Budget Woes Affect Teacher Quality

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Cuts to education budgets may seem inevitable in most states this year, but states are making lots of different decisions about what gets cut. There are some shining examples of self-sacrifice as evidenced by the teachers in Portland. TQB will be tracking this issue closely in the coming weeks.

"States Cutting School Funding" The Washington Post, March 15, 2003

California: A budget deficit of nearly $35 billion may lead to approximately 30,000 teachers, counselors, nurses, and administrators receiving notices. March 15th was the state-imposed deadline for serving teachers with notices of possible lay-offs for the upcoming year. Unfortunately, most of the cuts will be based on seniority rather than on some measure of the teacher's performance in the classroom (for more on this, see February 21, 2003's TQB. Some districts are working to minimize the effect the budget cuts will have on the classroom; in the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego, for instance, 69 administrators are being put on notice that their jobs may be eliminated so that the district can keep all of its teachers.

"For Teachers in County, the Waiting Game Begins" San Diego Union-Tribune, March 15, 2003 "District Wants to Keep Teachers; Board Also Adds to Committee" San Diego Union-Tribune, March 15, 2003

Florida: Republicans in Florida's House of Representatives are trying to steer the state away from an expensive class-size reduction plan. They are proposing that the state adopt a $31,000 per year minimum salary for starting teachers, in exchange for an agreement to repeal Florida's voter-mandated class-size caps. According to House Majority Leader Marco Rubio, R-Miami, "A lot of us believe that a quality teacher is more important than the number of students in a classroom." But the salary proposal is no bargain, projecting to cost $320 million. With a budget crisis forcing cuts in higher education and social services, the implementation of either measure is far from certain.

"States Cutting School Funding" The Miami Herald, March 18, 2003

Ohio: A budget shortfall and proposed cuts have led to a stand-off between the legislature and the Governor. Governor Bob Taft had sought to temporarily raise taxes on beer and cigarettes. When the legislature blocked his tax hikes, Governor Taft cut $136 million-- including $90 million state aid to schools--from the budget. In response, the Ohio Education Association, the largest teachers union in Ohio, filed an action with the state Supreme Court arguing that the cuts to education interfere with the legislature's efforts to fund schools and violate the recent Supreme Court ruling that school funding in Ohio is already inadequate. We'll keep watching Ohio for the latest news on this battle.

"School Aid Is Casualty Of Ohio's Budget War" Education Week, March 19, 2003 "Teachers Union Tries to Block Cuts" Akron Beacon Journal, March 18, 2003

Oregon: Kudos to teachers in Portland and the local chapter of the National Education Association who have made a big sacrifice for the sake of their city's schools. Earlier this month, the union agreed to allow teachers to work 10 full days without pay--the equivalent of a 5 percent pay cut--so that the city's students would not have to suffer too much as a result of the defeat of an emergency tax measure in January.

"Portland Schools' Financial Crisis Threatens Future" Education Week, March 3, 2003 "Teachers Avert Strike, Agree To Work For Free" CNN, March 4, 2003