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Trickle-down Economics: Poor and Minority Schools Shortchanged in NYS

In a scathing report, the Education Trust says that most states cheat minority and poor school districts by underfunding them. New York State was the worst offender with an average expenditure gap of $2,280 between the wealthiest and the poorest districts. (See news here.)

"New York also stands out for neglecting to fairly fund poor and minority school districts. New York spends $2,280 less per student in its poorest districts than its does on students educated in its wealthiest school districts. Even after New York was ordered to deal with these funding gaps, policymakers have failed to take action," the report said.

The CFE lawsuit addressed this issue and ordered that New York City schools need $5.6 billion more each year – 44 percent more than they currently get – to give students the sound, basic education they deserve. Yet NYS politicians failed to provide the funding by the deadline and there is still no funding in sight despite the deadlock going back to a June 2003 decision. In the meanwhile, the Rich-Poor Gap Widens not only for individuals but for schools in general.

Anna Bernasek writes in the NYTimes  on December  11, 2005  "What’s the Return on Education?" (read it here). Bernasek says that economists acknowledge that schools offer vital social and cultural benefits to a nation, but asks what are the economic benefits?

It is clear that there is a direct relationship between life-time income and the level of education of individuals. Studies by Professor Alan B. Krueger of Princeton and others show that class size, teacher quality and school size can make a difference, something the UFT has been saying all along. Bernasek adds, "They [economists] have found that the effect of better schools is most pronounced for disadvantaged students."

But the economic results of a better educated society they say is not as easily measurable, despite what we all know about the recent job creation in India and China because of their investments in computer and technology education for its citizens. Yet, economists have been going back and forth on the question about whether the economic results of a good education system for a nation are similar to the economic results for an individual. Or in other words, does a good universal education system build national wealth?

Recently, more economists are drawing the conclusions that a good education is one of the gateways to wealth creation for individuals as well as for nations. Bernasek says "That means that investing in the education of every American is in everyone’s self-interest."  Education is the source for wealth creation for all.

By the way, these aren’t new theories. Teacher unions and economists have drawn similar conclusions for years.

So I leave it up to our readers: Why are we starving public schools in poor and minority districts? Why don’t our politicians see that teacher quality, and smaller class size make a major difference in the economic future of our children? Why don’t they see that a good universal public education for its citizens builds wealth for a nation and benefits everyone?

Is it because  "trickle up" economics is anathema to "trickle down" economic policies?

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23 Comments:

  • 1 NYC Educator
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 10:27 am

    It’s because politicians like Michael Bloomberg simply do not care about the education of NYC’s 1.1 million schoolchildren. That’s why his aide stated he’d say “No thank you” to any agreement that entailed NYC contributing a share toward its kids. This is despite Rudy’s policy of reducing aid by precisely whatever amount the state increased it, a policy dropped by Mike in order to gain control of the schools.

    When Mike was faced with a referendum on class size, he singlehandedly killed it. When given the chance to scribble his ideal contract, it pointedly contained no restrictions whatsoever on class size.

    As for teacher quality, something to which he and Joel pay frequent lip service, Mayor Mike took the LAST test, declared any high school grad ought to be able to pass it (correctly, IMHO), then dispatched Klein to Albany to beg for the right to retain and continue hiring those who failed it.

    Klein goes after a few high-profile teachers, like the wrestler, the music teacher, and the guy who falsely claimed to be doing military service, but really does very little about bad teachers.

    Why?

    Because beyond raising test scores and chasing after favorable publicity, these folks don’t give a damn about the kids.

    It sounds, awful, I guess, because it is.

  • 2 Chaz
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 10:46 am

    I couldn’t agree with NYC Educator more.

    Where was Bloomberg’s complaints when the court of appeals ordered the State to send the education money to the city and Pataki didn’t? Was it because the city would have to give 25% of the extra money?

    Since Bloomberg took over the system disrespect for teachers have risen, parent involvement has dropped, and the middle class is starting to flee even from the good schools. If it wasen’t for the dumbing down of the state and city tests, the test grades would not have risen either.

