New Report: United States Lags in Compensating Experienced Teachers!

Teacher Salaries States

Dear Commons Community,

The Center for American Progress just released a report that finds many areas of the country barely pay teachers more as they gain experience. This problem might be contributing to high teacher turnover rates costing school districts billions of dollars each year. As reported in The Huffington Post;

“While the report recognizes that low teacher pay is not news -– especially when it comes to low entry-level salaries –- researchers were interested in seeing if the salaries of mid- and late-career teachers “were high enough to attract and keep the nation’s most talented individuals.” However, in a profession where teacher turnover costs up to $2 billion annually, the results they found are quite depressing.

According to the report, there are several areas of the country where teachers with up to 10 years of experience qualify for federally funded programs that help families in need. In places like Arizona and North Dakota, teachers who act as the breadwinner for a family of four or more qualify for federal programs that could make their children eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches.”

The chart above demonstrates how little teacher salaries grow in some parts of the country.

On an international scale, the United States ranks 19th in salaries for experienced elementary school teachers. See chart below.


Teacher Salaries International II

Billionaire Mark Cuban: Boycott Companies that Send Money Overseas to Avoid Paying Taxes!

Corporations Offshore Profits

Click to enlarge.

Dear Commons Community,

Coming on the day after President Obama voiced his own opposition to a tax-avoidance scheme called an inversion, in which a U.S. company establishes or merges with a foreign company and moves its headquarters overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes, Mark Cuban, the billionaire investor and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, took to Twitter yesterday to shame companies for making these moves.   His message:

“If I own stock in your company and you move offshore for tax reasons I’m selling your stock. There are enough investment choices here!”

Cuban’s call comes as President Obama is putting pressure on Congress to close this tax loophole. By some estimates, as much as $2 trillion in corporate cash is sitting outside the U.S.—money that could otherwise be reinvested at home to expand domestic operations and create more jobs. GE, Apple, Microsoft and others top the list of companies with the most money offshore.

Can we hear from Bill Gates!



President Obama: American Companies Gaming the System to Avoid Paying Taxes!

Dear Commons Community,

In a CNBC interview on Wednesday, President Barack Obama took aim at corporate inversions — deals where a U.S. company keeps its operations at home, but moves its formal address overseas to avoid paying taxes.

“Companies thrive in the United States in part because they benefit from the best university system in the world, the best infrastructure,” Obama said. “There are a whole range of benefits that have helped to build companies, create value, create profits. For you to continue to benefit from that entire architecture that helps you thrive, but move your technical address simply to avoid paying taxes, is neither fair, nor is it something that’s going to be good for the country over the long term.”

Corporate inversions are legal, and companies say they engage in them because the U.S. tax rate is higher than in other countries. But inversions open up a host of ways to permanently limit, or even eliminate, any American taxes paid by companies that operate in the United States.

“You’re just gaming the system,” Obama said Wednesday. “You are an American company.”

In 2012, it was reported on this blog the top companies that engaged in gaming the tax system as compiled by Alternet and MSNBC.  The list of the top eleven companies were as follows: 

General Electric gets special mention because it paid no federal taxes in 2011.  The other top ten are:

  1. Google
  2. Boeing
  3. News Corp. (Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rupert Murdoch and Company)
  4. Pfizer
  5. Oracle
  6. Altria (Philip Morris)
  7. IBM
  8. TimeWarner
  9. Morgan Stanley
  10. Microsoft (Bill and Melinda Gates)



Paul Krugman on California Rising!

Dear Commons Community,

Paul Krugman, analyzes the economic recovery of California in his New York Times column today.

“California has long suffered from political paralysis, with budget rules that allowed an increasingly extreme Republican minority to hamstring a Democratic majority; when the state’s housing bubble burst, it plunged into fiscal crisis. In 2012, however, Democratic dominance finally became strong enough to overcome the paralysis, and Gov. Jerry Brown was able to push through a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage. California also moved enthusiastically to implement Obamacare.

Needless to say, conservatives predicted doom. A representative reaction: Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute declared that by voting for Proposition 30, which authorized those tax increases, “the looters and moochers of the Golden State” (yes, they really do think they’re living in an Ayn Rand novel) were committing “economic suicide.” Meanwhile, Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute and Forbes claimed that California residents were about to face a “rate shock” that would more than double health insurance premiums.

What has actually happened? There is, I’m sorry to say, no sign of the promised catastrophe.”

Krugman goes on describe that employment is up 3.6 %; California has cut the percentage of its residents without health insurance in half; and, the state budget is back in surplus.”

Krugman’s conclusion:

“What do we learn from the California comeback? Mainly, that you should take anti-government propaganda with large helpings of salt. Tax increases aren’t economic suicide; sometimes they’re a useful way to pay for things we need. Government programs, like Obamacare, can work if the people running them want them to work, and if they aren’t sabotaged from the right. In other words, California’s success is a demonstration that the extremist ideology still dominating much of American politics is nonsense.”

