Sunday, May 30, 2010

The economic consequences of state budget cuts


by Ken Jacobs, Laurel Lucia and T. William Lester May 2010
When it comes to jobs and the economy, not all solutions to California’s budget shortfall are equal. Most measures designed to reduce the deficit will have a depressing effect on employment and economic growth in the state, but the magnitude of that impact will vary significantly depending on which measures are enacted.
 In this brief, we estimate the economic impact of Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2010–2011 budget using IMPLAN 3.0, an industry-standard input-out- put modeling software package. We further compare the economic impacts of these cuts with an alternative approach that mixes spending cuts with targeted revenue increases sufficient to avoid cuts in programs that bring in a federal match.
We estimate that the Governor’s proposed budget would result in a loss of 331,000 full-time equivalent jobs, increasing the unemployment rate by 1.8 percentage points.1 More than half of the jobs lost would be in the private sector. Because many of the jobs lost are part time, the actual number of Californians affected would be much greater. The number of jobs estimated to be lost is much greater than the entire employment growth for the state projected by the Legislative Analyst’s Office for 2011.2

New attempt to create jobs for teachers



New Push Launched for Education Jobs Bill

By Alyson Klein

The presidents of both national teachers' unions joined key lawmakers and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Capitol Hill today to drum up support for legislation that would provide $23 billion to help school districts cope with a looming tidal wave of layoffs.

Supporters say up to 300,000 education jobs-including teachers, support-staff members, and others-may be riding on the latest version of the bill, which relies on a funding mechanism that supporters say is more narrowly targeted than previous education aid under the federal economic-stimulus program.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he plans to introduce the measure as an amendment to the must-pass emergency-spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that his panel is considering tomorrow.

Friday, May 28, 2010

California fails to adequately finance its schools

CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FINANCE LITIGATION
Robles-Wong v. California
Fact Sheet
Overview
• Robles-Wong v. California asks the State of California to fulfill its constitutional
obligation to support our public schools and students. This historic lawsuit was
brought forth by a broad coalition of students, parents, school districts and educational
organizations.
• Education is a fundamental right of every child in California. California’s Constitution
requires a school system that prepares students to become informed citizens and
productive members of society.
• This lawsuit declares that California’s unsound, unstable and insufficient school
finance system is neither aligned with required educational programs nor with student
needs. The amount of funding provided to education is not enough to deliver the
required programs to all students so that they meet the State’s educational goals, and
the funding system causes unequal learning opportunities.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

RE-authorization of ESEA, NCLB


Dear Supporter of a Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA):

We don't expect the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as "No Child Left Behind") to take place this year. 
 
But Congress and the Administration are working on developing a proposal, and many BBA leaders and signatories have been meeting with Senators, Congresspeople, their staffs, and Administration officials to urge more sensible approaches than those we believe are being considered seriously. 
Although each BBA leader and signatory speaks only for him or herself in this advocacy, and may emphasize different aspects of our common program, we thought it would be helpful if we developed suggested "talking points" to which you can refer when you urge the adoption of a Broader, Bolder Approach. 
These are the points (also attached to this e-mail, and available on our website at:http://www.boldapproach.org/20100512_bba_key_points_esea_reauthorization.pdf )
 1. Neither schools nor teachers should be held accountable based primarily on test scores of students. Such accountability can lead to gross misidentification of failing schools and creates incentives to teach to the test, narrow the curriculum, and substitute drill for education.

2. So-called "growth models" that are based on student growth from one year to the next would be an improvement over accountability models based on the comparison of score levels of successive cohorts, but are still flawed. A September to June measure would be an improvement (although could still misidentify schools), but would require federal mandates for twice-annual testing and would create incentives for different kinds of gaming (to depress September scores, for example) if used for accountability purposes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Assembly district 9 - Elect Chris Garland

There is an important election on  June 8, and it is important that you vote.
Assembly District 9. Endorsed:  Chris Garland and Kevin Mc Carty. Sacramento Progressive Alliance
Why vote for Chris Garland?  Its time to shake up the Capitol.
The Sacramento Progressive Alliance and others interviewed each of the major candidates for Assembly District 9, most of the district lies within Sacramento.  This is the seat currently held by Dave Jones.  District 9 has a 55.9 % Democrat, 19.8 Republican, 19.4 % decline to state voter registration.  ( Plus American Independent 2.5%, Green 1%, Libertarian 0.5%, and Peace and Freedom 0.8%).
After considering the major candidates on the issues most important to the Progressive Alliance, we recommend that you vote for either Chris Garland or Kevin Mc Carty.  This post explains why we prefer Chris Garland.  A following post will explain why support Kevin Mc Carty.   All four of the major candidates on the Democratic side were impressive.  We will be able to support anyone of them who wins the primary.
Garland explains his advocacy this way.  “ California’s in trouble.
 Our state budget is in a constant state of crisis, our policy-makers are gridlocked, and vital services are at-risk. Teachers are being laid off, and the promise of quality higher education for all may be a thing of the past.”

