School system leaders and Congress are engaged in what could be seen as a game of chicken. Superintendents from 62 big urban districts signed a Council of the Great City Schools letter to congressional leaders saying schools need a $200 billion federal bailout to avert a “catastrophe” with “profound” consequences for the nation. Without the money, the superintendents warn, they will have no choice but to lay off some 275,000 teachers, spelling disaster for student learning, with ballooning class sizes and students taught by unqualified teachers.
This federal ask seems an incomplete strategy to stave off the envisioned doom. Districts need to start work on a Plan B — and they need it now.
With grim financial forecasts for K-12 education next year as the epidemic unravels the economy, it’s an understandable first move to work on the revenue side of the equation for schools. Politically, leaders don’t want to make cuts if districts can get more money from the federal government, a.k.a. taxpayers, instead. But education is just one of many sectors looking to the federal government for a lifeline. And some in Congress already have signaled that a bailout for states and districts isn’t a priority. As the saying goes, hope isn’t a strategy.
Not hope alone, anyway.
December, 2019: Madison increases property taxes by 7.2%, despite tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.