November 20, 2008

Streifer warns of impending 'devastating' cuts to education if help isn't provided

Letter from school Superintendent Philip Streifer to Gov. Jodi Rell, the General Assembly and the rest of us:

To the Governor, the Legislature and all Connecticut citizens, if you care about regular public education, please read this letter. With the State budget in meltdown and likely cuts to education imminent we are facing what I term 'Three Strikes Against Regular Public Education'. I write as superintendent of the Bristol Public Schools, but my colleagues in other cities and towns across the state are facing equally daunting challenges to save regular public education.

The Problem. Connecticut is facing the worst crisis in public school financing in memory; there simply is not enough new money around to solve it. Thus, extraordinary steps are needed to reduce staffing costs and unburden public schools from unfunded mandates for two years (or until the State gets its financial footing back in place). The scope of the problem is as follows:

Strike 1: Bristol's budget, like others across the State and Nation, will increase by 6-7% due to fixed costs and for special education that continues to escalate beyond normal budgetary expectations. In Bristol, a 6% increase amounts to about $6M in new revenue needed or about 1.5 mils on the local tax rate.

Strike 2: The State is broke and is proposing a cut in Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) revenue. We estimate that the cut in aid to the City of Bristol will be around $5M or so. This represents 1 mil on our local tax rate. If other grants, such as special education excess cost grants, are also reduced, the shift to the local tax payer rises further.

Strike 3: If the City does not raise taxes and the scenarios above emerge (which are looking more likely every day), then we have a $10-12M budget shortfall in Bristol for next year or about 10-12% (and it gets worse the following year – FY11). In this case major layoffs are inevitable and we will have to target regular education only for these cuts. The problem is that reductions cannot be made in special education or other 'protected-mandated' services so the cut must come from regular education alone. Reducing $10M next year from Bristol's remaining $70M budget allocated for regular education amounts to a cut of around 14-15%. Since the State problem is deepening for FY11 our problem grows worse locally the following year. As a result we could experience a net cut in regular education of 25-30% over the next two years. This would be devastating and would be 'Strike Three' for public education as we know it. All districts that receive ECS and special education aid in the State have the same problem, to a lesser or greater degree depending on how much aid they receive. The impact in all the urban districts will be devastating. I am not proposing a reduction in special education services; these children need support. We need to find a way to keep programs intact and people working for the next two to three years until the economy rebounds.

Scenario Planning. We have conducted several scenarios as to what this would actually mean programmatically for Bristol. They are dramatic and suffice it to say that class sizes would rise dramatically, all enrichment programs would be eliminated, and high school course options would be severely reduced. Beyond the operational budget we most certainly will have to reduce services provided by other State grants no matter what else happens with the budget. In Bristol we provide much needed support services for children through these special grants. 

Solutions. This problem is bigger than us (Bristol) and it cannot be solved here alone. CAUS (the CT Association of Urban Superintendents) has proposed a two-year reduction in the school year by 10-15 days. If CMT/CAPT testing is suspended for two years, as well as professional development, we could save 10 days alone without impacting students' programs. And there are a range of other mandates that need suspending for two-years. Only the State can legislate these changes through emergency acts. There are ways to provide certain safeguards to employees but drastic measures are needed now given the unfolding crisis in public financing.

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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Real smart move paying double the current market value for the Crowley property.

Anonymous said...

So let's let the state bank roll $1.5 million for new schools we don't clearly need.

That's the problem with these educators. They think money grows on trees!

Curious said...

will increase by 6-7% due to fixed costs
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Could these fixed costs be the overly generous pay and benefit packages enjoyed by the staffs of said schools ??

Anonymous said...

And he wants to build not 1 but 2 new schools???

Anonymous said...

He's presenting a dire picture. And why would people want to move to a city that faces these kinds of looming school problems? He should keep more quiet.

Anonymous said...

"This problem is bigger than us (Bristol) and it cannot be solved here alone. CAUS (the CT Association of Urban Superintendents) has proposed a two-year reduction in the school year by 10-15 days. If CMT/CAPT testing is suspended for two years, as well as professional development, we could save 10 days alone without impacting students' programs. And there are a range of other mandates that need suspending for two-years. Only the State can legislate these changes through emergency acts. There are ways to provide certain safeguards to employees but drastic measures are needed now given the unfolding crisis in public financing."

