Pennsylvania Schools’ Financing Fight Pits District Against ‘Charter on Steroids’

Published: February 4, 2012 by the New York Times

                                                                                                                                      CHESTER, Pa. — The Chester Upland School District is more than $20 million in debt, its bank account is almost empty and it cannot afford to pay teachers past the end of this month.

To make matters worse, the local charter school, with which the district must divide its financing, is suing the district over unpaid bills.

The district’s fiscal woes are the product of a toxic brew of budget cuts, mismanagement and the area’s poverty. Its problems are compounded by the Chester Community Charter School, a nonprofit institution that is managed by a for-profit company and that now educates nearly half of the district’s students.

The district sees the charter as a vampire, sucking up more than its fair share of scarce resources. The state, it says, is giving the charter priority over the district.

“It’s not competition, it’s just draining resources from the district,” said Catherine Smith, a principal at Columbus Elementary, a district school. “It’s a charter school on steroids.”

The charter says that it is also part of the public school system and that the district, its primary source of financing, has not paid it anything since last spring. The state has taken over payments, but even those are late, it says.

Chester may be a harbinger of fiscal decline. At least six other Pennsylvania school districts are bordering on insolvency, according to State Representative Joseph F. Markosek, the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Chester’s troubles also show just how deeply budget cuts bite in poor districts. With a median household income of $26,000, just half of the state median, Chester has one of the state’s most meager tax bases. State financing makes up about 70 percent of its budget. For comparison, nearby Radnor Township, with a median household income of $85,000, draws just 10 percent of its school budget from state money, according to a town spokesman. The largest share is real estate taxes, at 83 percent.

“Poor schools in this state are underfunded,” said Thomas Persing, acting deputy superintendent for the Chester Upland district. “Poor kids aren’t going to get the same shot as wealthy kids. That’s the society we are in now.”

But the district has been troubled for years. The state took over its finances in 1994 but has since handed control back to the community. Five state administrations, including the current one of Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, have been unable to fix the district. Budget cuts may be painful, the state argues, but they are not the root of the district’s problems.

In December, Mr. Corbett refused to advance the district emergency money, saying it had mismanaged its budget. The district says that the state was in charge as receiver for years and that it left the district with a large debt when it handed back control in 2010.

Whatever the case, the math was stark: the district could not afford to pay salaries.

The district’s teachers tried to ease the pressure by voting to work without pay as long as they were able, a gesture that drew considerable attention. One of the district’s teachers, Sara Ferguson, was invited by Michelle Obama to attend the State of the Union address last month, and she appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Thursday.

Ultimately, a federal judge intervened in a separate lawsuit by the district, ordering the state to pay $3.2 million, enough to cover the salaries. In the end, pay was only two days late.  Still, the district has money to cover only the next two pay periods. Money to pay vendors, like insurance companies and power suppliers, runs out in the middle of the month.

“There have been money problems, but we’ve never been threatened like now,” said Ms. Ferguson, whose school, Columbus Elementary, was decorated with a poster by students congratulating her on being invited to the State of the Union address.

On a recent Monday, students ran and shouted on the Columbus playground. In the latest round of budget cuts, the school lost its art teacher, its music teacher, its technology teacher, its staff person for the library and even the money for its fledgling band. “The children have gym, gym and gym,” Ms. Ferguson said.

When Ms. Ferguson began teaching here in 1991, she was one of 11 fifth-grade teachers, she said. Now there are only two.

The charter school initially had less than 100 students in 1998, but it has grown to more than 2,600 on two campuses. At its West Campus, a gate with lions on the front and the school’s initials, CCCS, on the painted black iron bars give the impression of a private school. Its wooden lockers are open shelves, and its offices have security cameras that watch every classroom. Each student in third to eighth grades was given an XO laptop, a computer designed to be used by students in developing countries.

“It’s just an entirely different culture that we’ve created — very structured, very respectful,” said Vahan Gureghian, a lawyer and entrepreneur who founded the charter. When the school first opened, “we had zero parent involvement,” he said.

He continued: “Now on any given back-to-school night, it’s packed. Parents are looking at us and saying, ‘I didn’t get an education, but there’s hope for my kid.’ ”

The district argues that the charter is receiving millions of dollars in extra special education funds. And money to the charter also goes toward fees to the private management company of $5,000 per student. The charter says the district has not paid its bills since last April, leaving it no other choice than to go to court. The state was also named in the lawsuit because it has also fallen behind by millions of dollars in payments, the charter said.

