Archive for February, 2014

Concentrated Housing Wealth and Schools

February 27, 2014 Comments off

The Washington Post reported on a recent study conducted by Demand Institute, a nonprofit group run by the Conference Board and Nielsen, which analyzed prices of owner-occupied homes in 2,200 of the largest cities and towns. The study found that 10 percent of communities held 52 percent of total housing wealth — about $4.4 trillion and the bottom 40 percent held 8 percent of the wealth, or $700 billion. The Post went on to note that:

The disparity has remained constant for years, with little movement in and out of the top and bottom rungs, the report says. Also, although home values rose across the board from 2000 to 2012, the gains totaled nearly $2 trillion for the top 10 percent but $260 billion for the bottom 40 percent.

The authors concluded that the national recovery in home values since then “masks wide local discrepancies, with some markets soaring ahead of others,” a theme that’s been sounded more than once this week with the release of various home value measures that also show wide variations among localities.

Given that schools are funded with property tax, and given that standardized test scores correlate highly with income, is it any surprise that test “value measures” show wide and persistent disparities?

Superhighways and Schools

February 27, 2014 Comments off

Common Dreams posted an essay by Sam Pizzigati titled “The Mess on our Information Superhighway” contrasting the development of the internet access with access to interstate highways. The essay notes that while Americans have generally unfettered access to the publicly controlled interstate highway system,

Americans currently pay much more for Internet than just about everybody else in the developed world. Other countries have established fast, cheap Internet access as a given of modern life. In the United States, we surf the Net at Model-T speeds — and tens of millions of Americans still have no broadband access at all.

The pending merger between Comcast and Time Warner will do nothing to change this and may well make it even worse… and while he didn’t mention it there is more and more buzz about the idea of privatizing highways as a means of avoiding the tax increases that will inevitably be needed to keep the interstate highway system in good repair.

In the comment section, I added this observation:

The battle for public control of a public good is underway in education as well… the USDOE, who should be advocating for public education, has required the administration of standardized tests that “prove” public schools are “failing”and encouraged private for-profit schools operated by wealthy “reformers” take their place… this corporate takeover of public education is cheered on by the mainstream media and politicians of both parties, both of whom are underwritten or controlled by the plutocratic “reformers”…

As noted frequently in this blog, the erosion of trust in the government and the accompanying desire to limit taxes and regulations, first articulated an a national stage by Ronald Reagan, needs to be reversed in order to restore public control of services like roads and to provide public funding for baseline services like internet access. Sadly neither political party has expressed support for public control of services and neither has been honest about the need for tax revenues to fund these services… and this is true at all levels of government. At the same time, faith in the private sector to provide these same services at a lower cost is undiminished despite the lack of evidence that this is true.

How to Privatize in 4 Steps

February 25, 2014 Comments off

This info-graphic from YES is a clear and succinct description of HOW privatization yields high profits in four simple steps:

  1. Develop profitable tests that prove schools are failing
  2. Get legislation passed that makes it possible to “reform” failing schools through “takeovers” (i.e. privatization)
  3. Get rid of all teachers and administrates during the takeover, thereby eliminating legacy costs associated with pension payments, benefit costs, and salary schedules
  4. Don’t worry about the consequences… in the worst case your privatized school fails and gets taken over by one of your competitors and you keep the money and go somewhere else… if you get the same results the taxpayers are happy because they are saving money… and if you get better results by skimming the best and brightest from the public schools you contribute further to their demise by increasing their “fail rate”…

What the article didn’t describe was WHY this is possible: the corporations are able to take over public services by playing to the resentful electorate whose jobs they eliminated as part of the downsizing and outsourcing movements that resulted from globalization. That is, the folks who lost jobs when corporations used this same algorithm to close factories and move them elsewhere are bitter about their fates and are unconsciously— or, in most cases, EXPLICITLY— resentful of public employees whose livelihoods have not been affected by the forces of globalization… ESPECIALLY when those public employees are funded with taxes! Bottom line: Teachers get no sympathy from former middle class workers who lost pensions, benefits, and salaries to low wage countries with no regulations…. especially when “their money” is stolen from them by taxes.