Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Thomas Sowell: is the political left really concerned about helping minorities?

Economist Thomas Sowell

Economist Thomas Sowell

Do people who talk about race the most actually favor policies to help minorities? Thomas Sowell writes about it in Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left’s avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now — and the place would be New York City, where far left Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched an attack on charter schools, cutting their funding, among other things.

These schools have given thousands of low-income minority children their only shot at a decent education, which often means their only shot at a decent life. Last year 82% of the students at a charter school called Success Academy passed citywide mathematics exams, compared to 30% of the students in the city as a whole.

Why would anybody who has any concern at all about minority young people — or even common decency — want to destroy what progress has already been made?

One big reason, of course, is the teachers’ union, one of de Blasio’s biggest supporters.

But it may be more than that. For many of the true believers on the left, their ideology overrides any concern about the actual fate of flesh-and-blood human beings.

Something similar happened on the West Coast last year. The American Indian Model Schools in Oakland have been ranked among the top schools in the nation, based on their students’ test scores.

This is, again, a special achievement for minority students who need all the help they can get.

But, last spring, the California State Board of Education announced plans to shut this school down!

Why? The excuse given was that there had been suspicious financial dealings by the former — repeat, former — head of the institution. If this was the real reason, then all they had to do was indict the former head and let a court decide if he was guilty or innocent.

There was no reason to make anyone else suffer, much less the students. But the education establishment’s decision was to refuse to let the school open last fall. Fortunately a court stopped this hasty shutdown.

These are not just isolated local incidents. The Obama administration has cut spending for charter schools in the District of Columbia and its Justice Department has intervened to try to stop the state of Louisiana from expanding its charter schools.

Why such hostility to schools that have succeeded in educating minority students, where so many others have failed?

Some of the opposition to charter schools has been sheer crass politics. The teachers’ unions see charter schools as a threat to their members’ jobs, and politicians respond to the money and the votes that teachers’ unions can provide.

The net result is that public schools are often run as if their main function is to provide jobs to teachers. Whether the children get a decent education is secondary, at best.

In various parts of the country, educators who have succeeded in raising the educational level of minority children to the national average — or above — have faced hostility, harassment or have even been driven out of their schools.

Not all charter schools are successful, of course, but the ones that are completely undermine the excuses for failure in the public school system as a whole. That is why teachers’ unions hate them, as a threat not only to their members’ jobs but a threat to the whole range of frauds and fetishes in the educational system.

The autonomy of charter schools is also a threat to the powers that be, who want to impose their own vision on the schools, regardless of what the parents want.

This story reminds me of another story of people on the left blocking poor minority children from better schools, in order to protect the jobs of underperforming unionized teachers.

The Heritage Foundation explains how the Department of Justice, in a Democrat administration, hurts the poorest minority students.

Excerpt:

On August 22, 2013, the United States Department of Justice filed a motion in federal court to stop Louisiana from issuing school vouchers to low-income children in numerous school districts. DOJ is basing the suit on decades-old desegregation orders that treat Louisiana as if it were the same state it was nearly 40 years ago—something that the United States Supreme Court recently rejected in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. Ironically, DOJ’s action will prevent low-income and minority students from accessing the successful Louisiana school choice program, which empowers children, underserved in their assigned public schools, to attend schools of choice that match their learning needs. Vague, open-ended, and stale court orders should not be used to prevent educational innovation and opportunity.

Vouchers are a way of helping poor, minority students to get a quality education by letting them choose to attend better schools – any school the parents choose. But school choice is a thorn in the side of the public school unions who support the political left, because it allows poor, minority child to escape underperforming schools. Poor, minority students don’t help Democrats to get elected, but public school teachers do. And that’s why the administration sides with them against the children. On the other side of the aisle, it’s the conservatives who push for more school choice, and better education for poor and minority students.

But education policy is only one area where minorities are harmed by leftist policies.  Minimum wage is another obvious choice.

Let’s take a look at the data and see how minorities are affected by leftist policies.

Excerpt:

Battles are brewing in New York, California, Minnesota and the nation’s capital over hiking minimum wages, with Democrats having the votes to ram through hikes in all four cases.

