Education Funding and Budget

Radical GOP governors attempt about-face on school funding

By Amanda Litvinov

8/1/2014–Thanks, readers! Your comments inspired us to update our earlier story to include Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Keep reading and letting us know what you think–we’re listening!

A crop of governors elected in 2010 who all face tough re-election battles this November are attempting to doctor their records on an issue that matters to voters of every political persuasion: education funding. 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.  Sam Brownback, Kansas

During his state of the state address in January, Gov. Brownback  said, “we should listen to those who are closest to Kansas students–their teachers.” If only he had taken his own advice.

BrownbackInstead, he ignored the pleas of Kansas educators and parents calling for a clean education funding bill, and instead signed into law what his allies in the legislature devised in the dark of night—a  policy-laden attack on teachers, schools and students.

The bill cut services for at-risk students and created another $10 million corporate tax giveaway. It took away due process rights that prevent arbitrary termination of educators and removed licensure requirements for certain teaching positions.

Incredibly, Kansans were subjected to a television ad that hit the airwaves in April asking them to thank Gov. Brownback for signing the bill, which restored only a fraction of the cuts he has signed off on since taking office in 2011.

Those cuts have reduced the state’s education spending 16 percent below 2008 levels.

The ad repeated Brownback’s own claim that the bill directed $73 million more to classrooms when the true number is scarcely half that amount. Because of several factors in the state’s school funding formula, it actually represents a loss for most districts and a gain for only about a dozen districts.

Brownback’s education cuts are one of the top issues hurting his campaign. Among voters who list education as their top issue, Brownback trails opponent Paul Davis 73 percent to 19 percent, according to a SurveyUSA poll. That same poll shows that in one of the most conservative states in the nation, one in four registered Republicans are supporting Davis.

In July, more than 100 Kansas Republicans, many of them current officeholders, publicly endorsed Paul Davis.

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.

Image by Donkey Hotey

It gets 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).

In January, Gov. Corbett introduced a plan to increase education spending that was more about helping his unpopular image 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.

The governor preposed $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.

State legislators managed to instead pass a modest increase in base funding, but there is much more to be done to restore more than 20,000 education jobs lost under Corbett, which increased class sizes in 64 percent of Pennsylvania districts.

A recent poll shows Corbett trailing his competitor, Tom Wolf, by 22 points. Of voters who gave the governor a poor or fair job rating, the reason given by the greatest percentage of them (27 percent) was education cuts and teacher evaluations.

“Gov. Corbett could have reversed these cuts and put our schools back on track, but instead he chose to play politics with the budget,” said special education teacher and PSEA President Mike Crossey. “As a result, students and taxpayers will continue to pay a steep price.”

Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan

Public school advocates were dismayed to hear Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s boast that his current plan will help public schools.

rick snyderLet’s review the facts: During his tenure, Snyder has cut $1 billion from education while installing tax cuts worth $1.8 billion for big corporations that don’t need them.

The 2015 budget Snyder signed this session includes a modest per pupil increase, but it scarcely represents a quarter of what 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,” said Cook.

“A long record of deep cuts to public schools will not be erased with a minuscule election-year funding increase.”

Voters who helped Snyder cruise to victory in 2010 are clearly questioning how they will vote in November. Polls show Snyder neck-and-neck with opponent Mark Schauer, who has made education spending central to his platform, and NBC called the Michigan governor’s race one to watch.

 Gov. Rick Scott, Florida

It’s been a long and frustrating fight for education funding for educators and parents 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.

Image by Donkey Hotey

Scott declared that this year’s budget includes record levels of education funding—but the truth is that his proposal left 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.

“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,” said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford.

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.

Scott delivered a second punch to the gut when he signed a bill to expand the state’s controversial voucher program, which is already costs taxpayers nearly $300 million in lost revenue funneled to private schools that are unaccountable to parents, taxpayers, school boards or any oversight body.

