Public schools hurting more in recovery than in recession

Via Ben Casselman of fivethirtyeight.com: While the nation is slowly recovering from the economic recession, public schools are facing growing financial concerns, due in large part to a decrease in federal funding, and an overall drop in school funding in 2012 – the first time that has occurred in 35 years.

Casselman explains that U.S. public schools weathered the recession relatively well because federal stimulus dollars helped to plug the funding gap, offsetting the decrease in state funding. But between 2010-2012, federal per-student funding decreased 20 percent and has continued to drop since then. From the piece:

“The cuts are increasingly hitting classrooms directly. In the recession and the early stages of the recovery, superintendents were largely able to protect instructional expenses such as teacher salaries by cutting from other areas, such as administration and maintenance. But that has become more difficult over time. In the 2011-12 school year, classroom spending fell faster than overall spending.”

According to the piece, urban districts have been hit particularly hard by the federal aid cuts. Nearly 90 percent of big-city school districts spent less per student in 2012 than when the recession ended in 2009.

“The cuts haven’t been evenly distributed. Most federal education aid targets two groups, low-income and special education students, who are overrepresented in urban school districts. As a result, urban districts have been hit harder by the recent cuts. (For the same reason, urban districts also disproportionately benefited from the stimulus.) Overall, 64 percent of the nation’s more than 14,000 school districts spent less per student in 2012 than in 2009, after adjusting for inflation. But 82 percent of urban districts cut funding; in cities with populations of 250,000 or more, 89 percent of districts cut funding.”

casselman-feature-schools-4New York public schools are all too familiar with this reality. Superintendents and school officials around the state have been outspoken with their displeasure of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, holding rallies and even taking their argument of funding discrimination to court. They’ve also expressed frustration with state’s tax levy cap.

Question: Are you surprised by how widespread the funding epidemic is?

 

POV: Students are fighting for our future

Points_view

Today’s POV comes to us from Dan Adamek, a senior at Herkimer Junior-Senior High School.  Dan serves as president of the student council, the founder of Students for Fair Funding – New York, and organizes with the Alliance for Quality Education. This article originally appeared in the Utica Observer-Dispatch on April 21, 2014.

I am a high school senior. On April 10, I should have been eating lunch in my school’s cafeteria worrying about my next test. Instead, I found myself with more than 100 of my peers marching in a mock funeral that symbolized the death of the Herkimer Central School District.

This action was initiated and led by students in a collective effort to end the epidemic of what activists across the state have dubbed as “Cuomo cuts.”

Throughout my high school career, I have not once heard of the introduction of new programs that will enhance my educational experience, nor have I had the opportunity to take classes that will give me an advantage in the globalized, 21st century job market. In fact, I have seen my school district in a constant state of attrition.

This is not because of my community, teachers or school administration. It is not because I have failed to make a conscious effort to self-educate and work diligently. It is, however, because of the systematic orchestration of the failure of schools all around New York state by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Students at Herkimer High School took action because before austerity hit the education system, our elementary school offered character education. In those character education classes we learned about the golden rule. We learned that we should treat others the way we want to be treated.

It is evident that our governor has yet to fully grasp this idea. If he did, he would clearly be fulfilling his duty to provide students with a quality education as outlined in the New York state Constitution. He would certainly not be balancing the state budget on the back of young children through the Gap Elimination Adjustment — a policy that has stolen more than $8.4 billion from schools around New York state since its inception. Nor would he continually fail to put New York back on track with its commitment to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court order.

Herkimer students acted because in our history classes — the few that are still offered — we have been taught that in the face of adversity, change will not happen with inaction and apathy. Herkimer students realize that the pages of history books are plastered with the struggles of oppressed peoples.

We, the students, are being oppressed by your lack of equitable education funding that thereby deprives us of our right to a quality education, Mr. Governor, and we do not plan on quieting down anytime soon. Each of us is filled with rage, and that rage will not go away until our demands are met and our rights are upheld.

Unions will ‘Picket in the Pines’ to protest pro-charter education summit headlined by Cuomo

Teachers’ unions and other public education groups are planning to head to Lake Placid’s Camp Philos next month to protest a pro-charter education conference there. The conference will be hosted by the nonprofit group Education Reform Now and feature Gov. Andrew Cuomo as “honorary chairman.”

