$5,300,000 Incentive Offered to Business Shedding 25% of its Workforce… But There’s “Not Enough Money” for Schools

November 20, 2019 Leave a comment

I just read a VPR webpage post describing a recent decision by the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI) to offer $5,300,000 to Marvell, a computer chip manufacturer whose operations are located in Essex Junction VT. As VPR reports:

On Oct. 31, the state approved an application for Marvell for what it calls a Vermont Employment Growth Incentive — also known as VEGI. The state agreed to give Marvell up to $5.3 million of taxpayer money over several years. But like all VEGI deals, the terms are secret.

Joan Goldstein, commissioner of the Department of Economic Development, said state officials began having conversations about VEGI with Marvell several months ago, when the company’s plans to buy Avera first surfaced.

“Marvell is a pretty global company, has real no allegiance to Vermont, and so the idea behind VEGI is to make sure that this, Marvell, would be a new company to Vermont, that Marvell would establish and keep the jobs in Vermont,” Goldstein said.

Alas for VEGI and the Department of Economic Development, days before they announced the award Marvell announced its plans to shed 700 of the 3000 jobs in Vermont.

As readers of this blog know, I find the whole practice of offering businesses tax relief or grants to be at least a secondary factor in the diminishment of funds for schools. When businesses receive a tax break they are limiting the revenue stream for funding public services like schools. When businesses receive grants, they are getting tax dollars that could be spent to improve schools. But in the topsy turvy world of local politics, it is far better to offer $5,300,000 to a company who lays off 700 workers than it is to provide that money to schools who could use it to hire 88 teachers assuming they receive total compensation of $60,000 per year.

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Cory Booker and Other “Pro-Choice” Neo-Liberals: PLEASE Speak Out Against this The Way You Have Against “Failing” Schools

November 19, 2019 Leave a comment

This Newsday investigative report reveals an appalling truth about “choice”: if a black family chooses to live in an affluent community on Long Island they will likely be steered away from those populated predominantly by whites. As I posted yesterday, Cory Booker and all Democratic Party Presidential candidates should be picking up the torch for integrated housing instead of picking up the torch for for-profit schools.

A Parent’s Guide to Prioritizing Emotional Well-Being

November 19, 2019 Leave a comment

A wonderful and thought provoking read, this Modern Learners article has two particularly excellent sections. The first, titled “Doing the wrong thing “righter” distinguishes between “doing things right” and “doing the right thing” and suggests that schools too often focus on “doing things right”:

Doing things right is about efficiency – i.e., how do we manage lots of kids in a school building safely and efficiently. We do this through the establishment of uniformity. We group kids by age not because they are similar, but because it is convenient. We organize instruction by subject, not because the world is neatly organized by subject, but because it is convenient. Doing the right thing is about effectiveness. Our current system of education here in the U.S. (and around the world) is replete with stories of attempts to doing things right, school consolidation, common core standards, large-scale “accountability” assessments. As Ackoff points out, it should surprise no one that these efforts have born little fruit. In his own words, Ackoff notes that focusing on doing things right just makes the situation “wronger”. After 30+ years of doing school right, NAEP schools remain flat, ACT scores are falling, achievement gaps continue and instances of childhood stress, anxiety, and depression have reached epidemic proportions!

And in the next paragraph answers the question: WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO? 

Here we’ll turn to Clark Aldrich who has suggested that there are three purposes for education: 1- To help kids learn how to learn; 2- To help kids learn how to do 3- To help kids learn how to be.

The final section of the article, aptly headed In Conclusion, describes the best method for introducing change into a sclerotic system like public education: begin discussing the need for change with a question based on a fact instead of an assertion based on a preconceived idea. In the case of this article, Dr. James Ryan suggests looking at the fact that 70% of kids surveyed characterized anxiety/depression as a “major problem and then posing a series of questions based on that finding:

I wonder what we are doing in our families, in our schools, in our society that is causing this dramatic rise among our youth. I wonder if my kids feel like they belong at their school? I wonder what school policies/practices my kids find stressful?

I wonder what we could do differently in our families, in our schools, in our society that could make a difference. I wonder why we still have grades, age grouped classes, separate subjects? I wonder what would happen if, like some schools, we tried to eliminate them?

Couldn’t we at least try? Should we just keep doing what we are doing even though we know it’s making kids anxious?

How can we help one another?

What really matters?

Instead of opening with MY answers to these questions, Dr. Ryan suggests we open the dialogue session by asking: “what are yours?”

By engaging parents and the public in this kind of inquiry, we might begin doing the right thing instead of doing the wrong thing better.

