Posts Tagged ‘Economic Issues’

Executive Orders Impact Public Education Directly and Indirectly… AND For the Better!

January 21, 2021 Leave a comment

Yesterday, in his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued 17 Executive orders that overturned some of the most contentious and odious actions taken by his predecessor. The NYTimes Aishvarya Kavi summarized them in an article and this post flags those that will directly or indirectly impact public education. The first section of her article described orders that will address the Pandemic:

Though it is not a national mask mandate, which would most likely fall to a legal challenge, Mr. Biden is requiring social distancing and the wearing of masks on all federal property and by all federal employees. He is also starting a “100 days masking challenge” urging all Americans to wear masks and state and local officials to implement public measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

This “masking challenge” will undoubtedly land on school board agendas across the country and could provide an incentive for schools to work with community leaders to promote the voluntary use of masks.

Three executive orders that Ms. Kavi bundled under the heading Racial and LGBTQ Equality will have a direct and immediate impact on schools:

Mr. Biden will end the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which released a report on Monday that historians said distorted the role of slavery in the United States, among other history. Mr. Biden also revoked Mr. Trump’s executive order limiting the ability of federal agencies, contractors and other institutions to hold diversity and inclusion training.

The president designated Susan E. Rice, who is the head of his Domestic Policy Council, as the leader of a “robust, interagency” effort requiring all federal agencies to make “rooting out systemic racism” central to their work. His order directs the agencies to review and report on equity in their ranks within 200 days, including a plan on how to remove barriers to opportunities in policies and programs. The order also moves to ensure that Americans of all backgrounds have equal access to federal government resources, benefits and services. It starts a data working group as well as the study of new methods to measure and assess federal equity and diversity efforts.

Another executive order reinforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to require that the federal government does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a policy that reverses action by Mr. Trump’s administration.

This is hopefully the beginning of a great unwinding of the horrific policies and deregulation that occurred during the tenure of Betsy DeVos and AG Barr. These Executive Orders could be the most far reaching of all if they are fully implemented.

Two of the Presidents edicts on the Economy will indirectly impact schools:

Mr. Biden is moving to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and has asked agencies, including the Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Departments, to prolong a moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages that was enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The extensions all run through at least the end of March.

The president is also moving to continue a pause on federal student loan interest and principal payments through the end of September, although progressive groups and some congressional Democrats have pushed Mr. Biden to go much further and cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person.

As noted in many earlier blog posts, there is a high correlation between transience and school performance as measured by standardized tests… and a similar correlation between transience and food insecurity. If parents and their children do not have to worry about the loss of shelter it relieves some stress… but an extension to the end of March is hardly the reprieve or clarity needed to bring about peace of mind.

President Biden also issued a series of executive orders on immigration, none of which appear to have a direct impact on the governance of schools but all of which convey a message that immigrants are far more welcome in our nation and will lift any psychological burdens school children feel as a result of pressures their parents are feeling.

In all, the President and his team have done an admirable job of identifying the most egregious policies put in place by Executive Order in the Trump era and are showing a new direction.

NYTimes Andrew Sorkin Article Flatters IBM’s Political Engagement and Calls for Ban On Direct Donations to Politicians… but PILOTs Have HUGE Impact on State Local Politics… and Schools

January 13, 2021 Leave a comment

As the title of Andrew Sorkin’s NYTimes Deal Book article, “IBM Doesn’t Donate to Politicians. Other Firms Should Take Note“, implies, IBM is presented as an exemplar when it comes to making direct political donations. I know from experience that IBM uses its considerable clout to exact PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Tax) agreements from local communities and States, agreements that lower their taxes and shift the burden onto local homeowners. When IBM wants to locate a manufacturing plant in a community, it will set off a race-to-the-bottom bidding war between communities and States to get the sweetest deal possible on taxes. When one of the competitors in the bidding war is a community that IBM might abandon, it has the effect of creating a double whammy: if the community and the State do not pony up a sweetheart deal IBM will leave and take its jobs with it. 

IBM is far from the only corporation that does this… and as a school superintendent I found the whole process of “economic development” that accompanies the bidding for businesses repellant. In these bidding wars the business can’t lose. Businesses are, after all, trying to maximize its profits and, like every homeowner, trying to minimize paying taxes. If they don’t have to pay the going rate for State of local taxes they increase their bottom line. Many in the community accept PILOTs as the price one needs to pay to “attract and retain” good businesses and, as we witnessed in the Trump era, when a businessman/candidate avoids paying taxes they do not pay a price at the polls. The public expects businesses to gouge local and state governments. But in these bidding wars school districts, State and local governments, and— I would contend– local taxpayers lose. If the businesses strike their optimal bargain their infrastructure costs will be paid by the town and should they close down their business or fail to bring in the jobs they promised they pay no price. In the meantime, instead of tax funds being used to build or upgrade schools or roads, the funds are used to underwrite the costs of a gleaming office park or— worse— a massive warehouse that uses robot technology. In the meantime, in the “losing” community tax revenues are diminished and in the “winning” community costs are increased. In both cases, towns and school districts face the choice of cuts to service or tax increases to local homeowners: a lose-lose proposition. 

Sorkin’s call for decreased spending on political campaigns is welcome and would be a “win” for democracy.. But for schools and towns, getting out of the PILOT business would be even better. . 


NYTimes Editorial on Clean-up After DeVos’ Devastation Misses the Mark

January 5, 2021 Comments off

This past Sunday NYTimes editors rightfully point out the devastation wrought by Betsy DeVos during her four years as Secretary of Education. But, as usual, they want to retain the test-and-punish program that undercuts true reform in schools and glibly gloss over the difficulty legislators will face should they REALLY want to target funding for students raised in poverty. 

The editorial opens with a concise and accurate broad brush overview of the challenge incoming Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona faces:

If the Senate confirms President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee, Miguel Cardona, as Ms. DeVos’s successor, he will face the herculean task of clearing away the wreckage left by his predecessor — while helping the states find a safe and equitable path to reopening schools.

Beyond that, the new secretary needs to quickly reverse a range of corrosive DeVos-era policies, including initiatives that rolled back civil rights protections for minority children as well as actions that turned the department into a subsidiary of predatory for-profit colleges that saddle students with crushing debt while granting them useless degrees.

But the editors pivot to testing and conclude that at all costs the regiment of standardized testing testing must continue to help legislators and the Department “allocate educational resources strategically“. 

How more testing data will inform legislators and the Department to allocate resources strategically is unclear. We already know who the data will tell us! It will tell us the same thing it has told us for decades: children raised in poverty do poorly on standardized tests whose metrics are based on comparisons with their more affluent age peers. We know this. We know that affluent districts and schools within districts have smaller class sizes, higher paid and more experienced teachers, more resources, and— as a general rule— more parent engagement. We know that directing more funds to schools serving children who are raised in poverty could make a difference. If it DIDN’T matter, why do affluent school districts spend more? 

To their credit, the editors DO take the DeVos Department of Education to task for its support for predatory for-profit schools and it’s blocking of loan forgiveness for those duped by for-profit institutions. And the editors DO conclude with an accurate assessment of the urgent need for action:

The Department of Education lies in ruins at precisely the time when the country most needs it. The president-elect and his new education secretary, whoever that turns out to be, need to get the institution up and running as swiftly as possible. Given the dire context, there is no time to waste.

There IS no time to waste… and, as noted in this and earlier posts on this topic, there is no need to waste time or money or expending political capital to test students to prove what we already know.