  • 3 no_slappz
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Teacher qualifications are controlled by the NY State DOE.

    While passing the LAST, the ATS-W and a Content Exam aren’t bad ideas, there are a boatload of other requirements that drive away many people whose presence would probably improve the teaching corps.

    Moreover, because the DOE is a ponderous bureaucracy, the licensing process is torture by tedium and document chasing.

    IBM, which employs far more people than the NYC DOE, can hire new employees with a minimum of delay. Because the DOE is so slow, the better candidates often land jobs elsewhere while waiting for the education monopoly to grind out an offer of a teaching position.

    Of course principals are drooling for new teachers.

  • 4 Persam1197
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    Why would any of these politicians and educrats care about our kids? Since Bloomberg came into the system, non-competitive bid contracts have mushroomed. It’s all about taking care of our underserved corporations.

    What really worries me is that we have become so complacent like sheeps led to slaughter. There seems to be a war on the middle-class with stagnant wages, disappearing pensions, reduced health benefits, etc. at a time when living costs are skyrocketing. What better way to return to fiscal feudalism than to continue to underfund our schools.

    If we want to resemble the America we once knew, we’ve got a hell of a job to do with no support from Pataki, Bruno, Silver, Bloomberg, Klein, et. al.

  • 5 phyllis c. murray
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    Reflections on the Poor in Minority Schools: Past and Present

    By Phyllis C. Murray

    History is not everything” John Henrik Clarke once wrote, “but it is the starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.”

    As educators we know what must happen to change history. And one by one we try in our classrooms. However, the failure of local and state governments to provide funding to economically poor citizens will compromise our efforts and the future of this great nation. “Recently, more economists are drawing the conclusions that a good education is one of the gateways to wealth creation for individuals as well as for nations.” (Education Trust) Yet, benign neglect seems to be the mantra of many in political office who turn their backs on the ones who need quality education the most.

    The Campaign for Fiscal Equity is only one example of how the state is not providing adequate funding to NYC Public Schools. And as educators, we know that the resources needed to implement new programs designed by the city are inadequate. Thus, we should not be surprised to learn that “New York also stands out for neglecting to fairly fund poor and minority school districts. New York spends $2,280 less per student in its poorest districts than its does on students educated in its wealthiest school districts. Even after New York was ordered to deal with these funding gaps, policy makers have failed to take action.” (Education Trust Report 2005)

    Educators are aware that economic poverty does not have to mean intellectual poverty. There are gifted and talented students among the economically poor and minority students. Therefore, many resourceful educators continue to teach without adequate funding. They use their own personal resources to compensate for this deficit. And these truly dedicated educators have seen miracles happen daily for years as their students’ dreams are realized. Fortunately, this is not a new phenomenon throughout the nation. Good Teachers have always made a difference in the lives of their students. Case in point:

    Directly after the Emancipation Proclamation “the exceptionally gifted rose above the staggering obstacle of quasi-freedom,” said Martin Luther King at the UFT Spring Conference in 1964. “It is precisely because education is a road to equality and citizenship that it has been made more elusive for Negroes than many other rights. The warding off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second class status.” And today we can see this happening as the rich-poor gap is allowed to widen in NYC, New Orleans, Alabama, Mississippi, and even Washington, DC, the nation’s capital.

    King reminded UFTers in 1964 that: “education for all Americans, white and black, has always been inadequate. The richest nation on earth has never allocated enough of its abundant resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige their work justifies.” Therefore, when we read the report “Rich-Poor Gap Widens not only for individuals but for schools in general,” we cannot be surprised.

    Yes, history is a clock. It tells us where we are, but more importantly, what we must be. If we are the union, we must continue to fight for equity for all. We must press on to City Hall; to Albany: to Washington, DC. in a quest to secure
    public schools that reflect a democratic nation. Because, the children are waiting.