In response, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) are organizing “Picket in the Pines” outside of Camp Philos on Sunday, May 4 to push back against the pro-charter agenda and “put the ‘public’ back in public education.”

From the NYSUT website on the upcoming event:

“For too long, so-called ‘reformers’ have drowned out the voices of parents and teachers. These hedge-fund propagandists have contributed to New York State’s Common Core mess, the (failed) In-Bloom push for student data, and the spread of corporate charters that undermine public schools serving all kids.”

Last week, it was made public that the cost of admission to the camp ranges from $1,000 to $2,500. The top-price ticket includes a VIP reception and a listing on the event’s website. That price tag has already brought about criticism by public education lobbyists, who say this will likely be an event consisting mostly of pro-charter hedge funders.

Capital New York is reporting that some public school parents and teachers have complained that they’re being barred from attending the conference. Via Jessica Bakeman:

“Gail DeBonis Richmond, a retired teacher, said she registered for the event on April 15 and received two confirmation emails before receiving a refund on her $1,000 registration fee two days later. She said she was told that the event was at capacity before she attempted to register.”

Unbelievably, the executive director of Education Reform Now, Joe Williams, said he didn’t anticipate that there would be so much interest in the event. From Capital New York:

“Given the unexpected interest, the event is now over capacity, and we have had to turn away some applicants due to space limitations,” he (Williams) continued. “We regret not being able to welcome everyone, but we are excited to continue these conversations after Camp Philos on a much broader scale.”

Williams went on to say he expects to target a bigger venue for next year’s conference.

The deadline to register for “Picket in the Pines” is April 30.

Kids Speak Week: “I’m asking for all small schools like us to be funded the way we should be.”

Kidspk

Today’s Kids Speak Week post is from Catalina Rusaw, a junior at Brasher Falls Central High School.

Currently there is a budget cut calling for all the arts at my school to be cut. What does that mean for me? That means that all the programs I am included in, that make me look forward to going to school, that help me enjoy high school will no longer be available for me. What does that mean for other students? They will be lessened a college opportunity. Some of these kids depend on these programs for scholarships, for a career. The state owes small public schools like us over 3 million dollars. Why haven’t we seen any of this money? Because of something called the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). This is the reason most small schools are in fiscal peril. This started first back in 2010, in the first four years schools have lost $7.7 billion in state aid that was promised to us by law. That averages out to about $2,895 per student. Schools only have two options raise property taxes or cut programs, services and staff. Because Brasher Falls is such a small school district, we can’t raise the taxes anymore because nobody has the income to pay for them so we are forced to cut the arts. I’m asking for all small schools like us to be funded the way we should be.

Kids Speak Week: “Something needs to be done; my future is at stake.”

Kidspk

Today’s Kids Speak Week entry comes from Brittany Hunter, a 10th grader from the Herkimer Central School District.

It has been brought to my attention that eight more teachers have been laid off in my school, Herkimer Jr/Sr High school. Most of the classes that I signed up for next year aren’t even going to be there. This school is falling apart and my education is at stake. It’s hard enough for me to try and make myself stand out to colleges now, but add on these new budget cuts and there will be nothing left. I’m being deprived of my education.

In order to figure out what path I want to take in life, I need classes. As of now, I think I may want to have a career in Dietetics and I was ecstatic when I discovered that I could take a Nutrition and Fitness class. I planned on increasing my chances of being accepted into a good college by getting an internship in the nutrition field. Because of these cuts, I’m never going to be able to excel; my opportunities are being taken away from me. I need that class to help me see if that’s the right career path for me.

I have built up a very strong opinion about the events that are currently taking place in schools, and I want to be a part of standing up for my education. It’s not right that the students are being penalized. Something needs to be done; my future is at stake.

 

#NYSBudget14 Rundown

With a tentative agreement on the 2014 state budget reached over the weekend, the New York State Legislature is expected to vote on the $140 billion budget this morning.

Last year’s vote took in excess of 13 hours, so we could be in for a long day before any announcement is made. Stay with us throughout the day for updates. You can follow us on Twitter, @edspeaksNY for the latest out of Albany.

