Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Segregation Worse than 30 Years Ago… and There is No Easy Fix

May 11, 2019 Leave a comment

Segregation is worse now than 30 years ago, especially in the north. And the problem will be very difficult to address by State or Federal laws given local zoning ordinances. Perversely the best chance to achieve integration MIGHT be gentrification where “urban homesteaders” move into economically distressed neighborhoods seeking low cost housing that is convenient to downtowns that are vibrant.


In an Ideal Universe, Brooklyn’s Community Driven Integration Plans Would go Viral

April 17, 2019 Comments off

Earlier this week, Chalkbeat blogger Christine Viega wrote a post describing how the grassroots efforts of parents in Brooklyn District 15 and Manhattan’s District 3 resulted in a new method of assigning students to middle schools, a method that breaks through the economic and racial segregation that currently exists. Titled “Two NYC districts embarked on middle school integration plans. Early results show they may be making a difference,” the article describes how a team of open minded parents on district advisory committees made a difference in the way fifth grade students are assigned to schools. And that difference?

Families in both districts apply to middle schools rather than being assigned a neighborhood school based on where they live.

Encompassing brownstone neighborhoods such as Park Slope and immigrant enclaves such as Sunset Park, District 15 undertook what is probably the most dramatic integration plan approved yet by the city. This year, the district’s 11 middle schools eliminated screens — selective admissions criteria that allow schools to pick students based on factors such as test scores, report card grades, and interviews.

Instead, families applied to the schools of their choice and admissions were determined by a lottery, with preference for 52 percent of seats given to students who come from low-income families, are learning English as a new language, or are homeless.The aim is for all schools in the district to enroll a similar share of needy students. Since race and ethnicity are tightly tied to economic status, the hope is that the schools will become more diverse on a range of measures.

A lottery system is imperfect, but it greatly increases the probability that the schools in Districts 3 and 15 will reflect the composition of students who reside in ALL the neighborhoods that comprise those districts and not be based on the racial and economic segregation that results from gentrification of some neighborhoods while others remain economically challenged and racially segregated.

The article details how this change is playing out in the more desirable schools where the percentage of free and reduced lunch students and the percentage of minority students are increasing based on the assignments thus far. From my perspective, it is heartening to see those parents who seek diversity being heard over those who advance arguments that “merit” should determine placement… especially when “merit” is based on “…factors such as test scores, report card grades, and interviews”. When all children might be assigned to ANY school, it changes the thinking about how funds should be spent, as underscored by a quote from a District 3 parent that concludes the post:

“I’m really happy that we are moving closer to the district average (in terms of racial and economic demographics), which is part of the goal, and that we’re seeing movement at the high demand schools, and at the lower demand schools — which is crucial,” said Kristen Berger, a member of the District 3 Community Education Council who pushed for the admissions changes. “The point of this complex system is that we’re not just building one great school but we’re working as a system across the district.”

That is the kind of spirit needed in the 35+ states where lawsuits are pending because of inequitable funding formulas. In NH, as in NYC, the point is not to build “one great school” but to build a system of great schools… and to accomplish that funding will need to be equitable.

Gap Between Billionaires and Everyone Else on Earth Widens… Welcome to the Plutocracy

January 22, 2019 Comments off

Davos is convening this week, and as a result outlets like Common Dreams are publishing posts highlighting studies that show how the gap between the extraordinarily wealthy and the rest of the world are widening… and the gap is unimaginably immense!

Paul Buchheit, a blogger whose writings are often featured here, wrote a post with the sobering title “Capitalist-Style Wealth Gap: 1 Tech Guy = 1,000,000 Teachers” The “one tech guy” is none other than Jeff Bezos, who recently compelled hundreds of American cities to throw incentives his way for a second HQ for Amazon, incentives whose impact is not even a factor in Mr. Buchheit’s equation! But, as Mr. Buchheit highlights in his article, Mr. Bezos is hardly the only tech titian who’s made a billion dollars… and hardly the only one who’s earned it on the backs of his employees and thanks to the largesse of government policies.

An unapologetic Democratic Socialist, Mr. Buchheit concludes his essay with this:

Why Do Billionaires Want Even More Money? 