These politicians are claiming the moral high ground, saying it will help the poorest in our communities. Don’t be fooled.

Hiking the minimum wage hurts — not helps — the lowest-paid workers, especially young black men. A 10% hike in the minimum wage causes a 2.5% drop in employment among young white men without a high school diploma and a staggering 6.5% drop among young black men without that degree.

Young black males get clobbered three times as hard because they tend to work in the fast-food and restaurant industries, where any increase in labor costs produces layoffs.

[...]Only 5% of American workers earn the federal minimum, according to the latest government data, compared with 13% in 1979. Minimum wage workers are largely first-time workers. They are learning what all of us learn on our first job: to be prompt, dress appropriately, do what the boss asks and be reliable.

First-time workers face the biggest risk of being priced out of the job market by a minimum wage hike. They aren’t worth much to an employer when they start working. They don’t have the skills.

When the government increases the minimum wage, it’s more expensive to hire first-timers. According to David Neumark and J.M. Salas, University of California economists, and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve Board, “minimum wages tend to reduce employment among teenagers.”

[...]All teens are harmed, but black male teenagers are hit hardest by minimum wage hikes, according to a 2011 study by labor economists David Macpherson and William Evans. Unemployment among young black males is currently 29%, double the rate for young white males.

Macpherson and Evans found the reason is that one out of three young black men without a high school diploma works in the restaurant/fast-food industry, where profit margins are thin. Any labor-cost hikes compel these businesses to cut their workforce.

The truth of the matter is that the real minimum wage is zero. In order to help minority young people find jobs, we should strengthen the institution of marriage, encourage people to get married and stay married, lower taxes on businesses, lower regulations on businesses, and so on. But strangely, the people who talk the most about helping the poor and poor minorities in particular are all opposed to that. The Democrats won’t even build the Keystone XL pipeline or expedite other energy development initiatives to create good paying jobs. So don’t believe that people who talk the most about poverty actually have the right answers about how to solve it. After all, the Obama administration talked a lot about health care, but clearly the people who lost their doctors, lost their health care, or are paying more for less health care, do not now believe that Obamacare was the answer to the health care problem.

If you’re looking for a good recent study on the minimum wage and minority youth, take a look at this study from the Employment Policies Institute. More studies here in a previous post on this blog.

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10-year-old suspended for shooting imaginary arrow, threatened with expulsion

CNS News reports.

Excerpt:

On Wednesday, the Rutherford Institute announced it has come to the defense of a 10-year-old boy who was suspended under a school zero tolerance policy for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination.

Additionally, Rutherford Institute says the student has been threatened with expulsion for his make-believe actions, which were a response to another student “shooting” an imaginary gun at him:

“Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School, was suspended for a day and threatened with expulsion under the school’s weapons policy after playfully using his hands to draw the bowstrings on a pretend ‘bow’ and ‘shoot’ an arrow at a classmate who had held his folder like an imaginary gun and ‘shot’ at Johnny. In coming to Jones’ defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys have asked Rona Kaufmann, Superintendent of the South Eastern School District in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania, to rescind the suspension and remove all references to the incident from Jones’ permanent school record.”

Reason #26,956 to not send your children (especially boys) to public school.

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International tests show US children lagging despite record spending on education

Jay Richards tweeted this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Since 1998, the Program for International Student Assessment, or Pisa, has ranked 15-year-old kids around the world on common reading, math and science tests. The U.S. brings up the middle—again—among 65 education systems that make up fourth-fifths of the global economy. The triennial Pisa report also shows—again—that East Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea produce the best outcomes.

U.S. performance hasn’t budged in a decade. For 2012, U.S. students placed 26th in mathematics, a bit below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average, and 17th in reading and 21st in science, close to the average. The U.S. slipped in all categories compared to international competitors, plunging from 11th in reading as recently as 2009.

American teenagers seem especially weak in core academic subjects with high cognitive demands, such as translating concepts into solutions for real-world problems. A quarter never become proficient in math. In Shanghai and Korea, the comparable figure is 10% or fewer. Some 7% of U.S. students reached the top two scientific performance levels, compared with 17% in Finland and an amazing 27% in Shanghai. Is it tiger moms or tiger schools, or maybe both?

