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Guess Who Suffers Most from President Trump’s Medicaid Cuts in My Neck of the Woods? “Trump Country”

May 27, 2017 Leave a comment

I read an analysis of how the Medicaid cuts would impact our region in today’s Valley News and was unsurprised to discover that the State Departments of Education’s estimates show that the districts who will suffer the most from the Medicaid cuts proposed by President Trump are the district that voted for him. Maybe when the tax rates go up because of cuts to mandated services to special needs children the voters will be awakened to the fact that the government they voted against DOES provide them with local property tax relief… and if the other political party was astute they could use this as a case study to illustrate that MORE federal funding might REDUCE their property taxes.

This Just In: Brown vs. Board of Education Did Nothing to Help De-Segregate Schools

May 27, 2017 Leave a comment

Over the past several days there have been several articles written about the glacial speed our nation has moved to desegregate schools and why this has been the case. One of the most compelling (and damning) articles I read was written by Richard Rothstein for the Economic Policy Institute, who wrote a book on this issue titled “The Color of Law“. In the book Rothstein asserts that government policy on housing has hindered school desegregation and those policies have their roots in the New Deal.

Rothstein’s  EPI article describes the history of the school desegregation movement, which was intentionally incremental and slow. The NAACP decided to attack segregation in graduate program programs first, then work their way down to K-12 education. The process started in 1935 and culminated with the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954. As Rothstein writes, the desegregation of public schools has not occurred at the pace the NAACP anticipated:

 In 1954, a few hours after Brown was announced, Thurgood Marshall, leader of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, told reporters that it would take, at most, five years for schools to desegregate nationwide.

He didn’t anticipate the massive resistance of Southern states to the decision, yet that’s no longer the most important factor impeding integration. Rather, schools remain segregated mostly because their neighborhoods are segregated. Had civil rights lawyers been able to attack neighborhood rather than school segregation, they would have accomplished more for educational equality than by focusing on schools directly.

And the reason for the segregation in housing was not solely the fault of the racist tendencies of homeowners: Rothstein asserts it was aided and abetted by government policies put in place by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and later reinforced by local and state politicians who established and enforced zoning regulations that, in turn, led to real estate agents “guiding” homebuyers to “desirable” neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods, in turn, were assigned to schools based on income and race. Rothstein offers specific examples of these practices in the essay, noting that public housing was segregated beginning in FDR’s administration, new housing for defense workers in CA was explicitly segregated, and that the policies guiding suburbanization were also racist. Rothstein writes of the latter:

 It is well-known that the Federal Housing Administration had a “redlining” policy, generally refusing to insure mortgages in black neighborhoods. Less familiar is that the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration guaranteed development loans for entire suburban communities, provided that no homes be sold to African Americans.

One of the first and largest was Levittown, 17,000 low-cost homes in Nassau County, New York. William Levitt could never have independently amassed the capital for its design and construction. Instead, he obtained government-guaranteed bank loans by agreeing to exclude black buyers and to place language in every deed prohibiting re-sales to African Americans. The Federal Housing Authority also insisted upon zoning ordinances that banned future mixed-income development. Such practices everywhere created suburban white nooses around increasingly black cities.

Given these explicit government policies, Rothstein makes the case that the distinction between de jure and de facto segregation is completely bogus, noting that reversing these patterns today will be extremely difficult but, at the same time, extremely important:

Dismantling de jure residential segregation is incomparably more difficult now than it would have been 70 or 80 years ago. But that’s no excuse for avoiding it. Unless we desegregate neighborhoods, Brown’s promise of integrated education will remain unattainable.

The Color of Law asserts that “letting bygones be bygones” is not a policy worthy of a constitutional democracy. The achievement gap with which educators struggle can never be closed until we recognize that some of the most important education policy dilemmas cannot be addressed in isolation. Fundamentally, education policy is housing policy.

As noted in earlier blog posts, the term paper I wrote for an Education Law course in 1972 when I was a graduate student described how exclusionary zoning laws in one of the suburbs that helped create a “white noose” around Philadelphia. In retrospect, the citations in Rothstein’s book were hidden in plain sight in the literature at that time. But, as he notes in his essay, attacking the problem was impossible because the NAACP at the time was pushing back against lawsuits and laws designed to circumvent the Brown decision. Making the change now will be daunting. Avoiding the change, though, will exacerbate the economic and racial divide in opportunities.

