Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

Upward Mobility Restricted in U.K. by “Glass Floor”. Is USA Any Different?

July 31, 2015 Leave a comment

Last Sunday the Independent published a short article by Siobhan Fenton titled “Middle Class Parents Use Glass Floor to Ensure Their Children Succeed oOver Poorer Peers Study Finds“. The study, conducted in Great Britain, issued a report entitled Downward mobility, opportunity hoarding and the ‘glass floor’, analyzing the lives of 17,000 people born in the same week in the UK in 1970. It’s findings?

“High attaining children from less advantaged family backgrounds are less able to, or at least less successful, at converting this early high potential into later labour market success.”

The reason for this disparity in opportunity?

….wealthier parents were using their resources and influence to give their children an unfair advantage. These included, finding them unpaid internships, using their social networks to form advantageous connections and ensuring they are able to access better education.

So if there are decided advantages offered to the children of relatively affluent parents, what’s the problem?

The report concluded: “A society in which the success or failure of children with equal ability rests on the social and economic status of their parents is not a fair one.

“Not only is it unfair but it is a waste of the talents of those with potential from less advantaged backgrounds; damaging for the individuals, the economy and society.”

And what does a study in Britain have to do with our country? Well, our country, like Britain, has embraced the “Global Education Reform Movement” which assumes that poverty is “an excuse” and not an impediment to learning. This, in turn, places a glass ceiling over those who are less affluent since they lack the “… social networks to form advantageous connections and ensuring they are able to access better education”. In effect, in the US to become better educated one needs to begin life in a family that has connections and wealth. Lana Milburn, who chaired the commission that issued the report, offers a solution to this waste of human resources:

The Government should make its core mission the levelling of the playing field so that every child in the country has an equal opportunity to go as far as their abilities can take them.”

Is our government’s core mission to “level the playing field” or is it to sort out those who are above the glass floor? I think readers know the answer.

$1,000,000,000 for Non-Existent Schools in Afghanistan… But We Can’t Afford $$$ for Schools and Need to Cut Food Stamps

July 30, 2015 Leave a comment

Ghost Students, Ghost Teachers, and Ghost Schools“, Buzzfeed’s expose on the appalling abuse of USAID funds intended for the construction and operation of schools in Afghanistan, describes how money earmarked for schools went into the pockets of warlords instead. The idea of offering public education to educate young men and especially young women in that war-torn nation is sound and reflects the abiding belief that education is the most effective way to change the culture in a country. And the idea that these schools were thriving was especially heartening to those who hoped some long-term benefits might come from the billions being spent in that country. But sadly, the Buzzfeed journalists found we were being misled:

Over and over, the United States has touted education — for which it has spent more than $1 billion — as one of its premier successes in Afghanistan, a signature achievement that helped win over ordinary Afghans and dissuade a future generation of Taliban recruits. As the American mission faltered, U.S. officials repeatedly trumpeted impressive statistics — the number of schools built, girls enrolled, textbooks distributed, teachers trained, and dollars spent — to help justify the 13 years and more than 2,000 Americans killed since the United States invaded.

But a BuzzFeed News investigation — the first comprehensive journalistic reckoning, based on visits to schools across the country, internal U.S. and Afghan databases and documents, and more than 150 interviews — has found those claims to be massively exaggerated, riddled with ghost schools, teachers, and students that exist only on paper. The American effort to educate Afghanistan’s children was hollowed out by corruption and by short-term political and military goals that, time and again, took precedence over building a viable school system. And the U.S. government has known for years that it has been peddling hype.

The statistics about school construction are disheartening to read. The State Department and Defense Department both overstated the number of schools constructed by at least 20% and the quality of the construction, based on their own internal reports, was shoddy:

As for the schools America truly did build, U.S. officials repeatedly emphasized to Congress that they were constructed to high-quality standards. But in 2010, USAID’s inspector general published a review based on site visits to 30 schools. More than three-quarters suffered from physical problems, poor hardware, or other deficiencies that might expose students to “unhealthy and even dangerous conditions.” Also, the review found that “the International Building Code was not adhered to” in USAID’s school-building program.

