Schools face big budget holes as stimulus runs out

Discussion in 'Economics' started by S2007S, Feb 14, 2010.

  1. S2007S


    Schools face big budget holes as stimulus runs out

    By TERENCE CHEA (AP) – 6 hours ago

    SAN FRANCISCO — The nation's public schools are falling under severe financial stress as states slash education spending and drain federal stimulus money that staved off deep classroom cuts and widespread job losses.

    School districts have already suffered big budget cuts since the recession began two years ago, but experts say the cash crunch will get a lot worse as states run out of stimulus dollars.

    The result in many hard-hit districts: more teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, smaller paychecks, fewer electives and extracurricular activities, and decimated summer school programs.

    The situation is particularly ugly in California, where school districts are preparing for mass layoffs and swelling class sizes as the state grapples with another massive budget shortfall.

    The crisis concerns parents like Michelle Parker in San Francisco, where the school district is preparing to lay off hundreds of school employees and raise class sizes because it faces a $113 million budget deficit over next two years.

    "I'm worried they're not going to have the quality education that's going to make them competitive in a global society," said Parker, who has three kids in district elementary schools.

    Around the country, state governments are cutting money for schools as they grapple with huge budget gaps triggered by high unemployment, sluggish retail sales and falling real estate prices. A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 41 states face midyear budget shortfalls totaling $35 billion.

    "The states are facing a dismal financial picture," said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy.

    The Obama administration's $787 billion federal stimulus package provided roughly $100 billion for education, including $54 billion to stabilize state budgets. In October the White House said the stimulus created or saved 250,000 education jobs.

    But many states have used most of their stimulus money, leaving little to cushion budget cuts in the coming fiscal year.

    Experts say the looming cuts could weaken the nation's public schools, worsen unemployment, undermine President Obama's education goals and widen the achievement gap between students in rich and poor districts.

    Wealthier communities are filling school budget gaps with local tax increases and aggressive fundraising, but could worsen inequality and undermine the larger system for paying for public schools, said John Rogers, who heads the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

    In Michigan, which has the nation's highest unemployment rate, school districts lost 2 percent of their state money this year and could lose another 4 percent next year because of a projected government shortfall of $1.6 billion. Most of more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money is gone.

    Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm has proposed an incentive program to entice about 39,000 public school employees to retire, but that plan has been criticized by the state's largest teachers union.

    "Our districts don't know what the next step is," said Don Wotruba, deputy director with the Michigan Association of School Boards.

    In Washington state, school districts that lost $1.7 billion in state money over the past two years are bracing for another round of cuts as lawmakers try to plug a $2.8 billion state deficit.

    Seattle Public Schools, the state's largest district, plans to lay off nonunion staff, freeze hiring, create more efficient bus routes and increase class sizes further to close an expected budget shortfall of $24 million.

    In Florida, public schools are being squeezed by state budget cuts and an unexpected increase in student enrollment, including an influx of Haitian students in the aftermath of Haiti's devastating earthquake.

    Districts have been coping by closing schools during breaks, cutting energy costs and changing transportation routes, but the next round of cuts is expected to hit classrooms.

    "We're at a point now where you just can't stretch that rubber band any further," said Bill Montford, CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

    In California, school districts have already laid off thousands of teachers, increased class sizes and slashed academic programs.

    But state officials are warning the worst is yet to come because the state has already handed out most of its $6 billion in stimulus money.

    Per-pupil spending for K-12 schools fell 4 percent last year and would be slashed another 8 percent under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for 2010-2011, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

    "It's cataclysmic. It hasn't been seen since the Great Depression," said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "Now you're talking about sizable layoffs and further increases in class sizes."

    More districts are expected to look like Vallejo City Unified School District, which has laid off most of its middle school guidance counselors and no longer offers music or art in elementary school. Last year it laid off 60 of its 860 teachers and raised K-3 class sizes from 20 to 28 students, and officials are considering more layoffs and even bigger class sizes this year, said Christal Watts, who heads the teachers union.

