Archive

Posts Tagged ‘vicious cycle of poverty’

Are Charters Exempt from Desegregation Mandates? Minnesota Case May Have National Implications

July 11, 2019 Leave a comment

The Progressive recently featured an article by Sarah Lahm describing the status of a desegregation lawsuit in Minnesota that could have national implications. She opens her article with this overview:

Earlier this month, Susan Robinar, a Minnesota district court judge, refused to exempt the state’s charter schools from a desegregation lawsuit.

The case, Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota, was initially filed in 2015 on behalf of a handful of public school parents in the Twin Cities. These plaintiffs allege that Minnesota’s increasingly segregated public schools are operating in violation of the state Constitution, which affirms that “it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools.” Students of color, the lawsuit insists, are receiving what amounts to a separate and unequal education in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the state’s two largest cities.

This problem has been exacerbated by the number of racially segregated charter schools in Minnesota, according to the plaintiffs.Minnesota lawmakers authorized the nation’s first privately managed, publicly funded K-12 charter school law in 1991. At the time, lawmakers also stipulated that charter schools should be “exempt from most state and local laws and regulations.” 

Thanks to a 1999 ruling, this exemption status has meant that charter schools have not had to follow the same desegregation rules as the state’s traditional public schools. The state’s first charter school, City Academy, opened in 1992. By 2018, Minnesota hosted 164 charters, enrolling over 56,000 students. Nationally, more than three million K-12 students are enrolled in charter schools.

The tension between the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools and laws that stipulate that charter schools should be “exempt from most state and local laws and regulations”  is not limited to Minnesota. The whole idea behind charter schools is that teachers need to be freed from onerous regulations that prevent innovative ideas… but in the South and now arguably across the nation charters become de facto segregated schools by virtue of establishing barriers to entry explicitly tied to standardized tests, their refusal to offer special education programs, and/or their rigid discipline systems.

It’s taken years for the lawsuit to wend its way through the Minnesota courts and Dan Shulman, the attorney who filed the suit four years ago, is persistent and he knows that the case could have consequences beyond Minnesota:

Shulman has been clear about his own hopes for the lawsuit, telling Politico’s Morning Education report in 2018 that he thinks the case could have “national implications.” The framework presented by the case is that the state—and not individual schools or school districts—has an obligation to abide by its own constitution,and ensure that all Minnesota children have access to a “general and uniform system of public schools.”

Publicly-funded charter schools’ long-standing exemption from this requirement may soon be coming to an end. Both parties in the lawsuit are engaged in mediation, with a possible trial date slated for 2020.

Should Mr. Shulman win it will be a victory for children who have been denied the opportunity to attend schools of comparable quality to the charters that were presumably designed to accomplish that outcome. In the meantime, five years of resegregation will continue…. and, if the 1954 Supreme Court case is any indication, change will be an even longer time coming.

Advertisements

LATimes Offers Good Overview of Disintegration of Desegregation

July 9, 2019 Leave a comment

Today’s LATimes article (link below) describes the slow erosion of efforts to integrate public schools and the predictable result: schools across the country are more integrated now than ever. The takeaway from the article is that no one running for President seems willing to make the issue a centerpiece of their campaign and so it is unlikely to be solved unless some billionaires decide to make racial and economic justice their cause. apple.news/AcpfFBC92RjePQvKusOVMOQ

The “Downshifting Dilemma” Described for New Hampshire Residents is a National Phenomenon

July 1, 2019 Comments off

For decades public school administrators and school board members have hit their heads against the wall trying to explain to property owners that every tax cut that occurs at the Federal and State level has an adverse impact on local property taxes… and as a a result the most regressive and inequitable tax of all has the highest burden.

In New Hampshire this legislative session, the Democrats who controlled the House and Senate approved a budget that shifted the tax burden away from property taxes. Alas, the GOP Governor, Chris Sununu, vetoed the bill. The results of the veto were described in a Advancing New Hampshire Public Education (ANHPE) blog post as follows:

As you may have heard, on Friday Governor Sununu vetoed the budget proposed by the Committee of Conference (“CofC”), which had passed the House and Senate on purely party lines.  Unfortunately, this means that everything the CofC put in the budget is back on the table and potentially on the chopping block – including the $138 million in new school aid and $40 M in municipal aid that districts and towns were hoping to see.  The veto leaves school districts in a quandary as they make staffing and other decisions for the school year ahead.