This year, BuzzFeed News found that the overwhelming majority of the more than 50 U.S.-funded schools it visited resemble abandoned buildings — marred by collapsing roofs, shattered glass, boarded-up windows, protruding electrical wires, decaying doors, or other structural defects. At least a quarter of the schools BuzzFeed News visited do not have running water.

But the lack of accountability doesn’t stop with money spent on the construction of schools:

By obtaining internal records from the Afghan Ministry of Education, never before made public, BuzzFeed News also learned that more than 1,100 schools that the ministry publicly reported as active in 2011 were in fact not operating at all. Provincial documents show that teacher salaries — largely paid for with U.S. funds — continued to pour into ghost schools.

Some local officials even allege that those salaries sometimes end up in the hands of the Taliban. Certainly, U.S.-funded school projects have often lined the pockets of brutal warlords and reviled strongmen, which sometimes soured the local population on the U.S. and the Afghan government.

So we spent billions to construct non-existent school, even more money to pay the salaries of non-existent teachers, and no one seems to know where the money went!

Since 2002, the United States has invested more than $1 billion to provide education to Afghan children. But the American government does not know how many schools it has built, how many Afghan students are actually attending school, or how many teachers are actually teaching. What’s certain is the numbers for all of those are far less than what it has been peddling.

Education can make a difference. Unregulated education cannot. I loathed the mountains of paperwork we needed to do when I was a Superintendent for 29 years… but in the end it assured that the money we raised in taxes was accounted for carefully and went into the pockets of teachers who delivered instruction to students. At the very least, our government should spend money to make certain that the dollars we are spending to educate children in Afghanistan are not going to warlords who only want to teach the Koran.


Graphics Show What Readers Know: Boundaries and Attendance Zones Reinforce Economic Segregation, Prevent Upward Mobility

July 28, 2015 Leave a comment

Two recent blog posts provide graphic illustrations of the way arbitrary school boundaries and attendance zones reinforce economic segregation and limit the opportunities for children board born in poverty to get a high quality education.

In his recent Vox post “Want a Good Public Education for Your Kids? Better Be Rich First“, Matt Yglesias uses a scattergram and a Google Earth map to illustrate how the school attendance zones and zoning practices and in his home city of Washington DC  result in de facto economic segregation and, consequently, unequal opportunities. He acknowledges that charter schools afford some opportunity for children to attend schools outside their attendance zone, but it is a limited opportunity at best:

In DC, you are guaranteed the right to send your kid to your in-zone elementary school, but all charter schools admit students purely on the basis of a lottery. Convenience still counts in life, so the charter system hardly eliminates geographic sources of disadvantage. But it does mitigate them. Shifting to more reliance on charter schools or having public schools admit students without geographic preference would be good for equality. But in this case, equality really is a leveling measure that lifts up poorer households in part by dragging down richer ones. 

The Atlantic City Lab blog provides an interactive map that shows how this phenomenon of attendance zoning plays out across the country. In “An Interactive Map from EdBuild Shows How School district Funding Enforces Poverty Rates” Laura Bliss offers some compelling examples of preposterous attendance zone practices that do what the title indicates. She offers three specific examples of how gerrymandering and town boundaries separate children raised in affluence from those raised in poverty and how black students are segregated from white ones… and all of her examples are north of the Mason Dixon line.

If politicians are unwilling to compel boundary changes that yield equitable funding for schools then fair-minded taxpayers should push their legislators to at least ensure that all children attend schools that offer comparable opportunities. That HAS happened in 42 states where lawsuits have been filed to require equitable funding. The shame is that few of these states have responded by increasing the funds for schools. Instead, they have achieved equality by dragging down rich districts instead of lifting up those serving children raised in poverty and selling the public on the notion that schooling, like breakfast cereal, is a commodity that requires choice.