Chris Garland is currently the political director of the California Faculty Association. His responses were clearly closest to the perspective of the Progressive Alliance.  Like most of the candidates, he has served in positions as staff within the legislature.  He was deputy director of member services  for the Assembly Speaker’s office from 2005-2007.  We regard this significant legislative experience as valuable.  In this era of term limits, electing a person with prior experience in the legislature allows that person to lead rather than spend the first two years in on-the-job training.
 We regard dealing with the higher education budget crisis (along with that of k-12) as critical.  Of all of the candidates, Chris Garland best understood the crisis of  budgets and higher education in California.
In the last two years California’s  k-12 schools have taken  over a  $16 Billion  cut . California presently ranks  47th  of the states in per pupil spending and last among the states in class size.  Now, the Governor proposes to reduce  k-12 spending by another  $2.4 Billion.  Last year alone, the U.C’s and the CSU campuses have taken over a  $2 billion cut while tuition and fees were increased over 30%.  Classes have been cut, graduation delayed, and  over 2000 faculty dismissed.   CSU tuition has increased by 182%  under Schwarzenegger .  Next year some 40,000 eligible students will be denied access to California universities.  The crisis in k-12 is equally severe as described in Robles-Wong et al. V. State of California (May 2010).  We need an Assemblyperson who will work with communities and labor to save pubic education in California.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Obama, Duncan, and Race to the Top

A chilling article. Pro Duncan.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/magazine/23Race-t.html?pagewanted=all

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Texas Textbooks & California

From a talk which I gave in Odessa, Texas on Feb.25 ,2010. Re; the current textbook conflict. See prior post.

The history of the Chicano /Mexicano people exists, but  the Texas Board of Education has recently debated whether Mex American history to not be very important for the children’s textbooks in Texas. 
This is the way it was described in one report in the Texas Monthly.

“In January, members of the predominantly conservative Texas Board of Education discussed revising the state's social studies curriculum to include highly partisan perspectives on civil rights, the role of government, and American history in general.  Some of the more divisive suggestions range from banning mention of activist and union organizer Cesar Chavez to citing Ronald Reagan's "leadership in restoring national confidence' following Jimmy Carter's presidency."  The Board also discussed instructing students to "describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association."  There were further proposals to reference the United States as a Christian nation with a divine mission in the world.”

The Texas Textbook controversy

Oh, boy.
The Associated Press reports today, March 13, 2010, that, “A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history, and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.”  Apparently, down in Texas, there is a ferocious squabble as to whether students should be taught that Tejanos died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.  There are also some prevailing gold bugs down in Lone Star country that want to be assurred that students learn about the decline in the value of the dollar and that they are aware of the history of America’s abandonment of the gold standard.   The history of hip-hop as a cultural movement is to be excluded, while classification of historic periods will remain to be taught as B.C. and A.D.   So, is this something to get worked up about here?  Is there really anything that is newly controversial about school history curriculums that  Texas has revealed to us in ”three days of impassioned and acrimonious debate”?
In a word – No.
The late Howard Zinn, former professor of political science at Boston University, former activist, and former historian, said that he learned the same history in elementary school that he learned in high school, that he learned in college, and that he learned in graduate school.  The only difference was that, in graduate school, footnotes were included.  Professor Zinn earned his Ph.D. in history at Columbia University.  What Zinn learned later in his work was that there is really little dispute as to what took place in history.   Fact-checking can easily be used to determine whether something actually occurred.  The real issue with the writing of history is omission.   Zinn argued that what is chosen to be left out of history books is as important as to what is chosen to be included.

Legislature fails the schools- lawsuit follows

See prior post.

