Category Archives: Schools

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:

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).


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.

Mexico’s striking teachers deliver ultimatum

And it’s simple: Move to end the government’s neoliberal education reforms or they’ll walk out before schools open.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has ordered corporate-friendly measures paralleling many of those implemented in the U.S. under the George W. Bush administration, but members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE, previously] in the state of Chiapas are stepping up their game.

From teleSUR English:

Dissident Mexican teachers on strike for the past three months in the southern state of Chiapas remain firm that they will not go back to their classrooms for the start of term next week if the government doesn’t agree to put “serious and concrete” proposals on the table in a so far “fruitless” negotiation process that continues Tuesday.

In a nationwide meeting Sunday of more than two dozen union locals, representatives of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE, accused authorities in the Ministry of the Interior of working to “manage” the conflict without offering clear solutions and “dragging their feet” in the face of teacher demands to overhaul the public education system, La Jornada reported.

“The grassroots are demanding signed agreements,” said members of the Oaxaca section of the CNTE, criticizing weeks of empty talks, according to La Jornada. “There’s still nothing concrete.”

But despite the impasse, the Ministry of the Interior continued to insist that controversial neoliberal education reforms, the main issue for the striking teachers, are still not on the negotiations agenda, El Proceso reported.

Chiapas teachers have said that their decision on whether to end the strike and go back to classes for the start of the school year on Aug. 22 will depend on the outcome of talks with the government Tuesday afternoon, scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. local time in Mexico City.

Legislators slam Mexican massacre coverup

On 19 June, government forces attacked striking teachers in Nochixtlan [more here] and elsewhere in the state of Oaxaca, where they had been conducting ongoing protests against corporate-friendly neoliberal education “reforms” designed to strip educators of their classroom autonomy.

The ongoing strikes have been organized by members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE], a teachers union strong in Southern Mexico and created in opposition to a the government-backed union, the  Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [SNTE].

On Thursday, members of the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Office of the Attorney General [Procurador General de la República, or PGR] offered preliminary results of their investigation of the killings, and promptly drew fire from leftist legislators.

From teleSUR English:

Officials seemed to be more interested in outlining the alleged misdeeds of the residents of Nochixtlan, specifying the investigation into a series of crimes was already open before the massacre took place.

They also went to great lengths to emphasize the alleged presence of weapons in the hands of the civilians in Nochixtlan.

“A relevant fact is that the PGR confirmed that there were civilians carrying weapons and a Federal Police helicopter was damaged by these weapons and a second was damaged by impact of rockets,” said conservative Senator Mariana Gomez del Campo, who also participated in the press conference.

She added that over hundred police officers had apparently suffered injuries.

No police were killed, meanwhile at least ten civilians were killed in different clashes throughout Oaxaca on June 19, six alone were killed in Nochixtlan.

Senator Alejandro Encinas, from the center-left PRD, grilled Higuera on this point during Friday’s session of the special commission of the Mexican Congress following up on the incident.

Encinas said Roberto Campa, the undersecretary for Human Rights from the Interior Ministry, had no problem entering the town in order to interview witnesses and had done so several times.

“Campa went in, talked with the victims, with the authorities … he has assembled the facts … the PGR cannot pretend it has dementia, because it has the elements it needs to go further in the investigation,” said Encinas, as quoted by La Jornada.

In addition, a consortium of human rights organizations were even able to produce a preliminary report, based on interviews with the town’s residents, detailing the human rights abuses committed by the state in Nochixtlan.

Encinas also questioned how the PGR could claim civilians were armed without offering proof.

Chart of the day: Student loans top debt list

From the Wall Street Journal via Popular Resistance, with a H/T to Undernews: