From the Miami Herald, Tuesday, November 25, 2008. See . Abstract appeared on the ASCD SmartBrief listserve, Tuesday, November 25, 2008.


Miami-Dade schools chief Alberto Carvalho: Schools deserve bailout, too

By Kathleen McGrory

With the state facing a potential $1.4 billion tax shortfall, Miami-Dade Schools chief Alberto Carvalho called on the federal government to consider a bailout for the nation's public schools.

The question in my mind is this: At a time when we're continuing the bailout of key industries, at what point do we have a bailout of public education? asked Carvalho.

His bid for a bailout is unlikely to get Congress to cut a check, but it does illustrate the dire budget crunch facing school districts.

Carvalho said the state tax shortfall could mean an additional $65 million reduction in spending for the Miami-Dade school system, the nation's fourth largest. The district has already cut $289 million from its $5.5 billion budget -- and was planning to slash $36 million more in the coming weeks.

We have to prepare for the very worst, Carvalho said.

Broward Superintendent Jim Notter said he could absolutely support a bailout of public education.

Some place between the federal government and the state government, we need to stand tall and protect the public schools, he said.

Congress approved a Wall Street rescue plan in early October. Since then, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have asked that some of that money be set aside for loans to the struggling auto industry. The federal government also decided to invest an additional $20 billion in Citigroup.

Some municipal leaders, too, are seeking a share of the bailout.

Last week, three big-city mayors -- Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Shirley Franklin of Atlanta and Phil Gordon of Phoenix -- asked the federal government for a portion of the rescue plan.

Palm Beach County Commission Chairwoman Addie Greene has also called on Congress for help.


With all these requests for additional federal dollars, the Miami-Dade schools chief suggests Congress should look at one more: additional funding to public schools throughout the nation.

The most commonly heard solution out of Washington these days is a bailout where the federal government intervenes to safeguard key industries and in the process, the quality of American life, he said. ``If that's the rationale, than I cannot think of a more strategic investment than safeguarding the quality of public education.

But Michael Connolly, an economics professor at the University of Miami, said there's a fundamental difference between bailing out a private industry and offering additional funding to public schools.

Public schools have already been bailed out because they are public, Connolly said. ``They don't need what I would call another bailout. They aren't private.

He added: ``If the Florida school system goes down the drain, it will make no difference to the U.S. economy. If we have AIG or Citicorp fail, then we have a systemic failure in our financial system. Everybody goes down.


U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said the mood of the Congress is not in favor of any other bailouts. In an e-mail to The Miami Herald, she added: ``This does not take away from the dire seriousness of the financial straits that our public schools are facing.

Nationally, Florida ranks in the bottom quarter in terms of spending per student, according to the U.S. Census.

Following last week's news that the state will take in $1.4 billion less in tax collections than anticipated this summer, Gov. Charlie Crist said he will likely call for a special session. He has not said when that might be.

Carvalho met with his top budget officials over the weekend to discuss the district's financial situation.


Up to this point, Carvalho and his team have managed to keep most of the cuts away from the classrooms. But now, unless he gets an infusion, Carvalho says there will be no other choice.

It will be impossible to make many additional cuts to the administration, he said.

There are certain areas where we cannot cut any deeper without compromising the financials of our school system, Carvalho said. ``I've cut the administration to the point where it is not a fat administration. Any additional cuts would have to be contemplated at the school sites.

Carvalho said it is too early to tell which programs would be considered for cuts. But he said the district is already combing its transportation and food-service budgets for savings.


Broward school administrators are looking at their budget, too. Notter predicts the school system will lose more than $100 million in funding from Tallahassee over the course of the year.

He has said the district will likely need to layoff employees, though it was not clear which positions would be cut. No public-school system is prepared for what we're faced with, Notter said. ``We've had too many deep cuts over the last three years.

Carvalho said he hopes to bring up his idea for a federal bailout to the Miami-Dade School Board and then to local elected leaders.

This is a conversation we're going to initiate here in Florida, said Carvalho, adding that he planned to reach out to the Florida School Boards Association and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. ``It is my hope that it will reverberate in Washington.
--Akcooper 19:33, 25 November 2008 (UTC)

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