Ellen Pao Lost Her Lawsuit But Technology and Venture Capital Firms Have Been Given a Wake-up Call on Gender Inequity!

Ellen Pao

Dear Commons Community,

Ellen Pao may have lost her lawsuit last week against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, however, it is becoming a flashpoint in the ongoing discussion about gender inequity at elite technology and venture capital firms.  As reported in various media including The Huffington Post:

“The jury of six men and six women rejected all of Pao’s claims against Kleiner Perkins on Friday, determining the firm did not discriminate against her because she is a woman and did not retaliate against her by failing to promote her and firing her after she filed a sex discrimination complaint.

“This case has been a real wake-up call for the technology industry in general and the venture capital community in particular,” said Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University who teaches gender equity law.

Rhode and other experts say Kleiner Perkins and the venture capital industry in general did not come out looking good, even though they won the case.

“Venture capital firms recognize it’s not appropriate to be out in the streets celebrating,” said Freada Kapor Klein, founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, a nonprofit that aims to boost minority representation in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Women hold just 15 percent to 20 percent of the technology jobs at Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo, according to company disclosures. The data were embarrassing for an industry that has positioned itself as a meritocracy where intelligence and ingenuity are supposed to be more important than appearances or connections.

The venture capital industry is even more male-dominated, with a study released last year by Babson College in Massachusetts finding that women filled just 6 percent of partner-level positions at 139 venture capital firms in 2013, down from 10 percent in 1999.

Klein said before the verdict she was contacted by more than a dozen venture capital and technology companies asking how they could improve the environment as a result of the Pao case.

The attention surrounding the case makes it more likely other women who believe they have been discriminated against will go to court, said David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc., a human resources consulting and contracting firm. Two women who formerly worked at Facebook and Twitter filed gender discrimination cases against the companies during the Pao trial. One of Pao’s attorneys, Therese Lawless, is representing the plaintiff in the Facebook lawsuit.”

The Pao case exposes an embarrassing aspect of high tech and venture capital companies operations.  Data suggest clearly that they are male bastions and have a serious problem in the hiring and promotion of women.

Tony

 

New Federal Data Show College Student Debt Worse than Previously Believed!

Dear Commons Community,

New figures, released by the U.S. Education Department last week, indicate that roughly 33 percent of borrowers were late on one of their federal student loans as of Dec. 31. Previous measures had put the delinquency rate much lower at about 20 percent, masking the true amount of distress among borrowers trying to make good on their taxpayer-backed debts.

Some 41 million Americans collectively carry more than $1.1 trillion in education loans owned or guaranteed by the U.S. Education Department, a total that surpasses every form of consumer credit in the U.S. except home mortgages. The figures reflect more than two-thirds of the $1.1 trillion total. The remainder is owned by the private sector as part of a bank-based federal loan program that has since been discontinued.

The new measure of borrower distress comes as the White House urges the Education Department to improve its management of the growing federal student loan program and to give borrowers more protections against unmanageable debt loads.

As reported in The Huffington Post:

“We know that the rising cost of higher education and growing levels of student debt hit home for millions of Americans,” said Denise Horn, an Education Department spokeswoman. She added that the department enables borrowers to keep current on their loans by making payments based on their earnings, and said it is also trying to keep costs low for future borrowers by rating schools and helping students evaluate college costs before they enroll.

But the data released Thursday suggest that those efforts aren’t having much effect on former students struggling to manage their federal debt burdens.

“Anyone looking at these numbers would have to say that the needs of borrowers aren’t being met,” said Chris Hicks, who leads the Debt-Free Future campaign at the advocacy group Jobs With Justice.”

It is a travesty that in one generation, our country has completely altered the nature of higher education funding by transferring the costs of obtaining a college degree squarely on the backs of students and their parents. The states share much of the blame for this situation after decades of squeezing funding for their public colleges and universities. The federal government is also to blame for the ineptitude of the Department of Education personnel in managing its loan programs.

