Accountability Budget Cuts Charter Schools Closing schools Corporate Reformers Funding Pennsylvania Privatization

Peter Greene: Blame Your Legislators for Destroying Your Schools, Not the Local Board

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Peter Greene lives in Pennsylvania, where the previous governor, Tom Corbett, and the Republican-controlled Legislature did their best to encourage corporate reform and to destroy public education. Corbett welcomed for-profit cyber-charters and every other kind of charter, and he slashed the budget for public education. The result can be seen starkly in Philadelphia, where many public schools have been replaced by charters, and the remaining public schools are stripped of programs, resources, and services.

 

Here he explains that it is not just urban districts like Philadelphia and York that are being cut down by “reformers,” but not-very-wealthy rural districts like the one he teaches in. People blame their local school boards, but even the most fiscally responsible local boards are falling victim to decisions made by the legislature.

 

He writes:

 

The closing of schools is rampant in my part of PA, and we aren’t alone. We’re a region of not-very-wealthy rural districts, but not-very-wealthy urban districts like Philly and York have also cut schools like a machete in a bamboo forest.

 

It is not a matter of declining student population, and it is not a matter of districts falling on tough times. It’s a widespread financial crisis, and it’s manufactured.

 

How to manufacture a statewide financial crisis.

 

Cut state funding. This puts the making-up-the-difference pressure on local taxpayers.

 

Take a ton of money away from public schools and give it to charters.

 

Create a huge pension funding crisis. This is its own kind of challenge, but the quick explanation is this– pre-2008, invest in really awesome stuff, and when that all tanks and districts suddenly have huge payments to make up, tell the districts they can just wait till later and hope for magic financial fairies to fix it. It is now later, there are no fairies, and a small district with an $18 million budget is looking at pension payments that go up $500K every year.

 

Oh, and pass a law that says districts can’t raise taxes more than a smidge in any given year….

 

The end result?

 

School districts are looking down the barrel of million-plus-dollar deficits. The two deficits for which I have now been a power point audience can both be entirely explained by the formula:

 

Charter Payments + Pension Payments + Other Tiny Obscure Cuts = District Deficit

 

In other words, a district that had a fiscally responsible year last year, that didn’t do anything crazy or odd or unusual and just left everything alone when planning for this year– that district is still facing huge deficits in their current budgeting cycle, unrelated to any choices that they made in managing their own local district.

 

Funny, last time I looked, it was states that have the primary responsibility in their constitutions for maintaining a “thorough and efficiency” (or some variation thereof) system of public education. But the legislators are passing mandates that shift the burden to local districts and sitting by while public schools are closed.

 

Is this part of a plan to privatize public education? What do you think?

 

 

 

 

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