Archive for May, 2011
Despite assertions by those who would like to undercut public emplolyees’ retirements, pension costs are not the reason schools and other public services are being underfunded, a school support professional points out in an Op-ed published in Tuesday’s Sacramento Bee.
Here’s a link to the article, ”Viewpoints: Pension ‘reformers’ distort facts on benefits,” by Martha Penry, a special education teacher’s assistant in the Twin Rivers school district.
This week, thousands of concerned parents and community members banned together to “Educate Our State” about the chronic underfunding of our public schools. On Tuesday morning, they took to the streets to “Wake Up California!” and show their support for Governor Brown’s budget, which requires the temporary extension of tax levels to stave off an additional $5 billion in cuts to our schools.
Grover Norquist makes his case at a recent meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)
Financier and a primary mover and shaker behind the drive to get legislators to sign a “no tax pledge,” Grover Norquist was reportedly in California and meeting with Republican lawmakers in Sacramento to shore up their commitment to his “no-tax” pledge, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Norquist, a long-time supporter of privatizing government services, has also been a driving force behind efforts to pass “school vouchers” that would take public funds from public schools and use the money to underwrite private schools. Norquist is also reportedly the source for the “starve the beast” strategy that would undermine public services by eliminating their funding over time.
Only a handful of California GOP lawmakers have resisted Norquist’s pressure on the “no tax pledge.”
Norquist’s trip to California comes about a week after more than 300 CTA members, parents, and other school supporters converged on the Capitol to tell lawmakers why it is vital for them to extend the state’s temporary taxes.
See the Bee story for the details.
Hard fiscal times have cost more than 100,000 Californians their federal, state or local government jobs, according to information from the California Employment Development Department, as reported in the Orange County Register.
These job losses include tens of thousands of public school employees, including teachers, counselors, nurses, and educational support professionals.
The new report provides one more telling reason that the state legisalture and governor must approve extending the current temporary taxes as a way to help keep Californians working and put more of our state’s residents back to work.
Here’s the link to the story’s main chart.
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) 25 May — At a Wednesday morning
briefing by Education Coalition technical experts, Bob Wells of the Association of California School Administrators (at lectern) points to the devastation to the education program that would come with another $5 billion in cuts, as (from l.) California Teachers Association Advocate Estelle Lemieux and California School Boards Association’s Rick Pratt look on.
The Sacramento briefing for reporters brought home the point that the governor’s $3 billion increase in K-14 funding will only eliminate an existing funding deferral for the next school year. Lawmakers’ passing the tax extensions will begin the process of restoring programs and services and prevent further layoffs.
Without the extension, schools would lose the equivalent of $847 per student, $42,200 per classroom, or $8.5 million per school district. Cuts of that magnitude, coming on top of the $20 billion the state’s nine million students have already experienced, would be equivalent to laying off another 57,500 teachers or 125,000 classified employees. The $5 billion cut would also be the equivalent of closing schools for 17.4 days or increasing class sizes by another 20%, the Coalition reports.
The Education Coalition represents millions of Californians through organizations including CTA, ACSA, CSBA, the State Parent Teachers Association, and labor and management groups.
(Photo Center) Former D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee says she is setting her sights on teacher seniority in order to “protect good teachers” during a Friday evening forum in Sacramento’s Oak Park as (from l.) former D.C. Union Official George Walker, former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, and Rhee admirer Richard Whitmire look on.
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) 23 May 2011 — Former Washington D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee told more than 300 parents, teachers, and community members gathered in Oak Park on May 20 that her Students First organization aims to press lawmakers in California and around the United States to rescind laws that require seniority to be a determinant in layoffs of teachers.
Speaking at a monthly meeting of Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Stand Up for Great Schools at the Guild Theater, Rhee said as a Democrat she is disappointed that only Republican governors are pushing the educational reforms that do not doom economically disadvantaged and children of color to the “soft racism of low expectations,” a phrase popularized by former Pres. George W. Bush.
Rhee asserted that critics have tried to make it impossible to talk about teacher quality and seniority without being labeled anti-teacher. She reiterated that a lack of data allowing evaluations on the basis of their students’ performance, coupled with what she called “Last In, First Out (LIFO)” seniority and layoff procedures, makes it impossible to tell which 30,000 teachers are good ones and which 30,000 are poor ones. Rhee noted that she had fired 250 teachers in Washington D.C. as incompetent and had put another 750 teachers on notice that they would be let go the next year if their “performance” didn’t improve. The D.C. district, she said, had slightly more than 4,000 teachers, meaning she had claimed about half were not up to standards. Rhee also championed merit pay, saying it had brought droves of replacements to the D.C. schools.
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) 19 May 2011 – Mac Taylor, the legislature’s nonpartisan advisor, says his greatest concern about Gov. Jerry
Brown’s budget revision is the uncertainty that would come with the legislature and the governor putting tax extension proposals before the voters.
Speaking to reporters during a Sacramento afternoon news conference on May 19, Taylor emphasized that the “biggest concern involves… budgeting that is built on assumptions of what voters will do.” Taylor said the uncertainty would have a significant impact on the state’s ability to issue Revenue Anticipation Notes or RANs, instruments sold to investors to raise cash temporarily until state revenues are collected. Taylor said the state could have to sell about $10 billion in RANs this coming year.
