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Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

Diane Ravitch’s Recent Post and Steve Nelson’s Recent Article Flag the Debate We Need to Have: How Much is Enough?

February 5, 2019 Comments off

A recent post by Diane Ravitch and a recent op ed article by Valley News columnist Steve Nelson underscore the need for us to have a national debate on the question “How Much is Enough?”.

How much is enough for setting income tax brackets? The debate about taxing billionaires sidesteps the question of whether higher tax rates are needed for the top 10%, or top 20% Or the question of whether roughly 50% of the voters are not required to pay ANY income tax?

How much is enough for setting the maximum taxable limit for social security? As written in previous posts, the “social security crisis” could be solved for decades if we eliminated that maximum taxable limit for social security. What aren’t we talking about that?

How much is enough for business tax breaks at all levels? I have railed against the scandalous tax breaks offered to Amazon, Foxconn, and Walmart. But it is possible that small businesses might benefit from some kind of break in their taxes and those kinds of breaks might enable them to stay open and hire local people at a living wage.

How much is enough for the privatization of public services? As a school superintendent for 29 years, there were many instances where it became clear that it was better to hire a contractor to perform work that was to hire staff members. An easy example is plowing snow. In order for school district employees to perform that task the district would need to have trucks capable of pushing large volumes of snow. Tougher questions revolve around the provision of food services, transportation, maintenance, and business support services. Arguing that ALL privatization is bad is akin to arguing that ALL taxes are bad.

How much is enough for regulation? There are undoubtedly regulations that overreach and are needlessly onerous. But the profiteers have persuaded elected officials (and voters) that anything that restricts profits is “over-regulation” and that the market will punish those who pollute too much or treat employees badly. As we witness the dismantling of the EPA, Consumer Protection Agency, and virtually all regulatory controls at the federal level voters MAY be getting to appreciate the role regulations play in their workplace and in our society in general.

How much is enough to ensure our safety at all levels (i.e. national defense spending? local police and fire departments? hardening of schools?) We need to spend SOME money for our Armed Forces and we need to ensure that we take care of those who served our country in the military… but do we need to subsidize corporations that manufacture obsolete fighters, arms manufacturers who supply weapons to our allies (like Saudi Arabia), and private contractors who supply the military at high profit margins (see the question on privatization). We need to have professional police forces and fire departments, but do the police need military grade weapons to protect small towns and suburbs? Do we need armed police officers in every school, church, and shopping mall? We need safe and secure schools, but do those schools need bullet proof windows, 24/7 surveillance cameras, and sophisticated entry mechanisms for every door?

It seems that billionaires can never have enough money and, therefore, to accumulate more and more they can never have low enough taxes. The billionaires have done an admirable job of promoting the idea that ALL taxes are confiscatory, that private businesses can operate more efficiently than government, and that big-hearted philanthropists can move more quickly to solve problems than democratically elected officials and the administrators they hire. Therefore, they have been able to persuade voters that privatization and philanthropy are the answers to the problems facing our country.

As the man elected to the POTUS indicates, the billionaires have done an excellent marketing job. And more importantly, as the appointees to courts over the past GOP administrations indicate, the “long game” of the billionaires is working.

Welcome to the plutocracy.

Maybe we can change our course in 2020.

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NY Times Education Reporter Sees Change Blowing in the Wind as Teachers Reclaim High Ground

February 4, 2019 Comments off

Dana Goldstein, a veteran education reporter for the NYTimes wrote an op ed piece recently reviewing the changes she has witnessed in the coverage on public schools over the past thirteen years. The biggest change is that the union and teacher bashing that she witnessed at the outset of her career in 2006 has ebbed and in its place is a new respect for both unions and teachers. She writes:

I was at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, when one of the hottest tickets was to a panel discussion in which rising stars in the party, including Cory Booker, then the mayor of Newark, spoke harshly of teachers’ unions and their opposition to charter schools, which are publicly funded, privately run and generally not unionized. Union leaders argue that charters draw public dollars and students away from traditional schools…

Back then, it was hip for young Democrats to be like Barack Obama, supportive of school choice and somewhat critical of teachers’ unions. But now, the winds have changed pretty drastically.The revival of democratic socialism within the party has left many elected officials — even Mr. Booker — much more hesitant, it seems, to critique organized labor. Across the country, red-clad teachers on strike, sometimes dancing and singing, have won the affection of grass-roots progressives over the past year, leading to a new political dynamic around education, just as the Democratic primary field for 2020 emerges…

At this point, I was in complete agreement with Ms. Goldstein’s analysis. But then at the conclusion of that paragraph, she used an oversimplified, deeply flawed, and tired dichotomy to analyze what is happening:

…The emphasis now is on what education experts call “inputs” — classroom funding, teacher pay, and students’ access to social workers and guidance counselors — and less on “outputs,” like test scores or graduation rates.