    Phyllis C. Murray
    UFT Chapter Leader
    Region 2

  • 6 no_slappz
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    Persam:

    I see you’re back to showering this message board with your angst. Too bad your assessments of life in America today are fictions you’ve fed to yourself.

    You wrote:

    “There seems to be a war on the middle-class…”

    This statement is true as far as it goes. The war is being waged by those who would take from the middle class to give to the poor. But that’s not what you meant.

    You continued:

    “…with stagnant wages…”

    Could you provide an example? Meanwhile, inflation has been low. That makes all the difference. Though it is true energy costs will sting this winter.

    You continued:

    “…disappearing pensions…”

    Totally false. Absolutely false. When a company fails, its pension becomes the responsibility of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation — an agency of the Federal Government. Because you are happy when taxpayers are forced to pay as many bills as possible, you will be glad to know you — as a taxpayer — are contributing your share to the pensions of people whose employers collapsed in bankruptcy.

    Then you added a whopper:

    “…reduced health benefits, etc. at a time when living costs are skyrocketing.”

    Those transit workers will now enjoy LIFETIME healthcare — at taxpayers’ expense — as a result of the latest contract negotiations. Yeah, I guess you consider that a “reduction”.

    And finally:

    “What better way to return to fiscal feudalism than to continue to underfund our schools.”

    What better reason to issue vouchers? By the way, what is “fiscal feudalism”? It sounds compelling, but I don’t think it means anything.

  • 7 Chaz
    · Dec 28, 2005 at 9:43 pm

    phyllis,

    Your response was excellent. However, you could have simply said history teaches us that a good education is the gateway to success.

    Too bad Bloomberg & Pataki don’t or won’t understand this.

  • 8 paulrubin
    · Dec 29, 2005 at 2:08 pm

    I don’t really think Bloomberg and Klein specifically want to damage the NYC school system. I think they’re simply misguided as most in private industry are into thinking that the same techniques used to make private companies more efficient will work just fine in the classroom. Mistake #2 is simply that they equate standardized test score results with overall success. See schools aren’t businesses. A more profitable business in the short and long term is clearly a success. But children are more complicated than the bottom line. Test scores are important. No doubt they’re needed to track progress and determine whether techniques are appropriate and so on. But this isn’t the end all and be all of educational sucess.

  • 9 NYC Educator
    · Dec 29, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    “I don’t really think Bloomberg and Klein specifically want to damage the NYC school system.”

    I don’t think so either. I think they’d be glad to improve it providing it didn’t cost anything, but they really don’t care much one way or the other. Keeping up appearances is good enough for them.

    I agree with you completely about test scores and schools not being businesses.

  • 10 Persam1197
    · Dec 30, 2005 at 8:58 am

    No_slappz,

    Nothing personal to you, but you clearly are not one of us and I would prefer to respond to comrades-at-arms who understand the work that we do. You “understand” only the following: vouchers and privatization. We’re still waiting to hear you say something relevant to the work WE do. What do you have to offer us that helps us improve instruction and the work that we do where we are, not in voucherland?

    Until you start getting relevant, I will heed the advice of others and ignore your nonsense.

  • 11 mvplab
    · Dec 30, 2005 at 11:32 am

    What is the value of the work we do? Check out the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch

    There’s a growing disconnect between the salaries paid and company performance, i.e.
    General Motors: In 2004, G. R. Wagoner raked in $9,957,020 in total compensation including stock option grants from General Motors. And G. R. Wagoner has another $5,000,000 in unexercised stock options from previous years.

    Delta Airlines: See how CEO Leo Mullins got around the excessive pay flap when stockholders rebelled.

    CEO incomes in 2005 now average 431 times more than the average worker.

    What is the value of the work we do?

  • 12 no_slappz
    · Dec 30, 2005 at 1:24 pm

    mvplab asks:

    “What is the value of the work we do?”

    With respect to Klein’s salary, the ratio is easy enough to calculate.

    As for the “value”, well, I suppose you’d have to track the paths taken by graduates and correlate their paychecks with what they might have learned in public school.

