Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

This Just In: Bill Gates Has an Outsized Influence on State Education Policy. Why? Read On:

May 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday that had a link to an AP article by Salli Ho that described Bill Gates’ outsized influence in the development of State policy. I offered the following explanation for this evolution in a comment i left…. and here it is:

Here’s the way I see the shift in policy-making: The influence of billionaires is linked to the decimation of State Departments of Education. While many in public school employees bemoaned the regulations that emanated from the “bureaucrats” at the state capitals, there was a time when State legislators deferred to their expertise and allowed them to develop the policies and regulations that dictated what transpired in classrooms. As state $$$ became scarce, the “bureaucrats” were the first to go and when they were gone there was a void in “expert” policy making… a void filled by Blue Ribbon panels of businessmen who complained that the workforce was untrained and unprepared (at the same time as THEY cut back on in house training that formerly trained entry level employees). Eventually the tech moguls and Friedman-ites who saw an opportunity to make $$$ in the “education marketplace” got a foothold and… behold… we now have Bill Gates setting policy and Betsy DeVos promoting vouchers.

Bottom line: if you want educator to set educational policy at any level, you need to provide the funds for high quality staff… which some might interpret as “diverting money away from the classroom”. But now that we’ve witnessed the benefits of having education policy written and implemented by educators, we might re-think that assertion.


DeVos Visits Private, Sectarian, and For-Profit Schools While Spewing Misinformation, Invective Toward “Government Schools”

May 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Several decades ago I took a time management course that indicated that the priorities of school leaders could be determined by looking at how and where they spent their time. In shorthand, actions speak louder than words. Looking at Betsy DeVos calendar during recent visits to several NE states it is abundantly clear that she favors sectarian and for-profit schools over “government schools” and favors the spreading of malicious misinformation about how those schools operate and who they serve.

An Alternet article by David Badas who is writing on the “new civil rights movement” for that magazine, reports on who Ms. DeVos did and did not visit during the two days visit to NYC:

Betsy DeVos has concluded her two-day visit to New York City, during which she refused to visit a single public school, although she did attend two private, Orthodox Jewish religious schools. The Education Secretary also delivered remarks at a Catholic organization’s breakfast meeting, and blasted bans on the use of taxpayer funds for private religious schools.

1.1 million students in New York City get their education in 1800 public schools – the largest school system in America. DeVos did not step foot in any of them.

Worse, from my perspective, her speeches were full of disinformation on the performance of public schools and the openness and willingness of sectarian and for-profit schools to open their doors to anyone who applies. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, was among those who heard a speech given by Ms. DeVos at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Alfred E. Smith Foundation.

“I know that those sycophants of ‘the system’ have kept legislators here from enacting a common-sense program that would open options to thousands of kids in need,” she said, referring to bans on the use of taxpayer funds for private, religious schools. “Catholic education aims to serve the whole community — especially ‘the least of these.’ It aims to promote individual student achievement while developing the whole person…body, mind and soul,” she said. “Those are goals we share.”

Unfortunately neither the press reporting on this nor Cardinal Dolan corrected Ms. DeVos by noting that Catholic schools routinely deny acceptance to underprivileged children who cannot afford to pay the tuition and also compel students with special needs and “behavior problems” to leave. The public schools, meanwhile, DO work with “the least of these” and do so without relying on Biblical teachings. And the press continually reports that states’ refusal to fund sectarian schools is based on the Constitution, which envisioned a bright line between church and state. As Mr. Badas notes, Ms. DeVos, like her GOP supporters and the “reformers” have expropriated the language of civil rights leaders during the 60s to advance their cause and muddy the argument for providing more money to schools overseen by publicly elected school boards.

One of the biggest challenges the media face today is documenting misinformation and disinformation spewed by Ms. DeVos, the POTUS, and all of the leaders in the GOP, none of whom have spoken up on behalf of public education or the constitutional requirement that public funds cannot be used to promote religion. If Ms. DeVos were the only cabinet member charging around the country spewing false information it might be possible to push back… but since the volume of misinformation is huge, it’s left to publications like Alternet and bloggers to make certain the record is being set straight.

