Wonder Why States are in Financial Distress? Think Common Core Costs.
The majority of states are finding themselves in financial difficulty. From Bloomberg and For Many American States, It’s Like the Recession Never Ended:
Six years after the recession ended, many U.S. states are hard pressed to balance budgets because of a sluggish recovery and their own policy decisions. The fiscal fragility raises questions about how they will weather the next economic downturn.
A majority of states are making cuts, tapping reserves or facing shortfalls despite an improving national economy and stock markets at record levels, according to Standard & Poors and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. State revenue hasn’t rebounded to a prerecession peak adjusted for inflation, and other factors are putting pressure on budgets.
Alaska, Oklahoma and energy-producing states saw receipts fall with global oil prices. Kansas overestimated revenue after tax cuts, while New Jersey faces a shortfall thanks to unfunded pensions. Even some Republican governors have championed tax increases to avoid further diminishing services curtailed during the 18-month recession, the deepest downturn since the Great Depression.
Thirty-two states faced budget gaps in fiscal 2015 or 2016 or both, according to an April 27 report by Standard & Poors. The fiscal year ends June 30 in all but four states.
Look at this sentence from above: Six years after the recession ended, many U.S. states are hard pressed to balance budgets because of a sluggish recovery and their own policy decisions. What policy decisions were being made by the majority of states in 2009 that affected education? That would be the start of Federal billions of dollars via The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund which obligated states into unfunded mandates via:
- The expansion of longitudinal data systems to track Pre-K students through post-secondary and career data systems
- Race to the Top Competition
- Common Core State Standards Initiative mandates
It should also be noted that ‘the state’ which signed states onto unfunded mandates for the taxpayers via ‘policy decisions’ did not include the state legislatures. ‘The state’ which signed us up for these millions of dollars in mandates which flow to private corporations were primarily non-elected bureaucrats:
- The governor
- The Commissioner of Education
- The State Board of Education members
In Missouri, the only elected position in ‘the state’ is the governor. All the other positions are appointed so they face no voter accountability. By agreeing to the adopt The Common Core State Standards Initiative (the plan of private trade organizations The National Governors Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers) this group created massive debt for the citizens of Missouri and the state legislature. Call it for what it is: bureaucrats partnering with and allowing (via MOUs) private corporations to direct/develop public education with no public/legislative accountability.
Below is an explanation of how Common Core is negatively impacting state legislative and school district budgets. This is written by Ken Freeman in Alabama but much of what holds true in Alabama for Common Core debt holds true in other states since we are all common. Freeman blames the Republican dominated Alabama legislature for its refusal to stop these unfunded mandates which circumvented political process. It seems to be a bi-partisan problem as Democratically controlled states and legislatures practice the same behavior that he describes below:
The Incredible Invisible Elephant
It’s all about money. It’s always about money. Money and power that is- because in politics the two terms are usually synonymous. For Alabama politicians it’s all about YOUR money and their need to take it from you in order to satisfy their major campaign contributors. This in turn will help them maintain their stranglehold on power. Our form of government is supposed to have checks and balances to keep this abuse of power under control. But in Montgomery the “check and balance system” could be more accurately described as, “on balance the power goes to whoever writes the biggest check.”
So where, as the title implies, is this Invisible Elephant? Why, he is right there in the room, plain as day, for any rational person to see, but due to the corruptive influence of money and power, the Legislature refuses to acknowledge it. They close their eyes. They turn their backs. They walk around it. Watching from the gallery, one sometimes thinks that when debating the Alabama budget the “Great Seal of Alabama” hanging on the chamber wall should be taken down and replaced by the Japanese symbol of “The Three Monkeys”: one with his hands over his eyes, one with his hands over his ears and one with his hands over his mouth. See no Common Core cost. Hear no Common Core cost. Speak no Common Core cost. The real Elephant in the room is the Education budget and the staggering future cost of Common Core! Yet nobody asks for a true accounting of what this massive socialist expansion of Alabama education will cost- not just to the future education of our children but to the taxpayers of Alabama. NOBODY! This is amazing when you consider that approximately six billion dollars (over 75%) of all taxes raised and spent in Alabama go to education, most of the so-called growth taxes…. all go to education. Yet, all the attention has been devoted to the 25% appropriated to the General Fund, which pays for everything else: bridges, roads, state police and all other state services. And more importantly for elected officials, I suppose, that 25% also includes the “take home” money for their district, money that helps politicians get re-elected. So while the Legislature simply ignores the “Elephant in the room” they squabble endlessly over the “peanuts.” Talk about the tail wagging the dog! Endless hours have been devoted to the ABC Board and other mundane issues while ignoring the real threat hanging over us all- the future unbridled appetite of Alabama education under Common Core. Unless turned back, the staggering costs of testing, data collection, and infrastructure will simply outstrip the states’ capacity to pay. Common Core will bankrupt Alabama! Unless of course, taxes are drastically increased.