Harvard studies indicate that very rich people are likely to base their life satisfaction on the question “Am I doing better than other people?” A survey of 2,000 millionaires and multi-millionaires, who were asked how much money would provide perfect happiness, found that “basically everyone says [they’d need] two or three times as much.” 

Another insight comes from the “ultimatum game,” in which one player divides a pot of money between himself and another, and the second player can choose whether or not to accept the offer. If the offer is rejected, neither player gets anything. Offers below 30 percent are usually rejected. Even at the cost of losing money himself, a player apparently can’t bear to see another person outgain him.

Capitalism is a perfect system for people like this, who care only about making more money than everyone else, and fail to grasp the importance of a healthy, working society. It’s a game of winner-take-all. As Charles Koch said, “I want my fair share and that’s all of it.”

Common Dreams staff writer Jake Johnson used a slightly different data point to title his article on the economic divide: “A ‘Fundamentally Inhuman’ Economy: 26 Billionaires Own as Much as World’s 3.8 Billion Poorest People“. Mr. Johnson drew his facts from a recent Oxfam report on world poverty, which the billionaires attending Davos report is on the decline but only because the poorest-of-the-poor are earning slightly more than in years past. The reason for the expanding divide? Cuts to cooperate taxes. And who’s winning? Paul O’Brien, vice president for policy and campaigns at Oxfam America, has the answer:

“The only winners in the race to the bottom on corporate tax are the wealthiest among us. Now is the time to work towards a new set of tax rules that work for the many, not the few,” he continued, echoing the popular slogans of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “We need economic, political, and tax reform to level the playing field if we want to restore prosperity and opportunity for all, including women, girls whose needs are so often overlooked.”

The endless wars in the Middle East, the political bickering over a needless wall in our country, and the perpetual coverage of our President’s tweets are distracting us from the real problems in our country and the world… and those problems are the result of a mindset that believes “my fair share is all of it”.

The Cato Institute’s Idea About Public Education: Public Funds Should be Used to Promote Religious Segregation

January 21, 2019 Comments off

In a recent op ed post that appeared in The Hill, Neal McCluskey, the director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom argues that public funds should be used to promote schools that segregate students based on their religion, a concept that flies in the face of our country’s longstanding desire to be a tolerant melting pot of racial and religious thinking and undercuts the democratic governance of public schools.

Mr. McCluskey’s article was spurred by the recent reports that Vice President Mike Pence’s wife had begun a teaching job at the Immanuel Christian School, “…which among many policies does not admit actively gay students and forbids employees from engaging in “homosexual or lesbian sexual  activity.” This is clearly consistent with Mr. Pence’s views on homosexuality and also aligns with the views of roughly 30% of the public according to polls cited by Mr. McCluskey. Moreover, it is difficult to condemn Mr. Pence’s wife for taking a job in a school whose values reflect her own.

But Mr. McCluskey believes that ANY parent who shares the belief that their children should be shielded from “homosexual and lesbian sexual activity” should be entitled to a voucher to attend a school that will do so, even if “such sexual activity” is lawful and widely accepted by most citizens. He goes so far as to assert that this segregation by religious belief is desirable because if avoids placing children in an uncomfortable environment and avoids public “battles” over a charged issue:

Indeed, choice systems were sometimes created specifically to end painful wars for public school supremacy among highly religious people like Karen Pence and folks with different beliefs.

Unfortunately, American choice programs only reach about 500,000 students, meaning millions of families have little recourse but to try to impose their will on the public schools.

You may hate Karen Pence’s beliefs and those of the school where she teaches. For your own protection — and a truly free society — you should want school choice for everyone. 

Part of public education’s “hidden agenda” is to resolve these “differences of belief” democratically at the local level and, failing that, through court decisions. As I read this on the MLK Holiday, I cannot help but observe that “choice systems were sometimes created specifically to end painful wars for public school supremacy”. Indeed, in the South the idea of vouchers was developed to sustain the separate but equal schools Brown v. Board of Education eliminated. Our country remains engaged in a “painful war” over race. We once believed that black students shouldn’t share the same water fountains as white students and in the south a “separate but equal” system of public education was created based on that belief. That same kind of belief persists today regarding gay. lesbian and transgender students. In order for a democracy to thrive we need to work though our differences of belief… not separate ourselves based on those differences.

