Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

Merger Mania: The Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids

July 17, 2019 Leave a comment

I’m posting this article on the reality of and expansion of the military-industrial complex for two reasons, both of which are included in the following paragraph:

President Eisenhower’s proposed counterweight to the power of the military-industrial complex was to be “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry.” And there are signs that significant numbers of individuals and organizations are beginning to pay more attention to the machinations of the arms lobby. My own outfit, the Center for International Policy, has launched a Sustainable Defense Task Force composed of former military officers and Pentagon officials, White House and Congressional budget experts, and research staffers from progressive and good-government groups. It has already crafted a plan that would cut $1.2 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next decade, while improving U.S. security by avoiding unnecessary wars, eliminating waste, and scaling back a Pentagon nuclear-weapons buildup slated to cost $1.5 trillion or more over the next three decades.

First, I fear that public schools are not doing nearly enough to help create the “counterweight” President Eisenhower envisioned. I seriously doubt that a graduating senior understands how the revolving door works for the military let alone how it works in virtually every other industry. This concept is not taught because it is not tested, and it is not tested in large measure because those who devise tests have their own revolving door.

Second, if there is a way to save $1,500,000,000,000 in military spending over the next three decades there IS a source for the funds we need to upgrade every public school in our nation, particularly those serving children raised in poverty.

Source: Merger Mania: The Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids


Affordable Housing and Desegregation: A Synergistic Solution to Two Persistent Problems

July 16, 2019 Leave a comment

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the liberal train wreck called “busing”, basing the post on articles about that topic itself and Joe Biden’s willingness to support laws ending busing as a means of desegregation. Given the clear antipathy voters hold toward busing, it is clear to me that promoting that concept as a means of desegregation is a losing proposition. Moreover, as noted on several occasions in this blog, housing and zoning policies are the root cause of both economic and racial segregation.

Earlier this month the NYTimes published an op ed article by Lizabeth Cohen titled “Only Washington Can Solve the Nation’s Housing Crisis”. In the article, Dr. Cohen describes a brief history of federal housing policy, noting that in 1949 Congress passed a Housing Act that “vowed to provide “a decent home and a suitable living condition for every American family.””. The article goes on to describe the mis-steps that occurred in the name of urban renewal and the emerging consensus that housing subsidies and housing projects were a failure. But Dr. Cohen counters that pervasive mindset with these insights:

What has particularly been forgotten are the progressive steps that federal subsidies made possible. For example, in 1968 New York State created the Urban Development Corporation, with a mandate to build thousands of units of subsidized housing and reinvigorate declining industrial cities. Under the direction of the veteran urban redeveloper Edward J. Logue, this authority relied on funding from state appropriations and private bond sales, but the real engine was robust federal backing, both in funds and political support.

During its seven-year run, it built 33,000 units of housing, developed three new towns — including the intentionally mixed-income, mixed-race and mixed-age Roosevelt Island in New York City — and fostered a spirit of architectural and technological innovation to find ways of delivering housing more efficiently, more aesthetically, and more affordably. Marcus Garvey Park Village in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood was a successful prototype of low-rise, high-density subsidized housing.

The Urban Development Corporation ran into trouble when it took a progressive step too far, using its statewide authority to tackle inequities between city and suburbs. In 1972, it began a project to build 100 affordable housing units in nine towns in wealthy Westchester County, provoking a fierce suburban backlash. That, combined with a 1973 moratorium by President Richard Nixon on all congressionally approved spending on housing and cities, spelled doom for the corporation — and a steady decline in federal responsibility for housing and cities.

Dr. Cohen makes a good argument that times have changed. Today the climate change crisis requires that we limit commuting. The tight job market requires that we provide housing for low-wage employees closer to their place of work, which is, increasingly, in the suburbs and exurbs. And, although she does not mention it, I believe Dr. Cohen would agree that we need to at long last address the racial and economic inequality that results in separate and unequal opportunities for black, brown, and poor children.  She concludes her essay with this:

The housing crisis and climate change raise different challenges, but solving both of them requires greater commitment to re-empowering the federal government to act in the public interest. Only Washington has the resources and the scope to tackle these dire threats to the nation’s and the planet’s future.

In 1975, Ed Logue, the visionary head of the Urban Development Corporation, said, “We cannot allow basic public policy” to be made “in corporate board rooms.” And yet, for half a century, that’s exactly what we have done, to our great misfortune.

MAYBE the stars will align in the months ahead and we will find ourselves with a President who believes there IS a federal responsibility for housing and the overall well-being of its citizens. Maybe we will elect a President and Congress who will take basic public policy away from corporate boards and back into the hands of the voters.

What the SAT REALLY Measures

July 13, 2019 Leave a comment

This Vox video gives an excellent overview of the history of the SAT and concludes that the ultimate consequence is to serve as a sorting mechanism to reinforce the status quo in terms of economic inequality. It’s well worth the 8 minutes it takes to watch it!

