Posts Tagged ‘Economic Issues’

Public Schools Part of “American Carnage”

January 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Washington Post eduction reporter Valerie Strauss noted in her blog that public education WAS mentioned in President Trump’s speech, citing this excerpt:

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

She followed it with this question:

Public schools deprive students of all knowledge?

My question is: “We have an education system flush with cash?” If we have so much cash floating around, why have over 40 states had lawsuits filed because of funding inequities?


We Should Learn from Success as Well as Failure: Coordinated Intervention and Mediation Programs WORK!

January 20, 2017 Leave a comment

I just wrote a post describing the abysmal failure of the SIG “reform” models, suggesting that the $3,500,000,000 used to “blow up” traditional schools might have been better spent on comprehensive wraparound services. This article in the NYTimes, describing the full court press approach used to eliminate gun deaths in a housing project, validates that recommendation.  I fear that our new administration will emphasize “stipend frisk” tactics over mediation and gut funding for the kinds of re-entry jobs that provide credible mediators into dangerous neighborhoods like the one described in this article. It is frustrating to be on the cusp of identifying solutions to seemingly intractable problems only to take a giant step backward.

Welcome to the Plutocracy: the 8 Richest People Have More Wealth than the Bottom Half

January 17, 2017 1 comment

The headline and pictures in the NYTimes article tell you a lot about the world economic condition. Here’s the headline:

World’s 8 Richest Have as Much Wealth as Bottom Half, Oxfam Says

And if you click on the link above you’ll see the picture of eight white men, and here’s a summary of how they gained their wealth:

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, led the list with a net worth of $75 billion. He is scheduled to speak at the forum in Davos this year.

Amancio Ortega Gaona, the Spanish founder of the fashion company Inditex, best known for its oldest and biggest brand, Zara, has a net worth of $67 billion.

Warren E. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, $60.8 billion.

Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications magnate, $50 billion.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, $45.2 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s creator, $44.6 billion.

Lawrence J. Ellison, the founder of Oracle, $43.6 billion.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and founder of the media and financial-data giant Bloomberg L.L.P., $40 billion.

Technology, finance, and communications dominate the list… and looking at their net worth I have only one question: how much is enough?

Atlantic Magazine: DeVos is NOT the Only Problematic Cabinet Nominee for Public Education

January 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Yesterday Diane Ravitch wrote multiple posts opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos. They included a lengthy and thoughtful missive from Randi Weingarten, a letter from 200 deans of education, and numerous blog posts— including one carefully researched analysis of the DeVos family’s devastating impact on MI public education.

I read these thoughtful and well written posts after reading an Atlantic article by Hayley Glatter describing how five other cabinet posts could have an impact on student related policy. The five in question and their potential impact is outlined below:

  • Jeff Sessions, attorney general designee, whose civil rights record and opposition to special education was described in an earlier post on this site.
  • Tom Price, nominee for secretary of health and human services, whose record in Congress shows he opposes spending on these issues and whose potential harm to public schools was described in an earlier post as well.
  • Rex Tillerson, nominee for Secretary of State, whose department oversees multiple overseas study programs, many of which could be subject to budget cuts in a Trump administration.
  • Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Interior designee, whose department administers the Bureau of Indian Education, which provides life long education opportunities to Native Americans
  • Ben Carson, Trump’s HUD nominee, whose belief in bootstraps as opposed to helping hands and opposition to publicly supported housing makes him, like DeVos, a cabinet head who is more likely to dissemble his department than build it up.

This list could clearly go on. Andrew Puzder, Mr. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, for example. He opposes minimum wages, labor unions, and such “givens” as sick leave, paid vacations, and overtime. His appointment will clearly have an impact on children being raised in poverty and the collective bargaining agreements that currently provide a floor for the wages and working conditions of teachers.

As indicated above, there many fronts to fight against. In the ALL publicly funded programs are targeted for privatization, the environment is imperiled, women’s rights are under siege, Jim Crow laws could be restored, workers are likely to see their rights eroded, and who knows what cases the new Supreme Court will overturn.