California has set clear requirements for what schools are expected to teach and what students are expected to learn. The State has failed in its obligation to provide the resources necessary for students to meet the required standards.
• The State’s failure to support the required educational program adversely affects all students. Academic achievement measures show California’s broken school finance system denies students the opportunity to become proficient in the State’s academic standards.
• This lawsuit seeks to remedy the broken school finance system by (1) declaring that it is unconstitutional and (2) requiring state lawmakers to uphold their constitutional duty to design and implement a school finance system that provides all students equal access to the required educational program.

California Education Statistics
Staffing ratios
California’s ranking:
• 49th among all states in student-teacher ratios. (Digest of Education Statistics
[DES], 2007-08)
• 45th in instructional aides. (DES, 2007-08)
• 46th in district officials and administrators. (DES, 2007-08)
• 48th in total school staff. (DES, 2007-08)
• 49th in guidance counselors. (DES, 2007-08)
• 50th in librarians. (DES, 2007-08)
Finances
• California spends $2,131 less per pupil than the national average, ranking the State
44th in the country. (National Education Association [NEA], 2008-09)
• When adjusted for regional cost differences of providing education services (using
a national wage index), California spends $2,856 less per pupil than the national
average, or 47th among all states. (NEA, 2008-09, and National Center for Education
Statistics)
• California spends less per pupil than each of the largest 10 states in the nation –
almost $6,000 less per pupil than New York. (NEA, 2008-09)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lawsuit Challenges California Unconstitutional Education Finance


Historic Lawsuit Challenges California’s Unconstitutional Education Finance System

A historic lawsuit was filed today against the State of California requesting that the current education finance system be declared unconstitutional and that the state be required to establish a school finance system that provides all students an equal opportunity to meet the academic goals set by the State.
The case, Robles-Wong, et al. v. State of California, was filed in the Superior Court of California in Alameda County. Specifically, the suit asks the court to compel the State to align its school finance system—its funding policies and mechanisms—with the educational program that the State has put in place. To do this, plaintiffs allege, the State must scrap its existing finance system; do the work to determine how much it actually costs to fund public education to meet the state’s own program requirements and the needs of California’s school children; and develop and implement a new finance system consistent with Constitutional requirements.
The lawsuit was filed by a broad coalition, including more than 60 individual students and their families, nine school districts from throughout the State, the California School Boards Association (CSBA), California State PTA, and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).
“Filing this lawsuit was a last resort,” said CSBA President Frank Pugh. “Education funding has been in a deteriorating spiral in California for decades. A failure to act now threatens the future of California’s students and the future of our state. The Governor and lawmakers have known for some time that the current school finance system is harming students and they’ve done nothing to remedy the crisis. The $17 billion in cuts to education have only made a dire situation even worse. California’s unstable, unsound and insufficient school finance system is robbing our students of an education.”
“This lawsuit seeks to ensure that the State, the Legislature and the Governor comply with the Constitution and fund and deliver the promised education program to all students in the state,” said Bill Abrams, a partner at the law firm of Bingham McCutchen and counsel for plaintiff students and families. “The Constitution requires that school funding ‘first be set apart’ to meet program demands, and provides that education is a fundamental right and must be made equally available to every child. Too often, this isn’t the case, and the State balances its budget on the backs of its students by cutting or underfunding education programs, and thus prevents schools from meeting its own education standards.”

Schools or prisons?


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Breton 2, Sacramento CTA 0

  But it is only the first inning.
This anti union tirade  by Marcos Bretón on page B-1 of the Bee today, leaves much to be desired.  I will leave aside the argument about Manny Virrael. Others have dealt with that.  And, Breton may even be right. But the rest of the article is lame.
What Breton does not say - we have an economic crisis.  Forty states have budget crises.  Almost all of the school districts in the state have budget crises. What caused this crisis ? It was caused by the greed and avarice of the financial class on Wall Street  and aided by the politicians of both major political parties.
Major banks and corporations looted the economy creating an international meltdown. The major bankers, finance capitalists in the U.S. robbed the bank last year  – and the federal treasury.  The Wall Street crisis crashed into main street.  People lost their jobs and their houses.  When they lost their jobs, they paid less taxes.  So, the schools and the states are in crisis.  Wall Street  took hundreds of billions of dollars .  The crisis was not caused by students, teachers, public employees  nor recipients of social security. 
 Teachers, like all taxpayers, are already paying for this theft.  What Breton does say.   Bretón thinks that teachers  should pay more through forloughs and cuts in benefits.  And, he thinks he knows best.  He inserts his views into the negotiations by publically condemning the teachers union and stirring up – or revealing- this intense teacher bashing exposed in the comments on the story.   Some people, like Steve Poizner, blame immigrants for the economic crisis.  Breton blames teachers unions.  In both cases it is scapegoating rather than looking at the evidence.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Schwarzenneger and school budgets- 2


