Wednesday, July 14, 2010

$28 Million for Delaware Education Jobs???

It's hard to believe that it's been two weeks since the end of session and two weeks since I've posted on this blog.

Considering we are still in the middle of a deep economic recession Delaware's Joint Finance Committee did a good job of distributing the resources with which they had to work. A number of last year's cuts were either restored or modified.

Delaware, like 48 other states had a budget deficit when the session began. Only natural resource rich Montana and North Dakota seem immune to the recession. Typically in these times revenues fall at the same time people lose jobs and need public services such as unemployment insurance and Medicaid. Additionally, parents who had been able to afford private schools for their children find themselves enrolling their children in the public system.

Delaware had one advantage that other states did not have when it came time to mark up the budget. We have an unique escheat law that allows us to take possession of abandoned property including that of corporations. In short, this stream of revenue ate up about half of our deficit and allowed for some budget relief.

Still, we started this process with more than 400 educators having received either Reduction In Force notifications or the elimination of their temporary contracts. We do not know how many of our colleagues will start work in the autumn. Some districts will receive funding for additional teaching units (remember those private school kids returning to the public schools). Some districts will benefit from the restoration of $21 million of a proposed $24 million cut to public school transportation.

However, these things are hard to calculate, and DSEA does not want to take any chances. That is why DSEA has joined the campaign of the National Education Association to attain federal funding to preserve education jobs. Congress is considering a proposal to put $10 billion into the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill for that very purpose. The proposal would provide Delaware with $28 million to save education jobs. The House has approved this plan and it is now before the Senate.

In the Senate, Tom Carper and 12 other fiscally conservative Democrats are reluctant to support the idea. The House offset the eduction jobs money by taking it from the Teacher Incentive Fund, the charter schools program, and the Race To The Top grants. Carper and his colleagues objected.

Other offsets are now under consideration, but regardless of that we need the funding. So called education reform programs are meaningless if educator layoffs result in larger classes and fewer teachers and paras to give students the attention they need.

It is interesting that "fiscal hawks" seem most concerned about the deficit when the spending is on needs of common people: education jobs, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance.

However, the fiscal hawks do not seem to object to spending such as the recent $35 billion in tax breaks to the oil industry, or the fact that we have spent more than $1 Trillion in the Middle East wars, and $1 Trillion on the Bush tax cuts (set to expire next year if Congress has the courage to let them sunset).

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