American Morning

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April 22nd, 2010
11:00 AM ET

School districts warn of deep budget cuts

(CNN) – The battered economy is devastating school districts nationwide. Faced with shrinking budgets, many schools say they have no choice but to lay off teachers.

In fact, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warns that we are on the brink of an "education catastrophe." The latest example of our schools in crisis can be seen in Illinois, where yesterday thousands rallied at the state capitol to protest deep cuts.

Dan Montgomery, an English teacher in Skokie, Illinois was at yesterday's rally. He joined us on Thursday's American Morning, along with Lindsey Burke, a former teacher and education policy analyst.

Filed under: Economy • Education
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Linda Garrett

    Forgot to mention that merging with neighboring districts would not save money. A feasibility study was done by a local university last year and found that it would actually cost MORE to merge.

    April 25, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  2. michael

    Regardless of what happins I dont think the teachers should stop teaching. We should think about our future! Who will take care of us in the upcoming years? It wont be our kids becuase we left them behind. How will they be able to survive there self's, no knowledge means no future, No future means no jobs, No jobs means poverty and whats poverty? More drug's and more Drug's? Well I think we got the point. We as the people need to make a stand and not fail because it seems our father of the country dont care. I cant tell.

    April 24, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  3. rda1835

    Tax the big banks bonus packages to fund our education system.

    April 24, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  4. Jill

    I agree with Crystal (above). Seems odd that Steve Perry thinks teachers, making $30-50k, should turn down raises; but yet the fat cats, making millions should get bonus in the banking area!!

    April 24, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  5. joe

    I understand that we are in a crises and cuts have to be made. However, there is so much money still going to projects that make no sense. Vermont just spent a couple hundred thousand for a bass crossing. We have roads being built just to cut 5 minutes off of someone's commute. Instead of renovating, we are building buildings that are costing millions when its just not the time. My town payed $200,000 to put up "Welcome to Our Town" signs all over town. There are lots of projects that can be done by prisoners also. Polititians need to make less trips that costs thousands of dollars and sometimes millions. Slow down with helping other countries until the USA gets on its feet again. Americans donate billions of dollars to starving children in other counties while millions of children go to bed hungry here.

    April 23, 2010 at 9:59 am |
  6. michelle

    If our children are our future then why doesn't it seem like anyone cares about their education???

    April 22, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  7. drdr76

    Is CNN going the way of Fox News? When you have a commentator on from the Heritage Foundation–a conservative think tank always presenting the Republican point of view–do you really expect knowing Americans to believe their B.S.?

    Why don't you put some real educational experts on that can share some real, meaningful data. What is you agenda CNN? Never mind, I already know, after all you gave birth to Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck. I guess now there's Fox News and you guys (Fox News Lite).

    April 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  8. JB

    When we sends millions of tax paying jobs to China and other cheap labor Countries,our schools will suffer.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  9. John

    Cutting budgets, staff and services are a reactionary measure due to a lack of definitive accountability throughout the systems. It is mostly a result of decreasing tax revenues in the respective municipalities. This holds true on the instructional side as well as the operational side of districts. There is extreme political pressure to not just cut teachers, but to also cut staff even though they may be providing high value services. Keep in mind teacher groups are tied to parent groups and that they make up the largest voice in our respective communities.

    No cuts are ever easy, especially when most often you only can see the political distracting impact to educating kids. Each group needs to take responsibility for definitively knowing the effectiveness of the service that they provide in order to truly defend employment and resource allocation. From there cuts that must occur can be based on priorities, effectiveness of services delivery and the overall impact on student learning.

    Districts are facing now and will be facing next year the end of stimulus dollars to maintain staff levels. The long term strategic answer is not more money, but rather in creating accountability measures for effectiveness. Only then can you determine if and where to cut staff or services. Human Capital is the most expensive part of any school budget so it is almost always the first and largest area impacted.

    Many of the nation's largest districts have taken upon themselves to create a set of key performance indicators so that they can determine not just effectiveness of services, but also efficiencies so that they can drive their business units as done in the private sector. This will enable operational units to run these service units as businesses that can create revenue and turn profits. This will allow them to better meet the needs of all stakeholders as well as supplement losses in needed funding to provide services to stakeholders.