How Big Corporations Cheat Public Education

July 27, 2015 Leave a comment

How Big Corporations Cheat Public Education.

As noted in previous posts, corporations threaten to move in order to get PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreements for existing sites to reduce paying local and/or state property taxes. The costs for services are then shifted to taxpayers, many of whom do not connect the dots on the cause of their tax increases and/or want to retain their jobs but don’t want to pick up the costs shifted to their neighbors. This article describes even more blatant examples of tax avoidance. Shame on all those corporations who complain about “bad schools” and then diminish the resources by avoiding state and local taxes.

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Want Less Integration? UCLA Study Indicates Charter Schools Are The Way to Go!

July 27, 2015 Leave a comment

A recent Latina article by Cindy Casares described a study conducted by UCLA that indicated that New York City— one of the most multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multiracial cities in the world— has the most segregated school in our country. How did this happen?

The culprit? Educational choice plans without civil rights standards like “strong public information and outreach, free transportation, serious planning and training for successful diversity, authentic educational options worth choosing, and no admissions screening.”

The problem with using tests as the basis for entering NYC High Schools is well documented and referenced in earlier blog posts.  The consequence of this practice: NYC High Schools are far more segregated than the schools zoned by neighborhoods that fed them students. As test results became an entry factor to elementary and middle schools and “choice” without outreach, free transportation, and “authentic educational options” took over, the elementary and middle schools became increasingly segregated. How can this be fixed? Mayor de Blasio is requiring schools “…to report annually on student demographics in community school districts and high schools and any efforts made to “encourage a diverse student body in its schools and special programs.” But here’s a better idea:

Slate highlights a small program in super crunchy Park Slope, Brooklyn, where one school set aside a large percentage of seats for kids who are still learning English or receiving free or reduced meals.

Segregation will not go away on its own… and when it is addressed at the grassroots level it’s chances for success are created than when it is imposed by “the government”. The Park Slope neighborhood that opened its doors to ESL and less affluent students is acting from an internal sense of economic justice and not because of an edict from Washington DC. If more NYC neighborhoods had the heart of “crunchy” Park Slope instead of the elitist attitude that leads to the kinds of charter schools described in this article, de-segregation would happen quickly and without incident.

HUD Ruling Underscores Racism’s Hold on Politics

July 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Tom Edsall’s column in yesterday’s NYTimes makes me realize that racism persists in this country from the upper class down and from the North to the South… and it appears to trump the American sense of fair play and economic justice. In an effort to gain a foothold for affordable housing in affluent suburbs, HUD supported the Inclusive Communities Project’s lawsuit against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs all the way to the Supreme Court with the full support of the White House. The suit was buttressed by recent research showing that “… moving poor minorities, especially young children, out of high-poverty neighborhoods can produce improvements in education, earnings and marriage stability.” This finding is really nothing new and it supports what common sense and the American Dream are all about: giving everyone in our country an opportunity to rise from the lowest economic status to a middle class life.

But as Edsall notes in this column, the politics behind this are toxic. In Westchester County NY, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the voting registers, a Republican won the race for County Executive by a 2-1 margin. Why? He ran on the scare platform asserting that “A five-story building — or higher – could be put on your street”; that the agreement to build 750 units “was just a starting point”; and that the actual HUD target is “10,768 housing units” at a cost to the county of $1 billion. 

For those of us who lived through the fallout of Brown vs. Board of Education this sounds familiar: it is the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon brought to the affluent suburbs… and those same suburbanites who haughtily condemned the parents in blue collar neighborhoods who protested when their schools were integrated by busing and the Southerners who refused to allow their children to attend schools with black children are refusing to allow an incremental increase in affordable housing in their communities. Here’s hoping the religious leaders and fair-minded people in those towns come forward and speak up for fairness and economic justice because as Edsall notes, the hate mongers are already fast at work:

On June 9, in anticipation of the HUD regulation, Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, won House approval of an amendment barring the use of tax dollars to enforce the HUD rule. It passed 229 to 193. Republicans voted in favor 229 to 11; Democrats were unanimously opposed, 182-0.

