Posts tagged ‘Education funding’

August 11, 2014

The Hypocricy of Austerity

By Robert Green | Published August 9, 2014 by Ricochet

In a move that seems perfectly symbolic of the sort of politics his government represents, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced this week that the five members of the government commission charged with reviewing government programs and recommending where to make cuts will be paid the tidy sum of $1.03 million for about eight months of work. Commission President and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard will take home $265,000 for explaining to average Quebecers where they must make sacrifices.

The message being sent here is unmistakable: Tough choices, sacrifice and austerity are for the common people, not Quebec’s elites.

rich_get_richerThough his government has been in power only a short time, this is not the first time it has sent such a message. The government’s first budget contained cuts to school boards that are likely to seriously affect the services provided by already underfunded public schools, while leaving the subsidies wealthy families receive to send their children to private schools untouched. Apparently it is for the children of Little Burgundy to shoulder the burden of repairing Quebec’s public finances, not the privileged children who live up the hill in Westmount.

In fact this message is nothing new. From the PQ’s “deficit zero” politics of the late nineties to the Charest government’s attempts to “re-engineer the state” in the 2000s, Quebec’s political leaders have for years been saying that average Quebecers need to make do with less, that government spending is “out of control” and that we as a society are “living beyond our means.”

In 2010, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand called for a “cultural revolution” of austerity. This revolution led directly to the longest student strike in Canadian history and the defeat of Bachand’s government. Now back from exile, and sporting a new leader, the Liberals are set for round 2.

However, a cursory examination of Quebec’s recent spending trends shows a very different picture. With the exception of a spike in stimulus spending following the 2008 economic downturn, Quebec’s expenditures as a percentage of GDP have been trending downward since the early nineties. Even at the height of stimulus spending in 2009-2010 Quebec was spending significantly less as a percentage of GDP than it was in the early nineties. This is hardly a picture of out-of-control spending.

So if spending is not the cause of our current economic predicament, what is? The answer lies on the other side of the balance sheet, in revenues rather than expenditures.

read more »

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June 17, 2014

Support B.C. teachers’ battle against unlawful education cuts

June 15, 2014

A response to Jim Wilson’s letter “Education won’t be able to escape budget belt-tightening”

By Robert Green

On June 13th the Gazette published a letter entitled “Education won’t be able to escape budget belt-tightening” by Jim Wilson. The letter was an attack on my recent op-ed about the injustice of the Liberal government’s austerity measures for education. As Mr Wilson is a well known commentator on Quebec’s English school system whose writing has been often published on this blog, I feel it is important to publicly respond.

The whole reason I submit articles to the Gazette is to stir up public debate. Though I strongly disagree with the positions Mr Wilson takes in his letter, I am more than happy to debate these issues with him. I hope this exchange of ideas will be interesting and informative for readers.

As Mr Wilson’s letter raises a number of points and poses a number of questions, I will deal with them one paragraph at a time.

Robert Green makes one point that I fully support: that public funds should not be used to support private schools. However, he fails in his principal arguments that the budget means that “the neediest students are asked to make serious sacrifices” and that cutting the private-school subsidies would do much to remedy the overall financial situation.

Actually my principal argument was not about remedying the province’s overall financial situation so much as it was about the injustice of imposing austerity on the public education system while leaving generous subsidies for the rich to attend private schools untouched. I’m surprised that someone who claims to oppose public subsidies for private schools doesn’t share my outrage over this blatant injustice.

A secondary point of my op-ed was to show that there is no good reason to exempt private school subsidies from sharing in the burden of austerity. The private schools claim these subsidies save the system money. However, this is a highly questionable claim due to the other forms of government support private schools receive (listed in my article) in addition to the 60% tuition subsidy. While the FAE’s claim that there are significant savings to achieve by integrating private school students into the public system may also be somewhat questionable, even if this reintegration is cost neutral it is still extremely worthwhile as it will eliminate the significant social costs associated with an education system that is segregated along class lines.

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June 12, 2014

Austerity by any other name would smell as foul

An edited version of this article ran in the June 11th edition of the Montreal Gazette under the title “A bad budget for education

By Robert Green

There’s a very good reason the Couillard government wants to avoid using the word “austerity”. The word has become associated with a villainous act that evokes the names of such detested figures as Ebenezer Scrooge and the Sheriff of Nottingham; the act of taking from the poor to give to the rich.

