Posts Tagged ‘Efficiency is the Enemy’

OCR’s Investigation Into Richmond VA Suspensions Could Indicate Future Direction

April 18, 2017 Leave a comment

After blogging yesterday about the appointment of Candace Jackson– an inexperienced anti-feminist and anti-affirmative action attorney– as de facto head of OCR, I read with interest K.Burnell Evans’ article that appeared in yesterday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch. Titled “US Department of Education Launches Investigation into Richmond Public Schools”, Evans’ article opens with these paragraphs:

The U.S. Department of Education has launched a civil rights investigation of Richmond Public Schools at the request of advocacy groups that say the district’s disciplinary policies discriminate against black students and students with disabilities.

The decision was announced Monday by the Legal Aid Justice Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, which received word last week that the federal agency’s Office for Civil Rights would investigate concerns the organizations submitted in August.

Among them: Black students with disabilities were nearly 13 times more likely than white students without disabilities to receive short-term suspensions, Virginia Department of Education data from the 2014-15 academic year show.

The article details the basis for the complaint, noting that “…at least 1 in 4 students were suspended from eight Richmond Public Schools in the 2014-15 school year, including at two elementary schools”. The article also noted that State had taken action in two other counties with lower suspension rates. But reading on, it seemed less clear that the State would take any action in Richmond’s case.

Although the Virginia Department of Education does collect self-reported student discipline data from school districts, it was unclear Monday whether Richmond Public Schools had been cited for issues of discipline inequity in recent years.

Public school systems for Chesterfield and Henrico counties have.

State Education Department spokeswoman Julie Grimes said the agency does not conduct investigations based on the data. The information is reported to the federal government for funding purposes.

If the State is not using data to take action, why does it bother to collect the data at all? And if it is “…reported to the federal government for funding purposes” are there any consequences at that level if there are marked disparities in suspension rates?

Based on the closing paragraphs, I think I know the answer:

The federal Education Department did not immediately provide information Monday about the percentage of complaints the Office for Civil Rights agrees to investigate. It was unclear when the probe might conclude.

With Candace Jackson at the helm, I doubt that OCR will display much zeal in their investigation… and frankly doubt that any meaningful investigation will take place. Indeed, given the review of rules taking place, I would not be surprised to read that disaggregated data on suspensions will cease in the name of “efficiency”…

President Trump’s Decision to Create “Office of Government Innovation” Echoes Earlier Presidential Initiatives to Run-Government-Like-A-Business

April 2, 2017 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch’s posts yesterday included one on the topic of President Trump’s decision to create a new Office Of American Innovation (OAI) and name his son-in-law Jared Kushner to head the organization. Here’s a quote from Mr. Trump’s announcement:

“As a former leader in the private sector, I am proud to officially announce the White House Office of American Innovation, which will develop innovative solutions to many problems our country faces,” President Trump said. “One of the primary reasons I ran for President was the need for new thinking and real change, and I know the Office and its team will help us meet those challenges.”

The fact that this announcement came on the heels of many articles decrying his decision to leave many key science and technology positions unfilled is ironic. But the biggest irony from my perspective is that it echoed the pledge of a previous President, who pledged to

…”reinvent government” (declaring that) “Our goal is to make the entire federal government less expensive and more efficient, and to change the culture of our national bureaucracy away from complacency and entitlement toward initiative and empowerment.”

To accomplish this end he appointed his Vice President to lead a National Performance Review modeled on the kind of consulting done in the business world that had the lofty goal of streamlining the government in the name of business-like efficiency. The NPR report offered a series of recommendations in six months time:

 The National Performance Review (NPR), which was later renamed the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (report) contained 384 recommendations for improving bureaucracy’s performance across the entire federal government[3] The report was the product of months’ worth of consultation of various government departments and meetings within (the President’s) bureaucracy, which narrowed down 2,000 pages of proposals to the final report.[2]

NPR promised to save the federal government about $108 billion: $40.4 billion from a ‘smaller bureaucracy,’ $36.4 billion from program changes and $22.5 billion from streamlining contracting processes[3] Each of the recommendations would fall into three categories: whether it required legislative action, presidential action, or internal bureaucratic reform.[2] Major branches of bureaucracy that were targeted were the US Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the Agency for International Development (AID), Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD).[3] The first-year status report of the NPR claimed that, pending Congressional action, likely savings would amount to about $12.2 billion in (the first year).

