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Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

While Impeachment Captures Headlines, DeVos Defies Courts, Denies Relief to Debtors, Is Fined

October 29, 2019 Comments off

The entire for-profit post secondary schooling program has been in a shambles for years, a reality that always made it hard for me to understand why either party thought the privatization of public schools would be a good idea. At some juncture near the end of the Obama administration, the Department of Education decided it was time to clamp down on the schools who were bilking students out of money and driving up debt. To show the for profit schools that they meant business, USDOE went to suspended the debts accumulated by students who attended an especially egregious profiteering school, the Corinthian Colleges.  The Trump administration decided to reverse the Obama era’s ruling and re-imposed the debts. The student debtors went to court and the courts mandated that the debts be suspended. When Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos pushed back, USDOE was held in contempt of court and fined $100,000.

On the day the court made this ruling, Democracy Now reported that the USDOE’s top loan official, A. Wayne Johnson, resigned in disgust and pledged to do whatever it takes to relieve students of over $1,000,000,000,000 in onerous debt. After his resignation, Mr. Johnson told the Wall Street Journal,

We run through the process of putting this debt burden on somebody … but it rides on their credit files — it rides on their back — for decades. The time has come for us to end and stop the insanity.”

The insanity reigns in every department in the US Government as anti-regulatory appointees in each department wreak havoc on consumer protection, environmental protection, and workers rights. And as regulations are slashed, the staffing positions required to enforce those regulations are cut. As science is ignored, civic minded scientists are leaving departments in droves and research on medicine, climate, and nutrition are abandoning positions that remain unfilled. Inevitably, when the budget is put together for the next fiscal year and the ones thereafter, the lost tax revenues will “require” that unfilled staffing positions be cut, that “revenue sources” like student loans be retained, and that cuts that are “making the economy grow” be kept in place. The inevitable result: the rich will get richer and the poor will become intractably mired at the bottom of the economic ladder.

This was a great country when I was growing up. Making it “great again” requires not more de-regulation…. but more help for those who need it.

Warren Joins Sanders in Call to Ban For-Profit Charters, Use Wealth Tax to Fund Better Public Education

October 22, 2019 1 comment

As posted several weeks (or maybe MONTHS) ago, Bernie Sanders had separated himself from the pack of other presidential candidates by declaring his outright opposition to for-profit charters and his desire to use Federal funds to help level the playing field for public school financing. Now, according to a report by Bloomberg’s Misrelyna Egkolfopoulo, Elizabeth Warren has joined Bernie Sanders in the unreserved support for public schools… and doing him one better by offering a specific plan for funding her initiatives… and plan that calls for the transfer of $800,000,000,000 from the pockets of the top .1% to the neediest school districts. Oh… and Ms. Warren also threw down the gauntlet on those who are selling student data for commercial purposes:

Besides her vow to bar Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google from collecting student data to market products, Warren would ban the sharing, storing and sale of data with information identifying individual students to block educational technology companies and for-profit schools from selling their data to corporations. She would also tighten restrictions for companies that lobby school systems that receive federal funding.

And for-profit charter school operators will not be happy with her either:

Warren also would ban for-profit charter schools and halt federal funding to expand such schools, which she said have been an “abject failure.” She would toughen accountability requirements, direct the Internal Revenue Service to investigate any non-profit schools that break the law and expand enforcement of Justice Department whistle-blower actions for schools that commit fraud against taxpayers.

And finally, for teachers across the country, Ms. Warren would re-direct money to help increase their compensation and increase the ability of teachers’ unions to thrive.

The Massachusetts senator said she’d use some of the $450 billion in funding in her plan to increase teacher pay. She promised to replace DeVos with a former teacher and give public employees such as teachers more negotiating power while making it easier for them to join a union.

In a race to define differences among the various Democrat party aspirants, it is clear that Warren and Sanders have seized the highest ground possible in supporting democratically operated public schools. For the sake of the professionals who work in schools and the children who attend them, I hope one of them prevails in the primaries. We cannot afford another four years of the current underfunding and disrespect for public education.

My Niece’s Son’s Picture on FaceBook Begging for Money at a Street Corner Worth a Thousand Words

October 7, 2019 Comments off

From everything I’ve witnessed on family vacations and FaceBook posts over the year, my niece’s son is a very gifted athlete. He’s a strong cross country runner, plays soccer well enough to make traveling teams, and seems to be a natural at every sport he takes on.

Like any student-athlete he has a full schedule with practices, homework, and family commitments. But because he is a student-athlete, he has one other responsibility: he needs to stand on a street corner to collect money to pay for his activity. Meanwhile, the state he lives in, Ohio, has lowered the support it receives from businesses though various tax sources and, because of lost revenues that resulted, not increased school spending in real dollars for over a decade.

I find his begging at intersections infuriating and demeaning. It appears to me that teaching children to beg at traffic signals now part of the hidden curriculum at schools just as subjecting themselves to surveillance cameras, metal detectors and shooter drills are part of the curriculum.