Gates and Zuckerberg ALMOST Have it Right This Time… Bottom Up is Better Than Top Down… BUT… $$$ Still Matters

May 18, 2018 Leave a comment

A recent Fast Company article by Jim Shelton, president for education at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Bob Hughes, director of K–12 Education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows that both tech entrepreneurs are on the right track… but they are still missing one key point. In the article, Mr. Shelton and Mr. Hughes are reaching out to educators and parents seeking specific examples of programs that are working to help students learn three key skills for success: mathematics; non-fiction writing; and executive function, the skill set concerning memory, self-control, attention, and flexible thinking. They hope that by identifying practices that work in these areas they will be able to establish an R and D element to education that is lacking. And… if their concluding paragraphs are any indication, they realize that hands-on grassroots approaches identified by actual teachers are better than top-down technological approaches devised by code writers:

The purpose of the initiative is not to mandate anything. It’s to learn from the work that’s currently happening in classrooms, universities, entrepreneurial efforts, and research centers throughout the country. We hope to see a wide range of approaches and ideas; technology is not a primary focus, but we recognize the role it can play in affordable access to high-quality education for all. No personally identifiable student data will be collected in this RFI.

In the months ahead, we’ll share what we learn about the crucial work being done in the three named areas, along with ideas for how to accelerate progress, breakthroughs, and scale. We believe these findings can guide potential grant making as well as bolster the entire field through a better understanding of breakthroughs now taking place in and out of traditional education. We’re excited to find ways to increase collaboration and lift those breakthroughs out of isolation so that everyone can benefit.

I wish that politics and money didn’t matter in public education… but both will undoubtedly play a role when the time comes to apply research and collaborate. As long as politics is in the picture, though, students flexible thinking skills might be students if they want to question the history being presented to them, the science behind climate change and (ahem) even evolution, and the notion that all students learn at the same rate of speed in all content areas. And as long as money is part of the equation, the affluent districts will be able to accelerate progress, introduce breakthroughs, and move to scale much quicker than their poorer colleagues in districts that are strapped for money.

“#TaxMe” Movement is Needed if We Ever Expect to Stem Inequality

May 17, 2018 Leave a comment

Five years ago I attended a week-long session at Chataqua on the impact of technology on our culture. The talks were compelling, the music performed by symphony was beautiful, and the environment was reminiscent of the campus at Penn where I attended graduate school. One of the souvenirs I brought back from the week was a pin that read “Tax Me”. It conveyed a powerful message: it showed that the wearer was willing to have their taxes increased in order to provide the government services needed to ensure that all citizens had an equal opportunity: that children would no longer be raised in poverty; that everyone would have the health care they need; that everyone would experience the same services as those who lived in the most affluent communities.

Our local newspaper, the Valley News, features an article by Megan McCardle titled “A Reckoning is Coming for the Blue States” that describes the need for a “Tax Me” movement among idealistic liberal voters. In the article, which originally appeared in the Washington Post, Ms. McCardle describes how our tax policies before the GOP passed its reform package a few months ago favored the upper middle class, a structure that was effectively reinforced by both political parties. She writes:

Over the past few decades, the United States has undergone “the Big Sort,” the clumping of the electorate into demographically, professionally and politically homogenous neighborhoods. Clinton voters have their ZIP codes, and Donald Trump voters theirs, and ever more rarely do the twain meet. Democratic voters have crammed themselves into a handful of the most economically successful counties, heavily concentrated in narrow strips along the coasts. There they’ve formed a coalition of affluent, educated professionals and lower-income minorities. That coalition used its prosperity to fund expensive, intensive state and local governments.

Ms. McCardle doesn’t explain how the tax code enabled the “affluent, educated professionals” to deduct state and local taxes helped them use their “…prosperity to fund expensive, intensive state and local governments”, but when the tax reform package was being considered the impact of the cap on state and local tax deductions was widely covered in the media. Here’s the way it works for the “affluent, educated professionals“: when those who earn in the top 20% pay higher state and local taxes to provide themselves with better schools, better parks, smoother roads, and better police and fire protection, those tax payments were deducted from their gross earnings when they calculated their federal taxes. This lowered the federal taxes they needed to pay and that, in turn, reduced the federal funds available. Those federal funds could arguably be used to help underwrite the kinds of expansive government programs the “affluent, educated professionals” who live in Blue states desire, programs like single payer health insurance, a more secure safety net for those who are disadvantaged, and improvements to the national infrastructure. Thus, progressives, all of whom are presumably “affluent, educated professionals“, are in a bind: 

Thanks to the Big Sort, those folks are now concentrated in coastal cities where competition from others like themselves, and blue-state taxes, raise the cost of living sky-high. Compared with their neighbors, they don’t feel especially rich; they feel as though they’re struggling just to pay for the basics. Eventually, however, Democrats are going to have to either give up their big dreams or hand those voters the bill, because they’re the ones with most of the money. This creates a certain cognitive dissonance for progressives.