While she recovered somewhat in the next paragraph by acknowledging that “…both inputs and outputs are important” and that “…the battle is ideological, over what role choice should play in our education system”, she missed the overarching ideological battle: whether public education is a commodity that can be changed through market forces or a public good that must be changed through democratic processes. She also did not make note of the reality that there is no “output” measure that can capture what public schools provide. Neither test scores or graduation rates can indicate whether a student is experiencing daily success in the classroom, is motivated to continue learning after his or her formal education, and is gaining the social and emotional skills needed to support a democracy. Those “outputs” elude fast, cheap, and easy measurement yet they are far more important than the content students are learning. She also overlooks the fact that the inputs needed in today’s public schools are far different than those needed even 13 years ago. Schools are increasingly expected to provide mental health, counseling, and nutritious meals for all students… and the span of students they are expected to educate and care for is expanding as well.

Ms. Goldstein concludes her article with a quote from the late Fred Hechinger, who reported for decades on public schools for the NYTimes:

“I began to realize that a country’s approach to education in general, and especially to its children, could tell more about its social, political and economic background than a whole battery of interviews with politicians.”

What does it say that we are spending no more on schools now than we were when Ms. Goldstein started? What does it say that our so-called “thought leaders” believe public education should be marketed like cars and household appliances? What does it say that despite what we call our federal legislation that we are leaving more and more children behind, we are offering wages that race to the bottom, and we are not providing the funds needed to make certain that every child succeeds?

 

Allowing Bible Study in Schools: Another Distraction to the REAL Issue Facing Public Schools

February 2, 2019 1 comment

Over the past week I have read countless articles about the issue of whether public schools should be allowed to offer Bible study. This article by Jeffery Solochek from the Tampa Bay Times gives a good run down of the recent coverage, which was widened even more when President Trump tweeted on the issue. Here’s the opening paragraphs from Mr. Solochek’s article:

When President Trump tweeted his praise for states looking to authorize Bible literacy courses in public schools, it wasn’t exactly a surprise that Florida would be in the mix, given its history. The state — along with Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia — has a bill pending (HB 195) in the Legislature that would require high schools to offer an elective course on the Bible and religion.

An existing state law, approved in 2002, already gives school districts the option of providing courses that include the “objective study” of the Bible. The proposed law would require school districts to make those courses available, and students could decide whether to enroll.

The rationale for co-sponsor Rep. Brad Drake, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, is clear.

“A study of a book of creation by its creator is absolutely essential,” Drake said, suggesting the lessons of kindness and tolerance might help reduce other state problems, such as crime.

“So why not?” he asked. “It’s the book that prepares us for eternity, and there’s no other book that does that.”

From my perspective, “Why Not?” is the wrong question. The right question is “WHY???”

One response to that question is offered by Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, who sees the proposed legislation as part of “…a design to codify a Christian America“. Ms. Laser sees this bill as building on one introduced and passed last year that requires all public schools in Florida to post the words “In God We Trust” in a prominent place on campus…. a law that was also introduced and passed in several other states.

My response to that question is more malevolent. I see legislators introducing this kind of hot-button legislation as a way of diverting time, energy, and attention away from the real problem facing public schools: the need for more funding and more equitable funding. I am confident that if the local Superintendents who Brad Drake represents were asked to list their most important legislative priorities for the coming session that Bible studies would not even make the list. But then posting “In God We Trust” in schools was not on their list for 2018… Indeed, Mr. Solochek reported on the Superintendents priorities ten weeks ago:

Aiming to protect academic programs while meeting increased security demands, Florida’s school superintendents have created a legislative platform that focuses heavily on convincing lawmakers to put more money into the system.

Is Mr. Drake doing anything to address that issue? Are any Florida legislators doing so? Is President Trump trying to do anything to address that issue?

Florida Superintendents DO trust in God… but their trust in the legislature?

 

The US Expansion of Pre-Schools Provides an Opportunity to Get Funding Formulas Right

February 1, 2019 Comments off

A recent article in the Economist titled “Republicans and Democrats Are Taking Early Education More Seriously” describes the recent consensus that is emerging among politicians in both parties that public schooling needs to extend to younger children. Here;s the paragraph that describes this phenomenon:

The share of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in pre-school has not changed much in two decades. While the average country in the OECD, a club of rich nations, enrolls 80% of its three- and four-year-old children in school, America enrolls just 54%, lagging behind Chile and Mexico.This is true despite abundant evidence of the benefits of early education, especially for disadvantaged children. High-quality pre-school programmes can have lasting benefits, including improving the odds of graduating from school, earning more and staying away from drugs and out of prison. For parents there are gains, too: when their children are in day care, they can work.

In the shadows of a government shutdown and chaotic governance generally, one achievement of President Donald Trump’s administration has gone unnoticed. In 2018 Congress approved more than $5.2bn in “child care and development block grants”, which subsidise child care for low-income families, nearly doubling available funding and indicating a rare example of bipartisan collaboration. Head Start, a federal programme that educates poor children before they enter kindergarten, has also received more funding.