BURLINGAME – David A. Sanchez, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, issued this statement about the governor’s revised state budget spending proposals released today:

“The governor’s revised budget cuts billions more from our public schools. While the governor this year has vowed to protect public education funding, he is actually proposing to cut another $3 billion from schools. And today, as the governor touted that his main goal is to stimulate California’s economy and to protect jobs, thousands of educators will find out they are being laid off. The governor’s promises are proving to be just contradictions that are misleading and unproductive.

“More than 26,000 California teachers received preliminary pink slips this spring and thousands got the final word today that they will not be coming back to their classrooms in the fall. Last year, 16,000 teachers lost their jobs. Our teachers and students are very clear about what’s happening because our school system is at the breaking point and the cuts are devastating our communities.

California’s public schools and colleges were cut more than $17 billion over the last two years. Today, class sizes are larger, and neighborhood schools have closed their libraries and eliminated arts, music, sports and summer school programs. Our students deserve better.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Schwarzenneger and school budgets

From California Budget Project:

K-12 Education
The May Revision maintains the Governor’s January budget proposal to reduce 2010-11 revenue limit funding by $1.5 billion. Revenue limits provide general-purpose funding for schools. The May Revision also maintains the Governor’s January budget proposal to reduce 2010-11 funding for the K-3 Class Size Reduction Program by $550 million and to reduce revenue limit and categorical funding for school districts and county offices of education (COE) by $206.3 million due to lower cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). The May Revision continues to suspend most K-12 education mandates except for $65 million for mandated behavioral assessment plans, $7.7 million for mandated costs related to interdistrict and intradistrict transfers, and $6.8 million for costs related to the California High School Exit Exam.
6In addition, the May Revision:
Reflects a decrease in local property tax revenues. The May Revision increases funding for school district and COE revenue limits by $1.1 billion in 2009-10 and $447.5 million in 2010-11 to backfill for the loss of local revenues.
Withdraws the January budget proposal that required $300 million of the proposed $1.5 billion reduction to 2010-11 revenue limits be achieved by contracting out administrative functions to the private sector.
Increases funding for school district and COE revenue limits by $31.8 million in 2009-10 and $71.7 million in 2010-11 as a result of increased unemployment insurance and CalPERS costs.

Schwarzenneger and the budget


Schwarzenegger’s budget: Ever deeper into Mississippification By Peter Schrag
If you watched Gov. Arnold d Schwarzenegger’s presentation of his budget proposal last Friday, you’d have learned (again) that the state’s chronic fiscal problems are everybody’s fault but his. 
It’s the legislature’s fault for not making the cuts he asked for in January (even though Schwarzenegger vetoed some of the cuts it did make).
It’s the fault of the federal judges who ruled that some of the cuts enacted last year violated federal law and struck them down.
It’s the fault of an income tax structure too dependent on high income taxpayers and the stock dividends they get in good times and don’t get in lean years.
It’s the unions and the other “special interests” who dominate Sacramento.
It’s the recession. He even made allusions to Greece and Spain.
Nowhere was there any mention of the governor’s first major act on his first day in office in 2003, when he slashed the vehicle license fee, a cut that cost the state about $6 billion a year until the fee was raised a little last year. Nowhere was there mention of the governor’s child care initiative, passed in 2002, that cost the state about $500 million a year, or his strong endorsement of the stem-cell research bonds that cost another $200 to $300 million, much less the borrowing in his prior budget “solutions” that’s added a few billion more to the state’s indebtedness.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Testing and How to Destroy the United States

Interesting essay: Click on the title above to read the entire piece.

