Thursday, June 30, 2011

Legislature and budget put CSU at risk

Faculty Say Budget Cuts Put Quality of Education in Peril

Essential Skills May be Jeopardized by Rapidly Deteriorating Situation

LOS ANGELES – The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA released two reports about the devastating effects of state budget cuts on the quality of education that faculty at the California State University (CSU) campuses across the state are able to deliver to their students. The reports find that many professors in the CSU system feel that the cutbacks already implemented, coupled with the substantial cuts projected, put the quality of a CSU education in a rapid spiral downward. The studies reveal that faculty are extremely concerned, that the students are losing out, and that their learning experience is significantly undermined by the fiscal crisis.

Taken together, the two reports note the succession of cuts sustained by the CSUs over the years, and the additional budget cuts set for the system, have the ability to critically change the mission of the educational system with long-term implications for the system’s welfare. CSU is the largest system of higher education in California and is the key to mobility for young people in our state, with particular importance for students of color. The CSU is a huge network of 23 universities that provides the greatest amount of BA level of education in the state and educates a substantially larger group of Latino and African American students than the UCs do. Many CSU students are first generation college students struggling to get an education in difficult times. There is substantial research showing that a great number of middle class jobs, and incomes that go along with them, are available to college graduates only.

The first study, Faculty Under Siege: Demoralization and Educational Decline in the CSU, by CRP co-director, Gary Orfield, is based on the responses of more than 400 faculty members who responded to an electronic survey from across the CSU system.  The survey was emailed to a random sample of faculty by Civil Rights Project researchers.  Obtaining responses from all levels of faculty at many campuses, this survey offered a view from a large group of faculty working at many campuses. 

This is a tough budget; CBP

The California Budget Project, a nonpartisan public policy research group, released the following statement from Executive Director Jean Ross today in response to the budget agreement approved by the Legislature last night:

"This is a very tough budget for families and communities across California. The new spending plan includes deep reductions to critical public programs and institutions. These cuts will make it more difficult for young Californians to get the college degree they need to get ahead in the job market, make it harder for kids and families to obtain basic health care, and scale back the social safety net at a time when the economy is still struggling.

"We applaud some components of this budget, such as efforts to rein in ineffective redevelopment agencies and improve collection of sales tax owed on purchases made online from out-of-state retailers, and the decision to drop the costly sale of state office buildings.

"Still, it is deeply disappointing that the approved budget does not reflect a balanced approach that combines additional revenues with spending reductions to move the budget toward balance. Unfortunately, this goal will likely prove elusive without a change to budget rules that allow a handful of legislators to block passage of a spending plan that reflects the priorities of a majority of Californians. Our state must make the public investments needed to create a healthy private sector and promote broad-based economic opportunity."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Republicans won the California Budget battle today

The Republican minority won the California budget battle.
California is a Democratic controlled state; in the Senate there are 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans, in the Assembly there are 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans, the Governor and most state offices are Democrats.
In spite of these majorities, the Republicans won the budget battle of 2011.  They got a cut in the sales tax by 1 %, and a cut in the vehicle license fee.  The result will be further cuts in the Univ. of California, further cuts in the California State University system, and further cuts ( called deferrals) in the K-12 schools.
California is presently 47th. out of the 50 states in per pupil expenditures, we are among the very poor in funding our schools.  In prior years, as described by the California Budget project, “Lawmakers cut the overall annual funding level for K-12 public schools by $6.3 billion, from $50.3 billion in 2007-08 to $44.1 billion in 2009-10.3 Lawmakers cut schools’ general purpose dollars as well as funds earmarked for specific school programs, often referred to as categoricals.”
What remains?  The proposed budget uses overly generous estimates of future tax incomes.  If the projects fall short, there will be mandated further cuts to the universities and to k-12 education.
By imposing this mostly cuts budgets, the economic crisis flows down to produce cuts in police, fire protection and local budgets.
The Democratic leadership will not admit the truth.  They lost.  Jerry Brown claimed he could negotiate with reasonable Republicans.  He failed.
The school budget crisis was not caused by the Democrats.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Budget Deficit Hysteria

Currently the Republicans are preventing an extension of the national debt limit.  They demand deep budget cuts first.  In refusing to extend the national debt, they are imposing a precarious economic crisis.