The U.S. is way out front in one measure: per-student spending. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more. Despite laying out $115,000 per head, the U.S. did no better than the Slovak Republic, which spends $53,000.

Perhaps most depressingly, the data show no statistically significant U.S. achievement improvement over time. None. In an era when it pays to be thankful for small mercies, at least we’re not getting worse, but America’s relative standing is falling as other countries improve.

[...]Massachusetts has been running public schools since 1635 and today is home to some of the best performers in the nation. The state entered Pisa as if it was its own country—but students of the same age in Shanghai performed as if they had two more years of math instruction than those in the Bay State.

[...]Pisa also adds another count to the bill of indictment for the Democrats who block reform to serve their teachers union patrons. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the report “a picture of educational stagnation,” but liberals are major impediments to more accountability, merit-based compensation and school-choice competition. The Justice Department has even gone so far as to sue Louisiana to block its modest voucher program, which is a moral crime against the students consigned to failing schools.

There are a few areas of economics that I think that Christians really ought to understand, and education is one of them. We definitely need to be concerned about policies that make it harder for poor, minority students to get ahead. We keep throwing money at the unionized public school system, and we get no results. We need to think about making education more like online shopping. What makes online shopping great is choice and competition. If schools were allowed to compete with one another, then the customer would be assured of getting more quality for less money. The public school system is a monopoly, and it serves the teachers and the education bureaucrats – not the children.

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New study: school anti-bullying programs actually increase bullying

From The College Fix.

Excerpt:

Schools across the nation have implemented anti-bullying campaigns, complete with speakers, posters, slogans and more – but a recent study hailing from the University of Texas-Arlington claims such efforts may actually cause more bullying.

Essentially researchers suggest anti-bullying campaigns, despite good intentions, teach students how to bully or may even plant the seed inside students who had not exhibited aggressive behavior previously.

“One possible reason for this is the students who are victimizing their peers have learned the language from these anti-bullying campaigns and programs,” Seokjin Jeong, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at UT-Arlington and lead author of the study, said in a campus statement.

Jeong did not respond to requests for comment by The College Fix. His research, titled “A Multilevel Examination of Peer Victimization and Bullying Preventions in Schools,” was recently published in The Journal of Criminology.

In an interview with CBS, he said his findings were a surprise – that his hypothesis going into the research was that anti-bullying programs would help curb the problem. Instead, he said he found the opposite was true, calling it “very disappointing.”

Today, 75 percent of schools report a violent incident to the police on a weekly basis and 25 percent of schools experience bullying on a daily basis, according to stats cited in the Journal of Criminology.

“Our anti-bullying programs, either intervention or prevention does not work,” Jeong said. “There is a possibility of negative impact from anti-bullying programs.”

[...]The study’s results state: “Surprisingly, bullying prevention had a negative effect on peer victimization. Contrary to our hypothesis, students attending schools with bullying prevention programs were more likely to have experienced peer victimization, compared to those attending schools without bullying prevention programs. It is possible that bullies have learned a variety of antibullying techniques but chose not to practice what they have learned from the program. Sometimes, bullies maintain their dominant social status among peers in school. As a result, the preventive strategies may become ineffective.”

I think that the troubling thing with anti-bullying programs is that they can be abused to restrict free speech. I think that a better solution to the problem of violence in schools is the same as the problem of violence in society. We need to promote marriage and encourage people to stay married using pro-marriage tax breaks and other pro-family policies.

Here is Dr. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation to explain:

Census data and the Fragile Families survey show that marriage can be extremely effective in reducing child poverty. But the positive effects of married fathers are not limited to income alone. Children raised by married parents have substantially better life outcomes compared to similar children raised in single-parent homes.

When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.[19] Many of these negative outcomes are associated with the higher poverty rates of single mothers. In many cases, however, the improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income. This indicates that the father brings more to his home than just a paycheck.

