Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March

Shakespeare used a little poetic license in his play Julius Caesar when Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to “Beware the Ides of March” In Act I Scene 2. But these days the warning seems appropriate.

The soothsayer was warning Caesar that he would be killed on March 15th. A bad day to be emperor of Rome.

So too is it a bad day to be teacher in Texas. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Because here in Texas we get to see the whole process unfold and the numbers posted that tells everyone the same thing. Unless something isn’t done about it, cuts to education are coming, and coming big time.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities has several spreadsheets on its website, found here. The one I looked at is the Public Education spreadsheet showing revised figures from HB 2485 county-by-county, along with total job losses, not just in education but from education job losses and the ripple effect that it would have in the private sector.

Statewide, total job losses could be as high as 289,532.

But if you scroll all the way to the bottom you see a link to State Rep Scott Hochberg’s District-by-District breakdown.  The news there is even more unsettling. On average, according to his figures, school districts will stand to lose over 17% of the funding they normally would receive from the state. Some districts are lower, some are higher.

But here’s the thing. All of this could just go away if there is a vote to open up the Rainy Day Fund to get the budget balanced. School districts could get some much-needed good news ahead of hearing what their budgets will actually look like, and in time to make staffing level decisions that they will have to make, by law, in mid April.

So when Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts scheduled a committee vote on tapping the Rainy Day Fund, he was hoping to get an approving nod from Rick Perry, something that they had already heard they would get – privately, that is.

But what did they hear from the governor’s office? Crickets. Not no, not yes, not anything at all.

“So the expected early morning vote was delayed, and Pitts extended an invitation Monday for someone from Perry's office to testify at the rescheduled afternoon hearing. But no one showed. Nor did they respond to the phone calls or text messages from Pitts and his aides as the committee awaited the arrival of Perry's representatives.”
Would it not be tragic that public education as we know it in Texas can be saved with the Rainy Day Fund, but news of the release of money from this fund is delayed past the deadline that school districts must honor?

Perry is very much like a child playing with his toys unaware or uncaring that there is a coming storm that he can prevent if only he puts his Tonka truck down and picks up the phone.

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