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xcurmudgeon

Budget Casualty: Public Education

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Mon Mar 15, 2010 at 10:18:11 AM EDT


I've reconciled the apparent contradiction in a press release from the State Senate Democratic Caucus yesterday stating, "the final budget agreement makes $253 million in K-12 education cuts over the biennium, but prevents over $400 million in additional cuts that were desired by the House of Delegates," with the story in my local paper today, which states, "Direct aid to schools is cut by $645 million, excluding a funding cap on support staff."

It appears that the Democrats in the Senate were masking what is actually taking place with state financing of public education by pretending that the cuts proposed by former Gov. Kaine in December had actually been enacted, and then claiming that the budget agreement cut only $253 million from state aid.

The correct figure for the hit being taken by K-12 in this upcoming budget is $645 million. I will grant that the Democratic-controlled Senate kept the number from being Gov. Bob McDonnell's desired $731 million cut.

The GOP and the "Jobs Governor" are directly responsible for what they are doing to public education. McDonnell can start out his tally of "jobs" he is bringing to the Commonwealth by putting down a negative 15,000 to 25,000. That is the number of Virginians who will be thrown out of work so that schools can balance budgets with revenue that will be the same as what they received from the state in 2007.

Here's just one example:

Locally, the Roanoke City School Board met early this morning and approved a preliminary budget to send to city council, one cutting 146 full-time position, including 130 instructional positions.

Now, we always hear from the conservative Republicans that the schools should cut out the "fat" and keep teaching positions and schools open in all neighborhoods. That's impossible.

Elaine in Roanoke :: Budget Casualty: Public Education
There is very little money to be saved from cutting what those people consider "fat" or "unnecessary spending." The vast bulk of spending in a school budget is for instructional personnel. That's where the cuts have to be made when the state slashes its commitment to education the way it has this year.

In the last two years, most school divisions have cut their spending for non-instructional purposes. Bus purchases have been postponed. Maintenance budgets have been cut. Office help has been terminated. Field trips have been slashed. Teacher aides have been fired.

Those cuts were used to cover previous budget shortfalls. Now, school divisions are down to the instructional part of their budgets. Metaphorically, they have cut all the fat and now must start sawing up the bones.

Roanoke City, for example, is looking at eliminating the CITY school, a program for advanced students. The Roanoke Governor's School is in jeopardy because several divisions support it financially. If even one decides to drop that program, then the area will lose the best program available to our best students.

Last year, Roanoke closed two neighborhood schools. It may well close others next year.

All over the state, there will be wrenching decisions superintendents and school boards will have to make: Four-day school weeks? Core curriculum classes with 5-10 more students in them than last year? Elimination of vocational programs with fewer than 18 or so students enrolled in them? Early retirement offered to the most experienced teachers, in order to replace them with cheaper, inexperienced ones? Elimination of all teacher aides in classes, unless mandated by federal guidelines? Elimination of school nurses? Elimination of advanced programs with low enrollment? No summer school for students needing remediation?

I taught twelfth-grade English during the last recession that necessitated instructional reductions in force. During the 1980-82 recession, my class load went from 24-25 per class to 30-35. I also no longer taught electives like creative writing and Shakespeare because they were dropped to make room for more core classes.

Take it from me, no teacher can adequately meet the needs of 30 basic English students needing intense remedial help when they are crammed into one class. Nor can a teacher meet the needs of 35 or so advanced students who deserve better than getting a couple of minutes of a teacher's time...if they are lucky enough to get that.

That 1980 recession and the loss of state funds at that time was nothing like this budget crisis in severity. So, make no mistake about it...basic public education in Virginia will be severely damaged by the GOP insistence that people who easily could afford to pay more taxes - the wealthiest Virginians - must have their pocketbooks protected at the expense of those who don't give big campaign contributions...our school children.

I'll close with one of the most insulting sets of platitudes I have read in a long time, from Del. Bill Cleaveland, my very own Republican member of the House of Delegates:

"My expectation is that if we can just rally through this hard time, and just understand that we're going to try to work together and to the extent possible depoliticize the process, I think we're going to be better off and we're going to get through this."

I agree with today's Roanoke Times editorial that quoted Del. Cleaveland:

"A pep rally won't raise graduation rates nor help a struggling elementary child learn to read. Over-age academies, tutoring, literacy programs and summer schools do. Some schoolchildren won't get through this and will be worse off...Roanoke, for example, made major cuts to its programs this year to grapple with multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls, to the detriment of academic strides made in recent years. The damage is already evident.

"How can any lawmaker - sworn to uphold the state constitution - stand by and watch that happen at school after school across the Commonwealth?"

That's an excellent question.

