Posts Tagged ‘vicious cycle of poverty’

NYTimes Report on Mike Pence’s Education Record is Appalling!

July 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Kate Zernicke’s article in todays NYTimes describing Mike Pence’s record as a Governor is appallingly inaccurate and unfair. Misleadingly titled “Mike Pence’s Record on Education is One of Turmoil and Mixed Results”, the article describes only turmoil and no positive results for children whatsoever, unless you count the passage of a $15 million dollar preschool program serving a handful of poor children in five counties as “positive”. Worse, instead of seeking quotes from the large number of voters who supported Glenda Ritz, the “anti-reform” candidate who defeated Tony Bennett, his favored candidate for State Superintendent, the Times got quotes from Joy Pullmann, described as “ education research fellow with the libertarian Heartland Institute“, an organization funded by anti-environmentalists who staunchly oppose public funding for anything and favor Milton Friedman’s magical market solutions for everything. Thus, instead of criticisms of how poorly charters perform, how Mr. Bennett was involved in a financial scandal involving charter schools, and how students raised in poverty are woefully underserved in Indiana readers got complaints about “the fact” that charters are over-regulated because they are required to administer the same tests as public schools, that insufficient public funds are going into the pockets of profiteers and religiously affiliated schools, and that he ultimately accepted the “strings” attached to an $80,000,000 federal grant that would nearly quadruple the funding for pre-school.

Pence’s policies, which are those of the ultra-right reformers, failed children attending public schools in the state pushing more and more middle class students out and starving the poor children who remained. To state otherwise is misleading and dishonest… but since the Times seems to have bought into the basic premise of the “soft reformers” like those endorsed by the presumptive Democrat candidate, they seem reluctant to point out where the privatization “solution” offered by reformers will ultimately lead.

And here’s whats even worse: Pence would be one of those who would champion ESSA since it gives more control to States and loosens the federal “strings” that require things like supplement-vs-supplant. As one who hoped for a robust debate on privatized deregulated schools and the federal role on education I am saddened to see that this will not be on either party’s agenda for the coming months… and even sadder for the children raised in poverty who’ll be neglected as a result.

Three Year Turnaround Timetable Unrealistic, Underscores Inherent Flaws in “Reform”

July 19, 2016 Leave a comment

An article by Kate Taylor in today’s NYTimes explicitly emphasized the fantastical notion that “failing schools” can be “turned around” in three years and implicitly highlighted the flaws in the “reformer’s” notion that grading schools will help school improvement.

The notion that a “failing school” can miraculously change in three years is rebutted by Megan Hester, a principal associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, an organization that is working closely with community organizations involved in the turnaround effort. She said,

“There’s no school improvement initiative in the country that shows long-term success that showed improvement within two or three years.”

Giving schools the time they might need… “is at odds with the political cycle and the political attention span.”

But politics is everything in NYC schools and since mayors are elected every four years and it took Mr. de Blasio a year to get his leadership team in place he needed to set a three year timetable. In my judgment, the mayor missed a teachable moment and picked the wrong battle at the outset. In his first months in office he could have taken on the wrongheaded idea that labelling schools as “failing” based on test scores when the effects of poverty account for nearly all the variance in those scores. He could have emphasized that when a school is labelled as “failing” it is difficult to recruit students and even more difficult to recruit teachers. And while the article points out these realities, it does not explicitly link the realities to the flawed idea of classifying the schools as “failing”, an idea the “reformers” love because it enables them to close the schools and replace them with for-profit charters that repackage the schools, draw engaged parents and hire new teachers, but make no difference whatsoever when it comes to test scores or graduation rates.

Improving schools and addressing the effects of poverty takes time and requires more resources. That combination is a poison pill for politicians… but it is the only medicine that will cure the ills of public education in urban areas. Until a politician is willing to explain this to voters and voters are willing to listen the vicious cycle of “failing” schools for children raised in poverty will continue.

Fordham Foundation Finds Flaws in Ohio’s Voucher Program

July 17, 2016 Leave a comment

Last week the Columbus Dispatch released a story that reported on the findings of a Fordham Foundation study:

…according to new study that found many students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state reading and math tests compared with their peers in public schools.

Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which commissioned the report and supports vouchers, called the results “disappointing,” but he cautioned that researchers looked at a limited number of students and raised questions that warrant further exploration…

In an effort to make lemonade out of the “disappointing” findings, Mr. Aldis offered this preposterous conclusion:

The report also found “modest” improvements in achievement among public school students who were eligible for a voucher but declined to use one, suggesting competition created by the program might have spurred improvements in the public schools.

“For years, voucher critics have argued that students staying in public schools were hurt by voucher programs,” Aldis said. “It’s heartening to see that healthy competition can improve achievement.”

“Healthy competition” had nothing to do with the disparity. In fact the “modest improvements” experienced by the students who remained in public schools is even more astonishing given that during the time the study was underway per pupil spending on public schools declined by 6.8%!

