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Archive for January, 2019

Dutch Historian Has News for Davos: Higher Marginal Taxes Do NOT Hurt the Economy

January 31, 2019 Comments off

The plutocrats gathered at Davos heard some unsettling news from Rutger Bregman: Philanthropy is no substitute for taxes.. and there is a country where high marginal tax rates DID result in economic growth: the United States during the Eisenhower administration.

The Davos crowd also heard from Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International on the flaws of employment data… namely that fact that employment data fails to take into account the DIGNITY of the jobs counted.

While I am glad the plutocrats heard this news, it is unfortunate that more Americans did not hear this information.

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Koch Brothers Plan to Disrupt Public Education, the “Lowest Hanging Fruit”

January 30, 2019 Comments off

The Koch brothers are the most disreputable of all the “reformers”, blatantly seeking profit at the expense of those who were unfortunate enough to be born into families where there wasn’t a billion dollars per year in trust funds…

Meanwhile… in the USDOE, Ms. DeVos is contemplating undoing the supplement vs. supplant language… From where I sit this is related to the Koch takeover: it reinforces the notion that efforts to provide equity is “government overreach” and the regulations that accompany federal dollars are onerous and interfere with innovation… just merge those dollars into local budgets, lower taxes, and use more technology that can be managed by low-wage paraprofessionals… and bingo: the low hanging fruit is picked!

via Koch Brothers Plan to Disrupt Public Education, the “Lowest Hanging Fruit”

Boston Valedictorians Struggling Economically… Their Suburban Counterparts? Not So Much

January 30, 2019 Comments off

A recent story on research conducted by Boston Globe reporter Malcolm Gay reported on the current earnings of valedictorians from Boston area schools who graduated in 2005-2007. The headline of the article read:

How can it be true? Many valedictorians of Boston public schools struggle to make a middle class income

How can it be true? Evidently both the headline writer and Mr. Gay have been asleep for the past decade— or make that past several decades— as the difference between funding for suburban and urban schools has widened, the income disparities of parents in suburban and urban schools has widened, and the racism that exists has persisted. Being valedictorian in an underfunded school does not prepare you for the current economy any more that being the best athlete in a small school prepares you to play in the major leagues. But here’s what’s sad: the student who’s an exceptional athlete has a better chance of making the big leagues than the exceptional scholar because scouts are looking everywhere for “diamonds in the rough” who might become extraordinary players… but colleges and businesses do not want to invest their time and money in potential “stars”. Instead, they rely on private schools and affluent suburban schools to feed them the talent they need… and the current system doesn’t limit their pool. And here is what is particularly maddening: despite their protests about the lack of qualified applicants the private sector is not increasing their compensation for entry positions— the classical response to sagging applicants— nor is it making an effort to cultivate the untapped talent that lies in underfunded schools by paying higher taxes or actively engaging in talent searches.

Citing $750 Million Tax Break for Amazon While Students Suffer, Teachers Walk Out in Virginia

January 30, 2019 Comments off

Here’s a quote from this article that synthesizes the issue:

Governor Northam has offered a $269 million funding package for schools—about a third of what the state is giving Amazon.

The governor “wants applause for increasing teacher salaries five percent when our wage gap is 40 percent,” tweeted Sarah Pederson, a teacher who helped organize the march, when the funding package was announced last month. “They want us to feel good about $80 million for a school construction fund when Amazon was given SEVEN TIMES that for a headquarters.”

It is possible that these teacher walkouts are educating the voters about where their money is going… and it isn’t into the communities… it’s into the pockets of corporations.

Source: Citing $750 Million Tax Break for Amazon While Students Suffer, Teachers Walk Out in Virginia

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DeVos Revisiting Supplement vs. Supplant… A Story that Will be Buried But One that will Undercut School Funding Nationwide

January 30, 2019 Comments off

There is so much happening with the ongoing investigation of the President, the aftershocks to the month long government shutdown, the ongoing debate about the need for a wall, and the severe weather that results from climate change that the USDOE’s intent to review the supplement versus supplant language can get pushed off the stage altogether. Here’s a report from Politico earlier this week on the USDOE’s decision to revisit the “supplement vs. supplant” issue:

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TAKES ON ‘SUPPLEMENT, NOT SUPPLANT’: The Education Department is out with proposed guidance under the Every Student Succeeds Act that DeVos said makes clear to districts that they have “significant flexibility” when it comes to spending.