All of this is good news for a great state.



Alliance for Excellent Education Report: Teachers Continue to Leave the Profession!

Dear Commons Community,

A new report, published by the Alliance for Excellent Education in collaboration with the New Teacher Center (NTC), a non-profit that helps schools and policymakers develop training for new educators, found that about 13 percent of the nation’s 3.4 million teachers move schools or leave the profession every year, costing states up to $2 billion. Researchers estimate that over 1 million teachers move in and out of schools annually, and between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years.

This high turnover rate disproportionately affects high-poverty schools and seriously compromises the nation’s capacity to ensure that all students have access to skilled teaching, says On the Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers.

“Teacher attrition hits states and school districts in the wallet, but students and teachers pay the real price,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “The monetary cost of teacher attrition pales in comparison to the loss of human potential associated with hard-to-staff schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color. In these schools, poor learning climates and low achievement often result in students—and teachers—leaving in droves.”

The report cites the well-established principle that teaching quality is the most powerful school-based factor in student learning—one that outweighs students’ social and economic background in accounting for differences in student learning. It also notes that chronic gaps remain in disadvantaged students’ access to effective teaching—a scenario that unmistakably harms students, but also has an impact on teachers.



Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited: Game Changer or Come-On!

Dear Commons Community,

Amazon earlier this week announced an All-You-Can-Read service: Unlimited Kindle. It offers a collection of over 600,000 eBook titles for a low price of $9.99 per month. If this truly includes all Kindle books—it is a game changer. However, if it only means access to a limited number of “less popular” books, it is not much of an offer. Brian Mathews, Associate Dean for Learning & Outreach at Virginia Tech,  raised this issue in yesterday’s online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. He raised a number of interesting possibilities regarding the cost of textbooks, the collections of college libraries, and how university trustees might encourage administrators to adopt policies favoring Kindle Unlimited books. For example:

“Amazon will get a lot of publicity from this service and the message that sticks will be “all the books in the world for the low price of $9.99.” Even if it’s not true — that’s the likely perception that will prevail.

Librarians need to be prepared to talk about this. I can imagine the defense that will arise:

  • Not everything will be available online.
  • It doesn’t include journals and other mediums.
  • It’s a propriety / closed format.
  • Do we really want one company controlling the distribution of knowledge?
  • What if they raise the price to $99.99 a month?
  • You are forced into a licensing deal—if you stop payment everything vanishes, instantly.
  • Authors and publishers will be forced to negotiate with Amazon, which won’t be in their best (financial) interests.
  • There is no guarantee about the long-term preservation of knowledge.
  • What happens when Amazon is surpassed by someone else?”

Mathews’ conclusion:

“Amazon is going to have to provide access to major publishers, like Random House, Wiley, Springer, and Elsevier, and some university presses like MIT and UC in order for this to have any impact on academic libraries. I can see Kindle Unlimited creating an appetite (and expectation for everything) but we have to see if Amazon can actually deliver on the licensing.”

I just did a check on five textbooks I have use in my classes and none of them were available in the Kindle Unlimited collection.


School Life Expectancy Around the World!

School Life Expectency

Dear Commons Community,

On average, kids in Australia can expect to spend up to 15 more years in school than kids in Niger.

A new report from Cornell University, international business school INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization looks, in part, at global “school life expectancy,” that is to say, how many years students around the world can expect to spend in school. Titled “The Global Innovation Index 2014,” the report shows wide variations in school life expectancy around the world.

While kids in places like Australia and New Zealand can expect to spend nearly 20 years in school, from the primary school level until the tertiary, or post-high school level; kids in places like Pakistan and Ethiopia can expect to spend less than 10 years in school.

Above is a map of the report’s results. The United States ranked thirteenth at almost 17 years of schooling.  In terms of overall global innovation, the United States ranked sixth.


My Brother’s Keeper to Expand: Program for Black and Latino Boys!

Dear Commons Community,

President Obama will announce today that 60 of the nation’s largest school districts are joining his initiative to improve the educational futures of young African-American and Hispanic boys, beginning in preschool and extending through high school graduation. As reported in the New York Times:

“The districts, which represent about 40 percent of all African-American and Hispanic boys living below the poverty line, have committed to expand quality preschool access; track data on black and Hispanic boys so educators can intervene as soon as signs of struggle emerge; increase the number of boys of color who take gifted, honors or Advanced Placement courses and exams; work to reduce the number of minority boys who are suspended or expelled; and increase graduation rates among African-American and Hispanic boys.

