Schools need more money to stop teacher layoffs. Why won’t Congress help?

WASHINGTON — Apparently, teachers aren’t worth saving.

That’s the cold political calculation that has taken hold in the halls of Congress, where a last-ditch effort to funnel extra education money to the states isn’t getting much traction. Members of Congress are focused on saving their own jobs, and they fear giving teachers a lifeline could prove costly in the mid-term elections.

The White House and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been lobbying for an additional $23 billion in aid to states, which would be used to prevent the layoffs of as many as 300,000 teachers nationwide — including thousands in Georgia. Duncan has called the layoffs, which would hit schools harder than at any time since the Great Depression, an “education catastrophe.”

The teachers’ pink slips have already roiled the Georgia governor’s race, where a forum that featured three of the Democratic candidates last week was dominated by criticism of the cuts, according to the Savannah Morning News. Former Gov. Roy Barnes, who wants his old job back, vowed to stop the teacher reductions.

The money squeeze has also gutted an educational reform that Georgia introduced a decade ago: smaller class sizes. A state rule had limited k-3 classes to no more than 23 students, while grades 4-8 were limited to 28. But with the severe drop-off in funds, the state Board of Education voted on Monday to allow bigger classes, which inevitably means each child gets less attention.

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Still, Duncan’s proposal for more education money has run into significant resistance from deficit-weary Democrats, as well as from just-say-no Republicans. U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said school systems have hired too many administrators and staff (other than teachers), a model he called “unsustainable.”

It’s too bad that Congress’ newfound fiscal austerity is so rigid than even teachers can’t be saved. Already, American school children post lower scores on standardized tests than kids from a number of other countries; U.S. businesses clamor to hire foreign graduates in engineering and the sciences; and the U.S. has fallen from its perch as number one in college completion. How can the United States expect to maintain its economic competitiveness if it takes a huge step backwards with its public schools?

Most business owners understand the need to make costly investments in order to prepare their enterprises for the future. Without worker training, technology and infrastructure, they’d see little — if any — growth. American kids need that investment, too, or they won’t be ready for a future of global competition.

The layoffs could set back the Obama administration’s highly touted efforts to bring more teacher accountability to classrooms. Most school districts will use seniority to make decisions about cutting teachers — leaving little room to evaluate classroom performance. That means that bright and enthusiastic young teachers — who might hold great promise as classroom stars — are likely to be cut.

If preparing American kids to face the future isn’t a good enough reason for Congress to shore up the teaching profession, maybe this is: Why allow middle-class professionals to lose their jobs just as the economy seems to be finding its footing? While Republicans may be happy to run in era of widespread joblessness which they get blame on their opponents, Democrats, the majority party, ought to be doing everything possible to bring unemployment numbers down.

And it that isn’t a good enough reason, there’s this: Teachers vote. Just ask Barnes, who was defeated after one term by the little-known Sonny Perdue, largely because Barnes had angered teachers. Now, Barnes is doing everything possible to court them, pledging to find more money for education by suspending all tax exemptions carved out during Perdue’s business-coddling tenure.

Those same teachers will be voting in Congressional elections. Incumbents who don’t think education is a priority risk both a short-term political backlash and long-term educational mediocrity.

174 comments Add your comment

Bob

May 26th, 2010
7:35 am

How much did teachers get from the 787 Billion stimulus bill ?

Huh?

May 26th, 2010
7:37 am

Enter your comments here

Cynthia is Sexy!!

May 26th, 2010
7:37 am

Just the way life is…sometimes one has a job and other times, well, one doesnt. Teachers are included.

Now perhaps a viable solution would be to offer up pinkslips to these highly paid administration employees and Superintendents. If memory serves correct Dekalb, Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett Supers are paid between $200K and $300K annually.

Granny Godzilla

May 26th, 2010
7:40 am

In discussing budget cuts why has the discussion not included laying off elected officials?

Would not Saxby’s salary and expenses pay for 5 or 6 teachers?
Add Johnny’s we’re up to maybe 10?
Sonny? Jack?

Lay off a politician, keep a few teachers.

Tom

May 26th, 2010
7:42 am

Georgia spends a little over $9000 per child on education. At 23 kids per class, that is over $207,000 per class per year, more for grades 4 and above. If the teachers are making $50,000 to $60,000 per year, that leaves over $160,000 per class for everything else (chalk, lights, etc.) How much more do you want? What is the correct amount we should be spending. Define Adequate.