How to Destroy the United States
   
Sun Mar 07, 2010 at 12:14:03 PM PDT
To destroy the United States it is first necessary to undermine the popular conception of democracy in the modern world. As long as the citizens feel they have a duty to protect democracy it will be almost impossible to destroy the United States. However, if the citizens can be convinced of the futility of democracy then there will be less opposition to its destruction. So the primary thrust of any attempt to destroy the United States must be to convince the citizenry that their democratic government is the source of their problems.
In addition, you absolutely must suppress any idealistic portrayals of democratic government. When you discredit popular democracy there must be no countervailing effort to convince citizens of the ideals of democracy. For the average citizen this is simple, but for parents of school children that are constantly reminded by their children’s schoolwork of how the struggle for democracy evolved in the United States, it can be problematic.
Thus to destroy the United States it is absolutely crucial to stop the teaching of the fundamental principles of democracy to children. At the same time, it would be helpful to destroy any knowledge of how democracy came to exist in the first place, and that would mean to stop the teaching of the American experience.
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/3/7/843837/-How-to-Destroy-the-United-States

Reactions to the Governor's budget proposals


Jean Ross, California Budget Project
Largely because of the economic downturn, California once again faces a very difficult budget year. But the Governor's May Revision is not the balanced, responsible approach called for at this critical time. It relies too heavily on proposed cuts, threatens the state's economic recovery, and recklessly gambles with our future. It pulls the rug out from under families already struggling with double-digit unemployment rates and the worst economic crisis this country has seen since the Great Depression and would leave the state ill-prepared to compete in an ever more competitive global economy.

Senator Lelan Yee (D)
When you propose to lay off teachers, close domestic violence shelters, and take away critical social services and health care, there is no doubt you have a revenue problem. I have opposed and will continue to oppose all budgets that are balanced on the backs of our students, elderly and working poor. We must claw back tax credits for corporations that abandon California, implement an oil severance tax like all other states, and ensure the wealthy pay their fair share. For too long, we have allowed Republicans to keep taxes off the table. Democrats need to stand strong and say draconian cuts to education and other critical services will not be tolerated.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Steve Poizner campaigns for Tea Party votes in the foothills

And, he gets votes for this in Shingle Springs and the Foothills. Click on the title above to see the talk.
http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/capitolalertlatest/2010/05/red-meat-time-f.html
We  should recognize that distrust of the government is legitimate because on economic issues the government  too often represents the oligarchy.  While we  separate ourselves from those who would respond to the distrust, discontent, and anger with domestic terrorism- such as  the militia movements- the anger itself is legitimate.  However, when  the anger is only focused on the government, and not also on Wall Street and corporate America, then clearly the group is being manipulated.  If the anger  targets racial and ethnic group, or at immigrants,  then they do not understand global economics nor solidarity- and quite likely they are being used.  Our task  is to  develop an  effective anger and resistance .

The Tea Party Activists and their Republican funders promote  conflicts over  issues of immigration,  teachers’ unions, public workers pensions, and big government as substitutes for the  critical  economic problems.  These false choices work, they mobilize, because they seem to offer an explanation – albeit a false one- to the very real economic pain of working people.  Our task is to point out that  the U.S. and eventually world wide financial crisis was caused by the greed and the theft of a few very rich operatives.    The oligarchy caused the unemployment ( not immigrants), the economic losses, the off shoring of production jobs,  the cuts in services to the poor, to families,  and to the unemployed. 

California budget cuts must stop !


As reported in each of the major papers, the Governor’s office is preparing a proposal to “balance” the state budget.  It increases the pain and suffering of the poor, the ill, and the unorganized. Even Schwarzenegger recognizes that these will be terrible, painful, cuts.
The major problem is not the  coming legislative conflicts, it is the deep, agonizing, unpopular cuts being imposed, including  lay offs of sheriffs, teachers, health care workers, child protective services, and the loss of the services which they provided.  Neither the government, nor the legislature  caused these cuts, they were created by the grand theft on Wall Street. The current  economic crisis has forced the cutting of higher education, of k-12 education, and of social welfare systems.
What caused this crisis ? It was caused by the greed and avarice of the financial class and aided by the politicians of both major political parties.
Major banks and corporations looted the economy creating an international meltdown.  Now, they have been rewarded with bail out money.  The crisis was not caused by students, teachers, public employees  nor recipients of social security.   The major bankers, finance capitalists in the U.S. robbed the bank last year  – and the federal treasury.  They took hundreds of billions of dollars – and you and I are being forced to pay for this theft with cuts in jobs and services.
 Over 40 states have severe budget problems caused by the Great Recession and there will be more next year.  In Oklahoma, Nevada, and Arizona, the cuts are more draconian than in California- and these are low benefit states.
The solution ? Make Wall Street Pay. They caused this crisis.  All sale of stocks and derivatives should be taxed 2%.  That would pay for the services we need, and limit  the Casino Capitalism of the rich and well connected.

