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Posts Tagged ‘Economic Issues’

Open a Charter… Follow the Rules… Rake in the $$$: Nice Work if You Can Get It…. and in Arizona You Can!

December 8, 2018 Leave a comment

In “How to become a charter school millionaire in 5 easy steps? Ask Eddie Farnsworth“, AZ Central reporter Laurie Roberts describes how Arizona GOP legislator Farnsworth made millions on a charter school he operated by following the rules enacted by the legislature he served in. What are the steps?

No. 1.   Set up charter schools. Collect state money to run the four-school operation then pay yourself $170,000 a year, more than competing school districts with double or more the schools.

No. 2.   Set up a non-profit to buy your schools for $56.9 million. Fill the board with pals and lobbyists whose bills you supported in the state Legislature. Pocket $13.9 million from the sale.

No. 3.   Get that non-profit board to hire your brother to run the publicly funded charter operation. And, oh yeah, to hire you to serve as a consultant.

No. 4.   Continue to rent space to house the schools’ corporate headquarters – at market rate, of course – to score another $79,600 a year.

No. 5.   Loan the charter operation $2.8 million – 60 days’ operating cash – and proceed to collect $478,000 in interest over the next seven years.

As Ms. Roberts indicates in her article, it is unfair to single out Mr. Farnsworth since many others are making millions in the same way. But in my judgment Mr. Farnsworth deserves particular scorn since he is in a position to address some of Arizona’s laws that make this kind of scamming possible.

 

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The Perils of Predicting the Future of Education

December 2, 2018 Leave a comment

The on-line magazine Quartz offered a series of articles earlier this week on The Future of College, one of which by Natasha Frost, “Experts predicting the future of education would have got an F“, offered some intriguing examples of ideas that were either almost right or completely off base. The predictions included this picture from 1910 by artist Jean-Marc Côte depicting the school of the future:

The article also included predictions that radio, “sound movies and mechanical tabulating machines”, personal computers, “practical use of direct electronic communication with and stimulation of the brain”, and flying classrooms would transform education at all levels and that universities would die off because “Colleges had become such hotbeds of Marxism, feminism, and affirmative action” that they would be inhospitable to most attendees.

As one whose entire blog is based on the premise that schooling in the future will incorporate the coordinated provision of medical and social services, the robust use of technology, and increased training in relationship building, I found the predictions both humorous and unsettling. The humor is evident in looking at the picture above… but the unsettling part is that each of the predictions have a dark side that one could see unfolding in our current schools.

There is a capability to avoid schooling altogether based on parental distaste for the culture that is implicitly taught in public schools and, with the advocacy for vouchers, it is conceivable that funds earmarked for “government schools” will be increasingly siphoned off for de facto madrases that inculcate religious values in children.

There is also the capability to avoid schooling altogether by engaging in on-line learning and passing a test that certifies one’s “mastery” of “career readiness” without experiencing the give-and-take of a classroom or a school. In this way a child could be shielded from contact with peers and become single-mindedly dedicated to, say, coding or micro-biology.

And there is also the capability (or in some cases proclivity) of schools to administer drugs to children to help control their behavior and thereby increase their ability to perform well in the classroom. The most unsettling quote from Ms. Frost’s article offers evidence of this: “A 2008 poll of Nature readers found that 20% of them “used drugs for non-medical reasons to stimulate their focus, concentration, or memory” … and I assume those drugs are stronger than the large cup of coffee I am sipping to help me arouse from slumber and focus my thoughts as I type this post.

Despite the possible adverse directions education could take, I remain optimistic that reasonable minds will see the value of improving human relationships and the importance of having equity in our economy and opportunities. Assuming that is the case, Martin Luther King Junior’s prediction will prevail: “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Let us hope that is true.

How the Teacher Revolt Promoted the Blue Wave

November 29, 2018 Leave a comment

I am reading Anand Giridharandas’ book Winners Take All in preparation for a course I will be offering in our communities Adult Education program this winter. (NOTE: Expect many quotes and concepts from this book going forward!)

One of the points Mr. Giridharandas makes in the book is that the plutocrats have managed to convince employees that they are “mini-corporations”. Consequently, many members of younger generations do not appreciate the power of banding together with colleagues at work to change the system. They have bought into the idea that they are “free agents” who can hop from career-to-career and devise their own health plans and their own retirement plans. If you enter teaching (or any career path) with the notion that it is a way station and not a job you want to commit to for life the idea of pushing back against the forces that want to undercut your wages, hours, and working conditions is alien.

In reporting on the “wildcat strikes” in these states where unions are unwelcome and under- appreciated one fact has been overlooked: the teachers marched together are the teachers who are the most passionate about their work and the most committed to their career. They WANT to teach and are only asking for wages that will enable them to devote their time and energy to making their classrooms the focal point of their life.

