How Long, How Long Blues

Leroy Carr. “How Long, How Long Blues, Pt. 1” (click to listen or download)

There was an interesting quote from my State Representative, Mark Pocan, in the Wisconsin State Journal story on the prospects of Governor Jim Doyle’s agenda as a lame duck.

But Pocan acknowledged fundamental reforms of school financing would be difficult to achieve soon given that they would likely cost money that the state doesn’t have.

“The real comprehensive change of how we fund schools is going to be difficult to do over the next eighteen months,” Pocan said.

“Difficult,” does not mean impossible.  Unfortunately, this sounds like yet another lowering of expectations.

One sure thing  is that we’ll never know how difficult if Pocan and his colleagues don’t try.

Another sure thing is that there has been no public attempt at comprehensive school funding reform in the months since the Democrats won control of both houses under a Democratic Governor (and no, Doyle’s stitched-together attempts to win favor from Arne Duncan do not count).    Please try.

Reading Pocan’s remarks I was reminded of FDR’s first hundred days and what could be accomplished with political will.  Here is a list:

First Hundred Days Legislation

March 9 – June 16, 1933

March 9 Emergency Banking Act

March 20 Government Economy Act

March 22 Beer-Wine Revenue Act

March 31 Creation of Civilian Conservation Corps

April 19 Abandonment of Gold Standard

May 12 Federal Emergency Relief Act

May 12 Agricultural Adjustment Act

May 12 Emergency Farm Mortgage Act

May 18 Tennessee Valley Authority Act

May 27 Securities Act

June 5 Abrogation of Gold Payment Clause

June 13 Home Owners Loan Act

June 16 Glass-Steagall Banking Act

June 16 National Industrial Recovery Act

June 16 Emergency Railroad Transportation Act

June 16 Farm Credit Act

Doyle has about 540 days left.  If he or members  of the Senate and House want to fulfill the promises they have made over and over again, if they want to redeem themselves for what they did to education in the most recent budget, if they want to have something positive to run on in 2010, if they want to invest in our state’s future, if they want to leave a legacy they can be proud of…comprehensive school finance reform is a must and they have to get to work now.

Please try.

Thomas J. Mertz

1 Comment

Filed under "education finance", Arne Duncan, Budget, education, Elections, finance, Local News, School Finance, Uncategorized

One response to “How Long, How Long Blues

  1. Jackie Woodruff

    Bill Cosby urges ‘no more cuts’ for Pa. schools
    Aug. 19, 2009, 4:59 PM EST
    HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Comedian Bill Cosby finds nothing funny about cutting school funding.

    Public education can make the difference between success and failure in life for many children, and cutting school funding makes the task more difficult, Cosby said Wednesday at a packed rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg.

    “No more cuts!” Cosby declared at the beginning and end of a short speech that was part of a celebration marking the steady improvements in Pennsylvania students’ test scores in math and reading.

    The Philadelphia native, a well-known education advocate, joined Gov. Ed Rendell and educators at the event designed to put pressure on the state Senate’s Republican majority to support more money for public schools.

    Cosby, who has homes in Massachusetts, New York and California, acknowledged he has not kept up with Pennsylvania’s clash over state spending between the Democratic governor and the Senate GOP. But he said similar disputes are common nationally and public schools are too often caught in the crossfire.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, is it that we don’t like children? I mean, what did these people ever do to you that you want to cut? They’re moving on a course that is very, very favorable,” said Cosby, decked out in a yellow T-shirt, red baseball cap, sunglasses and sandals. “Why would you want to take money from the success story and pull back on it so that they will start to enter prison?”

    He said taxpayers get their money’s worth from their investment in public schools. He said it costs less than $5,000 a year to educate a young person but $33,000 a year to incarcerate someone.

    School funding in Pennsylvania is among the many spending items still up in the air seven weeks after the July 1 deadline for a new budget. The state faces a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall and is operating under a bare-bones budget pending a compromise between Rendell, who wants to raise taxes, and GOP lawmakers, who don’t.

    The Senate GOP wants to roll back the state share of school subsidies and use federal economic stimulus money to keep the subsidy level at last year’s $5 billion — freeing up nearly $730 million for other programs.

    Rendell advocates maintaining last year’s subsidy level entirely with state money and tapping the federal funds to provide local districts with an additional $300 million or more this year and next year.

    Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, said additional federal stimulus money will ensure that local districts see higher subsidies under either plan, although Rendell’s is more generous.

    “I have nothing but respect for Mr. Cosby, but our members are much more interested in what their constituents have to say than in what Mr. Cosby believes,” he said.

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