While budget cuts forced the district to slash its staff by about 30 percent and cut art, music and language classes, the charter has made no such reductions, Judge James Gardner Colins of Commonwealth Court wrote in a decision on Tuesday that ruled against immediately satisfying the charter’s claims.

Judge Colins wrote that there was no evidence that the charter had been obliged to make any cuts or had tried to renegotiate its contract with the for-profit management company “to reduce its unusually large management fee.”

There is no legal mechanism for a school district to declare bankruptcy in Pennsylvania. It is not clear whether the state would dissolve the district, which has contracts with unions that represent teachers and other support staff. There is a designation of distressed school district, but the state has said Chester Upland has not met the requirements, which include the staff’s working for 90 days without pay.

Mr. Corbett pledged last month that students “will be able to finish the school year at Chester Upland.”

But how that will be paid for and what happens after the school year ends are both open questions. “This is right on our doorstep now,” Ms. Ferguson said. “There’s a question about whether we will even exist.”


Seattle Times: Court ruling won’t protect schools from new cuts

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle made clear that when the Legislature convenes Monday to address a $1.5 billion budget shortfall, education cuts will still be on the table, despite a ruling Thursday by the state Supreme Court that the state is failing to meet its constitutional duty to provide a basic public education to all children in Washington.

By Brian M. Rosenthal and Lark TurnerSeattle Times staff reporters

A state Supreme Court decision issued Thursday sent a signal to lawmakers about the importance of funding public education but is unlikely to protect that area from further cuts — at least not in the short term.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle made clear that when the Legislature convenes Monday to address a $1.5 billion budget shortfall, education cuts will still be on the table, despite a highly anticipated ruling that the government is failing to meet its constitutional duty to provide a basic education to all the state’s children.

The 7-2 decision told lawmakers the court would track progress on the issue but left it to them to figure out where to get the money. The ruling, on a lawsuit brought by a coalition of school districts, parents, teachers and community groups, backed legislation already on the books that gives the state until 2018 to fund education fully.

“The judiciary will retain jurisdiction over the case to help ensure progress in the State’s plan to fully implement education reforms by 2018,” Justice Debra Stephens wrote in the majority opinion. “This court intends to remain vigilant in fulfilling the State’s constitutional responsibility.”

Two justices dissented, arguing the courts should end the case and trust the Legislature to do its job.

Officials dissecting the 85-page opinion said it would influence government policy, but they weren’t quite sure how. While some lawmakers hoped the ruling would lead to a reluctance to cut education funding, others said it’s unlikely to provide an instant shield.

Lawmakers will gather in Olympia on Monday for a 60-day session to address the shortfall, caused in part by a recession that has depleted tax revenues.

Lawmakers are considering deep cuts to state programs, including hundreds of millions of dollars in potential education cuts such as shortening the school year by a week.

However, Gov. Chris Gregoire and other Democrats support asking voters for a tax increase this year to reduce further cuts to education and certain other programs.

A voter-passed initiative requires explicit voter approval or two-thirds support in the Legislature for all tax hikes.

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, vice chairman of the higher-education committee, called the court ruling a powerful signal and said he would fight against education cuts. But he could not take them off the table completely.

“We cannot simply put a check mark next to one category and walk away,” said Carlyle, D-Seattle. “It is simply not possible to balance the budget without courageously putting all spending on the table.”

Protecting education funding at the expense of other programs would be devastating to the social safety net, said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.

Murray, chairman of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, pointed out that even if education funding hadn’t been cut this year or last, the state still would be $6 billion to $9 billion under the minimum amount needed to provide full funding for education.

“I don’t know where that money would come from,” he said. “I don’t know that there are $6 [billion] to $9 billion in the budget, unless you wanted to maybe close down some community colleges and maybe stop meeting our pension obligations and things like that.”

Instead, the Legislature will work to gradually increase education funding over the next six years, officials said.

“I think there is great relief to the Legislature that the court recognizes that we need time to do this,” said state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle. “The fire is lit under the feet of the Legislature to continue to make progress.”

Santos, Murray, Carlyle and other Democrats said the ruling made it clear that the state needs to increase taxes to fund existing state programs. Gregoire used it as an opportunity to push her temporary half-cent sales-tax proposal.

