Equality of Education; Inequality of Teacher Pay

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In theory, the quality of teacher impacts the quality of education students receive. In the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954, the USSC rejected the argument that students in unequal schools could receive equal education. However, if teachers are important, then how do we reconcile the Court’s decision with these findings:

  • There’s a huge disparity in teacher pay between school systems. Affluent districts pay much higher salaries than others.
  • Charter schools, which are supposed to be the road to improve education, pay much lower salaries than most public school districts.

New Jersey treats teachers as public employees, and their salaries are public information. Without going into detail on all 650 public school districts and charter schools in the state (available at reference 1 below), here’s the outlines of the situation:

  • The median salary in 2016 for a school teacher in NJ was $66,117 per year.
  • Northern Valley Regional district in affluent Bergen County paid the most, with a median salary of $105,650.
  • Teachers in the Edison Township school district in Middlesex County had a median salary of $95,432.
  • At the other end, Milford Township in Hunterdon County had a median salary of $48,007.

New Jersey just isn’t that large geographically. The cost of living is relatively uniform across the state.

Many/most of the charter schools are worse: for example the Jersey City Global and Red Bank charter schools both have median salaries of $42,000. Of course, the charter schools haven’t been around as long. We could expect salaries to increase with teacher seniority. However, the need to generate profits at many of these schools may restrict what goes into the classroom.

If you were a capable teacher, where would you want to teach? Where would you expect the best teachers to go? How does this reconcile with equality of educational opportunity?

By comparison, NJ is one of the best-paying states for teachers in the US. The only states that pay as much or more are Alaska, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts and New York. Maryland pay is lower than NJ, but close. (2) Conversely, South Dakota and Mississippi are at the low end of teacher pay, paying less than 65% of what New Jersey pays.

Again, where would the best go?


Sources:

  1. Tom Davis, “NJ Median Teacher Salaries, Highest To Lowest: How Much Does Your District Pay?” NJ Patch, 24 April 2017. https://patch.com/new-jersey/princeton/s/g3o6z/n-j-median-teacher-salaries-highest-to-lowest-how-much-does-your-district-pay?utm_source=alert-breakingnews&utm_medium=email&utm_term=weather&utm_campaign=alert
  2. National Center for Education Statistics, 2013. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_211.60.asp

Sources of a No Growth Economy

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ben_franklinYounger people are putting off marriage, children and buying  homes because they lack financial security — unstable jobs and too  much student loan debt.

That’s one of the interpretations of a new report from the Census Bureau on Millenials. (1)

In looking at generational change, the report compares 18 to 34-year-olds in 2016 versus 1975.  In looking at just the older portion of this group, 25 to 34-year-olds, there are striking differences:

  • 1975: 45% lived on their own, were working, had married and had a child.
  • 2016: 24% live on their own, are working, have married and have a child.

From the point of view of the economy, the difference is huge. Buying a home drives spending on furniture and appliances, as well as painters and a range of other services. Having children drives demand for larger cars and clothing. Doing neither reduces spending in all of these categories.

The average income for 25-34-year-olds in 1975 was $30,101. In 2016, it was $43,751. That sounds good until you factor in inflation.

  • A salary of $30,101 in 1975 dollars is worth $134,283 in 2016 dollars.
  • The percent of people with student loans has climbed from 17% in 1975 to 41% today.

More people have gone to college, but they’re paying more for education in order to earn functionally less than their parents.

The report also notes that among the growing percentage who live with their parents, there are issues with health or grandchildren that interfere with employment. There’s also an issue with a cohort of younger white males who lack a college degree and have very limited employment prospects.

As long as politicians ignore these trends, efforts to keep the economy going will run out of steam.  In this context, Andrew Cuomo, the government of New York, seems especially prescient in eliminating college cost as a burden for many New York residents.

 


Sources:

  1. Vespa, Jonathan, “The Changing Economics and Demographics of
    Young Adulthood: 1975–2016,”Current Population Reports,P20-579, U.S. Census Bureau,Washington, DC, 2017.