DeVos-Trump Budget Reneges on Loan Forgiveness, Balancing the Budget on the Backs of Public Sector Employees

May 26, 2017 Leave a comment

An element of the DeVos-Trump budget that has not gotten nearly enough coverage is the Department of Education is planning to propose ending the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. As described in last week’s CNN Money blog post by Kate Lobasco, these cuts would impact 400,000 graduates who paid their debts on time for ten years and work in public sector jobs as “…teachers, public defenders, Peace Corps workers, and law enforcement officers”.  As Ms. Lobasco indicates:

This October marks the 10th year of the program and the first time anyone will have made enough payments to get their debt wiped away. It’s unclear how much the program will cost the government when its starts to forgive those debts…

The program could cost the government more than originally expected, according to the Government Accountability Office. The Obama Administration had proposed capping the amount borrowers could have forgiven at $57,500, but that proposal was never approved and forgiveness remains unlimited.

The median borrower in the program has more than $60,000 in student debt and almost 30% of them have more than $100,000 in debt, according to a Brookings report.

The article describes the complications the USDOE ran into when they implemented the law, complications that led to confusion on the part of borrowers and lenders and contributes to the inability of anyone to determine what the cost impact would be. When that is the case, the path of least resistance is to spend nothing at all… to effectively renege on the offer made to many students who chose to attend college or graduate school to work in lower paying public sector jobs… or “government jobs” as they would be disparagingly referred to by at least one political party.

And the latest news out of Washington indicates that the USDOE is not going to be offering clear answers on the issuance of loans anytime soon. As reported in a Washington Post article earlier this week, James Runcie, who was appointed chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid in 2011 and reappointed in 2015, resigned from that post on Wednesday. According to the article “He had planned to retire by the end of the year, according to people who know him, but clashes with the new Trump administration forced his hand.” Those clashes were described in the article as follows:

Runcie said in the letter that the student aid office is contending with pressing projects. Among them: weighing a student-loan-servicing contract bid, shoring up cybersecurity, building out the expansion of the Pell Grant program, tending to loan forgiveness for defrauded borrowers and getting the tax-data-retreival tool in the financial aid application back online. He said his team has asked DeVos to hire staff for additional help but has yet to receive a response.

Instead, Runcie said, the Trump administration has been preoccupied with transferring all or a portion of the functions of FSA to the Treasury Department. Runcie said there have been discussions about creating cross-agency teams, holding numerous meetings and retreats to determine feasibility.

“This is just another example of a project that may provide some value but will certainly divert critical resources and increase operational risk in an increasingly challenging environment,” Runcie said of the Treasury collaboration.

He went on to thank his team but said he has been “encumbered from exercising my authorities to properly lead” and could no longer “in good conscience continue to be accountable as the chief operating officer given the risk associated with the current environment at the department.”

The foot-dragging on hiring, which has been a hallmark of the Trump administration in those departments that are not favored by the GOP, has real world consequences for students, who have been experiencing serious difficulties completing loan applications for the coming year, including the paperwork needed to determine the amount of funding they are eligible to borrow. But when a political party bases its platform on the fact that “government is the problem” it is not surprising that they fail to hire the staff needed tomato government succeed.

NYTimes College Rankings Measure What’s Important: Opportunities for Upward Mobility

May 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Hats off to NYTimes columnist David Leonardt for his effort to devise an publicize the College Access Index, a college ranking metric released in yesterdays’ Times article titled “The Assault on Colleges— and the American Dream”. Unlike the USNews and World Report‘s index, which relies heavily on test scores and endowments, the College Access Index measures each colleges commitment to economic diversity. It bases this commitment on a metric that factors in the percentage of graduates who received Pell Grants, which are issued to students who can least afford college, and the colleges’ net price. As the title of Leonardt’s article intimates, our country appears to be headed in the wrong direction when it comes to providing opportunities for advancement. He opens his article with these chilling paragraphs:

The country’s most powerful engine of upward mobility is under assault.

Public colleges have an unmatched record of lofting their students into the middle class and beyond. For decades, they have enrolled teenagers and adults from modest backgrounds, people who are often the first member of their family to attend college, and changed their trajectories.

