Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The test results : California ?

The test results: Lots of numbers, not much light.
Sacramento Bee. Aug.29,2007.

Peter Schrag has a long history of commenting on public education. He is well informed. He has not demonstrated an understanding of “Voices in the Classroom,” nor the teachers day to day reality, but he does understand public policy at the state and national level.
His column of Aug.29, in the Sacramento BEE argues that the tests results provide lots of numbers, not much light.
Correct. The numbers do not tell you much, particularly averages with claims of proficient, basic, etc.
According to Shrag,,
“it's still true that, over all, middle class students do far better than the economically disadvantaged. In English, 60 percent of nondisadvantaged students score at proficient levels or above compared to 29 percent of economically disadvantaged students. In math, it's 52 percent vs. 31 percent.”
Schrag says, overall. I am not certain what scores he is looking at. But, according to his report there is a 60% proficient as compared to 29% proficient. It seems that is 31% difference.
So, I looked up the scores by race. I chose to look at 4th. Grade English Language Arts. For Economically disadvantaged 24% are proficient. For advantaged, 29% are proficient.
On the same test, Black children scored 24% proficient compared to White students 29% proficient.
Given these differences, which do you work on? (Hint, you can’t change race but you can change poverty). As evidence, between 1959 and 1973, the U.S. poverty rate was reduced from 22.4% to 11.1 %. Concerted government effort can reduce poverty.

While we can not change race, we can attack racism including institutionalized racism that establishes different expectations for groups of students. In California the primary instruments for resisting racism in k-12 have been taken away from us: Prop.209, Prop. 227, and the virtual abolition of multicultural education under the pressure of standards and accountability. What remains is culturally responsive pedagogy.
And, “there was no overall score change from 2006 to 2007 in the percentage of students rated proficient in math…”
Now, I may not understand these scores. I invite others to explain what I am missing. But, it looks to me like we should acknowledge the racial differences and work on the class differences.
Yes, we should look for explanations of the racial differences- but we know what causes the class differences. And, we are not addressing these differences. It almost seems as if we are talking about the racial differences to avoid fixing the class differences. After all, that would cost money.
I am not diminishing the racial differences. But, if we are not working on the class issues, what do you think we are going to do with the racial differences? And, the racial difference theories are speculative and with very limited firm data. I am familiar with the literature on these differences. They are reviewed in my book. ( the same name as this blog) Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. (2004) I am currently working on the 4th. Edition.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The voters want a change in NCLB. Will the Democrats listen?



A major, annual poll released today demonstrates that the public increasingly supports a fundamental overhaul of the controversial “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law, according to the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA), a working group seeking to implement reforms sought by 139 national education, civil rights, disability, labor, religious and civic organizations.

“The Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)/Gallup poll shows that the more people know about NCLB, the more they want to change it,” said FEA convener Dr. Monty Neill, who is also the co-Executive Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). “Less than a third of the nation now believes NCLB is helping improve the performance of public schools.” (Poll data and analysis are online at

Neill continued, “The public both shares the criticisms made in the ‘Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB’ and endorses its overhaul proposals.” Specifically, Neill noted:

* The Joint Statement calls for federal law to “shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement.” In the poll, overwhelming majorities of more than 80% supported proposals to “provide more instructional time and other help for low-performing students.” A similar percentage backs additional professional development time for public school teachers.

* The Joint Statement calls for changes in NCLB to “allow states to measure progress by using students’ growth in achievement.” The PDK/Gallup poll reports that 82% of respondents favor rating schools based on “improvement shown by the students,” not just “percentage passing the test.”

* The Joint Statement cites concerns with NCLB that include “over-emphasizing standardized testing” and “narrowing curriculum and instruction to focus on test preparation.” In the PDK/Gallup poll more than half of public school parents say there is “too much emphasis” on standardized exams. Three-quarters agree that schools now “teach to the tests.” Nine out of ten express concern about a “reduced emphasis on the teaching of science, health, social studies and the arts.”

“Senators and Representatives should heed the strong message from their constituents expressed in the PDK/Gallup poll,” Neill concluded. “When they return to Capitol Hill after Labor Day, Congress must work for a comprehensive overhaul of NCLB so that federal law helps, not hurts, the nation’s schools and our children.”

The Joint Statement, a list of signers and other Forum on Educational Accountability documents are available online at

Monday, August 27, 2007

Legislatue whistles while schools lack teachers

August 27, 2007
With Turnover High, Schools Fight for Teachers

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term.

Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with substitute teachers in recent years.

Here in Guilford County, N.C., turnover had become so severe in some high-poverty schools that principals were hiring new teachers for nearly every class, every term. To staff its neediest schools before classes start on Aug. 28, recruiters have been advertising nationwide, organizing teacher fairs and offering one of the nation’s largest recruitment bonuses, $10,000 to instructors who sign up to teach Algebra I.

“We had schools where we didn’t have a single certified math teacher,” said Terry Grier, the schools superintendent. “We needed an incentive, because we couldn’t convince teachers to go to these schools without one.”

Guilford County, which has 116 schools, is far from the only district to take this route as school systems compete to fill their ranks. Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit policy group that seeks to encourage better teaching, said hundreds of districts were offering recruitment incentives this summer.

Officials in New York, which has the nation’s largest school system, said they had recruited about 5,000 new teachers by mid-August, attracting those certified in math, science and special education with a housing incentive that can include $5,000 for a down payment.

New York also offers subsidies through its teaching fellows program, which recruits midcareer professionals from fields like health care, law and finance. The money helps defer the cost of study for a master’s degree. The city expects to hire at least 1,300 additional teachers before school begins on Sept. 4, said Vicki Bernstein, director of teacher recruitment.

Los Angeles has offered teachers signing with low-performing schools a $5,000 bonus. The district, the second-largest in the country, had hired only about 500 of the 2,500 teachers it needed by Aug. 15 but hoped to begin classes fully staffed, said Deborah Ignagni, chief of teacher recruitment.

In Kansas, Alexa Posny, the state’s education commissioner, said the schools had been working to fill “the largest number of vacancies” the state had ever faced. This is partly because of baby boomer retirements and partly because districts in Texas and elsewhere were offering recruitment bonuses and housing allowances, luring Kansas teachers away.

“This is an acute problem that is becoming a crisis,” Ms. Posny said.

In June, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase the retention of quality teachers, estimated from a survey of several districts that teacher turnover was costing the nation’s districts some $7 billion annually for recruiting, hiring and training.

Demographers agree that education is one of the fields hardest hit by the departure of hundreds of thousands of baby boomers from the work force, particularly because a slowdown in hiring in the 1980s and 1990s raised the average age of the teaching profession. Still, they debate how serious the attrition will turn out to be.

In New York, the wave of such retirements crested in the early years of this decade as teachers left well before they hit their 60s, without a disruptive teacher shortage, Ms. Bernstein said.

In other parts of the country, the retirement bulge is still approaching, because pension policies vary among states, said Michael Podgursky, an economist at the University of Missouri. California is projecting that it will need 100,000 new teachers over the next decade from the retirement of the baby boomers alone.

Some educators say it is the confluence of such retirements with the departure of disillusioned young teachers that is creating the challenge. In addition, higher salaries in the business world and more opportunities for women are drawing away from the field recruits who might in another era have proved to be talented teachers with strong academic backgrounds.

“The problem is not mainly with retirement,” said Thomas G. Carroll, the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. “Our teacher preparation system can accommodate the retirement rate. The problem is that our schools are like a bucket with holes in the bottom, and we keep pouring in teachers.”

The commission has calculated that these days nearly a third of all new teachers leave the profession after just three years, and that after five years almost half are gone — a higher turnover rate than in the past.

All the coming and going of young teachers is tremendously disruptive, especially to schools in poor neighborhoods where teacher turnover is highest and students’ needs are greatest.

According to the most recent Department of Education statistics available, about 269,000 of the nation’s 3.2 million public school teachers, or 8.4 percent, quit the field in the 2003-4 school year. Thirty percent of them retired, and 56 percent said they left to pursue another career or because they were dissatisfied.

The federal No Child Left Behind law requires schools and districts to put a qualified teacher in every classroom. The law has led districts to focus more seriously on staffing its low-performing schools, educators said, but it does not appear to have helped persuade veteran teachers to continue their service in them.

Tim Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, a group that helps urban districts recruit teachers, said attrition often resulted from chaotic hiring practices, because novice teachers are often assigned at the last moment to positions for which they have not even interviewed. Later, overwhelmed by classroom stress, many leave the field.

Chicago and New York are districts that have invested heavily and worked with teachers unions in recent years to improve hiring and transfer policies, Mr. Daly said.

“But most of the urban districts have no coherent hiring strategy,” he said. Many receive thousands of teacher applications in the spring but leave them unprocessed until principals return from August vacations, when more organized suburban districts have already hired the most-qualified teachers, he said.

“There isn’t any maliciousness in this,” Mr. Daly said, “it’s just a conspiracy of dysfunction.”

In Guilford County, Washington Elementary School, which serves students from a housing project, had churned through several principals and most of its teachers several years ago, and had repeatedly failed to make federal testing goals, said Dr. Grier, the superintendent.