No room for historical revisionism

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I’ve been a history buff for years. Growing up in Kentucky, I dealt with people intent on glossing over the evils of slavery. I was born less than 90 years after the Civil War ended, and there are people still intent on re-fighting that war today.

This bit from History.com leaves little room for gloss. Written about a skirmish in Arkansas in 1864,

The Rebels’ treatment of black troops was harsh. No black troops were captured, and those left wounded on the battlefield were brutally killed, scalped, and stripped. The Washington Telegraph, the major Confederate newspaper in Arkansas, justified the atrocity by declaring “We cannot treat Negroes taken in arms as prisoners of war without a destruction of social system for which we contend.”
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/confederates-inflict-pain-at-battle-of-poison-spring

The men ultimately responsible for this atrocity were Confederate General John Marmaduke, later governor of Missouri, and Confederate General Samuel Maxey, who later represented Texas in the US Senate.

I rather suspect that in the current era, both would have been imprisoned or shot for war crimes. However, in Missouri and Texas, they get elected.

I was in Charleston a few years ago when a tour guide tried to claim that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. That’s a difficult case to make if you look at the newspaper and diary accounts from that time. We’re better off being honest with ourselves about our past and our future.

 

Free College Tuition: a new reality in USA

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Free college tuition — it’s back!martin-luther-king-anger-quote1

There has been a continuing debate as to whether college education is a privilege or a right of citizenship. In an age in which demand for unskilled labor is fading, will people without college be employable in 10 or 20 years?

The US has taken one position on this; Europe and the Commonwealth countries, the opposite. Today, it’s possible for a US family to put four children through college in Europe at the price of sending one to college in the US. For Europeans in several countries, college is free.

In the “golden age” of the US economy after World War II, college was either free or very inexpensive in the US. When I was in high school, City College of New York and the University of California still were free to residents.  Ronald Reagan eliminated free tuition in California.  New York was earlier.

On February 7th, San Francisco because the first city in the current era to offer free community college education.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced at a press conference yesterday that, starting next fall, community college will be tuition-free for all San Francisco residents through the City College of San Francisco.

As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco would become the first city in the nation to make community college free to all city residents. Any student who has lived in San Francisco for at least one year – regardless of income – is eligible.

“To California residents who are living in San Francisco, your community college is now free,” Lee said at the press conference. (1)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan in January to make all state, city and community colleges free to residents. There is now a bi-partisan budget deal to make that a reality.

Budget negotiators struck a deal late Friday that could make New York the largest state to offer tuition-free public higher education.

The $163 billion state budget agreement includes the Excelsior Scholarship, which covers tuition for any New Yorker accepted to one of the state’s community colleges or four-year universities, provided their family earns less than $125,000 a year. (2)

Interesting question: Why would you want to live in an expensive state like New Jersey when your kids can attend college for free next door? Or leave San Francisco for anywhere?

 


Sources:

  1. Zack Friedman, “Free College: San Francisco Joins New York With Tuition-Free Plan,” Forbes, 7 Feb. 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2017/02/07/free-college-san-francisco/#590c8b482bb6
  2. Danielle Douglas-Gabrielle, “New York set to become first state to offer free tuition at public four-year colleges,” The Washington Post, 8 April 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-york-to-become-the-largest-state-to-offer-tuition-free-public-higher-education/2017/04/08/3fe0563a-1c8b-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.e16eea88beb6

 

What the CBO Report on the American Health Care Act Actually Says (updated)

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Photo Courtesy of Holden Police Department

By now. most people have seen headlines or soundbytes about the report.  The Congressional Budget Office is a nonpartisan group. The head of the CBO was actually appointed by the GOP. The purpose of the office is to provide Congress with a source of “objective” information about the financial impact of legislation that is independent from information provided by the Executive Branch. In a complex world, this actually makes sense.