    Be cautioned that if these margins can exist at all it is to sustain service levels not to supplement funding for instructional purposes. Those dollars must still be provided through state and federal funding and other grants while adhering to new standards of effectiveness and efficiency.

    April 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  10. Crystal

    Sad is the day when our teachers, who are already underpaid, are forced out of their jobs due to a financial crisis. Yet, our financial institutions and automobile industries are bailed out when they are in trouble. While states and school districts receive "extra" funds, it is just not enough to sustain jobs. Not only does this crisis affect the teachers, it sends a message to young people who have been served by those teachers, that education is not important. We teach children to go to school, do their best, go on to college, and make a great living. However, the most learned in our society are without jobs. The classroom teacher is a valuable asset. There are children in this world whose foster parent is the teacher. There are children who only hear a kind word from the teacher. There are children who are only challenged to be better by their teacher. While that may not seem like much to some, to those children, it means the world. As a result, they go on to do great things. Many of them become teachers themselves because they feel the responsibility to "pay it forward." Teachers have sustained their own classrooms. They have shelled out thousands of dollars because the school did not have the materials needed to teach their students well. They have lost many hours of sleep worrying over the progress of their students. They have visited homes and supported their students in every event possible. Teaching is not just a career; it is life for the people who report to work every morning with the expectation of having a positive effect on the lives of 20 children or more. Now. That is responsibility. The way things are going it seems that all teaching programs of study should cease and those students should be moved to business and finance programs. I wonder what those students who are in their last year of study are being told? I am sure that our leaders are doing the best they can, but this move is unacceptable. There has to be another way. Maybe the answer is allowing professional teams to adopt these schools where teachers are being laid off. In return, perhaps the owners taxes could be cut by 35%. The income donated to the school is already tax deductible. Maybe we could add a 5% tax on all records, computers, iphones, and ipods sold for 5 years. Perhaps we could engage in some shared decision making and allow the teachers to come up with a plan. They may be willing to take pay cuts rather than lose their jobs altogether. When the economy picks back up, what they lost in wages can be returned to them in the form of an interest bearing retirement account that must be left untouched for at least 8 years, if they are at retirement age. . The government takes the interest and the rest is turned over to the teacher. The catch is that no disbursement penalties can be imposed on these accounts and no taxes can be imposed. The government borrowed from the teachers. The additional tax would go straight into the educational fund. I am not a financial guru, nor do I pretend to have any real solutions as you can see, but I am confident that those who are can come up with better solutions than the layoffs. In any case, we cannot afford for our educational system to crumble because of a funny thing like an economic downturn.

    April 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  11. Paul

    I saw this story this morning. I could not believe Lindsey Burke was on spouting the ridiculous non-sense that there is not link between the amount of money spent on education and the quality of education given to students. If this is true, why do rich parents send their kids to private schools and pay so much for it. Private schools should be able to adequately educate their students for $7,000 per year. I say, as a society we have an obligation to educate our children. Take schools out of local control. Create national standards for schools, facilities, and teacher salaries. Teacher are highly educated professionals. They are paid like fast food workers. Create a national education tax and required everyone to pay it; no exceptions or loopholes.

    April 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  12. Howard

    School districts need to merge.In NJ there are 566 municipalities and 591 school districts each with a superintendent. the mean salary for this position is 158k and principals mean is 138k. We spend over 700million on administration not counting a bloated state bureaucracy that has to keep track of all these districts. the answer is one school district for every 100k people, which would result in 74 regional districts and 6 cities, bringing the number of superintendents from 591 to 80. We don't have to lay off teachers. We need to shrink the amount of school districts.

    April 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  13. john doe

    NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND!!! Was the words used if I maybe correct, it should be said "All CHILDREN ARE LEFT BEHIND!!! Brass tacks, Ask Goldman Sacs for help and we will take it easy on them!!! Plzz do not close the schools we already have enough dummies!!!

    April 22, 2010 at 11:12 am |