On this said day, when the mayor of Chicago has closed nearly 50 schools, Daily Kos links to a great profile of education reformer Michelle Rhee. The former head of Washington D.C. schools, Rhee makes strong decisions that seemed based on belief rather than fact, especially the belief that teachers’ unions are the biggest problem facing public schools. Instead, she favors an unproven market model that depends on charter schools. There is no clear evidence that charter schools perform better than traditional public schools. In other cases, as Diane Ravitch documents in The Death and Life of the Great American School System, reforms have clearly failed, only to have billionaires pour more money into some new model as well as funding union-bashing PR. Is this reform really about children or busting unions?
May 22, 2013
May 21, 2013
I’ve found a great blog that you should be following: Matt Chong’s Pinstriped Suit. Matt covers a range of topics, including career strategies and job market trends. One recent post listed 10 jobs in marketing that did not exist 10 years ago. If you want to enjoy some great perspectives on managing your career (and some interesting thoughts on marketing), check out the Pinstriped Suit.
May 16, 2013
A group of parents in Chicago have filed a suit to stop Chicago Public Schools’ plan to close 54 schools. The suit argues that students in special education programs will be negatively affected in a way that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In reporting on the suit, The Chicago Sun-Times quotes CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennet, who said: “We have a shared responsibility to do everything we can to ensure a bright future for every child.” These words sound wonderful. However, they contradict the action being taken by CPS.
I live near Trumbull School, which is being closed because of alleged “underutilization.” The school’s problem is that it hosts several special education classes, which are capped at 14 students per class, half the expected number of a general education class. Several experts have said that the school is not underutilized if adjustments are made for special education classes
More importantly, CEO Byrd-Bennett claims that she wants a “bright future for every child.” If this is the case, why not bring students from neighboring schools (Chappell, McPherson) to Trumbull, which would lower class sizes at three schools, rather than packing classrooms at two schools? It’s no secret that students learn better in smaller classrooms. Empty seats at Trumbull would seem to give CPS a chance to give more students a chance to realize “a bright future.” Why close such a resource?
The only logical reason seems to that CPS wants to shed jobs. Is that what is best for the students and their future? I don’t think so. If the city can find money to build a new arena for DePaul near McCormick Place, it should be able to find money to keep schools like Trumbull open. Do what is best for students. Invest in schools and teachers.
May 13, 2013
In the Grid feature of today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Francine Knowles profiles Anne Ladky, the Executive Director of Women Employed. Ladky points out that too many women still work in low wage jobs. She estimates that 17 million women work at jobs that pay less than $12 an hour. Worse still, it’s not unusual for these jobs to schedule employees at less than 40 hours a week, which means no benefits, no security.
Ladky advocates improved education and better programs to assist low wage workers. While I agree with her in these areas, which should be called common sense solutions, the trend on a national and local level seems to be flying in the other direction. Few politicians support funding any kind of social program. Instead, they call for cuts to any program that helps people (except for the very rich and corporations). Several major cities, including Chicago, are closing schools, which means young women (and men) most likely to be low wage workers are being packed in larger and larger classes. How will they be able to compete in an economy that requires greater knowledge and skills? Is it possible to talk about meritocracy if so many have no chance to succeed?
Ladky and Women Employed are fighting the good fight. May they stay strong and lead to a better world for all of us.
May 9, 2013
Huffington Post republished an article from the New York Times that outlines the impact of austerity on the job market. Deficit-cutting mania has impacted the unemployment rate by as much as 1%. It has also hurt economic growth, which would generate even more jobs. Without taking sides, the article describes inaction by the Republican Party, which has contributed to the current state of the economy. For my part, I would also take the President to task for not doing a better job of communicating the problem to the American people. His willingness to compromise and look for a “Grand Bargain” has made a confusing situation worse. Bottom line: Government action – not deficit reduction – will generate jobs.
May 1, 2013
In many countries in the world, this is the day on which workers express solidarity and call for better conditions. The U.S. has a Labor Day holiday that represents the end of summer and a time to picnic. Maybe we need to be more worker focused on this day.
