As was said over and over at this blog, credit crunch weasels and cash sluts are the gift that keep on giving. After blowing up the economy and gorging themselves on big, fat, and sassy bonuses, they can look out over their ‘Masters of the Universe” world and see teacher layoffs. Alyson Klein is reporting in Education Week about recent remarks made Secretary of Education Duncan. In Duncan Urges New Aid to Save Education Jobs Klein reports:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today urged Congress to pass new aid to preserve education jobs. He testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that deals with education spending on the same day the panel’s chairman introduced a bill that would provide $23 billion for that purpose.
The legislation offered by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would be modeled on the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. That fund was included in the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic-stimulus measure approved by Congress last year. The money could be used for compensation and benefits to help districts hold on to existing employees and to hire new staff members to provide early-childhood, K-12, or postsecondary services. It could also be used for on-the-job training for “education-related careers.”
Secretary Duncan’s public support for such aid marks the first time the Obama administration has explicitly called for new federal funding to help schools weather the continuing economic problems facing states and school districts….
“It is brutal out there,” Mr. Duncan told reporters after his testimony. “It is really scary. We’re seeing massive layoffs around the country.”
The ARRA included up to $100 billion for education. But the law only covers fiscal 2009 and 2010, so states and districts are bracing for a major fiscal squeeze—the so-called “funding cliff”—when those dollars dry up. Districts are considering a range of measures, including eliminating summer school programs, reducing staff, trimming benefits, and even shortening the school year.
In December, the House of Representatives approved a measure that would also allocate $23 billion in job aid to schools, but the Senate has yet to consider such legislation.
The House measure also includes $4.1 billion for school facilities, an issue that Mr. Harkin has championed. But he said facilities funding would not be in his version of the bill. Sen. Harkin said in an interview that, while he isn’t “giving up” on the idea of more aid for school modernization, he wants to keep the focus of this package on jobs.
Working With Congress
Following his testimony, Mr. Duncan told reporters that he would like to see Congress pass an education jobs package in May, so that school districts could count on the aid as they work out their budgets for the next school year. He said he wasn’t sure if the $23 billion that Sen. Harkin is proposing would be sufficient, but he called it “a good start.”
Sen. Harkin agreed that Congress needs to act quickly, saying the measure “can’t wait until August” when many teachers would already have been put out of work.
“The number of pink slips for educators for educators could easily, easily, top 100,000,” Mr. Harkin said in his opening statement at the hearing. “Job cuts of this magnitude would, of course, have a devastating impact on families throughout the country.”
Given the dire economic situation of many local units of government something should be done to prevent a disruption of the teacher corps and the sacrifice of a generation of kids because education quality has been reduced.
Barbara Martinez, in the WSJ article, Teacher Seniority Rules Challenged writes:
Declining state revenues, which result from the country’s economic turmoil and high unemployment, only increase the probability of more large-scale teacher layoffs ahead, said Marguerite Roza, a professor at the University of Washington’s College of Education.
“We would expect that education jobs will be hit harder in 2010,” Ms. Roza said. “Given last year’s layoff trends, we should expect even more layoffs this year.”
Parents in some school districts are beginning to organize over the issue. In Seattle last year, parents started asking, “Why is my great teacher being laid off while this teacher, who everybody knows is not a good teacher, doesn’t get laid off?” said Venus Velazquez, a parent who said she is one of dozens attempting to remove the seniority protection from the next teacher contract…
“We don’t want to go back to the ’50s or ’60s, when people were laid off because of the color of their skin or because a woman was pregnant,” said Glenn Bafia, executive director of the Seattle Education Association, a teachers union.
Mr. Bafia said poor-performing Seattle teachers need to be encouraged to leave teaching through an administrative process. “That’s the principal’s responsibility. If the principal refuses to do their job, that’s an issue,” he said. When it comes to layoffs, “seniority is the only objective criteria there is out there.”
For the unions, the pushback is in some cases coming from people who consider themselves liberal and pro-union. “I consider myself a union supporter, but I don’t support the seniority system,” said Lynnell Mickelsen of Minneapolis, who is organizing a community group to oppose the main use of seniority in layoffs.
In a shrinking school system, which has resulted in the loss of 1,300 teacher jobs since 2001, “terrific teachers have been laid off, and [some of those remaining] are depressingly, relentlessly mediocre,” Ms. Mickelsen said. “People are so frustrated about this….”
Aside, from the wrenching dislocation of layoffs, the question of who gets laid off and what is the process and the procedure for a layoff?
Recently, the Washington State Legislature completed round one of a budget process that will probably extend out several years as state revenues ebb and flow. The legislature adjourned the special session thinking that they had stuck a finger in the dike, for the moment. Deborah Feldman of KING5 News reported about some of the layoff fears of some Washington teachers. In Schools Fear Layoffs as State Lawmakers Decide the Budget Feldman reports:
Will it be bad — or horribly bad? That’s the question some school districts are asking as they wait for lawmakers to announce the state budget and their decision regarding school levies.
The Lake Washington School District faces the possibility of major teacher layoffs. The school district includes the communities of Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish, and with 24,000 students, is the sixth largest school district in the state.
But this is one school district that, depending on how lawmakers rule, may face losing up to seven percent of their budget and as many as 100 of its teachers.
Fourth grade teacher Carol Woodard has taught at Redmond’s Dickenson elementary school for 16 years. The past several have been particularly stressful as the district absorbed a $7.7 million budget cut last year and a failed bond measure this year.
“We are dealing on bare bones as it is,” she said.
But now, the situation is getting dire. Depending on how lawmakers rule on the state budget and school levy legislation, this school district could lose anywhere from a few million dollars, to $15 million out of its budget, meaning almost certain teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and fewer athletic opportunities.
“Teachers worry, especially our new teachers, about ‘Am I going to be able to pay my mortgage? Am I going to be able to pay my bills?'” said Woodard.
“Olympia really holds all the cards right now,” said Lake Washington Schools Superintendent Chip Kimball.
Despite some of the affluent neighborhoods in the district, Kimball explains Lake Washington schools are funded 263rd out of 295 districts in the state. He says in the worst case scenario: The district may have to lay off as many as 100 teachers.
“It’s interesting because four years ago, a couple million dollars felt like a disaster, and today it feels like a gift,” said Kimball.
Since it’s likely the Legislature will extend its session, there will likely be a few more weeks before this and other school districts learn how deep the cuts will be. Once they know their budget, there will be a series of community meetings to figure out what programs and positions will be cut.
See, Teacher Layoffs Looming, Thank You Credit Crunch Weasels See, also Stimulus Money is Running Out, Now What? , Update: Stimulus Money is Running Out, Now What? and It’s About Having a Good School in Every Neighborhood, Stupid
In all honesty, I don’t know where the money will come from to save thousands of teachers from all across the country from losing their jobs and preventing a generation of kids from receiving a poorer education than they should have. It is too bad that we have the best congress money can buy and so much $$$$ is spent on pork and earmarks, but in a time of economic meltdown, the leaders need to get serious about delivering on basic needs.
Dr. Wilda says this about that. ©