Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

Bloomberg’s Message to His Billionaire Buddies: Help Pay Tuitions for Neediest

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

I wholeheartedly disagree with Michael Bloomberg’s approach to public education and despair at how he “reformed” public schools in New York. I do, however, appreciate his can-do attitude. If he observes a problem, he attempts to fix it using his money and expertise for what he perceives as “good”. His money and expertise helped make NYC a livable city, albeit not an affordable one. In doing so, he unwittingly illustrated the pitfalls in expanding market theories to public schools, but he also exhibited a willingness to use government policy to tackle major problems like obesity, global warming, and fitness. In sum, he used his billions and his expertise to do the best he could to solve serious and protracted social problems: he exemplifies the best instincts of philanthropy.

Quartz recently described Mr. Bloomberg’s latest foray into solving a serious social problem, access to higher education for those who cannot afford college, by donating $1,800,000,000 to his alma mater Johns Hopkins. While others are debating the admissions policies (and politics) of entry to Harvard, Mr. Bloomberg is tackling the issue head on by making a donation to an equally prestigious school that will ensure that Johns Hopkins is “forever needs blind” in its admissions. Quartz concludes with this synopsis of Mr. Bloomberg’s approach to philanthropy:

Bloomberg’s message to other big donors is clear: In lieu of donating yet another fancy building with your name on it, tackle educational opportunities at the root, and liberate young Americans from the decades-long prison of student debt.

And if you must donate a piece of architecture, at least do it with a sense of humility. In 2016, Bloomberg, who grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, donated $50 million to the Boston Museum of Science, the museum’s largest-ever private donation. He chose the Museum of Science because besides his parents, he says the museum was the most profound influence on his life (he earned his bachelors degree in electrical engineering). The money is being used to support the museum’s education center. Its new name: The William and Charlotte Bloomberg Science Education Center, named in Bloomberg’s parents’ honor.

Here’s hoping Mr. Bloomberg’s billionaire boys club buddies heed his message.


ANOTHER Post About Amazon… and the Bottom Line is Amazon Benefits at the Expense of Children

November 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Chalkbeat writers Christina Veiga, Alex Zimmerman, and Reema Amin wrote a post describing “Four Ways Amazon’s Arrival Could Affect NYC Schools“…. and some are clearly negative, and none of them is unequivocally positive and in sum they do not offset the revenues that will be diverted as a result of the decision to provide enticements for Amazon to locate there. What are the four consequences?:

  • Overcrowded schools as new workers move into Queens, which already has too many students enrolled
  • Concerns about a possible increase in homelessness as housing prices increase, a phenomenon that occurred in Seattle where Amazon is now headquartered.
  • Changes in demographics as a result of the influx of new families, especially in the area of ESOL which has expanded in Seattle.
  • The unlikelihood of the philanthropic donations expected from Amazon, based on the city’s experiences with other partnerships,

Which of these problems might have been solved had $1,500,000,000 been earmarked for schools instead of Amazon?


Thomas Friedman’s Rosy Analysis Overlooks One Reality: We Are Becoming China; They are NOT Becoming us!

November 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Thomas Friedman, an incurable neoliberal optimist, wrote a column yesterday extolling the capacity of the United States to compete with China, asserting that our system of governance will ultimately prevail over China.

I disagree because I fear the US is becoming more like China instead of the other way around. Instead of encouraging China to adopt OUR values we are adopting theirs… especially the “Darwinian system of capitalism” where billionaires can buy support from the government to increase their profits. (see previous posts on Amazon for recent examples of cities squandering resources to entice a business to locate in their community while short-changing public services). And has Mr. Trump championed the WTO or any “globalist” organization that fails to bow down to America? And I seriously doubt that Mr. Trump or the GOP leadership understands the importance of our navy in the Pacific. Have you ever heard him mention it or read a tweet about it? China IS a plutocratic state… we’re becoming one. But I was incredulous to read these three paragraphs describing why our country is capable of competing against China:

America’s formula for success, which dates from our founding, also had multiple components: We always educated our children to take advantage of the prevailing technology of the day.

