religious societies of bodies of people that may be united or incorporated for the advancement of religion and learning …” (emphasis added in bill).
Vermont Education Report
January 14, 2002
Judge Raises Teacher Union Penalty to $770,000
Judge Gary Tabor ordered the Washington Education Association to reimburse the state $190,000 in legal fees related to the union’s illegal use of agency fees for political purposes. Coupled with a previously assessed $400,000 fine and a $180,000 reimbursement to fee-payers, WEA’s bill now stands at $770,000. (See “WA Teacher Union Found Guilty,” School Reform News, October 2001.)
The penalty is by far the largest ever imposed in Washington for campaign finance violations, approached only by a previous $430,000 penalty for similar infractions charged to WEA in 1998. The union will appeal.
Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué
January 7, 2002
NEA Refunds Paycheck Deductions
The National Education Association (NEA)–the largest teacher union in the nation–is sending thousands of Washington state teachers a refund for money taken from their paychecks and spent on political purposes. The NEA’s state affiliate, the Washington Education Association (WEA), was recently charged $770,000 in penalties for illegally spending money taken from non-member teachers on politics. The court ordered the union to send refund checks totaling $180,000 to the 4,000 teachers involved, and to reduce mandatory non-member fees by eight percent.
“Apparently NEA officials heard the footsteps coming up behind them after their state affiliate got caught intentionally breaking the law,” said Bob Williams, president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF), a long-time advocate of free speech and fair elections. “They knew their chances of losing in court were too high.”
EFF believes that no teacher should be forced–against his or her will through mandatory dues and fees–to support the political goals of union officials.
“This is a major victory in the battle for free speech and fair elections, but it is only the first step,” said Williams. “Our investigation leads us to believe the NEA spends nearly 100 percent of the dues it collects on activities not related to collective bargaining, contracts, or grievances.”
Evergreen Freedom Foundation
January 23, 2002