Budget Deficit Hysteria: A Right-Wing Ploy to Defund Vital Government Social Programs

The Boys Who Cried Debt: The Case Against Cuts
Joseph M. Schwartz
Republicans and conservative Democrats are whipping up public hysteria about the debt ceiling and the size of the federal deficit to justify cutting social programs that benefit the middle and working class. These scare tactics are hypocritical because conservatives militantly pushed for these same cuts when the federal budget was in surplus during the Clinton administration. The United States is not broke. The long-term deficit problem has not been caused by wasteful social spending, as the right contends, but by conservatives’ thirty-year project of starving federal, state and local governments of revenue via tax cuts for the affluent and for corporations. As conservative activist Grover Nordquist quipped during the Reagan era, the goal of the right is to reduce the size of government and drown it in the bathtub. Of course, the “deficit problem” can readily be fixed without cutting Social Security or Medicare if we enact government policies that force the rich and corporations to pay their fair share in taxes and that curtail wasteful “defense” spending.
The Republican leadership never tells the public that well over half of the deficit spending from 2008-11 has nothing to do with the Obama administration’s policies. Rather, it is due to the lost revenue from the Bush tax cuts and excessive military spending, including $170 billion per year in “off-budget” expenditures on the unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stimulus spending and the bailout of financial institutions make up another 30 percent of the deficit spending of that period, with tax revenue shortfalls due to the recession constituting the remaining 20 percent. Much of these funds will be recovered if and when economic growth resumes. In contrast, drastic cuts to spending on vital social services will only prolong the recession. 1
If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling in early August, the federal government will immediately be unable to pay 30 percent of its bills, including Social Security and Medicare payments. The United States Treasury has never defaulted on bond payments, and it probably won’t this summer. But even a brush with default could send the global economy into a tailspin that might make the Great Recession look trivial. But Republicans and conservative Democrats are willing to play with fire because they want to use the threat of default to justify cutting government spending on basic social services.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Please test us too

S. Krashen

The US Department of Education is planning the most massive and expensive testing program ever seen on the planet, far exceeding the already unacceptable level of testing demanded by NCLB. 

The Department of Education will require, as before, summative testing at the end of the academic year, but will also require testing several times during the academic year (interim testing), and the plans include the option of pre-testing in the fall to be able to measure growth during the school year.  

The Department will, as before, test students in math and reading, but is also encouraging testing other subjects as well, and the National Science Council is eager to cooperate, recommending new standards and tests in science ("Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics," National Science Council, 2011).

All this is in response to a STEM crisis that may or may not exist (e.g. David Berliner, in Pereyra et. al. (Eds), PISA Under Examination. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.)

New York: Budget agreement prevents teacher lay offs

Budget deal removes teacher layoff threat

An agreement reached by New York City and the UFT will ensure that no New York City public school teacher will be laid off in the next  year, Mayor Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced on June 24.
The agreement with the UFT includes financial savings to the city generated by redeployment of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool and a one-year suspension of study sabbaticals, along with additional resources from the City Council and the Department of Education.
The agreement forestalls the possibility – raised by Mayor Bloomberg in both the January Financial Plan and the Executive Budget  in May – that the city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 would require the layoffs of more than 4,000 teachers.

Friday, June 24, 2011

  Paul Karrer,                             How Did We Get Here?

 The public has gone from venerating teachers to vilifying them  .How did things get to this  state of affairs?
Answer – a confluence of impacts.
   1. The influence of those who reject public education on religious grounds. Those who say “government” is the problem.  Many who hold this belief system despise science, evidential revelation, and secularism. Quite simply they “believe” the world is 6000 years old and they reject any and all worldly proofs in conflict with their vision. They were among the first to begin home schooling. They feared contamination and resented paying taxes for the general good.
  2. Bill Gates - An expose by the Los Angeles Times revealed that a major education reform force for well over a decade has been Bill Gates. And all of this has been under the radar.  The Gates foundation desires to overhaul schools and the philosophies running them. His ideal envisions a market based education system. He has created entirely new advocacy groups which smell like grass root organizations but in fact they are Gate’s initiated. “His foundation is paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations. “. Over the next five or six years the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy. Few policy makers, reporters or members of the public who encounter advocates like Teach Plus or pundits like Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute realize they are underwritten by the foundation.  “It’s easier to name which groups Gates doesn’t support than to list all of those they do, because it’s just so overwhelming,” noted Ken Libby, a graduate student who has pored over the foundation’s tax filings as part of his academic work.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Big Lie must be exposed

 The big lie must be exposed.  The lie the rightwing has been perpetrating for nearly a generation. The lie that now almost all politicians in  the state have swallowed.  The lie claims the power of tax cuts to unleash entrepreneurialism, create jobs, grow the economy and generally improve everything but sliced bread.
    What happened in the economic crisis?  How did we get into this financial meltdown at a cost of over $20 trillion that cost many people their savings, their jobs, and  their homes.   And, why are we still suffering?  The film Inside Job : How Wall Street Became a Criminal Enterprise and Took Over Government, does a good job of answering these important questions in a comprehensible manner. 
  Anti tax radicals, promoters of  the lie, resist reasonable budgets at the state, county and city levels. The anti tax radicals repeat and repeat their slogans. They post endless comments on news stories.  Republicans in the California legislature continue to push this lie in order to protect their economic patrons  and they base their opposition to passing  a state  budget on this myth.
City and country budgets have lost tax revenues as property taxes, sales taxes, and utility taxes have declined.   As hundreds of jobs are lost,  the budget cut approach is making the recession worse.

