Posts Tagged ‘Economic Issues’

Pandemic Imperils Post-Secondary Education Across USA

April 7, 2020 Leave a comment

ABC News reports that ALL colleges and universities in the nation are suffering potentially crippling if not cataclysmic losses as a result of the pandemic. Here are the two paragraphs that summarize the impact:

Scores of colleges say they’re taking heavy hits as they refund money to students for housing, dining and parking after campuses closed last month. Many schools are losing millions more in ticket sales after athletic seasons were cut short, and some say huge shares of their reserves have been wiped out amid wild swings in the stock market.

Yet college leaders say that’s only the start of their troubles: Even if campuses reopen this fall, many worry large numbers of students won’t return. There’s widespread fear that an economic downturn will leave many Americans unable to afford tuition, and universities are forecasting steep drop-offs among international students who may think twice about studying abroad so soon after a pandemic.

The college and university presidents hoped that the stimulant package would help offset their losses, but they were deeply disappointed to find their request for money largely ignored. Instead of getting the 60 billion dollars requested they got only 14 billion. This means that they will need to use whatever endowment funds they have to cover lost revenue, losses that they expect to mount in the fall when students decide to sit out a year because they cannot pay the tuition. And schools with limited endowments? The ABC report doesn’t say so but they may well close taking thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of dreams with them.

In the end, though, it is possible that we may look back and determine that college was oversold. We may find that paying for more schooling to earn more money to buy more things was a fool’s errand.

Another Potential POSITIVE Covid 19 By Product: Broadband Deemed a Public Utility

April 6, 2020 Leave a comment

Jeremy Mohler’s recent post on the In The Public Interest blog includes this paragraph:

The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed what’s long been true: High-speed internet is a public good. It enables education, healthcare, public safety, civic participation, economic growth, and much more. It connects our communities, the nation, and beyond. And, in times like these, it keeps us close to friends and loved ones.

And yet our country charges the among the highest fees for this service in the world and because of that roughly 1/3 of our citizens don’t have access to broadband, a reality that especially impacts low-income, black, and Latino communities. There IS hope that high speed internet might be declared as national necessity. Both the Democratic party and the Republican party are seeking another stimulus, and both are talking about a stimulus to “improve infrastructure”. This COULD be an opportunity for those who see internet access as a civil rights issue to make our voices heard. One thing is certain: as the legislation is developed the telecom industry will do so.

Location Data Says It All: Staying at Home During Coronavirus Is a Luxury – The New York Times

April 4, 2020 Leave a comment

As the virus continues to spread throughout the nation, an analysis of cellphone data shows that those in the wealthiest areas have been able to reduce their movements more than those in the poorest areas.
— Read on

What this article DIDN’T say: the affluent moms and dads who stayed home could support their kids who might need help with their school work. The hourly working parents… not so much. Oh… and as a further penalty, the kids of hourly workers will be exposed to the virus.

In a District with No Broadband a 10 Year old Xerox Machine Works Overtime

March 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Expansion of On-Line Work, On-Line Schooling and the Need for Economic Stimulus Is Golden Opportunity for Universal Broadband

March 14, 2020 Comments off

As noted in yesterday’s post, more and more schools are being cancelled and more and more employers are asking their staff members to work from home. The consequence of this will undoubtedly be extreme stress on our existing internet systems and more evidence of the existing inequities in the provision of services.

I read in today’s NYTimes that the House passed a de facto economic stimulus bill in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.The bill provides “…two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for those affected by the crisis” and a slew of small bore items that will serve as a bandage for the work missed and revenues lost due to the pandemic. I fear that neither party saw the golden opportunity that lay before them: the chance to use this crisis as an opportunity to provide broadband to every citizen in the nation so that every citizen could access work and learning from their home.

But, as Common Cause noted in a press release yesterday, the FCC could take some immediate actions that would help… especially for those children who lack broadband access!