These appear to be dark times… but if progressives stick together and take on all of these simultaneously we could come out ahead of where we started. Maybe, like the only businessman-turned-President Herbert Hoover, Trump will be a one-term President who will pave the way for a reformer to emerge.  That optimistic thought enables me to sleep soundly.

Debates About Governance and Privatization Are Beside the Point When AI is about to Displace Millions of Jobs

January 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch linked one of her blog posts to an Education Week article by Marc Tucker that discussed whether the US should follow the UK’s lead in re-instituting a model of schooling that sorts and selects based on aptitude as measured by standardized tests.

Having just reviewed Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy by the Executive Office of the President, I find myself thinking that the debates on how schools should function and whether they should be privatized to be immaterial and a diversion from the reality that is staring our country in the face and the consequences of that reality on our education system from Pre-K through grade 12. The section the report that is particularly astonishing is “AI and the Labor Market: The Near Term”, which predicts driving jobs are particularly vulnerable to elimination based on “…the current trajectory of AI technology”. Friends who work in investments are forecasting the advent of driver-less trucks and cars within a decade, an advent that would eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs. Moreover, analyses cited in the report forecast that “…83% of the jobs making less than $20 per hour would come under pressure from automation as compared to 31% of the jobs making between $20 and $40 dollars per hour and 4% of jobs making above $40 per hour”.

If 2,000,000 current jobs that do not require high-level skills are going to disappear forever, what kinds of jobs will take their place and, more importantly, what kinds of skills will the new jobs require? the report foresees four categories of work:

  • Engagement: This refers to engagement between humans and AI technologies. The report foresees AI technology serving as “Augmented Intelligence” in the same way computers augment the work of clerks and managers. This should increase the productivity but will not necessarily expand the workforce.
  • Development: Someone will need to design the AI technologies and write and maintain the software that runs on them. These new jobs will clearly require an advanced skill set. The report suggests that “…development may include those specializing in the liberal arts and social sciences… who can give input as the new technologies grapple with more social complexities and moral dilemmas”. This, of course, assumes that “social complexities and moral dilemmas” will need to be dealt with, an assumption that also assumes that some government oversight of the implementation of technology is both feasible ad desirable.
  • Supervision: The report envisions an increase in jobs related to the “…monitoring, licensing, and repair of AI”. Like the development jobs, these will require a higher level of education than the jobs they are displacing.
  • Response to paradigm shifts: This catch-all category assumes that the advent of driverless cars, for example, will necessitate regulatory and engineering changes as well as changes in urban planning. The report also sees increases in jobs like cybersecurity.

While the report is rosy in its forecasts regarding the advancement of technology, it also includes some sobering notions about what the future may hold. For example, one school of thought (see Brynjolfsson and McAfee) notes that the current economic trends indicate that “superstars” may benefit from technological advancement while most workers will experience a decline in their wages. The report notes that this would “…exacerbate the current trend in the rising fraction of total income going to the top .01%”. 

The report offers some ideas for how publicly funded schooling should respond to this change in the workplace.

  • Prepare all children with college- and career- ready skills in math reading, computer science and critical thinking
  • Address the “…low levels of proficiency in basic math and reading for millions of Americans”, specifically the performance gap between low income children and those raised in affluence.
  • Increase the enrollment in high quality pre-schools, where our country ranks 28th out of the 38 developed economies. This section also emphasized the importance of intervening early with those children raised in poverty since they fall behind early and never catch up.
  • Provide all workers and children with access to affordable post-secondary education.
  • Dramatically expand access to training and re-training. The report cites data indicating that our nation spends .1 percent of its GDP on the training and retraining of active employees other nations spend .6 of their GDP…. and we are currently spending less than half of what we did 30 years ago.

