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Surveillance for Shooters Used to Monitor Students. Is That What Parents Want? Is That What the Public Wants? What Kind of Future Does This Prepare Students For?

April 14, 2021 Leave a comment

Former journalist Nick Morrison’s recent article describes how schools are using surveillance cameras designed to ID school shooters to monitor student behavior throughout the school day. And, unsurprisingly, researchers at Johns Hopkins in MD and Washington College in MO are finding that “high surveillance” schools with intense camera coverage have higher suspension rates that typical public schools: 

Students at high-surveillance schools are more likely to be on the receiving end of an in-school suspension – where a student is put in isolation within the school, separated from their classmates.

This link holds even when researchers controlled for levels of school disorder and student misbehavior.

“High-surveillance schools create the capacity for high-suspension schools to exist,” said Odis Johnson, professor at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study.

“Greater detection leads to greater punishment, regardless of the students who attend these schools.”

But the effects don’t end there. Students at high-surveillance schools end up with significantly lower levels of math achievement and are also less likely to go on to college. At least some of this relationship a result of in-school suspensions.

And these findings underscore the unintended consequences of “hardening” campuses by introducing things like metal detectors, cameras, and– yes– SROs. And what is even worse is that the schools with the highest levels of security are the schools that serve poor children and children of color. And the students who receive discipline at these highly surveilled schools? 

They are also four times more likely to be Black, and disproportionately likely to be poor, from a single parent home and to have repeated a grade, the researchers found, after analyzing data on approximately 6,000 students across the U.S.

Along with co-author Jason Jabbari, data analyst at Washington University in St Louis, Johnson describes the disadvantages suffered by students in schools with greater surveillance as a “social control setback”.

The higher level of suspensions and its effect on math scores is almost enough on its own to account for the differences in college attendance.

Once suspensions and lower math scores are accounted for, Black females are more likely to attend college and Black males are no longer significantly less likely to attend college than other students.

So the vicious cycle, the school-to-prison pipeline, results from the presumably well-intentioned action of school boards to “protect” schools from shooters, redirecting money that COULD be used for instructional technology to buy surveillance technology and money that COULD be used for counselors to hire SROs. 

All of this leads to the questions posed in the headline of this post: 

Is this what parents want?

Is this what the public wants?

What kind of future does this prepare students for? 

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Krugman’s Bottom Line: To Create Jobs in America, Create Jobs in America… Don’t Wait for Businesses to Do It Because You Gave Them a Tax Break

April 11, 2021 Leave a comment

Earlier this week NYTimes op ed writer and Nobel economist Paul Krugman offered a positive assessment of Joe Biden’s approach to job creation and yet another disparaging assessment of trickle down economics. Dr. Krugman’s  bottom line on job creation is summarized in his last two penultimate paragraphs:

The corporate tax plan, then, looks like a really good idea. In part that’s because President Biden, unlike his predecessor, has hired people who know what they’re talking about. And it also marks a welcome break with the ideology that says that the only way we can help American workers is indirect action: cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy in the hope that they’ll somehow deliver a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

What the Biden team seems to have concluded, instead, is that the way to create jobs is to create jobs, mainly through public investment, rather than by chasing unicorns and leprechauns.To the (partial) extent that direct job creation must be paid for with new taxes, the new taxes should be imposed on those who can afford to pay.

This seems to be a very simple equation: create government jobs and pay for them with taxes raised on those who can afford it most. Why, you might ask, has this not been done of late? Because everyone who ran for President from Michael Dukakis onward based their platform on the same assertion… the Reagan credo: GOVERNMENT is the Problem. And what has four decades of giving corporations tax breaks given us? A yawning gap between the rich and poor, a class of individuals (like the former President) who inherited great wealth and used it to secure endless power, and a set of awesome jobs like those described in the Lego Movie.

“Mind Melting” Data Point: Public Education Lost Nearly $2,400,000,000 to Abatements for Businesses in 2018-19… And That’s from Only 27 States!

April 9, 2021 Leave a comment

In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler interviewed Christing Wen, planning/fiscal policy coordinator of Good Jobs First, a national think tank that studies state and local job subsidies, including corporate tax breaks and one of the authors of Good Job First’s new study, Abating Our Future: How Students Pay for Corporate Tax Breaks. He leads the blog post that includes his interview with this:

The topline fact in Abating Our Future is mind-melting. School districts nationwide lost nearly $2.4 billion to corporate subsidies in fiscal year 2019. That’s money meant for students that ended up in the pockets of Amazon, Tesla, and other corporations.

And that’s based on data from only 27 states. In the other 23 states plus Washington, D.C., (which should be a state), school districts fail to disclose any meaningful information about how much money they’re losing to corporations.

Last week sure was a doozy for those of us who think corporations should pay more in taxes. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) also released a report revealing that at least 55 of the largest American corporations paid no federal income taxes on their 2020 profits.

How can we adequately pay for public goods, things we all rely on like public health and clean water, without raising taxes on those who can afford it? We simply can’t.We desperately need a more progressive tax system.

As noted in earlier blog posts frequently, the impact on school funding that results from Payments in Lieu of Taxes (a.k.a. PILOT) agreements is clearly harmful and the notion that it cannot be avoided in order for a community to attract business is shameful, especially when those same businesses seek subsidies from the State and Federal government at the same time. The only clear beneficiaries of PILOT agreements are the shareholders of the corporation and, in all probability, the highest paid executives whose salaries are based on earnings.

And how much districts are losing from PILOTs? Christine Went reports that one hundred and forty-nine districts reported having foregone more than $1,000 per student… and those districts tended to be the ones who serve the neediest children.

And here’s what’s even worse: the abatements don’t demonstrably improve employment nor are they really necessary! Christine Wen:

A lot of times, tax incentives create no net new jobs. They just shift the existing jobs or investments from one locality to another, sometimes within the same metro area. It’s a zero-sum game. Even if growth happens, it often can’t be traced to the incentives.

Taxes are just too small a fraction of a typical company’s expenses for abatements to be the decisive factor in where to relocate or expand. A company may choose its location regardless of the subsidies offered.

Basically, subsidies are often wasteful, and places do fine without them.

These abatements, like trickle down economics favored by anti-government libertarians, assume that business’s largesse and the “rising tide” of the local economy will offset the short term tax losses. Absent hard data on the issue, the public relies on anecdotal evidence, like a business that donates $10,000 to a school to help them get laptops. What the public fails to read about is how much that corporation benefitted from the tax breaks they received at the local level…. and it makes $10,000 look like chump change.

Here’s hoping that Congress will close the loopholes on corporate taxes and use those funds to shore up the infrastructure… including the dilapidated public schools that exist across the nation while corporate campuses get new roads and sewers.

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