Monday, October 31, 2011

Stay Balanced

Last week the Delaware State Education Association was host to a briefing by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) on the national economic picture and the impact on state budgets. Jon Shure, the director of State Fiscal Strategies for CBPP, was the presenter.

Three immediate thoughts came to me during the presentation. First, things are bad out there, really bad. Second, as bad as they are here, they are worse in most other states. Third, in Delaware we used a balanced approach, a combination of revenue and budget cuts, to deal with the worst of the crisis. This is exactly the approach recommended by the nation's top policy wonks at CBPP.

One startling fact in the presentation dealt with the loss of public employee jobs nationwide:

In case the chart is a little difficult to read, that's 646,000 jobs since August of 2008. Those job losses represent a major stepping away from public services by many states. While the loss of 646,000 jobs alone means a mighty blow to the economy, consider that these are jobs that support the foundation of the greater economy: Education, public safety, transportation, and health care to name just a few.

The loss of public services ripples throughout the economy. Allow me a simple example. If I need to renew my license and I wait for 3 hours instead of the usual 30 minutes, that's a residual economic loss (my time) from the economy, in addition to the laid off DMV employees and their spending power.

We live in an increasingly complex society with a complex and interdependent economy. Correspondingly, it takes a complex and comprehensive network of public services to provide the foundation. States who go too far down this path of smaller government, fewer public employees, and less public investment are borrowing against their economic future.

As we enter our fourth consecutive tough economic year, we should maintain our balanced approach, and keep Delaware a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Guilty Reappearance

It is with some guilt that I come back onto the blogsphere after a long absence. There's been so much happening and little time to write about it. So, in no order of date or importance, here are some of the issues and happenings that deserve comment.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been "marked up" (amended in committee to reflect spending needs) in the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. The Senate version as it has been passed out of committee, has no teacher evaluation component. This has caused the United States Education Department to pull their support for the bill. The NEA continues to support Harkin's bill and is working to make it better. There is no word on when the bill will go to the floor of the Senate. We do know it will not happen before November 8th. Chairman Harkin agreed to another hearing on November 8th for the benefit of Senator Rand Paul who authored about half of the 150 amendments proposed for the bill.

Delaware is competing for another Race To The Top grant. This one is for early childhood education. The Delaware Department of Education solicited input from Kindergarten teachers before completing the grant application. Lt. Governor Matt Denn met with Kent and Sussex County Kindergarten teachers on October 3rd and with New Castle County K-teachers on October 6th. While the program is centered on pre-K education, the Kindergarten teachers would be tasked with assessing children to determine their preparedness for school.

DSEA has had two very successful trainings recently. October 14th -16th was Leaders' Weekend training. This training had an emphasis on the meaning of union and establishing a successful union culture in Locals. October 22nd was the Education Support Professionals conference. Feedback from both events has been positive.

November 1st, 2nd, and 3rd will be Political Action Leader (PAL) trainings. Any DSEA political activist is welcome to join us for one of the following: Nov. 1 at the DSEA building in Dover from 5:00PM to 7:00PM, Nov. 2 at Heritage Shores from 5:00PM to 7:00PM or Nov. 3 at DSEA Newark office from 5:00PM to 7:00PM.

Ok, I'm back...once again I'll try to keep up with postings.