Category Archives: Schools

Chart of the day: Partisan views of institutions


Given the relentless endorsement of the Republican agenda by the nation’s leading news network, the GOP view of the press is rather ironic.

From the Pew Research Center:

blog-instit

Peña plans massive Mexican education budget cuts


Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, apostle of Bushist bneoliberal educational “reform,” will make drastic cuts in the national education buget, reports teleSUR English:

The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto plans to deepen contested education reforms, by cutting spending for facilities improvements, equipment access, and teacher training, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported Sunday.

The Mexican government proposes federal-level cutbacks in 19 out of 23 programs for children and youths next year,

According to data from Mexico’s Center for Economic and Budget Research, also known as CIEP, spending earmarked for education in the 2017 budget is set to fall by 4.2 percent. Total educational spending represents 14 percent of the federal budget and 3.3 percent of GDP, which represents a reduction in educational investment historically. According to World Bank statistics, Mexico dedicated 5.1 percent of GDP to education in 2011, which was, at that time, more than the worldwide average of 4.53 percent of GDP.

According to numbers reported by La Jornada, some areas will be hit harder than others. Funding for the Education Reform Program is set to plunge by nearly 72 percent, while the Program for Professional Development for Teachers.

Other programs on the chopping block include initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide, improving early childhood education, and developing infrastructure in the education system, among others, La Jornada reported.

Peña’s move is certain to spark more unrest among his country’s increasingly militant teachers.

New Politics reported Sunday on the factors driving the increasingly militant teachers to take to Mexico’s streets, actions all too often met with deadly gunfire:

Mexico’s dissident teachers have been engaged in a strike against the Education Reform Law since May 16 of this year–four months! Their strikes of tens of thousands, led by the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE), a caucus within the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), have also engaged in protest marches, the blocking of highways and railroads, the commandeering of government vehicles, and the occupation of government buildings.

The government has responded by docking teachers’ pay, firing them, sending the police to beat them, and issuing warrants and arresting teacher leaders. One can only call what has gone on in Chiapas and Oaxaca and to a lesser extent in Guerrero and Michoacán class war.

Now there also appear to be death squads carrying out executions of teachers and their allies. So far at least three assassinations have taken place: a teacher, a parent, and a lawyer for the union. This is an ominous and very dangerous escalation of political violence.

  • One teacher, Jorge Vela Díaz, was shot and killed and his wife Lorena Antonio Sánchez, was wounded on Sept. 14 when two armed men men on motorcycles attacked them at a public school in the town of Ocotlán, Morelos. Both were teachers and members of Local 22 of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) of Oaxaca.
  • At the same time, another man, 19 year old Eder Zuriel Gonzen Mosqueda, a parent, was shot and killed in front of the “Juan Enrique Pestalozzi” primary school in San Juan Bautista Textepec, near the border of Veracruz. His relationship to the union is unknown, but the fact that he was shot in front of a school suggests this is related to the union.
  •  On Sept. 15, Agustín Pavia Pavia, a founder and leader of the MORENA party and  defender of the teachers movement in Oaxaca was shot and killed in front of his house in Oaxaca City, the state capital. He was the fifth member of the Oaxaca MORENA party to be assassinated in 2016; no one has been charged with any of the deaths.

Adam Zyglis: A case of flagging enthuisiasm


From the editorial cartoonist of the Buffalo News:

There’s nothing as idiotic as pledging allegiance to a flag.
The Seventh-day Adventists have rejected it ever since the pledge was introduced in 1887 and revised into the present form five years later, save for the two words “under God” added during the Cold War.

Incidentally, the the 1892 version was written by a socialist, Francis Bellamy, which should be enough for wingnuts to reject it.

The Seventh-day Adventists regard the pledge, rightly, as a form of idoltry.

Here at esnl, we haven’t recited the pledge since 1964, when we stopped pledging allegiance to a nation that was slaughtering tens of thousands in Southeast Asia, and we haven’t recited it since.

We might recite a pledge of allegiance to humanity and the planet e inhabit, but we can’t hold to the “my country, right or wrong” logic embodied in the pledge. We have more compassion for a single innocent child dying from a drone strike than we do for a piece of colored cloth.

Reciting the pledge became a major issue during the Vietnam War days, but had died out.

We don’t sing the Star Spangled Banner, either. Even those who try to sing it can’t save for a few gifted singers. [The way most folks sing it, the song should be better titled the Star Mangled Banner.] But as a journalist, we would stand for the song, mostly because to not do so would call untoward attention of the sort that might’ve interfered with our reporting assignments. But we have great respect for folks who don’t.

Anway, it’s been years since we attended an event where the song was sung. But if we went today, thanks to the actions of a San Francisco 49ers player named  Colin Kaepernick, we wouldn’t stand.

Kaepernick created a major flap when he knelt rather than stood before the 1 September game between the Niners and the Green Bay Packers, sending Right wing media and pundits into predictable paroxysms of outrage.

Afterwards Kaepernick, an African American, gave his rationale to a National Football League media representative:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick’s actions have also sparked similar moves by other NFL players, and the movement has also spread to players at the nation’s high schools.

