“Did Corruption in the Building Trades Blunt the Impact of Obama’s Stimulus Package?”, a blog post from yesterday’s Naked Capitalism, may include arcane economics information for those who typically read an educational policy blog, but the post DID describe the following:
- Sub-contractors used 1099 employees to complete work on projects included, thereby avoiding tax collections and payments into unemployment insurance
- The loss of these taxes resulted in diminished revenues of over 8,500,000,000 to various states across the country where these stimulus projects were undertaken. TX could have used the $1,200,000,000 it lost as a result of these lost taxes.
- The owners of construction companies, the 1%, were beneficiaries of the stimulus funds more so than the unemployed construction workers who either accepted 1099 wages or stayed home
- Undocumented immigrant workers got a larger share of wages because they were more than willing to work for less and accept substandard working conditions
None of these talking points will find their way into either parties’ campaigns. The Republicans will blame it the stimulus’ mediocre performance on “regulations” and the Democrats will blame it on the fact it was too small. This post seems to indicate that UNDER-regulation is the issue… which, unfortunately, makes perfect sense because no one is advocating for more regulations OR for more funds to enforce existing regulations. Too bad because we’re all on the hook for more money as a result… except for the 1% who win given the rules of the game.
Mark Walsh wrote a straight-faced report for Education Week on the creation of a new group seeking to dial down the “toxic debate” going on in public education policy. Funded by— you guessed it— the Waltons, the Broads, and the Bloombergs, Education Post intends to “…bring in voices of a lot of people who are turned off by the toxic nature of the conversation to see if we can facilitate a more productive and respectful conversation,” according to Peter Cunningham, the executive director of the new group. And what is Mr. Cunningham’s background? Why he was assistant secretary for communications and outreach at the U.S. Department of Education for most of President Barack Obama’s first term. Here’s the comment I left on the Education Week, which violates my resolution to avoid sarcasm and stay positive:
I LOVE the idea that this group wants to debate “…what works in education” and wants to challenge “…people repeating things that are not true”. Let’s start the debate by looking at the repeated “fact” that high-stakes testing will improve academic performance of all children.
I DO think the level of civility has diminished in public policy debate, but the tone of the debate was set by political leaders like Chris Christie and Scott Walker who’ve characterized teachers as “greedy Government employees” and the education reformers who’ve used test scores to prove that TEACHERS and especially teacher’s unions are the problem in public education. They do this while ignoring the fact that test scores correlate with parent wealth and education and do not correlate with union membership. Indeed, since affluent districts pay higher salaries than non-union districts there is likely a positive correlation between teacher pay and test scores!
Bottom line: an increase civility in public discourse will occur when we stop bashing the classroom teachers who work tirelessly to help all children learn.
In mid August the Huffington Post featured a short essay titled “The Price I’ll Gladly Pay for My Child’s Education” by blogger Audrey Hayworth. While I believe Ms. Hayworth intended to praise teachers for their willingness to dig into their pockets to buy school supplies (she cites a study indicating teachers on average pay $485/year for supplies), she unwittingly reinforced the notion that it’s acceptable, no… make that EXPECTED, for parents to spend upwards of $300 to fund supplies for their child’s school.
Over the three decades that I worked on budgets as a HS Principal and superintendent of schools I watched with dismay as budget constraints forced the costs for supplies to shift from taxpayers to teachers and parents. The original thinking was that SOME supplies were discretionary. A college bound student, for example, ought to buy his or her own graphing calculator because they’ll need it in college. An art student ought to pay for his or her supplies because they are making something of value that can be taken home. It wasn’t much of a leap to expand that logic to music, home economics, science, shop, and so forth. Eventually, the thought was to charge a “supply fee” so that the costs for these materials would be born by ALL students… and that devolved into the current scheme whereby all school supplies, including toilet paper and paper towels, are paid for by a fee-for-service. The fee-for-service concept, in turn, has now spread to extra-curriculars, field trips, and athletics.
While I generally avoid “slippery slope” thinking, I find it easy to believe that this trend could eventually lead to the ultimate fee-for-service: a voucher that a parent can use to “buy” whatever courses their child desires…. The taxpayers and privatizers will rejoice! The marketplace will replace “government run” schools.