As one who sat across the table from union leaders for 29 years, I came to appreciate the fact that unions are not only looking out for the interest of their employees, they are looking out for the well-being of public education.

via How the Teacher Revolt Promoted the Blue Wave

Detroit’s Schools: A Canary in the Coal Mine for Urban Schools Across the Country

November 22, 2018 Comments off

Crain’s Detroit Business News reported on an alarming– but wholly unsurprising— finding from Moody’s Investor’s Service: the Detroit Public Schools need a multi-million dollar influx of state funding to upgrade their facilities.

Without sufficient state support, the growing capital needs of Detroit’s public schools pose a potential threat to the city’s economic revitalization, Moody’s Investors Service said Tuesday.

“Two years after from a state bailout that staved off insolvency, the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) is again at a crossroads,” the Moody’s report said. “The bailout strengthened the district’s operations, but the state did not provide sufficient resources to address large and growing capital needs.”

A recent evaluation of the district’s facilities, along with the discovery of high lead levels in the district’s drinking water, has increased the urgency, Moody’s said.

The district cannot finance capital improvements on its own and the City of Detroit (Ba3 stable) has its own challenges, placing the burden on the State of Michigan (Aa1 stable) to potentially step in again,” Moody’s wrote in the report. “Absent state support, or sizable philanthropic donations, the deteriorating school facilities will hinder the City of Detroit’s post-bankruptcy economic revitalization.

From my perspective Detroit Public Schools are a canary in the coal mine. Shortchanged by a State intent on tax cuts for the wealthy, located in a city unable to provide services due to a declining population and loss of businesses, and full of aging facilities with crumbling infrastructure, the Detroit Public Schools cannot survive unless the state changes its thinking or some philanthropist steps in. But here’s what is especially sad about Detroit’s schools: they were under the control of the State who turned them over to the kind of privatized operators that philanthropists love to fund… and the privatization and state control went so badly that they have now restored the traditional model of governance. And the traditional model IS working. The operating budget management is under control but the newly elected board has inherited school facilities that require a huge investment, as outlined in Moody’s report:

 

  • The 2016 state bailout solved only part of the district’s problems. The state responded with a cash infusion and restructuring plan that contributed to surplus operations. However, the district’s financial health is at risk over the next decade due to the projected deterioration of its school facilities.

  • Facility needs are substantial with costs likely to rise. A recent facility assessment commissioned by the district depicts large-scale capital needs, which are poised to grow over the next decade. Needs vary across the district as buildings outside greater downtown more likely to be categorized as poor or unsatisfactory. In August, the district had to shut off drinking water due to unsafe lead levels.

  • Local funding solutions are limited, pointing to the need for another state bailout. The district lacks the resources to afford capital upgrades. Additionally, the district’s ability to access the capital markets at affordable rates is also limited. While the city of Detroit’s fiscal fortunes have improved, it is unlikely to offer meaningful assistance to the school district.

  • The state of Michigan is the most viable source of support for the district’s sizable capital needs, though political appetite so soon after the bailout is uncertain.

  • The district’s unmet capital needs are a potential threat to the city’s economic recovery. High levels of investment have revitalized the city’s downtown, although marked improvement in outer neighborhoods has lagged. Poor facility conditions have the potential to slow revitalization and further limit the prospect of reversing the city’s core credit challenges, rooted in low property values, poor socioeconomic characteristics and persistent out-migration.

The cost of the original bailout was $617,000,000… which reflected the impact of the diminished spending over a period of time due to underfunding by the state. But THAT underfunding was to the operating budget…. and the deferred maintenance and operations costs are even higher:

Moody’s cited a facility assessment commissioned by the districted and conducted in July by a third-party consulting firm, OHM Advisors. The assessment reported that the district’s 100-plus school buildings in operation have approximately $530 million in capital needs and deferred maintenance. The report projected that the figure could top $1.5 billion by 2023 if not addressed, the ratings agency said.

“Many of the district’s buildings are well past their useful lives,” Moody’s wrote, although it points out that most of the district’s students attend schools in buildings classified as “good” or “fair”. This could change if more capital investments are not made in the coming years, it said.

The GOP State legislators have deferred spending for years assuming that tax cuts to corporations would attract businesses and increase the tax base. That hasn’t happened in Michigan— and hasn’t happened anywhere… and the result in Detroit is likely to play out in urban areas across the nation in the years ahead.

 

Disaster Capitalism Proceeds as Puerto Rico Privatization Progresses With Appointment of Former Louisiana State Superintendent

November 22, 2018 Comments off

Education Week blogger Andrew Ujifusa reports that “...Paul Pastorek, the former Louisiana schools chief who helped lead the overhaul of New Orleans’ schools after Hurricane Katrina, has agreed to a contract with Puerto Rico’s Department of Education to provide various services as island schools continue their recovery from their own catastrophic storm, Hurricane Maria in 2017.” In a (presumed) effort to avoid any editorializing, Mr. Ujifusa does not speculate on whether Mr. Pastorek’s entrance is a sign that Puerto Rico will go the way of New Orleans, but it is abundantly clear to anyone one watches policy issues that is the direction their public schools are headed… and I will not be surprised to see the schools in the FL panhandle headed the same way soon because, as Rahm Emmanuel famously said, every disaster is an opportunity for change…. and vulture capitalists love to see a hurricane, a train wreck, or an economic downturn.