 

What the CBO report actually says:

  • Health insurance costs for individuals will under the new act (the AHCA is also known as “Trumpcare”), will increase through the year 2020 and may decrease after that.  The CBO expects increases in health insurance premiums under the new law of between 15% and 20% for 2018 and 2019 under the new law.  However, the CBO argues that by 2026, premiums might be 10% lower than under the ACA.
    • Some professionals refer to these as “hockey stick” forecasts, with a positive result occurring sometime in the remote future.  That could happen, but usually unforeseen events preempt the desired result.
  • Healthcare costs should decline for people in their 20s, but will increase sharply for older Americans.  The proposed tax credits will be insufficient to cover the cost increase.
  • The CBO estimates a $337 decrease in the Federal deficit from the AHCA law, mostly due to the repeal of Medicaid expansion and the end of subsidies for health insurance.  (As noted, the tax credits are smaller than the current subsidies.)  That averages out to about $33.7 billion per year.
    • The current US deficit is $441 billion in the current fiscal year.  Obviously, any reduction is good, but a savings of less than 10% of the deficit isn’t a cause for celebration.
    • The US budget deficit is expected to expand by over $10 trillion over the next decade, after shrinking during the Obama administration.
  • The Medicaid rollback will cost 14 million people their healthcare coverage immediately.  That plus the increase in out of pocket expense will ultimately mean that 24  million people will be forced to do without health insurance.
    • The CBO expects that some states will lose Federal funding for Medicaid in 2020 by their failure to provide the matching funds required under the new law.  That will further reduce Federal spending.
    • The matching funds requirement simply moves part of the tax burden from the Federal government to the states, and may require increases in state taxes.
  • Existing law requires the CBO to provide guidance on the impact of the law on the economy.  However, the CBO claims it has not had sufficient time to do this.
    • My argument is that anything that takes money away from consumers will be a drag on economic recovery.  This law does, by raising health care out-of-pocket expenses for most people.

Sources:

  1. Congressional Budget Office, “Cost Estimate,” 13 March 2017.  https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52486 I’ve downloaded a pdf of the report from the CBO website, and will share it on request.
  2. Emily Stephenson, “U.S. deficit forecast to shrink in 2017 but climb over next decade,” Reuters, 24 January 2017.  http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-congress-budget-idUSKBN158217

Internet Insecurity Revisited

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Your applications encrypt your data.  You’re protected, right?ben_franklin

Wrong.

There are three things you need to know about the latest round of papers made public by Wikileaks:

  • The CIA (in some cases in partnership with UK’s MI5) developed ways to hack device operating systems. The devices include all types of computers and cell phones, networked TVs, car onboard systems — basically everything anyone uses that’s connected to the Internet. The operating systems affected are Windows, Android and Apple.
  • The hack allows the user to read data as it is entered (typed or oral), before it is encrypted.  Everything.
  • The hack allows users to control devices and use them for spying on device owners.
  • The CIA may have LOST CONTROL of these hacks, meaning that they are out in the public domain where others can use them.

The CIA might not care about you, but are there others who might want your bank account?

The revelations have shocked experts.

Still, the amount of smartphone vulnerabilities and exploits detailed in these documents was shocking even to experts. “It certainly seems that in the CIA toolkit there were more zero-day exploits” – an exploitable vulnerability in software not known to the manufacturer – “than we’d estimated,” Jason Healey, a director at the Atlantic Council think tank, told Wired Magazine. He added: “If the CIA has this many, we would expect the NSA to have several times more.”(3)

Early reports are that the documents published by Wikileaks appear authentic.  None of the companies involved have commented on the situation. Nor do there appear to be any patches immediately in the offing.  After all, none of the players is yet admitting that they have something to patch.

Some writers see a bright side in these revelations: the decision to hack operating systems means that data encryption tools work.  That may or may not be true.  We don’t know what is still to be revealed.

Security problems aren’t under control or going away.

