Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

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.

Governance Questions Emerging at Universities Could be Canary in a Coal Mine for Public Schools

April 4, 2020 Leave a comment

The Hechinger Report featured an article by Lis Kenneth Regula, a lecturer in the Department of Biology at the University of Dayton in Ohio, who is concerned about the potential for the contracts with online education providers to devolve into a change in governance in colleges and universities. Her concern is that “...amid the rush to address public health concerns, many universities are functioning on a more top-down model of management than the shared governance that is standard in U.S. higher-education institutions” and that once the emergency is over, colleges and universities may find themselves beholden to contracts signed during an emergency that might change the way instruction is delivered in the future… or…even worse the decisive unilateral action taken by college leaders might undermine the longstanding shared governance approach valued by college professors.

Again, in times of emergencies, this model of strong, decisive leadership can be critical. It is not, however, the way that educational systems should ideally operate, and the coronavirus doesn’t change the need for shared governance.

Faculty and staff are co-equal partners with the administration in the running of a university, and their experience, expertise and relationships with students shouldn’t be discarded or downplayed. We all contribute to the mission of a university, and we all must continue to have seats at the table for the university to continue to thrive.

It isn’t too difficult to envision a scenario once this pandemic is history whereby governors declare a state of emergency due to depleted State resources. They could then use that “state of emergency” to eviscerate union contracts, empower school boards and administrators to make unilateral policy changes that abrogate the rights of employees, and use the “efficiency” of online learning as the basis for eliminating large numbers of teachers and limiting the scope of services offered by public schools. They could do so by direct fiat or they could do so by starving school districts of state resources and waiving guidelines so that online learning could be made more widely available.

In times of emergency the democratic decision making process is ineffective. The COVID 19 pandemic is such an emergency. The wholly predictable shortfall of state resources for schools and state funded universities and colleges is not an emergency. State financial offices should be developing algorithms to predict how state funding will be compromised as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and legislators, governors, state agencies, and elected officials should be using those financial forecasts to plan for the future. The COVID 19 crisis should provide an opportunity for re-setting the way states fund public education and an opportunity to decide what kinds of services schools might offer in the future and, in so doing, have an impact on the entire economic set up. If we use the previous “normal” as the basis for the future, the economic divide will be perpetuated and expanded. If we re-think state economies, the national economy will change as well.

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

March 28, 2020 Leave a comment

The Lack of Sick Leave One Consequence of the Demise of Unions

March 15, 2020 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes includes an editorial titled “The Companies Putting Profits Ahead of Public Health”. Disgustingly and disgracefully fast food companies are the biggest culprits when it comes to insisting that its employees come to work even if their ill, a phenomenon that led to this finding:

Most American restaurants do not offer paid sick leave. Workers who fall sick face a simple choice: Work and get paid or stay home and get stiffed. Not surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that fully 20 percent of food service workers had come to work at least once in the previous year “while sick with vomiting or diarrhea.”

…Companies have long sought to obscure the details of their sick leave policies, but The Times has obtained new data from The Shift Project, a nationwide survey of tens of thousands of retail workers conducted by the sociologists Daniel Schneider of the University of California, Berkeley; and Kristen Harknett of the University of California, San Francisco. While the federal government reports aggregate data on benefits, the Shift Project data — from its most recent surveys in 2018 and 2019 — provides a look at the benefits offered by individual corporations, published here for the first time. This makes it possible to name names.

The vast majority of workers at large restaurant chains report they do not get paid sick leave, except in the minority of states and cities where it is required by law. The list of malefactors includes the giants of fast food, like McDonald’s, Subway and Chick-fil-A, as well as sit-down restaurants like Cracker Barrel, Outback Steakhouse and the Cheesecake Factory.

And it’s not just restaurants. The data also shows most workers at the supermarket chains Wegmans, Kroger, Meijer and Giant Eagle reported that they did not get paid sick leave.

The lack of sick leave is not only a strain on the workers who need to show up when they are not feeling well, it exacerbates the spread of epidemics.

…Companies that do not pay sick workers to stay home are endangering their workers, their customers and the health of the broader public. Studies show that paying for sick employees to stay home significantly reduces the spread of the seasonal flu. There’s every reason to think it would help to check the new coronavirus, too.

How did it get this way? The NYTimes editorial doesn’t mention it explicitly, but I know from personal experience as a part-time worker and a former school Superintendent that the lack of unions representing employees plays a major role in this change-for-the worse.

Back in the late 1960s I worked as a part-time cashier at Dale’s Supermarket in Philadelphia. At the time I initially bemoaned the union dues deducted from my paycheck but came to understand that the contract provided sick leave, insurance (if I opted for it), and assurances that scheduling would be done a week in advance using a seniority-based algorithm. Dales eventually went out of business, in part because competitors paid lower wages to non-union at-will employees who got none of those benefits. The government has made it increasingly difficult for employees to organize and has done nothing to guarantee voters a living wage, health insurance, sick leave, or predictable work schedules. The result is a boatload of folks who are one paycheck away from disaster and a small number of plutocrats who wrote the rulebooks to put them there. Those who fall off the precipice when their part-time hours are cut will be wanting a safety net. Here’s hoping the libertarian legislators who wrote the rules since the Reagan administration repair the ones they took away in the name of the magic of the free market.

As a public school administrator for 35 years, 32 of which I headed or participated in negotiations with labor unions, I witnessed the erosion of the influence of unions– especially in the non-certified staff areas. While teachers unions maintained their foothold in collective bargaining, school districts increasingly outsourced things like food services, custodial services, and transportation to the private sector. This lowered the operating budgets of school districts, making the “shareholder-taxpayers” happy, but diminished the wages and eroded the working conditions of those who formerly worked for the school district. With every successive recession that occurred from 1980, when I began my career as a Superintendent, through 2011 when I retired, more and more services were “outsourced” which meant fewer and fewer “public” employees were governed by the union contracts.

This shedding of union employees in the public sector mirrored what was taking place in the economy at large: it benefitted those who could afford homes and pay property taxes and hurt those who earned the least and were most likely to live in rental properties or in “affordable” homes.

MAYBE one positive effect of the Covid-19 outbreak will be a collective dawning that our system as it is set up now benefits fewer and fewer individuals and those who are benefitting do so at the expense of everyone else. My fear is that the survival-of-the-fittest mentality that undergirds our current system will prevail and the current stratified arrangement we have in place today will become even more baked into our economic system than ever.

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.