T Town

May 26th, 2010
7:45 am

Enter your comments here

Peadawg

May 26th, 2010
7:52 am

We agree on this issue, Cynthia. Children are the future of this country. Cutting education now is going to hurt this country in the future.

“Lay off a politician, keep a few teachers.” – no kidding!!!

Moderate Line

May 26th, 2010
8:14 am

I believe much of the stimulus bill should have been directed towards reataining teachers, police and fireman.

Morrus

May 26th, 2010
8:18 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.

Carnivore 69

May 26th, 2010
8:21 am

This is purely a math problem, Cynthia. The money isn’t there.

kayaker 71

May 26th, 2010
8:23 am

Let’s hope that they lay off those who continually come up with poor performance, poor student progress and who are part of the Teachers Union. Those whose job performance is in the bucket are harder to get rig of than athlete’s foot, especially those who are, and have been, members of the Union. The Union has continually supported those who job performance is totally inadequate and many educators contend that unions are the main reason why we have poor student progress. Throwing money at the problem is not the answer. Washington DC schools spend close to 16K/student/yr and still have some of the worst school systems in the nation. Teachers have strongly opposed aligning their salary with student performance and moves away from the unions are common in Charter Schools for good reason.

Moderate Line

May 26th, 2010
8:24 am

Tom

May 26th, 2010
7:42 am
Georgia spends a little over $9000 per child on education. At 23 kids per class, that is over $207,000 per class per year, more for grades 4 and above. If the teachers are making $50,000 to $60,000 per year, that leaves over $160,000 per class for everything else (chalk, lights, etc.) How much more do you want? What is the correct amount we should be spending. Define Adequate.
++++++++++++++++++
Based on the Fayette County Website:
70.91 percent of cost goes for teachers counselors, aids, instructional materials, books and equipment.

And total expenditures were $8441.22.

Jim in Ga

May 26th, 2010
8:28 am

Looking into test scores can be a tricky thing. The U.S. tests all of its students while many of those who score higher only test their brightest.

teamguy

May 26th, 2010
8:28 am

We have been putting more and more money into education year after year, and results get worse year after year, as you’ve stated in your article. Maybe public schools are not the answer.

Fmr Teacher

May 26th, 2010
8:28 am

As a teacher who was let go last year, I have followed this story over the past year. I have been actively looking for work for a year. It is tough. School systems are cutting teachers but not the bureaucracy of their central offices. I believe this is because it is the central office making the decisions on the cuts. More money needs to be given to education but school systems need to be more fiscally responsible also.

For those teachers, like me, who are out of work, it is difficult finding employment. The school systems have the upper hand now that their is a huge workforce looking for jobs, so the systems can be very picky. If the systems would stop increasing class size, we would be able to find work. Trust me on this, looking for work teaching is much different than looking for work in other career areas. Schools only hire a couple times a year and not all year long, so if you do not find employment by the start of the school year, you will probably be unemployed for a year.

Jim in Ga

May 26th, 2010
8:30 am

kayaker 71,

If you can come up with a fair way to judge teachers on student performance then you will make millions. Most teachers would love it, however there is no fair way (to date) that judges teachers.

jt

May 26th, 2010
8:31 am

The Department of Education’s 2010 budget request is 46.7 billion dollars.

That oughta do it.

Joel

May 26th, 2010
8:33 am

The teachers are doing almost as much damage as the politicians.

Grumpy

May 26th, 2010
8:34 am

So throwing more money at a problem is the automatic solution every time for the lefties. We’ve been tossing more money at public education for decades, and the results have been a flat line.

What if next year, even after all these layoffs, test scores stay the same? What will that tell us about all this money being tossed around in the past?

Union

May 26th, 2010
8:34 am

Bail them out.. I would like a few concessions though..
40 hour work weeks.. two weeks vacation a year, could earn up to four weeks, mandatory drug testing, performance based retention and incentives. How? Thats up to them.. if they want to stay they will come up with a plan.. after all these folks are supposed to be smart enough to teach our children.

BTW. why did obama pick an education secretary from one of the worst school districts in the country to run the rest?

Eubieful O'sheet

May 26th, 2010
8:37 am

If the teachers unions supported and voted for Republicans (yes, it would never happen, but bear with us for a moment) would Cynthia give a rat’s hind end about them? No.
She would have her pitchfork in one hand and a torch in the other leading the mob to demand that teachers “give back” and donate their time and energy for free.