ANOTHER Post About Amazon… and the Bottom Line is Amazon Benefits at the Expense of Children

November 14, 2018 Comments off

Chalkbeat writers Christina Veiga, Alex Zimmerman, and Reema Amin wrote a post describing “Four Ways Amazon’s Arrival Could Affect NYC Schools“…. and some are clearly negative, and none of them is unequivocally positive and in sum they do not offset the revenues that will be diverted as a result of the decision to provide enticements for Amazon to locate there. What are the four consequences?:

  • Overcrowded schools as new workers move into Queens, which already has too many students enrolled
  • Concerns about a possible increase in homelessness as housing prices increase, a phenomenon that occurred in Seattle where Amazon is now headquartered.
  • Changes in demographics as a result of the influx of new families, especially in the area of ESOL which has expanded in Seattle.
  • The unlikelihood of the philanthropic donations expected from Amazon, based on the city’s experiences with other partnerships,

Which of these problems might have been solved had $1,500,000,000 been earmarked for schools instead of Amazon?

 

The Great Amazon Auction is Over… and MAYBE Americans Will Now Wake Up to the Scam of Corporate Welfare

November 13, 2018 Comments off

Atlantic writer Derek Thompson’s recent article on Amazon’s recent “search” for a second headquarters is titled “Amazon’s HQ2 Spectacle Isn’t Just Shameful—It Should Be Illegal” and offers this subheading:

After recounting the procedure Amazon followed to seek out its second headquarters, Mr. Thompson poses a series of questions critics of this process and of Amazon are posing and and poses one very blunt question himself:

The rumored announcement has emboldened Amazon’s army of critics. Did the world’s smartest company really need 13 months, and applications from 238 cities, to reach the striking conclusion that it should invest in New York and D.C.?  The former is America’s heart of capital, and the latter is America’s literal capital, where Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, already owns a house and a newspaper.

Was this national auction nothing more than a scripted drama to raise the value of the inevitable winning bid? And did the retailer miss an opportunity to revitalize a midwestern city by choosing to enrich the already-rich East Coast?

All good questions. But here’s the big one: Why the hell are U.S. cities spending tens of billions of dollars to steal jobs from one another in the first place?

After offering rationalizations for why corporations should engage in this kind of bidding between local and state governments and why those local and state governments should play the game of lowballing their taxes to entice businesses to locate in their town or state, Mr. Thompson offers three major problems with this “system” of reading corporations by providing them with tax breaks:

First, they’re redundant. This process doesn’t expand the local, state or national economy at large in any way, shape, or form. As Mr. Thompson notes, “Companies often decide where they want to go and then find ways to get their dream city, or hometown, to pay them to do what they were going to do anyway.

Second, companies don’t always hold up their end of the deal. Mr. Thompson cited the recent FoxConn scam in Wisconsin as an example, but the fact is he could have chosen any one of the examples he offered earlier in the article.

Third… it’s… ludicrous for Americans to collectively pay tens of billions of dollars for huge corporations to relocate within the United StatesTo underscore the ridiculousness of the competition between cities and states he describes the ongoing “battle” between Kansas City, KS and Kansas City MO for corporations that undercuts local and state taxes in both states, cuts that diminish the ability of both Kansas City’s to provide public services.

Mr. Thompson concludes his article offering some possible solutions that could be reached at the federal level, but laments that such solutions are unlikely given the bi-partisan support for corporate welfare. He observes:

…in a starkly divided country, corporate pandering is the last bastion of bipartisanship, an activity enjoyed by both Democrats and Republicans at every level of government. New Jersey and Maryland, both blue states, insisted that Amazon take $7 billion in tax savings just months after congressional Republicans passed a corporate income-tax cut that some analysts project will save Amazon nearly $1 billion over the next decade.

Corporate America is getting all the help it doesn’t need. You and I may not like it. But executives such as Jeff Bezos have no reason to care. They are winning by the rules of a broken game.

And who suffers? Mr. Thompson answered that question earlier in the article:

…since cities and states can’t print money or run steep deficits, these deals take scarce resources from everything local governments would otherwise pay for, such as schools, roads, police, and prisons.

So if your city or state plunks down millions or billions in “incentives” to entice a corporation to locate in your region, please connect the dots if your schools are substandard, your police force is spread too thin, and your roads are in terrible shape. If you want to know where the money went to provide those services, drive past the spiffy new office park, vast new warehouse staffed by robots, or the gleaming skyscraper full of pink collar workers.