“Teachers were worried it was becoming a failing school,” Dr. Grier said. To rebuild morale, he recruited a principal from Chicago, Grenita Lathan. Her first year at Washington was a nightmare, Ms. Lathan said, because her predecessors had been so panicked to fill classroom vacancies that they had hired “just anybody.”

“All they wanted was warm bodies in the classroom,” she said. At job fairs, qualified teachers she tried to hire shunned her, she said.

Under Guilford County’s incentive program, math or reading teachers who sign on at any of 29 high-poverty schools receive bonuses of $2,500 to $10,000. They can earn additional bonuses if they raise achievement.

Those incentives helped Ms. Lathan recruit solid teachers last year, she said, and after much tutoring and hard work, students met federal testing targets. This summer all but one teacher signed up for another year.

Other Guilford County schools have also used the incentives to hire promising people.

Rebecca Rheinheimer moved from Indiana this summer, attracted by a $2,500 bonus to teach at Oak Hill Elementary, where the teaching staff has been strengthened by the use of such bonuses. The school, in High Point, met its federal testing targets this spring for the first time in several years.

Margaret Eaddy-Busch, a veteran math teacher, moved from Philadelphia this summer to teach at Dudley High, which had become known as a hard-to-staff school. She will receive a $10,000 bonus for teaching Algebra I.

“If I survived in Philly for 10 years,” Ms. Eaddy-Busch said, “I’ll do just fine here.”

But it remains unclear whether the incentive program will retain good teachers as effectively as it attracts them.

“It’s challenging to teach in these high-needs schools,” said Mark Jewell, president of the local teachers union. “These new teachers will have a trial by fire, and then it’ll be a revolving door.”

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Last year in SB 1209 Scott , the legislature imposed a significant new cost on teacher preparation for “teacher performance assessment”, again the accountability model. No funds are in this year’s budget for this assessment. And, the budget next year looks at least as restrictive.
A group of us working with California Faculty Association tried to limit this unfunded mandate through AB 750 (Carter) which did not survive in the Assembly. We contacted Senator Stienberg’s office for assistance.
A basic issue is in a budget this tight, should the state be imposing yet another unfunded mandate? And, should the state be imposing a $6 – 9 $ million cost for a high stakes testing system of teachers when the assessment system has limited validity.
The legislature has an accountability problem. It regularly imposes accountability on the schools- but it does not impose accountability on itself.
They refuse to see the train coming at them. Like Bush- they live in their own reality.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Accountability and Schools

On the California Progress Report, Supt. Of Instruction O’Connell praises the governor for some of his budget decisions and asks for more money on others.
The legislature and governors have meddled and muddled in education, but they have not done their job: to decide upon a reasonable fair tax system and to raise the money needed for schools. Politicians have failed at this task for over 20 years while California’s public schools have been forced into a steep decline in quality.
While there are some schools that have failed students– it is also clear that the legislature has failed the schools.
The decline in quality, the lack of counselors, the decline in career technical preparation lead directly to increased dropouts. Accountability systems will not fix these problems. Funding is required.
Last year in SB 1209 Scott , the legislature imposed a significant new cost on teacher preparation for “teacher performance assessment”, again the accountability model. No funds are in this year’s budget for this assessment. And, the budget next year looks at least as restrictive.
A group of us working with California Faculty Association tried to limit this unfunded mandate through AB 750 (Carter) which did not survive in the Assembly. We contacted Senator Stienberg’s office for assistance.
A basic issue is in a budget this tight, should the state be imposing yet another unfunded mandate? And, should the state be imposing a $6 – 9 $ million cost for a high stakes testing system of teachers when the assessment system has limited validity.
The legislature has an accountability problem. It regularly imposes accountability on the schools- but it does not impose accountability on itself.
Therefore, we, the voters need to impose accountability on the legislature. At present the Democrats have two high priority issues; extending term limits and stopping the Republican coup for dividing the electoral college. How can we best impose accountability in this election season?

State Exams and English Language Learners

State Exam Results Show that English Learners are
English Learners

We should not be alarmed to read that “only” 27%
of English learners in LAUSD passed the state English
exam (“English learners do worse on test,” August

English learners are supposed to do worse on tests
given in English. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be
classified as limited in English. In fact, if 27%
passed, and if the test is valid, that means that 27%
are probably misclassified as limited in English.

The results tell us only that most students who have
not yet acquired English have not yet acquired

Stephen Krashen

Misinformed about bilingual education
Contrary to what Esther Cepeda’s statements (“English
as a first priority,” August 23, bilingual educators
agree that English is a first priority, and scientific
research agrees. Study after study has shown that
children in bilingual programs typically outperform
similar children in all-English classes on tests of
English reading. In fact, four major reviews coming to
this conclusion were published in the last two years
in professional journals.
Properly organized bilingual programs use the child’s
first language as a means of accelerating English
development, not to delay it.
Stephen Krashen

The four major reviews:
1. Slavin, R. and Cheung, A. 2005. A synthesis of
research of reading instruction for English language
learners, Review of Educational Research 75(2):
2. Rolstad, K., Mahoney, K., & Glass, G. 2005. The big
picture: A meta-analysis of program effectiveness
research on English language learners. Educational
Policy 19(4): 572-594.
3. Genesse, F., Lindolm-Leary, K., Saunders, W., and
Christian, D. 2005. English Language Learners in U.S.
Schools: An Overview of Research. Journal of
Education for Students Placed at Risk, 10(4), 363–385.
4. Francis, D., Lesaux, N., & August, D. 2006.
Language of instruction, In D. August & T. Shanahan,
(Eds.) Developing literacy in second-language
learners, pp. 365-413. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

K-12 funding and University funding in California

Peter Schrag in his column in the Sacramento Bee of Aug.22 makes the accurate point that the University of California is the finest university in the nation and that it has difficulty competing with the well funded private universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Yale for faculty. Note: each of these universities receives nearly 50% of their funding from federal sources. Are they really private?
However, what is not said is as important. While California ranks near the top in university quality, our public schools k-12 rank about 37th in per pupil expenditures and about 44th in 8th. Grade reading. The California legislature in their budget continues to underfund k-12 education. And, this year they took an extra $ 250 million from the Williams settlement.
So, we have a system which provides itself a first rate university level education, and a 37th or 44th. Rate k-12 level.
How would you characterize these priorities? Ask your Senator and Assemblyperson.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Jim Horn: Failure and NCLB

A Foundations Student Speaks on NCLB
I just wound up a summer session of my graduate foundations class. This is how one student closed her final essay in response to this question:

Is it possible or likely that the purposes and aims that you will pursue and promote as an educator are or can be realized by all American children, regardless of race, gender, or where they happen to go to school? Using evidence supplied from this course, explain how and why your most important educational purposes or aims are equally accessible – or how and why they are or cannot be equally accessible.

American education should be an equal-opportunity endeavor, but it is not. History has seen a constant struggle for democracy in education. Educational thinkers and policymakers have grappled with the question of how to give all students equal educational opportunities, yet even today, equity in American education is lacking. As a result of No Child Left Behind, the country is experiencing a frenzy to close the achievement gap between white and minority students. The unfortunate irony of NCLB, however, is that it is creating inequity in education rather than alleviating it, for the law is effectively harming precisely those students it purports to benefit: minority students, students with learning disabilities, and students whose first language is not English. Thus, my aforementioned aims [to cultivate a love of learning in my students and promote an ethic of care] as an educator are not equally accessible to all American children, regardless or race, gender or where they happen to go to school. The current emphasis on test prep makes fostering a love of learning nearly impossible, and the push to bolster the scores of some students while letting others fall through the cracks precludes an ethic of care in education.

My first aim as an educator is to cultivate a love of learning in my students by engaging their interests and making the classroom experience a positive one. However, if I am forced to teach to a test, that aim is made almost impossible. Many critics of NCLB say it is an attempt by the federal government to implement a standardized curriculum in public schools. Scripted lessons and “one-size-fits-all” curriculums are the antithesis of engaging and interactive learning. As Jaeger points out, “Teachers find that their work has been reduced to follow a scripted teacher’s guide, passing out worksheets, and drilling students on isolated skills,” (chapter 6). How can I, as Dewey and Noddings suggest, take my students’ individual needs and interests into account when I must deliver a robotic lesson or drill test strategies into their heads? It seems to me that NCLB unfairly makes teachers more concerned about ensuring students are proficient in math and reading for the sake of a test than providing them with a wholesome, fulfilling education.

Not only does NCLB lead to robotic teaching and narrow curriculums, it also reduces learning to filling in blanks and bubbling in scantrons; that is, it sends the message that the purpose of learning is to pass a test. According to Dewey, learning needs to be made relevant to students’ lives so that they will seek out more positive educative experiences in the future. In order to achieve my aim of cultivating a love of learning in my students, I have said that I will try to help them see the relevancy of the material to their daily lives. But if I can only justify the relevancy of my lessons by saying, “You need to know this for the test,” that aim is effectively derailed. The last thing students want to hear is that they must absorb the information because they’ll be tested on it later. High-stakes testing turns students off to learning. School must be made relevant to daily life so that students can realize the immediate impact of their educative experiences. The current testing craze greatly inhibits that aim.