There has been one notable exception to this inability to see the Invisible Elephant. Governor Bentley has seen it. The day after the November 2014 elections the Governor saw him. Apparently not having to run for re-election again allows one to actually see the Elephant, maybe even to hear the Elephant, but even the Governor dares not talk about the monster. No, that would be just too frightening to Alabama taxpayers and all politicians know that citizens should not be trusted with the truth. Why- they might actually want to rethink the whole Common Core issue. They might decide it was just too costly-that would certainly anger the major campaign contributors and rock the money boat. No, this had to be kept under wraps.
So the Governor and the leadership of the Legislature are both using smoke and mirrors to draw your attention away from the fact that, in future, huge tax increases will be necessary to raise money for Common Core. This is necessary in order to satisfy the demands of their main campaign contributors, namely the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Alabama. In spite of the Governor’s scary statements about dire consequences to the old folks, the children, the state parks and the premature release of prisoners (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain please) has no one else noticed the proposed one hundred million dollar bond (debt) issue to borrow money for infrastructure for Common Core? Has no one else noticed that, once again, property state wide is being re-appraised in order to raise your property taxes. Has no one noticed the Legislatures’ attempt to raise from three dollars to over two hundred dollars a barrel (over 5,000%) the tax on lubricants used by farmers and truckers to grow and transport your food and other materials to market, an increase which will have to be be passed direstly on to you in the form of increased prices when you, the consumer, buy these products. Apparently there are many other sneaky taxes in store for you. All this, of course, so you won’t know about the hidden increases and hold them accountable next election. All this, in spite of what they say, to feed the Invisible Elephant in the room, the Elephant that if left un-checked, will eventually be literally eating Alabama tax payers out of house and home.
So what will this monster actually cost to feed? Nobody is willing to say. When asked the Department of Education just stonewalls. But what we know so far is that Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice has already stolen, pardon me, the polite word is re-purposed, over seventy seven million dollars from the gutting of two very good and effective programs, the Alabama Reading Initiative (number one in the nation) and the Alabama Math Initiative (number three in the nation). And next years education budget contains an additional ten million dollars on top of the ten million already allocated for Common Core based testing. This amount is only for two subjects and for only a few grades. What will the cost be when ALL SUBJECTS…. IN ALL GRADES… K-12 are included? No one will say, but I have heard estimates of over an additional one billion dollars a year. People, there is no more money left to re-purpose (steal) therefore the only remaining sources of money are to either take it from Alabama taxpayers or by the state borrowing more money which we will have to repay. A one hundred million dollar bond (debt) issue for infrastructure was the very first bill filed this year. Yet the Leadership of the Legislature swears that they just can’t see the Elephant!
Understand, this is NOT the fault of the grass-roots Republican Party itself. The Republican Executive Committee which is composed of about four hundred members- mostly the local party leadership and the folks who represent the wishes of the people within the party as a whole- have passed resolutions calling for the “Repeal of Common Core” by huge majorities three years in a row. The so-called “Tea Party,” which the Legislature seems to think is comprised of anyone and everyone who opposes their un-constitutional behavior, has fought valiantly to repeal Common Core- yet Mike Hubbard and Del Marsh have consciously chosen to ignore the vast majority of both their own party members and their conservative base. The result is that now Alabama has the best Republican Legislature that money can buy- but it is a Legislature that does not represent the will of the people or the party.
Whatever the Legislature does this year it will only amount to a temporary financial band-aid to cover present costs. What about the next year and the years to come? How will they cover it then? Unlike the Federal Government, Alabama can’t just print money, it has to come from somewhere.
Prior to Common Core, Alabama had an education system that was working quite well, actually taught American values, and that we could afford. But now, without huge tax increases, Common Core is well on its way to bankrupting the state.
There are none so blind as those who will not see. Maybe the Legislature just doesn’t want to see the Elephant. Maybe they fear to look the monster in the eye and think that if they just keep feeding it a little more money it will eventually go away. “The trouble with Socialism,” as Margaret Thatcher once quipped, “is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money.” In this case the other peoples’ money referred to… is yours and mine.
(Graphic may be found here.)