Media

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Increasing Teacher Salaries: Isn't That Econ 101 Stuff?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 at 3:43 PM

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I admit I'm a layman when it comes to economics. I studied a little Econ in college, though not enough to hurt me. Now and then I read newspaper and magazine columns by economists. So I don't claim any expertise in the field. But isn't the idea of Supply and Demand pretty basic? If the supply of a good or service is low and the demand is high, don't you need to raise the price so supply equals demand? Sure, there are other factors to consider, but that's where the discussion begins, right?

So if the supply of teachers in Arizona is far lower than the demand, if there are more classrooms than there are teachers to fill them, isn't it just economic common sense to admit we have to raise the price—the salaries—of teachers to meet the demand?

I guess we could try other strategies. We could lower the demand for teachers by cramming a few more kids into every classroom. Give six teachers five or six more kids each, and that would empty a classroom and eliminate the need for one teacher. The problem is, Arizona is already near the top in class size nationally—that's what happens when your education spending is at the bottom—so adding more students only bends our numbers further from the national average. Not to mention, it would drive some of our already over-stretched and over-stressed teachers around the bend, driving them out of the profession. That would make the problem worse, not better.

I guess everyone could try Governor Ducey's strategy of saying how much we all respect teachers. To be honest, that would help a little. When teachers work their asses off and are told what a lousy job they're doing, it doesn't make for a happy, healthy work environment. Who needs that kind of abuse to go along with a miserably low salary? The problem is, conservatives have spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars trashing teachers—especially what they like to call "failing teachers" in "failing government schools." It's part of their campaign to lower school spending, demonize teacher unions and push school privatization. And it's worked. I've never seen a time when teachers get less respect from the public. So I doubt they're about to change their ways and mount a massive "love your local teacher" campaign. And even if they did, it wouldn't make a whole lot of difference so long as teachers are having trouble paying for food, housing and other basic living expenses. Giving them a gold star won't stop teachers from leaving or encourage new teachers to join the fold—not even if we include Ducey's other strategy of adding a dollar a day to show teachers how much we value them.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch: Working the Refs, and the Fans (Or, "Why's everybody always pickin' on me?")

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 3:06 PM

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Some basketball players complain mightily when they're called for an obvious foul, then they adopt a look of shocked disbelief when the refs don't call a minor foul on the other team. If the player does it often enough, especially if he's a star, he may have a later foul overlooked or get a makeup foul called on the other side. If it's in front of a hometown crowd, the fans often join in as well—"What are ya, blind?" "Kill the ref!"—adding to the pressure on the officials calling the game. It's known as working the refs.

The Trump team are expert at working the refs, or in their case, working the press. During the primaries, Trump got far more coverage than any of his competitors. Even when it was unfavorable, it had an Entertainment Tonight, star quality feel to it—"Can you believe what this guy did? Amazing! You gotta love him." The constant coverage definitely helped his campaign. Nevertheless, he complained about the press with a combination of bitterness and glee, calling them the biggest liars in the world, and encouraged supporters at his rallies to join in the hate fest.

I won't try to rate the overall media coverage during the Trump/Clinton contest, since how you call that varies with the eye of the beholder. Recent revelations, however, about the intelligence community's investigations into ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign which were known to the press but went virtually unreported at the same time Clinton-related emails were covered breathlessly, even when there was little newsworthy to report, are raising new questions about the press' refusal to publish potentially damning, politically damaging stories about the Trump-Putin connection. But Trump condemned the media like clockwork, as regularly as he called Hillary crooked and bragged that he would "Built the wall" and make Mexico pay for it.

No one knows if the Trump administration will use legislation or executive orders to rob the media of some of its freedom of expression. If that happens, the nation will be in deep, deep trouble. But we know his team is going to continue to work the refs every chance it gets. Trump used his recent press conference to condemn CNN by name, accusing it of spreading "Fake News" because it reported accurately that Trump had received a briefing paper about allegations of Russia's attempts to steer the election in his favor. When the press reported that the crowd at his inauguration was significantly smaller than Obama's in 2009, Trump sent his press secretary Sean Spicer to yell at them for stating the truth. Trump used his talk with the CIA to continue his condemnation of the press for its accurate coverage of the size of the crowd at his inauguration. And spinmeister extraordinaire Kellyanne Conway regularly threatens the media, warning them something terrible might happen to them if they refuse to behave.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch Begins in Earnest

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 2:31 PM

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From the election until today, we've watched Trump strutting and fretting in Trump Tower. We've listened to tales told by an idiot, full of tweets and fury, signifying nothing. Until today. Today Trump is President. Today he matters. And so T.H.R.E.A.T. Watch—Trump Human Rights Erosion and Termination Watch—begins in earnest.

