Tag Archives: HEROES Bill

Are We Staring at Teacher Layoffs? Or, Worse?

Is “Black Tuesday” (Tuesday, October 29, 1929) hovering? Are we a few weeks or months away from the economic cliff?

The “roaring twenties,” seemingly endless increases in stock prices, three consecutive Republican presidents (Harding, Coolidge and Hoover), the flu pandemic was gone, a farm depression was concerning; however, the nation appeared to be booming.

On March 4, 1929, at his presidential inauguration, Herbert Hoover stated, “I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope.” Most Americans shared his optimism. They believed that the prosperity of the 1920s would continue, and that the country was moving closer to a land of abundance for all. Little could Hoover imagine that barely a year into his presidency, shantytowns known as “Homerville’s” would emerge on the fringes of most major cities, newspapers covering the homeless would be called “Hoover blankets,” and pants pockets, turned inside-out to show their emptiness, would become “Hoover flags.”

The stock market allowed anyone to buy stocks “on margin,” borrowing 90% of the cost of the stock from the broker, if the stock lost 10% of its value, the broker could sell the stock, the investor losing everything, for investors, seemed unlikely, the market only moved in one direction, up!

On Thursday, October 24th the market stumbled, Hoover delivered a radio address on Friday in which he assured the American people, “The fundamental business of the country . . . is on a sound and prosperous basis.” On Tuesday the market crashed, by December the market had lost 50% of its value. President Hoover had only been in office for eight months and his response was far from adequate,

President Hoover was unprepared for the scope of the depression crisis, and his limited response did not begin to help the millions of Americans in need. The steps he took were very much in keeping with his philosophy of limited government; a philosophy that many had shared with him …   Hoover was stubborn in his refusal to give “handouts,” as he saw direct government aid. He called for a spirit of volunteerism among America’s businesses, asking them to keep workers employed, and he exhorted the American people to tighten their belts and make do in the spirit of “rugged individualism.”

 Read an excellent analysis of the origins Great Depression here.

Does it seem a little familiar?

In the last hundred days the stock market has increased more than in any other hundred days since 1933. The market has reached unheard of levels. While the market pushes higher and higher the pandemic has shattered the economy with unemployment levels approaching Great Depression levels.

The Congress and the President immediately responded with the infusion of dollars, the CARES Act:  $600 week unemployment, $1200 payments to all Americans earning under $75,000, loans used to retain workers that can be forgiven to virtually any business.

In May the House passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion infusion, dollars for schools, for cities and states, continuing unemployment insurance (the CARES Act expired at the end of July), See details of HEROES bill here.

The Senate refused to negotiate with the House, eventually Mark Meadows, the President’s chief of staff and a former House member led the negotiations on the Republican side. At least 20 Republican Senators are opposed to any additional aid.

The negotiations are stalled, the President issued “questionable” (are they constitutional?) executive orders, one of which suspending payroll taxes, the funds used to fund Social Security and Medicare.

The response to the pandemic: quarantine, social distancing, wearing masks, contact tracing shut down local economies and is resisted in some states.

Without the HEROES bill state and local governments, schools as well as tens of millions of unemployed Americans are desperate.

The politics of the November 3rd election determine every decision: regardless of the consequences.

Are we seeing the repeat of the Hoover approach to the stock market crash?

Federal law prohibits states from declaring bankruptcy. State and local governments, without federal dollars will have to raise taxes and/or cut services, aka, laying off state and local workers.

The New York State budget passed on April 1st, with a caveat, if revenues lagged the state could cut the budget midyear, and, the governor has mentioned a potential 20% cut in the budget.

The New York City budget passed in the waning days of June, was “funded” by borrowing from itself, using dollars in the “rainy day” funds  including $1B in unspecified savings from labor agreements.  Mayor de Blasio threatened 22,000 layoffs unless the unions agreed to 1B in labor savings, and, without the “rainy day” funds next year’s budget will be far worse.

Progressives, the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party have all called for “taxing the billionaires,” the cries are popular. The bills introduced into the legislatures would tax unrealized profits from investments, called ad valorem taxes, taxes specifically prohibited by the NYS Constitution.

Intangible personal property shall not be taxed ad valorem nor shall any excise tax be levied solely because of the ownership or possession thereof, except that the income therefrom may be taken into consideration in computing any excise tax measured by income generally. Undistributed profits shall not be taxed. (NYS Constitution, Article XVI (3))

Mayor de Blasio is moving forward on his threat to layoff 22,000 city employees by October. He has asked every city department  to identify specific job titles and prepare layoff lists.

The New York State Comptroller released a report that paints a bleak picture of city and state finances.

Here are some of the highlights, or really lowlights, of what the crisis has done to the state’s economic engine:

  • More than 944,000 jobs were lost in March and April. That’s the largest job loss since the Great Depression nearly a century ago. Unemployment has spiked from 3.4 percent in February to 20.4 percent in June. It has never been higher in 44 years.
  • New York City has projected a revenue loss of $9.6 billion from the pandemic. It has taken $11.4 billion from different resources, including $4.1 billion from reserves and $2.6 billion from the Retireee Health Benefits Trust.
  • The proposed budget is resting heavily on non-recurring actions to balance its spending and close a gap of $4.2 billion.

