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Posts Tagged ‘vicious cycle of poverty’

Teacher and Para-Professional Shortages in Schools Mirror Those in Private Sector… and the Reasons for the Shortages Do As Well

August 29, 2021 Comments off

Our local newspaper’s front page features an article by the local business writer with the headline “Schools Facing Educator Shortage”. The article describes the problems confronting local school districts who are opening anew after a wide range of modified virtual and in-person offerings last year resulted in a highly stressful year for everyone associated with public education. What is most noteworthy is that school districts are facing a double whammy: in our region it seems that enrollments are rising due to move-ups from other parts of the country AND the fact that children who opted out of in-person programs are returning as well. That combined with wages for para-professionals that are lower than that paid to substitute teachers makes hiring problematic.

The article quotes several administrators and teachers on the possible rationale for the shortage, which include burnout that led to early retirements, the above-referenced wage differentials, and the fact that those entering education from other fields are offset by those leaving education for other work, especially at the paraprofessional level.

Perversely, the problem of finding paraprofessionals MAY work itself out when rent subsidies and stimulus checks disappear. But if prospective hires for those positions are drawn from a pool of workers who are forced back to work due to economic circumstances, will those new hires be motivated? In an ideal world, employers would be forced to address labor shortages by raising wages… but in our desire to return to our pre-pandemic world, employers will be draw from a pool of desperate workers trying to keep their heads above water.

Wall Street Pockets Loans Money, Pockets Fees, Gets a Tax Break. Schools Spend More on Debt Service than Textbooks. What is Wrong With This Picture?

August 28, 2021 Comments off

The headline of this post captures the essence of this NYTimes article by Eleni Shirmer, a research associate with The Future of Finance Initiative at U.C.L.A.’s Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, an article that opens with a description of the financing methods forced upon the Philadelphia School district and contains some stunning national data like this:

In 2012, state and local governments across the country paid an estimated $3.8 billion just in bond issuance fees — more than twice the amount used to fund pre-K education across New York State in 2014. In 2021, the Philadelphia School District paid $311.5 million to service its debt. More than half — $162 million — went to Wall Street creditors as interest payments.

The problem is only getting bigger. In 2019, K-12 school debt across the country nearly reached $500 billion, a 118 percent increase from 2002.

The bottom line?

As long as bond markets finance so many of our country’s public schools, dreams of education equality will remain thwarted. The bloodless logic of credit and debt markets ensures that those with the least pay the most.

Imagine if we funded schools through interest-free loans from our own central bank or by taxing rich residents and corporations, instead of borrowing from them and paying for the privilege of using their money. “We really can do this without Wall Street,” ACRE’s deputy research director, Britt Alston, told me. “We have the tools. Our public systems, while flawed, have the ability to serve our communities beyond what Wall Street could ever imagine.”

The money exists to transform this corrosive financial architecture; does the political will?

As one who prepared budgets for public school systems for nearly three decades I doubt that we do. In order to REALLY realize the dreams of education equality a complete overhaul of the STATE taxing systems would be needed, an overhaul that would eliminate over-reliance on property taxes and (gasp) require the redistribution of broad-based tax revenues. Early in my career in New Hampshire, I thought that such a transformation in that state was plausible and possible…. over 30 years later, I’m discouraged.

All the News Just Repeats Itself… Like Some Forgotten Dream… That We’ve All Seen

August 13, 2021 Comments off

This paraphrase from John Prine’s “Hello in There” captures my feelings when I read articles like Common Dream’s Brett Wilkins’ on how the Koch network has infiltrated public education and undercut its mission and its funding. I’ve been writing this blog for nearly ten years and in that time frame hoped that as the general public became aware of how power hungry, anti-democratic, and avaricious billionaires like the Koch brothers hoped to take over public education and destroy the opportunity for children born into poverty that things might change. Alas, the findings in the study Mr. Wilkins writes about are no different now than they would have been 10 years ago… and until there is some kind of awakening we will continue to see the erosion of public education as it is privatized.