Morning Must Reads: New Olympic Event, Economy Shrinking

The idea of expansionary austerity is that in the midst of high unemployment, the public sector can reduce spending and unleash an explosion of economic growth that leads more quickly to recovery (Dean Baker explains here).

The United Kingdom has been putting this idea into practice since 2010 when a new government was elected. Today, we got more results on how that is working out: the UK economy has now shrunk for three consecutive quarters and is now smaller than when the current government took office.

Meanwhile, on our side of the Atlantic, the Federal Reserve is now considering taking additional steps to boost growth in the U.S. economy. While helpful, additional monetary policy falls short of the boost that could be gained from increased federal spending on infrastructure and unemployment insurance. However, with an election on, there seems to be little hope that Congress will put any such plans into action before November.

Here in Penn's woods, with our own austerity-minded state budget settled, the Pittsburgh School District is set to vote on how many of its provisional layoff notices become actual layoff notices. 

The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools is expected to vote tonight to furlough an estimated 271 employees, including 178 teachers and other professional members of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers in a cost-cutting move.

In May, about 285 teachers and other professionals received provisional furloughs, but additional retirements, resignations and other changes have reduced the number by more than 100.

Even so, the number of teacher layoffs is larger than any other year in the district's institutional memory, said superintendent Linda Lane.

"It is still very regrettable and certainly very sad, but it's not of the original magnitude," she said.

In addition to the teacher layoffs, the list up for a vote tonight includes 60 paraprofessionals, nine technical-clerical workers, 11 pre-K teachers, 12 other pre-K employees and one administrator.

In case you missed it, the Philadelphia School District and the union representing bus drivers, janitors and other support professionals came to an agreement on wage and benefit cuts.

The union that represents the School District of Philadelphia’s maintenance, cleaning and transportation workers said Monday it has reached a four-year agreement with the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, which manages the district.

The contract will save the district more than $100 million over its term, which ends Aug. 31, 2016, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union said.

Under it, 32BJ workers, most of whom earn less than $40,000 per year, will contribute from $5 to $45 per week, depending on their income, to the school district.

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