Trump knows nothing about governing, but he knows how to wield personal and financial power. Driven by unbridled egomania and paranoia, he lives in a binary world; you're either for him, which makes you a "terrific person," or you're against him, which makes you an enemy. The way he treated people, organizations and businesses when he was a business man and the way he's written and talked about his rolling enemies list since his political career began are cause for alarm. Trump and his entourage could savage the institutions of a free press, free public speech and free assembly, and they could rob targeted groups of people living in this country of their basic rights, causing the country irreparable harm.

Sitting on one of Trump's shoulders whispering in his ear is a man who has aided and abetted the white supremacist movement and has a frightening global, nationalist vision of what the country should become. At Trump's other ear is a retired general and conspiracy theorist who was fired from his job in intelligence for his erratic behavior. As his megaphones, Trump has two Houdini-level verbal escape artists who lie, deflect, distract and threaten when they're confronted by an uncomfortable truth.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Southern Arizona Sanctuary Movement Makes a Statement

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 3:22 PM

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Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and his campaign promise to deport as many undocumented immigrants as he can has helped give the nation's church-led sanctuary movement a rebirth. And it's fitting that Tucson, the birthplace of the modern sanctuary movement, should be involved.

Reporter Paul Ingram has an excellent article on the history of the modern sanctuary movement and its current activity in the Tucson Sentinel. That's where you should go for more details. Here are the first few paragraphs of his article.
With the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump just days away, religious leaders from 19 congregations in Tucson announced Wednesday that they were committed to "radical welcome," as part of a reborn Sanctuary movement determined to shelter refugees and unauthorized immigrants from deportation.

Nearly 100 people filled benches in the kiva-style sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church and listened as church pastor Rev. Allison Harrington announced that the church would join "Sanctuary Rising," a movement involving 700 religious congregations nationwide whose members agreed to buck several of Trump's proposed policies, including the immediate deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Church members agreed to work against the incoming Trump administration's plan to create a "special deportation force" and quickly deport 2-3 million illegal aliens.

"As people of faith and people of conscience, we pledge to resist the newly elected administration's policy proposals to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants and discriminate against marginalized communities," Harrington said, reading the pledge. "Tonight we come together in this new historical moment," she said. "And we commit ourselves to love and justice, and radical welcome."

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How Not To Read The Onion

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 9:54 AM

Reading the confused comments under The Onion articles is one of my favorite past times. Please enjoy these randomly chosen reactions of reading satire literally as much as I have.

The people who were appalled by SeaWorld's new specialty:
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The people who had some serious concerns about an ice lawsuit:

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Perfecting the intricacies of the frappuccino is truly a tricky business.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trump's Election Has Been Very Good For K12 Inc.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 2:10 PM

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The impending demise of K12 Inc., the for-profit online school corporation, has been an occasional source of schadenfreude in my posts. Online education as the sole source of schooling for K-12 students is a bad idea for all but a few people, and K12 Inc. needs millions of students, which requires a regular infusion of new students, to make a profit. The corporation's schools are failures by nearly every standard you can apply to them, and its stock prices have fallen steadily as a result. It had all the earmarks of a failing corporation, and I watched expectantly for it to crash and burn.

That changed November 9, the day after Trump's election. As you can see on the stock report at the top of the post, K12 Inc.'s stock price has soared since that fateful day. The Trump-era market is bullish on for-profit privatization in all its forms, including education.

Now, along comes Betsy DeVos as Trump's pick for Secretary of Education. DeVos is a champion of school choice—charters, vouchers and homeschooling. So long as it helps dismantle the school district model of public education (and where possible, promotes religious education), she's for it. In Michigan, DeVos' home state where she spends millions of dollars buying pro-school-choice politicians and setting up nonprofit advocacy groups, 80 percent of the charter schools are for profit, and accountability is kept to an absolute minimum. Even charter advocates complain that the Wild West approach to charters allows too many low quality Michigan schools to remain open.

But charter schools don't do well in sparsely populated areas where distances work against them. That's one reason DeVos and other school choicers support online education, where your "school" is always as close as your computer. Distance is no obstacle for distance learning, so online schooling opens up rural education markets.