At issue is a requirement known as “supplement, not supplant.” The requirement was meant to ensure that poor and minority students get their fair share of state and local education funding by requiring that the federal education funds enhance, but not replace, state and local funds.

The department says the requirement “had become restrictive and burdensome.” Now, “in order to comply, a school district need only show that its methodology to allocate state and local resources to schools does not take into account a school’s Title I status,” the department said in a statement. “For many school districts, the requirement can be met using the school district’s current methodology for allocating state and local resources.”

In previous years, when Title I funding was “…more restrictive and burdensome”, districts had to demonstrate that the federal funds targeted for students raised in poverty were, in fact, spent on those students. In my experience as a Superintendent, this DID require a lot of complicated bookkeeping and there were some occasions where auditors from the USDOE could be picky, but these accounting rigors did ensure that federal funds did not displace the local funds. This strict segregation of federal funds from local and state funds meant that ALL districts— including those serving affluent students— would raise their voices in support of federal funds that were earmarked for children raised in poverty and especially those funds that were earmarked for disabled children.

Those who want the federal government to stay out of education often fail to acknowledge why the federal government got INTO education to begin with. The federal government was advocated for the voiceless children raised in poverty and shunted out of the public schools due to their race or disabilities. Most elected officials at the state and local levels ignored the needs of these children and because their parents did not have the ears of the officials their children suffered in underfunded and sub-standard facilities. The War on Poverty and the Disability Rights movements injected federal funds into public education and with those funds came the so-called “restrictive and burdensome” regulations that anti-public education voters despise.

This just in: government regulations protect the poor and disabled children from underfunded and substandard schools in the same way government regulation protect all citizens from pollution and foul water. Yes, government regulations can be “restrictive and burdensome”, but that is a small price to pay for a just and equitable public education system.

Philadelphia’s de facto User Fees Fund “Frills”… Like School Libraries

January 28, 2019 Comments off

Diane Ravitch wrote a deservedly scathing post about the Philadelphia school district’s school library program (sic), which consists of seven libraries in the entire system! She wrote:

The Philadelphia Inquirer called it “a miracle” when the library reopened at an elementary school. But it was no miracle. It was the schools’ parents, who raised $90,000.

Then the Superintendent, Mayor, Congressman, et al had the nerve to show up at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. No shame! They gave not one red cent, not one bit of support.

As I noted in a comment that I left, the reason “…the Superintendent, Mayor, Congressman, et al” showed up was to make it abundantly clear to other schools that libraries were now a “frill” that parents would need to pay for with a user fee.

I have a long personal history with user fees in public schools. When I was Principal at Telstar Regional High School in Bethel Main in the late 1970s, we were facing budget cuts because of the spike in fuel costs. Faced with the need to cut a teacher, I decided to cut Drivers Education. The rationale for the cut was two-fold: the private sector was already offering courses during the summer and before and after school, courses that enabled students to enroll in elective courses at the high school that they might otherwise have missed; and, parents could use the reduction in their insurance rates to cover the cost they would have to pay for a Drivers Ed course.

Later I used the same rationale to eliminate instrumental music teachers: parents were “buying” lessons independent of the school and the sectional practices and group lessons in schools were pulling students out of academics, which was the primary purpose of school.

Finally, and most reluctantly, I accepted the reality that students who participated in sports should pay a fee. Why? Sadly because fees were being charged for community sports programs… the programs that had taken the place of sandlot games I played when I was growing up.

But as I also noted in my comment, when “frills” are paid for by de facto user fees instead of broad-based taxes, we are increasingly moving toward a world where public services are underfunded and we begin to expect communities to underwrite basics… a world where gated communities have superior police and fire protection and everyone else is covered by low paid and overworked police forces and volunteer firemen. and all of this is touted as “the sharing economy”. From where I sit, it’s called “the sharing economy” because those who can afford “frills” can share them with each other….