Republicans, on the other hand, said the decision should be taken as an indication that the Legislature needs to rethink how it funds education. Senate Minority Whip Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said lawmakers should focus on reducing regulation and state control of local school districts.

While officials debated the implications of the ruling, one woman spent the day celebrating. Stephanie McCleary, the case’s namesake, said hearing about the high court’s decision felt surreal.

“As the day goes on, it gets more and more exciting,” McCleary said. “It was worth going through.”

McCleary filed the lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of her two children, Kelsey and Carter, who were students in the 1,100-student Chimacum School District in Jefferson County. She was joined in the filing by another family and a coalition of school districts, union and community-based organizations that called itself the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS).

Pointing to an increasing reliance on local levies to fund school districts, the coalition argued the state was not fulfilling what the constitution calls its “paramount duty” to make “ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

That’s one of the strongest — if not the strongest — constitutional provisions regarding education in the country.

It’s also a section that has been hotly debated since at least 1978, when the Washington Supreme Court originally ordered the state to define and fund a basic education for all students. Lawmakers since then have conducted several studies and come up with a definition but have not moved as fast on the funding as some education advocates would have liked.

McCleary, who was not involved in the 1978 case, turned 13 that year.

“It’s disappointing that it’s taken this much of an effort to get legislators to comply with the constitution, but we can only hope that from this point forward they can all see that this is the priority,” she said.

Last February, King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick agreed with McCleary and the coalition. But the state appealed Erlick’s decision, sending the issue to the high court, which heard arguments in June.

Tom Ahearne, the attorney who represented the coalition, called the Supreme Court ruling “about the best decision I could possibly imagine.”

He said he interpreted the ruling to mean any future cuts to education programs must come for education reasons, not financial ones.

Seattle education advocates were equally excited.

“I think it sends a strong message to policymakers that they’re going to have to find another way to balance the budget,” said Lisa Macfarlane, founder of the League of Education Voters. “They are going to have a tough time cutting funding for K-12, given the fact that the court just ruled that the current system isn’t meeting its obligation.”

Seattle teachers-union President Olga Addae also was ecstatic. Asked for a comment, she responded with one word: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Others were more cautious.

Lauren McGuire, the president of the Seattle Council PTSA, noted that while the decision eventually may move the state in the right direction, it will not help many students now in school.

“It’s difficult for those kids who are in school between now and the next six years,” said McGuire, referencing the 2018 deadline. “Six years is a long time to wait in the life of a child.”

Seattle School Board President Michael DeBell said he, too, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

The ruling will not change the board’s budget process this year, he said. Seattle Public Schools expects to cut some $25 million this year from its budget because of the state funding situation.

But, DeBell said, “this gives us some hope.”

Brian M. Rosenthal:

206-464-3195 or

On Twitter @brianmrosenthal

The Three Horsemen of Arts Education

from Huffington Post
by Nick Rabkin,
Cultural policy analyst and writer in Chicago
Posted: 12/15/11 12:20 PM ET

There’s never been a golden age of arts education in American schools. Back in 1930, less than a quarter of 18-year olds had taken classes or lessons in any art form. There was much progress after that, but by the early 1980s more than a third still had none. And for the last thirty years, arts education for American children has declined sharply again. By 2008, fewer than half of 18-year olds had any arts classes or lessons, about the level of the 1960s. Most of the decline has been concentrated in schools that serve low-income black and Latino students. Many of their schools have become veritable arts deserts. Why have the arts been so marginalized in education? There are three big reasons. We might think of them as the three horsemen of arts education, just one short of an arts education Armageddon.

1. School reform: A Nation at Risk, the 1983 report that launched wave after wave of school reform, argued that our schools had lost focus and lowered their standards. Manically mixing metaphors, the report saw a “rising tide of mediocrity” in schools that substituted “appetizers and desserts” for “entrees,” endangering our nation like an “unfriendly foreign power’s act of war.” Ignoring the arts, it implied that learning the arts was a distraction from real education. It set a strategic template for school reform that still dominates educational policy.