Maybe it’s time for the Fordham Foundation and other conservative think tanks to look at the results of voucher programs in urban areas and determine that they have made no difference whatsoever. At the same time, they might look at the impact supplemental services make in schools serving children raised in poverty and conclude that more spending in those areas might be worthwhile.

Charles Blow Speaks the Truth on Racism: We ALL Own the Problem Because We Refuse to Raise Taxes

July 14, 2016 Leave a comment

Charles Blow’s column in today’s NYTimes is the first one I’ve read that speaks the blunt truth about what is needed to address the racism in our culture.

Interpersonal racism, when it exists, is only one part of the equation. Another part is systemic, structurally racist policies, and yet another is class conflict between the police and the poorest, most dangerous communities they patrol, and between those who are better off and those who are not. That strand is nearly absent from this conversation altogether….

(T)his issue is about everyone. We have areas of concentrated poverty in our cities in part because of a long legacy of discriminatory urban policies. We don’t sufficiently address the effects of that legacy, in part because it is rooted in a myth of racial pathology and endemic poor choice. We choose to be blind to the policy choices our politicians have made — and that many have benefited from, while others suffered — while simultaneously holding firmly to the belief that all of our own successes and comforts are simply the result of our and our families’ drive, ambition and resourcefulness. Other people lack physical comforts because they lack our character strength.

Mr. Blow offers lengthy quotes from the police chiefs in Dallas where five police were assassinated protecting Black Lives Matter demonstrators and Baton Rouge where police murdered an unarmed black man. Both chiefs lamented the low pay their police forces receive and the increased expectations placed on the police because social services and schools are short-changed. Blow concludes with this indictment:

You may think that you are not a part of this, but you are wrong. That’s just a lie that your willful ignorance and purposeful blindness perpetuates, to protect your conscience. This is absolutely about you, many, many of you. There are more bloody hands than meet the eye.

Mr. Blow is absolutely right. We need more resources for under-resourced communities and under-resourced families. We need to dig into our pockets and pay more taxes. We need to stop being resentful of public employees who have benefits and pensions that the “free market” denies to most employees and ensure that all Americans get health care and social security. We need to ensure that everyone has the food, clothing, and shelter they need even if it reduces the profits of the corporations.

Unfortunately neither Presidential candidate is advocating this… one wants to build walls and one wants to have more “conversations”… We don’t need walls or talk: we need higher taxes at all levels.

The EPA’s Foot Dragging Yet Another Example of Systematic Oppression of the Voiceless

July 7, 2016 Leave a comment

The NYTimes editorial on the EPAs foot-dragging on the civil rights complaints regarding the location of refineries and hazardous waste disposal is yet another example of how governments take advantage of neighborhoods who have no voice because they have no wealth. The opening paragraphs of the editorial define the problem:

An oil refinery in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Beaumont, Tex. A hazardous waste disposal site in Chaves County, N.M., a largely low-income, largely Hispanic area. Two power plants in Pittsburg, Calif., where most of the residents are from minorities.

These facilities were the subject of civil rights complaints filed with the Environmental Protection Agency more than 10 years ago. The complainants in most of them are still waiting for decisions.

The editorial then explains how the appeal process is supposed to work… and how it really works:

Under the rules, the E.P.A. is supposed to decide within 20 days of a complaint whether to investigate, and to issue a preliminary finding within 180 days. But in practice, the agency takes an average of 350 days just to determine whether it will investigate, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity, and a number of investigations by the agency have been open for years. The office has dismissed or rejected more than 90 percent of the complaints it has received and has never made a formal finding of discrimination.

The siting of refineries and waste sites that pollute the air are classic NIMBY (not in my back yard) issues… but their siting in poor neighborhoods is no different and arguably less insidious that the siting of charter schools in poor neighborhoods. When an ugly and/or smelly enterprise is needed to sustain our life style that enterprise is seldom located in an affluent community. Refineries, large scale solar arrays, warehouses, and wind farms are placed in neighborhoods or communities who will not launch campaigns to fight against them forcing the further degradation of those areas.

Similarly, the promotion of charter schools as the solution to “failing public schools” occurs in poor neighborhoods. Well funded districts like Scarsdale and Bronxville are not the targets of privatization; underfunded schools in urban neighborhoods are. And the impact is more insidious than the installation of a refinery or waste disposal site because when charter schools are offered the funding for public schools is degraded and the engaged parents withdraw their children from the public schools to enroll in charters. The net effect is to co-opt the engaged parents at the expense of the voiceless and disengaged parents and to co-opt the civil rights element of funding by “solving” the problem of inequitable schooling through “the magic of the marketplace”.

62 years ago the Supreme Court put an end to separate but equal. The children today are still waiting to see the results of that decision…. and charter schools are NOT the solution.

Unpaid Internships Reinforce Inequality: Cooperative Work-Study Programs Do Not

July 5, 2016 Leave a comment

“Breaking a Cycle that Allows Privilege to go to Privilege”, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker’s op ed piece in today’s NYTimes, opens with this assertion:

TALENT is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. And while many Americans believe fervently and faithfully in expanding opportunity, America’s internship-industrial complex does just the opposite.