Tony

 

 

Mass Protest at Ole Miss Against Decision to Oust Chancellor Daniel Jones!

Daniel Smith II

Dear Commons Community,

Thousands protested on Wednesday against the decision on the part of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees not to renew the contract of the Chancellor of the University of Mississippi, Daniel Jones.  As reported in the New York Times:

“In what officials here described as one of the largest protests in the university’s history, students, employees and other supporters of Dr. Jones criticized the plan to change leaders as wrapped in secrecy and threatening to the future of a place that has often been central to the image of this state.

Dr. Jones, who became the school’s chief executive in 2009, had won acclaim for his work to move the university away from the shadow of the racial unrest that tarnished the campus in 1962. The university, on a campus studded with magnolia trees and Georgian buildings known as Ole Miss, posted a record enrollment of nearly 23,100 students last fall, and Dr. Jones has been praised for helping to upgrade its academic and cultural credentials.

But Mississippi’s higher education commissioner, Jim Borsig, announced Friday that the university’s governing board had decided not to renew Dr. Jones’s contract before its September expiration. The panel later said that Dr. Jones, 66, who returned to work at the university’s main campus on March 16 after months of treatment for cancer, had failed to eliminate violations of contracting policies.

Dr. Jones’s removal has since swelled into a storm that has seen students become protest organizers and incited legislative efforts to remake the state’s approach to overseeing its public universities.

“There’s been some basic disagreement for some time between the chancellor and some members of the board, but I’m still just bewildered that the board would take such drastic, radical action without more justification,” said William Winter, a former governor who this week tried unsuccessfully to broker a compromise. “It seemed to be a matter that could have been worked out, that could have been avoided, and the result, I think, is detrimental, not just to the University of Mississippi but to all of higher education in Mississippi.”

The resistance has been wide ranging. The alumni association’s leadership said Dr. Jones’s ouster was “unexpected and distressing,” and the Faculty Senate unanimously declared that it was “shocked and extremely disappointed.” On Monday, the student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, published a front-page editorial supporting Dr. Jones. The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, which had agreed to spend $20 million for a new science building, said it would withdraw its contribution unless Dr. Jones remained chancellor, the foundation’s president, Anthony T. Papa, said Wednesday.”

As published in the student newspaper:  “The actions of the IHL Board of Trustees attempt, unforgivably, to waylay the trajectory of progress and burgeoning improvement our university has seen under a talented chancellor, mentor and friend. Jones is a gift to the university. We stand with our chancellor.”

Tony

 

Wall Street Journal:  University of Phoenix Woes Continue!

Dear Commons Community,

The Wall Street Journal has an article (subscription required) today describing the woes of the University of Phoenix and its parent company, Apollo.  While the once-soaring for-profit education giant isn’t in ashes, its business has shriveled. For example, enrollment in degree programs was most recently 227,400 students. While that is far more than at the largest traditional U.S. university, it is less than half Apollo’s own peak five years ago and down 13.5% from the first quarter of fiscal 2014.

“A magical rebirth isn’t in the cards. Recruiting and keeping students is the lifeblood of Apollo’s main University of Phoenix unit. Glitches in its online software led to disappointing retention last year…

With the stock down 17% in the year to date, a financial result better than the anticipated loss of 18 cents a share, or just an improved enrollment trend, could produce at least a brief fillip in Apollo’s stock. Postearnings pops and drops have been commonplace over the past seven years.”

The long-term trend for Apollo is not very bright.  The University of Phoenix is a tainted brand and it only has itself to blame for the fraudulent ways it mislead prospective students including returning veterans into signing up for federal financial aid.

Tony

 

New York Times Editorial Urges Albany to Provide More Funding for Education!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times editorial today is urging Governor Cuomo and state legislators to resolve their differences especially with regard to education issues.  The full editorial is at the bottom of this posting but items of particular interest are:

“The State Legislature ended decades of feudalism, corruption and chaos in the New York City school system when it gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg direct control in 2002. The law allowed the mayor to bring stability to a system where chancellors once flew in and out the door and to clear away the bureaucratic underbrush that had defeated his predecessors.