But why did A Nation at Risk and reform efforts since dismiss the arts? The main reason is a widely and deeply held misconception about the nature of the arts and the nature of learning — a belief that the arts are emotional and expressive, and not cognitive and academic. This belief, in turn, is grounded in the classical concept of the mind — that conscious, rational thought is fundamentally different and of a higher order than feelings, emotions, and sensations. Modern cognitive and neuroscience has shown that this model of the mind is fundamentally wrong, and that thinking, feeling, and our senses are all functions of one integrated nervous system.* Humans can’t think in the absence of emotion and sensation, and most thought is fundamentally unconscious. This emergent model of the mind suggests that art — which lives in the connections between thought, feeling, and sensation and connects the unconscious to conscious awareness — is profoundly cognitive. Nonetheless, our ideas about learning and the ways we have structured education are rooted in the old model.

2. Fiscal crisis: By the late 1970s the transformation of the American economy that has lately been so destructive to our national prosperity — the awful decline of manufacturing, the export of jobs from the US, and the explosion of debt — was already damaging the financial stability of school systems around the nation. New York City had a fiscal meltdown in 1975, the school system was a major victim, and arts education was first on the chopping block. Chicago laid off all its elementary art and music teachers in 1978, during a fiscal crisis. The pattern was repeated again and again across the country through the 1980s.

3. Tax rebellion: The “Reagan Revolution” was based, in large measure, on a deep resentment of government, often fueled by a misguided belief that the only beneficiaries of government programs were corrupt politicians and the undeserving poor — usually folks with darker complexions. Proposition 13 was passed in California in 1978. It restricted the capacity of local jurisdictions to raise taxes to pay for public services, including education. California schools continue to suffer, and the tax rebellion has become a sustained principle of American politics. Conservatives promote a “starve the beast” (beast=government here) strategy today, and public education (teachers, in particular) is a prominent target. Despite de jure designation as a “core” subject, the arts are surely not that in practice.

If school reform were meeting its objectives — closing the achievement gap, improving US students’ standing on international tests, raising standards, and preparing all students for higher education and work in the 21st century — the case for making arts education a strategic element of public education might quickly be closed. But a new report from the Consortium for Chicago School Research showed that more than two decades of determined efforts to ‘reform’ Chicago schools has had very limited results. It showed that many test score improvements were actually the effect of easier tests, not higher student achievement. The racial achievement gap actually widened across the district. Similar findings deflated test score results in NYC last year. Large-scale cheating on standardized tests has been uncovered in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Atlanta. Analysis of international tests shows that the US has fallen farther behind more nations in more subjects. This pattern demonstrates that school reform is not succeeding on its own terms.

Despite the paucity of resources for arts education, arts education programs in some Chicago schools and elsewhere across the nation are have having significant effects on the quality of learning in those schools. There is growing evidence that the arts can actually help deliver the goods that have eluded conventional school reform. The three horsemen may have blinded education policy makers and many administrators to that evidence, but now some champions of conventional school reform have started to assimilate the hard facts. Chester Finn, one of its architects in the Reagan administration, wrote not long ago that prevailing school reform strategies “are clearly outliving their usefulness.” Diane Ravitch, an early advocate of No Child Left Behind, now argues that No Child “has made testing and accountability our national education strategy,” lowered “vague and soporific standards,” turned testing into a fearful truncheon, substituted rhetoric for research and faith in the private market for commitment to a fundamental democratic institution.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, still closely linked to prevailing reform strategies, recently wrote, “Education in the arts is more important than ever. In the global economy, creativity is essential. Today’s workers need more than just skills and knowledge … The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education.”

If more education policymakers, business and political leaders begin to recognize the poor returns that school reform has brought, we may, even in this time of deep economic strain, see a new openness to the arts in our schools, and the three horsemen of arts education may be reined in.

* Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio famously called this Descartes Error, in his book by that name. Also check out Metaphors We Live By and Philosophy in the Flesh by cognitive linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.

Robert Reich, “The Attack on American Education”


 Over the long term, the only way we’re going to raise wages, grow the economy, and improve American competitiveness is by investing in our people — especially their educations.

You’ve probably seen the reports. American students rank low on international standards of educational performance. Too many of our schools are failing. Too few young people who are qualified for college or post-secondary education have the opportunity.

I’m not one of those who thinks the only way to fix what’s wrong with American education is to throw more money at it. We also need to do it much better. Teacher performance has to be squarely on the table. We should experiment with vouchers whose worth is inversely related to family income. Universities have to tame their budgets, especially for student amenities that have nothing to do with education.

But considering the increases in our population of young people and their educational needs, and the challenges posed by the new global economy, more resources are surely needed.