Here’s what the education component of the budget looks like:

  • School Aid: The Budget includes a $1.1 billion – or 5.3% – increase in education aid for the 2014-15 school year. High-needs school districts will receive nearly 70 percent of the 2014-15 allocated increase.
  • Reform Common Core Implementation: The Budget puts into law a series of recommendations to immediately improve the implementation of the Common Core in New York State, including banning standardized “bubble tests” for young children, protecting students from high stakes testing based on unfair results, ensuring instructional time is used for teaching and learning and not over-testing, and protecting the privacy of students.
  • Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget builds upon the success of the first-ever State-funded full-day pre-kindergarten program by committing to invest $1.5 billion over five years to support the phase-in of a Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten program.
  • Protect Charter Schools: The Budget increases tuition funding for charter school students over three years: $250 per student the first year, $350 the second, and $500 in the third. The Budget will also promote the growth of charter schools by addressing their facility needs. Charter schools will be eligible for Pre-K funding.
  • Smart Schools: The Budget includes a $2 billion general obligation bond act. Bond proceeds will fund enhanced education technology in schools, with eligible projects including infrastructure improvements to bring high-speed broadband to schools and communities in their school district and the purchase of classroom technology for use by students. Additionally, Smart Schools will enable long-term investments in full-day pre-kindergarten through the construction of new pre-kindergarten classroom space, replace classroom trailers with permanent classroom space and make investments in high-tech school safety projects.
  • $1.5 Billion in Property Tax Relief: The Budget includes a new Property Tax Credit to provide relief to New York homeowners and address one of the primary drivers of the State’s high property taxes – the outsized number of local governments. The property tax relief package is designed to incentivize local governments to share services and reduce their financial burden on the taxpayer. In the first year under the reform plan, New Yorkers will receive property tax relief if their local governments stay within the property tax cap. The property tax cuts will be extended for a second year in jurisdictions which comply with the tax cap and have put forward a plan to save 1 percent of their tax levy per year, over three years. While localities may offer a variety of approaches, the plan is designed to incentivize county governments to convene and facilitate a process and submit a county-wide plan for approval. Over three years, the program will result in over $1.5 billion in direct property tax relief for as many as 2.8 million taxpayers.

Headlines from around the state

Education is focus as state leaders agree on budget (Buffalo News)

Pre-K funds, charter school protections, and Common Core changes in state budget deal (Chalkbeat)

ELFA Includes Common Core Changes (NY State of Politics)

Budget deal in Albany reshapes NY education, taxes (NCPR)

State Budget Deal Reached; $300 Million for New York City Pre-K (NY Times)

State budget would boost education funds by $1.1B (NY Newsday)

Charters appear to get some help downstate, not so much outside of NYC (Capitol Confidential)

Friday Rundown: 3.21.14

Somewhere in this great country of ours, someone is experiencing the warmer temperatures that come with spring. It’s just not you or me. Hopefully, your bracket hasn’t busted yet. The New York teams playing had an up and down day yesterday. Manhattan and Albany were tripped up last night, but Syracuse held on and will next play on Saturday. Here’s your Rundown. Enjoy the weekend!

Commissioner John King delivered his State of Education address yesterday and focused on the regents reform agenda (Albany Business Review, TWC News)

Gov. Cuomo presses lawmakers to support his plan for property-tax freeze (Poughkeepsie Journal)…NY Minute: Cuomo sweetens property tax freeze proposal (Syracuse Post Standard)

59 protesters arrested amid state budget talks, many education advocates (Albany Times Union)

Table targets: Small advances seen for education funding (Albany Times Union)

Opinion: Youth an asset to school boards (Albany Times Union)

Opinion: By re-electing Regents, state legislators reject further politicization of education (Buffalo News)

Common Core jolts prospective teachers (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

Federal report: N.Y.’s education reform making progress (Journal News)

Why should kids just ‘sit and stare’? as parents, school officials debate Common Core testing (Buffalo News)

Opinion: Charter school $ecret$ (Albany Times Union)

Upstate educators slam budget plan to spend $540M on Big Apple (Times Herald Record)

Kindergarten, not pre-K, elusive for some N.Y. schools (Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin)

Are American students grossly unprepared for college? (Washington Post)

No, Kids Don’t Have More Homework Than They Did 30 Years Ago (Time)

Friday Rundown: 3.14.14

Happy Pi Day! A lot to catch you up on from this week, including the Senate’s one house budget resolution coming in late last night. We’ll begin there.