“The social, economic and budgetary impacts of the pandemic have been unprecedented on New York City, the state and the nation,” the Comptroller said. “Without additional federal budget relief, the city will need to make hard choices to ensure budget balance in the current fiscal year and to close next year’s budget gap.”

The unions are reacting cautiously, supporting asking the legislature to allow the city to borrow, frowned upon by governor, and the unions continue to “discuss” savings with the city.

The economy is precarious.

Investors could seek other havens for their dollars and flee the market sending prices into a downward spiral; the continuing spread of COVID, a delayed vaccine, an international “incident,” could push world economies into an abyss.

Sense could prevail and the White House could agree to an iteration of the HEROES bill, or not.

As the days tick by, closer and closer to the September 10th school opening New York continues to bleed dollars fighting the pandemic the specter of public employee layoffs looms.

How can schools re-open in a highly controversial hybrid model and, at the same time,  the city plan for layoffs?

Not uplifting, perhaps fitting, Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker,”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0nmHymgM7Y

What is the HEROES Bill?  How would it impact schools? Why hasn’t the bill passed in the Senate? [A Civics Lesson]

In May the Democratic-majority in the House of Representatives passed the HEROES bill, a $3 trillion (yes, a 3 with twelve zeros), a bill that included funding for schools and local and state governments

See a summary of the HEROES bill here.

See how the bill impacts New York State here and how bill impacts state and local government here.

Why did the bill originate in the House of Representatives?

Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires,

 “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.”

The bill was sharply criticized by Republicans and the President and the Republican-controlled majority in the Senate took no action,

 President Trump sought to draw a hard line on the coronavirus relief bill saying it must include a payroll tax cut and liability protections for businesses, as legislators prepared to plunge into negotiation over unemployment benefits and other key provisions in upcoming days.”

 Why is there so much antagonism? So much partisanship? Why can’t Republicans and Democrats simply sit down and iron out there differences?

Our political system is based on factions, is based on a conflict of ideas, and the Constitution established two houses in the Congress, a President and a Judiciary, the three branches of government must come together to set policy, to make laws.

In September of 1787 the 54 members of the Constitutional Convention after five months of contentious debate agreed upon our constitution; a compromise between free and slave-holding states, large and small states and among geographic regions. The constitution contained ratification procedures, nine of the thirteen embryonic states had to approve the constitution.

Madison and Hamilton wrote eight-five essays, today we’d call them opinion pieces, op-eds, and, they were published in newspapers across the soon to be states, we call the essays The Federalist Papers.

Federalist # 10 could have been written last week, last year, a decade ago or a century ago,

A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

 The words of Madison could just as well appear on today’s NY Times op ed page, “… more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good;” our forbearers created a system that was crafted to prevent a tyrant or a tyrannical group from seizing control of our government,

While the House passed the HEROES bill the Senate took no action; the rules of the Senate require a two-thirds vote (60 members to close debate and bring a bill to a vote: cloture.

Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?” And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn. (Rules of the Senate)

The “mutual animosities” are not only between Republicans and Democrats; there are animosities among Republicans and between the President and the Senate Republicans.

Hovering over the entire process is an economy tittering on an economic abyss and an election on November 3rd, the presidency, one-third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives.

Once again our founding fathers were prescient, Madison wrote, “the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property, has anything changed?

The lobbyists representing every conceivable industry, representing teacher unions, transit systems, the post office, the list is endless. The following is a section of a letter calling for aid to schools, who do think wrote it?

K – 12 Schools: A safe-reopening will require numerous operational modifications for schools, including health screening, testing, contact tracing, enhanced cleaning, and physical modifications. Schools did so substantial that teachers are receiving layoff notices even though social distancing guidelines would indicate that more teachers are needed in the school building, not fewer. Not only will this immediately impact reopening plans, but it can also affect learning over the long-term. As we learned from the Great Recession not budget for these expenses. At the same time, local education agencies face significant budget shortfalls as a result of the economic downturn. Some local deficits have been, it took years for education budgets to recover. It was not until the 2015-16 school year that per-pupil education spending returned to the 2008-09 level.

 Teacher unions?  School Boards?

How about the Chamber of Commerce!!  The organization representing businesses across the nation,

Read entire letter here.  Politics makes for strange bedfellows (and visa versa, that’s for another discussion)

The Democrats want to hold the line on their core issues in the bill, the Republicans have to satisfy their own members and the President.

Republicans and Democrats are musing: if a bill isn’t passed what will be fall-out? Who will the voters blame in November?  If we don’t pass a bill could the entire economy crash?

Federalists # 10 avers, The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government; we are watching the “ordinary operations of government,” the wheeling and dealing that used to go in the cloakrooms now is spun out across Twitter; each faction seeking an advantage, seeking to win over or tarnish this senator or house member.

