Posts Tagged 'Kids and Communities First'

Teacher Appreciation: by State Rep. Debbie Phillips

This week is national teacher appreciation week. Each of us can think of a teacher, or teachers, who made a difference in our lives. My children have both had excellent teachers, and we feel very fortunate to live in a community that has such a wealth of smart, caring educators. I hope we all take a moment to thank a teacher this week, and to proudly recognize educators who work every day to help nurture Ohio’s children and prepare them for the future.

Public education is the foundation of the middle class, and we must fight to protect and improve our schools. Having the best schools and teachers is vital to growing our economy and preparing young people in our community for the jobs of the future.

Local school districts across the state are facing difficult decisions, including laying off teachers and cutting programs. Supporting teachers in their work necessarily includes providing the tools and resources to prepare our children for a successful future. It would be wise for leaders to recognize and support their hard work.

We have a responsibility together to make sure schools are working for our children. Last year, the state budget made historically deep cuts to education. To understand the impact, House Democrats calculated the projected school-funding deficit for every school district in Ohio based on their five-year forecasts. The results are sobering. In fiscal year 2014, the combined school-funding deficit in Ohio is estimated to be $1.79 billion.

Every week newspapers around the state are reporting possible teacher cuts, the elimination of bus routes, building closures, and lots of new levy attempts. Rural, urban, and suburban schools are all struggling in the current climate, and we cannot turn our backs on the kids and communities of this state.

My colleagues in the Ohio House and I have proposed a modest plan to help our schools and communities during these difficult times. Our plan, the Kids and Communities First Fund, would make up to $400 million available this year to keep teachers in the classroom, and police and firefighters on the streets.

While this would not solve all the problems, it would provide some immediate relief to communities around the state without a local tax increase. Our fund would use surplus revenue, currently $350 million and growing, and a portion of the Rainy Day Fund. Sadly, when offered as a budget amendment, it was rejected along party lines without ever being seriously considered, but I will be introducing this proposal as a standalone bill in the near future.

Currently, the state of Ohio is functioning without a formula or a plan for funding schools. Governor Kasich’s budget repealed the formula, and replaced it with “bridge” funding. This has caused deep uncertainty for schools, and hearings on a new proposal are only now beginning. I trust that a good faith effort will be made to work together in a nonpartisan way to make real progress on a fair way of funding schools, so that children in Ohio have a good education, no matter where they live.

Students in our region should have access to a full curriculum, high level coursework, early childhood education, and other resources to enable them to develop their talents and find success in the world at large. Teachers are the key, and real appreciation will have to include making sure that teachers can do their life’s work—helping to nurture the inquisitive minds entrusted to their care. Teachers are called to service. Let’s do our part to show respect and appreciation for our teachers by taking seriously our responsibility to fund public education in Ohio.

This week, teacher appreciation week, I thank all the educators who work tirelessly for our children. I will continue working to ensure that our children have access to a high quality public education, throughout Ohio, and I hope you will too.

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Republican Budget Cuts Responsible for More than 700 Teacher Layoffs this Week Alone

State Representatives Denise Driehaus and Mike Foley urged the Republican legislature and Gov. Kasich to take a serious look at the Kids and Communities First Fund announced by House Democrats this week.  The fund would help offset historically deep budget cuts after the layoff of more than 700 teachers that was disclosed over the course of two days.

Cleveland City Schools announced that 508 teaching positions would be lost at the end of this year while another 200 teachers take retirement packages.  The district will also shorten the school day and cut music and arts programs.  These layoffs come even as the district will place a $65 million levy on the ballot in the fall to close the budget hole created by the $59 million the district will lose due to state budget cuts. Additionally, the Cleveland Teachers Union agreed to a 5.6 – 6 percent pay cut for next year.  [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/17/12]

“These kinds of cuts will only continue statewide if we do not take action to curb Gov. Kasich’s massive budget cuts.  This week’s news is incredibly disheartening,” said Rep. Foley. “While unemployment rates slowly go down more than 700 teachers were laid off this week in two of the state’s largest districts.”

Cincinnati City Schools, the highest ranked urban district in the state, announced 237 teacher layoffs this week due to $43 million dollars in budget cuts.  The district says the layoffs are due to funding cuts. Cincinnati City Schools faces a projected deficit of more than $53 million ($53,868,502) in fiscal year 2013 and a frightening $115 million ($115,099,388) in fiscal year 2014.  Julie Sellers, President of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer as saying, “This year already most of our grievances were about overloaded classrooms…” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/18/12]

“These layoffs will not only hurt our children’s education and future, they will hurt the families of those losing jobs, predominantly women,” said Rep. Driehaus. “Gov. Kasich’s policies are bad for economic development and bad for women.  Our communities deserve better, but unfortunately we’re seeing that women and families are being disproportionally affected. I urge my Republican colleagues and Gov. Kasich to put partisan politics aside and do what is right for our children and their teachers by passing the Kids and Communities First Fund.”

This week, House Democrats announced the Kids and Communities First Fund will be offered as an amendment to Gov. Kasich’s Mid-Biennium Review (HB 487).  This fund will help keep teachers in the classroom and cops and firefighters on the streets in communities all across Ohio. Additionally, this fund will help curb the growing need for local tax levies due to state budget cuts and provide relief for local property taxpayers. The fund will make up to $400 million available this year from surplus revenue (currently $265 million), a portion of the Budget Stabilization Fund ($120 million), and $15 million from Gov. Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase.  The fund would be replenished after fiscal year 2013 by increased severance tax revenue.

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