The article, while extolling both the Trump administration’s additional funding that the widespread support for funding at the state levels does NOT look at how that funding will be allocated. If they had examined this, they would find that politicians in both parties are using this expansion of schooling to younger students to promote either vouchers of privatization models for schools. By doing so, they can sidestep the need for government funded buildings, the hiring of teachers at union wages, and the pushback they are likely to encounter if they shift young children out of existing privately operated pre-schools into public pre-schools. If our federal, state, and local governments wanted to do this right, instead of using the expansion of schooling to younger students as an opportunity to privatize they could use it as an opportunity to get the funding for public education more equitable.

Progressive-minded voters need to look closely at how seemingly progressive issues like the expansion of pre-school are being formulated. As I’ve blogged about earlier, the expansion of these programs could well be a means of introducing vouchers into the public schools… an idea I am certain Betsy DeVos has come up with.

Dutch Historian Has News for Davos: Higher Marginal Taxes Do NOT Hurt the Economy

January 31, 2019 Comments off

The plutocrats gathered at Davos heard some unsettling news from Rutger Bregman: Philanthropy is no substitute for taxes.. and there is a country where high marginal tax rates DID result in economic growth: the United States during the Eisenhower administration.

The Davos crowd also heard from Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International on the flaws of employment data… namely that fact that employment data fails to take into account the DIGNITY of the jobs counted.

While I am glad the plutocrats heard this news, it is unfortunate that more Americans did not hear this information.

Koch Brothers Plan to Disrupt Public Education, the “Lowest Hanging Fruit”

January 30, 2019 Comments off

The Koch brothers are the most disreputable of all the “reformers”, blatantly seeking profit at the expense of those who were unfortunate enough to be born into families where there wasn’t a billion dollars per year in trust funds…

Meanwhile… in the USDOE, Ms. DeVos is contemplating undoing the supplement vs. supplant language… From where I sit this is related to the Koch takeover: it reinforces the notion that efforts to provide equity is “government overreach” and the regulations that accompany federal dollars are onerous and interfere with innovation… just merge those dollars into local budgets, lower taxes, and use more technology that can be managed by low-wage paraprofessionals… and bingo: the low hanging fruit is picked!

via Koch Brothers Plan to Disrupt Public Education, the “Lowest Hanging Fruit”

DeVos Revisiting Supplement vs. Supplant… A Story that Will be Buried But One that will Undercut School Funding Nationwide

January 30, 2019 Comments off

There is so much happening with the ongoing investigation of the President, the aftershocks to the month long government shutdown, the ongoing debate about the need for a wall, and the severe weather that results from climate change that the USDOE’s intent to review the supplement versus supplant language can get pushed off the stage altogether. Here’s a report from Politico earlier this week on the USDOE’s decision to revisit the “supplement vs. supplant” issue:

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TAKES ON ‘SUPPLEMENT, NOT SUPPLANT’: The Education Department is out with proposed guidance under the Every Student Succeeds Act that DeVos said makes clear to districts that they have “significant flexibility” when it comes to spending.

At issue is a requirement known as “supplement, not supplant.” The requirement was meant to ensure that poor and minority students get their fair share of state and local education funding by requiring that the federal education funds enhance, but not replace, state and local funds.

The department says the requirement “had become restrictive and burdensome.” Now, “in order to comply, a school district need only show that its methodology to allocate state and local resources to schools does not take into account a school’s Title I status,” the department said in a statement. “For many school districts, the requirement can be met using the school district’s current methodology for allocating state and local resources.”

In previous years, when Title I funding was “…more restrictive and burdensome”, districts had to demonstrate that the federal funds targeted for students raised in poverty were, in fact, spent on those students. In my experience as a Superintendent, this DID require a lot of complicated bookkeeping and there were some occasions where auditors from the USDOE could be picky, but these accounting rigors did ensure that federal funds did not displace the local funds. This strict segregation of federal funds from local and state funds meant that ALL districts— including those serving affluent students— would raise their voices in support of federal funds that were earmarked for children raised in poverty and especially those funds that were earmarked for disabled children.

Those who want the federal government to stay out of education often fail to acknowledge why the federal government got INTO education to begin with. The federal government was advocated for the voiceless children raised in poverty and shunted out of the public schools due to their race or disabilities. Most elected officials at the state and local levels ignored the needs of these children and because their parents did not have the ears of the officials their children suffered in underfunded and sub-standard facilities. The War on Poverty and the Disability Rights movements injected federal funds into public education and with those funds came the so-called “restrictive and burdensome” regulations that anti-public education voters despise.

This just in: government regulations protect the poor and disabled children from underfunded and substandard schools in the same way government regulation protect all citizens from pollution and foul water. Yes, government regulations can be “restrictive and burdensome”, but that is a small price to pay for a just and equitable public education system.