We know DeVos held an "investment interest" in K12 Inc. before it went public, but we have no way of knowing if that continued. We may find out if she makes a full financial disclosure during her confirmation hearings.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Dollar a Day, and Other Observations About Ducey's Education Funding Proposal

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 2:39 PM

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Governor Ducey surprised me by proposing $114 million in new education funds for the upcoming state budget. That's $90 million more than I expected. According to Senator Steve Farley (D-Tucson), most of that comes from highway funds. Meaning, to paraphrase It's A Wonderful Life, every time a school bell rings, a roadway gets a pothole.

More than $100 million for education isn't nothing. It's not nearly enough (It moves us from 49th in per student spending all the way to . . . 49th), but it's a significant amount of money. Unlike last year when Ducey called money covering the increase in the number of students and inflation "new money"—that was a lie—this time, it's actually new money, above and beyond the required stay-even funding. We need to remember, however, this is only a proposed budget. The legislature passes the budget, not the governor. It's going to take some gubernatorial arm twisting to get the anti-"government schools" crowd to vote for all that new money. Don't be surprised if the final education budget comes in quite a bit lower. I hope no one is taking Ducey's money to the bank yet.

Let's take a look at how Ducey wants his proposed education funding to be spent.

His proposed teacher pay hike gets the most buzz, but it's only $13.6 million, compared to almost three times as much—$38 million—for "results-based funding." The pay raise comes to about a dollar a day, which is more of an insult to teachers than a pat on the back. It's wealthy, Cold Stone Stone Cold Doug Ducey saying, "Here's a crisp new dollar bill for each of you for the great work you're doing!" I hope he doesn't expect current teachers to go out of their way to thank him, or prospective new employees to flood school districts begging for one o' them high payin' teachin' jobs. Saying "I raised teacher salaries" makes for a great campaign pitch come reelection time, but a dollar a day doesn't put food on a teacher's table.

That $38 million for "results-based funding," on the other hand, is real money for those lucky schools that get a chunk of it. It's a third of Ducey's new money, and it will go to 10 percent of Arizona's schools. That comes to an average of more than $350 per student for each of the recipients, which is more than the $325 per student schools received from the Prop 123 money. All his other proposals are small ball stuff, but this one can have some big league consequences. It's enough for the schools to increase and improve their teaching supplies and technology and still have money left for significant teacher raises, all of which will make those schools more attractive to parents and teachers. And most of it will go to districts and charter schools educating the most privileged students. The main educational beneficiaries will be the current winners in the state's income inequality wars. To the victors go the "results-based funding" spoils.

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The Fake News Frenzy

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 10:50 AM

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The most recent presidential campaign has reignited many Americans' Facebook rants about "journalism these days," and how it's all turned into a biased, money-centered propaganda machine. No one could log into Facebook during the run up to the election without reading one or more lofty diatribes on why the candidate they support will be the next Messiah and how "the media" has a merciless vendetta against him or her.

Yes, news organizations all across the country missed an important mark while covering the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump by writing that Trump's victory was a "shock." I'd bet good money that many hard-core Trump supporters didn't share that same sentiment, so why was it spreading like wildfire in election night coverage?

Regardless, a generalized hatred for media coverage is unjustified. After all, journalists are the ones who maintain your Fourth Estate and are ultimately the glue that keep your democracy intact. I recently saw a tweet by Sarah Jeong, a contributing editor to the online publication Motherboard, that said, "Audiences say 'journalism' when they liked it and 'media' when they don't," which in my experience so far could not be more accurate. Journalists are undoubtedly a public pain in the derriere, but we're also an undoubtedly necessary one.
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As a budding journalist myself, I have seen these rants by my own peers and have taken them personally at times—even if it was aimed at a national outlet. While my youthful idealism is still somewhat intact (but diminishes a little more with every passing semester), I am not naive enough to deny that poorly-written and completely false reporting is still out there. It's out there more often than it should be.

The most recent outrage over the unvetted Russian dossier is a particularly painful controversy for those of us trying to save the reputation of reliable reporting. However, the overwhelming majority of news and journalism in the world is still fair and truthful, and it's a shame that the hysteria over fake news gets more spotlight time than the incredible, breakthrough work that reporters kill themselves for and sacrifice personal time and sleep for every single day.

For all the readers out there, I humbly ask you to hear my takeaway plea: keep an open mind about journalism and the news industry. Sure, it has flaws, but every other industry does too. How can the world expect improvements in our field if you don't even give us up-and-comers a chance to prove you wrong?

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