Posted In: Education Funding, Election 2014, Florida, Kids Not Cuts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Uncategorized
By Amanda Litvinov / all images by Donkey Hotey
Several radical conservative governors are desperately attempting to improve their records on education funding. It’s no coincidence that they all face re-election later this year. Their tactics range from rewriting history (“I did increase education spending—no really, I did!”) to proposing new funding with major strings attached.
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Gov. Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania educators, students and families have been reeling since 2011 when education funding plummeted by $1.1 billion under Gov. Corbett. College students were burdened with even greater costs, while public schools were forced to operate with $860 million less.
It got even yuckier: Those K-12 cuts were deepest in Pennsylvania’s 50 poorest districts, where the average funding cut was four times greater ($532 per student) than in the state’s wealthiest districts ($113 per student).
This week, Gov. Corbett introduced his budget plan, touting his increased investment in education. However, the budget increases are more about helping his unpopular image rather than helping Pennsylvania students, according to W. Gerard Oleksiak, special education teacher and Pennsylvania State Education Association vice president.
“Instead of making Pennsylvania’s students and their hardworking families a real priority, this budget is full of election year gimmicks and illusions,” said Oleksiak in a press release. “Pennsylvania’s students and taxpayers need a real budget, one that reverses the nearly $1 billion in school funding cuts that have thrown our public schools into crisis.”
Oleksiak pointed out that instead of reversing historic funding cuts, the governor’s school funding plan proposes $241 million in a new block grant program for use on a short list of state-prescribed initiatives, while proposing no increase in the basic education subsidy, the primary mechanism through which public schools receive state funding.
“Teachers know what works in their classrooms, and where state money would help,” Oleksiak said. “They need it to restore programs that school districts have been forced to cut over the past three years, like full-day kindergarten, tutoring programs, art, music, library services, and extracurricular activities.”
“It’s time to reverse the funding cuts that are driving our schools into crisis.”
Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan
Public school advocates were dismayed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent claims that he has increased K-12 spending during his tenure, and that his new plan will help public schools.
Let’s review the facts: Snyder cut $1 billion from education while installing tax cuts worth $1.8 billion for big corporations.
In the budget he unveiled last week, Snyder proposes boosting education spending by $200 million—but that’s only 20 percent of the $1 billion he cut from education spending his first year in office.
“Putting a fraction of that $1 billion back into schools doesn’t fix the problems that such a massive cut caused last year,” said Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook, who served as a paraprofessional for 15 years in Lansing Public Schools. “It only continues to enrich the corporate special interests who benefited from the $1.8 billion tax cut that the education cuts enabled.”
And under Snyder’s proposal new money for schools won’t be a per pupil increase—districts are forced to compete based on student performance on standardized tests, or to agree to provisions such as charter schools.
It amounts to a “massive state takeover of public education,” said MEA President Cook. “This unproven plan continues to dismantle our local public schools, put more power with Lansing bureaucrats and force taxpayers to foot the bill for more corporate-run, for-profit charter and cyber schools.”
Gov. Rick Scott, Florida
Educators and parents have fought long and hard for education funding while Gov. Scott has been in office. Florida currently ranks 50th out of 50 states in per capita funding for K-12 public education, according to the most recent Census data.
Earlier this week, Scott declared that his budget includes record levels of education funding—but the truth is that his proposal leaves the state’s per pupil spending lower than in the 2007-08 school year, while district needs have only risen.
It will take a much greater commitment to reverse the damage done by the massive cuts he made upon taking office in 2011.
“We are appreciative for any increase in funding but hope that the new money comes with equally modest policy prescriptions tied to the funding,” said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford. “The FEA believes the existing statutory policy mandates that involve Florida’s accountability system, its standards, its state and local assessments, implementation schedules, performance pay, material needs, technology and technology infrastructure will absorb this increase and much more.”
Ford noted that this increase would put the state’s per-pupil spending near the level it was at when Scott took office and still below the levels in the 2007-08 school year, before many of these state-ordered mandates were in place.
Meanwhile, the state’s students have greater needs today after the Great Recession of 2008-09, with more families living in poverty and becoming homeless.
“The needs of Florida students continue to grow and the mandates passed down from elected leaders continue to multiply,” Ford said.