When it was the cotton gin that meant universal primary education; when it was the factory, it meant universal secondary education; once it was the computer, some form of universal postsecondary education was required; and now that it is becoming big data and artificial intelligence, it’s going to be lifelong learning.

We also always aspired to have the best infrastructure (roads, ports, airports and telecom), the most government-funded basic research to push out the frontiers of science so our companies could innovate further and faster, the best rules and regulations to incentivize risk-taking and prevent recklessness, and the most open immigration system to attract both high-energy low-skilled workers and high-I.Q. risk-takers.

Finally, we always stood for universal values of freedom and human rights, always paid extra to stabilize the global system from which we were the biggest beneficiary, and therefore always had enduring allies — not just intimidated neighbors and customers like China does.

He later expresses his worry that “...if we get away from the formula that actually made us great, we’re not going to enjoy sustainable, inclusive growth” and concludes his column with this message for the President:

America became great with a formula that every great American president refreshed and reinvested in. And you’re not doing that. You’re actually undermining and neglecting some of its key elements — immigration, allies, rules and regulations. 

Here’s my message to Mr. Friedman. Contrary to his rosy passage about the governments support for public education, we have fallen behind in the past two decades thanks to our focus on standardized testing.  If we want to MAGA, we need to  educate ALL our children to take advantage of the prevailing technology of the day… and we are NOT doing that now and we HAVEN’T BEEN doing it for decades.

And in case Mr. Friedman didn’t notice, the plutocratic class hasn’t suffered from underfunded public schools,  …they’ve survived by residing in the nicest communities and neighborhoods or going to private schools and now THEY think THEY are the fittest. It’s past the time for us to offer the same chances the plutocrats had to ALL children in our country. IF we do so, we can ultimately demonstrate to China that democracy is superior to plutocracy.

Amazon Goodies Redux: NY Taxpayers Fund Heliport for CEO

November 14, 2018 Leave a comment

In a city that has a dilapidated public transit system, 10% of its students homeless at some point during each school year and a 74% free and reduced lunch rate, Quartz writer Natasha Frost reports that the city is helping Amazon CEO fund a heliport… because, well, Amazon really needs help! Does anyone except politicians believe this?

Who Has Better Schools: Germany or the US? Who Has Higher Taxes? Where is Life Better?

November 14, 2018 Leave a comment

This past Sunday the NYTimes featured an op ed piece by Firoozeh Dumas, who was identified as “a humorist and writer”. His essay was a humorous recounting of his recent move from Germany to California meant that he’d be leaving a school system with robust curricular and extracurricular offerings (i.e. Germany) to one that required fees for every service imaginable (i.e. California). 

If you are reading this blog, you probably know the background on California where, in 1978 voters approved California Proposition 13 (officially named “the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation“) which amended the Constitution of California by limiting property taxes to “one percent (1%) of the full cash value of such property”. Here’s a description of the Proposition taken from Wikipedia:

The proposition decreased property taxes by assessing property values at their 1976 value and restricted annual increases of assessed value of real property to an inflation factor, not to exceed 2 percent per year. It also prohibited reassessment of a new base year value except in cases of (a) change in ownership, or (b) completion of new construction. These rules apply equally to all real estate, residential and commercial– whether owned by individuals or corporations.

The other significant portion of the initiative is that it requires a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases of any state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates. It also requires a two-thirds vote majority in local elections for local governments wishing to increase special taxes. Proposition 13 received an enormous amount of publicity, not only in California, but throughout the United States.

After this was passed via the referendum process in California, similar propositions were passed by voters and legislators in other parts of the country, having a devastating impact on property poor towns everywhere the bills were adopted. Proposition 13’s impact is the backdrop for Mr. Dumas’ piece, which contrasts the tax situation in this paragraph:

We are fortunate to live in a part of Munich with top-notch public schools, similar to where we lived in America. We pay a few percentage points more in taxes than we paid in California, but holy Betsy DeVos, do we get more!