“Anybody who thinks that the Manning and Snowden problems were one-offs is just dead wrong,’’ said Joel Brenner, former head of U.S. counterintelligence at the office of the Director of National Intelligence. “Ben Franklin said three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead. If secrets are shared on systems in which thousands of people have access to them, that may really not be a secret anymore. This problem is not going away, and it’s a condition of our existence.’’(4)

I’ve said that nothing on the Internet is private, but this takes that statement to an entirely new level.  Nothing you type or speak into an Internet connected device is private. 

Ben Franklin was indeed a very wise man.


Sources:

  1. Sharon Profis and Sean Hollister, “WikiLeaks and how the CIA sees your WhatsApp messages, explained,” CNet, 7 March 2017. https://www.cnet.com/how-to/wikileaks-cia-hack-phone-tv-router-vault-7-year-zero-weeping-angel/?ftag=CAD3c77551&bhid=25995825932822145966367556179766
  2. Jose Pagliery, “Wikileaks claims to reveal how CIA hacks TVs and phones all over the world,” CNN Tech, 7 March 2017. http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/07/technology/wikileaks-cia-hacking/
  3. Trevor Timm, “WikiLeaks says the CIA can use your TV to spy on you. But there’s good news,” The Guardian, 7 March 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/07/wikileaks-says-the-cia-can-use-your-tv-to-spy-on-you-but-theres-good-news
  4. Devlin Barrett, “FBI prepares for new hunt for WikiLeaks’ source,” The Washington Post, 7 March 2017.

How Healthcare Reform Will Hurt Medical Professionals and Patients

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The Affordable Care Act is a complex piece of legislation with multiple goals:

  • Universal access to health care regardless of pre-existing conditions17456_1269532813224_1076952025_30803996_7657050_n
  • Reduction of costs of health insurance by averaging costs between healthy and unhealthy individuals
  • Reduction in actual outlays for medical services by
    • Reducing use of expensive emergency room services
    • Screening and earlier identification and treatment or prevention of major illnesses

The “repeal” effort to date addresses none of these goals, and in fact backtracks on them.

In addition, there is a continuing expansion of “cost sharing,” a euphemism for the shifting of costs from employers to employees for those workers who have access to group health insurance.

Physicians saw increased office traffic in 2016, but this is not likely to continue in the future.  Alicia Ault, writing for Medscape, comments,

Use and intensity of services and prices are the two biggest components of American health spending growth, the economists said. Overall use and intensity of healthcare goods and services continued to grow in 2016 as more people gained healthcare coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance, and as disposable personal income rose. (1)

As the amount of money consumers have to spend for healthcare increases, their use of health services will decrease.  Economists with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS, the agency that administers the Federal Marketplace as well as children’s programs) are expecting a reduction in use of physician services just in response to increased cost sharing, even without changes or repeal of the ACA.

Historical data show that greater cost sharing leads to less use of healthcare, Sean Keehan, a CMS economist, told Medscape Medical News. “People think twice about seeing the doctor if it’s going to be much more than it was before,” said Keehan, who is also lead author on the article in Health Affairs.(1)

Other factors will drive down use of health services over the next several years:

  1. Inflation which will reduce what consumers have available to spend
  2. Relatively stagnant wage growth, meaning that wages will not keep up with inflation

The CMS estimates are optimistic, excluding any impacts of ACA repeal.  A sharp increase in the number of people who cannot afford health insurance would be a game changer, and, frankly, could force some primary care physicians to close their practices.  The areas likely to see the greatest impact are poor and rural communities.

What you need to consider:

  • For most people, money is going to be a problem.  Do you need to improve or acquire skills to allow you to get a higher paying job?
  • Relocation to an area with better local public health services? 
  • How will you deal with older relative who may find themselves in trouble?

Sources:

  1. Alicia Ault, Physician Services to Decline With More Cost-Sharing, CMS Says. Medscape. Feb 15, 2017.
  2. https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/NationalHealthAccountsProjected.html