Archives for category: Poverty

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, writes that the increasing inequality in the U.S. is neither inevitable nor necessary. Other nations have experienced economic growth while assuring greater equality. We could as well, but the super-rich have managed to capture control of enough politicians to prevent any legislation that might increase their tax rates and assure a fairer society “with justice for all.”

Stiglitz writes:

“So why has America chosen these inequality-enhancing policies? Part of the answer is that as World War II faded into memory, so too did the solidarity it had engendered. As America triumphed in the Cold War, there didn’t seem to be a viable competitor to our economic model. Without this international competition, we no longer had to show that our system could deliver for most of our citizens.

“Ideology and interests combined nefariously. Some drew the wrong lesson from the collapse of the Soviet system. The pendulum swung from much too much government there to much too little here. Corporate interests argued for getting rid of regulations, even when those regulations had done so much to protect and improve our environment, our safety, our health and the economy itself.

“But this ideology was hypocritical. The bankers, among the strongest advocates of laissez-faire economics, were only too willing to accept hundreds of billions of dollars from the government in the bailouts that have been a recurring feature of the global economy since the beginning of the Thatcher-Reagan era of “free” markets and deregulation.

“The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality. In fact, as he recognizes, Mr. Piketty’s argument rests on the ability of wealth-holders to keep their after-tax rate of return high relative to economic growth. How do they do this? By designing the rules of the game to ensure this outcome; that is, through politics.

“So corporate welfare increases as we curtail welfare for the poor. Congress maintains subsidies for rich farmers as we cut back on nutritional support for the needy. Drug companies have been given hundreds of billions of dollars as we limit Medicaid benefits. The banks that brought on the global financial crisis got billions while a pittance went to the homeowners and victims of the same banks’ predatory lending practices. This last decision was particularly foolish. There were alternatives to throwing money at the banks and hoping it would circulate through increased lending. We could have helped underwater homeowners and the victims of predatory behavior directly. This would not only have helped the economy, it would have put us on the path to robust recovery.”

Educators see the results of what Stiglitz describe in the unwillingness by politicians to provide equality of educational opportunity. Our Secretary of Education is a champion of privatization who prefers competition to equity and doesn’t care about segregation. State legislatures are cutting school budgets. Class sizes are growing. Teachers pay for school supplies. Public education is dying in urban districts like Philadelphia and Detroit, as rich white bankers pump money into privatization. Some see public education as a sector ripe for profit and plunder. In some states, such as Ohio, Michigan, and Florida, the for-profit charter industry has captured control of the government and suffers little or no regulation.

Stiglitz concludes:

“The problem of inequality is not so much a matter of technical economics. It’s really a problem of practical politics. Ensuring that those at the top pay their fair share of taxes — ending the special privileges of speculators, corporations and the rich — is both pragmatic and fair. We are not embracing a politics of envy if we reverse a politics of greed. Inequality is not just about the top marginal tax rate but also about our children’s access to food and the right to justice for all. If we spent more on education, health and infrastructure, we would strengthen our economy, now and in the future. Just because you’ve heard it before doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try it again.

“We have located the underlying source of the problem: political inequities and policies that have commodified and corrupted our democracy. It is only engaged citizens who can fight to restore a fairer America, and they can do so only if they understand the depths and dimensions of the challenge. It is not too late to restore our position in the world and recapture our sense of who we are as a nation. Widening and deepening inequality is not driven by immutable economic laws, but by laws we have written ourselves.”

EduShyster explains the back story on the new team that has been assembled to eliminate teacher tenure wherever it still survives.

The lead player in this docudrama is Campbell Brown, a one-time CNN anchor who now works full-time to oust sexual predators from our classrooms. EduShyster says she will be rewarded with more airtime and media FaceTime.

Then there is the ex-Obama communications team, free from their D.C. duties to make war on teachers.

EduShyster reminds us that this will be a PR war, so get ready for the anecdotes about how “bad teachers” ruined someone ‘s life. This, of course, is the civil rights issue of our time, far more important than funding inequity, poverty, or budget cuts.

