Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Challenges As Well As Thanksgiving

Yesterday, the Delaware Department of Education made their budget request. The DOE requested a less than 1% increase (.9%) from last year. Much of this will be used to deal with new teachers needed for increased enrollment. As we have discussed before in this blog, as the economy slows, we have an increase in public services including children who were once in private school returning to public school.

Although the DOE is asking for an increase, the education budget is still lean and mean due to continued low state tax revenues. Last year's unpopular cost shift to local school districts on student transportation is back for consideration. The Joint Finance Committee rejected this cut in the FY 2011 budget.

The federal Education Jobs Fund money that was available for 2011 has been saved by local school districts for use in FY 2012. In Delaware, the funds are worth $27.4 million. The state communicated with districts last year in less than diplomatic terms that they should not use the money for FY 2011 because they would need it in FY 2012. Indeed, this money will in practical terms simply supplant other cuts this coming year.

There is no end in sight for robbing Peter to pay Paul in state budgets. Most economists believe that employment in the US will not fully recover for a decade. That's a long time for always hungry public services to starve for income tax revenue. It's a long time for American workers to go from jobless spell to jobless spell; or from wage and benefit cuts to more of the same. It is a long time for kids to experience the framework of education reform without a foundation of funding for the best in staffing and facilities. It is a generation with a college education in jeopardy. If you wonder why the National Education Association and her affiliates are becoming increasing interested, educated, and activated around fiscal policy and economic justice, this is why. We cannot pretend that we can produce a world class educated population in a safe bubble while the economy continues to crash around us.

Soooooo, Happy Thanksgiving?

Yes, I think so. Ultimately, what will get this country to thinking about a different way of doing things are the values of Thanksgiving: family and community. We are more than taxpayers. We are more than consumers. We are families and communities. All of our systems including economy, government, and education exist for the benefit of families and communities, not the other way around.

So, Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Thank you for these insights and comments.

    You caught me up short with your observation that this may be "a generation with a college education in jeopardy." You are so right. I had never thought about the not-so-distant outcomes for my current 6th graders. Which of them will be able to afford college in 2017--the year they graduate?

    We are going on a field trip this Friday to see the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute--these are some very lucky kids. However, the trip will cost $20 per student, including entry into the FI and the incredible cost for buses (bus, gasoline, driver's time). Small price to pay for the privilege of seeing what most kids could never dream of seeing. In 6th grade I would have killed to see real ancient artifacts sent abroad by the Egyptian Government--items from the truly enigmatic and lovely Cleopatra.

    I knew that this price would immediately stop some families from agreeing to send their child on the trip. For too many of our kids, $20 is absolutely out of the question for something like this. Of course, we came up with resources to allow every child to go, but it is not easy for an 11-year old to admit to me that they cannot afford to go. I am sorry to even put them in this uncomfortable position.

  2. Yes, it is tragic how little disposable income is availabe to some working class families. My brother is a widower raising a child on a house painter's wage and he says there are some weeks where he has only $20 left after paying bills.