One Quinnipiac poll asked likely voters which candidate would do a better job handing public schools. Nearly 50 percent named Scott’s opponent in the upcoming election, Charlie Crist, while only 35 percent stuck by Scott.

16 responses to “Radical GOP governors attempt about-face on school funding

  1. Don’t forget GA Gov. Nathan Deal! He cut over $1.2 B and the restored $500 M calling it a huge increase. He also balanced the state budget by siphoning reserves from the state employees health care plan (SHBP) and then says we are too expensive, leaving us to pay back the void.

  2. While NC Governor Pat McCrory will not be up for election this November, he certainly falls into the ‘good old boys’ network that the listed governors fall into. You name it, we have seen cuts made to it on the public school front. Then look at all of the initiatives to loosen restrictions on charters and vouchers. No question as to his opinion of NC Public Schools.

    1. Pat McCrory got elected by glossing over the shafting his party did to the teachers in the last legislation. He promised to right the wrongs. It didn’t take him long to get in bed with the Kocks and try to smile while he turned the shaft. NC will probably never get over what the Republicans have done to education.

  3. Someone already said it: Republican governors are wrecking public education. It started with the Bush brothers in
    Florida and Texas. Jeb is a big charter fan, and so is current GOV.Scott. Rick Perry in Texas, Corbett, Pence, Pat Roberts, Christie, Walker, etc. have all cut education $$ and opened their arms wide to charters. It’s about the money that can be made by the wealthy on the backs of poor urban kids.

    It’s disgraceful, and anyone who votes to reelect these charlatans should be ashamed. If you had any doubt about
    where the interests of these people lie, remind yourselves of the sorry crop of governors elected in 2010.

  4. Hey, Oklahoma is right there too! It’s amazing how each state government say it’s a new idea that “WE” brought up. New idea….
    sure! AlEC and the Koch brothers are everywhere. It’s not new… it’s a national agenda.

  5. Governor Christie of NJ stole 5.1 billion dollars from education and is using thwe same ALEC/Koch Brothers playbook in NJ. Not only stealing 5.1 from education, he is also having children humiliated who can’t afford to pay for their lunch, and having their lunches dumped and making the children go hungry. The USA is not a third world country (but it seems that for the working poor and middle class, the GOP RepubliCONS are trying to make it one!!) I am OUTRAGED that children are being starved and humiliated in the name of our very rich and thieving Governor being allowed to steal from the US taxpayer and give our money to the rich companies and croonies that back them!! DUMP the GOP in 2014! They are ruining this country for everyne but the very rich, and stealing from us to do so!

  6. Parents fighting and waiting and begging,to help their children receive the education for the children and not been heard or given the right attention and action need it is time to end that. The only way to get the attention is not giving a nother Vote but replacing the Republican starting from governors up to the senate.Those Representatives Republicans who are against everything that can help the children and the people. Prents that have to beg to give education to the children who the pay back for those funds will become from the preparation for good careers for the work force that will pay their loans back to the government for the education they accomplished and will pay back in the taxes when they will pay taxes every year plus the good job they give on their services to the communities and some who prepare them selves to work for the government.It makes no sense not to give the education that help this country economy; in the end the children today will be the best career prepare workers for tomoroow. So not giving back those seats to those who have not comply with the needs of tomorrows workers and educated citizens will give the change to choose and have responsible representatives with good interest and action to help the children today for the educated force workers of tomoroow. Stand for what is really important for your children , take those republicans representatives out of their seat . because the truth is they are just seating and receiving their pay check with doing nothing but making the life of the America’s people i9n every state hard without any chance of changing their minds.They will not give America what America needs to have a better future even if the people work and you have seen what they have done still today they will keep making more problems for all even to those who have voted for them.Not fare for anyone in any place of the US.Do not give any more chances. Democrats is a sure way for cnanges.United standing for what is right for the children today and chosing what is right for their future it really makes sense.The future of America depends also in the education the children receive; and when adults, they be well prepared.
    MCH. 2-2-2014

  7. WOW! I’m shocked! I’m graduating as a Middle School Science and SS teacher in May from UNC-Wilmington and have been looking at school statistics there. The last one I read showed that Florida was in the top 5 for teacher satisfaction??? I was planning to apply with Volusia County when their new application goes live in a couple days. Anyone from Florida on here that’s a teacher? What is your opinion of the system?