Simultaneously, the conservative media have been drumming up opposition to the HUD regulation.

A June 11 FoxBusiness story carried the headline “Affordable Housing Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?”

Stanley Kurtz, at National Review, exploded on July 8, the day the HUD regulation was announced:

Once HUD gets its hooks into a municipality, no policy area is safe. Zoning, transportation, education, all of it risks slipping into the control of the federal government and the new, unelected regional bodies the feds will empower.

“Over time,” Kurtz continued, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing“could spell the end of the local democracy that Alexis de Tocqueville rightly saw as the foundation of America’s liberty and distinctiveness.”

And if you don’t think that Republican strategists are already at work developing advertisements funded by dark money designed to convince neighborhoods across America that “A five-story building — or higher – could be put on your street” you have not been paying attention for the past five decades. Here’s hoping someone will appeal to our better angels.

Fairborn, OH, Loses a Committed and Dedicated Teacher. Somewhere in Ohio An Affluent District Would Welcome Him

July 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Valerie Strauss’ turned over her Washington Post Answer Sheet blog to Scott Ervin, a Fairborn OH third grade teacher who outlined his reasons for quitting as a third grade teacher after 15 years. From his description of his work ethic and dedication to working with the most challenging students in a school that serves children raised in poverty I am confident that there is an affluent school district within driving distance that will be happy to hire him… and in that district Mr. Ervin won’t have to put up with Ohio’s laws that pertain to “failing schools”. As I wrote in an essay published in Education Week several years ago, this is the form of “merit pay” that is already in place in public education.

I base my assertion that Mr. Ervin could land a job in an affluent district on my experience as the former Superintendent of an affluent district in NH surrounded by several districts that had “failing schools” full of dedicated teachers, some of whom would jump into our applicant pools whenever we had an opening. Why? Because they knew that teachers in our district did not have to worry about test results because our students scored at the high end of the bell curve and their year-to-year performances never put the school in jeopardy of failing. Mr. Ervin’s experience brought to mind a teacher we recruited from a nearby district to work with students who were not eligible for special education services but did require one-on-one attention because of their inability to “fit” in the classrooms. Through behavioral interventions we were able to provide these students with the support they needed to do the kind of independent work teachers assigned and parents expected. Such a position was affordable in our district in two respects. First, we had the resources to pay for the position (though it was questioned whenever we needed to consider budget cuts) and second, we did not have to devote any resources to “test preparation”.

I consulted in financially strapped areas of the state after I retired in 2011 and worked in many under-resourced school districts in the pre-NCLB era. In less affluent districts after NCLB the focus was on avoiding designation as a School In Need of Improvement (a “SINI” status) or, as happened over time, working to get out of a SINI designation. The SINI focus meant that every class was dedicated to preparing for the NECAP, the standardized test used to determine whether a school was “failing” or “succeeding”. Many of the administrators and teachers I worked with thought the use of tests to measure their schools was preposterous but they all accepted it as a “given” and worked tirelessly to get enough of their students over the NECAP “cut score” so that their school could get out of the SINI status…. but the practical reality was that even when the school was out of the SINI status it was still obsessed with maintaining that status by, you guessed it, doing well on the next round of NECAPS. I found this vicious cycle astonishing and completely wrongheaded since I had spent seven years in a district that effectively paid no attention to NECAP scores. I also saw that the focus on NECAP scores took time away from the focus on what was most important: the cultivation of the love of learning and the ability of students to work independently on projects that interested them. The obsession with testing was taking the joy out of school for students as well as teachers.

I hope Mr. Ervin continues to teach and has applied to districts in his region that are not “failing” and that a Superintendent in Ohio reads Mr. Ervin’s post, looks through their applicant pool, and invites Mr. Ervin in for an interview. He may be good enough to merit a job in that district… THAT’s the kind of “merit pay” we have in America today.