The mayoral control statute ranks among the most successful contributions the Legislature has made to education in New York City in recent history. And the question of whether it will be extended — or, ideally, made permanent — is one of the most important decisions facing lawmakers as they approach the April 1 deadline for the $150 billion budget. This needs to be settled now, while the budget pressure is on, and not put off for another day.

The state’s $60 billion in overall education financing may be the trickiest part of the budget, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have other sticking points — all being negotiated, as ever, behind closed doors.

Here are spending issues that should be resolved before the month’s end:

■ An educational tax credit for donations to schools, including parochial ones, would be a political giveaway of at least $100 million of state revenue per year. That money could be better spent on public schools and universities. The City University of New York, for example, could use an additional $50 million for basics.

■ The Dream Act, which would allow undocumented students to obtain state financial aid and scholarships, is a badly needed investment in New York’s future. This should be an easy, humane item to adopt.”

Other news media are reporting that education tax credits and The Dream Act are off the negotiating table and will not be enacted this coming year.

Tony

===========================================

Schools Need Albany’s Help, Now

New York Times Editorial

March 25, 2105.

 

 

The State Legislature ended decades of feudalism, corruption and chaos in the New York City school system when it gave Mayor Michael Bloomberg direct control in 2002. The law allowed the mayor to bring stability to a system where chancellors once flew in and out the door and to clear away the bureaucratic underbrush that had defeated his predecessors.

The mayoral control statute ranks among the most successful contributions the Legislature has made to education in New York City in recent history. And the question of whether it will be extended — or, ideally, made permanent — is one of the most important decisions facing lawmakers as they approach the April 1 deadline for the $150 billion budget. This needs to be settled now, while the budget pressure is on, and not put off for another day.

The state’s $60 billion in overall education financing may be the trickiest part of the budget, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have other sticking points — all being negotiated, as ever, behind closed doors.

Here are spending issues that should be resolved before the month’s end:

■ An educational tax credit for donations to schools, including parochial ones, would be a political giveaway of at least $100 million of state revenue per year. That money could be better spent on public schools and universities. The City University of New York, for example, could use an additional $50 million for basics.

■ The Dream Act, which would allow undocumented students to obtain state financial aid and scholarships, is a badly needed investment in New York’s future. This should be an easy, humane item to adopt.

■ A $5.4 billion windfall — fines paid by banks and other institutions for past transgressions — should be directed to crumbling infrastructure. That means mass transit downstate, and roads and bridges statewide. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in desperate need of revival, as thousands of late and inconvenienced riders know. It is time for Mr. Cuomo to help finance the M.T.A. and find revenues for a five-year capital plan that is $15 billion short.

■ New York needs an ethics makeover, meaning real disclosure of outside income for lawmakers and an accounting of every dollar of expenses that count toward their per diem reimbursements. Mr. Cuomo has promised to see extensive reforms passed before he will approve the budget, and the clock is ticking. Lawmakers cannot get credit for what Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls tinkering around the edges.

■ Public financing of campaigns is a must. The state needs to close damaging loopholes that allow unlimited donations for party slush funds or that allow the creation of multiple limited liability corporations to evade contribution limits.

■ The farsighted budget would finally raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and remove people under 18 from adult jails and prisons. Only in New York and North Carolina are 16-year-olds automatically tried as adults.

■ The governor’s promise to raise the minimum wage should be easy — only $10.50 in the state and $11.50 in New York City. Increases should be indexed to rise with the cost of living. That is the least Albany can do.

■ Mr. Cuomo’s pension reform of a few years ago should be protected. State leaders should block an effort to increase pensions of New York City’s younger uniformed officers. The pension change would cost the city an estimated $5 billion over 30 years. If they unravel the reform for this group, others will soon be at their door.

