Monday, April 13, 2009

WI Joint Committee on Finance Keeps Repeal of QEO/Arbitration Changes

QEO/Arbitration Factors Remain in State Budget Proposal

The co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance, Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), announced that they intend to remove 45 of the 80 items in the governor's 2009-11 state budget that have been identified by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau as non-fiscal policy items. Among the list of items to be removed and drafted as separate legislation includes the governor's proposal to require three credits of math and science for high school graduation.

The co-chairs intend to retain the non-fiscal policy items that would:

  • repeal the qualified economic offer (QEO);
  • eliminate the greatest and greater weight given to revenue limits and local economic conditions in arbitration decisions;
  • allow teacher contracts of up to four years;
  • make it easier to combine school district collective bargaining units;
  • ease retirement eligibility for educational support personnel; and
  • impose greater accountability measures on the Milwaukee voucher program.

In previous budgets, proposals to repeal the QEO were identified as non-fiscal policy and removed by the co-chairs.

Here is the MMSD's Legislative Agenda for 2009-2011. Feel free to share this information with your legislators and Rep. Pocan and Sen. Miller.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Public Education Finance

A lot is going on with school finance and budgets this year. One expert in Public Education in America is Dr. Marguerite Rosa.

Here is a nice conversation with Seattle, Washington's (KPLU) Public Radio host Gary Davis and his interview with Rosa regarding positive changes for education.

Roza recently published the recession/financial crisis and its cost to public education:

Nearly all state budgets are in the red, suggesting looming cuts and possible job loss in K-12 education. New estimates of shortfalls in state revenues and K-12 staffing data enable early projections of the magnitude of both the impact on K-12 public education spending and corresponding job loss. These projections can help policymakers at all levels understand the size and scope of the problem as they work to craft next steps.

Assuming the absence of intervention via increased taxes or federal stimulus spending, this analysis projects an 18.5 percent drop in state funds for K-12 education from 2009 budgeted figures to FY 2011, creating an 8.7 percent drop in total public education spending over the same period. The implication is that states will spend a total of $54 billion less on public K-12 education during the 2009 and 2010 calendar years than if spending had been held at budgeted FY 2009 levels. That number jumps to $80 billion for state spending on K-16 education, if higher education spending projections are included.

For many districts, spending cuts will imply job loss. For the projected shortfalls modeled here, this analysis suggests that school districts may need to eliminate just over 9 percent of total jobs in K-12 education. In raw numbers, the implication is that 574,277 jobs would be eliminated during the three school years, many via attrition. That figure, however, assumes that districts do indeed reduce spending via the elimination of jobs, rather than by shortening the school year or reducing pay.

All is not bad news, according to Rosa, as she says the recession provides a real opportunity to fix systems [in public education] that no longer work. Let's hope we can have that conversation at a state and local level.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wisconsin Stimulus Spending on Education

States Eye Education Stimulus to Fill Budget Gaps

Local Officials Crying Foul As Governors Grab for Aid By Michele McNeil

Desperate for cash to fill growing budget deficits, state governments are starting to tangle with federal and local officials over a $39.8 billion pot of economic-stimulus money that was designed to prop up the budgets of local school districts, but is increasingly being eyed as a patch for states’ own financial woes.

Vague language and loopholes in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the stimulus package signed into law in February by President Barack Obama—are sparking questions about how much discretion states have over education stimulus funding. Mayors and school boards in a number of states fear being shortchanged by revenue-hungry governors and legislatures.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is putting state-level officials on notice that spending the first chunk of stimulus money unwisely could jeopardize aid that his office will distribute later.

Is Wisconsin the only state plugging holes in their budget with education funds?

Apparently not.

A few weeks ago I submitted an opinion piece online about the state's dismal response to citizen throughout the state asking for reform in how we fund schools.

If you want to read more about what U.S. Education Sec. Arnie Duncan is saying and the latest national coverage go to the Schools and Stimulus section of Education Week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Maya P. Cole: Will school finances end in tragedy?

Tomorrow is the Legislative Day for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Here's a little something to get you in the mood:

Opinion: Maya P. Cole: Will school finances end in tragedy?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin

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After attending the Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of WI Union Theater this past Monday to see Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of PBS's NOVA ScienceNow, which is "an accessible look at the frontier of all the science that shapes the understanding of our place in the universe."

I would say it was the equivalent of a rock concert for geeks (and non-geeks alike who want our country to rise to new heights in the next century.) For a taste of some of his best speeches, go here.

My comments cannot do deGrasse Tyson's talk justice. It was the most entertaining, informed lecture on the importance of science literacy in this country and why we got this point of scientific illiteracy.
I will share a few reviews of the lecture and a few comments from my experience in the seats of the Union with my husband and three boys.

It warmed my heart to see the boys stay engaged for the entire two-hour talk. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves. One of my younger boys said he couldn't wait until Tyson got to the part when he would mention centillion!

DeGrasse Tyson has the skill to make the powers of ten a cool concept to a boy under the age of ten.

During this time when we explored the universe, we covered the wonder of numbers by beginning with the mundane fast food burger. We then leaped to the concept "of over 99 billion (of these fast food miracles) served" to answer just how much is 100 billion?

I think deGrasse Tyson had them when he took his boots off on stage to be more comfortable during his speech. Every child should have a chance to see such an enlightened, engaging thinker of our time - who is also entertaining and cool enough to be on The Daily Show.

As deGrasse Tyson said, it was a one out of a million chance to meet an astrophysicist. For me, it was the number one reminder of why I do this job of school board member - to continue to inspire each child to reach for the stars and to explore the road for a scientifically literate community.

Now I am pumped to attend Darwin Day 2009 this year!

This is another excellent opportunity in our community to hear from distinguished, entertaining speakers such as Sean Carroll, Patricia McConnell and Jeremy Jackson on science and its impact to our world. Topics will range from Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species, to Darwin, Dogs, and the Emotional Life of Animals, to Evolution and Extinction in the Brave New Ocean.

This year is the 200th Birthday of Charles Darwin - find a way to celebrate.