The law also is antithetical to my second aim of promoting an ethic of care in the classroom. The very name of the law, “No Child Left Behind,” sounds caring enough in theory, but the reality is that it cares very little about the welfare of America’s children. It is largely ineffective in providing support for the students who need it the most. It expects children with learning disabilities to achieve at the same rate as other students, yet states are not allowed to make provisions for alternative tests or significantly modify testing conditions to make that possible (Jaeger, chapter 3). Furthermore, higher qualification standards for paraprofessionals has forced many of them out of their jobs, which means students with learning disabilities are not receiving the extra support they need (Jaeger, chapter 5). English language learners who have been in the U.S. for at least a year face a similar unrealistic and unfair expectation, for they are required to take a test that is not written in their first language. What’s even worse is that when it comes to intervention services for struggling students, many districts now focus on “those children who are considered ‘pushables’ (those just below passing) and ‘slippables’ (those at risk of slipping out of the proficient category),” according to Jaeger. “When one teacher asked what was to be done for students in dire need of extra help, she was told by her principal to ‘forget them’” (chapter 2). How can teachers care about each and every student when they are being told to forget about those deemed lost causes? And how can teachers show students they care when they cannot gauge their understanding of and response to the material, as Jaeger describes when she writes, “ They are unable to respond appropriately to the diverse needs of their students because required adherence to a rigid pacing schedule forces them to move full speed ahead whether students understand the lessons or not” (chapter 6)? Noddings says every child has the potential to achieve. It is our responsibility as caring educators to help students realize their potential, yet NCLB prevents such a caring approach to education.

Furthermore, NCLB makes it advantageous for schools to let drop-outs fall through the cracks. The provision of the law that it supposed to help schools with high drop-out rates implement prevention programs has a $0 budget, and “other provisions of the law serve to diminish rather than increase incentives for keeping all students in school,” (Jaeger, chapter 7). “There is a reason for excluding from testing lower-achieving transferring or expelling them, or by encouraging them to drop out. If these students leave school, they do not participate in the tests which determine whether schools are deemed under-performing,” (Jaeger, chapter 7). Thus, NCLB effectively encourages schools to not care about lower-achieving students who are likely to drop out. One hardly needs to point out how this goes against an ethic of care.

Thus, it is clear that society’s emphasis on standardized test scores, as well as the federal government’s intrusion into the educational system, makes the realization of my most important educational aims highly unlikely or nearly impossible. But, to end on a more optimistic note, there is hope for me yet, as No Child Left Behind is up for re-authorization this September. Repealing the law would make my aims more feasible.

Dewey, J. (1938/1997). Experience and education (reprinted ed.) New York: Touchstone Books.

Dewey, J. (1938/2000). Experience and education. In R. Reed & T. Johnson, Eds., Philosophical documents in education (2nd ed.) (pp. 115-124). New York: Longman. (Reprinted from Experience and education by J. Dewey, 1938, Indianapolis, IN: Kappa Delta Pi, pp. 33-50).

Dewey, J. (1897/1972). My pedagogic creed. In R. Reed & T. Johnson, Eds., Philosophicaldocuments in education (2nd ed.) (pp. 103-110). New York: Longman. (Reprinted from John Dewey: The early works 1895-1898, vol. 5 by J. Dewey, J.A. Boydston, Ed., Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 84-95).

Dillon, S. (2007, July 25). Focus on 2 R’s cuts time for the rest, report says. New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2007, from

Glater, J. (2007, July 29). Certain degrees now cost more at universities. New York Times. Retrieved August, 9, 2007, from

Jaeger, Elizabeth. What every parent, teacher, and community member needs to know about No Child Left Behind. Unpublished manuscript.

Noddings, N. (1992/2000). The challenge of care in schools: An alternative approach to education. In R. Reed & T. Johnson, Eds., Philosophical documents in education (2nd ed.) (pp. 247-257). New York: Longman (Reprinted from The Challenge to Care in Schools: An Alternative Approach to Education, by Noddings, 1992, New York: Teachers College Press).

Tyack, D. (2003). Seeking common ground: Public schools in a diverse society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

I wish that all my colleagues could say as much on the subject as well.
Labels: NCLB

# posted by Jim Horn @ 11:58 AM : Click on the title to see the blog
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Capitalism, with a subsidy

The end of gentlemanly capitalism
Tony Curzon Price
The global financial panic triggered by uncertainties in the United States home-loans market is much more than an institutional wobble, says Tony Curzon Price:
it is a system-crisis that requires a radical solution.
13 - 08 - 2007

Over the past week, we - the rich-world voter and taxpayer - have bailed out the hedge-funds, their bankers and their counterparts caught in the global squeeze on credit. Again. It happened in 2001 and in 1998. The financial system has once more fallen into the soft, bouncy, but ultimately comfortable safety-net (trampoline?) that we - all of us together, through our central banks and the losses we are prepared to underwrite as taxpayers - extend to troubled financiers.
Are we right to keep bailing out the bankers, offering them a safety-net that turns their business nto a risk-less, one-way bet? There was an innocent time when we - as voters and taxpayers - were right to always be there as "lenders of last resort". But finance has become self-servingly postmodern too: the banking system knows how to take advantage of the social-security we have extended, and we are only storing up trouble by keeping them afloat. We should resist the temptation to "hug a hedgy''. Now is the time for some tough love for the newly stressed and bedraggled hedge-fund managers. Only this will allow the emergence of a fair and stable financial order.
But, the fund manager might retort, why endure the pain that a wholesale financial restructuring now would entail? Can't we - that is, you - give in just one more time, and hope that our binge of bad investment is pardoned in the dilutive (and real) forces of technological and global-south catch-up growth?
Tony Curzon Price is the editor-in-chief of openDemocracy. He worked as a consultant economist for more than ten years. Since 1997, he has lectured on economics and energy policy to postgraduates at Imperial College, London, and at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Among Tony Curzon Price’s recent articles in openDemocracy:

This is an offer the rest of us should refuse, for it resembles nothing so much as the argument for repeated concessions to the welfare-Keynesianism of the 1960s and 1970s. The crisis of that model, and the lack of principled, intellectual and political, resolve among the policy-makers of that era in response to it, eventually undermined the modern dream of fair, full and fruitful employment. So today, the continuation of healthy global growth in the world economy is threatened by institutional blockages, this time from systematically malfunctioning financial agencies that seem at every step too powerful to cross. We live in a moment when technology and trade offer great hope for the development of good lives. This generation must not allow itself to squander through cowardice, as did its predecessor, the opportunity for sustainable economic betterment.
The masters of go
The lineaments of crisis are plain. Financial markets have fallen sharply. Central banks have acted in concert as "lenders of last resort'' to troubled funds. Bond dealers show from their trading behaviour that they are no longer expecting interest rates, which had been rising, to rise any further in 2007. The consensus is that the United States federal reserve and the central banks of Europe and Japan have been right to intervene, to offer cash when none others will, in order to avoid a system-wide crisis. The world's finances rely on a basic assumption that markets will continue to exist. If I need to make a cash payment, I will be able to select which of my assets to sell and will actually be able to sell them at some price.
In a system-wide crisis, no one wants to trade. There is no price at which anyone can be convinced to hold a contract, because no one knows what its value is. In this circumstance, a fund manager is a helmsman in a storm: aware of every danger of his position but powerless as wind, then waves, batter him here, then there. But unlike the helmsman, the storm is made worse if another ship in the vicinity goes down. If a bank actually faces bankruptcy, all the contracts and obligations held by that institution will be bad, thus infecting trust in every part of the financial system.
The central banks bail out the funds in order to stop anyone seeing a ship go down, as a way of stemming contagion. That is the defence. This is why we, as citizens and voters the owners of the central banks, lend money in conditions in which no banker would lend. And the argument is strong: contagion and system-wide crisis will have a real impact that will cause hardship: when firms and households find borrowing is hard, demand drops, jobs go ... recession. There is a real case here for us to bail the hedge-funds.
But the metaphor of the storm is misleading. Meteorology is not caused - at least not predictably - by the decisions of the helmsmen it affects. Financial crises are. It is because we can be counted on to be lenders of last resort that traders and managers can discount the risks of system-failure and therefore behave imprudently with increasing ease and frequency. The pattern is familiar from the libertarian critique of welfarism: while a safety-net for the deserving poor is good, the existence of the safety-net will create a class of idle, undeserving scroungers. It is hard to be good without encouraging others to be vicious.
Fund managers have been enjoying a one-way bet for six years or more. A credit-worthy institution could borrow very cheaply and lend on without any concern about becoming systematically over-stretched. In the extreme case, the Japanese central bank has been lending money almost for free. Those with access to free money could lend it on to those without such privilege and pocket not just the difference, but, through gambles, multiples of the difference. This is the magic of the "carry-trade".
More at the link below. Or, click on the title.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Testing and reform

Prior post:

Rather than facing the inequality issue, major politically imposed school reform efforts stress standardized testing as the driving force behind school reform at the k-12 level, particularly in low-income districts. Testing measures the ability to memorize small bits of information. It cannot measure critical thinking skills, the ability to function in a community or commitment to democratic principles. Testing has not improved schools, improved school funding, nor improved teaching. This low level testing tells us what we already know: students in low-income schools do poorly (Rothstein, 2004). Studies of thirty-year trends in achievement in math and reading by the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that over this long timeline, for the last ten years under the testing regime, on average there has been remarkably little change in achievement by students in our nation’s schools. (NAEP, 2004)
By and large we have a well orchestrated process of claims of school improvement but when you look past the press releases and carefully consider the data, we do not have a reformed school system or districts that demonstrates substantive improvement. (Bracey, 2003)

The earlier post pointed out some of the limits of testing. Multiple choice testing measures very limited learning. It does not measure critical thinking or civic responsibility. Teachers can develop assessments for these items. Frequently these are called authentic assessment.