Are Charters Exempt from Desegregation Mandates? Minnesota Case May Have National Implications

July 11, 2019 Leave a comment

The Progressive recently featured an article by Sarah Lahm describing the status of a desegregation lawsuit in Minnesota that could have national implications. She opens her article with this overview:

Earlier this month, Susan Robinar, a Minnesota district court judge, refused to exempt the state’s charter schools from a desegregation lawsuit.

The case, Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota, was initially filed in 2015 on behalf of a handful of public school parents in the Twin Cities. These plaintiffs allege that Minnesota’s increasingly segregated public schools are operating in violation of the state Constitution, which affirms that “it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools.” Students of color, the lawsuit insists, are receiving what amounts to a separate and unequal education in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the state’s two largest cities.

This problem has been exacerbated by the number of racially segregated charter schools in Minnesota, according to the plaintiffs.Minnesota lawmakers authorized the nation’s first privately managed, publicly funded K-12 charter school law in 1991. At the time, lawmakers also stipulated that charter schools should be “exempt from most state and local laws and regulations.” 

Thanks to a 1999 ruling, this exemption status has meant that charter schools have not had to follow the same desegregation rules as the state’s traditional public schools. The state’s first charter school, City Academy, opened in 1992. By 2018, Minnesota hosted 164 charters, enrolling over 56,000 students. Nationally, more than three million K-12 students are enrolled in charter schools.

The tension between the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools and laws that stipulate that charter schools should be “exempt from most state and local laws and regulations”  is not limited to Minnesota. The whole idea behind charter schools is that teachers need to be freed from onerous regulations that prevent innovative ideas… but in the South and now arguably across the nation charters become de facto segregated schools by virtue of establishing barriers to entry explicitly tied to standardized tests, their refusal to offer special education programs, and/or their rigid discipline systems.

It’s taken years for the lawsuit to wend its way through the Minnesota courts and Dan Shulman, the attorney who filed the suit four years ago, is persistent and he knows that the case could have consequences beyond Minnesota:

Shulman has been clear about his own hopes for the lawsuit, telling Politico’s Morning Education report in 2018 that he thinks the case could have “national implications.” The framework presented by the case is that the state—and not individual schools or school districts—has an obligation to abide by its own constitution,and ensure that all Minnesota children have access to a “general and uniform system of public schools.”

Publicly-funded charter schools’ long-standing exemption from this requirement may soon be coming to an end. Both parties in the lawsuit are engaged in mediation, with a possible trial date slated for 2020.

Should Mr. Shulman win it will be a victory for children who have been denied the opportunity to attend schools of comparable quality to the charters that were presumably designed to accomplish that outcome. In the meantime, five years of resegregation will continue…. and, if the 1954 Supreme Court case is any indication, change will be an even longer time coming.

LATimes Offers Good Overview of Disintegration of Desegregation

July 9, 2019 Leave a comment

Today’s LATimes article (link below) describes the slow erosion of efforts to integrate public schools and the predictable result: schools across the country are more integrated now than ever. The takeaway from the article is that no one running for President seems willing to make the issue a centerpiece of their campaign and so it is unlikely to be solved unless some billionaires decide to make racial and economic justice their cause.

The “Downshifting Dilemma” Described for New Hampshire Residents is a National Phenomenon

July 1, 2019 Comments off

For decades public school administrators and school board members have hit their heads against the wall trying to explain to property owners that every tax cut that occurs at the Federal and State level has an adverse impact on local property taxes… and as a a result the most regressive and inequitable tax of all has the highest burden.

In New Hampshire this legislative session, the Democrats who controlled the House and Senate approved a budget that shifted the tax burden away from property taxes. Alas, the GOP Governor, Chris Sununu, vetoed the bill. The results of the veto were described in a Advancing New Hampshire Public Education (ANHPE) blog post as follows:

As you may have heard, on Friday Governor Sununu vetoed the budget proposed by the Committee of Conference (“CofC”), which had passed the House and Senate on purely party lines.  Unfortunately, this means that everything the CofC put in the budget is back on the table and potentially on the chopping block – including the $138 million in new school aid and $40 M in municipal aid that districts and towns were hoping to see.  The veto leaves school districts in a quandary as they make staffing and other decisions for the school year ahead.

The quandary they face is that IF they proceed to implement the budgets they adopted this Spring in anticipation of some consistent level of funding they could end up shifting the more of the cost for operating schools onto the shoulders of taxpayers since the continuing resolution passed to keep the State government operational includes a 4% CUT to state funds. 2/3 of the districts in the state face this dilemma… and the property poor districts, who have the most to gain from the passage of the funding, have the most to lose as a result. And here’s the kicker: voters in those districts who stand to lose the most often fail to recognize that the tax limitations they seek at the State level translate into higher property taxes. ANHPE describes this as “the downshifting dilemma”:

The Governor has justified his veto in part by saying that he doesn’t want to raise taxes on businesses.  Those who crafted the CofC budget dispute this characterization and argue that they’re simply blocking an additional decrease in business profits taxes, which were already reduced last year.  Whichever way you view it, the fact remains that the State’s chronic underfunding of schools results in a downshifting of costs to the local level, leaving property taxpayers to pick up the tab.  When districts take an additional hit (like the 4% reduction in stabilization funding), property taxes will most likely rise.