  • 13 Schoolgal
    · Dec 30, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    “What is the value of the work “WE” do?

    That’s the same question I was asking after you guys came up with the new contract. We are so valued that you thought it necessary to boost our professionalism by adding potty patrol and lunch duty. The TWU bet their livelihood on the issue of “value” and won.

    Just how much does our CEO Randi make?
    (and what are her perks?)

  • 14 no_slappz
    · Dec 30, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    Schoolgal,

    Vouchers would solve all the problems identified on this board.

  • 15 no_slappz
    · Dec 30, 2005 at 10:39 pm

    paulrubin writes:

    “I think they’re (Bloomberg and Klein) simply misguided as most in private industry are into thinking that the same techniques used to make private companies more efficient will work just fine in the classroom.”

    First, Klein isn’t really a friend of “private industry”. He expended much effort attempting to prove Microsoft, by producing the most desirable software in history, was harmful to the software industry. He’s actually a hypocrite.

    Second, however, is the fact that private industry is always searching and experimenting with methods aimed at increasing the success of every business. Meeting the right goals is the object of every private enterprise. There is nothing about the business of educating kids that makes it unique. Goals are easy to identify. The methods of acquiring knowledge aren’t mystical.

    You wrote:

    “Mistake #2 is simply that they equate standardized test score results with overall success.”

    You are in dreamland.

    You opined:

    “See schools aren’t businesses.”

    Really. Tell that to the successful private schools all over NYC.

    You added:

    “A more profitable business in the short and long term is clearly a success.”

    Or putting it another way, an unprofitable business in the short and long term is clearly a failure.

    Given your view that unprofitable businesses might be failures, how do you characterize and rate the NY public school system?

    You added:

    “But children are more complicated than the bottom line. Test scores are important. No doubt they’re needed to track progress and determine whether techniques are appropriate and so on. But this isn’t the end all and be all of educational sucess.”

    Private industry, more than any other segment of the US economy, is screaming for better educated job seekers.

    Meanwhile, private schools have no trouble setting a course and heading toward a goal. Parents of private-school kids aren’t worried about what will become of their kids following graduation.

  • 16 no_slappz
    · Dec 30, 2005 at 11:12 pm

    Persam:

    You wrote:

    “You “understand” only the following: vouchers and privatization.”

    More accurately, I understand what works. Teachers are teachers whether they work in the public school system or in private schools. Or colleges and universities. The important differences lie in the organizations for which teachers work.

    The public school system fails far too many kids because competition is thwarted as a result of the state’s education monopoly. You will probably spend your entire career denying the obvous, but that’s your choice.

    You added:

    “We’re still waiting to hear you say something relevant to the work WE do.”

    Why put the load on my shoulders? No one commenting at this site is engaged in anything beyond complaining about the inequities that arise in the state’s education monopoly and how those inequities impair the working lives of teachers.

    The solution to the problems of running a bureaucracy that serves 1.1 million customers won’t bite you.

    You asked:

    “What do you have to offer us that helps us improve instruction and the work that we do where we are, not in voucherland?”

    You are employed by a state monopoly. That is the entire problem. If the state relinquishes its monopoly, the world will become your oyster.

    It is disappointing that you so deeply fear the solution to your professional problems.

    You concluded:

    “Until you start getting relevant, I will heed the advice of others and ignore your nonsense.”

    Good thinking.

  • 17 Persam1197
    · Dec 31, 2005 at 9:11 am

    “What is the value of the work WE do?” Interesting question. Our jobs have become much more complicated in recent years and will become increasingly so because we’re not seen as professionals; we’re seen as labor and whether it’s the public or private sectors, the constant conflict between management and labor remains.

    Our value is further devalued by ignorance and misinformation. As an example, the public thinks that we have it easy with paid vacations and holidays. Only people intimate with teachers see us lesson planning and catching up with paperwork during these breaks. Even some teachers think that we are paid for summers off. We are not. Our salaries are divided into 24 paychecks because teachers of the past went broke in July and had problems making ends meet until September.