Best of all, Edushyster prepares us for mass confusion when the PR war begins:

“Is it pronounced *tenYEAR* or *tenYUR*? Why do teachers want to establish a caliphate in upstate New York anyway? Who broke the status quo? And when we fix it, will it still be the status quo? How many anecdotes does it take to make data? What exactly is the Levant? And is there any problem that *grit* can’t solve?”

Here is a good example of taking facts to the public: Frank Breslin, retired teacher, writes an opinion article that explains the flaws of Common Core and standardized testing, as well as teacher evaluation based on flawed tests.

A coalition of billionaires, millionaires, corporations, and hedge fund managers have decided that the best way to cure poverty is to fire teachers whose students don’t get higher test scores. This coalition–whose leaders include Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, ALEC, and others associated with corporate reform, know that it is lots cheaper to blame teachers than to do anything that will really reduce poverty.

Robert Reich may not be aware of this strategy to reduce poverty by firing teachers.

He here describes three of the “biggest right-wing lies” about poverty.

They are, first, the belief that economic growth will cure poverty. Our nation has experienced economic growth, but the benefits have enriched those at the top, not the bottom.

Second is the belief that jobs reduce poverty. Jobs are good, says Reich, but there is now a growing number of working poor because of poverty-level wages.

Third is the belief that people are poor because they lack ambition (or grit). But there is no evidence that the poor are responsible for their poverty. Reich says we are one of the few nations that under invests in schools that enroll poor children:

“America is one of only three advanced countries that spends less on the education of poorer children than richer ones, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do schools serving poor neighborhoods have fewer teachers and crowd students into larger classrooms than do schools serving more privileged students. In most countries, it’s just the reverse: Poor neighborhoods get more teachers per student.”

Other nations have figured out how to reduce poverty. We have not, and our society suffers a loss of talent because of writing off so many people.

Peter Greene says that corporate reformers have discovered the secret to generating an endless supply of “ineffective” teachers: just keep proclaiming that teachers are ineffective if their students get low scores.

“In the wake of Vergara, we’ve repeatedly heard an old piece of reformster wisdom: Poor students are nearly twice as likely as their wealthier peers to have ineffective, or low-performing, teachers. This new interpretation of “ineffective” or “low-performing” guarantees that there will always be an endless supply of ineffective teachers.

“The new definition of “ineffective teacher” is “teacher whose students score poorly on test.”

“Add to that the assumption that a student only scores low on a test because of the student had an ineffective teacher.

“You have now created a perfect circular definition. And the beauty of this is that in order to generate the statistics tossed around in the poster above, you don’t even have to evaluate teachers!”

And he adds:

“You can have people trade places all day — you will always find roughly the same distribution of slow/fast, wet/dry. good/bad vision. Because what you are fixing is not the source of your problem. It’s like getting a bad meal in a restaurant and demanding that a different waiter bring it to you.”

In this article, veteran journalist Dale Mezzacappa reviews the tumult in Philadelphia and interviews people who have known the issues for 20 years or more. Given the high poverty in the district and the state’s neglect, not much has changed for the better.

Mezzacappa says there are more choices than ever. But the district is in terrible trouble:

“The state took over the District’s governance. Charter schools proliferated. Dozens of neighborhood schools were closed, including such landmarks as the 99-year-old Germantown High.

“Despite the state takeover, the District’s financial condition has only become more desperate.

“State and federal pressure to intervene in schools with consistently subpar performance mounted; standardized testing became the major driver of school rankings. “

“All these changes have happened within larger shifts – demographic, political, social, and economic. Philadelphia has become the country’s most impoverished big city, with 13 percent of residents – an astonishing 200,000 people – living in deep poverty, or on less than $9,700 for a household of three.”

“As income and wealth inequality have worsened, the dividing lines in this region by race and income are starker than ever. Philadelphia school enrollment is mostly Black and Hispanic and low-income, while the surrounding districts are mostly White and middle- or high-income. Spending gaps between wealthier and poorer districts have never been bigger. Philadelphia schools struggle harder to overcome the effects of concentrated poverty – all while the District’s funding base has crumbled.”