Achieving each these goals for schooling will require more money. Our current paradigm is that displaced workers should fend for themselves. That should either be expected to move where the jobs are or pay for more schooling by borrowing and if they borrow to attend a school or program that is ineffective it is their problem. I would argue that this paradigm is fueled by the notion that “government is the problem” and that, in turn, contributes to the despair that led to the election of Mr. Trump. Those of us who want to see public education succeed need to advocate for publicly funded government sponsored re-training programs and, in so doing, help those displaced workers understand that their support for publicly funded schooling will help them a lot more than railing against the overpaid union teachers and “government schools” that failed to prepare them for the world they are living and working in today.

An Open Letter to President Obama on His Encore Career

January 11, 2017 1 comment

Dear President Obama-

I listened to your farewell speech last night realizing that it will be at least another four years before I hear such an eloquent, thoughtful, measured, and reasonable voice speaking under the Presidential Seal. At the same time, I realized that our nation will miss more than your oratorical skills. They will miss having an exemplar for calm, lucid and passionate leadership, an example of a politician who strives for compromise and advocates for the good that government can do if it is funded and if the public is engaged.

But I also realize that your career as a public figure is far from over and sense that you still have the fire in your belly to speak for the voiceless and promote the unity our nation needs. With that assumption in place, I humbly offer two suggestions for paths you should pursue: one short term and one long term.

In the short term, your party needs to clarify it’s vision. Today the Democrat party is the “not-Republican party”. AS a result, it is unclear what the party is FOR, apart from being pro-choice and pro-LGBT rights. The Democrat party seems unwilling to be unapologetically FOR government regulation, FOR redistribution of wealth, FOR racial and economic justice, FOR worker’s rights, or FOR guaranteed health care for EVERYONE without the intermediation of the profiteering health insurance and without the provisions assuring pharmaceutical industries a piece of the action. And because the Democrat party failed to accept the label of “liberals” who supported “government regulation”, our country has fallen under the spell of an illiberal salesperson who now has the full support of a party beholden to amoral billionaires who want to strip government controls to increase their bottom lines. I trust you to develop a set of principles for your party to embrace going forward and trust that those principles will reflect the ideals you set forth in your speech last evening.

In the long term our country needs the voice of a civil rights advocate like Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. We need a leader who will speak against what Dr. King called “the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism”. In his speech at the Riverside Church fifty years ago, Dr. King spoke against these three forces, which he believed were tearing our country apart. Like you, Dr. King saw the force of the ballot box as the means of defeating these corrosive elements and, after the passage of the Civil Rights bill in 1964, he spent the last four years of his life dedicated to fighting the poverty of resources and the poverty of spirit that arose from the gross disparities in wealth in our country. You could provide our country with the kind of moral clarity Dr. King offered. In doing so, you could seal your legacy as a leader who sought high-minded unity in the face of bigotry, greed, and perpetual war.

I wish you had a Congress that was willing to work with you. I wish you led a party that had the courage to speak out against racism, greed, and war. And I wish that those who are suffering at the hands of the creative destruction of capitalism understood that the cause of their problems is not too much government but too little. If you help define your party’s mission and purpose and continue to speak out for all that is good in our country, maybe the next President who is elected will have what you lacked… and if that occurs, our country will be stronger and more united than ever.

Fiscal Conservatives Gone… Replaced by “Austerians” Who Want to Cut Safety Nets

January 9, 2017 Leave a comment

David Leonardt’s column in today’s NYTimes, “The Betrayal of Fiscal Conservatism“,  describes the demise of that group of legislators and their replacement by a similar-sized group whose “…top priority is instead reducing taxes on the affluent. If they can’t find budget cuts to match their tax cuts — especially because many budget cuts are unpopular with voters — today’s top Republicans will instead cut taxes anyway and allow the deficit to grow.”

 I think Mr. Leonardt missed the point in his critique. This group’s intent on ballooning the deficit is part one of a two part strategy: Part One is to increase the deficit through tax cuts and the privatization of public projects and public services— like schools. Part Two is to shred the funding for “entitlements” and the “safety net” once the deficit is “out of control” in an effort to achieve their ultimate goal, which is to make the government so small it can be drowned in a bathtub.  Once their mischief is complete, the only “solution” will be tax increases and an expansion of government… and no one will run on a platform that requires that kind of compromise.