The quotes above come from a Wikipedia entry describing Bill Clinton’s efforts to “Reinvent Government” when he took office in 1993. Four years after launching this initiative, Vice President Gore issued a progress report on reinvention:

In a September 1996 pamphlet, Gore wrote that the federal government had reduced its workforce by nearly 24,000 as of January 1996, and that thirteen of the fourteen departments had reduced the size of their workforce[4] In addition, thousands of field offices that were considered ‘obsolete’ closed.[4] In September 1997, Gore reported that 2.8 million people left the welfare rolls between 1993 and 1997.[5]

The metrics cited above are telling. They reflect the “Third Way” thinking of the neoliberal movement, a “lite” version of the anti-tax and anti-government movements successfully launched by Reagan-ites in the 1980s. This anti-tax and anti-government mentality was amplified by Newt Gingrich in his Contract for America, served as the basis for the Tea Party movement, and activated the base of Trump voters. In the meantime, the neoliberalism of President Clinton became the basis for the DNC’s platforms, platforms that avoided calling for higher taxes or bigger government. Platforms that were friendly to the “reform” movement in public education, a movement that at its root was pro-business, anti-union, and anti-democratic.

Mr. Trump’s OAI is unlikely to find any innovative solutions. It is more likely to recommend more privatization which will ultimately lead to the demise of “government roads”, “government water”, “government lands”, and… yes… “government schools”. Here’s hoping that the Democratic party recommends a stronger government, one that funds roads, infra-structure, and… yes… schools.

“Can Grit Be Measured?” Yes… but to What End?

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

As noted in many previous posts, there is a belief that something called “grit” can help determine which students will succeed in school despite adversity… and IF that is the case then developing a means of measuring would be informative to colleges and universities who are trying to determine who will be able to adapt to the more rigorous environment students will face once they get on campus

A column by George Anders in yesterday’s EdSurge online publication poses the question “Can Grit Be Measured?”, explains what grit is, and then explains how University of Pennsylvania Professor Angela Duckworth is striving to answer that question despite it’s complexity. Anders writes:

Grit is important. Many K-12 educators and researchers all share that starting point. If children try hard, stay on task, and keep pressing through difficulties, good things happen. When school systems want to track the role of grit, or help instill it, however, everything gets trickier.

While I am afraid of the consequences that might result if we developed a “Grit Quotient” of some sort, I do agree with Ms. Duckworth’s assertion that any measurement of “grit” should be done without adding another standardized examination. But after reading Mr. Anders’ article, I’m not at all confident that the embedded metrics or the “bean counting” metrics Ms. Duckworth advocates will be at all helpful or informative in classrooms.

The one embedded metric described in Anders article is particularly appalling:

One approach that intrigues Duckworth: keeping tabs on students’ moment-by-moment habits when doing schoolwork online. Some students are easily distracted by ads, games or other diversions, she notes. Others can power through their work without interruption.

Also worth tracking, she says, are the ways that students respond after getting two or three online problems wrong in a row. Does their attention drift? Do they give up entirely? Or do they redouble their efforts to learn a difficult lesson?

Both these approaches have the benefit of assessing students without interrupting their normal learning day. As Duckworth observes, the school year already is filled with special-mission tests that interrupt regular course work. The less time commandeered by any grit-specific evaluations, the better, she says, adding: “The goal is something that takes zero extra time.”

Implicit in this approach is the idea that a student’s “normal learning day” includes on-line instruction. Also implicit is the idea that a student who has a singular focus, who “can power through their work without interruption” is somehow superior to a student who might occasionally daydream or “multi-task”. Finally, the idea that a student is deficient because they “give up” on an on-line task assumes that the task itself is not flawed or that the way the task was explained on line was sufficiently clear.

The idea behind what I call “bean counting” is also questionable. Mr. Anders writes:

Another simple measure that’s worth a look, she says, is the degree to which high school students persist with one activity across multiple years, taking on more responsibility in domains such as band, theater or a sports team. Students with an enduring passion for one field could be showing more grit that their peers. Such data is readily available, she notes; it passes her zero-time test.

Implicit in this “grit” measurement is that the “fields” in school reflect the “fields” outside of school, and if someone is passionate about a field, that passion is transferrable to another field. This are both self-evidently wrong. There are students who have passions for things that are not the part of any school curriculum yet are more predictive of success than any “field” currently taught in school. Entrepreneurship, for example, is not a part of any “field” in school… nor are creative thinking, interpersonal skills, intra-personal skills, or many other “soft” areas that are increasingly recognized as crucial to success outside of the classroom.