Now charters and district schools compete for limited funds. Schools are stripped to bare essentials.

Read what the veterans say.

Lots of reform. Not much progress.

The Chicago Teachers Union reacts to the Vergara decision in California. Here is the key quote:

“If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.”

CTU Statement on California Tenure Decision

It must be nice to be a wealthy tech mogul like David Welch. When you want to “prove” a theory, you just go get someone else’s kids to be the guinea pigs. When you want to “prove” a theory, you conveniently omit the most relevant and direct causes of harm. Such was the case in this week’s California lawsuit decision against tenure for teachers. Fortunately, our Constitution and legal system have clear protections for speech and structured processes for appeal so that we non-billionaires have an opportunity to air the facts.

Teacher laws vary from state to state, and so the ruling in California is not automatically a blueprint for changes in states like Illinois. Despite a recent law that makes tenure much more difficult to acquire in Illinois, the myth that tenure equals a permanent job persists. In fact, teacher tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure provides protection from capricious dismissal and a process for improving unsatisfactory practice, but as in any job, teachers can be dismissed for serious misconduct. Further, as we have seen in California and Illinois, persistent budget “crises” stemming from insufficient revenue generation have decimated the teaching profession.

Contrary to popular belief, the school boards routinely dismiss teachers. Deep budget cuts have savaged the teaching corps, either through probationary teacher non-renewals or tenured teacher lay-offs. Fully half of all teachers leave the profession within their first five years, either because of the difficulty of the work or job insecurity. And for those who do stay, lay-offs are a constant threat, even to the most highly decorated, talented, and dedicated teachers. One Chicago Public School teacher was laid-off three times in a little more than a year. A holder of National Board Certification, the highest certification a teacher can have, he left the profession because of the tumult, and his students at multiple South Side high schools lost out on the opportunity to work with a highly qualified and dedicated public servant. Far from “obtaining and retaining permanent employment”, in the words of Judge Rolf Treu, tenure provided my colleague with no long-term job protection.

Judge Treu also misinterpreted the real causes of discrimination against low-income students of color. Teacher tenure does not cause low student achievement. Rather, the root causes of differences in student performance have to do with structural differences in schools. Omitted from his decision are the impacts of concentrated poverty, intense segregation, skeletal budgets, and so-called “disruptive innovation” that have been at the heart of urban school districts for decades. Scripted curricula, overuse and misuse of standardized testing, school closures and school turnarounds, and the calculated deprivation of resources are the real reasons low-income students of color face discrimination. So-called reformers like David Welch and Arne Duncan push those policies. In other words, the new “reform” status quo has made worse the problem it purports to fix.

If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.

Peter Dreier of Occidental College explains how the Occupy Wall Street movement started a momentum that changed Seattle:

Friends,

An idea that only a year ago appeared both radical and impractical has become a reality. On Monday, Seattle struck a blow against rising inequality when its City Council unanimously adopted a city wide minimum wage of $15 an hour — the highest in the nation.

In my new article in The American Prospect, “How Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Victory Began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park,” I explain that this dramatic change in public policy is partly the result of changes brought about by last November’s Seattle municipal elections. But it is also the consequence of changing social conditions beyond Seattle, shifts in public opinion about business, government, and the poor, and years of effective grassroots activism around the country.

We can trace Seattle’s remarkable victory to the wave of local “living wage” campaigns in the 1990s, growing public outrage about corporate abuse and widening inequality, the explosion of anger that became Occupy Wall Street, and the rising protest movement of low-wage workers in the past two years.

Seattle’s union and community organizers, and their allies in government, did not wait for the time to be “ripe.” They helped ripen the time — seizing new opportunities and building on past successes.

Now that Seattle has established a new standard, the pace of change is likely to accelerate quickly as activists and politicians elsewhere seek to capture the new mood. Many other cities and states are now looking to follow in Seattle’s footsteps. The momentum for raising the minimum wage will not only improve living conditions for millions of Americans. It will also spark a new wave of organizing, by revealing how the combination of inside politics and outside protest can bring about progressive change.