All we can say is more power to you all.

As for the pledge, one California teenager has been refusing to say the words for years, CNN reports.

Leilani Thomas is a member of the Elem Indian Colony in Northern California and a student at Lower Lake High School.

She’d been sitting out the pledge for several years, but when she sat it out after Kaepernick’s protest made headlines, her homeroom teacher told her and another Native American who sat it out that they were making “bad choices”:

“She told us that we didn’t have a choice not to stand up for the pledge,” Leilani said. “We told her we have the right to do so. And then she told us that we only have child’s rights.”

“I was dumbfounded,” Leilani said. “She pretty much told us that she could control us. She was forcing everyone in the class to stand up.”

A few days later, Leilani recalled, the teacher met with her privately.

“She decided to lower my grade for my lack of participation, supposedly for not standing up for the pledge,” said Leilani.

Actually, Ms. Thomas was participating, and in a most exemplary American fashion, her punishment also delivered a powerful lesson: In a nation which supposedly prides itself on dissent, actual acts of dissent aren’t tolerated.

Turns out the student was the real teacher in that classroom.

The real business of America. . .is religion


While the founders believed they were a creating a nation where Church and State were separate, including in the Constitution an Establishment Clause declaring that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” that First Amendment phrase has been subject to Supreme Court rulings allowing for churches to gain increasing power over the nation’s political institutions.

Among those rulings are decisions mandating the expenditure of tax revenues for religious schools, including direct funding through vouchers, payment for textbooks and computers, and even provision of funds for busing students to church schools and direct payments for educating students in charter schools and religious colleges. For a comprehensive review, begin here, here, here, here, and here.]

In addition, churches and their institutions receive massive tax breaks, with exemptions from income and property taxes, while salaries they pay may be exempt from Social Security and unemployment taxes.

Added to all those tax-exempt contributions from the faithful, the resulting picture is one of an institution with unparalleled economic and political clout.

No wonder that there are calls for an end of the religious tax exemptions. . .

And it’s a trillion-dollar business. . .

Just how much economic clout does organized religion wield.

In a word, huge.

From the Guardian:

Religion in the United States is worth $1.2tn a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world, according to a study.

The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University in Washington DC.

The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis [open access] calculated the $1.2tn figure by estimating the value of religious institutions, including healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.

Co-author Brian Grim said it was a conservative estimate. More than 344,000 congregations across the US collectively employ hundreds of thousands of staff and buy billions of dollars worth of goods and services.

More than 150 million Americans, almost half the population, are members of faith congregations, according to the report. Although numbers are declining, the sums spent by religious organisations on social programmes have tripled in the past 15 years, to $9bn.

Twenty of the top 50 charities in the US are faith-based, with a combined operating revenue of $45.3bn.

Businesses with a religious twist

In addition to churches, schools, and religion-based NGOs, the paper also identifies major corporations with a strong religious link, including programs devoting to furthering religious agendas — programs that are also, in most cases, tax-exempt.

The following table from the study lists some of those major business entities:

blog-churchy
More from the study:

In 2014, a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court determined that the closely held for-profit corporation Hobby Lobby is exempt from a law that its owners religiously object to, as long as there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law’s interest. That ruling was the first time the Supreme Court recognized a for-profit business’s claim of religious belief. While the ruling was limited to closely held corporations, it sets up the situation where the boundaries of faith and business are clearly not absolute. It is therefore reasonable in any valuation of the role of faith to the U.S. economy to recognize businesses that have religious roots. This expands our purview beyond companies that have a specific religious purpose, such as producing traditional halal or kosher foods, to companies that have religion as a part of their corporate culture or founding.

To identify such companies, this second estimate includes companies identified recently as having religious roots. For instance, Deseret News recently identified 20 companies with religious roots, and CNN produced a list of religious companies besides Chick-fil-A. Also, the recent book by Oxford University business professor Theodore Malloch produced a global list of such faith-inspired companies. Not all of these would identify specifically as being faith-based. But faith is part of the founding and operating ethos. Malloch notes that although the commercial success of Walmart is well known, “less well known are Walmart’s connections to the distinct religious world of northwest Arkansas and rural America … [and its] corporate culture and how specific executives incorporated religious culture into their managerial philosophy”. . . Likewise, although the Marriot Hotels are not religiously run, John Willard Marriott, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, founded the chain and supplied many of the rooms with not only the Bible but The Book of Mormon.

Some other companies listed, however, have a more overt religious identity. Tyson Foods company, founded by John Tyson, provides 120 office chaplains for employees, ministering to the personal and spiritual needs regardless of the employee’s faith or non-faith, as the case may be. The Deseret News story notes that Tyson speaks openly about the company’s aspiration to honor God and be a faith-friendly company. Also, as a further indication of the company’s faith-orientation, Tyson recently financed the launch of the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas.

And to close, here’s John Oliver. . .

In a repost of a segment he did a year ago on America’s ,egachurches and their egregious tax exemptions.