What is the state of working people in the U.S. on this May Day? Unemployment is still too high. Despite recent reports, wages have been flat or falling. Most of the jobs being created are lower wage. For example, the website 24/7 Wallstreet recently reported that the Dollar Store is planning to hire 10,000 employees in May. The article notes that these will not be good jobs, but it will be “10,000 more hires for payrolls to count.” Such jobs just lead to more people who have to shop at Dollar Stores. For working people and the middle class, the American economy is headed in one direction: down.
As long as executives and their crafty consultants look for new ways to increase productivity and cut wages, the problem will grow worse. But it’s not enough to blame the people at the top. As they have in past generations, workers have to unite and speak with one voice. They need to demand that politicians act in their interests.
May Day is not only a holiday. It is also an international signal that a ship or airplane is in crisis. The ship of the American workforce is about to crash: mayday, mayday!
April 28, 2013
One of my good friends is an engineer. For most of his career, his employer paid overtime to engineers who worked more than 40 hours. That changed three years ago. Now they are on a “comp time” model in which non-hourly employees are supposed to be able to take time off for working over 40 hours in a week. However, given “lean” staffing, it’s impossible to use comp time.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos discusses this problem and how the freedom-loving conservatives in Congress are trying to make it worse. The Working Families Flexibility Act, a proposed bill in the House of Representatives, would enable employers to control their employees’ time, working them hard during busy seasons,making them take comp time without pay when production is slow.
Clawson calls out Eric Cantor as the leading supporter of this “reform.” That’s not surprising. The real challenge will be to see how many Senate Democrats fall in line if the bill passes the House. Working people need to come together to support each other on this issue. The Working Families Flexibility Act should be a rallying point. Anyone (hourly or salary) working more than 40 hour should be paid overtime. Keep it simple: +40 = overtime pay.
April 18, 2013
Daily Kos’s Laura Clawson is a great writer on labor issues. Sometimes, she can also be very funny. In a recent post, Clawson speculates what it would be like if the Teach for America model were applied to other professional fields.
The real point is, of course, that attacks on teachers are absurd. Many corporate reformers are looking for ways to break unions and pay teachers less. To do that, they have to create a boogie man of the “bad teacher.” Am I claiming there are no bad teachers? Of course not. There are unqualified or incompetent people in every field. The attack on teachers serves a political agenda. In her funny piece, Clawson call out the absurdity.
April 17, 2013
I’ve blogged recently about how most new jobs are low paid ($30,000 a year or less). I’ve cited writers like Paul Krugman about the flatness of wages for averages workers. Clearly, every day working people aren’t doing so well in the pay game. Who’s winning? CEOs.
Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson examines compensation for CEOs. In 1982, CEOs made 42 times what the average worker made. 30 years later, that ratio has increased to 354:1. Production has continued to increase. Where does the money go. To the top. This trend cannot continue without big consequences for the American economy. Working people and the middle class drive the economy with their purchasing. If their wages continue to be stagnant or falling, rich CEOs will have to deal with an economic crash and a country filled with very angry people.
April 9, 2013
Some of America’s largest employers are proposing changing employees’ health care payments based on an individual employee’s health. Those who meet a standard for weight or behavior (smoking cessation) will receive a bonus or incentive. Not all companies are doing this. Some will ask employees who are smokers or overweight to pay a greater health care contribution. It is logical to assume that more employers will follow a model that cuts their costs rather than one that gives employees bonuses.
Should an employer has this power? If smoking is legal, what right does an employer have to ask an employee to change behavior? What if it were proven that a certain type of car is more likely to be involved in accidents, could an employer penalize employees who own that type of car? What about employees who own guns? They and their families are more likely to be involved in accidental shootings. Should they be penalized? What is the limit to an employer’s power to define what behavior is unhealthy?
I think the current proposals are just another scam to cut wages. If employers are truly concerned about employees’ health, they should offer good health care that includes dental care. No, that costs too much. It would hurt “job creation.” Very few people believe such lies anymore.