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Robert Borosage
Published: Thursday 13 October 2011
A new report: How Budget Cuts and Policy Mandates are Hurting our Nation’s Students – released today by the Campaign for America’s Future and the National Education Association looks at five states to detail what this means to kids in our public elementary and secondary schools.

Starving America’s Public Schools

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Wall Street’s excesses blew up the economy.  Now the question is who pays to clean up the mess. And across the country, our children are already paying part of the bill – as their schools are hit with deep budget cuts.  A new report – Starving America’s Public Schools:  How Budget Cuts and Policy Mandates are Hurting our Nation’s Students – released today by the Campaign for America’s Future and the National Education Association looks at five states to detail what this means to kids in our public elementary and secondary schools.

Every study shows the importance of early childhood education.  Analysts at the Federal Reserve discovered that investments in childhood development have, in the words of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, such “high public as well as private returns” that the Fed has championed such investments, noting they save states money by reducing costs of dropouts, special education, and crime prevention.  Yet across the country, states are slashing funding for pre-kindergarten and even rolling back all day kindergarten.  Now only about one-fourth of 4-year-olds are served by pre-K programs.  Ten states have eliminated funding for pre-K altogether, including Arizona. Ohio eliminated funding for all-day kindergarten. 

Every parent and teacher knows the importance of smaller classes, particularly in the early years, when individual attention is vital.  Yet across the country, schools are facing layoffs of nearly 250,000 workers next year, many of them teachers.  In Chester Upland, Pa., 40 percent of the teachers were eliminated, with class sizes rising from 21 to 30 in elementary schools and to 35 in high schools, prompting students to walk out.

Intelligence comes in many forms.  Successful schools offer a well-rounded curriculum – not just the basics, but art and music, social studies, extracurricular activities and physical education.  But now schools across the country are forced to terminate or charge extra for anything beyond the core curriculum.  In York, Pa., art, music and physical education was eliminated in elementary schools.  In Medina, Ohio, students returned to find courses in French, German, art, music and advanced placement science and math were eliminated.

And children, needless to say, are extremely diverse.  They learn in different ways, at different rates, and face different challenges.  Public schools educate the poor and the affluent, those with developmental challenges and those who are gifted.  Yet across the country, schools are slashing funds for special learning instruction, for advanced placement courses.  Increasingly parents face extra fees for programs.  In Medina, Ohio, for example, it costs $660 to play a high school sport, $200 to join the school choir or $50 to act in a student play.

And even as budgets are slashed for public schools, more and more state education money is getting siphoned off to private contractors to pay for elaborate tests, and to vouchers and corporate tax credits to subsidize private and charter schools.  We’re cutting billions out of educating kids while increasing spending on testing how they are doing.  

School budgets have been cut in some 34 states and the District of Columbia.  In Arizona, the cuts average about $530 per pupil.  In Florida, $1 billion was cut in next year’s budget, or about $542 per student.  Not surprisingly, these cuts fall hardest on the poorest districts that can’t afford to make up for them the way affluent districts can.  The kids who have the greatest need for public education are suffering the deepest cuts.

Americans sensibly value education.  Every political candidate promises our children will have the best education in the world.  Yet Washington seems largely oblivious to the carnage taking place in our schools. Part of the president’s American Jobs Act was special funding to avoid more teacher layoffs.  A filibuster by Republican senators kept that from even coming up for debate, much less a vote. 

Meanwhile a furious argument continues about to what standard teachers and schools should be held accountable.  The administration, still touting its Race to the Top program, wants the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind to set the standard that all children should be “college ready” by the year 2020. Sen.Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced a more sensible standard of requiring “continuous improvement” from all schools.  

But schools are eliminating kindergarten, laying off teachers, cramming 35 kids in a class, cutting advanced placement classes, and levying steep fees for kids to be in the band or play on an athletic team.  Continuous improvement?  Race to the Top?  The grim reality facing our kids mocks the rhetoric.