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Has the NYTimes Seen the Light? Diane Ravitch Sees Progress in Op Ed by Miriam Pawel

January 16, 2019 Comments off

From my perspective, it is heartening to see the LA teachers strike making national news despite the headline grabbing government shutdown and the ongoing political bickering that accompanies it. But, as noted in earlier posts on this issue, the LA strike HAS national ramifications for it ISN’T about wages and working conditions in a lone district. The LA strike is about an ongoing battle within the Democratic Party about privatization of public services: between the “Reform/Reinventing Government” wing of the party that has embraced the idea that the private sector should take over more and more government functions and the “Roosevelt” wing of the party who sees a strong government as necessary to eliminate poverty and racism and eliminate the distortions in our economy that have emerged since Reagan proposed that “government is the problem”.

Thus far, the NYTimes has reliably taken the side of the “Reform/Reinventing Government” wing of the democrats, going so far as to reject countless articles on the ills of privatization from Diane Ravitch. But in a post yesterday, Ms. Ravitch pointed to an op ed article by fellow education historian Miriam Pawel as evidence that MAYBE the Times has seen the light! In “Whats Really at Stake in the Los Angeles Teachers Strike”, Ms. Pawel describes the recent history of public education in California in general and Los Angeles in particular, tracing the decline in public school quality to the passage of Proposition 13… and tracing the passage of THAT law to racism:

In the fall of 1978, after years of bitter battles to desegregate Los Angeles classrooms, 1,000 buses carried more than 40,000 students to new schools. Within six months, the nation’s second-largest school district lost 30,000 students, a good chunk of its white enrollment. The busing stopped; the divisions deepened.

Those racial fault lines had helped fuel the tax revolt that led to Proposition 13, the sweeping tax-cut measure that passed overwhelmingly in June 1978. The state lost more than a quarter of its total revenue.School districts’ ability to raise funds was crippled; their budgets shrank for the first time since the Depression. State government assumed control of allocating money to schools, which centralized decision-making in Sacramento.

Public education in California has never recovered, nowhere with more devastating impact than in Los Angeles, where a district now mostly low-income and Latino has failed generations of children most in need of help.The decades of frustration and impotence have boiled over in a strike with no clear endgame and huge long-term implications. The underlying question is: Can California ever have great public schools again?

As Ms. Pawel goes on to note, the problems whose roots can be found in Proposition 13 got even worse when deregulated charter schools were offered as the “solution”. These schools siphon funds away from public schools, which creates a cycle Ms. Powell describes in one paragraph:

It’s a vicious cycle: The more overcrowded and burdened the regular schools, the easier for charters to recruit students. The more students the district loses, the less money, and the worse its finances. The more the district gives charters space in traditional schools, the more overcrowded the regular classrooms.

And because billionaire Eli Broad spent millions to elect a pro-charter school board who, in turn, appointed a business-minded Superintendent with no experience, LA finds itself mired in a strike… a strike unlike any witnessed by a veteran mediator:

“In my 17 years working with labor unions, I have been called on to help settle countless bargaining disputes in mediation,” wrote Vern Gates, the union-appointed member of the fact-finding panel called in to help mediate the Los Angeles stalemate last month. “I have never seen an employer that was intent on its own demise.”

Like President Trump and the Tea Party wing who want to diminish the effectiveness of government, the LA school board seems to be intent on ruining what is left of the public school system in Los Angeles. Ms. Pawel concludes her op ed with this sobering description of what is at stake:

This strike comes at a pivotal moment for California schools, amid recent glimmers of hope. Demographic shifts have realigned those who vote with those who rely on public services like schools. Voters approved state tax increases to support education in 2012, and again in 2016. In the most recent election, 95 of 112 school bond issues passed, a total of over $15 billion. The revised state formula drives more money into districts with more low-income students and English learners. Total state school aid increased by $23 billion over the past five years, and Governor Newsom has proposed another increase.

