Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

Summertime Scheduling Problems That Plague Middle Class Exist All Year for 40% of Parents

August 10, 2018 Leave a comment

In yesterday’s post about Arne Duncan’s latest book, I emphasized one observation Mr. Duncan made in an interview with the Atlantic that I found especially insightful. In assessing the challenges urban schools face, he noted the link between parent engagement and student success:

It’s the parents who aren’t present whose kids you have to worry about even more because those parents just have too much going on in their own lives to be engaged in their children’s education. Those kids are the ones I actually worry about the most.

This particular quote resonated with me because it did not cast blame on disengaged parents. Rather, it underscored that parents who would otherwise be involved in the lives of their children are often pre-occupied with other issues. A recent NYTimes article indicated that one overarching issue for parents who work multiple jobs or single parents is finding childcare. The headline for Dr. Julia Henley’s article in late July captures the problem. It read “Think Summer Child Care is Tough? Low Income Parents Deal With That All Year“. Dr. Henley describes the frustration upper middle class working parents face in the summertime when schools are closed and notes that these problems persist year round for low income working parents, especially those who work multiple part-time jobs or who work in retail where just-in-time scheduling is practiced:

But the gaps in care that frustrate well-off families over the summer are a constant in the lives of lower-income parents, who disproportionately work jobs with schedules that are not limited to weekday hours and can change unexpectedly. It’s a year-round second job to find safe, let alone enriching, supervision for their kids.

As part of a study my colleagues and I did on the child-care arrangements of parents in the retail sector, a part-time department store sales clerk told me that she had worked a different schedule each day the prior week: on Sunday she worked from noon to 5 p.m., on Monday from 2 to 8:30 p.m., on Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 1:30 to 9 p.m.

Over 40 percent of American children live with a parent who mostly works during hours when schools aren’t open and traditional child care isn’t available — during the early mornings, evenings, weekends or overnight — and these work schedules are often changing at the last minute. Some parents choose these shifts as part of a shared caregiving strategy with a spouse, but most don’t have a choice.

Dr. Henley notes that even though 40% of children live in a situation where a parent works nontraditional work hours, only 8% of the childcare centers offer coverage during those times. The result?

This mismatch between child-care needs and work demands forces parents to assemble a complicated bundle of arrangements, often with both formal and informal caregivers. These arrangements can be unstable and difficult to maintain, stress relationships and threaten the stability of already precarious work situations.

Apart from voluntary actions by socially responsible employers and some scheduling laws passed by a handful of progressive state legislatures, no action has been taken to ameliorate this problem. Indeed, the current administration has doubled down on the problem by insisting on work requirements for those getting government benefits for children, effectively requiring more parents to “assemble a complicated bundle of arrangements” to provide care for their children.

Meanwhile, in the face of the reality that 40% of children live in a situation where a parent needs to “assemble a complicated bundle of arrangements” to care for their children outside of the traditional work day and school day, our politicians continue to emphasize test results as the ultimate metric for school quality. If Arne Duncan was truly worried about the children whose parents were not present because they had too much going on in their lives, he might have set an example for school leaders by partnering with the HHS Secretary and the Secretary of Labor to develop legislation that would require predictable work hours to help the 40% of children who live in a situation where parents work outside of the traditional time frame.


MY ROUGH DRAFT Proposal for New Hampshire’s Democratic Candidates for Governor

August 8, 2018 Leave a comment

To date the Democratic Party in New Hampshire has chosen to avoid making public education a major issue in their primary campaign, despite the horrific record of the incumbent GOP Governor, Chris Sununu, and the fact that his appointee for Commissioner of Education has repeatedly bashed school boards, teachers, and the public schools while advocating for vouchers. I offer this recommended platform for the Democratic party to consider in its effort to unseat incumbent Governor Chris Sununu. This ROUGH DRAFT of a platform uses a July 5, 2016 post offered by Ohio blogger Jan Ressengeras a template and draws on positions outlined in earlier posts of mine.

Introduction:  The Governor of New Hampshire should advocate for a comprehensive system of public education. One that serves all children, is democratically governed, publicly funded, universally accessible, and accountable to the public.