The quandary they face is that IF they proceed to implement the budgets they adopted this Spring in anticipation of some consistent level of funding they could end up shifting the more of the cost for operating schools onto the shoulders of taxpayers since the continuing resolution passed to keep the State government operational includes a 4% CUT to state funds. 2/3 of the districts in the state face this dilemma… and the property poor districts, who have the most to gain from the passage of the funding, have the most to lose as a result. And here’s the kicker: voters in those districts who stand to lose the most often fail to recognize that the tax limitations they seek at the State level translate into higher property taxes. ANHPE describes this as “the downshifting dilemma”:

The Governor has justified his veto in part by saying that he doesn’t want to raise taxes on businesses.  Those who crafted the CofC budget dispute this characterization and argue that they’re simply blocking an additional decrease in business profits taxes, which were already reduced last year.  Whichever way you view it, the fact remains that the State’s chronic underfunding of schools results in a downshifting of costs to the local level, leaving property taxpayers to pick up the tab.  When districts take an additional hit (like the 4% reduction in stabilization funding), property taxes will most likely rise.

But this kind of downshifting is not limited to the New Hampshire. The federal special education law has NEVER been fully funded. That means that State’s have been asked to cover the difference in the federal funds promised to implement the mandate for special education and the federal funds allocated for that purpose. Here’s an excerpt from a cover letter to a February 2018 report by the National Council on Disability (NCD) describing how this shifts costs downward:

Over the past 42 years, the Federal Government has recognized and supported this right through providing billions of dollars in special education funding to assist the states in meeting their responsibilities in this area. NCD has repeatedly called on Congress to fully fund IDEA. The Federal Government’s failure to meet its promised funding obligation has stressed many state and local budgets to the point where many districts routinely struggle to meet student needs. In 1975, Congress promised to cover 40 percent of the average cost to educate a child with disabilities. Congress later amended the law to say that the Federal Government would pay a “maximum” of 40 percent of per-pupil costs. Today, the Federal Government pays less than half of what it originally promised in 1975.

And what happens when a state or school district does not get the funding promised at the federal level? They need to look elsewhere for cuts because special education funding is mandatory. Here’s how the NCD report describes what happens:

The lack of federal support to meet the original commitment Congress made to meet the excess cost of special education places considerable pressure on state and local budgets, resulting in a range of actions including:

  • ■  One state placing an illegal cap on IDEA identi cation of students
  • ■  Districts and schools limiting hiring of personnel and providers, which contributes to high turnover and shortages in the eld
  • ■  Districts and schools restricting service hours
  • ■  Districts and schools reducing or eliminating other general programs

In effect, we are willing to diminish and/or compromise services and standards to special education students or reduce services and standards to ALL students in order to avoid paying higher taxes.

But special education is not the only place where FEDERAL cuts result in downshifting. If federal spending is reduced in roads, or oversight of environmental regulations, or oversight of consumer safety, the needs associated with those expenditures do not disappear… and the costs for those expenditures face the same pressures.

Would we want to loosen our safety standards for roads, the environment, or consumer safety in order to save money? I fear that we are heating an affirmative answer to that question at all levels of government… and I fear that our quality of life is diminishing as a result of the affirmative answer we are hearing.

 

Kamala Harris Scores Points in Debate #2…. but Is Busing the Way Forward?

June 28, 2019 Comments off

The NYTimes and myriad other news sources recounted an exchange between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden in the second Democratic Party Debate. Here’s a synopsis from a “Top Stories” email I received written by Lisa Lerer:

Last night, former Vice President Joe Biden had a moment. And it wasn’t pretty.
It started when Senator Kamala Harris interjected into a conversation about racism with a request: “As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race.”
She then laced into comments Mr. Biden made at a fund-raiser earlier this month where he fondly recalled his working relationships with segregationists in the Senate, as well as his active opposition to busing in the 1970s.
“It’s personal,” she said. “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”
She continued: “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
Mr. Biden, an experienced debater, looked defensive and a bit offended, and he struggled to respond. He noted he’d worked as a public defender in 1968, unlike Ms. Harris, who was a prosecutor. And then, he seemed to simply give up: “Anyway,” he said, “my time is up.”

As noted above, in recounting her personal experience Ms. Harris DID unsettle Mr. Biden… but, as Ms. Lerer noted later in her synopsis, busing has not proven to be an effective means of desegregation. In an NPR report from 2016, which was linked to Ms. Lerer’s email, Arizona State professor Matthew Delmont offered this analysis of why busing failed:

A couple things happen that make it difficult to sustain busing programs into the ’80s and ’90s.