After describing the rich program his children experienced in Munich– and making a passing reference to the fact that they benefitted from a tracking system that he found distasteful– Mr. Dumas’ contrasts it to his experiences growing up in California:

The schools I attended growing up in California were nothing like this.I was in middle school when Proposition 13, a law meant to ease residents’ tax burden, passed in 1978. The impact on the state’s school budgets was immediate. I still remember art, music and language programs being gutted seemingly overnight, and counselors and librarians disappearing. As a parent, I assumed that for schools to get what they needed, we would have to pay significantly more in taxes, and who wants that?Parents are expected to donate time and money to make up for what the government can’t provide. In addition to raising funds for our own schools, I and many others raised money for schools in areas with fewer resources. It was the little Dutch boy and the dike, but for every hole we plugged, a dozen more appeared.

And, as Mr. Dumas noted, the German way of life had much more ease and spaciousness. When the government provides reliable transportation and a sound education system, when employers do not expect their workers to put in 60 hours a week and/or work on “flexible schedules”, when parents are not expected to help their children raise money for the school by selling wrapping paper, family life is better. Here is Mr. Dumas’ closing paragraph:

As I prepare to return to California, I am looking forward to seeing my family and reuniting with dear friends, many of whom I met while chaperoning, organizing auctions, selling cupcakes, supervising the playground and doing lice checks. I will undoubtedly take part in fund-raising for my child’s new school, but please forgive me if my homemade cupcakes taste like resentment frosted with betrayal and sprinkled with exasperation. Unfortunately, I’ve now enjoyed a system where for a little more in taxes, I get a lot more in services. And that leaves a bitter aftertaste.

It would be a lot funnier if it weren’t true.

The Great Amazon Auction is Over… and MAYBE Americans Will Now Wake Up to the Scam of Corporate Welfare

November 13, 2018 Leave a comment

Atlantic writer Derek Thompson’s recent article on Amazon’s recent “search” for a second headquarters is titled “Amazon’s HQ2 Spectacle Isn’t Just Shameful—It Should Be Illegal” and offers this subheading:

After recounting the procedure Amazon followed to seek out its second headquarters, Mr. Thompson poses a series of questions critics of this process and of Amazon are posing and and poses one very blunt question himself:

The rumored announcement has emboldened Amazon’s army of critics. Did the world’s smartest company really need 13 months, and applications from 238 cities, to reach the striking conclusion that it should invest in New York and D.C.?  The former is America’s heart of capital, and the latter is America’s literal capital, where Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, already owns a house and a newspaper.

Was this national auction nothing more than a scripted drama to raise the value of the inevitable winning bid? And did the retailer miss an opportunity to revitalize a midwestern city by choosing to enrich the already-rich East Coast?

All good questions. But here’s the big one: Why the hell are U.S. cities spending tens of billions of dollars to steal jobs from one another in the first place?

After offering rationalizations for why corporations should engage in this kind of bidding between local and state governments and why those local and state governments should play the game of lowballing their taxes to entice businesses to locate in their town or state, Mr. Thompson offers three major problems with this “system” of reading corporations by providing them with tax breaks:

First, they’re redundant. This process doesn’t expand the local, state or national economy at large in any way, shape, or form. As Mr. Thompson notes, “Companies often decide where they want to go and then find ways to get their dream city, or hometown, to pay them to do what they were going to do anyway.

Second, companies don’t always hold up their end of the deal. Mr. Thompson cited the recent FoxConn scam in Wisconsin as an example, but the fact is he could have chosen any one of the examples he offered earlier in the article.

Third… it’s… ludicrous for Americans to collectively pay tens of billions of dollars for huge corporations to relocate within the United StatesTo underscore the ridiculousness of the competition between cities and states he describes the ongoing “battle” between Kansas City, KS and Kansas City MO for corporations that undercuts local and state taxes in both states, cuts that diminish the ability of both Kansas City’s to provide public services.

