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Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

Bail Out the States NOW

April 20, 2020 Comments off

I have read several articles about budget shortfalls for FY 2020 and the cuts states are facing in order to balance their budgets for the current year. And as FY 2021 unfolds in states, towns, and school districts it is clear that the revenue streams assumed when budgets were formulated in February are unlikely to materialize as the coming fiscal year unfolds. It doesn’t take a Ph.D in economics to see that a slow motion train wreck will occur unless States get a revenue infusion and it doesn’t require a background in political science to see that safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that the money is spent wisely. And you don’t need to have 29 years of experience as a school superintendent to see who will suffer the most if this doesn’t happen: it will be the children in those districts with the smallest tax bases, the ones who have never full recovered from the 2008 crash, the ones where voters are more and more frustrated with the lack of services they receive from the government.

The Federal Government needs to begin bailing out State governments now. For decades the “trickle down” throes of economics has been accompanied by a trickle down of responsibility and costs. Over time, the states have absorbed more and more responsibilities and gotten less and less revenue from the federal government. At the same time, Governors— particularly GOP governors— have run on tax-cutting platforms that incorporate the “trickle down” theories shifting an increasing amount of responsibilities to local governments. The chickens came home to roost after 2008 when states had to tighten their belts and many communities could not raise their taxes enough to sustain their services. Yes, small businesses need to be bailed and and Yes, individuals need stipends to tide them over. But it should be abundantly clear to federal legislators that States, too, need to be helped. And states, in turn, need to allocate the resources they get to the communities who are still reeling from the housing meltdown in 2008.

If state’s are NOT helped, they will be forced to make some very tough decisions as we are witnessing in reading the local accounts of New Hampshire and Vermont. Both states are drawing on their “rainy day” funds to get through this year and Vermont, which does a better job of thinking ahead, is contemplating the closure of its colleges and vocational schools to avoid revenue shortfalls. The 2021 revenues are very unlikely to materialize and when school districts and state agencies begin planning for 2022 they are going to face serious revenue shortfalls.

the time is now to address this problem by infusing billions of dollars to states… to wait will be disastrous.

Punished Profiteers Qualify for Stimulus Funds

April 9, 2020 Comments off

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As reported in this Market Watch blog post, at least 23 previously punished for profit schools will be receiving millions from the 2+ trillion dollar CARES act designed to keep small businesses and institutions afloat. This article offers an even-handed description of the issue, noting that for profit schools led the way in virtual learning and also noting that the previous stimulus plan had provisions that effectively launched many of the schools that ultimately became “bad actors” by helping unqualified students secure loans for programs that could not provide the results promised by the college.

This just in: hastily crafted bills with no oversight provisions will yield bad results. It’s no surprise that these kinds of glitches occur when legislators act quickly. Indeed, I would not be surprised to learn that the section of CARES dealing with the allocation of funds for colleges and universities was written by the lobbyists for the profiteers.

The Lack of Sick Leave One Consequence of the Demise of Unions

March 15, 2020 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes includes an editorial titled “The Companies Putting Profits Ahead of Public Health”. Disgustingly and disgracefully fast food companies are the biggest culprits when it comes to insisting that its employees come to work even if their ill, a phenomenon that led to this finding:

Most American restaurants do not offer paid sick leave. Workers who fall sick face a simple choice: Work and get paid or stay home and get stiffed. Not surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that fully 20 percent of food service workers had come to work at least once in the previous year “while sick with vomiting or diarrhea.”

…Companies have long sought to obscure the details of their sick leave policies, but The Times has obtained new data from The Shift Project, a nationwide survey of tens of thousands of retail workers conducted by the sociologists Daniel Schneider of the University of California, Berkeley; and Kristen Harknett of the University of California, San Francisco. While the federal government reports aggregate data on benefits, the Shift Project data — from its most recent surveys in 2018 and 2019 — provides a look at the benefits offered by individual corporations, published here for the first time. This makes it possible to name names.