This week we marked the 10th anniversary of the Bush tax cuts. Watching the corporate news this week, you might have missed the analysis that proves the only economic indicator that grew with the $2.5 trillion Bush giveaway was the gap between the rich and poor.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Our Schools are not broken; the problem is poverty

Commencement Speech: Stephen Krashen
Delivered at Lewis and Clark College, June 5, 2011
Our schools are not broken: the problem is poverty

"Broken" schools?

We have been told repeatedly that our schools are "broken," that our teachers are inadequate, that our schools of education are not doing their job, and that teachers unions are spending all their time protecting bad teachers. The evidence is the fact that American students do not score at the top of the world on international test scores.  One observer claimed that American students are "taking a shellacking" on these tests.

The impact of poverty

Not so. Studies show that middle-class American students attending well-funded schools outscore students in nearly all other countries on these tests. Overall scores are unspectacular because over 20% of our students live in poverty, the highest percentage among all industrialized countries. High-scoring Finland, for example, first on the PISA science test in 2006, has less than 4% child poverty.

Reduce poverty to improve education, not vice-versa

The fact that American students who are not living in poverty do very well shows that there is no crisis in teacher quality. The problem is poverty.  The US Department of Education insists that improving teaching comes first: With better teaching, we will have more learning (higher test scores, according to the feds), and this will improve the economy. We are always interested in improving teaching, but the best teaching in the world will have little effect when students are hungry, are in poor health because of inadequate diet and inadequate health care, and have low literacy development because of a lack of access to books. Also, studies have failed to find a correlation between improved test scores and subsequent economic progress. 

The relationship is the other way around: "We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.”   (Martin Luther King, 1967, Final Words of Advice).

At least: Protect children from the effects of poverty

If poverty is the problem, the solution is full employment and a living wage for honest work. Until this happens, we need to do what we can to protect children from the effects of poverty. This means (1) continue to support and expand free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs ("No child left unfed," as Susan Ohanian puts it). It means (2) make sure all schools have an adequate number of school nurses; there are fewer school nurses per student in high poverty schools than in low poverty schools. It means (3) make sure all children have access to books. 

How Obama could Revive Hopes for Change

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

In 2008, young people and longtime non-voters set
cynicism aside to mount a national grassroots campaign
to elect a President vowing to enact Change We Can
Believe In. But in 2011, these hopes have been dashed,
a victim of a political system that promotes minority
rule and of a President who prefers to work within the
political mainstream and favors compromise to conflict.
Millions who once believed that a Democratic President
and Democratic-controlled House and Senate would set
the nation on a new course now fear that a Republican
President will make a troubling status quo even worse.
Can hope for national progressive change be kept alive?
In hindsight, activists should have taken it upon
themselves to become the vessels of hope rather than
trusting Barack Obama. But at this political moment, it
is Obama who is best positioned to restore the hopes of
his core supporters. Here are five quick actions he can
take to raise the spirits of his base before the 2012

In the past three years, the once bright hopes for the
nation's future have dimmed. The question now is
whether President Obama will seek to restore faith in
the prospects for progressive change, or else assume
that he can prevail in 2012 by defending an untenable
status quo against fears that a Republican will make
matters even worse.

Obama may have no choice but to focus on restoring
hope. Democrats cannot win elections based on fear, and
Obama's campaign team recognizes that it must revive
grassroots enthusiasm for the President to win re-

Here are five actions Obama can quickly take:

1. Steep Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Texas Teachers Protest massive cuts

From: Huffington Post. Joy Resmovits
As Texas lawmakers prepare to cut billions in education funding and give school districts a heavier hand in determining teacher pay, the state's educators are fighting back.
After the state Senate passed a bill on Monday that empowers districts to cut teacher salaries and institute more furlough days -- which is now in the hands of the state House -- 200 teachers protested on the capitol in Austin. Now, according to Texas American Federation of Teachers President Linda Bridges, they're mobilizing over the phone.
"Our hope is to kill it in the House," Bridges told The Huffington Post. "If they're successful in passing it through the House, I think what teachers will see is that school districts using their new powers to cut their salaries, increase their class sizes and ... see programs that used to be there for kids gone."
Also potentially on the plate in the legislature's special session: A restructuring of education funding that would legitimize the recently-passed budget's $4 billion in cuts to education, and a measure that would make it easier for districts to increase class sizes.
While legislatures across the country are passing laws seeking to hold teachers accountable by measuring them with test scores and changing the way they're hired and fired while expanding school choice, Texas has not participated. Rather, the changes in the Lone Star state are coming because of a massive budget shortfall -- one that some Texas education advocates say could have been saved by turning to its "rainy day" fundand by fixing local taxing loopholes.
"We could have easily come up with the plug for that shortfall between the two," said Democrat Wendy Davis, who filibustered the funding law the first time it hit the Senate floor. "The leadership in the state capital has said, by virtue of refusing to use those resources, that they're not making our children a priority."