The biggest mandate that should be suspended is the one that allows the reckless and irresponsible spending on infrastructure that won't come on line for ten years. How does Streifer think state and federal reimbursements for building schools will be available when billions in state and federal deficits are looming? How in the world will reducing the school year save any real money? Unless you eliminate positions, (if that is the veiled threat, why not just come clean and state that objective?) All you do there is actually increase the per hour rate of every salaried school employee. if suspending CMT/CAPT doesn't affect education, why did we ever have CMT/CAPT in the first place?
If these are the types of solutions are coming out of a major school superintendent organization, the most effective solution for everyone should be the elimination of all school superintendent positions. That would be REAL cost saving.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Odin said...

"He's presenting a dire picture. And why would people want to move to a city that faces these kinds of looming school problems? He should keep more quiet."

You gotta be a Bristol native, born and bred. That's always been Bristol's reaction to problems (youth drinking, increasing poverty, etc.): pretend it doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

local property taxes in Connecticut can no longer be the primary source for school funding.

November 20, 2008 12:58 PM
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Several years ago they held a statewide referendum to allow the state lottery so property taxes would NOT fund education .

Welcome to the BLUE State of Connecticut . Grease handed out @ the border .

Anonymous said...

Why would you want more people to move in? It costs us all more money.

There's a lot of high living (lunches out, conventions, big raises) that goes on in school systems, and that's were the cuts should start. We need binding arbitration to be reformed, and that won't happen until Republicans are a majority in Hartford.

Like I've said before, it's easy. Just color in the oval next to the person who wants to cut spending.

Anonymous said...

Reduce the school year by 10-15 days? Isn't the school year too short already?

Anonymous said...

This is the solution you get when you hire a PhD. in Eduction. What say, we reduce the overhead costs for those 10 - 15 days in salaries. What say we reduce the overhead during summer months in salaries. What say we elimante the jobs of those who are not performaning to standards. What say we set performance standards. What say we look at standards and the necessity for special education. What say we just leave it to a Special Interest Group that dictates our educational concepts, wages, and overall failure of our current educational system. Lets say we build two new schools during an economic crisis and cut a few days out of the current school year. Guess that balances the budget.

Truth said...

He needs to call Dr. Fusco and get a big dose of reality...

http://woodstocktruth.com/2008/09/04/mark-your-calendar-for-this-important-event.aspx


http://woodstocktruth.com/2008/09/26/woodstock-will-ride-the-wave.aspx

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"What say we just leave it to a Special Interest Group that dictates our educational concepts, wages, and overall failure of our current educational system."

What say we pay our teachers minimum wage (that way wee will be able to pay our dog sitter a fair salary). We will have enough money left over to build 10 new schools and still be able to pass out free aspirin. (low cost health care)

Anonymous said...

No one expects it to be a good idea to give teachers minimun wage. But let's reign in costs abroad.

As far as salaries go in Plymouth teachers are looking for 8% increases in salaries this year. Too bad people don't understand how greedy and unreasonable the teachers unions are.

Zajac said...

Teaching is an open profession, and there is always a market.
Why not give it a try.

Those that can do, do.
Those that can do more, teach.

Steve Collins said...

Zajac,
That's certainly an option. I do love to teach and I even like talking to teenagers!

Anonymous said...

striefer - shut up

Anonymous said...

How about if teachers get paid hourly? It really is a part-time job anyway.

Zajac said...

Steve,

Give it a shot, if the Press does fold.

Anonymous said...

10:50

Why didn't you become a teacher??

Anonymous said...

How about if teachers get paid hourly? It really is a part-time job anyway.

November 21, 2008 10:50 PM
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Union contract = Max. 4 hours classtime per day .

Union contract = MAX. 180 days per yr.

Yes .... I would call that a part-time position .

Anonymous said...

I teach and work a part-time job. I'll be happy to take part-time pay if I never have to take work home, and I could get a refund for those two pesky Masters degrees. Hell, why not just ditch the Bachelors degree too :)

FYI - 10-15 days off means every teacher would take a pay cut. Since we get paid for 183 days (not for unworked summer hours), getting docked 10-15 days would be significant and save money systemwide.