But this kind of downshifting is not limited to the New Hampshire. The federal special education law has NEVER been fully funded. That means that State’s have been asked to cover the difference in the federal funds promised to implement the mandate for special education and the federal funds allocated for that purpose. Here’s an excerpt from a cover letter to a February 2018 report by the National Council on Disability (NCD) describing how this shifts costs downward:

Over the past 42 years, the Federal Government has recognized and supported this right through providing billions of dollars in special education funding to assist the states in meeting their responsibilities in this area. NCD has repeatedly called on Congress to fully fund IDEA. The Federal Government’s failure to meet its promised funding obligation has stressed many state and local budgets to the point where many districts routinely struggle to meet student needs. In 1975, Congress promised to cover 40 percent of the average cost to educate a child with disabilities. Congress later amended the law to say that the Federal Government would pay a “maximum” of 40 percent of per-pupil costs. Today, the Federal Government pays less than half of what it originally promised in 1975.

And what happens when a state or school district does not get the funding promised at the federal level? They need to look elsewhere for cuts because special education funding is mandatory. Here’s how the NCD report describes what happens:

The lack of federal support to meet the original commitment Congress made to meet the excess cost of special education places considerable pressure on state and local budgets, resulting in a range of actions including:

  • ■  One state placing an illegal cap on IDEA identi cation of students
  • ■  Districts and schools limiting hiring of personnel and providers, which contributes to high turnover and shortages in the eld
  • ■  Districts and schools restricting service hours
  • ■  Districts and schools reducing or eliminating other general programs

In effect, we are willing to diminish and/or compromise services and standards to special education students or reduce services and standards to ALL students in order to avoid paying higher taxes.

But special education is not the only place where FEDERAL cuts result in downshifting. If federal spending is reduced in roads, or oversight of environmental regulations, or oversight of consumer safety, the needs associated with those expenditures do not disappear… and the costs for those expenditures face the same pressures.

Would we want to loosen our safety standards for roads, the environment, or consumer safety in order to save money? I fear that we are heating an affirmative answer to that question at all levels of government… and I fear that our quality of life is diminishing as a result of the affirmative answer we are hearing.


Growing Up in Poverty Means Growing Up in Shame

June 28, 2019 Comments off

Parenting in Poverty”, a NYTimes article by Bobbi Dempsey that appeared last week, poignantly describes what it feels like to be a child whose parents rely on food stamps and how frustrating it is to operate as a parent under the guidelines set forth for EBT cards. Ms. Dempsey writes about the feelings she experienced as a child:

I am far too familiar with the seemingly endless array of indignities and flavors of shame that come with living in poverty. You get dirty glances for looking poor — but are also judged if you look “too rich,” by wearing something an observer deems too nice for someone on public assistance. Everything you buy or eat in view of others is up for public scrutiny and unwanted commentary…

During the course of my childhood, I had more embarrassing encounters at the grocery store checkout than I could count…

I’ve overheard snide comments in the lines at grocery stores about the attire of someone using an EBT card or the cars they parked outside of a convenience store where they used a card to buy milk. I’ve also heard faculty room gossip about profligacy of parents who used food stamps back in the 70s when I worked as a high school administrator and read endless articles about the so-called “Welfare Queens” who abused the systems in place. But this article reminded me of the impact that kind of judgment has on a child, especially one who experiences it day-in-and-day-out throughout their entire childhood. And the indignities are not limited to the grocery store:

I never went to birthday parties as a kid because I couldn’t afford to buy a gift. I would “get sick” and have to stay home on field trip days because I couldn’t afford the cost of the trip itself, let alone bring spending money for any souvenirs or food. Joining any activity that involved dues to pay or uniforms to buy would have been inconceivable.

Ms. Dempsey describes how today’s EBT cards draw less attention from those in line than the food stamps her mother used, but the strictures imposed on parents and observed by children still sting:

While the new plastic card may spare those families some shame, it can be difficult to reconcile that buying non-luxuries like toilet paper, tampons or a supermarket rotisserie chicken may be just as wild a fantasy as getting a child a pony.

The brief profile at the end of the article describes Ms. Dempsey with this single sentence:

Bobbi Dempsey is a freelance writer and a communications fellow at Community Change who is writing a memoir about moving 70 times before age 18.

I doubt that her mother was all that concerned about Ms. Dempsey’s test scores or how those scores might effect whatever school she was attending at the time… Until we can provide affordable housing and food security for all children in the country we cannot expect to close the widening gap between the rich and poor.