Results Are In!

March 9th, 2012 at 3:01 am

…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.)

Education

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.”

Roads/Transportation

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).

Libraries

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.”

Social Programs

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.

 

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7 comments in reply to "Results Are In!"

  1. Michael Olsen says:

    This summary strikes me as very disingenous, insofar as it calls for no more spending cuts. Local government has lots of bills to pay, and my experience — as a municipal attorney — is that political leaders LIKE to cut the things that cause the most pain, with the support of the service unions, becuase they generate the most outrage.

    In San Francisco, when library budgets were cut by just a few percent, the libraries, decided to close early and close weekends, RATHER than to try to do a better, more efficient job.

    THis tactic is epidemic, and quite phoney, and is intended to trick the media and commenters (like yours above) into abhorring spending cuts.

    You don’t really believe that the real reason towns, counties and states have bloated budget is because there is not enough prudent, cost conscious spending on infrastructure and teaching, do you? I didn’t think so.


    • oli3 says:

      un-freakin’ believable…


    • Jean says:

      Actually, there are some politicians that employ the outrage method in their budgets. Here in Oakland, CA, our infamous mayor came up with a budget that cut every thing — fire services, library services, you name it. And there was a lot of outrage. Then the city council decided to take matters into their own hands, and they came up with a budget that seemed to work without all those cuts.

      Interestingly, when the Occupy protests started happening, all of a sudden there was enough money to extend the police hours and services, and really we haven’t heard any more about the cuts that she had threatened us with previously.

      I always figured it was because she is so incredibly lazy and passive-aggressive that she really just wanted someone else to do her work for her, and that was the best way to get someone else to do it.

      I sincerely doubt that all politicians are as bad as Jean Quan. I’m not cynical enough to think that all politicians are like our illustrious mayor. I’ll bet that there are even some politicans who would really like to improve the situation.

      We had a proposition on the ballot asking for an slight increase in property taxes to help offset the projected shortfall, but unfortunately it was voted down.


  2. sdemetri says:

    Maine has been debating cuts that would throw 65,000 off out the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare. I have a friend my age, 56, who has had a spot of cancer removed from his shoulder, twice. He now has a golf ball size hole on the back of his left shoulder. No skin graft because the surgery was done with public assistance. He is facing being thrown out of MaineCare, having just gotten into the program. He will be faced with the choice of how to pay the rest of his mortgage on a property given to him by his father when he graduated from high school in 1974, only about $15,000, or continue to get his cancer treated. Having been a commercial diver, a fisherman, an oyster cultivator, and most recently a pier, and post and beam home builder in the depressed mid-coast region of Maine, he stands to loose everything, including his health.

    The real kicker is the tea party governor Paul LePage, called by some LePlague, cut taxes to the wealthiest Mainers at the beginning of his term by about $120mil, about 400 families. The Maine Revenue Service recently confirmed that if these Mainers paid the same proportion of tax as others in Maine, there would be no shortfall in the budget for these services and would keep MaineCare funded. It is all still in flux, but the policy decisions that are driving this are nothing short of insane.


  3. Andi says:

    Side note on class size… the assumption that smaller class sizes = better outcomes isn’t clear cut. The Today programme had an interesting piece from South Korea where class sizes are very high but they rank 2nd in the OECD for educational performance overall. The suggestion is class sizes are easy things to target politically, but the real drivers of improvement are things like teaching quality/preparation, framework of school discipline, school leadership etc.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9703000/9703679.stm


  4. E.J. says:

    19-hour ER wait in Houma, LA|Cuts already clog medical center’s emergency room -http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20120308/articles/120309591

    At the New Orleans hospital, the cuts include: eliminating the 20-bed chemical detox unit to save $841,632; closing nine of the 38 inpatient psychiatric beds on the DePaul campus to save $663,007; closing 10 of the 20 mental health beds in the emergency department to save $853,673; closing four of the 44 general emergency department beds to save $1.43 million; closing 24 medical/surgical beds to save $1 million; and scaling back treatment for state prisoners to save $2 million.
    http://mobile.nola.com/advnola/pm_29227/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=Q70g1Kci


  5. E.J. says:

    Louisiana hospitals have also eliminated entire labor & delivery, pediatric, and even neonatal intensive care units.
    http://mobile.nola.com/advnola/pm_29227/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=g72giMDY

    Guess they figured the babies are going to be born anyway, and who cares about kids and gravely ill babies. They can fend for themselves, right?


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