President Obama announced in February a five-year, $200 million initiative, known as My Brother’s Keeper, to help black and Latino youths. The new efforts, which will also seek support from the nonprofit and private sectors, are being coordinated by the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban school districts. Michael Casserly, executive director of the organization, said that while a handful of districts had already made some progress in helping black and Latino boys improve their academic performance, “we need to move these numbers and improve these futures as a collective if the nation as a whole is to make any progress on this front. It’s not enough for us to do well in a small number of cities…”

The president will also announce on Monday that various organizations have committed funds to develop mentoring programs for young black and Latino youths or to design new school models for disadvantaged communities.

These include the National Basketball Associations, AT&T and the Emerson Collective — founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple’s founder Steve Jobs — to make grants and investments in education initiatives.”

This initiative is well-directed.


Income Inequality: World Bank, Luxembourg Income Study Center, Thomas Piketty!

Dear Commons Community,

In the past few years, the issue of income inequality has become a major rallying cry among social, political, and economic activists seeking to redistribute wealth in the United States and around the world.  Occupy Wall Street in 2011 was one of several populist movements that captured the essence of this issue.  Thomas Piketty, in his current best seller, Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century, has stoked the issue further. However, a recent study by the World Bank and the Luxembourg Income Study Center, offers that globally, income inequality has been falling. As reported in today’s  New York Times

“Income inequality has surged as a political and economic issue, but the numbers don’t show that inequality is rising from a global perspective. Yes, the problem has become more acute within most individual nations, yet income inequality for the world as a whole has been falling for most of the last 20 years. It’s a fact that hasn’t been noted often enough.

The finding comes from a recent investigation by Christoph Lakner, a consultant at the World Bank, and Branko Milanovic, senior scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center. And while such a framing may sound startling at first, it should be intuitive upon reflection. The economic surges of China, India and some other nations have been among the most egalitarian developments in history.”

With regard to the United States, income inequality has been rising due to a number of factors including those that have influenced the global income situation.

“International trade has drastically reduced poverty within developing nations, as evidenced by the export-led growth of China and other countries. Yet contrary to what many economists had promised, there is now good evidence that the rise of Chinese exports has held down the wages of some parts of the American middle class. This was demonstrated in a recent paper by the economists David H. Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Dorn of the Center for Monetary and Financial Studies in Madrid, and Gordon H. Hanson of the University of California, San Diego.

At the same time, Chinese economic growth has probably raised incomes of the top 1 percent in the United States, through exports that have increased the value of companies whose shares are often held by wealthy Americans. So while Chinese growth has added to income inequality in the United States, it has also increased prosperity and income equality globally.

The evidence also suggests that immigration of low-skilled workers to the United States has a modestly negative effect on the wages of American workers without a high school diploma, as shown, for instance, in research by George Borjas, a Harvard economics professor. Yet that same immigration greatly benefits those who move to wealthy countries like the United States. (It probably also helps top American earners, who can hire household and child-care workers at cheaper prices.) Again, income inequality within the nation may rise but global inequality probably declines, especially if the new arrivals send money back home.”

Assuming that all of the above is correct, while we can take heart that global income inequality is abating, here in the United States the situation is getting worse and is affecting our democratic principles to say nothing about the lives of the vast majority of Americans especially those living at or near poverty levels.  Thomas Piketty in his extensive analysis of the issue cautions that the top one percent has used their wealth to influence government policy in this country to the point that “a drift toward oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed.” (p. 514, Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century).



Diane Ravitch Calls on the Media to Sound the Alarm and to Address the Policies of the U.S. Dept. of Education!

Dear Commons Community,

In a blog posting yesterday, Diane Ravitch called on the free press to sound the alarm when private interests seek to undermine, exploit, monetize, and control our public schools. Here is an excerpt:

“What is most astonishing is to see the almost total indifference or ignorance of the mainstream media to an unprecedented and well-coordinated effort to privatize public education. Reporters don’t care that certain individuals and corporations are accumulating millions of dollars in taxpayer funding while schools are cutting their budgets and closing their libraries and increasing class sizes. Reporters don’t care that state authorities are allowing schools to open whose founders are not educators and may even be high school dropouts. Nor do they care when charter corporations claim to be “public schools,” yet refuse to permit the state to audit their expenditures, and in some states, refuse to share financial information with their own board. Has anyone tried to explain how a school can be “public” if its financials are not? Reporters know, but don’t care, that major charter chains contribute millions of dollars to state legislatures to make sure that no one investigates their use of public funds. A few reporters in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida have dared to pry into the cozy relationship between the charters and the legislature, but their exposes are followed by silence and inaction.

If present trends continue, the U.S. will have a dual system of education in another decade. Some cities will have few public schools, only charters that choose their students and exclude those with disabilities and those who can’t speak English. The few remaining public schools in urban districts will enroll the charter school rejects.”

Sound the alarm!