Archive for February, 2017

Study Identifies Nation’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged Districts… But Overlooks One Clear Solution

February 26, 2017 Comments off

The Education Law Center issued a report earlier this month identifying the 200 districts in the United States with the greatest financial disadvantage. The method they used to identify these districts was straightforward, but, as the highlighted language indicates, it effectively exclude every small rural district in the country.

A fiscally disadvantaged district is one in which the state and local revenue per pupil is lower than the labor-market average while the child poverty rate is higher than the labor-market average. To achieve a manageable list of school districts for further exploration, somewhat arbitrary cutoff levels were applied as follows:

Fiscally disadvantaged =
State and local revenue per pupil < 90 percent labor-market average and
U.S. Census poverty rate > 120 percent labor-market average

Only those districts enrolling at least 2,000 pupils were considered, as they should be able to operate with efficiency of scale. Non-rural districts were given particular attention. These districts are in either metropolitan areas—based around a population hub of 50,000 or more residents—or micropolitan areas—based around a population hub of 10,000 to 50,000 residents.

The report did identify a solid rationale for why some districts require more funding than others:

Put simply, districts with higher student needs than surrounding districts in the same labor market don’t require the same total revenue per pupil to get the job done. They require more. Higher need districts require more money for higher salaries to recruit and retain similar quantities (per pupil) of similar quality teachers. In addition, higher need districts must be able to provide the additional programs, services and supports (including smaller classes and early childhood education) necessary to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds, while still maintaining advanced and enriched course options.

Given the recent happenings in Washington in terms of federal funding, I felt the report’s conclusion was disappointing. It focussed on the responsibility of STATES to fix their funding mechanism and overlooked the role the federal government did play and, more importantly, could play in encouraging better funding. As noted in several earlier posts, the elimination of the “supplement-not-supplant” regulation as part of the ESSA rule making process will exacerbate financial disparities in funding. Moreover, if progressive principles were applied, the federal funds could be specifically targeted to those “most financially challenged” districts instead of being spread to every district that serves any financially disadvantaged child.


Trumplandia: When Facts are Immaterial, Easy Answers to Complicated Problems are Unchallenged

February 25, 2017 1 comment

One of the most distressing elements of the new administration in Washington is its willingness to create and promote “alternative facts” thereby creating a reality that enables them to propose easy answers to complicated problems. The latest instance of this was Sean Spicer’s rationale for cracking down on the use of recreational marijuana. Why?

In explaining the rationale of greater enforcement of federal marijuana laws, Spicer cited growing problems with other illicit drug use.

“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by.”

In a statement Thursday afternoon, the National Cannabis Industry Association took issue with that argument.

Science has discredited the idea that marijuana serves as any kind of gateway drug, and the addiction and death rates associated with opioids simply do not occur in any way with cannabis,” said Aaron Smith, the organization’s executive director.

There is NO link between the use of cannabis and the opioid epidemic. The opioid epidemic is the result of the under-regulation of prescription medication production and the over-prescribing of opioids as pain-killers. But in the alternative-fact universe the current administration operates in they begin with a counter-factual premise and then offer an easy solution to the problem… a solution that inevitably involves the need for more order.

By deregulating everything from education to oil and mineral extraction to banking, by writing Executive Orders that are almost certainly going to be appealed, and by behaving in a way that it far outside the norms, Mr. Trump and his administration are intentionally creating chaos by overloading the courts and legislative systems. To what end? The more I watch this slow motion train wreck, the more I am convinced that the ultimate endgame of this tsunami of disorder is the imposition of a “new order” that benefits the rich and squelches protest from “the elites”. Stand back and take a look at who might benefit from a new order and who might lose out.

  • The NEW order calls for the deportation of “illegal immigrants”, which requires an expansion of law enforcement and prisons
  • The NEW order calls for the criminalization of protest (18 states are proposing such legislation), which requires an expansion of law enforcement and prisons
  • The NEW order encourages the arming of all citizens and the opportunity for armed citizens to “defend themselves” when they feel threatened, which enables citizens to take the law into their own hands
  • The NEW order calls for the elimination of state and local environmental regulations, which enables corporations to “fast track” projects that involve pipelines, fracking, and mining
  • The NEW order calls for the transfer of public assets, like parklands, schools, hospitals, municipal services, and even police and fire protection to private enterprises which enriches the investor-class while diminishing democratic control over these assets.

I could make a longer list and welcome other examples… but the direction we are heading is clear. And here’s the problem I face as one individual who tries to spend as little time as possible indoors and as much time as possible in nature: there are too many fronts to fight against. For the past fifteen years I mostly argued against the “reform” movement in public education on this blog. I was distressed that President Obama was unable to enact the kind of agenda he envisioned when he was running for office, that he failed to hold the banks accountable for their role in the mortgage debacle, that he relied too much on drones to fight against terrorism, and that he failed to act quickly enough on Keystone XL and DAPL. But despite his shortcomings,  I was confident he valued and respected democracy and was trying to find some kind of peaceful settlement to conflicts in the world. Now, with norms facing by the wayside daily and democracy being challenged at all levels of government it is easy to be overwhelmed.

In the end, though, facts are facts and solving complicated problems requires time, patience, and a grounding in reality. The only way to make the solution to problems easy is to simply them: to reduce them to binary choices. I cannot allow complicated problems to be simplified by changing the facts that underly them. To do so would be the end of democracy.


Contrived Chaos and States of Confusion

February 25, 2017 Comments off

I was about to write a post titled “Trumplandia: When Facts Are Immaterial Easy Solutions to Complicated Problems are Unchallenged” when I cam upon this Common Dreams post which suggests that the elimination of a fact-based debate is part of a plan to impose order on the chaos that inevitably follows when arguments are unmoored from factual reality. The ultimate endgame of this tsunami of disorder that results from the planned deregulation of everything is the imposition of an order that benefits the rich and squelches protest from “the elites”. 

There has been a lot of analysis suggesting that the executive-level politics we’re seeing play out right now are about incompetence or irrationality. The psychology of the President himself has been called into question, with bizarre public performances and blatant falsities being propagated, mirroring that of others in the Administration.

Source: Contrived Chaos and States of Confusion

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