Ultimately Ms. Duckworth is seeking a measurement that meets the ideal of being cheap and fast, a measurement whose ultimate use seems to be to sort and select as opposed to assisting the student in gaining self-awareness and self-understanding. As long as measurements are used to sort-and-select they are reinforcing the factory model and not the network model that is predicated on each student learning about themselves… learning their strengths and determining what brings them joy and finding a way to parlay those strengths and joyful experiences into a productive career. Grit is not an entity that can be teased out and applied to meet the needs of our economy. It is a by-product of joyful engagement  in mastering a skill.

The Privatization Paradox: Deferred Maintenance is “Profitable” for Shareholders… or Taxpayers

March 8, 2017 Leave a comment

I read two articles in sequence this morning that brought to light a paradox of privatization. One article by Mitch Smith of the NYTimes described the decision of the City of Omaha to “reclaim” a pothole riddled street by converting it into a dirt road. The other article by David Hetherington of the Guardian described the sweeping privatization program underway in Australia.

Here’s the paragraph from the NYTimes article that describes why the city of Omaha decided to “reclaim” some of it’s roads:

Omaha’s most problematic streets were mostly built by developers decades ago who skimped on costs by paving with asphalt instead of concrete, and by forgoing sidewalks and sewers. In other cases, Omaha annexed suburban-looking neighborhoods with roads not built to city standards.

For years, an uneasy truce persisted: Public works crews would fill potholes and perform other maintenance work on those roads, but insisted that residents pay if they wanted repaving. Those streets, labeled “unimproved” by the city, account for about 6 percent of Omaha’s roads.

Then repair costs escalated, and potholes started going unfilled. On particularly troubled blocks, the city converted the asphalt surface into a gravelly dirt, a peculiar sight in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods in the center of a city. Only a small fraction of them, less than 10 miles, have been reclaimed….

Residents have responded with angry phone calls, neighborhood meetings and at least one lawsuit. But Todd Pfitzer, the city’s assistant director of public works, said Omaha’s policy on unimproved roads is a matter of equity. When the houses were built two generations ago with subpar streets, he said, the builder and homeowner saved money.

“Now you’re asking the rest of the citizens to come in and essentially subsidize you and rebuild your road,” Mr. Pfitzer said. Bringing all of Omaha’s unimproved streets up to city code would cost about $300 million, officials estimate.

There is another perspective on this. The City of Omaha’s decision to annex the “…suburban-looking neighborhoods with roads not built to city standards” undoubtedly helped their balance sheet at the time. My guess is the city government either did not take the difference in road construction standards into account or ignored it altogether. It was not a bill they needed to pay at the time, and the added revenues from having the “…suburban-looking neighborhoods” on their tax rolls would enable them to fund things like the “busy downtown with new developments and a glimmering baseball stadium that hosts the College World Series” described later in the article. Fixing infrastructure is expensive and doesn’t “glimmer”. And who wants to pay taxes to fix the road in front of someone else’s house?

David Hetherington’s Guardian article describes Australia’s decision to expand privatization, using the recent decision to privatize public disability support care as well earlier decisions to privatize hospitals and electricity as the lens to view all of the various areas that are being commoditized. Mr. Hetherington notes the many areas Australia is privatizing public services:

These are some of the areas, but not all. Tafe, cleaning services, prisons, CSIRO, the ATO, land titles registry, housing, home care, jobs services: the list of services being privatised or outsourced is far larger than the community would believe.

Many not-for-profit NGOs that participated in the inquiry raised significant concerns about privatisation and the marketisation of services, arguing that competition and contestability do not work in services that involve caring for people. They talked about targeted services being lost, about race-to-the-bottom tendering and a lack of funding making it difficult to provide the services the communities need, of being swamped by the for-profits, and that increasingly they are forced to behave like for-profits to survive.

The hearings also brought out the sense of loss that communities feel when vital services are privatised, when institutions that fulfil a deeply human function: teaching, caring for people at their most vulnerable moments, are forced to behave like businesses, whose primary concern is maximising profit, not focusing on performing tasks that rely fundamentally on empathy. We heard that once these services are privatised, it becomes so much harder for communities to hold anyone to account for the standard of services. The people who end up bearing that responsibility of care are primarily women – and it shouldn’t be theirs to carry alone.

The common thread between the Omaha experience and Australia’s movement toward privatization is this: in both cases the politicians are looking for solutions to long term problems that do not require any immediate financial sacrifice on the part of citizens or the businesses, neither of whom want to see any tax increases whatsoever. In short, both taxpayers and profiteers receive a financial benefit when public services are privatized. Before they were annexed by Omaha, the nearby sprawling communities with “…suburban-looking neighborhoods” used their relatively lax standards to entice developers to build home on “roads not built to city standards“. And, as a result, as Mr. Smith noted, these subpar streets built two generations ago saved the individual builder and individual homeowner money. Now the taxpayers collectively have to cover the costs of these lax regulations or… they can ask individuals to pay for them if they have the wherewithal to do so. And in Omaha, here’s the result:

Bruce Simon, the president of Omaha Steaks, a major employer here, sued the mayor and the city last year after finding out that the asphalt road in front of his $2.3 million house was scheduled to be pulverized into gravel. He dropped the lawsuit after Ms. Stothert helped negotiate the 50-50 payment deal.