“Despite its limited authority, the FCC can and should do more to fully address broadband connectivity needs during this pandemic. The FCC can use its universal service authority to ensure existing programs designed to connect communities to broadband are fully utilized. For example, the Lifeline program connects eligible low-income households to affordable communications services. However, millions of eligible low-income households remain unenrolled. The FCC can take action to ensure all eligible low-income households are enrolled in the program. Further, millions of students lack a broadband connection at home. As Commissioner Rosenworcel has repeatedly stated, the ‘homework gap’ puts students without home broadband at a significant disadvantage. The FCC could address this by expanding its E-rate program to families with students that don’t have a broadband connection at home. The FCC must also address telehealth services so Americans can adequately connect to hospitals and other medical services.

The President touted on-line health services in his address and governors who have mandated school closures across the country all claim that on-line programs will offset the time lost in school. As readers of this blog know, that is only the case in homes with broadband… and those who cannot afford groceries are unlikely to have broadband… and those who live in remote rural outposts will be similarly challenged. We all have access to electricity and (as of now) clean water and indoor plumbing… The Covid 19 outbreak is helping us see that we should all have the same level of access to telecommunications.

Ontario E-Learning Mandate is Step Backwards for High Schools, Not a Path to Modernity

March 10, 2020 Comments off

This morning as I scrolled through the Education newsfeed on my I-Phone I came across an article in The Conversation by Windsor College education professor Lana Parker describing Ontario’s mandatory e-learning courses for high school students and a bell went off in head. It seems that I accurately recalled that Ontario’s Premier was Doug Ford, a populist conservative who, like our POTUS, is no fan of government and, after reading Ms. Parker’s article that made no mention of Mr. Ford, came upon another Conversation article from October 2019 by Beyhan Farhadi that not only named him but called him out for the plan.

Ms. Fahradi’s article described the idea behind the plan offered by their equivalent of the Commissioner of Education:

Questioned in the legislature about the plan, Lisa Thompson, then the minister of education, asked:

What is wrong with making sure that our students, at minimum, once a year, embrace technology for good?

The fantasy of progress reflected in this statement — that technology can determine educational outcomes — suggests that technology offers simple solutions to complex problems.

In her article, Ms. Fahradi offers research-based rebuttal to the efficacy of on-line instruction as a means of offering equitable opportunities, noting that the students who succeeded in e-learning before the mandate were predominantly high-achieving white students.

Ms. Farrell’s article, though, presents the real reasoning behind mandatory e-courses… and… surprise: it’s not about modernization of education… it’s about money!

E-learning isn’t about modernization. E-learning may instead be a trojan horse for cost-cutting and privatization. Teacher and staff wages make up the bulk of the education budget and the government likely recognises that costs can be cut if fewer teachers are employed to teach students. Ontario has been seeking to do this in two ways.

The first is to increase class sizes. The second is related to the first: it’s to introduce mandatory e-learning as a way of potentially grouping larger cohorts of students in a virtual classroom, centralizing course preparations and reducing the scope of personalized learning. This contradicts the OECD’s recommendation for 21st century learning that curriculum should be shifting from “predetermined and static” to “adaptable and dynamic.”

In addition to cost-cutting, the move to centralized e-learning also reveals that the government may be planning to develop private revenue streams. Canadian courses and curriculum are already being sold internationally. It’s quite possible that the government hopes that there will be a future market for an online curriculum.

Mandatory e-learning will not mean more choice for students and parents. In Ontario, fewer teachers and increased class sizes have already resulted in less course choice. The loss of face-to-face togetherness in a student’s formative years should not be the benchmark for what modernization looks like in schools today.

Five states in our country and two provinces in Canada have mandated at least one course in the name of “modernization” or, in some cases”, equity. E-learning in and of itself does not afford either. As both writers assert e-learning DOES have a place IN the classroom… but it should not BE the classroom. In the end, there is only one reason e-learning is politically popular: it is a cheap, fast and easy solution to a whole series of complicated problems that cost money and take a long time to solve.