Monday, May 10, 2010

United Mineworkers President

United Mineworkers President Cecil Roberts speech to the New York State United Teachers Union.

Hedge Funds and Charter Schools

Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! co-host and columnist for
the New York Daily News. Democracy Now! May 7, 2010


AMY GOODMANJuan, before we move on to the Gulf, you
have a very interesting column in the "New York Daily
News" today, an exposé around big banks and charter
schools
.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, Amy, one of the things I've been
trying now for a couple of years is to try to figure
out why is it that so many hedge fund managers, wealthy
Americans, and big banks, Wall Street banks- executives
of Wall Street banks, have all lined-up supporting and
getting involved in the development of charter schools.
I think I may have come across one of the reasons.
There's a lot of money to be made in charter schools,
and I'm not talking just about the for-profit
management companies that run a lot of these charter
schools. It turns out that at the tail end of the
Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new
kind of tax credit called a New Markets tax credit.
What this allows is it gives enormous federal tax
credit
 to banks and equity funds that invest in
community projects in underserved communities and it's
been used heavily now for the last several years for
charter schools. I have focused on Albany, New York,
which in New York state, is the district with the
highest percentage of children in charter schools,
twenty percent of the schoolchildren in Albany attend
are now attending charter schools. I discovered that
quite a few of the charter schools there have been
built using these New Markets tax credits. What happens
is the investors who put up the money to build charter
schools get to basically or virtually double their
money in seven years through a thirty-nine percent tax
credit from the federal government. In addition, this
is a tax credit on money that their lending, so they're
also collecting interest on the loans as well as
getting the thirty-nine percent tax credit. They piggy-
back the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax
credits
 like historic preservation or job creation or
brownfields credits.

The result is, you can put in ten million dollars and
in seven years double your money. The problem is, that
the charter schools end up paying in rents, the debt
service on these loans and so now, a lot fo the charter
schools in Albany are straining paying their debt
service- their rent has gone up from $170,000 to
$500,000 in a year or- huge increases in their rents as
they strain to pay off these loans, these construction
loans
. The rents are eating-up huge portions of their
total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from
the state. One of the big issues is that so many of
these charter schools are not being audited. No one
knows who are the people making these huge windfall
profits as the investors. Often, there are interlocking
relationships between the charter school boards and the
nonprofit groups that organize and syndicate the loans.

And, from the New York Times.

Charter schools and hedge funds
When Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to meet certain members of the hedge fund crowd, seeking donors for his all-but-certain run for governor, what he heard was this: Talk to Joe.
That would be Joe Williams, executive director of a political action committee that advances what has become a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds: charter schools.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Assembly hopeful Roger Dickinson urges county to sue Wall Street



The BEE had an article on May 6, 2010 about a press conference held by Roger Dickinson for Assembly.  This is a response to the article.
The point of view of this article is strange.  Wall street caused the current economic crisis. For evidence see 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, by Johnson and Kwak.   Or, you can watch the current Economic Crisis Investigation on CSPAN co- Chaired by  Phil Angelides.  This crisis almost brought the world economy to its knees.  Locally, the crisis produced unemployment, a severe reduction  in tax receipts, cuts in Sheriff patrols, closing health clinics, clinics for the mentally disabled, Child Protective Services, and others. 
 Dickinson criticized the Wall Street role in the crisis.   You bring out spokespersons for the rating agencies – that is spokespersons for Wall Street, to claim that Dickenson’s threat to sue might hurt Sacramento’s credit rating.  Excuse me!
Sacramento is borrowing $134 million and paying interest on it because of the economic crisis.  Now  the debt officer claims that criticizing Casino Capitalism on Wall Street is the problem!  No, the problem is the economic crisis.  And, the pain will last for several years. 

No one disputes that Sacramento  county's revenues are drastically down. There has been a  nearly 30 percent drop in sales tax for Sacramento County over the past five years. Property tax funds an even larger share of county budgets, and plummeting real estate values have meant even less income for counties to pay their bills.
During the current fiscal year, Sacramento's assessed property values dropped by 6.4 percent, and the outlook is for a continued decline into next year. And, the  ongoing budget-crisis impacts from the state also caused by the financial recession, which cut funding for counties, yet still requires them to provide costly programs. The reality is that almost all of California's counties are facing significant budget shortfalls resulting in cuts in programs, services and staffing. 
We need to look for ways to Make Wall Street Pay .  One possibility is to charge a 2% tax on all sales of derivatives and CDO’s.  I pay almost 8% sales tax when I buy anything in the county.  That pays for police, fire, utilities, and services.  But, when the Wall Street Casino sells billions in mortgage backed derivatives, they pay less than 1% tax.  If they would have to pay a tax on their sales, it would slow down the casino.  And, it would provide funds for the police protection, health clinics, Child Protective Services, and the many services which we are losing.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Defunding public education is stupid.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