Close Opportunity Gaps by Increasing Funding to Property Poor Communities: The New Hampshire Constitution calls for the State to provide an adequate education for all children in an effort to ensure that all children receive equal opportunities to learn. A candidate for Governor should pledge to uphold this Constitutional mandate even if doing so would require an increase in funding for public education or an expansion of taxes. As it stands now, despite lawsuits won in court by property poor communities in our state, resources available to provide services for children in their public schools are wildly uneven. While children in affluent school districts have access to advanced curricula, abundant technology, the most experienced teachers, and a rich exposure to art, music and other enrichments and a wide array of co-curricular activities, children in property poor districts lack these opportunities for learning and support that more privileged children merely take for granted.

Tax and budget policies need to reduce disparities between property-rich and property-poor districts, strengthen local school boards, and provide all parents with a greater opportunity to support their children enrolled in school. Families in property poor towns often face challenges that prevent them from devoting the same level of support for their children as families in property-rich communities. Families facing economic challenges would benefit from the careful and intentional development of full-service, wraparound services that bring social and health services—health clinics, dental clinics, mental health clinics, after school programs, Head Start, and parent support programs—right into the school building. Families facing economic challenges need affordable, accessible, quality child care. Families facing economic challenges need a guaranteed living wage and labor policies that protect them by establishing work schedules and ensuring that employers inform their employees in advance of their work hours. Families facing economic challenges need employers to provide medical leave and maternity leave.

Reject Privatization and Vouchers:  Privatization and voucher plans presented as “choice” cannot address the challenges faced by property poor communities. Legislation that promotes enrollments in private schools and provides funding for homeschooling diverts scarce resources from public education, especially in property poor communities where schools are already underfunded. Legislation that promotes vouchers and tuition tax credits which use public funds to pay for students to attend private and parochial schools should be unalterably opposed as should any legislation that supports the creation of charter schools that are not governed by elected local school boards.

Restore Respect for a Profession of Well Trained, Certified Teachers: Our elected officials and State Department leaders must stop scapegoating school teachers. Public school teachers work tirelessly to improve the chances for all students in all schools in the State to advance and often do so in facilities that are outdated and without the resources they need to succeed. Instead of modifying certification standards for teachers to expand the applicant pools, we should increase the compensation for teachers, especially those serving in property-poor districts.

Re-Double the Effort to Replace Standardized Norm-Referenced Tests as the Primary Metric for School Success: New Hampshire was one of a handful of states that sought to limit the use of norm-referenced standardized tests as the sole metric for measuring school success. This effort should be fully supported by the Governor and Commissioner of Education and provided with the funding and manpower required for implementation.

Conclusion:  In order for public schools to succeed in New Hampshire, citizens must provide ongoing oversight, demand legislation that ensures equitable funding, and be willing to accept tax policies that either redistribute funds currently available or expand the funds needed to ensure that all children have the same opportunities as children attending property-rich schools. Justice in public education—the distribution of opportunity for all children and not just for some— can only be achieved systemically and with the full support of the Governor and Commissioner of Education.


Retirees Are Declaring Bankruptcy at Record Rates… and the NYTimes Overlooks the Main Reason

August 6, 2018 Leave a comment

NYTimes reporter Tara Siegel Bernard’s article in today’s newspaper reports on a disturbing phenomenon: a marked increase in the number of retirees who are filing for bankruptcy. Why? The bottom line for the Times seems to be that the retirees failed to set aside enough for retirement. But the underlying reason is the adoption of shareholder primacy by corporations and, unwittingly, the public who now believes that there is a legal requirement that corporations reward shareholders first and foremost. There is no such legal mandate: it is a mental construct promoted by the libertarian capitalists who want to require every individual to look out for themselves. And the notion of fending for oneself appeals to younger employees who see deductions from their paychecks for things like health insurance, retirement, and especially taxes as confiscatory and stripping them of their liberty. In a society and culture where wisdom and forethought is valued, where the sense of community is more important than rugged individualism, and voters learn from the experience of previous generations, deferred gratification is emphasized and investing in insurances and retirement is important. In a society where intuition and impulse are valued, individualism is more important than community, and immediate rewards are emphasized, investing in the future is seen as foolish.