Jeff Bryant, author of the Starving America’s Public Schools report, notes that there have been only two previous times since 1929 when this nation cut spending significantly on its children’s education, once in the midst of the Great Depression and once in the midst of World War II.  With schools facing budget cutbacks while the largest generation of kids since the boomers flood the classrooms, this is likely to be the third.  The bankers who caused the mess got bailed out.  The military budget exceeds Cold War levels.  The richest 1 percent of Americans, who make as much as the bottom 60 percent of Americans, pay the lowest tax rates since the Great Depression.  But our kids and their schools are paying the price for an economic mess they didn’t create.  No wonder Occupy Wall Street has spread across the country.

i will read it along with

i will read it along with Buried Prey

The problems with the

The problems with the "teachers" and their unions are no different here than in any other field. The focus is on the few POOR performers and not reality that most of the teachers do a very good job. Another step in the "class-warfare" on the middle-class. We are headed to a two-class economy, taking out education is the last step. When's the book burning begin ?

Your schools aren't

Your schools aren't "starving" they're fed almost half again as much money as our (Austrlia's) schools. Stop buying the teacher's union crap and start actually taking a hard look at the problem. More teachers, more money, that's been tried. The fact is that the ones opposing these supposed cuts are the same ones who've let your kids down for DECADES.

Gov scott says schools were

Gov scott says schools were failing, so should cut funding!

I'm from TX and Gov. Perry's

I'm from TX and Gov. Perry's Texas is a total embarrassment!
The highlights in their run-down of Rick Perry's war on students and teachers include:

* Perry's budget cuts $4 billion from school district formula funding.
* This budget cuts $1.4 billion in education grants, including Pre-K and dropout prevention.
* 49,000 school employees may lose their jobs within a year.
* 43,000 returning college students will lose financial aid.
* Texas teacher pay ranks 31st nationally.
* Per-student funding in Texas ranks in the bottom third of all states.

I suggest you Google and read

I suggest you Google and read School Reform: A Failing Grade by Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education in the Bush Administration. That 1/2 placement is a convenient marker that is neither reality or an accurate statistic.From an angry teacher

with the current cuts USA has

with the current cuts USA has fallen to number 2 in $ per child k-12 of 39 dev countries -- i do not mind spending the $ but is it too much for the child to place in the top 1/2 ?

I suggest you Google and read

I suggest you Google and read School Reform: A Failing Grade by Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education in the Bush Administration. That 1/2 placement is a convenient marker that is neither reality or an accurate statistic.
From an angry teacher

Drastic cuts are intended to

Drastic cuts are intended to make the crisis in public schools more urgent and elicit louder calls for "reform". The current reforms are not endorsed by educators but by billionaire investors. I urge you to read Joanna Barkan's excellent article about the billionaires behind Obama and Arne Ducan's Race to the Top alleged edu-reform that is in reality, a privatization plan for our public schools.
Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools:

Also, next week the Senate is voting on amendments to ESEA. One proposed by Michael Bennet (D-CO) will allow dumbing down standards for teacher training- a gift to the for-profit edu-privatizers. See the notice from Council for Exceptional Children below. If Bennett’s amendment passes it opens up teaching to a host of untrained, short term teachers (e.g. teach for america) as well as create a low paid, low skilled work force that is easily churned by the for-profit edu-industry. This will have a significant impact on all children and in particular children at risk and those with special needs.
I am continually amazed at our elected officials in both parties craven exploitation of our children to better serve their campaign donors and corporate cronies.


* S. 1250, the Growing Education Achievement Training Academies for Teachers and Principals Act (GREAT Act), would water down requirements for educator preparation programs by creating separate and lower standards for preparation programs that prepare teachers for the neediest students. Oppose this amendment to end the practice of placing the least qualified teachers in the highest-need schools.

You're not continually amazed

You're not continually amazed at how your elected officials serve their campaign donors at the expense of your children. If you were you'd be all for shoving it to the teachers unions by allowing lower standards of teacher training allowing cheaper (but just as effective) teachers at the expense of those who want to restrict access to the profession for their own good. How do I know they would be as good? Because you yourself say for-profit firms would use them and for profit firms don't cheap out on quality when they're competing with "free".

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