I know I would need to pay more taxes if a progressive tax plan like Bernie Sanders advocates was put in place. Based on my personal income and the amount I currently pay for health insurance and based on an algorithm on Bernie Sanders’ web page the amount would be somewhere between $700 and $1500. I’m OK with that if it results in everyone getting health care.

In the past several months, we’ve seen the emergence of the #MeToo movement by women who have experienced discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. At some juncture those of us who are willing to pay more for better government services, which includes those of us who have sorted ourselves into “economically successful counties” need to launch a #TaxMe movement, for, as Bernie Sanders acknowledged, everyone is going to have to chip in a little bit in order for us to gain a lot as a nation. 

Paul Buchheit’s Post Reveals Astonishing Fact: Only ONE Bank Lost $$$ in Recession… and They Only Lost It for One Year!

May 15, 2018 Leave a comment

While I follow the news on the economy closely, I am not an expert on the technical aspects of how businesses use the tax codes to define profits and losses nor am I entirely clear on the nuances of the recent  tax bill passed in Congress. Consequently, when it comes to unravelling the impact of changes in tax laws and analyzing profits and losses I find myself relying on bloggers who DO understand this for my information, and one of the writers whose knowledge I trust and respect is Common Dreams contributor Paul Buchheit, a college teacher who is also the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of several books. In his post yesterday titled “The Kindly 87-Year Old Man Who Took All the Schoolkids’ Lunch Money“, Mr. Buchheit notes that Warren Buffett, “the one beloved billionaire among us“, has accepted the government’s largesse and will be increasing his company’s bottom line by $23,000,000— which is coincidentally the same amount needed to provide lunches to all children raised in poverty, a program that has not been cut to date but one that will clearly be on the chopping block when the GOP legislators discover that the lost tax revenues prevent them from balancing the budget.

But the main point of Mr. Buchheit’s column was not Mr. Buffett’s hypocrisy. It was the fact that despite the public’s belief to the contrary, only one bank suffered ANY loss of profits during the so-called Great Recession making any argument that they need to beef-up their balance sheets due to “losses” suffered during the past decade completely bogus. Here’s Mr. Buchheit’s explanation of how deferred tax assets works for the billionaire bankers:

Here’s the bankers’ excuse for tax trickery: Deferred Tax Assets, which are write-offs against previous losses (specifically due to the 2008 recession) or advance payments on their tax bills. But an examination of their 10-Ks over the past 12 years shows that both companies made profits every year since 2006 (with the exception of relatively small losses for Bank of America between 2010-11), and that they never paid more than the required 35% tax rate, and sometimes paid much less. Goldman Sachs reported a 61% tax rate for 2017, but almost all of it was deferred, and their announced tax was grossly inflated by a one-time (and relatively small) tax expense on a very large repatriation of offshore money.

As for any mysterious writeoffs against recession-related losses, Business Insider notes: “The banks did not actually lose money during the crisis. [It] is the difference between what the banks made during the last five-year crisis period compared to what they would have made if they would have continued to make money at the rate they did prior to the crisis.” Any losses that might be claimed by these financial institutions are imaginary losses, according to their own SEC filings.

But it isn’t the use of the tax code that galls Mr. Buchheit the most. It’s the failure of businesses to acknowledge how much they benefit from the services the government provides for them:

There seems to be no corporate recognition of the shameful act of taking decades of societal largesse and then doing everything possible to avoid paying for any of it. Financial institutions are the beneficiaries of decades of public support:

  • Technology: Internet-related stock market trading and communications.

  • Finance and Law: Patent and copyright systems, intellectual property, contract law.

  • The Military: National defense, local police forces, the National Guard.

  • Infrastructure: In the physical form of highways, railroads, airports; the energy grid; the communications grid.

  • Federal Agencies: The Federal Reserve, SEC, FTC, SBA, FAA.

All of the underscore the fact that from a business CEO’s perspective, government ISN’T the problem. It provides not only the federal services cited above, but also local services like fire and police protection, roads to and from their business venues, and outstanding schools that serve the affluent communities where their corporate leaders reside. And since most of the large corporations get these services at a discounted rate thanks to PILOT agreements they should be even more grateful for government. But, as Mr. Buchheit concludes, that is not the case… and the school children suffer as a result:

Taxes are long overdue on tens of billions in profits, but they remain unpaid, or deferred to some unknown time in the future.