The Senate’s resolution gives an additional $217 million over the Governor’s proposal to public schools, but it also gives $250 million more to charter and private schools.

Among the proposals outlined in the Senate’s resolution was a new property tax relief program, dubbed “Freeze Plus.” Here’s the language:

PART FF: The Senate modifies the Executive proposal to create a $1.4 billion Freeze Plus program that freezes property taxes for two years by making the property tax relief permanent. Schools will be eligible for this program in SFY 2014-15 while counties, cities, towns and villages will be eligible in SFY 2015-16. This makes all municipalities and schools eligible in their next fiscal year. Schools will receive $400 million in the first year, growing to $800 million thereafter. Municipalities will receive $200 million in their first year, and $400 million thereafter. In order for homeowners in their jurisdiction to receive the property tax relief in year two of the plan, school districts and local governments must continue to stay within the tax cap and must work towards continuing efficiencies previously adopted with new efficiency plans that may include consolidation and shared services. Municipalities and school districts will develop and implement structural budgetary efficiency plans for sharing or consolidating services that, when implemented, will achieve real savings for taxpayers. Local Governments with 50 employees or less will also be authorized to join municipal cooperative health benefit plans as a tool to achieve savings.

The Senate’s resolution calls for $2.7 billion in funding over five years for a universal pre-k and after-school programs in New York City ($540 million for 2014-15). According to Capital New York, the Senate’s plan also includes $145 million for pre-K expansion in the rest of the state during the next fiscal year, but the funding would be flexible, so schools could choose to use it for kindergarten or restore general state-aid cuts instead.

Here’s an overview of the entire resolution (Capitol Confidential)…And here’s the actual thing.

Moving on…Here’s the rest of your education headlines from the week.

Educators learn Common Core on the fly (Journal News)…Prekindergarten programs, teachers work to keep up with Common Core standards (Glens Falls Post Star)…Parents want to opt out of common core tests, Commissioner says ‘no’ (WTEN)

Cuomo’s Common Core panel: Back off from inBloom (Capitol Confidential)…Read the rest of the panel’s roundup here.

North Country schools are pushing for an end to school-aid cuts this year. (Plattsburgh Press Republican)

Josephine Finn was elected to the Board of Regents, replacing James Jackson, who resigned Monday night. (Syracuse Post Standard)

Unhappy with state school funding, AQE marches on Albany (Capitol Confidential)

South Glens Falls High School held their annual dance marathon and raised a record-setting $583,000 for 39 beneficiaries (Glens Falls Post Star)

AQE calls on Governor to increase funding for all schools

On Wednesday, the Alliance for Quality Education took to the streets and held a rally at the Capitol, calling for the resurrection of their school’s programs, classes and resources that have been cut over the last five years.

Participants delivered this petition, signed by 14,000 New Yorkers, to Governor Cuomo’s office. The petition calls on Cuomo to support all students, not just the 3 percent who attend privately run charter schools. Last week, Cuomo attended a charter school rally in Albany, vowing to “save charter schools,” and ensure that they have the “financial capacity and physical space and government support to thrive and to grow.”

The AQE is calling for a $1.9 billion increase in school aid this year, which they say will prevent more cuts to schools this year and will get the state back on track with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. In February, the AQE along with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project of the Education Law Center, toured 14 school districts across the state, gathering evidence of the systematic underfunding of schools.

“Governor Cuomo has ignored the cries for help from New York’s public schools,” Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education Billy Easton said. “Enough is enough.”

“Governor Cuomo has called education the Civil Rights issue of our day, and I could not agree with him more,” Superintendent of Schenectady City School District Dr. Laurence Spring said. “Too many school districts are being underfunded to the point of denying students the very basic services that they need.”

With the two houses of the state legislature preparing their education budgets, the AQE and CFE are preparing for a potential school funding lawsuit if the state does not live up to its constitutional obligation this year.