The article describes the current unpaid internship-industrial-complex as one that favors affluent students with connections over those who are outsiders since only affluent students can afford to work for free. As a result, “…some students take a summer job in food service to pay the bills, (while) others can afford to accept unpaid jobs at high-profile organizations, setting them on a more lucrative path.”

To address this problem, Mr. Walker suggests the government underwrite funding to promote an increase in paid internships. I have a different idea: the government should encourage businesses to expand cooperative work-study programs and increase the compensation for students already enrolled in those programs. As a co-op student at Drexel University in the late 1960s I was able to earn enough money in my six month stints as a trainee to cover my college costs and make a determination that I did not want to work in the private sector. The two major companies that I worked for also benefitted from my work experience. I was assigned tasks that would have otherwise been deferred or required the hiring of another fully compensated employee and had an opportunity to recruit me if they believed I possessed the talent and work ethic they valued in their employees.

Cooperative work-study programs would also shift the burden for job training back to the corporations where they once belonged. At the time I entered college, my father worked for a major corporation in their training department– a job that was outsourced by the time he retired presumably because it was deemed outside the scope of the corporation’s responsibility and/or did not “add value” to the bottom line of the company. The value of corporate training is intangible but important. When new employees, sales staff and managers were trained together within an organization it helped build esprit de corps and helped individuals develop an allegiance to the company they worked for. When profit is the sole driving force, however, issues like “esprit de corps” and “allegiance” are immaterial.

And it is the intense and relentless focus on the bottom line that is the problem here. Neither the Ford Motor Company nor Mobil Oil, the corporations I worked for, can “afford to pay” interns or co-op students enough to cover their college costs because these costs do nothing to help the bottom line of their institutions. Moreover if they spend valuable resources on co-op students like me who ultimately decide to work elsewhere they are effectively using scarce training resources for someone else’s benefit… and that “someone else” could well be a competitor!

Both Mr. Walker’s idea and mine are predicated on a shift in the corporate ethos away from profit toward the common good. In an ideal world this would be commonsensical. But for now we are trapped in a world where individual corporate profit is more important than the commonwealth.


One More Eye-Opening Statistic: Resegregation is Rampant

June 24, 2016 Leave a comment

The Federal report referenced in an earlier post taken from the Washington Post had some sobering data on segregation, which was the primary topic of Michele Chen’s post earlier this month in Nation, titled “Millenials Have Lived Through a Doubling of School Segregation” and subtitled “The Old Methods of Encouraging Integration in Our Schools are Failing”. In the article Ms. Chen summarizes the GAO’s findings on school segregations:

 Since 2001, according to a report by Government Accountability Office (GAO), the number of poor, racially segregated schools (with more than three-fourths of one race and high poverty rates) jumped from 9 percent to 16 percent. So today’s millennials have, from the time they entered first grade through high-school graduation, witnessed the degree of educational segregation more than double, from about 7,000 segregated schools to 15,000 nationwide. GAO criticized the Department of Education for being lax in using legal intervention in cases of extreme educational discrimination.

Chen offers three factors that have contributed to this re-segregation, factors that have been highlighted in previous posts on this blog:

School segregation is the product of these structural racial fissures, shaped over generations by financial redliningsocial disinvestment, and, lately, gentrification and displacement in city neighborhoods.

Ms. Chen the summarizes the “free market” solutions offered by conservatives and neoliberals, and, in doing so, underplays their ineffectiveness by failing to point out that these tools have been in play since 2001, the very time that segregation doubled:

In response to subtler patterns of “self-segregation,” some reformers advocate a private-sector driven approach, including promoting “school choice” to facilitate student transfers, or charter schools as alternatives to mainstream public education. But these measures often perpetuate exclusion. Charter schools can intensify racial isolation of students and potentially widen resource gaps between less-regulated charters and traditional public schools. Generally, school choice often spurs the “voluntary” siphoning of kids by race, class, and academic ability.

Ms. Chen DOES offer one idealized solution: voluntary integration through housing policy:

Integration requires targeted housing-policy interventions, argues PRRAC Executive Director Philip Tegeler. Plans for siting public housing, for example, should foster neighborhoods that are designed to promote equitable educational opportunities as well as affordable homes. “State and local housing and education agencies need to be talking to each other, and planning together to promote integration,” Tegeler says via e-mail.

In the meantime, Ms. Chen suggests that school “…should be a safe space to explore and dream, not a bureaucratic gauntlet that “prepares” children for a racist world in adulthood” like the no excuses schools that presumably help minority children navigate our culture.

She concludes with this:

But ultimately no community will voluntarily desegregate without firm intervention, and no intervention works without the community’s trust. It will take a lot of faith to persuade families that the system that did not live up to the promise of the civil-rights movement for an older generation, might still salvage it for the next. 

And it will take even more charity for families who DID benefit from a high quality education to open their doors to children raised in poverty.