However, avoiding the use of the word austerity may not be enough to prevent Quebecers from seeing the villainous truth behind the recent Liberal budget.

The Leitão budget is clearly moving Quebec in the direction of Choice #2

The Leitão budget is clearly moving Quebec in the direction of Choice #2

Nowhere is this more true than with respect to the Leitão budget’s implications for education. While Quebec’s wealthy will see no change whatsoever to the generous subsidies they receive to send their children to elite private schools, the province’s most needy students will be asked to make do with less.

The Leitão budget has extremely serious implications for Quebec’s public schools. It imposes cuts of $150 million for 2014-15, restrains growth in spending to a paltry 2.2 percent for the years following and freezes hiring for administrative posts.

The reason these cuts are so serious is that they are being imposed at a time when Quebec’s public education system is already in crisis.

School boards are in financial crisis having already been cut to the bone thanks to the $640 million in cuts since 2010. Some have resorted to running deficits while others have sought to raise school taxes. The notion that school boards still have bureaucratic fat that can be cut without affecting services to students is contradicted by both the school boards themselves and public sector unions.

Schools are in crisis due to the growing number of special needs students – a crisis exacerbated by a large and growing private school system that is permitted to use entrance exams to filter out such students, causing them to flood into public schools. The spending cuts mean that there will be even less money for psychologists, child care workers, speech therapists and drug councillors. In other words, fewer resources that can offer children with special needs the fighting chance they deserve.

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April 21, 2014

Ontario teachers turn to free online resources amid budget cutbacks, study finds

By:  | Published Mar 31, 2014 by The Toronto Star

Ontario teachers are turning to free online resources in droves — more than textbooks and e-textbooks — marking a “significant change” in learning, says a new report that raises questions about how to ensure the quality of web materials used in the province’s classrooms.

The survey of 1,349 Ontario schools by People for Education found when elementary teachers need new materials, 36 per cent of school report they turn to the web for freebies, 31 per cent say print textbooks and 19 per cent online resources produced by publishers, for which there would be a cost.

Among high schools, one in three report teachers using print textbooks and one in four free web materials, says the report, to be released Monday.

“The world has changed very quickly and a lot of us assume you can find the information you need online — which you can. But a discerning eye for the information is very important,” said Annie Kidder, executive director of the research and advocacy group.

“…We do feel as if it’s a bit of a wild west out there in a lot of different ways. We’re not saying it’s wrong or bad, but we are saying we need to think how we can be assured that kids are getting really high quality material, whether it’s free online or not.”

Part of the move to free online resources is budget cutbacks. But unlike buying textbooks that must be on a list approved by the province, “(there’s no) well-established system for vetting the quality of the free online resources that is widely used,” says the report.

Read more: http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2014/03/31/ontario_teachers_turn_to_free_online_resources_amid_budget_cutbacks_study_finds.htm

February 2, 2014

Qu’est-ce que l’austérité? / What is austerity?

Click ‘cc’ to activate English subtitles:

January 20, 2014

Stop soaring school costs in Ontario

By Arthur Cockfield | Published Jan 19 2014 by The Toronto Star

While recent media attention has focused on Ontario students’ dismal math performance and the government’s “discovery” curriculum approach to learning math, another government education scandal has escaped broad public scrutiny. The provincial government spends billions on budget-busting new school construction that thwarts the interests of students throughout the province.

After the Liberals came to power in 2003 they changed how new school constructions would be funded. Under the old rules, local school boards had to pay for new builds out of their own budgets. The new rules changed this so that new school constructions would now be paid out of provincial coffers. The new regime creates what economists call a “moral hazard,” where school boards neglect renovation costs at existing schools, then request new school funds from the province because they know their own budgets will be unaffected, even though Ontario taxpayers bear the cost nonetheless.

These construction projects are contributing to soaring education costs: a year ago the Ontario government, as part of what has become an annual ritual, trumpeted an additional $711 million for new construction, retrofits or additions for schools. Astonishingly, the total cost for new construction exceeds $12 billion since the Liberals came into power back in 2003. Despite opposition from parents and students in cities like Hamilton and Peterborough, hundreds of schools have been closed to pave way for new schools. And all these costs were incurred while the Liberals were blaming our teachers for their fiscal woes.