This is not a position in opposition to testing. We need to resist the limited, narrow, reductionist testing presently being used in place of quality assessments. And we need to resist the misuse of test results by political and ideological advocates of NCLB who do not understand the limits of multiple choice testing as an assessment and accountability tool.
This issue is central to the current debate on NCLB. And, the focus on the "achievement gap" by O'Connel seeks to debate other issues rather than face the limits of testing and the abuse of data drawn from these limited tests.

An important issue is for teachers, politicians, and the public to decide, What do you want from the schools?
Do you want graduates who can answer multiple choice tests, or do you want graduates who can think for themselves, decide on issues, and carry out the responsibilities of a citizen?
Which skills do you want in the work force? Which skills do you want in the citizenry.

An excellent book by scholars in the field is: Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes testing corrups America's Schools. Sharon Nichols and David C. Berliner. ( 2007)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Assembly budget takes from the neediest schools

Raiding funds set aside to repair crumbling schools is a shortsighted strategy for plugging holes in the state budget. The borrowing only postpones a real financial reckoning, while playing accounting games with a legal settlement. Whatever budget emerges from the Legislature should avoid the practice.

The budget the Assembly passed last month proposes to borrow $250 million in money set aside to repair substandard school facilities. The fund stems from the state's 2004 settlement of the Williams case, a class-action lawsuit over inadequate schools in California. As part of the settlement, the state agreed to allocate a total of $800 million for emergency repairs of classrooms at the lowest-performing public schools.

The emergency repair fund would have contained more than $400 million under the Assembly budget -- more than legislators expected districts would use this year. So the Assembly decided to grab $250 million of the money for other needs now, and repay the fund later.

Borrowing money to balance the budget is an irresponsible approach to state finances that only serves political convenience. The move avoids the tough decisions necessary to bring state finances into balance, while piling up debt that will weigh down future budgets.

But the Assembly's reasoning is particularly cynical here. The fund's hefty account balance only exists thanks to the Legislature's mishandling of the program. The 2004 legislation that set up the fund required districts to pay for repairs first, then apply for state reimbursement. But if districts had the money to fix crumbling schools, most of the facilities would not have fallen into disrepair in the first place.

Only last year did the Legislature change the law to let schools receive the repair money in grants before the work, rather than requiring schools to pay for repairs up front.

Thus the Assembly plan uses past legislative ineptitude to put off tricky financial decisions. And it furthers that goal by grabbing money meant to provide students with air conditioning, functional plumbing and other necessities.

The Williams lawsuit's revelations of substandard schools should have embarrassed every member of the Legislature. Who could have guessed the Assembly would find a way to use that case to be even more irresponsible with taxpayers' money?
From the Press Enterprise, on the California Progress Report.

Rhetoric, not reform in California education

Schools did not create and can not resolve the racial, class and gender divisions in our society. But, what schools can do is to effect individual students lives every day.
The fact is that we know how to educate poor and minority children of all kinds—racial, ethnic, and language—to high levels. Some teachers and entire schools do it every day, year in and year out.
The assertion of a crisis in the “ achievement gap” by Secretary O’Connell serves primarily to shift the attention from the failure of the state to provide adequate facilities ( Williams v. California) to blaming teachers. This has been the function of “achievement gap” analysis in the hands of conservative politicians such as President Bush. This mantra has been the focus of those supporting No Child Left Behind and the processes of blaming teachers, and the processes of stress on testing and accountability have not worked.
The concept of achievement gap became a process of blaming teachers and not looking at the inequities offered to the students. The achievement gap is produced by conditions in the school and conditions in the home and community.
After over ten years of stress on testing and accountability, the achievement gap remains as great as was in the past. ( Kozol, 2005) If we have what Jonathon Kozol calls an “Apartheid” system of schooling, we can expect to have significant differences in achievement.

Teachers and schools cannot change the poverty patterns of the national economy. But schools are at the vortex of the struggle for economic opportunity for young people (Anyon, 2006). Poverty creates impoverished schools. For teachers then, the question is what can we do within an economic system wracked by poverty. There has been only limited improvement in most schools because the interventions used do not deal with basic causes of low achievement: unequal funding of schools, high teacher turnover, family disruption, unsafe schools. If the levels of crime, safety, unemployment have not changed in a neighborhood than the local school is unlikely to change. What we can do is help some students to achieve and to fight their way out of poverty. And we can teach all students to recognize the need for an expansion of democratic educational opportunity.
Rather than facing the inequality issue, major politically imposed school reform efforts stress standardized testing as the driving force behind school reform at the k-12 level, particularly in low-income districts. Testing measures the ability to memorize small bits of information. It cannot measure critical thinking skills, the ability to function in a community or commitment to democratic principles. Testing has not improved schools, improved school funding, nor improved teaching. This low level testing tells us what we already know: students in low-income schools do poorly (Rothstein, 2004). Studies of thirty-year trends in achievement in math and reading by the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that over this long timeline, for the last ten years under the testing regime, on average there has been remarkably little change in achievement by students in our nation’s schools. (NAEP, 2004)
By and large we have a well orchestrated process of claims of school improvement but when you look past the press releases and carefully consider the data, we do not have a reformed school system or districts that demonstrates substantive improvement. (Bracey, 2003)
We then need to also ask why, in spite of over thirty years of press and political attention, there has not been a systemic improvement in schools and districts. One reason is that politicians, advocacy groups, commissions, and news reporters do not teach school. They preach, they have ideological solutions they are certain will work, but they do not teach.
Teachers teach students. Unless and until we improve the teaching relationship, improve the skills of teachers, build networks of support for teachers, control the violence in some schools, improve the working conditions of teachers, most schools will not improve. Based upon the history of school reform efforts for the last thirty years, the press, the media, and the politicians are not likely to be of much help in this effort.

Test scores:
Passing rates on some state and local tests show small increases, but there has been little if any improvement on well-established national tests. The small gains we’ve seen may be the result of concentrated instruction on narrowly defined objectives. But we are not promoting intellectual habits of mind. Indeed, we may be reducing intellectual life to mental labor.
( Bracey, 2007)

For example the Reading Report Card for California says,
“In 2005, the average scale score for fourth-grade students in
California was 207. This was not significantly different from1 their
average score in 2003 (206), and was higher than their average
score in 1992 (202). California's average score (207) in 2005 was lower than that of the Nation's public schools (217).
Of the 52 states and other jurisdictions2 that participated in the 2005 fourth-grade assessment, students' average scale scores in California were higher than those in 1 jurisdiction, not significantly different from those in 6 jurisdictions, and lower than those in 44 jurisdictions.
The percentage of students in California who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 21 percent in 2005. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (21 percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (19 percent).
The percentage of students in California who performed at or above the NAEP Basic level was 50 percent in 2005. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (50 percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (48 percent).NAEP, 2005.

Duane Campbell

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Progressive Forum

The Crisis in our Democracy:
Sacramento Progressive Forum
1 day : Free
Fall October 4, 2007. CSU-Sacramento. University Union

All of us together know more than any one of us alone.

Progressive Forum

Join us for a dialogue on current issues facing the progressive movements and their allies in our region. The Progressive Forum seeks to bring together scholars, students, social justice and union activists, and policy makers. The forum is created to nurture a new kind of conversation from within the campus and the social movements. We seek to move beyond the overly fragmented movements each competing with each other to find ways to cooperate and support each others work.
This gathering aims to enhance personal and organizational ties between those engaged in ongoing workplace and community organizing efforts, issues organizing and students and scholars.. The forum should become a place where the diverse movements gathers their energies and where activists learn from internal dialogue. This is an initial step toward elaborating, discussing and debating our visions and ours strategies.
If you wish to propose a session at the forum, please send your proposal to Duane Campbell, Proposals are welcome until August 15.

Cheney: 1994 on Iraq

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Civil Rights Organizations and NCLB

A Letter from Selected Civil Rights Groups on Multiple Measures

August 7, 2007

The Honorable George Miller The Honorable Edward Kennedy, Chair
Chair, Committee on Education and Labor Senate Committee on Health, Education,
United States House of Representatives Labor and Pensions
2205 Rayburn House Office Building 317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Howard P. McKeon The Honorable Michael Enzi
Ranking Member, Committee on Education Ranking Member, Senate HELP Committee
2351 Rayburn House Office Building 379A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20510

Dear Sirs:

We are writing to express our strong support for a comprehensive model of
accountability in the re-authorization of ESEA that will include multiple measures which can
focus schools both on developing high quality teaching and learning and on educating all
students to graduation. We applaud the Congress’s commitment to address the inadequate
education received by poor and minority children, which led to the enactment of No Child Left
Behind. We share the goal of real progress on educational outcomes, and we see accountability
as a valuable tool. We also believe Congress can improve the law to better foster genuine
educational progress and to hold schools and school systems accountable for a broader array of
important educational outcomes. The benefits can be increased and the harms dramatically
reduced with a relatively simple and feasible system of multiple indicators.