    Lori Peck, a first-grade teacher at Vallejo's Patterson Elementary School, said the larger class size means she can no longer give her students the individual attention they need.

    "I feel like my class in general is further behind where they should be," Peck said. "My concern is they don't reach the standards by the end of the year."

    In San Francisco, Superintendent Carlos Garcia said he's worried the cuts will reverse the district's progress in narrowing the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian classmates.

    "These cuts hurt some of our poorest and neediest kids," Garcia said. "The decisions that school boards and superintendents have to make pretty much go against the grain of everything we believe in."
  2. Lethn


    It's sad that countries like America will happily cut down the budgets for health care and education to the bearest minimum but they will always fight tooth and nail when it comes to funding their stupid wars.
  3. Good. Hopefully they will do away with public schools and let people keep the money they spend in property taxes to send their kids to private schools.
  4. the1


    You took the words right out of my mouth. How much better off would the country be if some of that $600B+ of the defense budget were spent on health care and education? The Banks own the US and as long as that is the case money will be spent where Banks can earn the most profit. It's in the Bank's best interest to keep the US in permanent debt.

  5. The Education system is a complex problem and teachers are only a part of the problem or solution.

    Having a Mom whom taught in public schools for 36 years I have seen both sides. She was fortunate, she taught in a rich area. You know what most of the kids she had were motivated because the came from motivated parents. She even had a couple of famous kids. Sean Green from the Dodgers and Matt Lillard were in her math classes. A number of her students were from immigrant families. They worked very hard studying Geometry in 8th grade. Their kids didn't play a bunch of video games. The PTA all raised whatever monies needed to get the kids whatever they needed. Towards the end of her career they opened up the district. Now kids, whom couldn't speak English well from the poor area were integrated and everyone suffered. She could no longer teach as much or as well because communication was a major problem and they often had disciplinary issues.

    As her son, we lived in middle class area which has an mediocre educational system. I went to private school until I was in 4th grade. I tested 12th grade reading level. She couldn't afford to send me to private school anymore so I went to public. My educational skills went down hill. The kids I started hanging around with weren't as motivated and frankly I wasn't either. Remember I had a math teacher at home and I was a C student in math. Because I didn't like math and had a bad attitude about it. I always excelled at liberal arts, getting A's and B's.

    Now before you call me a prejudice, my Step Mom taught ESL and English at the same time in the poor school district. She said most of her kids came from families that were here illegally, didn't speak English, or grammatically correct Spanish for that matter, she was fluent in Spanish too. A large number of Mexicans don't go to school past the 4th grade, this info comes from my Mexican Spanish teacher in college, that immigrated legally in the 50's. They have to quit and help support their families.

    If you look at the amount of money we spend per student compared to the rest of the world, it's considerably more and yet we are low in the standings. Look it up if you don't believe me. One of the reasons I moved to Douglas County, CO is the school district is highly rated. North of here, Cherry Creek is rated as one of the best in the nation. John Elway lives there and they get whatever they want. Their kids come from families of winners and motivated ppl. with money.

    So what does this all mean. We have become lazy. We have dumbed down our kids, in some cases, to integrate kids whom can't even speak the language of the nation well. Schools are motivated to pass them because they receive money for ever kid in school.

    Lastly, being married to a European, I am amazed that there is no vocational track from kids that aren't motivated to study . Some of the greatest car mechanics don't care about Geometry or anything above a basic education. In Europe its Gymnasium for smart kids and trade school for everyone else. Society needs car mechanics and hair stylists just like they do rocket scientists.
  6. clacy


    The public school system in many areas are black holes and more money is not the answer.
  7. I really believe putting kids back in coal mines isn't a terrible idea. Of course, I'm being a bit extreme and what I really mean is that employment should open up. Totally ludicrous that the summer job situation is now handled by illegal immigrants.
  8. #10     Feb 14, 2010