    I think that the UFT should continue its public education program to increase our “value” in the eyes of the public. I don’t like our contract, however, we did not sell out our “unborn” in this contract with lower starting salaries. Even Kleinberg understood that much. Educating the public about education (including some lost souls who post here with us and who shall remain unnamed) on a consistent basis beyond contract negotiations will increase our aesthetic and economic value.

    This leads to other interesting questions:
    1. What is the value of management?
    2. Why are private school teachers so poorly paid?
    3. What political pressure can we put on the political hacks and the schools to stop shortchanging our kids?
    4. Has COPE been effective?

  • 18 curious2
    · Dec 31, 2005 at 8:33 pm

    Persam,

    I suggest you put pressure on your fellow union members and union leadership to reform the union such that bad teachers can be more easily terminated. This would accomplish two of your goals:
    1. The remaining teachers would be given more respect as professionals in our society.
    2. The kids would get a better education, i.e. be somewhat less “shortchanged”.

  • 19 Chaz
    · Jan 1, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    curious2;

    Maybe you should be dealing with the real issues facing NYC teachers.

    1. Class sizes; Good school districts have class sizes between 18-25 not 34. Did you know that Bloomberg would not allow a class size charter proposal to be voted on by the people?

    2. Micromanagement; The best teachers adjust to the student population and bring in teaching techniques that they feel is best. However, the DOE has a “one size fits all” mentality making it difficult to adjust to the students’ needs.

    3. Salary; To attract the best teachers, you need to pay them a competitive salary. NYC teachers are paid 15% less than the teachers in the suburbs.

    4. Respect; DOE has brought direspect to the teacher to a new high. How are students going to respect teachers when the DOE does not respect us?

    As for getting bad teachers out of the system. If a teacher is bad the DOE can file charges and follow through. Don’t blame the union, Randi has made it easy to get rid of teachers, it’s the DOE who does not handle it correctly.

  • 20 Persam1197
    · Jan 2, 2006 at 7:19 am

    Chaz,

    You took the words right out of my mouth! Bless you!

    Just to add to Curious2:

    The UFT does not hire DOE personnel. Once the powers that be deem an individual fit to teach and hires him/her, the union’s job is to protect his/her rights under a contract agreed to by both the UFT and the City.

    I’m sure that there are some folks who should consider a different career, but the vast number of colleagues I’ve worked with were excellent educators. As Chaz said, micromanagement is the real problem. The DOE keeps looking for one size fits all systems (e.g. balanced literacy”) instead of allowing teachers to teach.

  • 21 bstamatis
    · Jan 2, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    If you want to know the truth about anything in this society just follow the money! Where has the NYS/NYC put its education $$$?

    In its 48 page report, the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona, drew the conclusions that investments in the following strategies would make economic sense for improving Arizona schools.

    They said that there are five strategies that are effective in raising student achievement: full-day kindergarten for all students; preparing and recognizing teachers for high performance; reducing class size; creating smaller schools or schools within a school; providing one-on-one tutoring and extra help for struggling students.

    So what are NYS/NYC strategies?

  • 22 NYC Educator
    · Jan 2, 2006 at 8:49 pm

    “So what are NYS/NYC strategies?”

    Building sports stadiums and fudging the figures.

    Too many people labor under the misconception that this mayor wishes to improve education beyond lip service. Time and time again, when he had the chance, he chose other priorities.

    And while I don’t disagree with your list, I’d simplify it by agreeing with CFE–good teachers and small classes make good education. (Mayor Moneybags reps have stated he’d say “No, thank you” if pressed to contribute one dime in that direction.) The further elements, while highly desirable, would come next.

  • 23 no_slappz
    · Jan 2, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    nyc:

    You labor under the misconception that a government-run monopoly can provide ADEQUATE educational services to 1.1 million students in New York City alone.

    One hundred years of public-school history in this town should have proven to you by now that one government-controlled organization cannot handle such a complex job.

    And nothing will change for the better in the future.