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Posts Tagged ‘social mobility’

Cory Booker and Other “Pro-Choice” Neo-Liberals: PLEASE Speak Out Against this The Way You Have Against “Failing” Schools

November 19, 2019 Leave a comment

This Newsday investigative report reveals an appalling truth about “choice”: if a black family chooses to live in an affluent community on Long Island they will likely be steered away from those populated predominantly by whites. As I posted yesterday, Cory Booker and all Democratic Party Presidential candidates should be picking up the torch for integrated housing instead of picking up the torch for for-profit schools.

Cory Booker Should Learn the Lessons His Parents Taught Him… Not the Ones He Learned on Wall Street

November 18, 2019 Leave a comment

Cory Booker wrote an op ed article for today’s NYTimes… an article that is a screed of sorts reinforcing his insistence that charter schools and choice should be an acceptable solution to the problems of racism and persistent poverty. Taken as a whole, the article comes across as a scold for folks like me who see a Presidential candidate’s viability based on their willingness to take a clear and unequivocal stand against for charters overseen by unelected boards and the market-based concept the GOP calls “choice”. Mr. Booker’s essay was especially disappointing given the story he told about his parents’ experiences in trying to enroll him in a high quality school:

…When I was a baby, they fought to move our family into a community with well-funded public schools. These neighborhoods, especially in the 1960s and ’70s, were often in exclusively white neighborhoods. And because of the color of my parents’ skin, local real estate agents refused to sell my parents a home. My parents responded by enlisting the help of activists and volunteers who then set up a sting operation to demonstrate that our civil rights were being violated. Because of their activism we were eventually able to move into the town where I grew up.

There is a clear lesson Mr. Booker cold have learned from this experience: affluent communities that provide parents with “well-funded schools” need to open their doors to homebuyers of all races. Unfortunately, Mr. Booker DIDN’T learn this lesson from his parents. Instead he learned that there is money to be made if schools are privatized and those who see this are very happy to open their wallets to help someone like Mr. Booker get elected so long as he supports their ideas.

Here’s my bottom line: Charter schools and choice are no substitute for the infusion of funds needed to create equitable opportunities for children. Nor do they offer those raised in poverty to enroll their children in schools outside of their community. As mayor Cory Booker had no way to offer Newark parents a choice to attend “well funded schools” in those communities where local real estate agents refused to show his parents a home. As Mayor Cory Booker had no way to secure more state funding for his schools, funding needed to upgrade outdated facilities and secure the additional staffing needed to support the children raised in poverty. Under those circumstances, charters might be the only viable alternative available. Cory Booker isn’t running for Mayor. He’s running for President. As a candidate I would like to see Mr. Booker work on policies that make it possible and profitable for children of all races to live where they choose to live and to have rich and poor students have access to the same resources as the “well-funded” schools his parents fought for him to enroll in. Charter schools and choice are eye-wash policies that sidestep the real problems children of color and children raised in poverty face.

Networking with Mentors COULD Offer Opportunities for Equity

November 18, 2019 Leave a comment

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The kind of networking described in this article mirrors the kind of networking Ivan Illich envisioned in Deschooling Society. I’m glad to see technology being used for this kind of initiative.

A Fly in the Ointment for Choice Advocates Who Want to Promote Marketplace Panacea for Inequitable Public Schools

November 17, 2019 Leave a comment

For more than a decade the mainstream press and politicians have adopted the stance that if schools competed for students the same way as grocery store compete for customers the inequities that have plagued schools for decades would disappear completely. There is one city in America where this notion has been put the test… and that is New York City where over a decade ago Mayor Bloomberg launched a program to offer choice to all secondary schools in the city. Why White Parents Were at the Front of the Line for the School Tour, a recent NYTimes article by Liza Shapiro, describes one phenomenon that illustrates why the free-market-choice paradigm is no solution for the inequities among schools in the city. Having a grandson who just went through the grind of applying for high school, I observed that he had some decided benefits compared to some of this classmates.

First and foremost, my grandson had two fully engaged parents who were capable of grasping the byzantine application process, willing and able to do the research necessary to identify the schools that were the best match for him, and worked for employers whose work schedules made it possible for one or both of them to accompany him on the school tours that are a critical factor in determining whether or not he might get into the school of his choice.

Secondly, he is the kind of student who is not intimidated by standardized tests. I know from my experience as a building level administrator that many highly capable students do not perform well on standardized tests and, consequently, their scores do not accurately capture their capabilities in the classroom. In New York City the primary means of screening students for gifted and talented programs and “competitive” high schools is a single standardized test. According to the test, he wasn’t quite gifted and talented when he entered elementary school but his scores were sufficiently high to enable him to enter one of the “competitive” schools. Readers of this blog know that I do not believe that the use of a single test to make these determinations is highly objectionable and without merit… but advocates view them as an objective means of determining qualifications.

Third, he lived at the same address throughout his school career. In an article that appeared in October 2018, Elizabeth Shapiro reported that 1 in 10 students in New York City lived in temporary housing during the previous school year. The article noted that in 144 of the schools in the city, 1/3 or more of the students are homeless! My grandson was never homeless and his parents never moved during his years in public school.