One of the precious few points of consensus in our polarized land is that we need to do a better job educating our kids. But consensus, apparently, gets you only so far. In red states and blue, in urban, suburban and rural districts with unionized and non-unionized teachers, the story is the same: The worst recession since the 1930s is clobbering the nation's schools.
In Indiana and Arizona, the legislatures have eliminated free all-day kindergarten. In Kansas, some school districts have gone to four-day weeks. In New Jersey, 60 percent of school districts are reducing their course offerings. In Albuquerque, the number of school district employees is down 10 percent. In the D.C. suburbs, Maryland's Prince George's and Virginia's Prince William counties have increased their class sizes.
A recent American Association of School Administrators survey of 453 school districts in 45 states shows how bad things are. One-third of the districts are looking at eliminating summer school this year. Fourteen percent are considering going to four-day weeks (last year, just 2 percent did). Fully 62 percent anticipate increasing class size next year, up from 26 percent in the current school year. The teacher-to-pupil ratio, the AASA says, will rise from 15 to 1 to 17 to 1.
Nationwide, estimates of teacher layoffs range from 100,000 to 300,000, with some experts pegging the most likely number nearer the high end. Layoffs are likely to be hardest on the youngest teachers -- "probably the most tech-savvy teachers we have," says Rep. George Miller, the California Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee. Nor do many talented, young people elect to enter the profession, he adds, when the profession is shrinking.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Parents give report card: California Schools Fail Students of Color


Students and Parent Groups Give Report Card on California Schools From 2000 – 2010


WHAT:    On the west steps of the California Capitol Building. students, parents, and allies will mount their defense of a public school system that has been under attack for the last decade.   Instead of receiving grades, theCampaign for Quality Education will instead grade California’s schools from 2000 – 2010.  Based on data, personal experience, and community surveys, the CQE will be grading California’s schools in the following categories:  Funding, Graduation Rates, College and Career Readiness, Teacher Quality, Facilities/Materials, and Accountability.

With the May California budget revise underway, students and parents from across California—Long Beach, Los Angeles, Orange County, the Central Valley, San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland—will also speak out against the $17 billion cuts to education over the last two years, back legislation that supports accountability and revenue creation, and make delegation visits with their local legislators.  With immigrant students, low-income students, and students of color a majority of California’s schools, the CQE will stress that their needs are California’s needs.
This event is timed to coincide with Brown v. Board.  Fifty-six years after the landmark Supreme Court case was supposed to desegregate schools, California graduates less than 60% of its black and brown students from high school. 

WHEN:        Tuesday, May 11, 2010        10:30am    Speakout
                                                                1:00pm      Legislative Visits

WHERE:    State Capitol Building (West Steps), Capitol Avenue, L Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

WHY:    “We are beyond cuts to the education budget,” said Melia Franklin, Executive Director of Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN).  “This is an amputation and California’s future will pay for this ‘Lost Generation’ for years to come.  We come as parents and students of color, the people most affected by this Crisis in Priorities, to defend education and include our voice in solving this crisis."

For more information or to join us, please call Paul Tran, Communications Director at Californians for Justice, at (562) 951-1015 or email him atpaul@caljustice.org

Parents and school reform


By Kido
A funny thing happened on the way to education reform:  No one really talked to the parents.
That’s why this May 11, as the anniversary of Brown v. Board approaches, I’m going to Sacramento to speak to my elected officials, the people who are supposed to represent me and my children.
I’m going as part of the Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN) and the Campaign for Quality Education (CQE).  And in a role reversal, we’re going to give California grades on its public school system over the last decade.  The theme for our visit is “M.I.A.:  California Ditching Schools from 2000 – 2010” and as expected the grades in Funding, Graduation Rates, and College and Career Readiness are failing.
As a parent of two students who went to school in Oakland and Berkeley, I’ve seen firsthand the decline of public schools.  In fact, from the implementation of the California High School Exit Exam in 2002 to the $17 billion in education cuts from 2008 – 2010 and a dozen other policies that have disproportionately and adversely affected students of color, you could call the last decade an attack on education.
From 2000 – 2010, as our schools became more diverse, California ditched schools.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The California budget and school budgets


