…from the IAYA (“I ask, you answer”) survey regarding how state and local budget cuts are playing out on the ground.
Your responses were excellent and provide a lot of much-needed granular evidence. What follows is thus an anecdotal version of many of the macro trends I and others have been writing about, or more colloquially, snapshots of your brain on drugs town on austerity. (H/t: HS for help compiling.)
Almost every commenter included some mention of how education in their state has suffered, with regard to both K-12 and higher ed. Folks mentioned the overcrowding of classrooms (40-50 kids per teacher), teacher pay cuts/lack of raises in K-12 schools, as well as school closings and some teachers having to work entirely without pay.
One responder posted a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer on education cutbacks. According to the piece, the…
“Chester Upland [school district] is expected to fall about $19 million short this school year – almost 20 percent of its $96 million budget. The district, which depends on state aid for close to 70 percent of its funding, lost millions from Harrisburg last year because of statewide budget cuts, many of which came down hardest on poorer districts.”
Schools are also seeing “less support for after school programs and teacher professional development and — particularly in poor communities – shifted costs for extracurricular activities.”
Re higher ed, tuition hikes and depleted resources (fewer library documents, classroom supplies, funding for new professor hires and incoming students) are reported to be fairly common. A grad student wrote:
“Funding for hiring new professors was cut drastically such that, in a department with only fourteen professors, we had three retire in a year and a half and we haven’t been allowed to replace any of them. Funding for already-admitted students has also been cut, resulting in some being forced to teach through their entire PhD, taking much longer than they would otherwise to get through their program.”
Not much elaboration needed here, but lots of you noted that localities have been forgoing fixing roads, which folks reported as comprising safety:
“In Washington [state] there is at least one county that can’t afford to keep plowing all the roads it used to during the winter. Now they plow half way for as long as the money lasts.”
Another person noted…
“serious changes in road surface quality in both Arizona and New Mexico. Mountain country with 65mph posted speeds and some pretty wild weather, over the past 5 years many roads (e.g. US 60) have gone from reasonable surfaces to suspension tests. Including large potholes — not a good safety feature.”
Others described worsening public transportation (e.g., bus and metro service).
I love libraries—if I were in charge, every town would have a bunch of great libraries. So these responses cut me to the quick.
Separate from the college library cutbacks mentioned above, some of you reported library closings and cuts to hours, fewer library events, and reduced interlibrary loan services:
“The Seattle Public Library now charges $5 for each inter-library loan request, and is selling borrowing fines to collection agencies. It no longer funds a reciprocal borrowing agreement with the large and better-funded King County Library System, and the KCLS has retaliated by refusing to provide any services to people they know are from Seattle.”
“Locally, my library is laying off people as a last step before reducing hours.”
One respondent noted that MA will be cutting public health budgets 1.5%-6%, and (including WIC payments—a nutrition program for low-income families with young kids); another pointed out that PA will cease:
“General Assistance (ie–cash payments of a max of $210 per month) to individuals who are not eligible for TANF in the 2012-2013 budget, [which]…affects about 68,000 individuals in PA….In addition, the Governor zeroed out a state program called HEMAP (Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program) that helped homeowners who were facing foreclosure due to a short-term emergency to keep their houses.”
Those using state social services “can spend easily 30-40 minutes on hold, because there are far too few operators to handle call volume,” adds a commenter from Michigan.
An OTEer from Florida emailed me this article on cuts to the Michigan police force.
“The state has lost more than 3,400 law enforcement officers since the terrorist attacks of September 2001, according to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. Michigan lost nearly 15 percent of its civilian and officer law enforcement employees combined from 2001 through 2010, the steepest percentage drop in the U.S., according to a review of annual FBI statistics.”
IMHO these stories are extremely important. It’s one thing for politicians to beat their chests and call for cuts, cuts, cuts, and quite another to view their impact. Library systems reducing hours and cutting reciprocal borrowing arrangements, overcrowded classrooms, diminished police protection, deteriorating infrastructure…these are the kinds of things that not only reduce our quality of life, but rob our kids of opportunities that could reverberate through their lives (small class size, for example, has been linked to higher levels of college completion later in life).
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are trying to figure out ways to cut even deeper into the very part of the federal budget that helps to support many of these kinds of state activities (especially education) to finance tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthiest households.
I’m not sure how to stop them, but I believe that collecting and promulgating this kind of information is part of the solution. So, thanks, and keep collecting these anecdotes as you come across them…I’ll be asking for updates soon.