One is the tremendous amount of white flight that happens in cities like Boston, so there just simply aren’t enough white students to go around to have meaningful school desegregation. This is true in Chicago, in Los Angeles, in New York.

The other thing that happens is busing placed a tremendous burden on black students and on students of color. In most cases, they were the ones that were asked to travel to the suburbs, travel sometimes to hostile neighborhoods. For many parents, that simply isn’t worth it after a number of years.

If Democrats are committed to racial equity, they may want to avoid hitching their wagon to busing and instead look at ways to provide desegregated affordable housing in each and every district in the country and/or provide each and every student— rich or poor, white black or Latina—  with the same opportunities for learning that students in affluent school districts receive routinely. The argument cannot be focused on busing as the ultimate solution, for there is no evidence that busing worked for the wider population of Africa Americans even though it clearly worked for Ms. Harris.

 

Growing Up in Poverty Means Growing Up in Shame

June 28, 2019 Comments off

Parenting in Poverty”, a NYTimes article by Bobbi Dempsey that appeared last week, poignantly describes what it feels like to be a child whose parents rely on food stamps and how frustrating it is to operate as a parent under the guidelines set forth for EBT cards. Ms. Dempsey writes about the feelings she experienced as a child:

I am far too familiar with the seemingly endless array of indignities and flavors of shame that come with living in poverty. You get dirty glances for looking poor — but are also judged if you look “too rich,” by wearing something an observer deems too nice for someone on public assistance. Everything you buy or eat in view of others is up for public scrutiny and unwanted commentary…

During the course of my childhood, I had more embarrassing encounters at the grocery store checkout than I could count…

I’ve overheard snide comments in the lines at grocery stores about the attire of someone using an EBT card or the cars they parked outside of a convenience store where they used a card to buy milk. I’ve also heard faculty room gossip about profligacy of parents who used food stamps back in the 70s when I worked as a high school administrator and read endless articles about the so-called “Welfare Queens” who abused the systems in place. But this article reminded me of the impact that kind of judgment has on a child, especially one who experiences it day-in-and-day-out throughout their entire childhood. And the indignities are not limited to the grocery store:

I never went to birthday parties as a kid because I couldn’t afford to buy a gift. I would “get sick” and have to stay home on field trip days because I couldn’t afford the cost of the trip itself, let alone bring spending money for any souvenirs or food. Joining any activity that involved dues to pay or uniforms to buy would have been inconceivable.

Ms. Dempsey describes how today’s EBT cards draw less attention from those in line than the food stamps her mother used, but the strictures imposed on parents and observed by children still sting:

While the new plastic card may spare those families some shame, it can be difficult to reconcile that buying non-luxuries like toilet paper, tampons or a supermarket rotisserie chicken may be just as wild a fantasy as getting a child a pony.

The brief profile at the end of the article describes Ms. Dempsey with this single sentence:

Bobbi Dempsey is a freelance writer and a communications fellow at Community Change who is writing a memoir about moving 70 times before age 18.

I doubt that her mother was all that concerned about Ms. Dempsey’s test scores or how those scores might effect whatever school she was attending at the time… Until we can provide affordable housing and food security for all children in the country we cannot expect to close the widening gap between the rich and poor.

NYTimes Offers Better Ways to Do College

June 24, 2019 Comments off

There Are Better Ways to Do College“, an article by NYTimes writer Alice Lloyd, profiles a handful of colleges in the United States that offer credits for hands on work. Here’s Ms. Lloyd’s of the so-called “work colleges”:

There are nearly 10 of them: Private four-year schools known as work colleges, where students put in mandatory hours each week as a complement to their course loads. Through a combination of grants, donations, endowments and hourly wages, work colleges ask for less in fees than any comparable schools and leave their graduates with lighter debt loads. They also keep every student meaningfully occupied, in roles that range from chaplain to dishwasher.

It’s almost too easy, once you’ve visited one of the campuses, to slip into contemplation of what work colleges have that most of the rest of life lacks. They serve a deeper need than affordable education. They harness the power of purposeful work, compounded by collegiate social pressure. (If the bathroom crew misses a shift, their dorm mates will notice.)