The vast majority of workers at large restaurant chains report they do not get paid sick leave, except in the minority of states and cities where it is required by law. The list of malefactors includes the giants of fast food, like McDonald’s, Subway and Chick-fil-A, as well as sit-down restaurants like Cracker Barrel, Outback Steakhouse and the Cheesecake Factory.

And it’s not just restaurants. The data also shows most workers at the supermarket chains Wegmans, Kroger, Meijer and Giant Eagle reported that they did not get paid sick leave.

The lack of sick leave is not only a strain on the workers who need to show up when they are not feeling well, it exacerbates the spread of epidemics.

…Companies that do not pay sick workers to stay home are endangering their workers, their customers and the health of the broader public. Studies show that paying for sick employees to stay home significantly reduces the spread of the seasonal flu. There’s every reason to think it would help to check the new coronavirus, too.

How did it get this way? The NYTimes editorial doesn’t mention it explicitly, but I know from personal experience as a part-time worker and a former school Superintendent that the lack of unions representing employees plays a major role in this change-for-the worse.

Back in the late 1960s I worked as a part-time cashier at Dale’s Supermarket in Philadelphia. At the time I initially bemoaned the union dues deducted from my paycheck but came to understand that the contract provided sick leave, insurance (if I opted for it), and assurances that scheduling would be done a week in advance using a seniority-based algorithm. Dales eventually went out of business, in part because competitors paid lower wages to non-union at-will employees who got none of those benefits. The government has made it increasingly difficult for employees to organize and has done nothing to guarantee voters a living wage, health insurance, sick leave, or predictable work schedules. The result is a boatload of folks who are one paycheck away from disaster and a small number of plutocrats who wrote the rulebooks to put them there. Those who fall off the precipice when their part-time hours are cut will be wanting a safety net. Here’s hoping the libertarian legislators who wrote the rules since the Reagan administration repair the ones they took away in the name of the magic of the free market.

As a public school administrator for 35 years, 32 of which I headed or participated in negotiations with labor unions, I witnessed the erosion of the influence of unions– especially in the non-certified staff areas. While teachers unions maintained their foothold in collective bargaining, school districts increasingly outsourced things like food services, custodial services, and transportation to the private sector. This lowered the operating budgets of school districts, making the “shareholder-taxpayers” happy, but diminished the wages and eroded the working conditions of those who formerly worked for the school district. With every successive recession that occurred from 1980, when I began my career as a Superintendent, through 2011 when I retired, more and more services were “outsourced” which meant fewer and fewer “public” employees were governed by the union contracts.

This shedding of union employees in the public sector mirrored what was taking place in the economy at large: it benefitted those who could afford homes and pay property taxes and hurt those who earned the least and were most likely to live in rental properties or in “affordable” homes.

MAYBE one positive effect of the Covid-19 outbreak will be a collective dawning that our system as it is set up now benefits fewer and fewer individuals and those who are benefitting do so at the expense of everyone else. My fear is that the survival-of-the-fittest mentality that undergirds our current system will prevail and the current stratified arrangement we have in place today will become even more baked into our economic system than ever.

Science Doesn’t Take Sides… But Politicians DO… and the GOP is Taking the Side Against Science

March 11, 2020 Comments off

I read a recent summary of a CBS Report suggesting that legislators across the country have declared a “War on Science”. As the term “War” suggests, the legislators are viewing science as something that requires one can take sides on, the same way it is possible to take sides on, say, welfare policy. Here are the paragraphs that outline the issue CBS news is tackling:

According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), in 2019 over a dozen bills were introduced in 10 states. One proposed bill in Connecticut, introduced by Republican John Piscopo, has the specific goal of eliminating climate change teaching entirely from the science standards the state adopted in 2015. Most of the other bills cast a wider net, aiming to require teaching “both sides” of an argument with equal weight, even if one does not have the support of the scientific community behind it.