Therefore, we are very pleased that you and the Committees on Education are
considering including the use of multiple measures of student progress for accountability
decisions in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We believe that
the accountability provisions must include a system of multiple assessments of learning, which
can help schools focus on assessing the full range of standards and skills appropriately, and
multiple indicators of school performance, which emphasize the importance of keeping students
in school and educating them to graduation.

Ideally, schools should be held accountable for student growth along all parts of the
achievement continuum. They should demonstrate continuous progress on an index of indicators
comprised of multiple academic assessments, plus measures of student progress through school,
such as graduation and grade promotion rates. Together, these components can support a
comprehensive and educationally beneficial accountability system.

If education is to improve in the United States, schools must be assessed in ways that
produce high-quality learning and that create incentives to keep students in school. A number of
studies have found that an exclusive emphasis on (primarily multiple-choice) standardized test
scores has narrowed the curriculum. The most recent reports of the Center for Education Policy
(CEP) and the National Center for Education Statistics (May 2007 Stats in Brief) confirm
sizeable drops in time dedicated to areas other than reading and math, including science, history,
art, and physical education. The CEP also found that districts are more tightly aligning their
instruction to this limited format as well as content of state tests. While these tests are one useful
indicator of achievement, studies document that they often overemphasize low-level learning. As
reporter Thomas Toch recently stated, "The problem is that these dumbed-down tests encourage
teachers to make the same low-level skills the priority in their classrooms, at the expense of the
higher standards that the federal law has sought to promote." To succeed in college, employment
and life in general, students need critical thinking and problem solving skills that the tests fail to
measure, and they need a complete curriculum.

The law's every-grade every-year testing requirement has discouraged the use of
assessments of higher order thinking that motivate ambitious intellectual work and leverage
stronger teaching and learning, but take more time and resources to score. These kinds of
assessments – which include written essays, oral examinations, research papers, open-ended
problems, and other performance assessments – are routinely used in high-achieving European
and Asian systems that emphasize higher-order knowledge and skills. Some of our nation’s
highest performing districts and states have given up the high-quality assessments they created in
the 1990s, because the law currently acts as a disincentive to encourage their continued use.

Perhaps the most troubling unintended consequence of NCLB has been that the law
creates incentives for schools to boost scores by pushing low-scoring students out of school. The
very important goal of graduating more of our students has simply not been implemented, and
the accountability provisions actually reward schools with high dropout rates. Push-out
incentives and the narrowed curriculum are especially severe for students with disabilities,
English language learners, students of color and economically disadvantaged students. Recent
reports of the Public Education Network confirm that parents, students and other community
members are concerned about the over-reliance on test scores for evaluating students and schools.
A number of recent studies have confirmed that this over-reliance has been associated with grade
retention and other school actions that exacerbate dropout rates and student exclusion from
school, especially for low-income students of color. This creates the perverse outcome that
efforts to raise standards are resulting in fewer students receiving an education.

A central part of a solution to these problems is to employ multiple forms of assessment
and multiple indicators, while retaining the powerful tools of publicly available assessment
information and the critically important focus on equity. A multiple measures approach can help
schools and districts improve student outcomes more effectively because:

1. The use of multiple measures ensures that attention will be given to a comprehensive
academic program and a more complete array of important learning outcomes;

2. A multiple measures approach can incorporate assessments that evaluate the full range
of standards, including those addressing higher-order thinking and performance skills;

3. Multiple measures provide accountability checks and balances so that emphasizing one
measure does not come at the expense of others (e.g. boosting test scores by excluding
students from school), but they can give greater emphasis to priority areas; and

4. A multiple measures index can provide schools and districts with incentives to attend
to the progress of students at every point on the achievement spectrum, including those
who initially score far below or above the test score cut point labeled “proficient.” It can
encourage schools to focus on the needs of low-scoring students, students with
disabilities, and ELL students, using assessments that measure gains from wherever
students begin and helping them achieve growth.

One of the central concepts of NCLB’s approach is that schools and systems will
organize their efforts around the measures for which they are held accountable. Because focusing
exclusively on a single indicator is both partial and problematic, the concept of multiple
measures is routinely used by policymakers to make critical decisions about such matters as
employment and economic forecasting (e.g., the Dow Jones Index or the GNP), as well as
admissions to college. Successful businesses use a “dashboard” set of indicators to evaluate their
health and progress, aware that no single measure is sufficient to understand or guide their
operations. Business leaders understand that efforts to maximize short-term profits alone could
lead to behaviors that undermine the long-term health of the enterprise.

Similarly, use of a single measure to guide education can create unintended negative
consequences or fail to focus schools on doing those things that can improve their long-term
health and the education of their students. Indeed, the measurement community's Standards for
Educational and Psychological Testing mandates the use of multiple sources of evidence for
major decisions. NCLB calls for multiple measures of student performance, and some states have
developed systems that incorporate such measures, but implementation of the law has not
promoted their use for evaluating school progress.

Multiple indicators can counter the problems caused by over-reliance on single measures.
Multiple forms of assessment include traditional statewide tests as well as other assessments,
developed and used locally or statewide, that include a broader range of formats, such as writing
samples, research projects, and science investigations, as well as collections of student work over
time. These can be scored reliably according to common standards and can inform instruction in
order to improve teaching and learning. Such assessments would only be used for accountability
purposes when they meet the appropriate technical criteria, reflect state-approved standards, and
apply equitably to all students, as is already the case in Connecticut, Nebraska, Oregon, Vermont,
and other states successfully using multiple forms of assessment.

To counter the narrowing of the curriculum and exclusion of important subjects that has
been extensively documented as a consequence of NCLB, the new law should also allow states
to include other subjects, using multiple forms of assessment, in an index of school indicators.
To ensure strong attention is given to reading and math, these subjects can be weighted more
heavily. Graduation rates and grade promotion rates should be given substantial weight in any
accountability system. Other relevant indicators of school progress, such as attendance and
college admission rates, could be included.

Because evidence is clear that multiple assessments are beneficial to student learning and
accountability decisions, we hope that the committee will take the step of providing significant
funds to assist states and districts to implement systems that include multiple forms of evidence
about student learning, including state and local performance assessments. Congress should also
require an evaluation of state multiple measures programs to enable sharing of knowledge and
improvement of state assessment and accountability systems.

A multiple measures approach that incorporates a well-balanced set of indicators would
support a shift toward holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes
that improve student achievement. This is a necessary foundation for genuine accountability.


Advancement Project
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
Civil Rights Project
Council for Exceptional Children
Japanese American Citizens League
Justice Matters
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)
National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and
Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA)
National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents
National Council on Educating Black Children
National Federation of Filipino American Associations
National Indian Education Association
National Indian School Board Association
National Pacific Islander Educator Network (NPIEN)
National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (NUA)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gerald Bracey on NCLB

Nothing Will Happen with NCLB
By Gerald Bracey

An August 7 Washington Post editorial called a speech by California Rep. George Miller as "refreshing:" "So it was refreshing to here a leading liberal Democrat speak passionately about his commitment to this landmark law." The law is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, known in its current incarnation as "No Child Left Behind." It is up for re-authorization this year.
Mr. Miller, realizing he couldn't get the reauthorization before everyone skedaddled home for summer recess, spoke July 30 at the National Press Club, outlining what he wants to see in the bill he will bring forth in September.

I'm not sure the Post understood what Mr. Miller said and I'm not sure Mr. Miller understood what Mr. Miller said. Mr. Miller said that the law "is not fair. It is not flexible and it is not funded. I can tell you that there are no votes in the U. S. House of Representatives for continuing the No Child Left Behind Act without making serious changes to it." That's clear. So far, so good.

But then he dropped a pair of doozies: "I have always said that I am proud to be one of the original coauthors of the No Child Left Behind Act. But what I really want is to be the proud coauthor of a law that works." Well I reckon that gives the game away.

Miller proposed that under the new law "states will be allowed to develop better tests that more accurately measure what all students have learned." Read: not all kids will take the same tests. Read: states will be permitted to use performance tests and other alternatives to multiple-choice tests. Tacked onto this, Miller acknowledged the criticism that NCLB's emphasis only on math and science has inappropriately narrowed the curriculum (and, if he gets completely honest about this, he'll acknowledge that the narrowing has afflicted kids who can least afford to let it happen to them). Read: We'll test in more curriculum areas.

More tests! Underlying this rhetoric is a complexity of both psychometrics and information technology that I don't think Mr. Miller grasps. As Tom Toch of the Education Sector recently pointed out, the testing industry infrastructure has imploded already under weight of the existing law. States added 11 million tests in 2005-2006 and will add another 11 million next year when the NCLB science requirement kicks in. The errors made by the testing companies have soared and even when they get it right they often don't get it right in time for schools to use the results properly under the law.

And yet, in a follow-up that came across the wire services August 8, Miller added even more tests: the tests must test "21st century skills:" "These measures (tests) can no longer reflect just basic skills and memorization. Rather, they must reflect critical-thinking skills and the ability to apply knowledge to new and challenging contexts. These are the skills that today's students need to meet the complex demands of the American economy and society in a globalized world." This last, of course, is rather dubious but it is today's mantra.