For readers (and voters) who decry paying for the benefits and pensions of public employees forget, the logic behind the collective bargaining agreements reached in the 1960s and early 1970s was “if the private sector provides it’s employees with pensions, health benefits, life insurance, and time off for training, why shouldn’t public sector employees have the same benefit package?”

There was a time when businesses provided ALL their employees with defined benefit pensions, provided health benefits and life insurance to ALL their employees, and made certain that ALL their employees, from those entering the workforce to those on the brink of retirement, received timely training … but that was before the notion of shareholder primacy took hold in the 1970s.

These bankruptcies are the consequence of adopting the idea that the bottom line that rewards shareholders is more important than the well-being of employees… and as this article illustrates it impacts employees at all levels of our society, except, maybe, those who chose to enter public service and those who are major shareholders.

Developments like the increase in bankruptcies among the older generation should compel us to take a step back and examine the mental formations that created this situation, and have a reasoned and dispassionate debate about the consequences of the policies that led us here. I, for one, believe that the true measure of our society is how we treat those who are most disadvantaged— including those who “failed to plan for the future” or those who suffered setbacks that could have happened to me as easily as it happened to them. And I DO realize that the one of the consequences of this position is that I may have to pay higher taxes… and if that is the case, so be it.

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Repeal of Obama Era Rule Penalizing Profiteering Post-Secondary Schools has $5,000,000,000 Price Tag

August 1, 2018 Leave a comment

As the headline for this post indicates, the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate the “gainful employment” metric for post-secondary education will come at a steep cost to taxpayers… something that at one time would be problematic for the GOP. Here’s Politico’s report on the issue from yesterday:

DEVOS’ ROLLBACK OF ‘GAINFUL’ RULE WILL COST BILLIONS, EDUCATION DEPARTMENT PROJECTS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan to eliminate an Obama-era rule aimed at curbing abuses by for-profit colleges is expected to cost taxpayers nearly $5 billion, according to an Education Department analysis obtained by POLITICO.

DeVos in the coming weeks is expected to propose rescinding the “gainful employment” regulation that governs federal funding of for-profit schools and other career colleges. The policy, which cuts off aid to low-performing programs, was a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s crackdown on for-profit education companies.

The Trump administration, as part of a required budgetary analysis of its plan, has estimated that eliminating the rule will cost $4.7 billion over the next decade, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO.

The bulk of the increased cost is driven by an expected uptick in students using Pell grants to enroll in college programs that would have otherwise failed — or been on the verge of failing — under the Obama-era standards. Department officials also expect an increase in federal student loans to flow to for-profit schools following the elimination of the rule, according to the analysis.

On second thought, laying this kind of support for deregulation of profiteering education enterprises shouldn’t be associated with the Trump administration. Several states led by GOP Governors (most notably Ohio and Pennsylvania) and neoliberal Democrats (I’m looking at you, Andrew Cuomo) have given the green light to disreputable on-line enterprises and/or “reformers” whose track records are based on the exclusion of needy students and profits depend on the provision of free space.

But Ms. DeVos isn’t stopping her efforts to undo the student-consumer protection guidelines set forth by the Obama administration. Later in yesterday’s post Politico reported on the following changes on the horizon:

DEVOS PUTS MORE HIGHER ED RULEMAKING ON THE AGENDA: The Education Department plans to form a rulemaking committee in January to begin negotiations over revisions to federal rules on college accreditation and non-traditional education providers, as well as ways to ease restrictions on some federal funding of religious colleges. It’s part of the administration’s plans to overhaul a wide range of federal regulations governing higher education, about which the department unveiled new details this week.

The plan also includes further rollbacks of Obama-era policies. The department plans to rewrite “state authorization” rules that were aimed at prodding states to bolster their oversight of colleges. Officials are also considering changes to the federal definition of a “credit hour,” which the Obama administration said was needed to prevent colleges from awarding more credits and therefore receiving more financial aid dollars than they deserved.