I guess Ohio voters think it’s more important for billionaires to get tax cuts than it is for x-c teams (and other organizations) to beg at street corners. More important to reward shareholders than it is to provide time for student-athletes to do their homework.

To paraphrase an old aphorism: it will be a good day when billionaires have to have bake sales to increase their wealth and schools receive largesse from the State governments…. and student-athletes no longer have to beg on street corners.

Yet ANOTHER Study Proves Poverty’s Power to Diminish Performance… and Desegregation is the Path Out of Poverty

September 24, 2019 Comments off

The Hechinger Report posted an analysis of research done by Stanford University Education Professor Sean Reardon that demonstrates the detrimental impact of poverty of student performance as measured by standardized achievement tests. Here are Reardon’s findings as described by Hechinger Report writer Jill Barshay:

In the study, Reardon finds that racial segregation is a very strong predictor of the gaps in academic achievement between white and black or Hispanic students, but it’s school poverty — not the student’s race — that accounts for these big gaps. When the difference in poverty rates between black and white schools is larger, the achievement gaps between black and white students are larger. When the difference in poverty rates between black and white schools is smaller, the achievement gaps are smaller. The two phenomena — racial segregation and economic inequality — are intertwined because students of color are concentrated in high-poverty schools.

“There’s a common argument these days that maybe we should stop worrying about segregation and just create high-quality schools everywhere,” said Reardon. “This study shows that it doesn’t seem to be possible.”

Reardon said he couldn’t find a single school district in the country where black and Hispanic students were learning apart from white students and performing well with test scores that weren’t lagging behind those of white students.  In the cases where achievement gaps were small, such as Detroit, achievement was low for both black and whites students. They’re not models to copy.

“It doesn’t seem that we have any knowledge about how to create high-quality schools at scale under conditions of concentrated poverty,” said Reardon. “And if we can’t do that, then we have to do something about segregation. Otherwise we’re consigning black and Hispanic and low-income students to schools that we don’t know how to make as good as other schools. The implication is that you have got to address segregation.”

The nation’s failure to “create high-quality schools at scale under conditions of concentrated poverty” is widely reported and applies to charter schools as well as public schools. But Ms. Barshay notes how Mr. Reardon’s findings amply and clarify this reality:

It’s well known that high-income students perform better on tests than low-income students. Higher income students tend to have better educated parents who not only may read and talk to their kids more but also convey the importance of an education and set high academic expectations for their kids. What’s interesting in this study is that not only does the level of school segregation predict the size of the achievement gap between white and black students, it also predicts the rate at which the achievement gap grows as students progress from third to eighth grade.

In the concluding paragraphs of Ms. Barshay’s report, she describes an interactive website, the “Opportunity Explorer,” “where anyone can see the test scores for every public school in the United States“.  Mr. Reardon offers this important insight on the data he used to determine student performance:

Reardon advises visitors to the website to avoid equating test scores with school quality. “The average test scores that kids have in schools or school districts are the results of all the opportunities these kids have had to learn their whole lives, at home, in the neighborhood, in preschool and in the school year,” Reardon said, “so it’s misleading to attribute average test scores solely to the school where they take the test.”

“If you want to know how good the schools are,” Reardon said, “a better but not perfect measure would be the learning rates because those are measuring how fast are kids learning while they’re in school, regardless of where they started.”

A tool like the Opportunity Explorer offers data geeks a chance to do some comparisons… but such a tool also implies that parents could shop for a school the same way they could shop for groceries… and while grocery stores will allow anyone to come inside and look around and buy what they can afford, schools are not the same because some schools are located in communities where housing prices effectively bar anyone with a low income. Until we figure out a way to encourage people of different social strata and different races to live together we will not be able to solve the problem of unequal opportunities based on wealth and race.

Plessy v. Ferguson Comes to Football… Will Academics be Far Behind?

September 23, 2019 Comments off

This attention-grabbing headline in the NYTimes article by Timothy Williams caught my eye immediately:

The article describes the reality of team sports— and academics in high schools across the country in this analysis by Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, who noted that:

“….the sports achievement disparity between wealthy suburban public schools and their urban counterparts has degenerated into “a competitive gap that is similar to the income gap” in the nation.

The divide has always been there,” he said, “but it has widened.”

The disparity, experts say, is meaningful beyond the world of athletics because sports participation has been found to aid in academic success and college admissions, and is a predictor for professional success.

I’m not at all certain the “divide has always been there”… but I AM certain it is worsening for athletics AND academics.

The notion of using demographics to separate athletic teams is appalling… it seems to be contrary to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” provision of public services like schools. But Iowa is not alone in moving in this direction as Mr. Williams writes:

Over the past few years, officials overseeing high school sports in states including Minnesota, Oregon and Colorado have added provisions allowing schools with high poverty levels to drop down to lower athletic divisions. Washington State will introduce the idea next year, and Iowa is considering it.

This provision puts principals, parents, and athletic boosters in economically disadvantaged schools in a tough position: they can either keep their school in an athletic league where they will be overmatched or agree to being placed in a less competitive league where their students might win some games.