They also do a great job of honoring their origins: Each one rose to meet its area’s need for a college that students wouldn’t have to fund in the conventional manner, and the model they landed on worked well enough that relatively little has changed.

In an era where college is promoted as the key to earning higher salaries, a world where the federal government is planning to rate colleges based on the earnings of its graduates, the notion of harnessing the power of purposeful work  and engaging each and every student in work that keeps them meaningfully occupied seems quaint and idealistic. But the world we need in the future is not the world we have today. The world we need in the future would place a higher value on communitarianism than libertarianism and a higher value on meaningful work than highly remunerative work. Ms. Lloyd concludes her report with these paragraphs:

Work colleges aren’t actually going to save the world. To keep tuition low or nonexistent, they often rely on restricted grants, to the necessary exclusion of most Americans. And even students who meet the standards for guaranteed tuition at the schools that offer it have to qualify academically. They tend to be tightly local, too. Not all of the schools aggregate data year to year, but College of the Ozarks prides itself on standing as a barrier against the Ozarks’ brain drain.

“They go back to teach in the schools in the communities,” Mr. Bolger boasted of his flock. “They work for firms in their communities, they serve in social services in the communities that they came from.” Alice Lloyd said it sends 80 percent of graduates to work in the same Appalachian counties from which it almost exclusively recruits.

Trying to figure out what makes work colleges work — and how the rest of the world can work more that way — has the flavor of a soul-saving mission. I’d say work colleges do their part in the national project by teaching students something the rest of us often don’t learn before it’s too late — essentially that to survive, a community needs each one of its members to pick up a shovel and participate.

I disagree with Ms. Lloyd. I think that work colleges actually COULD save those corners of the world where the services of college graduates are needed but are “unaffordable” because of local economic conditions. As one who worked in rural regions for much of my career as a school superintendent, I heard about, read about, and witnessed the “brain drain” that the Ozarks experienced…. and cannot help but think that there were many of those who fled their roots in Norther New England and Appalachia because they could not find employment in their chosen profession because the school districts and social service agencies “couldn’t afford” them. Western Maryland, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont would all envy having a college in their region that had 80% of its graduates working in the same counties they recruited from… and I daresay that many of those who left their hometowns would come back if there was work for them. Maybe some of the small struggling state colleges and small liberal arts colleges could help themselves and the communities where they are located if they adopted a work college model.

NYC Mayor Shows the Way Forward to Make Schools Safe AND Fair: More Social Workers and Fewer Arrests

June 23, 2019 Comments off

Earlier this week NYTimes writer Eliza Shapiro reported on a major shift in the approach to discipline in NYC public schools, a shift that will de-emphasize arrests in favor of restorative justice and intervention by social workers. Here’s a synopsis of the recently issued 15 page MOU between the NYPD and NYBOE:

School safety agents will be discouraged — but not explicitly banned — from arresting students or giving summonses for minor offenses like marijuana possession, graffiti or disorderly conduct.

That shift, which was first reported by the education news site Chalkbeat, is covered under an agreement between the Police Department and Department of Education that had not been updated since former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s administration. Mr. de Blasio is also proposing that the maximum length of an out-of-school suspension drop to 20 days from 180 days.

Ms. Shapiro recounts the difficulties Mayor de Blasio faces in making changes to the existing discipline system, citing widely differing ideas about what is needed to maintain school safety. On the one hand there are students who want to remove metal detectors from school and on the other are teachers who oppose Mr. de Blasio’s eminently reasonable proposal to ban suspensions in Kindergarten. This incremental change, I believe, moves the district in he right direction, which appears to move in the direction of replacing police officers and arrests with social workers and restorative justice. Here’s Ms. Shapiro’s synopsis:

After years of sometimes rocky experimentation with ways to replace former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s so-called zero tolerance approach, the city will use restorative justice practices that emphasize defusing conflict over suspensions in all middle and high schools starting in the next school year. The city will add 85 new social workers, funded as part of the final city budget, to schools in an attempt to ease the transition.

Ms. Shapiro notes that Mr. de Blasio’s shift in the school discipline is congruent with his overall aim for the city:

Mr. de Blasio has heralded his school safety agenda as a microcosm of his broader goal that the city can be both safe and fair to black and Hispanic communities who have had the most contact with the criminal justice system.

Mr. de Blasio’s critics on the left might not think he is moving fast enough… but in fairness to the mayor, he is fighting two potent forces in introducing the changes to the system: fear and racism.