State lawmakers are threatening to drop some of these items from negotiations as too difficult. They should be able to do their hard work now. It won’t get any easier.

 

On Education:  Hillary Clinton is Caught between the Teachers and Wall Street Financiers!

Hillary Clinton Education

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has an article on Hillary Clinton’s dilemma on education.  Essentially it posits that she is caught between the teachers (AFT/NEA) and the Wall Street financial community.

“…Hillary is being pulled in opposite directions on education. The pressure is from not only the teachers who supported her once and are widely expected to back her again, but also from a group of wealthy and influential Democratic financiers who staunchly support many of the same policies — charter schools and changes to teacher tenure and testing — that the teachers’ unions have resisted throughout President Obama’s two terms in office.

And the financiers say they want Mrs. Clinton to declare herself.

“This is an issue that’s important to a lot of Democratic donors,” said John Petry, a hedge fund manager who was a founder of the Harlem Success Academy, a New York charter school. “Donors want to hear where she stands.”

The growing pressure on education points out a deeper problem that Mrs. Clinton will have to contend with repeatedly, at least until the Iowa caucuses: On a number of divisive domestic issues that flared up during the Obama administration — trade pacts, regulation of Wall Street, tax policy — she will face dueling demands from centrists and the liberal base of the Democratic Party.

Her allies believe that with no strong primary opponent to force her into the open, Mrs. Clinton has plenty of time to maneuver before taking sides. But advocates will be using what leverage they possess to draw her out sooner.”

The article concludes with insights provided by AFT President Randi Weingarten:

“Mrs. Clinton will at least not have to establish credibility on the subject.

Her involvement with efforts to overhaul education dates back at least to the early 1980s, when her husband named her co-chairwoman of an Arkansas committee that called for a teacher-competency test, smaller classes and a higher dropout age. As a senator, she voted for No Child Left Behind in 2001, but later attacked the law, saying it was failing children.

Her association with Ms. Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers began when Ms. Weingarten was a local union leader in New York and Mrs. Clinton was the state’s junior senator. Yet her incoming campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, has been a charter school supporter.

In an interview, Ms. Weingarten suggested that those she termed “the so-called education reformers” were most worried that the agenda they have pushed for with the Obama administration, and in places like Chicago, “does not work.”

But she rejected the idea that Mrs. Clinton would set policy based on anything other than “her experience and the evidence.”

“She has been versed in these issues for a long time, and will give everyone a fair hearing and a fair shot, but she will look at it through the lens of what’s good for kids. Period,” Ms. Weingarten said. “Anybody who thinks otherwise just doesn’t know her.”

This is an important issue for Mrs. Clinton.  She will take her time making any decision and will likely take a middle road strategy.

Tony

 

Arizona Governor Calls for Revisiting Common Core – Put Needs of States and Localities First!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times is reporting that Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona urged state education officials yesterday to re-evaluate the Common Core standards adopted by the state and meant to guide what students learn from kindergarten through graduation. He said he saw them as an example of the federal government overstepping its bounds.  In a speech outlining his agenda to the State Board of Education, the governor did not call for repealing the Common Core, but instead asked the board to review the language and mathematics standards “in their entirety” and tailor the curriculum in ways to meet the needs of students in Arizona.

“We can learn from others, but at the end of the day the standards need to come from Arizona, and they need to help us achieve our objectives,” Mr. Ducey told the board.

Governor Ducey joins a number of other state officials questioning the Common Core on grounds of federal government overreach.

The Times article commented:

“Lisa Graham Keegan, a former superintendent of public instruction in Arizona, said that for some, opposition to the Common Core was driven not by the standards themselves but by a centralized process that made it harder for parents and educators to contribute to the discussion. She said there was little disagreement on the fundamentals that students should learn.

“I don’t think that’s a shallow thing,” Ms. Keegan, now an education policy consultant, said of the public’s desire to have its say. “I think it’s incredibly important. I don’t know if other states need it. I know we do.”