Once poorer schools decide to abandon athletic competition with affluent schools rather than seeking equitable funding will they also decide to abandon their fight for equitable funding for academics and shunt their students into second tier colleges? If athletics is the last bastion of true meritocracy… the last place where an athletically gifted child born into poverty can thrive despite his economic disadvantage… how can we hope to create a true meritocracy in academics if school leaders decide to abandon the effort to provide an even playing field in athletics?

 

EdBuild Study Provides Evidence of the Persistence of Racism in Public Schools

September 20, 2019 Comments off

EdBuild, whose mission is to bring common sense and fairness to the way states fund public schools, issued a report indicating that black school districts receive $23,000,000,000 LESS revenue than all white districts despite serving the same number of students. Why? Because affluent families flock to districts where property taxes can underwrite higher quality schools leaving poorer non-white students segregated in property poor districts. As the authors of the report write:

The racial and economic segregation created by gerrymandered school district boundaries continues to divide our communities and rob our nation’s children of fundamental freedoms and opportunity. Families with money or status can retain both by drawing and upholding invisible lines. Many families do just that. This, in conjunction with housing segregation, ensures that—rather than a partial remedy—district geographies serve to further entrench society’s deep divisions of opportunity

Because our system relies so heavily on community wealth, this gap reflects both the prosperity divide in our country and the fragmented nature of school district borders, designed to exclude outside students and protect internal advantage.

This residential discrepancy cannot be fixed easily… but it might be possible for the students in poorer schools to receive the same level of funding if we worked at the state level to raise and allocate funds more fairly. And the racial disparities EdBuild flags are intolerable:

For every student enrolled, the average nonwhite school district receives $2,226 less than a white school district.

Poor-white school districts receive about $150 less per student than the national average—an injustice all to itself. Yet they are still receiving nearly $1,500 more than poor-nonwhite school districts.

If we want to continue holding onto the belief that education can be a leveling force in our country, we cannot continue to use the same funding system in place today… and if we want racial and economic justice we need to face the fact that our current system is discriminatory. The report concludes with this:

Even after accounting for income, the average student in the U.S. inherits far more opportunity by attending a small, concentrated white school district. Because each state handles district boundaries and school funding differently, funding policies affect students in divergent areas in different ways.

But a single fact is clear—financially, it is far better in the United States to have the luck and lot to attend a school district that is predominantly white than one that enrolls a concentration of children of color. That is the inherent shame of the system we’ve built, and one we haven’t gone far enough to fix.

This Just In: The GOP Wants to Rip-Off Student Borrowers to Help For-Profit Colleges

September 14, 2019 Comments off

You don’t need to pass laws to help your your donors and to disestablish government agencies you don’t believe in. All you need to do is appoint a cabinet member who will revise regulations to minimize the strength of that agency and help your financial backers. And if the regulations can’t be revised, the cabinet member can slow down the process of implementing the regulations or make the process dysfunctional. In the end, the goal of making the government so small it can drown in a bathtub can be accomplished.

If you don’t believe this description of how to make a government agency dysfunctional is accurate, look no further than Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. As noted in Adam Minsky’s Forbes article, Betsy DeVos is making a concerted effort to gut the student loan forgiveness program put in place when the Obama administration learned how for-profit schools were preying on unsuspecting students by encouraging them to take out student loans. He writes:

The Borrower Defense to Repayment program was established in 2016 following the high-profile collapse of for-profit schools like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes. The program was enacted to provide student loan relief for borrowers who had been defrauded by predatory schools.

The basic premise of the program is that students who were subjected to rampant fraud or misrepresentations by their  school, and who were saddled with debt and a useless degree, should have a mechanism to request student loan forgiveness. This, coupled with stricter federal oversight of for-profit schools and greater accountability for their educational and career outcomes, would hopefully diminish widespread abuse of federal aid by predatory institutions.

Since DeVos took over the Department of Education in 2017, her administration has made consistent efforts to eliminate or water down the program. The Department of Education initially tried to re-write the regulations governing the program, only to have those new rules thrown out by a federal court following legal challenges. Her office has also been effectively ignoring around 160,000 applications for loan forgiveness submitted by student loan borrowers, leaving them in limbo.

Mr. Minsky’s article then offers a description of the recently released rules that will go into effect, all of which put the burden of proof on the borrower and give the lenders an upper hand. The net effect is the diminishment of protection for students who have been bilked by profiteers. He concludes his article with this:

The chairman of the House education committee, Rep. Bobby Scott, accused the administration of “sending an alarming message [that] schools can cheat student loan borrowers and still reap the rewards of federal student aid.” And the Project on Predatory Student Lending announced that it intends to challenge the new rules in court.

One thing is clear: the Borrower Defense to Repayment program remains embattled and in legal limbo.

One more thing is clear: that “legal limbo” is hurting the pocketbooks of the borrowers at the expense of the shareholders of the private for profit colleges.