At the same time, he pointed out the problems that would face schools and other entities as they try to budget now without knowing whether some of the proposed funding will disappear before the year is out.
During CTA’s Chapter Presidents Lobby Day on May 18 at the state Capitol, local leaders from around the state pressed lawmakers to support the governor’s updated budget proposal and the plan to extend California’s temporary taxes to provide more money for schools and other vital public services.
(Pictured) Backed by a team of local leaders including CTA Board Member Don Dawson, Jill Low (at photo right) presents a poster to Gabrielle Jackson, a staffer for GOP State Senator Sam Blakeslee. Low told Jackson that parents had brought Monterey teachers the poster, which shows photos of their children who are being harmed by cutbacks in their schools. The parents urged the teachers to use the poster to help secure more fiscal support for public education.
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) 18 May 2011 – Several hundred presidents of local CTA chapters are hard at work in the state Capitol today. They have come to Sacramento to persuade lawmakers to provide the two-thirds’ majority required to pass the governor’s tax extension proposal that would raise billions in additional dollars for public education.
The CTA members are telling their stories of how more than $20 billion worth of budget cuts have decimated their local schools, ballooned class sizes, and eliminated counselors, nurses, and other vital services to their students.
While lawmakers can pass a budget on a simple majority vote, state law requires them to achieve a “super-majority” margin to enact or extend revenues.
During last week’s State of Emergency Mobilization in the Capitol, CTA members sought to help round up the four Republican votes – two in the state Assembly and two in the state Senate – that would provide the two-thirds majority.
In fact, 27 CTA members – including Pres. David A. Sanchez – were arrested outside the offices of the two Republican leaders – Sen. Bob Dutton and Assembly Member Connie Conway – for refusing to leave until the two GOP members agreed to support the tax extension measure and a budget that protects schools.
Instead, the GOP leaders unveiled their own budget proposal that would illegally suspend the state’s Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) and pare another $500 million from public education.
(Above) CTA President David A. Sanchez welcomes the presidents to the Lobby Day and urges them to tell their own stories to Republican and Democratic lawmakers to help them understand the state of emergency created by the education budget cuts.
(Below) Seated at his desk, GOP Sen. Bill Emmerson hears from a group of his teacher constituents, who urge him to support the tax extension and the governor’s budget proposal that would boost school funding by more than $3 billion.
In a move that could pave the way to increased funding for schools, Gov. Jerry Brown has released his updated budget plan that he says will shrink the budget deficit and provide more than $1.6 billion in new revenues for public education, with a total boost for education of $3 billion year over year. He also rejected a recently released Republican budget proposal as something that would put California “back in the hole” with gimmicks and game that would leave an ongoing structural deficit. That GOP plan would result in additional cuts of $4.1 billion to education.
The governor’s proposal to increase school funding follows a full week of activities in the state Capitol and around the state by CTA and its allies as part of the union’s declaration of a State of Emergency for schools. The concerted actions, which included the arrest of CTA President David. A Sanchez and 26 others outside the offices of two Republican leaders, focused on blocking mor education cuts and securing support for the governor’s tax extension proposal.
CTA members have been pressing Republican lawmakers in particular to provide the two votes in the state Senate and two in the Assembly required to approve the tax extension.
The governor told reporters during his Monday morning Capitol news conference that his proposal would boost school funding to $52.4 billion, about $3 billion more than he proposed in January. The governor conceded that schools would still be receiving less than they did in 2007-2008, but he stated that it would take a couple of years to restore funding to that level.
In response to a reporter’s query, Gov. Brown downplayed the possibility of suspending Proposition 98, schools’ minimum funding guarantee. The governor said, “We’ve got to pay our bills on time. It’s not a good example for the state itself to be a scofflaw…cadging from local government and schools….”
The governor said that the rejection of his plan for extending temporary taxes would lead him to plans B and C – but he refused to spell out what those steps would be.
“I’m not going to give the Republicans a roadmap to ruin. I’ve given them a roadmap to success. That’s what the May revision is,” Gov. Brown declared.
The governor said he expected the new budget to be approved by the end of June deadline, and he noted that the ballot measure penalizing lawmakers’ pay if they are late with the budget would likely help. “That could be the equalizer….we may be able to get it done even sooner.”
The governor stated that he has been working hard to secure the total of four Republican votes needed for his spending plan.
“The Republicans I have been talking to know they have to vote for the ballot measure…. I spoke with several of them during the past hour, and I will continue working hard during the next weeks to get the four votes…..“I’m talking to anyone I think of as a plausible vote, and that’s more than four and less than 10,” the governor said.
The governor said the even though some tax extensions would take effect prior to a popular vote, the proposal meets with his campaign pledge: “There are no taxes without a vote of the people – this is a program with a vote of the people. “
Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to release his updated budget proposal at 11 A.M. Monday. The May Revision is the constitutionally required spring budget update that includes revised forecasts of revenues and spending.
The Revision may include two versions – one illuminating what an “all-cuts” budget would look like with another devastating round of cuts to public education and other vital state services and a second one containing a budget balanced by an equal weight of cuts and revenue enhancements. The enhancements would likely take the form of $12.5 billion stemming from an extension of the current temporary state taxes.
Thus far, GOP state lawmakers have been unwilling to provide the two votes needed in each house — the state Senate and the Assembly — to approve the governor’s proposal to extend the state’s temporary taxes.