Here’s another reason why the $858 billion tax bill — including a continuation of the Bush tax cuts to the richest Americans and a dramatic drop in their estate taxes — is so dangerous. By further widening the federal budget deficit, it invites even more budget cuts in education, including early-childhood and post-secondary. Pell Grants that allow young people from poor families to attend college are already on the chopping block.

Less visible are cuts the states are already making in their school budgets. Because these cuts are at the state level they’ve been under the national radar screen, but viewed as a whole they seriously threaten the nation’s future.

Here’s a summary:

    * Arizona has eliminated preschool for 4,328 children, funding for schools to provide additional support to disadvantaged children from preschool to third grade, aid to charter schools, and funding for books, computers, and other classroom supplies. The state also halved funding for kindergarten, leaving school districts and parents to shoulder the cost of keeping their children in school beyond a half-day schedule.

* California has reduced K-12 aid to local school districts by billions of dollars and is cutting a variety of programs, including adult literacy instruction and help for high-needs students.

* Colorado has reduced public school spending in FY 2011 by $260 million, nearly a 5 percent decline from the previous year. The cut amounts to more than $400 per student.

* Georgia has cut state funding for K-12 education for FY 2011 by $403 million or 5.5 percent relative to FY 2010 levels. The cut has led the state’s board of education to exempt local school districts from class size requirements to reduce costs.

* Hawaii shortened the 2009-10 school year by 17 days and furloughed teachers for those days.

* Illinois has cut school education funding by $241 million or 3 percent in its FY 2011 budget relative to FY 2010 levels. Cuts include a significant reduction in funding for student transportation and the elimination of a grant program intended to improve the reading and study skills of at-risk students from kindergarten through the 6th grade.

* Maryland has cut professional development for principals and educators, as well as health clinics, gifted and talented summer centers, and math and science initiatives.

* Michigan has cut its FY 2010 school aid budget by $382 million, resulting in a $165 per-pupil spending reduction.

* Over the course of FY10, Mississippi cut by 7.2 percent funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a program established to bring per-pupil K-12 spending up to adequate levels in every district.

* Massachusetts has cut state education aid by $115.6 million, or 3 percent in its FY 2011 budget relative to FY 2010 levels. It also made a $4.6 million, or 16 percent cut relative to FY 2010 levels to funding for early intervention services, which help special-needs children develop appropriately and be ready for school.

* Missouri is cutting its funding for K-12 transportation by 46 percent. The cut in funding likely will lead to longer bus rides and the elimination of routes for some of the 565,000 students who rely on the school bus system.

* New Jersey has cut funding for afterschool programs aimed to enhance student achievement and keep students safe between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. The cut will likely cause more than 11,000 students to lose access to the programs and 1,100 staff workers to lose their jobs.

* North Carolina cut by 21 percent funding for a program targeted at small schools in low-income areas and with a high need for social workers and nurses. As a result, 20 schools will be left without a social worker or nurse. The state also temporarily eliminated funding for teacher mentoring.

* Rhode Island cut state aid for K-12 education and reduced the number of children who can be served by Head Start and similar services.

* Virginia’s $700 million in cuts for the coming biennium include the state’s share of an array of school district operating and capital expenses and funding for class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade. In addition, a $500 million reduction in state funding for some 13,000 support staff such as janitors, school nurses, and school psychologists from last year’s budget was made permanent.

* Washington suspended a program to reduce class sizes and provide professional development for teachers; the state also reduced funding for maintaining 4th grade student-to-staff-ratios by $30 million.

* State education grants to school districts and education programs have also been cut in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Utah.

Meanwhile, at least 43 states have implemented cuts to public colleges and universities and/or made large increases in college tuition to make up for insufficient state funding.

   * Alabama’s fiscal year 2011 cuts to higher education have led to 2010-11 tuition hikes that range from 8 percent to 23 percent, depending on the institution.

* Arizona’s Board of Regents approved in-state undergraduate tuition increases of between 9 and 20 percent as well as fee increases at the state’s three public universities. Additionally, the three state universities must implement a 2.75 percent reduction in state-funded salary spending and plan to do so through a variety of actions, such as academic reorganization, layoffs, furloughs, position eliminations, hiring fewer tenure-eligible faculty, and higher teaching workloads.