“I got a road,” said Mr. Simon, who paid $5,200 to cover his share of the smooth new asphalt surface. “Did I like chucking out the five grand? No. Did I like spending the money with an attorney to deal with it? No.”

About a mile away, on Leavenworth Street, Ms. Amoura and her neighbors are waiting to hear from City Hall about whether they will get a deal similar to Mr. Simon’s. But on other reclaimed streets, residents have scoffed at the notion that they should have to choose between living on gravel and paying for new pavement.

Omaha’s experience is a classic case of what happens when the attitude of privatization prevails over the attitude of communitarianism: the wealthy get paved roads, everyone else lives on a dirt road.

I keep waiting for some politician to explain to voters that government provides a means of collective gain and collective cost-sharing. Didn’t the Omaha taxpayers collectively benefit for two generations from the additional tax base that the annexation provided? If so, why shouldn’t the Omaha taxpayers expect to absorb the costs to improve the infrastructure of the communities they annexed?

One other “selling point” of privatization is the notion that businesses can operate more efficiently than the government, especially if the business does not have to face the regulatory hurdles. One of the primary reason business can deliver goods more cheaply is what Mr. Hetherington referred to as “race-to-the-bottom tendering”, that is paying the lowest wages and offering the fewest benefits possible to workers. When governments require fair labor wages and governments compensate their employees well and provide them with decent benefits and pensions, many taxpayers complain. Those same taxpayers are silent, though, when a corporation like Walmart intentionally underpays employees and advises them to seek government benefits, benefits that are paid with the same dollars that COULD have gone in the pockets of one of their neighbors who worked for the local government. Low bidders who operate with the Walmart mentality often under compensate their workers at the expense of taxpayers but get away with it because it is an indirect cost. And here’s what is particularly vexing: if a bidder does NOT operate with the Walmart mentality they will find themselves without work. And so we have job market full of temporary workers taking whatever work is available at whatever wage a company is willing to pay: a race-to-the-bottom tendering that undercuts employees faith in their employer and the financial well-being of the community.

The solution to all of this is more government regulation, larger government work forces, and higher compensation for every able bodied individual willing and able to work. People who complain about private sector compensation packages often overlook one fact: the agreements negotiated in the 1960s and 1970s that serve as the baseline for bargaining today reflected the corporate compensation routinely offered to employees when the contracts were written. One consequence of the race-to-the-bottom tendering is that today’s compensation for public employees is often superior to the packages offered in the private sector… and that feeds the anti-government resentment. The best way to stop the cycle of resentment is to restore the tax structures that were in place at that time, tax structures that required high wage earners to pay higher taxes and had regulations in place that prevented the off-shoring of corporations in order to avoid taxes. A shift in that direction will require a major shift in the public’s thinking, a shift that will take time. But one benefit of observing the impact of privatization on Australia and, to a lesser degree, Omaha is that we can learn frothier mistakes. Let’s hope we do so!


Thomas Friedman’s Rosy Neo-Liberalism About Schooling is Maddening!

January 25, 2017 Leave a comment

As readers of this blog realize, I am often frustrated with the rosy neo-liberalism of NYTimes columnist Thomas Friedman, and his column in today’s paper raised my temperature. The column, titled “Smart Approaches, Not Strong Arm Tactics, to Jobs” decried the approach President Trump has used to “persuade” employers to keep jobs in the US. Friedman offers this critique on the “strong arm” approach Mr. Trump is taking to retaining jobs:

If Trump’s bullying can actually save good jobs, God bless him. But what Trump doesn’t see is that while this may get him some short-term jobs headlines, in the long-run C.E.O.s may prefer not to build their next factory in America, precisely because it will be hostage to Trump’s Twitter lashings. They also may quietly replace more workers with robots faster, because Trump can’t see or complain about that.

Trump wants to protect jobs,” explained Gidi Grinstein, who heads the Israeli policy institute Reut. “What we really need is to protect workers.”

