QUOLKE’S CORNER 4/14/11

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QUOLKE’S CORNER #93
CMSD BUDGET
 
The Cleveland Teachers Union has been confronted with many challenges this school year…from school closings, staffing, and SIG school implementation to Senate Bill 5, the state Budget cuts, and on-going attacks on collective bargaining and the teaching/education profession.  None of this compares to the layoffs of 702 school based Cleveland Teachers Union members last week. These layoffs, plus rumored cuts to central office and other bargaining units are only the prelude to the Board of Education passing the formal budget at one of their meetings in May or June. 
 
A school District’s budget speaks to the funding priorities of the district. The priorities concerning academic improvement, student learning conditions, commitment to maintaining reasonable class sizes, while at the same time addressing the social emotional needs and challenges confronting students and families usually becomes clear with the proposed passage of the District’s operating budget.   Like all other districts, Cleveland is no different. 
 
What separates the CMSD from other districts is that they have known for two years that they would be faced with this crippling budget. During those two years we know that the District did not seek out new revenue sources or consider other revenue sources besides the same old property tax levy. The District did not advocate for holding our schools harmless on their share of the property taxes when tax abatements and tax exemptions are approved. The District has chosen once again to balance their budget by making cuts in the classroom. This is either short-sightedness or the worst type of community manipulation. Lay-offs of this capacity are projected to increase class size to 40/45-1, making schools less safe, and impede the academic progress we have seen throughout the district.
 
So, in the face of a looming budget deficit and in the middle of negotiations the Cleveland Metropolitan School District approved school closings and massive lay-offs at their Board Meeting last Tuesday. The layoffs, coupled with school closings and other cuts will give the district a projected $40 million surplus for the 2011-12 school year and a projected $2 million surplus for 2012-13. 
 
In this economy, many would be happy to see a $40 million surplus. But that surplus comes with a price tag of 650 fewer classroom teachers and a 40-1 or 45-1 class size. That surplus comes with eliminating all of our social workers, eliminating all of our community liaisons and eliminating over half of our school nurses. At a time when the District points to transformative “wrap-around schools” and “wrap-around services” for our most vulnerable students, they aim to cut those services at the risk of not having a $40 million surplus.
 
What infuriates me the most is that this comes at a time when the Federal Government stepped up and earmarked $17 million in EdJobs money for the CMSD to prevent layoffs of school based employees. As often as I look at the projected budget, those EdJobs dollars (which must be spent by September 30, 2011) simply seem to be targeted for savings next year and not aggressively targeted for this school year. 
 
The $17 million in EdJobs dollars triggered our negotiations re-opener, yet we have not been privy to the closed-door budget discussion on the utilization of those dollars. It is hard believe that our federally elected officials envisioned the EdJobs money being banked for future use when a district was laying off 702 school based employees and projecting 45-1 class sizes. Unfortunately, this continued go-it-alone attitude that began last year does not advance the cause of improving our schools and is doomed to fail. 
 
The May 10th and May 24th Board meetings should give us a good indication of the Board of Education priorities for the upcoming years. CTU will remain focused on committing resources back into our classrooms, our students, and our schools. Whether board members chose quality schools over budget surplus remains to be seen.  
 
The Cleveland Teachers Union has been and will continue to be focused on what is good for students and fair to educators and that includes working to get recalled members where they belong – in the classroom and not in the unemployment line. 
 
In Union,
David