From Last Week Tonight:

Televangelists: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Program notes:

U.S. tax law allows television preachers to get away with almost anything. We know this from personal experience.

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption will not be able to accept donations from Church supporters from the states of Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, or South Carolina. We apologize for any inconvenience.

John Oliver tackles, destroys charter schools


Charter schools, those private institutions so beloved by Republicans, have been judged and the results are mixed.

One recent study [open source] concluded:

We estimate the impact of charter schools on early-life labor market outcomes using administrative data from Texas. We find that, at the mean, charter schools have no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings.. . .Moving to school-level estimates, we find that charter schools that decrease test scores also tend to decrease earnings, while charter schools that increase test scores have no discernible impact on earnings.  In contrast, high school graduation effects are predictive of earnings effects throughout the distribution of school quality.

More on the study from Education Week:

Texas charter schools on average have a negative effect on students’ future earnings, according to a new working paper by two economists.

Although attending a “no excuse” charter school, which the study describes as having stricter rules, uniforms, and longer school days and years, leads to higher test scores and four-year college enrollment, it has no meaningful effect on earnings.

Other types of charter schools, however, stumble on all three measures: hurting test scores, four-year college enrollment, and earnings.

These findings are almost the opposite of another study of Florida charter school students released in April from Mathematica Policy Research. It found that attending a charter school had little impact on test scores, but students went on to earn higher salaries than their peers in district schools.

Enough with the prefacing, and one with the show.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Charter Schools: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Program notes:

Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded, and irregularly regulated. John Oliver explores why they aren’t at all like pizzerias.

Chart of the day: Partisan divide on education


As with so many other things, public opinion about education in the U.S. is divided on partisan lines. From Gallup:

BLOG Schools

Ethnic divides mark parental health anxieties


BLOG Chart

A survey of American parents reveals marked differences the the health anxieties parents harbor for their children, but two digital age worries, sexting and Internet safety, make the top ten lists for black, Hispanic, and Anglo parents alike.

Interestingly, school violence doesn’t make the list for white parents, though it does from Hispanics and African Americans, while worries racial inequalities, high on the list of black parental concerns, the anxiety doesn’t make the lists of the other two groups.

From the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health:

In the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health 2016 survey of child health concerns, a national sample of adults reported numerous mental health issues as “big problems” for US children and teens aged 0-17 years. Overall, 7 of the Top 10 concerns reflect children’s mental health: either specific mental health problems (depression, stress and suicide) or issues that often have an underlying mental health component (bullying, obesity, drug abuse, school violence).

When the 2016 Top 10 results are presented separately by the racial/ethnic groups of the adults responding, bullying is the #1 concern among black and Hispanic adults, and #2 among white adults. However, the poll shows some key differences across racial/ethnic groups:

  • For black adults, racial inequities and school violence are the #2 and #3 health concerns – neither of which appears in the Top 10 list for white adults.
  • Black adults are the only group with gun injuries and hunger ranked in the Top 10.
  • Childhood obesity and drug abuse are in the top three “big problems” for white and Hispanic adults, but lower on the list for black adults.
  • Teen pregnancy appears in the Top 10 among Hispanic adults, but not among black or white adults.
  • While depression ranks #9 or #10 across all racial/ethnic groups, only white adults have suicide in the Top 10.

Differences in Concerns about Racial Inequities, Suicide

Consistently, black and Hispanic adults are more likely than white adults to label health topics as a “big problem.” However, the magnitude of the disparity differs across topics. For example, a large gap exists between black adults (61%) and white adults (17%) citing racial inequities as a “big problem” for US children. A smaller difference is seen for suicide (53% of Hispanic adults vs 36% of white adults).

Implications

This 10th annual Top 10 survey reveals key differences across racial/ethnic groups in the issues viewed as “big problems” for children – reflecting how contemporary topics vary in importance to different communities.

Comparing the Top 10 lists across racial/ethnic groups helps to illustrate this point. For black adults, the emergence of racial inequities, school violence and gun injuries in the Top 10 mirrors national attention regarding the safety of black youth. The presence of teen pregnancy as a Top 10 child health concern among Hispanic adults may reflect cultural attitudes unique to that group. For white adults, the presence of suicide at #8 reflects the importance of this mental health issue, relative to other concerns.

Black and Hispanic adults were more likely than white adults to rate all topics as a “big problem” for US children and teens. But the magnitude of the difference varied, from large differences in black vs white views of racial inequities as child health concerns, to fairly similar ratings of suicide.

This year, several Top 10 concerns directly relate to the mental health of children. Concerns about bullying, stress, suicide and depression reflect increased attention to the complexities that affect many aspects of childhood including school performance, peer and family relationships, and successful transition to adulthood. Mental health issues can also increase children’s risk for obesity, drug abuse, and other health problems. The broad recognition of mental health as a key child health concern supports the importance of ensuring access to mental health services for all US children.

Data Source

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research, LLC (GfK), for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies.  The survey was administered in May 2016 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults age 18 and older (n=2,100). Adults were selected from GfK’s web-enabled KnowledgePanel® that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 63% among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ± 3-12 percentage points.