Bloomberg’s Post-Secondary Blueprint is Outstanding… If Only his K-12 Thinking Changes

February 21, 2020 Comments off

I view myself as a progressive independent when it comes to politics. As such, I believe that the government should ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed in schools, which, in turn, envisions a world where all public schools are funded as robustly as those in the most affluent communities in our country. If that were the case, by the time a student has completed his or her K-12 studies, they would be capable of making an informed choice about what they want to do next with their lives. At that point, the government should ensure that every child leaving high school has an opportunity to pursue whatever additional studies are needed to take that next step.

As readers of this blog know, I do not support school choice for K-12 students as a means of creating equity. Any choice plans require full engagement of parents many of whom are working multiple jobs to make ends meet and do not have the wherewithal to engage in the complicated processes that invariably accompany choice plans. Children who are born into such families are effectively penalized because of their parents economic challenges, many of which are the result of under-education. Choice, then, reinforces the vicious circle that creates inequality. When Mike Bloomberg was mayor of NYC, he went all in on school choice the same way he went all in on stop-and-frisk.

When I read that Mike Bloomberg had a plan to address the inequities in post secondary education, I expected more of the same: maybe some kind of choice or voucher plan that would paper over the inequities that exist in college the same way his “choice” plan papered over the inequities in K-12 education. But I was wrong. Bloomberg’s framework for reforming post-secondary education is very fair and forward thinking. Here’s the Executive Summary:

Ensure that no one is denied a chance to get ahead because of the cost of college

Mike believes that college should be available to all Americans, regardless of income. Mike’s plan will enact this idea by doubling the size of Pell grants and removing current barriers of access to Pell Grants for DREAMers and formerly incarcerated students. He’ll combat the crippling student debt crisis that has handicapped a generation, cutting the cap on student-loan payments by 50% and forgiving loans tax-free after 20 years. Mike will make public college debt-free for the lowest-income students by funding the cost of attendance including real costs of college beyond tuition — including expenses for books, meals, transportation, and child care that often present barriers to degree completion.

Level the playing field so every student can achieve a high-quality higher education

Mike will end admissions legacy preferences and strengthen fairness in the college-admissions process. He’ll increase college graduation rates for low- and middle-income students by making the real costs of college more affordable, investing in evidence-based strategies to improve completion and success rates, and help more students attend and graduate from selective colleges with high graduation rates. His plan also expands direct investments into Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS) and institutions serving students from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented groups.

Help students complete degrees and equip them to succeed

Mike will ensure graduates are equipped with skills needed for good-paying jobs while closing gaps for low-income students and underrepresented minorities. At the same time, he’ll combat food insecurity on campuses by facilitating SNAP benefits and covering all meals for low-income students through expanded Pell grants and federal and state funding. He’ll also encourage programs to re-enroll and graduate adults who have some college but no degree, then help connect those students to good-paying job opportunities. Mike will build and strengthen career-training programs and facilities at community colleges working with employers. He will also help one million students annually enroll in work-based college degree programs where students participate in paid apprenticeships and internships along with relevant courses equipping students with the skills required for good-paying jobs.

The detailed ideas he has for encouraging states to restore funding for STATE post-secondary programs is especially promising. Mike Bloomberg seems to “get” what is needed to create a level playing field for students who want to get more training and education AFTER they graduate from high school. MAYBE he will “get” the message that his plans for choice at the K-12 level are not getting it done in terms of providing equity and re-think his approach to funding at that level so that every child entering Kindergarten has the chance to avail themselves of the plans he aspires to when they graduate. My sense is that Bloomberg is stubborn when it comes to holding onto ideas (see his unwillingness to change his thinking on stop-and-frisk) but at his core he will change his thinking if he is presented with data that undercuts his position. Here’s hoping someone is preparing reams of data that show that the “choice” plan he put in place is not providing an equal opportunity for all.