Other proposals would upend long-standing federal regulations. The Trump administration said, for example, it plans to rewrite the federal requirement that online courses provide “regular and substantive interaction” between students and the instructor in order to receive funding. Michael has the full rundown.

If the Department of Education was the only agency being de-regulated it MIGHT be possible for a newly elected President and newly appointed agency head to undo the damage being done to consumers and citizens… but the scope of deregulation underway in THIS administration is breathtaking!

The Anti-Government Stance of BOTH Parties is Undercutting Idealism and Democracy

July 30, 2018 Comments off

A post yesterday by Diane Ravitch based on a NY Daily News op ed piece by progressive politician Mark Green got me thinking about the unrolling similarities between the tow political parties. In his op ed, Mr. Green calls on the Democratic party to embrace the fiery emotional language used by President Trump to motivate it’s own voters to turn out and support the many positions have widespread support:

On most major issues — guns, choice, Dreamers, immigration, the tax code, climate, “privatization” of Social Security — polling indicates that the party in exile does represent a progressive majority, indeed at times a super-majority, which is why Trump is at a record low in modern polling for a President at this point — with his approval rating underwater by 20 points, according to Quinnipiac.

“Still, are Democrats properly exploiting his weaknesses and their advantages? Not nearly enough. Where, for example, are those voices that understand the power of metaphor and narrative to keep Trump in the hole he dug for himself?

“Words, images and concepts are what shape and win political debates: like William Jennings Bryan saying “Americans won’t be crucified on a cross of gold” (well, he lost on that one), Teddy Roosevelt’s “malefactors of great wealth,” Barack Obama’s “Yes we can,” Ronald Reagan’s (albeit composite) “welfare queen”; Occupy’s “We are the 99%.”

“The Democratic Party, however, continues to fight the war with deeply outmoded rhetorical weaponry.

After reading this section of the article, I came to the conclusion that Mark Green missed two major points in his analysis, and that compelled me to leave this comment:

Mark Green overlooked former President Reagan’s phrase that captured the hearts and minds of our country, a phrase he delivered derisively, and a phrase that resonates with politicians in both parties: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”. THAT phrase, more than any other, captures the disdain voters have for taxes, the disdain for those of us who worked in the public sector, and the disdain for those of us who got an education with the hopes we could help others less fortunate. The neo-liberals who wanted to “Reinvent Government” believed that by introducing the profit motive of the marketplace into operating government agencies they could have it both ways: they could assume control the government without espousing the value of government employees and the value of the government itself.

As it stands now, neither party is trying to convince voters that those who work for the government ARE here to help them, that their taxes are not confiscatory, that their best interests are served when they help the less fortunate, that there are thousands of individuals who want to help make our country better and do not aspire to make a million dollars and– therefore– are not motivated by “merit pay”, and that government regulations are not “red tape” but ultimately serve their interest.

Since neither party is promoting the value of government or the idealism that lured millions to work to improve the lives of children and citizens through government service, it is not surprising that our voting rates are embarrassingly low and our sense of democracy is wavering.

It is clear that the GOP has embraced the social Darwinism of its libertarian wing. It is unclear what the DNC intends to offer as an antidote. Mr. Green IS right, though, that the pablum offered by the DNC is not going to motivate anyone to vote FOR them. Democrats will not “rhetorically rise to (the) historic challenge” posed by Mr. Trump until they offer a full-throated rebuttal to the notion that government is the problem.

New Hampshire’s Seemingly Intractable Reliance on Property Tax MAY Be Challenged Yet Again

July 25, 2018 Comments off

The Advancing New Hampshire Public Education (ANHPE) Blog directed most of its attention last year to defeating some deplorable legislation that would have directed scarce state funding toward parochial schools and home schoolers. While that legislation was stymied, funding for poverty-stricken NH public school districts diminished and, consequently, inequities widened. With the 2018 elections on the horizon ANHPE began its effort to raise awareness of the widening gap between property rich and property poor districts with two blog posts: one drawing heavily from a Concord Monitor editorial decrying the persistent inequities in the state; another describing a series of community forums that will be held around the state to raise awareness of how the reliance on property taxes undercuts equitable opportunity. The second post offered this description of a presentation by State Executive Board member, Andru Volinsky, who offered legal assistance in the funding lawsuit that was denied in favor of property poor districts two decades ago:

Volinsky began his presentation using a tall, white plastic staff to illustrate the central problem: the property tax.