Over the last several years, however, most states have cut their spending on higher education, some drastically. Many public universities have responded by enrolling fewer poor and middle-class students — and replacing them with affluent students who can afford the tuition.

The situation is particularly demoralizing because it’s happening even as politicians from both parties spend more time trumpeting their supposedly deep concern for the American dream. Yet government policy is hurting, not fostering, many people’s chance to earn the most reliable ticket to a good job and a better life.

Leonardt doesn’t say so explicitly, but it is evident that the “government policy” he refers to is the extreme aversion either political party has to raising taxes. Some politicians will disingenuously claim that if they raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans those individuals will lower their donations to post-secondary institutions and that will have a deleterious effect on the endowments of colleges. But as Mr. Leonardt’s accompanying heart illustrates, the endowments to public colleges and universities, the post secondary schools whose presumed commitment is to lifting students out of poverty, are substantially lower than those of private colleges and universities. Moreover, affluent donors tend to come from and donate to their alma maters, which more often than not are already well endowed. Finally, those donations are often earmarked for a particular facility or college that the donor identifies… and it could just as easily be new tennis courts, a new student union building, or a spiffy new football stadium that hosts a half-dozen games a year.

And here the “stunning” consequence of not raising taxes to fund state colleges as described in Mr. Leonardt’s column? “It’s as if our society were deliberately trying to restrict opportunities and worsen income inequality.” He offers a series of charts to show the state-by-state cuts to colleges and universities and then offers these insights:

Since 2008, states’ per-student spending on higher education has fallen 18 percent nationwide, according to inflation-adjusted numbers from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The cuts have occurred in both blue and red states, with somewhat larger ones in Republican-run states. States made deep cuts after the financial crisis and have since failed to restore funding, choosing instead to cut taxes or spend money on health care, prisons or other areas.

“States are making it much more difficult for their residents to get high-quality higher education,” Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute said. “They are causing their institutions to charge more, to take more out of state students, to cut quality. It’s very shortsighted.” That’s exactly the right word, because spending on education often more than pays for itself in the long run.

The budget cuts affect every realm of higher education, with some of the biggest damage happening at community colleges and less selective four-year institutions. These campuses enroll the great majority of lower-income college students. Yet flagship public campuses — like those in Ann Arbor, Mich., Boulder, Colo., and Gainesville, Fla. — are important to upward mobility too, given the success of their graduates.

In the last few years, many flagships have begun to recruit more upper-income students from outside their state, including from overseas. Those students don’t qualify for in-state tuition or for much financial aid — and thus help bolster the colleges’ budgets.

Mr. Leonardt notes that college administrators do not describe their motives as being driven by budgets, though. Instead they talk about the need for more geographic diversity or, as he intimates, the need to “game” their standings in the US News and World Report rankings by going after students with the highest test scores possible.

At the very end of his column Mr. Leonardt suggests that the only ultimate fix is to spend more on public colleges, which, of course, requires more taxes… and it is easier to point the finger at “waste, fraud, and abuse”. He concludes with these paragraphs:

This country should also be investing more of its resources in education.

A century ago, it did precisely that, making high school universal and making possible the so-called American century. Today’s economy demands many more college graduates than the country currently has. Producing them won’t be free. But it will be worth it.

The alternative — which is the path we’re now on — is just about the worst economic-development strategy imaginable.

This Just In: Vouchers Do NOTHING to Help Children Raised in Poverty… Do A LOT to Help Affluent Families who “Choose” Private Schools

May 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Anyone who has thought at all about vouchers will not be surprised to learn that despite their advocates’ high-minded rhetoric regarding their desire to “help parents of poor children get a better education” the reality is that vouchers benefit the parents who are already sending their children to private schools with no government support. As the Arizona Republic article reported in an yesterday by Rob Odell and Yvonne Sanchez the primary beneficiaries of Arizona’s voucher program has been affluent parents. They write:

…more than 75 percent of the money pulled out of public schools for the Empowerment Scholarship Account program came from districts with an “A” or “B” rating, the analysis showed. By contrast, only 4 percent of the money came from school districts rated “D” or lower.