Read more: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/01/19/stop_soaring_school_costs_in_ontario.html

October 2, 2013

Marois says abolishing school boards ‘on the table’, association president says

By Kevin Dougherty | Published October 1, 2013 by The Gazette
QUEBE – The president of Quebec’s French school boards’ association said Tuesday night the Marois government is prepared to abolish the boards.Josée Bouchard, president of the Fédération des commission scolaires du Québec, told reporters after a 90-minute meeting between the Parti Québécois government and the boards that she asked Premier Pauline Marois point blank whether she would consider eliminating the boards.

“Everything is on the table,” was the premier’s laconic reply.

But Suanne Stein Day, chairman of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, on Montreal’s West Island, discounted the premier’s threat, noting that the existence of Quebec’s English boards, at least, is guaranteed in the Canadian constitution.

“I do think though it’s not quite fair to leave that threat on the table,” Stein Day said. “We have a constitutional right to exist.”

Marois told the school board representatives she wants them to give back $100 million of the close to $200 million in added schools taxes this year, after her government reduced it’s contribution to the boards by $200 million.

The cuts would come in two $50-million instalments in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Marois+says+abolishing+school+boards+table+association/8984390/story.html

September 19, 2013

Diane Ravitch: School privatization is a hoax, “reformers” aim to destroy public schools

By Dianne Ravitch | Published Sep 15, 2013 by Salon.com

Excerpt:

If the American public understood that reformers want to privatize their public schools and divert their taxes to pay profits to investors, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If parents understood that the reformers want to close down their community schools and require them to go shopping for schools, some far from home, that may or may not accept their children, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public understood that the very concept of education was being disfigured into a mechanism to apply standardized testing and sort their children into data points on a normal curve, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform.

If the American public understood that their children’s teachers will be judged by the same test scores that label their children as worthy or unworthy, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public knew how inaccurate and unreliable these methods are, both for children and for teachers, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. And that is why the reform message must be rebranded to make it palatable to the public.

The leaders of the privatization movement call themselves reformers, but their premises are strikingly different from those of reformers in the past. In earlier eras, reformers wanted such things as a better curriculum, better-prepared teachers, better funding, more equitable funding, smaller classes, and desegregation, which they believed would lead to better public schools. By contrast, today’s reformers insist that public education is a failed enterprise and that all these strategies have been tried and failed.

They assert that the best way to save education is to hand it over to private management and let the market sort out the winners and the losers. They wish to substitute private choices for the public’s responsibility to provide good schools for all children. They lack any understanding of the crucial role of public schools in a democracy.

Read more: http://www.salon.com/2013/09/15/diane_ravitch_school_privatization_is_a_hoax_reformers_aim_to_destroy_public_schools/

August 15, 2013

When Schools Become Dead Zones of the Imagination: A Critical Pedagogy Manifesto

By Henry A. Giroux | Published 13 August 2013 by Truthout.org

Excerpt:

While pedagogies of repression come in different forms and address different audiences in various contexts, they all share a commitment to defining pedagogy as a set of strategies and skills to use in order to teach prescribed subject matter. In this context, pedagogy becomes synonymous with teaching as a technique or the practice of a craft-like skill. There is no talk here of connecting pedagogy with the social and political task of resistance, empowerment or democratization. Nor is there any attempt to show how knowledge, values, desire and social relations are always implicated in power.  Any viable notion of critical pedagogy must reject such definitions of teaching and their proliferating imitations even when they are claimed as part of a radical discourse or project.  In opposition to the instrumentalized reduction of pedagogy to a mere method that has no language for relating the self to public life, social responsibility or the demands of citizenship, critical pedagogy works to illuminate the relationships among knowledge, authority and power. 24 For instance, it raises questions regarding who has control over the conditions for producing knowledge such as the curricula being promoted by teachers, textbook companies, corporate interests or other forces? 

Central to any viable notion of what makes a pedagogy critical is, in part, the recognition that pedagogy is always a deliberate attempt on the part of educators to influence how and what forms of knowledge and subjectivities are produced within particular sets of social relations. In this case, critical pedagogy draws attention to the ways in which knowledge, power, desire, and experience are produced under specific conditions of learning, and in doing so rejects the notion that teaching is just a method or is removed from matters of values, norms, and power – or, for that matter, the struggle over agency itself and the future it suggests for young people. Rather than asserting its own influence in order to wield authority over passive subjects, critical pedagogy is situated within a project that views education as central to creating students who are socially responsible and civically engaged citizens. This kind of pedagogy reinforces the notion that public schools are democratic public spheres, education is the foundation for any working democracy and teachers are the most responsible agents for fostering that education.