Remember that only half of all those members of the bloated education bureaucracy actually set foot in a classroom. Would the students really suffer if a few of those “administrators” (paper shufflers) lost their six-figure salaries? Think how many teachers’ jobs you could save by letting go a few of the MORE THAN 1,000 “administrators” in the metro Atlanta area who are paid (I doubt if the word “earn” would be applicable to most of those people.) more than $100,000.00?

Meka

May 26th, 2010
8:39 am

Georgia’s Governor (Sonny Perdue), needs to USE FUNDS FOR GEORGIA’S SCHOOLS . . . INSTEAD OF FILING A LAW SUITE AGAINST THE FEDERAL GOVT’. ON BEHALF OF HEALTHCARE!!!

Shawny

May 26th, 2010
8:39 am

“Schools need more money to stop teacher layoffs. Why won’t Congress help?”
Because schools are state and local entities, which work within the state and local budgets. That is why.

Locally, states and counties/parishes need to do what is necessary to raise the monies or cut spending in various areas of their budgets as appropriate. It is not a federal issue.

BULLSEYE

May 26th, 2010
8:42 am

Fmr Teach–their?

Atl Wldct

May 26th, 2010
8:42 am

You really need to do your homework. There is so much waste in the central offices of most metro Atlanta school systems and probably throughout the country. Cutting there should be the first thing rather than just throwing money at a problem, hoping it will go away. That does not work when there are still major problems with the administration. If that is fixed, then money would be available for the teachers and schools where it belongs.

Something has also got to give on all these “emergencies”. This country simply cannot continue to spend, spend, spend.

not on my watch

May 26th, 2010
8:47 am

As a teacher, this hurts to say, especially since I still have a job next year.

Until the general public puts aside the impression we are a bunch of entitled whiners and sees just how bad it is, I don’t want $$$ that will temporarily fix the problem.

Jimmy S.

May 26th, 2010
8:47 am

CT is a moron.

Michael K.

May 26th, 2010
8:47 am

I’m a free market guy, so I’m not particularly enamored with bailouts. However, if I were a Keynesian (as administration officials claim to be) then teachers would be low on my list of people to bail out. The first stimulus package was largely directed at teachers and other state employees (many of whom would have simply had pay cuts/freezes as opposed to being laid off in the absence of that spending), instead of going to sectors like construction with excess capacity (i.e. unemployment and idle factories and machines).

I don’t follow education issues too closely, but I know that New Jersey and Washington, DC have some of the most expensive public school systems in the country, but are also consistently rated at the bottom of the heap nationally. There’s not a clear correlation between the amount states spend on schools and outcomes. That’s probably because the expensive systems are paying for quality, so much as simply caving to crazy union demands for tenure and automatic, generous pay increases.

Tucker's XXX rated blog

May 26th, 2010
8:51 am

It’s amazing that Georgia gets any teaching talent at all.

Red

May 26th, 2010
8:53 am

Seeing how schools have become glorified daycare for many, it’s time to massively overhaul the education system. Besides, the system is set up so that teachers just teach to pass a test rather than actually teach the knowledge needed to surpass even third world countries doing better than us in education. Seeing how much is spent on each student, I wonder what would happen if public schools were scrapped and that same cost per student was handed out to be used as a voucher for a charter or private school? No need for all of that bureacracy.

JKL2

May 26th, 2010
8:53 am

Too much middle management like the article says. In WI any aid who works more than 20 hours gets full benefits. The union needs to suck it up, cut some of the dead wood and let the cream rise to the top.

wwr201

May 26th, 2010
8:54 am

Meka – the lawsuit is being done pro bono. It’s not an either/or issue and the two topics have no correlation.

Keep your editorializing on topic, please.

Drinking the koolaid...

May 26th, 2010
8:55 am

I agree that laying off teachers and increasing class size should be avoided- even if it means some temporary funds from other sources (I like the layoff a politician idea). However schools need to do some culling of resources and spending. There are many school systems that continue to operate locations that are only at half (or less)capacity. Location consolidation, improving back office processes, and reducing administration costs (this doesn’t necessarily mean laying off administrators). Being in the private sector with family members who are teachers, admins, and food service workers I can tell you there is a lot of opportunity to reduce cost. Any extra money assigned needs to be specifically for keeping class sizes low- and not wasted on keeping inefficient systems from taking a hard look at other areas.