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Wisdom from Jefferson
I realize that the wingnuts in Texas decided last week to write Thomas Jefferson out of their history books, but we Virginians still believe he was important to American history. Here's a bit of what he said about public education:

"If the children are untaught, their ignorance and vices will in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences than it would have done in their correction by a good education." (Letter to Joseph C. Cabell)

"I feel... an ardent desire to see knowledge so disseminated through the mass of mankind that it may, at length, reach even the extremes of society: beggars and kings." (Reply to American Philosophical Society)

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." (Letter to Charles Yancey)

"Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty." (Letter to James Madison)  


Thank you for the analysis; one question
still occurs to me: you said Gov. BobforJobs wanted cuts to education of $731 million, but the Democratic Senate kept the cuts to (a mere) $645 million---- so, do you suspect that BobforJobs privately intended/hoped that the Democratic Senate would rebel and insist on raising taxes as well as fees in order to protect education and the state workers' pension fund? In other words, was BobforJobs hoping to excoriate Democrats for trying to raise taxes? Obviously the House of Delegates would not have gone along with even a whiff of tax increases (but what are fees but taxes disguised under another name?).

BobforJobs canot attract new businesses to Virginia with a decaying education system. His name should not be BobforJobs but BobforDumbKids. BobtheDimWit. RichBobforPoorSchools. DumbotheElephant...

I fear that with continued Republican control these brutal cuts will never be restored. Even if they are, eventually, the damage done to this generation of students can never be repaired  


True
Yes. The students will be hurt, those who are in school now and for the next couple of years. They can't be re-educated once they leave the system.

Gov. Wimpy is desperate to make someone else the one who cuts public education and health programs. So, he hopes he can wrap himself in platitudes and let the legislature take the heat for the cuts he is quite happy to make. This man wants to be something besides governor of Virginia. Fat chance. He's so transparently phony.

These people don't care about the education of ordinary people. They have their children taken care of. As for the rest of the state's citizens...they are unimportant to them. Just the underclass.


[ Parent ]
that's not all
with all the concern about the budget cuts the 5% tax hike on all public employees who participate in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) has gone un-noticed.

while not officially a tax hike (we know the flat earthers don't do tax increases, just fees, charges, enhancements, add-ons, tariffs, allowances, etc like the 100 million in this year's budget) HB 1189 allows local government to pull the 5% they now contribute to retirement of public servants (those who work for 15-20% less then they could get in the private sector but have opted for job satisfaction, and public service - and a pension) as an exercise in balancing the local budgets due to state underfunding.

now i can understand if the R's wanted to ping these groups that don't support them in elections, BUT HB 1189 was co sponsored by Bob Brink.  the companion senate bill passed 39-1 with on D-Edwards voting against.  and in the house the list of people normally thought of supporting working families took a huge dive.  19 voted against


NAYS--Abbott, Armstrong, Bulova, Carr, Carrico, Ebbin, Englin, Herring, Hope, James, Johnson, Keam, Kory, Plum, Sickles, Surovell, Torian, Tyler, Ward--19.

notice any names missing from this list?????

the dem response to our state fire fighters was won't it be wonderful to get several million more in your local budgets?  total BS.  where will the money come from?  the pockets of the public servants.

this is disappointing to say the least.  one thing's for sure, the people who voted for this can take me off thier call lists.

b


You have an understandable
attitude, Bruce. Votes in the Assembly should have personal consequences. Will those citizens affected know who did what in the Assembly.... and remember it in the fulness of time?

What I myself think happened is, some Democrats still believe, and act upon, a couple of things that IMO are no longer true:

1) In a democracy, cycles occur and the outs become ins and the losers cooperate with the winners of an election in governing the Commonwealth because that is the way the system is supposed to work, and also because when the cycle turns, it will make today's losers the next cycle's winners, and it will become their turn

2) Cooperating in governing and acceeding to the legislative demands of the winners will earn them brownie points, not only with the voters but with their counterparts across the aisle, who will act like gentlemen and ladies, even compromise gracefully for the good of the Commonwealth as a whole

Neither of these points have any place in today's polarized, self-righteous, arrogant, and vindictive Republican Party, which feels not only entitled to rule (rather than govern) but to impose their ideology on every policy.

Republicans are in constant campaign mode and their stated intent is to wipe Democrats off the map, creating, in effect, a one-party system, i.e., a totalitarian government which, whatever their rhetoric, actually means an administration run for corporate interests---- Not run for the little people, or even the middle people, just the Big and the Wealthy people, in which category I must include corporations as people, thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision.
(Please see my analysis of Nov'09 election here on BlueCommonwealth.com, in Nov: the three "Hard Lessons" and 3 short follow-ups on "Reform.")


[ Parent ]
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