I think deep down Mr. Trump knows that robots will displace workers. I daresay his children have some staff members exploring ways to automate chambermaid assignments and have already eliminated scores of jobs in reservation desks by having automated answering machines. I also think that Mr. Trump is a shrewd politician and he knows that he cannot demonize technological advancement— nor can he stop it. He CAN, however, jawbone and capitalize on the innumeracy of many voters to continually cite the scores of jobs he is saving daily while neglecting to report on the thousands of jobs that are displaced during the same time period due to automation.

And I also believe that deep down Mr. Friedman knows that the only way to protect workers is to protect their ability to unionize. But instead of talking about collective action by employees, Mr. Friedman focusses on the responsibility of workers to improve themselves:

You need to protect workers, not jobs, because every worker today will most likely have to transition multiple times to multiple jobs as the pace of change accelerates. So the best way you help workers is by ensuring that they are flexible — that they have the skills, safety nets, health care and lifelong learning opportunities to make those leaps and that they live in cities open to innovation, entrepreneurship and high-I.Q. risk-takers. 

It is possible that unions missed a golden opportunity to provide their employees with opportunities to gain the skills they need to succeed in the changing marketplace, but it is unarguable that unions worked to ensure that employees had good wages, a strong safety net, and decent health care even if their employer wanted to pay them less, offer them fewer benefits, and threatened to close down their factory if they DIDN’T accept less.

But Mr. Friedman’s biggest gaffe was implying that EVERY city in America could be like NYC and every town could be like the one I live in…. and that oversight compelled me to leave this comment:

I’m fortunate to live in a college town in New England that possesses all of the attributes of “community” that you describe. We have several thriving tech start-ups, an excellent hospital, good public schools, a responsive town government, a vibrant arts community, and we are “open to innovation, entrepreneurship and high-I.Q. risk-takers”. I have lived in other parts of this country and it is unclear to me how the qualities of my current hometown can be transferred readily to other communities— particularly some of the nearby mill towns who have not recovered from the loss of factories that abandoned them decades ago. When the mills vanished, the communities were left with a degraded property tax base, the loss of union jobs that protected workers, and the towns’ openness to “innovation, entrepreneurship and high-I.Q. risk-takers”. Maybe a future column will explain how to transfer these qualities to communities left in the lurch. In the meantime, I think states need to stop promoting “right to work” laws, to raise taxes that transfer money from the .1% to projects that rebuild communities with compromised tax bases, and put REAL money into education so we can have schools that “serve as adult learning and social service centers”. 

I wish every child could attend schools as good as those in this town and wish that every citizen had a town government as highly functional as the one in my town, and wish that every citizen had the same opportunities to experience art and music the way folks in my town do… But as I noted at the end of my comment, until we invest more in education we won’t get there in my lifetime or my grandchildren’s lifetime. And here’s the shame of it: we could make it happen if we changed our thinking!

We CAN have Both Our Humanity and Technological Advancement

January 16, 2017 3 comments

Today’s NYTimes features an op ed piece by Claire Cain Miller titled “A Darker Theme in Obama’s Farewell: Automation Can Divide Us”. In the essay, Ms. Miller outlines the ways technology is being used to automate jobs in a fashion that displaces low-skilled workers. What the essay fails to emphasize is that this displacement is done to enrich shareholders without regard for the “collateral damage” being done in the name of creative destruction of the marketplace. After reading the essay, I left this comment:

One set of tasks cannot be automated: those requiring a caring, compassionate, and empathetic service provider. These kinds of service providers are valued by retailers— the ideal waitstaff at the restaurant or fast food emporium, the ideal Walmart “associate”, and the ideal help desk worker at the other end of the line when you call to make inquiries about your credit card are all expected to show they care and expected to provide you with the best “customer service” possible, albeit for minimum wage.

In an ideal world— where profit and efficiency are not valued over humanity— health care providers would also be caring, compassion and empathetic. But in our effort to provide efficient and cost-effective health care our insurance companies force health care providers to see as many patients as possible without regard for the way service is provided.

In an ideal world we would find a way to fully fund the jobs that explicitly require caring, compassion and empathy: teachers, social workers, and those who aid the helpless. But, alas, those are all “government jobs” and we wouldn’t want to raise our taxes to fund “government jobs”.

In an ideal world we could realize the benefits of technology without losing our humanity. We could achieve this if we used technology to reduce the workloads of everyone instead of using it to increase the profits of the .01%.

In an ideal world, everyone would work four days, schools would be fully staffed, social service agencies would have larger staffs, and— yes— wealth would be more evenly distributed. We COULD make this happen by design… or we could continue along our current path and achieve the dystopia envisioned by many science fiction writers and, arguably, George Orwell. While we have a choice we should make it.


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.