Oregon Legislators Mull “Too Young to Test” Legislation… But Luddite Parents Across the Country COULD Undercut Effectiveness of Tests Altogether

January 28, 2019 Comments off

Some Oregon legislators have had enough high stakes testing… and to ensure that it does not spread any further than it already has they’ve introduced a “Too Young to Test” bill that will forbid the use of standardized tests in the early grades. But there may be a way to end all testing according to a Eugene Weekly Op Ed piece by Roscoe Caron and Larry Lewin, retired Eugene School District middle school teachers, and Pat and Jan Eck, retired elementary educators.

Oregonians have an opportunity to change things in a good way. We have the chance to say “No” to the developmentally inappropriate and harmful practice of testing-sorting-tracking little children.

We can say “No” to the drive to minimize their other important qualities, such as creativity, divergent thinking and problem-solving.

One way to change things is for all of us to tell our legislators to support the “Too Young to Test” bill (HB 2318) that has been introduced by Rep. John Lively (D- Springfield). It would prohibit the state government and local districts from standardized testing children from pre-kindergarten through grade 2.

It is modeled on legislation in New York, New Jersey and Illinois. It would allow teachers to make their own professional decisions about which assessments to administer.

The second way is for parents to “Just Say No” to every form of standardized testing that they can.

This is where the ultimate power is: If parents say “no more” — by opting their children out — the testing juggernaut will begin to collapse. We could then join much of the rest of the world in giving a few well-constructed, classroom-based assessments, and save our kids from harm, save our teachers and principals from dispirited burnout and save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year.

It struck me as I read the second option— a complete bail out of testing— that parents who opt out of standardized tests are the modern day version of the Luddites. Here’s a description of the Luddite movement from Wikipedia:

The Luddites were a secret oath-based organization of English textile workers in the 19th century, where a radical faction destroyed textile machinery as a form of protest. The group was protesting the use of machinery in a “fraudulent and deceitful manner” to get around standard labour practices.

I see a clear analogy between the opposition to standardized testing and the opposition to textile machinery. Luddites did not oppose “technology”, they opposed the erosion of skills that accompanied the spread of technology. Wikipedia continues:

Luddites feared that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste, as machines would replace their role in the industry.

The standardized testing “machinery” undercuts the “standard labor practices” of teacher-craftsmen in the same way that textile machinery was a means of undercutting the “standard labor practices” of making stockings by hand… and the use of machine scored standardized tests as a substitute for the hand-crafted tests of teachers IS letting the craft of teaching go to waste.

The Wikipedia entry goes on to note that the Luddite movement was grassroots, emerging over time as a result of economic hardships:

The Luddite movement emerged during the harsh economic climate of the Napoleonic Wars, which saw a rise of difficult working conditions in the new textile factories. Luddites objected primarily to the rising popularity of automated textile equipment, threatening the jobs and livelihoods of skilled workers as this technology allowed them to be replaced by cheaper and less skilled workers.[20] The movement began in Arnold, Nottingham on 11 March 1811 and spread rapidly throughout England over the following two years.[21][22] Handloom weavers burned mills and pieces of factory machinery. Textile workers destroyed industrial equipment during the late 18th century,[20] prompting acts such as the Protection of Stocking Frames, etc. Act 1788.

We haven’t gotten to the point of having organizations burn boxes of standardized test scoring sheets or vandalizing the various computer centers where high-stakes tests are scored. But in many respects, the recent decision of the Regents to punish schools where parents opt out of tests is analogous to the Protection of Stocking Frames Act of 1788.

History has not been kind to Luddites. Their movement ended badly as profiteers eventually replaced hand crafted stockings with those made by machine and the craft of stocking making has gone to waste. But more and more people are coming to the conclusion that machinery of all kinds reduces the humanity of all… and that awareness is at the root of the movement to address climate change. MAYBE the teachers, parents, and grandparents who oppose the displacement of teacher judgment by standardized tests can join with workers whose work has been displaced by technology and develop a vision for a different kind of economy.