Californians hoping for an easier budget year need to buckle in and brace themselves: This isn't going to be that year. State tax collections, which had shown signs of recovery, appear to have slowed to a discouraging crawl. Clearly, they won't erase this year's $18.9 billion budget hole – a shortfall so large it's roughly equal to the amount California spent last year on prisons,community colleges, and the California State University and University of California systems combined.
Yet while the solutions won't come easy, priorities should. As policymakers tackle another shortfall in a still-sputtering economy, they should support the public structures that have long been the backbone of our economic prosperity – our world-class universities, community colleges and schools – and help those Californians hardest hit by the economic downturn. To do that, they must choose a balanced approach over ideological rigidity.
Why is California facing yet another budget gap? California faces chronic challenges – an outdated tax system and a two-thirds vote requirement for passing a budget and any tax increase – that spell trouble even when the economy is strong. Tax cuts enacted over the past 15 years cost the state more than $10 billion in 2008-09 and mean that California doesn't bring in enough revenue to support its schools, universities and other public services even when times are good.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Rhee, budgets, and "school reform"

Rhee, smoke and mirrors in the D.C. schools budget
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s mantra is performance and accountability, and more performance and more accountability.
She is, in fact, getting ready to judge teachers under her new IMPACT evaluation system, and, presumably, will lop off, figuratively, the professional heads of those who don’t score high enough. That’s accountability in action.
But what about Rhee’s own performance?
To look at the unnecessary and damaging mess over the proposed contract that she negotiated over two-plus years with the teachers union is to wonder whether she could pass an evaluation as tough as the one she set for teachers.
Reaching a contract with the teachers after years of painful negotiations was seen by many as excellent sign that Rhee, and the teachers union, were both able to make painful concessions. Rhee, with her take-no-prisoners, I-am-always-right style, saw the value of compromise.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Deficit and our children: Some facts please

The Deficit and Our Children: Just the Facts


Dean Baker
Truthout, April 26, 2010

This is deficit-fest week with President Obama’s deficit commission scheduled to have their big public kickoff on Tuesday, followed by an all-day affair sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Institute the next day. If the deficit hawks succeed, everyone should be really really scared about the deficit by the end of the week and just dying to cut Social Security and Medicare for the sake of our grandchildren.

While there will be many facts about the debt and deficit tossed out at these gala events, there are some important tidbits of information that are likely to go unmentioned. So, courtesy of billionaire investment banker Peter G. Peterson (not) we bring these facts to you here.
  1. Under any plausible set of projections, our children and grandchildren will enjoy far higher standards of living than we do today. On average, real hourly compensation is projected to rise by at least 1.2 percent a year. This means that workers in the year 2040 will enjoy compensation levels that on average are more than 40 percent higher than what workers receive today. This means that even if they paid hugely higher taxes, our children and grandchildren will have far more after-tax income than we do today.

    There is a problem of inequality so that most workers may not share in this income growth. Due to the growth of inequality, most workers have seen little improvement in living standards over the last three decades. If the trend towards growing inequality continues, then workers in 2040 may not be much better off than workers today, but that is an issue of intra-generational inequality, not inter-generational inequality. Fixing inequality would cause us to focus on issues like trade policy, the ability of workers to join unions and taxpayer subsidies to the financial sector, not budget deficit.
  2. The reason that the country is projected to face enormous deficits in the future is our broken health care system. We pay more than twice as much per person for our health care as people in Canada, Germany and other wealthy countries. This gap is projected to grow even larger in future decades. We have little obvious benefit from this additional spending, since people in all these countries have longer life expectancies than we do. If our per person health care costs were comparable to those in other countries then our budget projections would show huge surpluses, not deficits.

Economics: The issue is jobs


Keeping the focus on jobs
In a week that saw growing concern over the federal deficit, EPI stressed that the country's first priority must be job creation.
Deficit reduction begins with getting people back to work
"The large deficits of the last couple of years are largely a result of the recession, which has dramatically reduced tax receipts and increased the need for many government services," EPI President Lawrence Mishel said in a statement on April 27, issued ahead of the first meeting of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
"The first step toward reducing the deficit, therefore, is getting Americans back to work. It is shameful to permit concerns about the deficit to stop much-needed investments in job creation at a time when so many Americans want and need a job."
 
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