If Los Angeles teachers can build on those gains, the victory will embolden others to push for more, just as teachers on the rainy picket lines this week draw inspiration from the successful #RedforEd movements around the country. The high stakes have drawn support from so many quarters, from the Rev. James Lawson, the 90-year-old civil rights icon, to a “Tacos for Teachers” campaign to fund food on the picket lines.

If this fight for public education in Los Angeles fails, it will consign the luster of California schools to an ever more distant memory.

From my perspective, it IS heartening that voters in California have supported tax increases to upgrade their schools and their legislature is sending more of those funds to economically deprived districts. But if those districts, like LA, use their funds to expand privatization Los Angeles schools will lose their luster forever… and the billionaires will prevail… the Winners WILL Take All.

Georgia Columnist Offers Good Synopsis of ALEC’s Anti-Democratic (and Racist) Ploys

January 7, 2019 Comments off

Marietta Daily Journal columnist Keven Foley recently offered an insightful op ed describing how elected officials supported by ALEC undercut public schools and, in doing so, undercut democracy and support racism.

In the column Mr. Foley provides background on how ALEC legislation offering tax credits drained resources away from public schools and how ALEC-like local legislation limited the taxes wealthy non-parent had to pay. He then described how the recent mid-terms brought two candidates into office as school board members and then quoted from a letter-to-the-editor written by an ALEC legislator and offered his reaction to their letter as follows:

“Two Grinches are coming to the Cobb Board of Education and their names are Charisse Davis and Jaha Howard,” began Mrs. Ehrhart. “My fervent warning to the good folks of Cobb-ville is to bolt the doors and guard their pocketbooks lest the BOE’s newest members attempt a late-night smash-and-grab in the name of educational funding … they too are looking to rob taxpayers through a millage rate increase while simultaneously snatching the rug of security out from under our seniors and stuffing it up the chimney. That’s a double punch to the gut.”

Are you picking up what Mrs. Ehrhart is putting down? “Smash-and-grab,” “rob,” “punch,” all words evoking crime and stoking fear. It doesn’t take a dog to understand the whistle she’s blowing.

Mr. Foley is right: it DOESN’T take a dog to understand the whistle she’s blowing…. though it might take an especially perceptive dog to understand the whistle ALEC is blowing when it seeks to privatize public schools… This old dog, though, isn’t fooled!


Washington Post Editorial Board Concludes that the Trump Administration Favors GUN Rights Over CIVIL Rights

January 1, 2019 Comments off

Our local newspaper often reprints editorials from the Washington Post, and a reprinted editorial earlier this week summarized the recent report from the Trump administration on gun violence in schools that I wrote about earlier in December… and it did so in a far more forceful and eloquent fashion. Like me, the editorial board of the Washington Post was appalled and perplexed about the Commission on School Violence’s recommendation that a federal policy that protects minority students from unfair discipline be scrapped. But the Post emphasized the disconnect between gun violence and the civil rights issue of uneven disciplinary treatment between students of color and white males:

Most school shootings are committed by white males. That didn’t stop the commission, which includes three other Cabinet members, from recommending a rollback of guidance issued in 2014 to curb racial disparities in discipline.Black students, starting from preschool, are more often disciplined in school and receive harsher punishments than white students for comparable offenses. The 2014 guidance — which was formally rescinded by DeVos and acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker — properly prodded schools to examine disproportionate discipline rates for black students and reminded schools they can be held accountable for violations of federal civil rights laws.

The guidance was non-binding and, as Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee who will become committee chair next year, rightly pointed out, had absolutely no connection to school shootings.

“Rather than confronting the role of guns in gun violence, the Trump administration blames school shootings on civil rights enforcement,” he said in a statement.

Why was this included in the Commission report while any mention of gun control was omitted? The answer can be found in the final word of the Washington Post’s editorial:

But using school shootings that have been perpetrated by angry young white men to justify punishing black schoolchildren disproportionately is particularly base.

And this recommendation, conflating civil rights with gun violence in schools, appeals to Mr. Trump’s base while overlooking the real problems that contribute to shootings in schools. The “distract and divide” strategy continues….

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