The effect of married fathers on child outcomes can be quite pronounced. For example, examination of families with the same race and same parental education shows that, when compared to intact married families, children from single-parent homes are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime;[20]
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems;[21]
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school;[22] and
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school.[23]

The effects of being raised in a single-parent home continue into adulthood. Comparing families of the same race and similar incomes, children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than are children raised in intact married families. [24] Compared to girls raised in similar married families, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation.[25]

Finally, the decline of marriage generates poverty in future generations. Children living in single-parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults when compared to children from intact married homes. This intergenerational poverty effect persists even after adjusting for the original differences in family income and poverty during childhood.[26]

People on the left claim that poverty causes crime, but they don’t look for the root cause of poverty. The root cause of poverty is the decline of marriage, which produces fatherless children. People on the left always want to solve every social problem with bigger government and more wasteful spending. But the research is pretty clear that natural marriage and the traditional family help children to behave better. When your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. But this problem can’t be solved from the top down, it has to be solved from the bottom up – with families.

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Public school teachers and Democrat politicians send their own kids to private schools

Black commentator Larry Elder writes about it in Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

About 11% of all parents — nationwide, rural and urban — send their children to private schools. The numbers are much higher in urban areas. One study found that in Philadelphia a staggering 44% of public school teachers send their own kids to private schools.

In Cincinnati and Chicago, 41% and 39% of public school teachers pay for a private school education for their children. In Rochester, N.Y., it’s 38%, in Baltimore 35%, in San Francisco 34% and in New York-northeastern New Jersey 33%.

In Los Angeles nearly 25% of public school teachers send their kids to private school versus 16% of Angelenos who do so.

The 2004 study by the Fordham Institute said its findings “are apt to be embarrassing for teacher unions, considering those organizations’ political animus toward assisting families to select among schools. But these results do not surprise most practicing teachers to whom we speak.”

“The data have shown the same basic pattern since we first happened upon them two decades ago: Urban public school teachers are more apt to send their own children to private schools than is the general public. One might say this shows how conservative teachers are. They continue doing what they’ve always done. Or it might indicate that they have long been discerning connoisseurs of education …

“The middle class will tolerate a lot — disorder, decay and dismay, an unwholesome environment, petty crime, potholes, chicanery and rudeness. One thing, however, that middle class parents will not tolerate is bad schools for their children. To escape them, they will pay out-of-pocket or vote with their feet. That is what discerning teachers do.”

What about members of Congress? Where do they send their own children? A 2007 Heritage Foundation study found that 37% of representatives and 45% of senators with school-age children sent their own kids to private school.

Of the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus with school-age children, 38% sent them to private school. Of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus with school-age children, 52% sent them to private school.

The ex-mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, was asked why he didn’t have his own kids in public school despite his strong advocacy of public education. Villaraigosa, whose wife was a public school teacher, said:

“I’m doing like every parent does. I’m going to put my kids in the best school I can. My kids were in a neighborhood public school until just this year. We’ve decided to put them in a Catholic school. We’ve done that because we want our kids to have the best education they can.

“If I can get that education in a public school, I’ll do it, but I won’t sacrifice (emphasis added) my children any more than I could ask you to do the same.”

When he got elected president, Barack Obama and his wife made a big display of looking into Washington, D.C., public schools for his two daughters to attend. But the Obamas chose Sidwell Friends, the elite private school whose alums include Chelsea Clinton.

Obama’s own mother sent her then-10-year-old to live with her parents — so he could attend Punahou Academy, the most exclusive prep school in Honolulu. In fact, from Punahou to Occidental (a private college in Los Angeles) to Columbia (where he completed college) to Harvard Law, Obama is a product of private education.

So how does this square with Obama’s opposition to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that offered a voucher for the children of participating parents? It doesn’t.

The best way to help all children – especially poor and minority children – get ahead in life is by giving their parent(s) vouchers and letting them choose public or private schools. But Democrats can’t do that – they want their supporters in the teacher unions to have a captive audience. That way, come election time, the Democrats can count on an army of big-government supporters. It’s very important to understand that Democrats don’t want what’s best for children. They don’t want them to have a choice. They don’t want them to have a quality education. They want to bribe public school teachers to help them get elected.

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