Mr. Thompson concludes his article offering some possible solutions that could be reached at the federal level, but laments that such solutions are unlikely given the bi-partisan support for corporate welfare. He observes:

…in a starkly divided country, corporate pandering is the last bastion of bipartisanship, an activity enjoyed by both Democrats and Republicans at every level of government. New Jersey and Maryland, both blue states, insisted that Amazon take $7 billion in tax savings just months after congressional Republicans passed a corporate income-tax cut that some analysts project will save Amazon nearly $1 billion over the next decade.

Corporate America is getting all the help it doesn’t need. You and I may not like it. But executives such as Jeff Bezos have no reason to care. They are winning by the rules of a broken game.

And who suffers? Mr. Thompson answered that question earlier in the article:

…since cities and states can’t print money or run steep deficits, these deals take scarce resources from everything local governments would otherwise pay for, such as schools, roads, police, and prisons.

So if your city or state plunks down millions or billions in “incentives” to entice a corporation to locate in your region, please connect the dots if your schools are substandard, your police force is spread too thin, and your roads are in terrible shape. If you want to know where the money went to provide those services, drive past the spiffy new office park, vast new warehouse staffed by robots, or the gleaming skyscraper full of pink collar workers.




Medium Blogger Wendy Buchholz Provides the Naked Truth About Standardized Tests

November 10, 2018 Leave a comment

Medium blogger Wendy Buchholz offers a humorous but accurate analysis of standardized testing in her satirical riff on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale titled “The Emperor is Naked! Hegemony in Education“. After recounting the familiar story of the wealthy emperor who is duped into walking naked in a parade by being convinced that he is wearing a glamorous outfit that only the intelligentsia can observe, Ms. Buchholz draws a parallel to standardized tests:

There is a similar fairytale being told in the public education system. It is labeled “standardized testing,” and it is, in fact, naked educational hegemony. This can be defined as a leadership or dominance of the policy makers and testing corporations over their consumers, advocating a standard of knowledge or ideology that is based on that which maintains their power. In this case, standardized tests are advocated and promoted as adequate measures of intelligence, knowledge and capability, and are maintained as the status quo among public educational leadership. This educational hegemony is dominating a generation of children.

The roots of cultural hegemony are found in the writings of Antonio Gramsci, one of the most important Marxist thinkers in the 20th century. Gramsci defined cultural hegemony as an ideology that maintained a capitalist state, which thereby normalized the ideas of those in power and maintained the current power structure.Power is not achieved through force, but rather the advancement of an ideology that becomes the “common sense” of the masses. Educational hegemony in the public system is built on an ideology that is largely constructed for the purpose of maintaining a power structure, using the vehicle of standardized tests.This practice of testing and test preparation has now fully clothed the public education system, enveloping a large portion of the time that a student spends in school. According to the Washington Post article, Confirmed: Standardized Testing Has Taken Over our Schools. But Who is to Blame? (October 24, 2015), this initiative, brought about in 2002 by the No Child Left Behind Act, consumes 20–25 hours of child’s life, every year. This does not include test preparation time. The average student will take 112 standardized tests from Pre-K through 12th grade. The standardized testing industry is a 1.4 billion dollar industry (Buchholz’ emphasis). That is not including the test prep industry, computer industry, tutoring, coaching, and the assortment of services that are necessary for the implementation of the standardized tests. And the results of standardized tests have never been shown to improve student achievement or teacher performance. (again, Buchholz’ emphasis) In short, the Emperor is, in fact, naked!

Ms. Buchholz is spot on in this analysis of how NCLB led to the takeover of public education, and I think she is correct in her view that standardized testing has the effect of reinforcing the current economic system since affluent children tend to score higher than children raised in poverty. But I am not convinced that most affluent parents see “the vehicle of standardized testing” serving as a means of maintaining the economic status quo nor do they fully appreciate how the political use of testing to advance privatization in lower income communities and neighborhoods ultimately works to the advantage of their children. The effects of the standardized testing paradigm are invisible, and, as Peter Senge would observe, we are prisoners to paradigms we cannot see. I am glad that Ms. Buchholz is showing how this paradigm plays out in public schools.