    1. I would like to see that report because it certainly is innacurate! Many excellent teachers are quitting and moving out of state or quitting teaching altogether. The teacher evaluation system which changes the rules of the game every august is one of the reasons. It is a punitive, very subjective, i gotcha system quickly put in place for the race to the top grant that has left many classrooms lacking professional, highly competitive teachers who have chosen a different path.

  8. Thank you so much, Jennifer and Ken! I can’t believe how many times Kansas ( SO OBVIOUS!) is the elephant in the room that goes unmentioned!!! SO VERY FRUSTRATING!!!!!!! Especially when this is the state from which so much of these problems originate!!!!!!!!!

  9. Indiana leads the way with 2 Republican governors, Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence destroying public schools. They are so deceitful that they have cheated on scores of their precious charter schools to compare them to public schools! Tony Bennet past Public School Superintendent changed the score of their model charter school from F to A!
    Since Charter school, receiving tax payers dollars, have not scored well recently on the state wide test a bill was sponsored by republicans to EXEMPT CHARTER SCHOOLS FROM TAKING ISTEP, state wide test to measure and grade schools.!!!!
    Proving that these voucher supported schools, operated by out of state companies for profit, are not better than public schools!!! In fact it has been proven that public schools are better! So republicans had to change the rules for charter schools.

    When we this farce stop? When will the public say enough and vote or impeach these crooks out of office? They want to impeach our president, but support these thieves. The are stealing money from public schools, not to mention the injustices they have placed on public teachers.

    Please, tell the public what to do so we can save our children’s schools!

    1. You forgot to mention that the new Superintendent of Public Education in Indiana, Glenda Ritz, was elected with many more votes than Pence got, but Pence has created a new board that is in the process of taking away as much of the power of the Superintendent as possible. The chair of that board is being paid even more than the Governor gets, not to mention more than the Superintendent. They are sabotaging everything the Ritz does, including the request for waivers from No Child Left Behind. At this time, even Arne Duncan is saying Indiana needs to get its education act together.

  10. Don’t forget the “fly-over” states! These governors are just like the one that’s ruining my state, Kansas. They must all be drinking the same Koch because Sam Brownback is coming up with erroneous facts about how much he has increased government spending on public education when indeed he has cut it to the bone. Oh, and it’s an election year and all of a sudden he is a proponent of full-day Kindergarten. It’s amazing how all of a sudden he wants to do something that will help people who aren’t lining his pockets! And don’t even get me started on how he and the legislature are threatening to go ballistic when the state Supreme Court upholds a ruling that says the legislature is not spending enough on education. I just want more people to get out and vote in elections other than presidential ones because the state legislature and governor have done so much harm to our public programs.

    1. Right on Jennifer. I am a Missourian(retired teacher) but have an interest in Kansas because some of our loony lawmakers in Missouri are wanting us to follow the practice of Kansas with draconian tax cuts, primarily effecting education. Gov. Brownback paid $75,000 for advice from Arthur Lafer, who has strong ties to ALEC, when Brownback was putting together his “tax reform” measures with a view toward crippling education. The more public schools we can label as failures the more likely will ALEC achieve its goal of making the public more amenable to privatizing. Too bad Brownback didn’t ask Kansans what they wanted. One Kansas Republican says that ALEC doesn’t send lobbyists to Topeka to push for legislation. ALEC doesn’t have to. ALEC has its lobbyists IN THE LEGISLATURE MAKING THE LAWS. ALEC’s legislative members are wined and dined resort style at scheduled meetings where ALEC lackeys pick up model legislation to take home and promote.

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