Not paying superintendents hundreds of thousands per year would help too…

kusgf

May 26th, 2010
8:55 am

The only thing congress should about education is abolish the federal dept of education and return the funds to the state

Ralph

May 26th, 2010
8:58 am

Alas, Cynthia displays the ignorance that is the hallmark of the left. Congress doesn’t have any money, Cynthia. The answer is always just throw some more money on it. You must not have any children or grandchildren, Cynthia, or you wouldn’t spend their money. Shame on you.

not on my watch

May 26th, 2010
8:58 am

I’m from up north, and chose to teach here. All things being equal, the pay is actually not that terrible. My pay is lower, but I was able to buy a house here. In NJ, I wouldn’t be able to do that.

Of course, we have no real contract here either.

USMC DAWG

May 26th, 2010
8:59 am

Wrong Cynthia! You are ALWAYS wrong. You don’t need to throw more money to fix the problem.
The problem starts with the “watering down” of standards and teacher unions. The problem that your liberal arguments always run into is you argue AGAINST nature. There is no such thing as a “guarantee” in life. No one “deserves” anything. You must work for and earn it. Your Affirmative Action mentality won’t ever grasp this healthy concept of hard work and “earning” because you did not have to earn your job or position. There are many countries around the world that spend pennies on the dollar compared to the US and show massively better results…just saying

Scout

May 26th, 2010
8:59 am

Because this is a good chance to cut the fat!

And while we’re at it, let’s do away with the Department of Indoctrination (I mean Education) !

JKL2

May 26th, 2010
9:01 am

Good thing Obama has experience in this field. Triple money for education with no noticable effects. With his “open checkbook” policy I think I can see where this is headed. Call the FED and tell them to warm up the presses. It’s going to be another long night.

Don’t forget to add the SEIU and Obamacare bailout while your at it. You have to love bailing out a program that hasn’t even gone into effect yet.

Some People are stupid

May 26th, 2010
9:02 am

USMC DAWG-
Im confused. What is your post about cause I didn’t see anything about anybody guaranteeing anything. She actually supported the bottom part of your argument as to people earning things. (i.e, the best teachers keeping their jobs and not having it based on seniority)

Some People are stupid

May 26th, 2010
9:05 am

On a sidenote, does anybody who wants the DOE abolished know what they do?

Patriot

May 26th, 2010
9:06 am

Cynthia, I never get over how stupid you and the liberals really are. It is either that or you really don’t care about breaking our nation. That’s probably it, you figure that the sooner our nation is broken then the Global Governance can take over our nation and run it. I know for sure now that you are a marxists and want total control of everything. Ask yourself this question “where is the money comming from?” We are already so far into debt with China that we will never dig ourselves out. You people need to wake up to this socialists/marxists agenda. If you don’t understand this then read about it and learn what it really leads to.

not on my watch

May 26th, 2010
9:06 am

Yeah SCOUT, nothing beats social Darwinism!

not on my watch

May 26th, 2010
9:09 am

Patriot, the money comes from the middle and lower class schmucks who buy what the burgeouis conservative ruling class is selling us.

Drifter

May 26th, 2010
9:12 am

I can’t speak for all teachers, but I know two very well. They work about 40 hours a week when they’re supposedly “off” during the summer and 50-60 hours a week when school is in session. Both of them could be making more money and working less doing something else.

not on my watch

May 26th, 2010
9:14 am

That’s right, Drifer. Keep in mind too, we are not paid during the summer-our payroll is deducted during the months we work so our checks are equalized. Not every school system does that.

truthmattersfa

May 26th, 2010
9:14 am

It is simply amazing how every single post by Ctucker manages to be filled with misleading claims, half-truths, lies, and straw man arguments. Here are the problems with this post.

“Apparently, teachers aren’t worth saving.”

Completely exaggerated strawman argument filled with hyperbole. Check.

“Still, Duncan’s proposal for more education money has run into significant resistance from deficit-weary Democrats, as well as from just-say-no Republicans.”

Inaccurate name-calling of the opposition. Check.

“U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said school systems have hired too many administrators and staff (other than teachers), a model he called “unsustainable.””

Notice that Cynthia doesn’t actually refute or address this point anywhere in the piece. Nowhere. Do you agree with his statement Cynthia? Well, do you? Also notice that Kingston argument does not mention anything about an unwillingness to pay teachers. He is simply pointing out that part of the reason schools do not have the money needed to pay teachers is because they waste money on administrators/staff. So why should we (the federal taxpayers) bail out schools that don’t know how to properly manage their money? But then again, Cynthia’s not real big on addressing specific, complicated arguments, as seen in her extended unemployment discussion post.