Source: A Parent’s Guide to Prioritizing Emotional Well-Being

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Yes, Something Stinks about the State Takeover of the Houston Independent School District

November 19, 2019 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch highlights the points made by three activists in Houston and one astounding piece of legislation passed in Houston that results in the takeover of 283 public schools because ONE of those schools “failed”. An irony in her essay is her use of the Broad award as a defense for keeping the school district out of the hands of the privatizers. Those who follow the “run-schools-like-a-business” crowd recognize Eli Broad as someone who wholeheartedly supports privatization and charters. The idea that his awards are being used by Diane Ravitch to defend the retention of public schools overseen by elected boards must be giving him a bad case of indigestion.

Source: Yes, Something Stinks about the State Takeover of the Houston Independent School District

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Cory Booker Should Learn the Lessons His Parents Taught Him… Not the Ones He Learned on Wall Street

November 18, 2019 Leave a comment

Cory Booker wrote an op ed article for today’s NYTimes… an article that is a screed of sorts reinforcing his insistence that charter schools and choice should be an acceptable solution to the problems of racism and persistent poverty. Taken as a whole, the article comes across as a scold for folks like me who see a Presidential candidate’s viability based on their willingness to take a clear and unequivocal stand against for charters overseen by unelected boards and the market-based concept the GOP calls “choice”. Mr. Booker’s essay was especially disappointing given the story he told about his parents’ experiences in trying to enroll him in a high quality school:

…When I was a baby, they fought to move our family into a community with well-funded public schools. These neighborhoods, especially in the 1960s and ’70s, were often in exclusively white neighborhoods. And because of the color of my parents’ skin, local real estate agents refused to sell my parents a home. My parents responded by enlisting the help of activists and volunteers who then set up a sting operation to demonstrate that our civil rights were being violated. Because of their activism we were eventually able to move into the town where I grew up.

There is a clear lesson Mr. Booker cold have learned from this experience: affluent communities that provide parents with “well-funded schools” need to open their doors to homebuyers of all races. Unfortunately, Mr. Booker DIDN’T learn this lesson from his parents. Instead he learned that there is money to be made if schools are privatized and those who see this are very happy to open their wallets to help someone like Mr. Booker get elected so long as he supports their ideas.

Here’s my bottom line: Charter schools and choice are no substitute for the infusion of funds needed to create equitable opportunities for children. Nor do they offer those raised in poverty to enroll their children in schools outside of their community. As mayor Cory Booker had no way to offer Newark parents a choice to attend “well funded schools” in those communities where local real estate agents refused to show his parents a home. As Mayor Cory Booker had no way to secure more state funding for his schools, funding needed to upgrade outdated facilities and secure the additional staffing needed to support the children raised in poverty. Under those circumstances, charters might be the only viable alternative available. Cory Booker isn’t running for Mayor. He’s running for President. As a candidate I would like to see Mr. Booker work on policies that make it possible and profitable for children of all races to live where they choose to live and to have rich and poor students have access to the same resources as the “well-funded” schools his parents fought for him to enroll in. Charter schools and choice are eye-wash policies that sidestep the real problems children of color and children raised in poverty face.

Networking with Mentors COULD Offer Opportunities for Equity

November 18, 2019 Leave a comment


The kind of networking described in this article mirrors the kind of networking Ivan Illich envisioned in Deschooling Society. I’m glad to see technology being used for this kind of initiative.

Dollar Stores Around the Country Siphon Millions from Public Education… but that is NOTHING Compared to NYS’s Annual “Donation” to Businesses

November 17, 2019 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes features an op ed article about how the city of Tulsa is trying to limit the number of Dollar Stores in the poorer neighborhoods in hopes of attracting a bind fide grocery store. Op ed contributor Victor Luckerson writes:

“Since 2001, Dollar General and Dollar Tree have received more than $130 million in tax breaks and other financial incentives around the country, according to Good Jobs First, an organization that tracks government subsidies.”

Who lost when towns offered tax breaks and other financial incentives? Public education.

And while $130,000,000 over 18 years might seem inconsequential, what this story DOESN’T report is that a 2004 study on economic development indicated that states and localities were devoting some $50,000,000,000 to tax incentives every year! And a NYTimes report in 2012 indicated that income tax breaks for businesses added up to $18,000,000,000 and sales tax relief around $52,000,000,000 of the overall $80,000,000 billion in incentives NY offered at that time.

Oh… and to give those big numbers some perspective, a 2017 report from the Empire Center indicated NYS spent New York’s public elementary and secondary schools spent about $59,000,000,000 to educate 2.6 million pupils in 2014-15.

I find it hard to believe that we cannot afford the money needed to provide an adequate and equal opportunity for all when we manage to afford $80,000,000,000 per annum in tax breaks. It will be a good day when public schools get the same level of funding as corporations.