California Public Schools experience deep cuts

From: The California Budget Project.  June 7,2011.
 In response to sizeable budget shortfalls, lawmakers have repeatedly cut state spending in recent years. The Legislature reduced General Fund spending from $103.0 billion in 2007-08 to $87.3 billion in 2009-10 – a drop of 15.3 percent – as policymakers responded to the dramatic decline in revenues caused by the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s. In 2010-11, General Fund spending is estimated to be lower as a share of the state’s economy than in 33 of the prior 40 years, and expenditures will be lower under the spending plan approved by the Legislature in March. Recent cuts have reversed longstanding policies and have left public systems and programs ill-equipped to cope with the ongoing impact of the Great Recession and the challenges of a growing population and an ever-more-competitive global economy.
This fact sheet examines the local impact of reductions to public school general purpose dollars, also known as revenue limit funding, between 2007-08 and 2009-10.1 Statewide general purpose funding was cut by $3.5 billion (10.5 percent) during that period, a reduction of $645 per student. This analysis excludes reductions to state spending other than those to general purpose funding. The analysis also excludes school districts with 1,000 students or less and so-called “basic-aid“ districts that receive all revenue limit funds through local property tax revenue.2
Lawmakers cut the overall annual funding level for K-12 public schools by $6.3 billion, from $50.3 billion in 2007-08 to $44.1 billion in 2009-10.3 Lawmakers cut schools’ general purpose dollars as well as funds earmarked for specific school programs, often referred to as categoricals. Adding to schools’ financial stress, since 2008-09 the state has also deferred $6.3 billion in payments to schools. The delay in payments forced many school districts to borrow and pay interest on loans or make program cuts.

10 years of Bush Tax Cuts- the Results

Monday, June 06, 2011

Republican policies lead to the second Great Depression

by Dean Baker
When the financial system was on the edge of melting down back in the fall of 2008, there was much talk in the punditocracy of a second Great Depression. The story was that we risked repeating the mistake at the onset of the first Great Depression: allowing a cascade of bank failures that both destroyed much of the country’s wealth and left the financial system badly crippled. Instead, however, we acted, and these days the accepted wisdom is that the TARP and other special lending facilities created by the Federal Reserve Board prevented a similar collapse that saved us from a second Great Depression. But this view badly misunderstands the nature of the first Great Depression—and may, in fact, result in the country suffering the second Great Depression that the pundits claim we have averted. 
Allowing the cascade of financial collapses at the start of the first Great Depression was a mistake. However, there was nothing about this initial collapse that necessitated the decade of double-digit unemployment that was the central tragedy of the Great Depression. This was the result of the failure of the federal government to respond with sufficient vigor to mass unemployment. Indeed, the economy only broke out of the Depression when the federal government undertook massive deficit spending to fight World War II. Deficits peaked at more than 25 percent of GDP. This would be the equivalent, in today’s economy, of running annualdeficits of $4 trillion.
There was no economic reason that the government could not have spent on this scale in 1931, as opposed to 1941; the obstacles were political. Then, as now, politicians in Washington were obsessed with the budget deficit. They never would have countenanced such spending, apart from the threat to the nation posed by Hitler and the Axis powers. The New Deal deficit spending helped boost the economy and bring the unemployment rate down to single-digit levels, but fear of deficits limited the scale of New Deal programs and caused Roosevelt to reverse course and cut back on spending in 1937, just as the economy was gaining momentum.
Unfortunately, the country seems destined to follow the same course in the current slump as it did in the 30s. The May jobs report should have provided the sort of stiff kick that is needed to revive discussion of additional stimulus. Instead, it seems to have barely shaken Washington’s ongoing obsession with deficits.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Krashen on Diane Ravitch and School Miracles

A comment on Ravitch's NY Times article: School Miracles, Slow Learners and Access to Books- by Steven Krashen
First-class investigative reporting by Diane Ravitch revealed that when schools seem to have overcome poverty and have achieved "stunning results," it is usually "the result of statistical legerdemain," and that "the only miracle at these schools was a triumph of public relations." (Waiting for a School Miracle,
The media and politicians are slow learners (see eg Jonathan Alter's remarks on Ravitch's column. Alter focuses on two small details but ignores the other cases, past and present;  Gerald Bracey regularly reported cases like this years ago, and I contributed an analysis as well.  We both concluded that there were very very few cases in which schools in high-poverty areas achieved high scores on tests. 
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