But food for the children can’t be deferred.


HS Music a Victim of Small HS Movement, Charters, NCLB… and $$$

May 14, 2018 Leave a comment

As one who enjoys performing in community musicals, singing in choral gross, and playing guitar in ad hoc pick up groups, I was disheartened to read about the decline of high school bands in yesterday’s NYTimes. Times writers Sam Bloch and Kate Taylor’s article on the state of music programs in NYC schools attributes the decline to three factors: the decision to break large comprehensive HSs into smaller schools; an emphasis on charters, and NCLB.

The article doesn’t say so, but the Bloomberg administration’s decision to break large HSs into smaller units was part of a Gates initiative that has had mixed results. After advocating smaller high schools for nearly a decade, the Gates Foundation has backed away from that recommended course of action because it did not achieve the expected results. And while the Times writers report that the five small high schools that are now housed in a former comprehensive high school have better graduation rates, they note that the fragmentation caused the demise of three large bands and the de facto elimination of music altogether:

But one downside of the new, small schools is that it is much harder for them to offer specialized programs, whether advanced classes, sports teams, or art or music classes, than it was for the large schools that they replaced. In the case of music, a robust program requires a large student body, and the money that comes with it, to offer a sequence of classes that allows students to progress from level to level, ultimately playing in a large ensemble where they will learn a challenging repertoire and get a taste of what it would be like to play in college or professionally.

But there is no reason a “small” high school needs to sacrifice a music program…. unless the emphasis of the smaller school precludes music, which seems to be the case in NYC. Mr. Bloch and Ms. Taylor describe the forces that combined to undercut music programs in NYC:

In the early 2000s, federal pressure from No Child Left Behind legislation led urban school districts to focus more heavily on math and reading instruction, to the detriment of arts classes. In New York City, Project Arts was dissolved, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg began breaking up the city’s dropout factories.

The new, smaller schools have a hard time offering specialized programs, whether music or sports. Some principals say that, while they would like to be able to offer music programs, they have to prioritize core academic subjects.

Sandra Burgos, the principal of Astor Collegiate Academy, a school of 481 students on the second floor of the Columbus campus, said that she would love to hire a music teacher, but with limited resources — only 28 teachers and 17 classrooms — she feels it’s more important to offer science, technology, engineering and math courses.

The article incorporates a national perspective on music participation, an analysis fails to look deeply at the underlying problem:

Nationwide, high school music participation has “stayed relatively stable over the last 20 years or so,” said Mike Blakeslee, executive director of the National Association for Music Education. But there are significant variations between districts, with districts with more small schools and charter schools falling behind in music participation.

The smaller schools have a hard time fielding concert bands that can perform classical compositions with parts for dozens of instruments. Those arrangements, educators agree, improve individual musicianship, challenge students and prepare them for continued study. In many cases, students who audition for conservatories must perform from a classical repertoire.

What the executive director for music fails to emphasize is this: many schools that would be “small” by NYC standards DO offer comprehensive music programs because parents can afford private music lessons… but “small” schools serving disadvantaged students cannot provide access to bands and orchestras because the students do not have the opportunity to get lessons and, in all probability, do not reside in communities where choral singing groups are available for youngsters. In music as in all academic disciplines, equal opportunities will not be a reality until funding equity is a reality.


Privatization of Pre-Schools Decried Now… and in 2012!

May 11, 2018 Leave a comment

Yesterday Diane Ravitch posted a 2 minute documentary describing the privatization of pre-school.

In December 2012 I wrote a post in response to an NYTimes article on the same topic, which compelled me to leave this comment:

It seems that special needs preschools were privatized in NYS… and unsurprisingly it resulted in a situation where private pre-school operators “…stole or misspent millions of dollars, piled relatives onto the payroll, billed for no-show jobs and charged for special education services that were never provided.” But that was 5 1/2 years ago. I wish I believed that the situation has improved… but I fear that as funding for pre-school expands the privatization of those services will expand.

The privatization of preschools is likely to occur for three reasons: the charter chains will seize the opportunity to enter into a nearly completely unregulated market; and, the small scale entrepreneurs who offer preschool programs in their homes are a potent force in state legislatures; and finally, there are many who believe that public preschool should be stopped entirely… unless there is funding for preschool “homeschoolers”— a mechanism that libertarians and Evangelicals in the GOP would LOVE to establish in a publicly funded school at ANY level.

This lurking privatization should make anyone who advocates universal preschools wary… especially when so many existing K-12 schools are drastically underfunded.