Finally, "The legislation I will introduce will contain a growth model that gives credit to states and schools for the progress that their students make over time." Everybody loves growth models these days. Me included. Schools whose students make good progress ought not to be punished if they started from such a low level that they didn't make the magical "proficient" level. Right now, "growth" is measured by looking at how this year's third graders compare to last year's. Of course, these are two different groups of children and they could differ for reasons other than those having to do with the quality of instruction they are receiving. But I don't think most states are in a position to use growth models.

I also don't think Mr. Miller has a good grasp on the state of student-tracking technology. And what about the 20% of those students who change schools every year -- 50-60% in many urban areas? Who's going to be held accountable for the performance of these kids (the kids who move usually suffer, sometimes so do those in the receiving school when teachers backtrack to re-cover material to accommodate the newcomers)?

Predicting what will happen to NCLB in the next few months is iffy, very iffy, but here goes: Nothing will happen. Congress will pass a one-year automatic extension. And that means that it will be 2009 before we get a full-fledged revision because ain't nobody gonna touch it during a presidential election year.

So we'll be stuck with a law that's all stick and no carrot for another two years.

What a tragedy.
Gerald Bracey is an astute scholar of testing. He may or may not be an astute predictor of political power.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Barack Obama at Yearly Kos

Pigs at the trough

Whole Hog
Early Sunday morning after a marathon session, Congress put a blue ribbon on the immense hog known as the defense budget and declared it a winner. Just before going on their August vacation, the House approved the 2008 defense appropriations bill of $459 billion. The vote was 395 to 13. With the nearly full support of the Democrats, the Bush administration is on the verge of pushing through a $40 billion increase in military spending for next year.

Much was made of the battle between Congress and the administration over this bill. After all, the administration's request was actually a few billion dollars more, and the White House has opposed many of the congressional changes. In reality, the House sliced off only the smallest amount of pork -- less than 1 percent of the total -- and redirected it to social programs. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) went after some of the more blatant earmarks and has even challenged pet projects of his Republican colleagues. His amendments were overwhelmingly rejected. (One of those earmarks, inserted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, provides $4 million to a California company to develop a "novel viral biowarfare agent" -- one of those projects of "biodefense" that the United States deceptively argues is permitted under the Biological Weapons Convention).

Over $450 billion: that's some big pig. But wait, as the old TV ads liked to say, that's not all! The appropriations bill doesn't include another nearly $50 billion in defense spending on the Department of Energy's nuclear programs and a few other items. And, of course, there's the almost $150 billion in supplemental spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which will generate considerable debate when Congress returns in September.

At $650 billion, U.S. military spending is the highest since World War II, outstrips what the rest of the world combined spends on defense, and outpaces our putative adversaries by at least 5 to 1. Flake's attempts to torpedo some of the earmarks were commendable. But hey, the earmarks total about $3 billion. That's chump change, Jeff! If you really want to save us from trichinosis, here are some of the larger pieces of pork to cut out and throw away:

Missile Defense -- this is the most expensive weapons system, and it has yet to be proven to work. The Dems cut the tiniest amount from the White House request. Knock out this technofolly and save over $8 billion a year.

Nukes -- we're telling North Korea to get rid of its pathetic arsenal and threatening countries like Iran for even considering a nuclear deterrent, yet we're pouring billions into upgrading our own system. If we sit down with the Russians and cut strategic forces to 1,000 warheads apiece, we can save nearly $15 billion a year.

Cold War weapons systems -- we're spending more than $20 billion a year to build weapons like the V-22 Osprey that a) doesn't work and b) was developed to fight the Soviet Union.

In FPIF's Unified Security Budget, we find $55.9 billion in military spending cuts that should attract bipartisan support. In our more ambitious Just Security framework, we call for a dramatic restructuring of the U.S. approach to the world, which would reduce our overseas military posture. Savings: over $200 billion a year.

So, how exactly did the Bush administration convince the Democratic majority in the House to go along with this nonsense -- and even to feel good about itself for paring off less than 1 percent?

If there were only one factory producing U.S. military armaments located in Rhode Island, there would be a dramatic reduction of congressional support for a rising defense budget. The problem is: virtually all weapons systems have been broken down into a supply chain that turns the 50 states into an assembly line for the military-industrial complex. Almost every member of Congress therefore supports the whole hog in order to bring home some of the bacon to their home district.

So, all you pay-as-you-go Democrats, where exactly are you going to find the funds for a national healthcare plan, a strategy to save our public schools, or a program to rebuild our failing infrastructure? Right now, the Dems are not thinking of the hog. Come 2008, however, there will be no other place to turn. Sharpen those knives!

Throwing the Military at the Problem

If I were a military contractor, the Middle East would look mighty dandy these days. The war in Iraq is a giant advertisement for U.S. weapons systems, even if the war itself is disastrous. The threats of Iran and Syria, trumpeted so frequently by the administration and Congress, are music to the defense industry's ears.

But really, the true gravy train is the arms sales racket. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently unveiled the administration's plan for the Middle East. There was some stirring rhetoric. More importantly, there were plenty of weapons to go around. The United States has a sweet deal -- funding both sides of the conflict. The latest plan is to add $65 billion more to the pot, with most of it going to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

As FPIF contributor Matt Duss writes in Gasoline for the Fire, the arms package "is an admission of failure on several fronts." There's the failure of the Iraq War to produce a more stable Middle East. There's the failure of the "democracy promotion" agenda for the region. "Having upset the balance of power in the region by removing Saddam Hussein, empowering Iran by removing the most significant check on their regional hegemony, and having transformed Iraq into a terrorist training ground, the United States now proposes to supply new weapons to its allies in the region to help them deal with the new security environment which it created," Duss writes.

Aside from lucrative contracts for U.S. arms manufacturers, what will the United States get out these deals? "The United States has had little success in the past using arms sales to buy leverage in the region," writes FPIF contributor Rachel Stohl in The Saudi Arms Deal: Congressional Opposition Building. "And, with no strings attached to the assistance -- no democratic reforms, human rights conditions, or peace-making obligations -- the arms sales do nothing to change the behavior of the authoritarian regimes in the region. Sending more arms to the Middle East may provoke Iran into accelerating its own arms purchases. Russia and China have been all too eager to step in and provide Iran with high technology weapon to offset the balance of power in the region. Although the United States can express its displeasure after the fact, the reality is that once the weapons leave U.S. possession, we have little to no influence on how those weapons are used and by whom."

Foreign Policy in Focus

Sunday, August 05, 2007

On naming Charter Schools after Cesar Chavez

American Liberalism, Education And The Legacy Of The Civil Rights Movement: More On The Cesar Chavez-Charter School Controversy

Sherman Dorn almost always has thoughtful insights into educational blogosphere debates, but he has completely missed the import of the controversy over naming anti-union charter schools after Cesar Chavez. Contests over political symbols — and the legacy of the civil rights movement and its leaders who have passed on are political symbols — are never just about the symbols; they are always struggles over very real and substantive political matters. Indeed, political struggles over symbols are a crucial dimension of contemporary politics, given the post-modernage of proliferating mass media. The point of informed blogosphere commentary should be to tease out the political content from the clash over the symbols, to make explicit what is implicit, in order to improve our common understanding.

Seen in this light, the Chavez naming controversy is one small skirmish in a much larger battle over the meaning and place of the legacy of the civil rights movement in the struggle to determine the future of American education. With the advent of the modern civil rights movement in Brown v. Board of Education, the struggle for equal rights under the law was inextricably linked to the quest for quality education for communities of color. A half century later, much of the promise of Brown remains unfulfilled and much of the civil rights agenda has yet to be enacted. But there has been some real victories and progress. Significantly, American political and educational discourse have been fundamentally transformed: political legitimacy now rests with the quest for equality. There is no clearer indication of this fact then the rhetorical approach taken by the ultra-conservative Roberts Supreme Court when it slammed the door shut on fulfilling the promise of Brown in the recent Louisville and Seattle cases: it wrapped itself in the mantle of Brown, claiming that its prohibitions of modest voluntary school integration programs represented the vision of that historic decision. Today, even the forces of reaction feel compelled to acknowledge that public consensus for racial justice, and to seek to appropriate for themselves the symbols of the civil rights movement.

The real issue here is not, therefore, what would Chavez do, but what vision should inspire American education and charter schools. More precisely, the real issue is what understanding of the legacy of the civil rights movement will prevail in the battles over the future of American education.

The great leaders of the civil rights movement — men and women like Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Phillip Randolph, Cesar Chavez, Ella Baker, Dolores Huerta, Bayard Rustin — were all of the democratic left, democratic socialists and social democrats who believed that full civil rights could only be achieved with economic democracy and justice. They understood that a flourishing public life and vital public square were central to that project, and advocated for their reinvigoration, not their diminishment or their dismantling through expanding markets. For these leaders and their movement, the growing economic inequality that comes with the extension of markets was a primary barrier to the attainment of full democratic citizenship for people of color in the United States: the purpose of the public sphere was, in no small part, to introduce a measure of “liberty and justice for all.” In the political world, these men and women were the leading advocates of a strategic alliance between the civil rights community and organized labor as the lynchpin for progressive change, and served either as union leaders or outspoken supporters of the union movement.