* The University of California has increased tuition by 32 percent and reduced freshman enrollment by 2,300 students; the California State University system cut enrollment by 40,000 students.

* Colorado funding for higher education was reduced by $62 million from FY 2010 and this has led to cutbacks at the state’s institutions. The University of Colorado system will lay off 79 employees in FY 2011 and has increased employee workloads and required higher employee contributions to health and retirement benefits.

* Florida’s 11 public universities will raise tuition by 15 percent for the 2010-11 academic year. This tuition hike, combined with a similar increase in 2009-10, results in a total two-year increase of 32 percent.

* Georgia has cut state funding for public higher education for FY2011 by $151 million, or 7 percent. As a result, undergraduate tuition for the fall 2010 semester at Georgia’s four public research universities (Georgia State, Georgia Tech, the Medical College of Georgia, and the University of Georgia) will increase by $500 per semester, or 16 percent. Community college tuition will increase by $50 per semester.

* The University of Idaho has responded to budget cuts by imposing furlough days on 2,600 of its employees statewide. Furloughs will range from 4 hours to 40 hours depending on pay level.

* Indiana’s cuts to higher education have caused Indiana State University to plan to lay off 89 staff.

* Michigan has reduced student financial aid by $135 million (over 61 percent), including decreases of 50 percent in competitive scholarships and 44 percent in tuition grants, as well as elimination of nursing scholarships, work-study, the Part-Time Independent Student Program, Michigan Education Opportunity Grants, and the Michigan Promise Scholarships.

* In Minnesota, as a result of higher education funding cuts, approximately 9,400 students will lose their state financial aid grants entirely, and the remaining state financial aid recipients will see their grants cut by 19 percent.

* Missouri’s fiscal year 2011 budget reduces by 60 percent funding for the state’s only need-based financial aid program, which helps 42,000 students access higher education. This cut was partially restored with other scholarship money, but will still result in a cut of at least 24 percent to need-based aid.

* New Mexico has eliminated over 80 percent of support to the College Affordability Endowment Fund, which provides need-based scholarships to 2,366 students who do not qualify for other state grants or scholarships.

* New York’s state university system has increased resident undergraduate tuition by 14 percent beginning with the spring 2009 semester.

* In North Carolina, University of North Carolina students will see their tuition rise by $750 in the 2010-2011 school year and community college students will see their tuition increase by $200 due to fiscal year 2011 reductions in state higher education spending.

* South Dakota’s fiscal year 2011 budget cuts state support for public universities by $6.5 million and as a result the Board of Regents has increased university tuition by 4.6 percent and cut university programs by $4.4 million.

* Texas has instituted a 5 percent across-the-board budget cut that reduced higher education funding by $73 million.

* Virginia’s community colleges implemented a tuition increase during the spring 2010 semester.

* Washington has reduced state funding for the University of Washington by 26 percent for the current biennium. Washington State University is increasing tuition by almost 30 percent over two years. In its supplemental budget, the state cut 6 percent more from direct aid to the state’s six public universities and 34 community colleges, which will lead to further tuition increases, administrative cuts, furloughs, layoffs, and other cuts. The state also cut support for college work-study by nearly one-third and suspended funding for a number of its financial aid programs.

* Other states that are cutting higher education operating funding and financial aid include Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Have we gone collectively out of our minds? Our young people — their capacities to think, understand, investigate, and innovate — are America’s future. In the name of fiscal prudence we’re endangering that future.

In January, Republicans take over the House and its appropriations committees. What would it take for them to reinstitute counter-cyclical revenue sharing that would help the states restore some or all funding for education? Can you imagine the White House and Senate Dems putting this at the top of their 2011 agenda? Is it possible this could be a bi-partisan effort?

Rethinking Schools celebrates its 25th anniversary

In 1986, a group of Milwaukee-area teachers had a vision.

They wanted not only to improve education in their own classrooms and schools, but to help shape reform throughout the public school system in the United States.

Today that vision is embodied in Rethinking Schools.”

As always, you can read Rethinking Schools’ most recent edition, in its entirety, on their website.


School Layoffs About to Fall Heaviest on the Poorest and Most Struggling

Published: October 2, 2011 by the New York Times

The pink slips have gone out, and if no deal is reached by Friday, 716 of New York City’s lowest-paid workers — school aides, parent coordinators and other members of school support staffs — will lose their jobs, the latest victims of budget cuts to the public schools… Read full article here.