The findings undercut a key contention of the lawmakers and advocacy groups pressing to expand the state’s ESA program: that financially disadvantaged families from struggling schools reap the benefit of expanded school choice.

Critics, meanwhile, argue the program is largely being used by more-affluent families to subsidize their private-school tuition bills. The ESA program allows parents to take 90 percent of the money that would have gone to their school district and put it toward private school, home schooling and other educational programs.

Originally launched as a means of providing options for parents of special needs children, Empowerment Scholarships have grown by 2,543 percent since the ESA program’s start, with a total of $99.7 million paid out over the past seven years. And where does the money for the “Empowerment Fund” come from? Taxpayers!

Unfortunately for the children raised in poverty in AZ, their State constitution enables this hoax to be carried out by legislators. At the conclusion of her post that brought this to my attention, Diane Ravitch poses two questions:

Hello, Arizona taxpayers! How do you feel about your taxes subsidizing the private school tuitions of rich kids?

Hello, retirees! Do you really want your taxes to be used to destroy the public education system that benefited you, your children, and your grandchildren?

I’m afraid that the answer to both questions is: “We don’t care if it will lower our tax burden in the long run.”

Betsy DeVos’ Message on Capitol Hill: Parents Decide; Equity Doesn’t Matter

May 25, 2017 Leave a comment

In her article in yesterday’s Washington Post, Valerie Strauss described “five startling things” Betsy DeVos told Congress when she presented her budget… items that were startling but not surprising given her advocacy for school choice at the expense of equity and opportunity. The five items are summarized below:

  1. States can allow schools receiving federal money to discriminate based on race and gender issues
  2. States can decide if schools that do not provide funding for IDEA students can receive federal money
  3. Currently, ALL high poverty schools receive more federal money than ALL low poverty schools
  4. The Trump-DeVos choice plan does not shift money away from public schools
  5. Schools receiving federal voucher funds may not be required to meet the same standards as public schools

Ms. Strauss’ article does an artful job of capturing Ms. DeVos’ dodging of the questions by repeating two mantras: parents are the ones who should decide where their child attends school and states should be given more leeway in determining which schools receive federal funds. Evidently Ms. DeVos is prepared to turn back the clock to the era of segregation based on race, warehousing of special needs children in the name of economic efficiency, and wholly inequitable funding…. all in the name of providing funds for religiously affiliated schools whose values match those of the parents.

Ms. Strauss concludes the article with a verbatim transcript of Ms. DeVos testimony which outlined the five principles she used to define the budget she was presenting. Those principles, with my highlights added, are:

  1. “…giving parents more power and students more opportunities”
  2. “…maintaining strong support for public schools through longstanding State formula grant programs focused on meeting the educational needs of the nation’s most vulnerable students, including poor and minority students and students with disabilities.”
  3. “…strong support for the research and data collection activities of the Department.”
  4. “…reduces the complexity of funding for college while prioritizing efforts to help make a college education accessible for low-income students” (see a later post on this blog for what is going to happen to 400,000 students who were bilked by for-profit colleges) 
  5. “…eliminate or phase-out 22 programs that are duplicative, ineffective, or are better supported through State, local or philanthropic efforts.”

So much for the government that opened doors for black children, provided access to public education for handicapped children, and provided supplementary funding to communities who have neither the tax base nor the wherewithal to offer creative and innovative programs.

I will note, though, that Ms. DeVos “startling” testimony does jibe with her “principles” and those of the GOP. Here’s hoping that those principles are roundly rejected by Congress when they enact the budget.

 

Trump’s “Manifestly Cruel” Education Budget Would Crush Kids’ Dreams

May 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Another Common Dreams article protesting the Trump-DeVos budget that cuts grants for class-size reduction; eliminates after school and summer programs for kids raised in poverty; eliminates loan forgiveness for those who become teachers; cuts vocational education funding; and reduce 25% of the Medicaid funding for poor children receiving services in schools… all the while ADDING $1,000,000,000 for “choice”…. As NEA President Lily Garcie says: “If enacted, the Trump budget will crush the dreams of students, deprive millions of opportunities, and make it harder for students to access higher education.”

Source: Trump’s “Manifestly Cruel” Education Budget Would Crush Kids’ Dreams

Categories: Uncategorized