This civil rights agenda was deeply political in the fullest sense of the word, in the best of the traditions of the anicent Greek polis and the American founders: it sought to provide political democracy for all and to extend that democracy into civil society [thus the term civil rights] and the world of the economy. At its center was the idea of active democratic citizenship: the civil rights movement was committed, above all else, to winning for people of color in the United States the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship. This is the significance of the struggle to vote for African-Americans in the South and struggle for full citizenship rights for immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa. Of considerable importance here were two central democratic beliefs. First, the attainment of full citizenship could not be won by others and then given to Americans of color: it had to be the fruit of their own hard work, their sacrifice and struggle. And second, the power of Americans of color lay in their collective strength, through community institutions such as churches and unions. When acting as separate and isolated individuals, they would never advance.

The moves by the right and the neo-liberal center to appropriate the symbols and language of the civil rights movement invariably involves an effort to jettison this central political agenda of democratic citizenship and self-emancipation. It is perhaps most evident in the reduction of King, the main icon of the civil rights movement, into a few of his most general aspirational statements in the “I Have A Dream” speech. [How many anti-union charter schools are named after King, as well as Chavez?] But there is much more at work here then an attempt to smooth out the hard “economic justice” edges of civil rights movement leaders. Most importantly, it is an attempt to replace the historic commitment to democratic citizenship and community self-empowerment with a philosophy of consumer individualism and elite driven change from above. In a metaphorical form of “urban development,” the right and neo-liberal center would like to pave over the public square, and replace it with a market. This attempt comes into particular focus around naming an anti-union charter school for union founder and leader Chavez simply because the hypocricy of such a move puts into stark reveal the contradiction between the historic civil rights movement and the appropriation of its legacy by the right and neo-liberal center. The incomprehension of the reaction to such a reworking of the civil rights movements symbols comes from a lack of understanding, in part self-conscious and in part simply thoughtless, of what was central to the civil rights movement. If a racially segregated charter school was named after Chavez or King, does anyone doubt that there would be no shortage of voices of protest, many from the very same quarters which defend an anti-union charter school so named?

Education is a field where this contest of ideas for the legacy of the civil rights movement is perhaps most evident, both because of the ways in which Brown had meshed the civil rights agenda with the quest for quality schooling for communities of color and the fact that so much of the promise of Brown remains unfulfilled. The classic work of Chubb and More, Politics, Markets and America’s School, is an elaborate if unconvincing brief for why schools ruled by the market, rather than schools democratically accountable to the public, are more effective. Such an agenda can only move forward at the expense of the democratic project of the civil rights movement. At stake may well be the nature of American liberalism itself — whether it will renew or abandon the historic agenda of the civil rights movement.

Charter schools are now the crucial battleground for these competing conceptions of education. On the one hand, the right has seized much ground in the charter school movement [in part, because progressives were sleeping on their watch], and has been developing a generation of market-driven charter schools, in which there is no voice for teachers, parents and students. Denied the right to voice and democratic citizenship in those schools, their sole choice is to exit to another school: all power remains with the charter school operator, often a for profit corporate outfit. On the other hand, there has finally emerged the beginnings of a growing movement of progressive charter schools, often self-consciously conceived in the mold of the ‘freedom schools’ of the civil rights movement, where teacher, parent and student voice is at the very heart of what the school is and does. We might call this a ‘civil society’ — as opposed to a market — conception of charter schools: it sees much virtue in introducing a revitalizing pluralism into the public square and public education, but is steadfast on the insisting upon the importance of ‘the public’ and democratic citizenship in our civic life and our education.

This is the context for my response to Sara Meade’s thoughtful questions. If one distinguishes between market driven charter schools and civil society charter schools, and one understands that the former seeks to replace the civil rights agenda of democratic citizenship and collective self-empowerment while the latter seeks to fulfill it, one has the framework for understanding which charter schools are open to teacher voice and unions and which are antagonistic to it. That is why, for example, the Green Dot Charter Schools — which self-consciously understand themselves in terms of the civil rights agenda of democratic citizenship and collective empowerment are also union schools — are proudly union.

Joe Williams’ comments help clarify the answer to Sara Meade. It is entirely appropriate to tell teachers in charter schools that they need to organize themselves into unions, in the tradition of the civil rights and labor movements’ commitment to self-empowerment. But it is no less important to point out that there are charter schools operators that are functioning like the 21st century Wal-Mart equivalent of George Wallace standing in the school house door, antagonistically opposing unionization and fighting at every turn efforts of teachers to gain a voice in the their schools. That is simple truth-telling.

Lastly, Chavez, Randolph and Huerta — trade union leaders all — would never have told teachers denied a voice that the only solution was the market option of ‘exit,’ leaving the school in the unchallenged hands of the anti-union operator. Democratic citizenship and collective self-empowerment means that one stays and fights the good fight.

Leo Casey
From Edwize

Friday, August 03, 2007

Barak Obama on Urban Poverty

Changing the Odds for Urban America
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama

Washington, DC | July 18, 2007

It's been four decades since Bobby Kennedy crouched in a shack along the Mississippi Delta and looked into the wide, listless eyes of a hungry child. Again and again he tried to talk to this child, but each time his efforts were met with only a blank stare of desperation. And when Kennedy turned to the reporters traveling with him, with tears in his eyes he asked a single question about poverty in America: "How can a country like this allow it?"

Forty years later, we're still asking that question. It echoes on the streets of Compton and Detroit, and throughout the mining towns of West Virginia. It lingers with every image we see of the 9th Ward and the rural Gulf Coast, where poverty thrived long before Katrina came ashore.

We stand not ten miles from the seat of power in the most affluent nation on Earth. Decisions are made on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue that shape lives and set the course of history. With the stroke of a pen, billions are spent on programs and policies; on tax breaks for those who didn't need them and a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged. Debates rage and accusations fly and at the end of each day, the petty sniping is what lights up the evening news.

And yet here, on the other side of the river, every other child in Anacostia lives below the poverty line. Too many do not graduate and too many more do not find work. Some join gangs, and others fall to their gunfire.

The streets here are close to our capital, but far from the people it represents. These Americans cannot hire lobbyists to roam the halls of Congress on their behalf, and they cannot write thousand-dollar campaign checks to make their voices heard. They suffer most from a politics that has been tipped in favor of those with the most money, and influence, and power.

How can a country like this allow it?

No matter how many times it's asked or what the circumstances are, the most American answer I can think of to that question is two words: "We can't."

We can't allow this kind of suffering and hopelessness to exist in our country. We can't afford to lose a generation of tomorrow's doctors and scientists and teachers to poverty. We can make excuses for it or we can fight about it or we can ignore poverty altogether, but as long as it's here it will always be a betrayal of the ideals we hold as Americans. It's not who we are.

In this country - of all countries - no child's destiny should be determined before he takes his first step. No little girl's future should be confined to the neighborhood she was born into. Our government cannot guarantee success and happiness in life, but what we can do as a nation is to ensure that every American who wants to work is prepared to work, able to find a job, and able to stay out of poverty. What we can do is make our neighborhoods whole again. What we can do is retire the phrase "working poor" in our time. That's what we can do, because that's who we are.

The challenge is greater than it has been in generations, but that's all the more reason for this generation to act. One in every eight Americans now lives in poverty, a rate that has nearly doubled since 1980. That's an income of about $20,000 a year for a family of four. One in three Americans - one in every three - is now classified as low-income. That's $40,000 a year for a family of four.

Today's economy has made it easier to fall into poverty. The fall is often more precipitous and more permanent than ever before. You used to be able to find a good job without a degree from college or even high school. Today that's nearly impossible. You used to be able to count on your job to be there for your entire life. Today almost any job can be shipped overseas in an instant.

The jobs that remain are paying less and offering fewer benefits, as employers have succeeded in busting up unions and cutting back on health care and pensions to stay competitive with the companies abroad that are paying their workers next to nothing.

Every American is vulnerable to the insecurities and anxieties of this new economy. And that's why the single most important focus of my economic agenda as President will be to pursue policies that create jobs and make work pay.

This means investing in education from early childhood through college, so our workers are ready to compete with any workers for the best jobs the world has to offer. It means investing more in research, science, and technology so that those new jobs and those new industries are created right here in America. And while we can't stop every job from going overseas, we can stop giving tax breaks to the companies who send them there and start giving them to companies who create jobs at home.

We can also start making sure these jobs keep folks out of poverty. When I'm President, I will raise the minimum wage and make it a living wage by making sure that it rises every time the cost of living does. I'll start letting our unions do what they do best again - organize our workers and lift up our middle-class. And I'll finally make sure every American has affordable health care that stays with you no matter what happens by passing my plan to provide universal coverage and cut the cost of health care by up to $2500 per family.

All of these policies will give more families a chance to grab hold of the ladder to middle-class security, and they'll make the climb a little easier.

But poverty is not just a function of simple economics. It's also a matter of where you live. There are vast swaths of rural America and block after block in our cities where poverty is not just a crisis that hits pocketbooks, but a disease that infects every corner of the community. I will be outlining my rural agenda in the coming weeks, but today I want to talk about what we can do as a nation to combat the poverty that persists in our cities.

This kind of poverty is not an issue I just discovered for the purposes of a campaign; it is the cause that led me to a life of public service almost twenty-five years ago.

I was just two years out of college when I first moved to the South Side of Chicago to become a community organizer. I was hired by a group of churches that were trying to deal with steel plant closures that had devastated the surrounding neighborhoods. Everywhere you looked, businesses were boarded up and schools were crumbling and teenagers were standing aimlessly on street corners, without jobs and without hope.