Because schools rely on local property taxes for the bulk of their funding, taxes in towns lucky enough to border a lake, or to host a ski mountain, he said, can raise large amounts of money at a very low tax rate. Property-poor communities, meanwhile, tax their residents at a much higher rate – but raise less money for their schools.

Roughly in the middle of the staff, a black bar indicated the average “equalized valuation per pupil” for New Hampshire – that’s how much money a town has, on average, in taxable property per student.

Bars on the staff indicating the equalized valuation in Berlin, Claremont and Pittsfield were only about as high as Volinsky’s waist. Portsmouth’s mark on the staff, on the other hand, cleared Volinsky’s head by several feet.

The bottom line in this presentation is this: children lucky enough to be born into a family who resides in an affluent town will have twice as much spent on them as unlucky children born into poverty…. and in New Hampshire, as in every other state in the district, “failing” schools are inevitably located in property poor districts who cannot provide the same level of services as the “lucky” districts. In the democracy envisioned by our founders, one’s birth status was not supposed to have any bearing on economic success… but in our oligarchic economy, if one is born into an unlucky district they have higher mountains to climb than those born into affluence.

Universal Broadband Required to Improve and Equalize Opportunity in Vermont

July 23, 2018 Comments off

The following is testimony I provided to a meeting convened by the Green Mountain Economic Development Commission that involved ISP providers, Governor Scott, and government officials from the State of Vermont who are interested in workforce preparation.  

In December 2013, the Vermont State Board of Education unanimously approved the Education Quality Standards, an updated set of rules designed to ensure that “…all Vermont children will be afforded educational opportunities that are substantially equal in quality…”.

Four years later, in November 2017, the State Board unanimously adopted the International Standards for Technology Education (ISTE), which outline “…what all Vermont students should know and be able to do with respect to information technology.”Upon their adoption, State Board of Education Chair Krista Huling said: “These standards also strengthen Vermont’s commitment to citizenship in the digital age at a time when civic engagement at all levels are key to strengthening our democracy.”

As one who has consulted in school districts in eastern Vermont ranging from Canaan to Halifax, I applaud the high-minded ideals set forth in both the Education Quality Standards and the ISTE standards. Based on my experience working with rural districts in Essex, Orleans, Orange, and Windham Counties, achieving those goals will require a marked increase in the availability of high speed internet in schools. Moreover, knowing the financial challenges placed on Vermont school districts, such an increase can only happen with a targeted increase in technology funding from sources outside of district budgets. The FCC’s bandwidth goals for 2017-18 is to have at least I Mbps per student in every school in our country. This speed is required to ensure a media rich environment for students in the schools, an environment that will enable them to do browsing, on-line testing, video collaboration, and streaming of remote instruction like Khan Academy.

In order for technology to fulfill its ultimate promise, these FCC goals for schoolsshould also apply to allresidents. If we expect students to complete homework that involves internet research, to receive asynchronous remote instruction at home, or to work on projects with classmates when they are outside of school, they need to have high speed internet access at home. If we expect teachers to be capable of using all of the technology tools available today outside of school, they need to have high speed internet at home. Most importantly, if we expect that “…all Vermont children will be afforded educational opportunities that are substantially equal in quality” we cannot continue to limit high speed internet access to many of our students. As a map prepared by Broadbandnow illustrates (see, a substantial minority of residents in Vermont do not have access to the kind of internet services needed in order to experience the “media rich” environment the FCC hopes to achieve in this current school year. These marked disparities in high speed internet services available to students will widen the achievement gap between students who reside in communities with broadband and those students residing in communities where no high speed internet is available.

Today, I expect that you will hear direct testimony on how disparities in internet access affect students, teachers, and parents across Vermont. I also expect that you will hear ideas from ISP providers on the steps the State can take to help accelerate the provision of high speed internet access across the state. For the sake of rural and low-income students across the state, I urge you to take the actions recommended in this session.