The municipal budget crisis currently striking the largest states in America is about to enter its worst phase. This NY Times article warns that as many as 300,000 teachers could be laid off this summer.
As a result, the 2010-11 school term is shaping up as one of the most austere in the last half century. In addition to teacher layoffs, districts are planning to close schools, cut programs, enlarge class sizes and shorten the school day, week or year to save money.
“We are doing things and considering options I never thought I’d have to consider,” said Peter C. Gorman, superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina, who expects to cut 600 of the district’s 9,400 teachers this year, after laying off 120 last year. “This may be our new economic reality.”
Districts in California have given pink slips to 22,000 teachers. Illinois authorities are predicting 17,000 public school job cuts. And New York has warned nearly 15,000 teachers that their jobs could disappear in June.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called it an "education catastrophe". That's how we should consider it in the short-term, but in the long-term it could be considered an "economic catastrophe" as our public schools fail to properly educate the next generation. In the longer term it might be a "democracy catastrophe" because an illiterate and uneducated populace is incompatible with a democratic society.
The only reason that many of these teaching jobs still exist is because of last year's stimulus bill. That money is mostly spent.
In the economic stimulus bill passed in February 2009, Congress appropriated about $100 billion in emergency education financing. States spent much of that in the current fiscal year, saving more than 342,000 school jobs, about 5.5 percent of all the positions in the nation’s 15,000 school systems, according to a study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington.
Some may be under the impression that this is simply "trimming fat". That impression falls apart when you look at it on a local scale. For instance, looking at one school in the San Francisco School District.
All week Sanchez had been reeling from news that a whopping 10 out of his 20 full-time teachers had been issued pink slips by the San Francisco Unified School District. Including counselors, a vice principal, and other staff, the budget cuts essentially lopped off 24.6 percent of the school's workforce, an unprecedented blow that speaks volumes about the state of California public education.
Laying off half of the teachers is horrific under any measure. Class sizes will have to be increased by such an amount that the teacher's ability to do their jobs will be dramatically impaired.
Many community colleges in California will simply close this summer.
The layoffs aren't limited to just the schools. To give some examples:
The city of Los Angeles has plans for 3,546 permanent layoffs.
The state of California will be cutting 5,000 workers and it still won't have a balanced budget.
The city of Flint, Michigan, is laying off 46 police officers and 26 firefighters.
Atlantic City is cutting 59 police officers.
“I’ve been sitting on my hands. ... I’m not apologizing anymore,” he said. “This is a systematic destruction of our police department.”
The state of Illinois is cutting 460 state troopers and closing five of 22 regional headquarters.
The governor of Kansas says that the budget simply can't be balanced by cuts alone.
The state of New York will run out of money in June.
Arizona's governor is warning of a state "government collapse". He's not exaggerating.
"If you were to solve this budget problem just with cuts alone, if that was the only solution you wanted to enact, and you want to have a balance budget which they have to have — you'd virtually have to eliminate everything in the state government that's not (voter protected). So that would mean closing the department of corrections, closing all 150 smaller state agencies, not paying our debt service bills, and having some significant reductions to the unprotected funds in K-12, universities, AHCCCS and health services," Bee said.
You may be wondering what those "smaller" state agencies are. The judiciary system, juvenile corrections, the legislature, the Department of Public Safety, the revenue department, kid health programs and the state mental health hospital are in there.
About a third of non-protected funds have already been cut.
Nevada, which already runs a very lean budget, is looking at Medicare diaper rations and forcing personal care givers to buy their own gloves.
In Florida, the Republican legislature is making a budget that fits their values.
Both chambers are poised to pass millions in new tax breaks for businesses and yacht buyers while they struggle to find money for education and social services.
The list just goes on and on. The more you look, the more horror stories pop up. The timing will also be unfortunate. These cuts will be hitting this summer, right around the same time that the federal Census begins to let go its 700,000 temporary hires.