Read more: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/18133-when-schools-become-dead-zones-of-the-imagination-a-critical-pedagogy-manifesto

August 9, 2013

Video: Eat the Rich- An Animated Fairy Tale from the California Federation of Teachers

July 2, 2013

The solution to US public schools is not corporate America

We’re slashing K-12 funding and teachers and then turning our schools over to private operators. This is hardly good ‘reform’

By | Published 24 June 2013 by guardian.co.uk

Excerpt:

This crisis, which has persisted as disparate local debates, may soon coalesce into a national conflict. The schools hurt the most are those that have long been underfunded, segregated institutions struggling to educate poor black and Latino students. But today’s cuts are reaching into working- and middle-class towns and suburbs, and turning schools across the country into dreary, boring, arts and creativity bereft boot camps for standardized test preparation.

In Seattle, hundreds of students and teachers refused to take or administer high-stakes standardized tests. This after Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 others were indicted as part of a investigation that concluded a culture that accepted “no exceptions and no excuses for failure to meet targets” was at the root of widespread test cheating.

In New York, mayoral candidates have made the criticism of Michael Bloomberg’s school reform agenda a centerpiece of their campaign. In Philadelphia, mass student walkouts have protested the “doomsday” budget and hunger strikers are pledging to refuse food until more than 1,200 aides critical to school safety are rehired.

Most importantly, striking Chicago teachers created a new model for defending public schools in 2012. Educators received widespread public support after building strong community coalitions, and making it clear they fought not only for parochial job interests but also for fair funding, rich curricula and for schools as community institutions.

The reform movement perceives economic crisis as an opportunity to exploit for political gain. But the movement may have overplayed its hand, as increasing numbers of students, parents and teachers identify education austerity with the bipartisan prophets of “school choice”.

Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/24/us-public-schools-budget-crisis

June 17, 2013

Fighting for Our Classrooms, and for the Human Beings Inside Them

By Richard Eskow | Published 16 June 2013 by Truth-out.org

It seems as if the same battle is being fought in every aspect of American society. On one side are the forces of egalitarianism, economic opportunity and self-determination. On the other is a well-funded and entrenched elite bent on hijacking our media, our political process and our institutions for their selfish ends.

Sadly, the classrooms of this country haven’t been spared.

Means and Ends

The Wall Street crowd wants us to think of education in terms of means – which usually means finding ways to spend less – rather than ends.  But when it comes to education, the “ends” are our children. And the means we choose for them, either consciously or through indifference, reveal who we really are as a people.

Perhaps that’s why a new ‘education declaration’ has attracted signatories as diverse as author Dave Eggers; Prof. Robert Reich; education reformer Diane Ravitch; Larry Groce, host of NPR’s Mountain Stage; economist Lawrence Mishel; Prof. Theda Skocpol; and a number of other prominent political, academic, cultural, religious, and educational leaders. (You can sign it too.)

Read more: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/17004-fighting-for-our-classrooms-and-for-the-human-beings-inside-them

June 10, 2013

Faced with cuts, school boards trim student services

By Janet Bagnall, Published June 7, 2013 by the Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL —  Like a stern headmistress, Education Minister Marie Malavoy warned the province’s school boards last December that on no account should they reduce direct services to students — even though she knew they were struggling to cope with $500 million in budget cuts.

The boards faced a limited number of choices: raise school taxes, never a popular move; find other places to cut; or go ahead and cut services to students, Johanne Pomerleau, president of the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec, said on Friday. Unfortunately, the least palatable of the choices — cutting direct services to students — is precisely what some school boards have chosen to do, Pomerleau said

The federation recently surveyed a number of school boards to see what their plans are for the coming school year. Nine of the province’s 69 boards have already made, or will have made, cuts to specialized staff by August, the start of the 2013-14 school year, Pomerleau said. Specialized staff includes psychologists, speech therapists, social workers and guidance counsellors.

June 6, 2013

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

By | Published Jun 3, 2013 by Salon.com

In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.

Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.

For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activistprofiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.

Read more: http://www.salon.com/2013/06/03/instead_of_a_war_on_teachers_how_about_one_on_poverty/