Sunday, March 18, 2012

Walker's Education Cuts Failed Students This Year And Will Be Worse Next Year

Everyone who is not a paid lackey of the Bradley Foundation, the Koch Brothers or one of the groups circling like vultures, ready to zoom in and profiteer if Walker is allowed to privatize the state's education program, knows that Walker's cuts to the education program isn't working.  School districts from all over the state have been reporting experiencing problems balancing their budgets. The only way they could is lose good teachers, increase class sizes and cut programs.

And as everyone who isn't one of the aforementioned lackeys is starting to realize that as bad as the 2011-2012 budgets were, they were cakewalks compared to next year, when Walker's "tools" prove to be broken and there's no more stimulus or contingency funding to fall back one.

In Oshkosh, they needed to scrounge to make up for a $3.3 million shortfall. They did it on the backs of their employees, retirees and children (emphasis mine):
The salary freeze in the new plan saves roughly $1.8 million by freezing salaries and eliminating the automatic pay increases for years of experience and graduate credits.

Another $895,000 will be saved through benefit changes, including halving cash payments made to retirees based on their years of service, from $600 to $300 per year, and increasing the health insurance premium contributions.

Other cuts in the plan include increasing middle school class sizes to 27 students and restructuring custodial services.

School Board President John Lemberger thanked Tess and Holly Rottier, director of school assessment and improvement, for their work on the budget cut proposals, and acknowledged their work was challenging.

These are all painful cuts. There aren’t any good cuts left in the budget. It’s all flesh and bone,” Lemberger said.
Mt. Horeb is feeling the pain too, as evidenced by this letter from Superintendent Dr. Wayne Anderson:
Dear Staff and Community Members,

As we are approaching the end of the first semester of the 2011-2012 school year, it is time to start planning and working on our 2012-2013 district budget. This will be one of the most difficult budgets that our school district has had to assemble during my tenure. It has always been my goal and the goal of the Board of Education to create a balanced budget without staff layoffs. This will continue to be our goal, but the obstacles in our way are more numerous than at any time in the past. Our State and nation’s fiscal recovery is anemic. Media outlets inform us that we are slowly pulling out of the last recession, but unemployment is still high and consumer confidence is still low. On both the federal and state level, education funding has been cut in an effort to lower our national and state debts and provide funds for other priorities. Based on these and other factors, I have estimated that our school district will need to cut approximately $1,000,000 in order to create a balanced 2012-2013 budget. Here are some of the factors that figure into this number: 1) the elimination of approximately $560,000 of JOBS funds. The use of these JOBS funds allowed the Board of Education to allocate and redirect existing funds to help balance the 2011-2012 budget and prevent layoffs. The money was a one-time appropriation and is no longer available; 2) If the school district maintains it current health insurance plans the district can expect premium increases of between 7% - 8%, which equates to an increase in premium costs of approximately $200,000 and 3) Staff wage increases. Last year, teachers and administrators had their salaries frozen in order to balance our budget. This year, teachers and support staff will start the negotiation process for salary increases for the 2012-2013 school year. The rules dealing with this negotiation process have not yet been determined, but school districts have been told that staff will be able to negotiate base wages up to the CPI (Consumer Price Index). We anticipate that we will not know what this CPI number will be until late January, early February. The CPI number provided for calendar year 2012 is 2.04%. At this time, since no salary negotiations have taken place between the Board of Education and the district staff, it is difficult to determine what this number might end up being. However, if the CPI number for the 2012-2013 school year ends up being about the same as the CPI number for the calendar year 2012 and the Board of Education settles at a wage increase around this level. the district would need approximately $260,000 to pay for these wage increases. These three numbers provided me an estimate of what would be needed to be cut to arrive at a balanced 2012-2013 budget.

In an effort to create a balanced budget, while at the same time minimizing the impact on staff, the Administrative Council reviewed each building and department budget on a line-by-line basis and reduced the supplies, materials and equipment budgets for the 2012-2013 school year by approximately $600,000. This is a dramatic cut to building and department budgets. It is my hope that by using austerity measures in these accounts for the 2012-2013 school year that most of our current staff can be preserved for at least one more year. However, I have maintained that I do not think it will be possible to balance next year’s budget with the same number of staff that we currently have in 2011-2012. The Board of Education’s Finance Committee is looking at various options that could reduce our projected health insurance premiums. If they are able to find options that can keep our premiums at the same level in 2012-2013 that they are in 2011-2012, that will decrease the amount of cuts necessary by approximately $200,000. This leaves about $240,000 in reductions that still need to be found in order for the budget to balance. Currently, the district has fifteen (15) teachers who qualify for the district’s retirement benefits. The district saves approximately $15,000 when a senior member of the teaching staff retires and is replaced by a new teacher at or near the beginning of the salary schedule. If all fifteen (15) teachers who qualified for retirement were to take this option and were replaced with staff members at or near the beginning of the salary schedule the district would save approximately $225,000. If a senior staff member retires and is not replaced the savings to the school district is approximately $75,000. It is my current belief that the last portion of the necessary budget cuts will be a combination of these two options.
The Madison School District finds itself in one heck of a mess too with no real options:
Madison School District officials hope to avoid layoffs and spare employees from contributing to their health insurance premiums next school year, though to do so they might have to raise property taxes.

Superintendent Dan Nerad won't make his preliminary budget recommendations until April 1, but in its first look at the 2012-13 school budget, the district is projecting a $12.4 million deficit based on current budget trends.

Factoring in rising insurance and fuel costs, the district projects general fund spending of $319.7 million, up from $310.9 million this year. Revenues are projected to be $307.3 million.

The district is looking at several options to close the gap, such as eliminating its most expensive health insurance option, renegotiating nonunion employee contracts, energy efficiency projects, refinancing debt and raising property taxes, said Erik Kass, assistant superintendent for business services.

"The hope is we won't have to take more out of employee pockets or do any layoffs," Kass said.
Come to think of it, perhaps the education profiteers are saying things are going well because they actually are...for them at least. For the children, their parents or the hard working teachers, or anyone else that gives two hoots whether our children get an education, not so much.

H/T Institute for Wisconsin's Future


  1. And in the national news today, nationwide 75% of students graduate. In Wisconsin, 90% graduate, the only state to make the NCLB goal, again making us wonder why all the cuts to our education system that had been working so well. Another reason for the legislators, if they insist on using ALEC bills, tailor them to the state they are in. Thinking independently might help also.

    1. Through use of championed boilerplate ALEC legislation, elected officials stifle our own legislative innovation. States should attempt novel solutions according to present initiatives perceived relevant by their particular constituency. This is accomplished by building consensus across citizens of a certain region, not by cooing after corporate interests nor coddling of big money campaign donors.

      If our elected officials only represent special interests and particular constituent supporters, then some communities will become underserved by necessity. If you serve to represent corporate interests above all else, then one should at least make it known.

  2. Walkers cuts were no greater than Doyles and yet his went without comment or criticism from you......

    1. I never criticized Doyle? Better start doing your homework before you keep making a fool of yourself.

  3. Dolye's cut = under $1 billion. Yes, that's a huge cut.

    Walker's cut = $1.8 billion. $1.8B is greater than <$1B.