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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/24/10

Destroying Public Education in America: Part II

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Addressing a Chamber of Commerce audience on March 1, he defended firing the entire Central Falls, Rhode Island High School teaching and support staff for rejecting demands they work overtime without pay - signaling what's happening nationwide as states deal with budget problems by raising taxes and cutting jobs, including mass teacher-support staff layoffs.


(Note: Central Falls High teachers and staff will keep their jobs under a May 15 union-negotiated agreement, forcing them to accept demands as bad or worse than ones they rejected. Included are a longer school day, a new teacher evaluation process, up to 10 days of mandatory summer "professional development," elimination of strict seniority guidelines, one weekly hour of provided tutoring, a "streamlined" collective bargaining arrangement, and dropping the lawsuit challenging their February firings. The settlement shows what teachers and staff face nationwide, especially when unions side with school boards, not their members.)


Facing a persistently huge budget deficit (over $26 billion as of April 2010), California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just announced his latest austerity program after earlier spending and staff cuts, and revenue enhancements. Besides other vital social services, it includes a freeze on public education, including for K-12, community colleges and universities. Earlier measures included layoffs, increased class sizes, University of California voluntary time off without pay and furloughs as an option becoming reality, given the state's fiscal challenges through mid-decade or longer.


Strapped California cities are as hamstrung with budget shortfalls. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District, facing a $640 million gap, voted to lay off over 5,200 teachers, support staff and management. Overall, 22,000 state teachers are affected, more likely to follow.


At around $13 billion, Illinois' per capita budget deficit is worse than California's, forcing lawmakers to make hard choices as they deal with the FY 2011 state budget. Last winter, payments to multiple state agencies were suspended, including the University of Illinois owed over $436 million in unpaid bills, $125 million owed Southern Illinois University, and $62 million to Northern Illinois University.


As a result, over 11,000 faculty and administrators were furloughed for mandated unpaid 10-day periods through mid-June. Hiring and wage freezes followed, endemic throughout the state that's effectively bankrupt like California, Michigan and others at a time conditions are worsening, not improving, so more painful measures are coming.


Last March, state schools superintendent Christopher Koch warned Senate appropriation committee members that the proposed FY 2011 Board of Education budget will require another 13,000 layoffs, an estimate he called conservative as one-fourth of state schools hadn't submitted expected revenue losses, their numbers going up, not down.


For starters, it's why 17,000 jobs are affected. According to state budget director David Vaught, "This is the reality budget. This is what's really happening" with no choice but to enact draconian cuts and tax increases, $1.4 billion from education expected, an 11% decrease besides another $1 billion the state owes to schools.


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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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