“It’s too bad that Congress’ newfound fiscal austerity is so rigid than even teachers can’t be saved.”

I assume by Congress’ newfound fiscal austerity she really means “Republicans in Congress’” because the Democrats have not shown any fiscal austerity whatsoever. This includes the recent $200 billion spending bill up before the house AND the fact that they haven’t even proposed a budget for 2010-2011 because of so much profligate spending they want to enact.

“How can the United States expect to maintain its economic competitiveness if it takes a huge step backwards with its public schools?”

This is the statement that proves that Ctucker has absolutely no idea what she is talking about. This issue (US educational performance relative to other countries in the world) has been an ongoing problem for the last 20 years; yet according to good old Cynthia, if we just come up w/ $23 billion more dollars (hint, hint: we could save $9.36 billion/yr if we get rid of continuously extended UI), we can prevent a huge step backwards. Newsflash: we’ve already taken a huge step backwards and it we’ve been taking steps backwards for 20+ years, thanks, primarily, to the teacher’s unions and the Democratic politicians that enable them.

“Most school districts will use seniority to make decisions about cutting teachers — leaving little room to evaluate classroom performance. That means that bright and enthusiastic young teachers — who might hold great promise as classroom stars — are likely to be cut.”

So you admit that the teachers’ unions control everything and so rather than sell teacher accountability as a moral and correct idea to the American people, we should rather capitulate to the unions and pay them off with a $23 billion bribe to get them to agree to new teacher accountability rules. Pathetic.

“Why allow middle-class professionals to lose their jobs just as the economy seems to be finding its footing?”

I’m sorry I just got done laughing out loud at “just as the economy seems to be finding its footing”

“While Republicans may be happy to run in era of widespread joblessness which they get blame on their opponents,”

Um, “which they get blame”. Speaking of teachers, who was your 6th grade English teacher that taught you to write like that? Oh, and the above characterization is completely untrue. No one in the GOP is happy about the current state of joblessness. What we ARE unhappy about is the gigantic amount of money that has been wastefully thrown at the problem which has had little, if any, effect in improving it.

“Democrats, the majority party, ought to be doing everything possible to bring unemployment numbers down.”

This is the fundamental problem between Democrats & Republicans (or really liberals and conservatives). Cynthia and her fellow libs, think it is okay to do anything, including spending ungodly amounts of money, to bring down unemployment in the short term even if those measures are incredibly foolish in the short term. Conservatives disagree. They think that government can solve all problems with the economy/unemployment/jobs; conservatives disagree.

“And it that isn’t a good enough reason, there’s this:”

And it that. Wow. Yes, it that.

“Now, Barnes is doing everything possible to court them, pledging to find more money for education by suspending all tax exemptions carved out during Perdue’s business-coddling tenure.”

This is another great illustration of the problem that Cynthia conveniently does not address. Education spending is largely a state and local issue. It is NOT a federal issue. Let Barnes find all the money he wants at the state level. If the voters of Georgia support his ideas and agree with him, then he will be elected and Georgia can solve the problem on its own with its own money. There’s no reason for me or any non-Georgia resident to pay for the fiscal mismanagement of Georgia with its education funds.

“Those same teachers will be voting in Congressional elections.”

So will the millions of currently unemployed (and underemployed) individuals in addition to those ineligible for UI and/or not currently being counted as unemployed. I find it funny how you have no problem catering to one particular interest group solely to buy their votes. Well, sad really, but funny at the same time.

“Incumbents who don’t think education is a priority risk both a short-term political backlash and long-term educational mediocrity.”

Finished off with a completely exaggerated straw-man argument (Incumbents who don’t think education is a priority). Check.

atlshirt.com

May 26th, 2010
9:15 am

This is what happens with Big Government… They also come with BIG SALARIES!!! Cut the FED, IRS, and the POLICE, in order to save the teachers!!!

wwr201

May 26th, 2010
9:16 am

not on my watch: The word is so often misused, so I must nitpick:

bour·geois 1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of the townsman or of the social middle class

So, you either joined the ranks of many who use the word incorrectly or were intentionally redundant.

Union

May 26th, 2010
9:20 am

What was left out.. the proposed bill was for saving “100,000 to 300,000″ jobs.. they are not entirely certain.. either way thats a lot of money per job.. on the high side.. over 300k per saved job.. on the low side.. over 100k per .