Yale historian Joanne Freeman, in “Field of Blood,” writes,

“Between 1830 and 1860 …there were more than 70 violent incidents between congressmen in the House and Senate chambers or on nearby streets and dueling grounds, most of them long forgotten.” The wrong word could easily lead to a duel. See which words, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8XdN0MYBUI

Maybe we’re a bit more civilized than our predecessors, or, maybe not …

The End of the School Year: Confusion, Uncertainty, Fear and Chaos

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

TS Eliot

  Chris Hayes


“Do policymakers realize that without full time school this fall, parents are screwed and everything will fall apart? I get that it’s a hard problem! I don’t know the answer, but anything approaching “normal” is not possible for working parents while homeschooling”

Will New York State be in Stage 4 by September and can we look forward to a return to regular school?

Is an upsurge in COVID inevitable as we begin to open up the economy?

Is Chris Hayes (2.1 million twitter followers) right? Will “everything fall apart” if we end up with anything less than fulltime school?

BTW, who decides whether schools will re-open? And what an “open school” would look like?

Betty Rosa, the Board of Regents Chancellor reminds us that the NYS Constitution uses the term “governed” ….

The corporation …, under the name of The Regents of the University of the State of New York, is hereby continued under the name of The University of the State of New York. It shall be governed and its corporate powers, which may be increased, modified or diminished by the legislature

 State education law grants the power to “advise and guide …all districts … in relation to their duties and the general management of schools” to the commissioner.

 He shall have general supervision over all schools and institutions  which  are  subject to the provisions of this chapter, or of any statute  relating to education, and shall cause  the  same  to  be  examined  and  inspected,  and  shall  advise  and  guide  the  school  officers of all  districts and cities of the state in relation to their  duties  and  the  general  management of the schools under their control.

 However, tucked into the 2020-21 Enacted Budget is a section that gives the governor sweeping authority,

… broad emergency powers to temporarily suspend or modify statutes, local laws, ordinances, rules and regulations during periods of disaster emergencies,

 The governor has issued over 200 Executive Orders, the latest requiring fourteen day quarantines for visitors from high COVID states.

Earlier in the year as I arrived at the majestic State Education Building I noticed a crowd waiting at the entrance, and they suddenly pushed past security, rushed into the building unfurling banners and raced through the halls demanding a meeting. They were anti-vaxers, protesting the requirement that children are vaccinated for specific diseases before enrollment in school. Eventually they met with members of the Regents who told them they were picketing the wrong building; vaccination requirements were the domain of the Department of Health.

Should decisions relating to school opening health issues be made by the NYS Department of Health?

.Governor Cuomo appointed a Reimaging Education Task Force, New York City Mayor de Blasio a school re-opening Advisory Committee and the Regents identified a few hundred education leaders from every constituency across the state.

The State Education Department has held four regional meetings, “guidance” from experts and many resources for parents and schools (see here)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published “guidance” for schools, as well as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association also issuing in-depth guides.

The CDC guidance is clear,

  • Lowest Risk: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
  • More Risk: Small, in-person classes, activities, and events. Groups of students stay together and with the same teacher throughout/across school days and groups do not mix. Students remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects (e.g., hybrid virtual and in-person class structures, or staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes).
  • Highest Risk: Full sized, in-person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials or supplies, and mix between classes and activities.

How much “risk” do teachers and parents think they want to expose themselves  and their children too?

Chris Hayes is simply wrong. As states rushed to re-open, Texas, Florida, Arizona and other COVID cases exploded. Ironically New York State, the first state to confront the explosion is now one of the few states that appear to have corralled the spread of the virus.

New York City is slowly and carefully crafting plans with many, many questions to be answered:

  • Temperature checks at entrances for adults
  • Protocols for COVID positive staff and students
  • Testing prior to the beginning of the school year for all staff
  • School cleaning
  • Protocols for “at-risk” staff members, and
  • Social distancing school models, i. e., alternative days, alternate weeks, others.

As school districts cobble together plans advocacy organizations are releasing instructional and teacher training suggestions for September, the Center for NYC Affairs  plan here  and the NYU Metro Center is hosting a virtual conference here.

As the school community inches towards a re-opening plan Mayor de Blasio announced the possibility of layoffs, and UFT President Mulgrew responded,

On June 24, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would play to lay off up to 22,000 city workers to fill the budget gap left by the coronavirus pandemic.

In response, UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued the following statement: 

There’s a “thank you for your service” during the pandemic — a layoff notice for thousands of city workers who created an unparalleled virtual education program, staffed the clinics, drove the ambulances and kept other city services going.

The New York City budget is due June 30th, neither the Mayor nor the City Council wants an Emergency Financial Control Board; a budget will be in place.

The governor, after reviewing state revenues as of July 1, under his emergency power can adjust the budget, aka, further reductions or release of additional funds.

The HEROES bill is stalled in the Senate, without the passage of the bill a bad situation will undoubtedly continue to deteriorate.

The September re-opening plans are overwhelmed by the specter of layoffs.

Sleep late Monday morning, remember the “rules,” exercise, meditate, improve your remote learning teaching skills, take long walks on beaches or the country, just another chapter in your memoirs.

A dark song performed and written by a friend …..