Finally, as the information above implies, my grandson had no Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) growing up. According to research by Childtrends, at the national level 45% of his classmates have experienced at least one such experience and 10% of his classmates have experienced three or more. Child trends defines “Adverse Childhood Experiences” as: psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as exposure in the home to substance abuse, mental illness and suicide, incarceration, violence, physical and emotional neglect, parental separation and divorce, exposure to violence outside of the home, living in unsafe neighborhoods, homelessness, bullying, discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and experience of income insecurity. A child who has experienced ACES did not choose to have those experiences and the adversity he or she faced as a consequence of those ACES is not going to be offset by being able to choose a school to attend.

In short, had my grandson been raised in a different environment, one where he had an absent or disengaged parents, one where he was homeless or moved from year-to-year to different neighborhoods, or one where he had one or more ACEs, it is unlikely that his parents would not have been in line at the Beacon school. And if he was the kind of student who froze when he took a timed standardized test his parents might not have bothered to stand in line realizing his chances of getting into the school were slim. In short, the “choice solution” is no solution at all.

 

Flint, Michigan a Canary in the Coal Mine

November 7, 2019 Leave a comment

My stomach was churning after reading Erica Green’s article in today’s NYTimes about the Flint, Michigan public schools. The article describes how the school system has become overwhelmed with special education students as a result of the lead contamination in the public water supply, contamination that resulted when cost-cutting business-minded officials took over the governance of the town several years ago. Rather than address the root cause of some of the city’s problems, which would have cost millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades but also created scores of jobs, the State’s overseers decided to privatize the water system. The result was devastating to the residents— particularly the residents who lived in poverty.

As I noted in a comment I left, Michigan’s schools are the fruits of the GOP leadership in the state and a harbinger of where we are headed if we continue down the path of adopting the plan to privatize public services. This article fails to emphasize is that the “problem children” in Flint schools are the result of a political decision to privatize the provision of drinking water to avoid paying for needed infrastructure upgrades.”School choice”– a privatization scheme if there ever was one– segregates “problem children” from those who behave well and play by the rules— the children of parents who can afford to pay for water. The GOP seems happy to live in a world of privatization where the victims of cost-cutting are segregated from those who can pay their way out. This is what the GOP wants when they decry the government and offer free-market “choice” as the solution for clean water, for schools, for health care, for retirement.

Flint is a canary in a coal mine. We would pay heed.

 

The Upshot Reaches an Obvious But Important Conclusion About Advantaged vs. Disadvantaged Children

October 29, 2019 Comments off

The Upshot, an online publication of the NYTimes, features articles that use data analysis to draw conclusions about a wide range of topics. Earlier this week, it featured an article by Emily Oster describing the evidence on child-rearing practices that reaches an obvious but important conclusion about children raised in advantanged homes vs. this raised in dis-adavantaged homes: there is a huge disconnect between the kinds of choices advantaged parents face as compared to those dis-advantaged parents face. While affluent parents debate the merits of nutrition or various pre-school programs dis-advatanged parents are choosing between paying the heating bill versus paying for school lunch. These two paragraphs near the end of Ms. Oster’s article provide a good synopsis of this difference:

This disconnect between the debates parents have and the data on child outcomes has societal implications. Policies in the United States that focus on helping less well-off families and children have a much greater impact. Many families live with limited access to health coverage and are forced to make choices between, say, food and medicine. Children with lunch debt face “lunch shaming” in many districts — and some are denied the option of hot meals. There is good evidence that high-quality pre-K programs like Head Start can improve school readiness.

And yet many of our parenting discussions are driven by, effectively, elite concerns. What is the best organic formula? Food mills versus “baby-led weaning.” Breast-feeding for one year, or two? And, of course, preschool philosophy. These concerns occupy thoughts and Facebook discussions, but they also occupy the news media, at least some of the time.

But, as I am confident Ms. Oster knows, placing a “focus on helping less well-off families” will require those advantaged families to dig a little deeper in their pockets to pay higher taxes or, heaven forbid, asking shareholders to forego a small percentage of profits that they “earn” when the corporations they invest in save on taxes.

Because no one wants to run a campaign that suggests taxes will increase for those who are advantaged, glib “solutions” like school choice come into play. The idea behind “school choice” is that parents would be free to choose whatever school best meets the needs of their child in the same way that they can choose organic formula or breast-feeding or the preschool with the philosophy that matches theirs. The reality is that disadvantaged parents are so bogged down in making choices between food and medicine that they do not have the luxury to examine alternatives the same way as their more affluent colleagues. But the idea of “choices” is an easy and inexpensive salve to a complicated and costly reality.

Until we begin to face the fact that not every parent has the same range of choices and that some choices are limited due to circumstances well beyond the control of the disadvantaged parents themselves we will continue to reinforce the economic system we have an continue to widen the economic divisions in our country.

A few weeks ago, Bernie Sanders posed this question to a crowd of 26,000 who came to a rally for his candidacy:

Are you willing to fight for that person who you don’t even know as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?”

If we do not answer yes to that question, we are not our brother’s keeper… we are buying into the Social Darwinism that business is based on… we are denying the opportunity for advancement to huge swaths of our country.

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.