What's most overwhelming about urban poverty is that it's so difficult to escape - it's isolating and it's everywhere. If you are an African-American child unlucky enough to be born into one of these neighborhoods, you are most likely to start life hungry or malnourished. You are less likely to start with a father in your household, and if he is there, there's a fifty-fifty chance that he never finished high school and the same chance he doesn't have a job. Your school isn't likely to have the right books or the best teachers. You're more likely to encounter gang-activities than after-school activities. And if you can't find a job because the most successful businessman in your neighborhood is a drug dealer, you're more likely to join that gang yourself. Opportunity is scarce, role models are few, and there is little contact with the normalcy of life outside those streets.

What you learn when you spend your time in these neighborhoods trying to solve these problems is that there are no easy solutions and no perfect arguments. And you come to understand that for the last four decades, both ends of the political spectrum have been talking past one another.

It's true that there were many effective programs that emerged from Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. But there were also some ineffective programs that were defended anyway, as well as an inability of some on the left to acknowledge that the problems of absent fathers or persistent crime were indeed problems that needed to be addressed.

The right has often seized on these failings as proof that the government can't and shouldn't do a thing about poverty - that it is a result of individual moral failings and cultural pathologies and so we should just sit back and let these cities fend for themselves. And so Ronald Reagan launched his assault on welfare queens, and George Bush spent the last six years slashing programs to combat poverty, and job training, and substance abuse, and child abuse.

Well, we know that's not the answer. When you're in these neighborhoods, you can see what a difference it makes to have a government that cares. You can see what a free lunch program does for a hungry child. You can see what a little extra money from an earned income tax credit does for a family that's struggling. You can see what prenatal care does for the health of a mother and a newborn. So don't tell me there's no role for government in lifting up our cities.

But you can also see what a difference it makes when people start caring for themselves. It makes a difference when a father realizes that responsibility does not end at conception; when he understands that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one. It makes a difference when a parent turns off the TV once in awhile, puts away the video games, and starts reading to their child, and getting involved in his education. It makes a difference when we realize that a child who shoots another child has a hole in his heart that no government can fill. That makes a difference.

So there are no easy answers and perfect arguments. As Dr. King said, it is not either-or, it is both-and. Hope is not found in any single ideology - an insistence on doing the same thing with the same result year after year.

Hope is found in what works. In those South Side neighborhoods, hope was found in the after school programs we created, and the job training programs we put together, and the organizing skills we taught residents so that they could stand up to a government that wasn't standing up for them. Hope is found here at THEARC, where you've provided thousands of children with shelter from the streets and a home away from home. And if you travel a few hours north of here, you will find hope amid ninety-seven neighborhood blocks in the heart of Harlem.

This is the home of the Harlem Children's Zone - an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck anti-poverty effort that is literally saving a generation of children in a neighborhood where they were never supposed to have a chance.

The philosophy behind the project is simple - if poverty is a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence; failing schools and broken homes, then we can't just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community. And we have to focus on what actually works.

If you're a child who's born in the Harlem Children's Zone, you start life differently than other inner-city children. Your parents probably went to what they call " Baby College", a place where they received counseling on how to care for newborns and what to expect in those first months. You start school right away, because there's early childhood education. When your parents are at work, you have a safe place to play and learn, because there's child care, and after school programs, even in the summer. There are innovative charter schools to attend. There's free medical services that offer care when you're sick and preventive services to stay healthy. There's affordable, good food available so you're not malnourished. There are job counselors and financial counselors. There's technology training and crime prevention.

You don't just sign up for this program; you're actively recruited for it, because the idea is that if everyone is involved, and no one slips through the cracks, then you really can change an entire community. Geoffrey Canada, the program's inspirational, innovative founder, put it best - instead of helping some kids beat the odds, the Harlem Children's Zone is actually changing the odds altogether.

And it's working. Parents in Harlem are actually reading more to their children. Their kids are staying in school and passing statewide tests at higher rates than other children in New York City. They're going to college in a place where it was once unheard of. They've even placed third at a national chess championship.

So we know this works. And if we know it works, there's no reason this program should stop at the end of those blocks in Harlem. It's time to change the odds for neighborhoods all across America. And that's why when I'm President, the first part of my plan to combat urban poverty will be to replicate the Harlem Children's Zone in twenty cities across the country. We'll train staff, we'll have them draw up detailed plans with attainable goals, and the federal government will provide half of the funding for each city, with the rest coming from philanthropies and businesses.

Now, how much will this cost? I'll be honest - it can't be done on the cheap. It will cost a few billion dollars a year. We won't just spend the money because we can - every step these cities take will be evaluated, and if certain plans or programs aren't working, we will stop them and try something else.

But we will find the money to do this because we can't afford not to. Dr. King once remarked that if we can find the money to put a man on the moon, then we can find the money to put a man on his own two feet. There's no reason we should be spending tens of thousands of dollars a year to imprison one of these kids when they turn eighteen when we could be spending $3,500 to turn their lives around with this program. And to really put it in perspective, think of it this way. The Harlem Children's Zone is saving a generation of children for $46 million a year. That's about what the war in Iraq costs American taxpayers every four hours. So let's invest this money. Let's change the odds in urban America by focusing on what works.

The second part of my plan will do this by providing families the support they need to raise their children. I'll pass the plan I outlined last year that will provide more financial support to fathers who make the responsible choice to help raise their children and crack down on the fathers who don't. And we'll help new mothers with their new responsibilities by expanding a pioneering program known as the Nurse-Family Partnership that offers home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income mothers and mothers-to-be.

This program has been proven to reduce childhood injuries, unintended pregnancies, and the use of welfare and food stamps. It's increased father involvement, women's employment, and children's school readiness. It's produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program. It works, and I'll expand the program to 570,000 first-time mothers each year.

The third part of my plan for urban America is to help people find work and make that work pay. I will invest $1 billion over five years in innovative transitional jobs programs that have been highly successful at placing the unemployed into temporary jobs and then training them for permanent ones. People in these programs get the chance to work in a community service-type job, earn a paycheck every week, and learn the skills they need for gainful employment. And by leaving with references and a resume, often times they find that employment.

Still, even for those workers who do find a permanent job, many times there's no way for them to advance their careers once they're in those jobs. That's why we'll also work with community organizations and businesses to create career pathways that provide workers with the additional skills and training they need to earn more money. And we'll make sure that public transportation is both available and affordable for low-income workers, because no one should be denied work in this country because they can't get there.

To make work pay, I will also triple the Earned Income Tax Credit for full-time workers making the minimum wage. This is one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in history and lifts nearly 5 million Americans out of poverty every year. I was able to expand this program when I was a state Senator in Illinois, and as President I'll do it again.

The fourth part of my plan will be to help bring businesses back to our inner-cities. A long time ago, this country created a World Bank that has helped spur economic development in some of the world's poorest regions. I think it's about time we had something like that right here in America. Less than one percent of the $250 billion in venture capital that's invested each year goes to minority businesses that are trying to breathe life into our cities. This has to change.

When I'm President, I'll make sure that every community has the access to the capital and resources it needs to create a stronger business climate by providing more loans to small businesses and setting up the financial institutions that can help get them started. I'll also create a national network of business incubators, which are local services that help first-time business owners design their business plans, find the best location, and receive expert advice on how to run their businesses whenever they need it. And I will take steps to help close the digital divide and increase internet access for cities so that urban America is just as connected as the rest of America.

The final part of my plan to change the odds in our cities will be to ensure that more Americans have access to safe, affordable housing. As President, I'll create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that would add as many as 112,000 new affordable units in mixed income neighborhoods. We'll also do more to protect homeowners from mortgage fraud and subprime lending by passing my plan to provide counseling to tenants, homeowners, and other consumers so they get the advice and guidance they need before buying a house and support if they get in to trouble down the road. And we will crack down on mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud by increasing enforcement and creating new criminal penalties.

What this agenda to combat urban poverty attempts to do is not easy, and it will not happen overnight. Changing the odds in our cities will require humility in what we can accomplish and patience with our progress. But most importantly, it will require the sustained commitment of the President of the United States, and that is why I will also appoint a new director of Urban Policy who will cut through the disorganized bureaucracy that currently exists and report directly to me on how these efforts are going; on what's working and what's not.

Because in the end, hope is found in what works.

The moral question about poverty in America - How can a country like this allow it? - has an easy answer: we can't. The political question that follows - What do we do about it? - has always been more difficult. But now that we're finally seeing the beginnings of an answer, this country has an obligation to keep trying.

The idea for the Harlem Children's Zone began with a list. It was a waiting list that Geoffrey Canada kept of all the children who couldn't get into his program back when it was just a few blocks wide. It was 500 people long. And one day he looked at that list and thought, why shouldn't those 500 kids get the same chance in life as the 500 who were already in the program? Why not expand it to include those 500? Why not 5000? Why not?

And that, of course, is the final question about poverty in America. It's the hopeful one that Bobby Kennedy was also famous for asking. Why not? It leaves the cynics without an answer, and it calls on the rest of us to get to work. I will be doing exactly that from the first day I become your President, and I ask you all to join me in getting it done. Thank you.

*As prepared for delivery
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