“The bills vary, but they generally have something to the effect of teachers should be encouraged to teach both sides of controversial areas of science, or teachers should be encouraged to teach critical thinking around controversial areas of science,” said Ann Reid, executive director of NCSE. “Lately, the most recent iteration of this kind of bill, is teachers should have academic freedom to teach topics as they see fit.

“So, these bills very rarely pass. But I do think the fact that they’re introduced at all, that they end up in the newspapers, that that people get interviewed about them, and then it’s presented as a ‘both sides’ kind of issue,that can be hard for teachers. That can make it more challenging for them to teach these topics.”

We’ve witnessed this issue before in an area of science that is very clear cut and settled: evolution. But the widespread politicization of science has run rampant thanks in large measure to lobbyists who stand to lose billions if scientific finds are applied to their corporations. The easiest example is the tobacco industry, who for decades tried to promote the idea that smoking was not a health hazard. In a more subtle and insidious fashion the petroleum industry has promoted the idea that scientific conclusions regarding global warming are open to question. The difference between global warming and tobacco, though, is huge. Tobacco use only impacts those who choose to buy tobacco products. Global warming, as the name indicates, will have a universal, global impact.

Ms. Reid is accurate in her assessment of the impact of the media’s coverage, which reinforces the notion that climate science is UN-settled. And who writes these bills that are proposed in various State legislatures? Two guesses— and the first one doesn’t count.

 

Trump Seeks to Cut Bi-Partisan ESSA, Mental Health, Community Based Schools

February 27, 2020 Comments off

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Linda Darling-Hammond describes the proposed cuts to the federal Education budget, cuts that would decimate ESSA, one of the few pieces of bipartisan legislation that has passed in the past decade. The program has many elements I’ve questioned in this blog… but it also featured more funding for arts, PE, and mental health and a far too small amount for community based programs that provide safety nets… programs that are proven to be effective for children raised in poverty. Inevitably the cuts to ESSA will be restored but the other funds will have to be restored by the next administration… and the next generation will pay the price.

instagram-Worthy School Lunches Will Soon Disappear

February 10, 2020 Comments off

An op ed article in today’s NYTimes made me sad. Written by Jennifer Gaddis, an expert on school lunch policy, it featured four beautiful school lunches from this year with the caption reading: “Lunch options for students at Guerrero Thompson Elementary School in Austin, Texas. As i began reading the article, which was a plea for parents to buy school lunch for their children in the name of nutrition, I was astonished to think that an expert on school lunch policy missed the news of a few weeks ago regarding the change in Federal nutrition standards. But near the end of the article, my faith in Ms. Gaddis’ expertise was restored:

The Trump administration isn’t much help (in encouraging parents to buy lunches for nutritional purposes). According to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, providing schools with the flexibility to plan menus that appeal to students’ taste preferences is a way to attract more paying customers to the federal program and reduce food waste. Mr. Purdue has pursued this strategy for making school lunch “great again.”

In practice, this has meant enacting policies that loosen restrictions on the amount of sodium, flavored milk and refined grains that can be served in school meals. The department’s own data shows that participation in the national lunch program is higher in cafeterias that serve healthier meals, yet the administration’s latest proposal, released last month, would allow schools to serve more french fries and fewer green vegetables.

And why is this rollback happening if lunch participation figures are on the increase? Because the GOP believes the marketplace should determine what foods should be available to children, not “the government”. Left to their own devices, children will naturally choose fatty, sweet, and salty foods over ones that are nutritious— and presumably the ledgers on the revenue side of the school lunch budgets will increase. Those instagram-worthy school lunches pictured in the article? They will vanish in September 2020 to be replaced by the burgers and fries. MAGA in this case means Make America Greasy Again….

Pennsylvania’s Horrible Charter Law May Finally Be Repealed

February 9, 2020 Comments off

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This Forbes article describes the absolutely horrific charter school law that enriched fly-by-night on-line businesses while stealing millions from local public schools. On the books for 20 years thanks to GOP leadership in the Statehouse and/or legislature it now appears that the Democratic Governor has the votes needed to eliminate the law. Good riddance!