Five years from now, Americans may look back at this remarkable victory in Seattle and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Feel free to circulate and repost.

Peter

——————————————————————
Peter Dreier
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Department
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734
Website: http://employees.oxy.edu/dreier
New book: The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books) — published July 2012

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality” – Dante

Ira Shor describes our complex sustem, based on race, class, income:

“Teachers count only if their students count. To count in this society, kids have to come from affluent families; the teachers of those affluent kids are paid more and generally treated better. The vast majority of students in k-12 pub schls don’t count b/c they are poor, working-class, or lower middle-class, many not white, many first-generation immigrants. They need small classes and veteran teachers and lots of good food and warm clothes in winter and eye exams; we know what they get instead. The kids that count go to private schls and to pub schls in affluent suburbs. The teachers there are paid more b/c the families of the kids are richer. For the most part, these teachers are also treated with more regard. The private k-12 schls do NOT require their teachers to come out of teacher ed programs or to meet state certification requirements; they can pick and choose among many applicants. Some teacher ed programs are truly excellent despite this class-based hierarchy, despite being under-funded and over-regulated. Other teacher ed programs function as mediocre pipelines to mediocre school systems. The situation is fragmented b/c there are really 6-8 school systems in America–private independents, private religious, private special ed, public affluent, public working class, public poor, privatized charters, etc. Then, there is internal tracking in all schools which further separate elite segments from the general student group. It’s useful to clarify which sector of “American education” we are talking back b/c class and race differences affect schools so much.(Ted Sizer said 30 years ago, “Tell me the income of your students’ parents and I will describe to you your school.”) As long as poverty and inequality rule, schools for the bottom 80% will treat their kids and teachers largely with disregard and disinvestment.”

Arthur H. Camins, the Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, sharply critiques current education and social policy. He writes in this post that we have given up efforts to reduce poverty and segregation, policies that would produce the greatest number of young people.

Instead, our nation’s leaders are prepared to divert billions into more testing and Common Core, which is unlikely to reduce inequality.

Camins writes:

“If answers on Common Core assessment questions require supporting evidence, it is only fair that evidence-based reasoning should be an expected feature of public education policy. Apparently such consistency is not required when it comes to political decisions. Sadly, too many policy makers seem more committed to enabling profiteering from the results of poverty than ending it. The testing industry is an excellent example. Education policies sanction and encourage multi-billion dollar testing and test preparation corporations that enable destructive punishment and rewards for educators, gaming the system and sorting of students for competitive access to an increasingly unaffordable post secondary system that perpetuates inequity. State and federal education policies support costly, overly stressful and time consuming high-stakes testing in order to verify and detect small differences within the very large socio-economic disparities we already know exist.”

“Well-designed large-scale assessments can contribute evidence for institutional and program level judgments about quality. However, we do not need to test every student every year for this purpose. Less costly sampling can accomplish this goal. I am not opposed to qualifying exams- if they validly and reliably measure qualities that are directly applicable to their purpose without bias. However, imagine if we shifted the balance of our assessment attention from the summative to the formative. Then we could focus more on becoming better at interpreting daily data from regular class work and use that evidence to help students move their own learning forward. Imagine what else we could accomplish if we spent a significant percentage of our current K-12 and college admission testing expenditures on actually mediating poverty instead of measuring its inevitable effect. Imagine the educational and economic benefit if we invested in putting people to work rebuilding our cities, roads, bridges, schools and parks. Imagine if we put people to work building affordable housing instead of luxury high rises. Imagine the boost to personal spending and the related savings in social service spending if a living wage and full employment prevailed. Imagine the learning benefit to children if their families did not have to worry about health, food and shelter. Imagine if our tax policies favored the common good over wealth accumulation for the 1%ers.

“Such investments are far more logical than the current over-investment in testing and compliance regimes. Education, race and poverty are inextricably intertwined. Let’s do everything we can to improve teaching and learning. More students learning to use evidence to support arguments would be terrific. But, if we want to do something about poverty we need to ensure good jobs at fair wages for the parents of our students. That is where evidence and logical thinking lead.”

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