During his speech, Governor Ducey asked the board to include parents, teachers, administrators and other experts in its evaluation of the Common Core.

“This review should include input from people at all levels of education from every corner of our state,” he said. “And in any instance during your review, you find situations where Arizona standards can outperform the ones already adopted, I ask you to replace them.”

Ms. Graham and Governor Ducey are correct.  The Common Core has a lot to offer but it was force upon many states by the U.S. Department of Education in return for Race to the Top funds.  There absolutely needs to be an evaluation process that includes all constituents down to the local level.  Let us also keep in mind that it is the localities that provide the majority of funds for public education not the federal government.

Tony

 

Bill de Blasio and Rudy Giuliani Form Alliance on NYC Schools:  What?

Dear Commons Community,

It is hard to believe that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani have joined forces in an unlikely alliance to push for an extension of the law granting the mayor full control over the city school system.  As reported in The Daily News:

“The frequent foes have written a joint letter to Gov. Cuomo and state legislators urging them to extend the expiring law without changes.

“It is no secret that the two of us disagree on a great many things — but we both know that mayoral control of the public school system ensures direct accountability and is absolutely essential for the future progress and development of New York City schools,” de Blasio and former mayor Giuliani wrote.

The letter also takes a veiled shot at Cuomo’s plan to allow the state to take over consistently failing schools.

“Proposals that would limit mayoral control will only take us backward to a time of blurred lines of accountability,” de Blasio and Giuliani wrote. “Graduation rates, college readiness rates, and test scores are showing signs of improvement, and the success of our children demands that we move forward…”

…the law, last extended in 2009, is set to expire in June. Cuomo has proposed extending it for three years. Assembly Democrats are pushing for a seven-year extension that would carry through de Blasio’s second term…

The Senate GOP, which had a good relationship with fellow Republican Giuliani but has feuded with de Blasio after he unsuccessfully tried last year to help the Democrats win control of the chamber, says an immediate decision doesn’t need to be made as part of the new budget because the law is several months from expiring.”

Mayoral control has had its supporters and detractors.  One thing is for sure, control of the public schools needs to stay where they are located.  The last thing they need is any interference from the politicians and bureaucrats in the state capitol.

Tony

 

Sweet Briar College (Virginia) To Close!

Dear Commons Community,

Here at bucolic Sweet Briar College, equestrians awaken at dawn and trek to the stables to ride on 18 miles of trails through wooded countryside, fields and dells. Women study on the boathouse dock at sunset, as geese squawk over a lake. Pearls are still in fashion, and men must have escorts. Students call it “the pink bubble.”

Now, all of a sudden, the bubble has burst due to the abrupt decision by the Sweet Briar board to close the 114-year-old women’s liberal arts school enrolling 700 students at the end of this term “as a result of insurmountable financial challenges” .

The Board’s decision has transformed this tranquil community into a hotbed of anger and activism.  A new alumnae group, Saving Sweet Briar, has raised $3 million and intends to demand this week that the school make its finances public — or face legal action. The faculty voted unanimously last week to oppose the “unilateral decision” to close the school, and demanded to meet with the board. Students, fresh from spring break, plastered their cars with a rallying cry — #SaveSweetBriar — in the school colors, pink and green.

As reported in a New York Times article:

“The drama at Sweet Briar — a tiny school, with just 532 students on a sprawling 3,250-acre campus, and another 170 or so studying overseas — is playing out against a backdrop of wrenching changes for small liberal arts schools, especially those in rural areas, and women’s colleges, which face particular challenges in recruiting.

A survey this year by Inside Higher Ed, conducted by the Gallup Organization, found that just 39 percent of college presidents felt confident that their institution’s financial model would be sustainable for the next decade. In Virginia alone, two other small colleges have closed since 2013 — Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, and St. Paul’s College, a historically black institution in Lawrenceville.

Fifty years ago, there were 230 women’s colleges in the United States, according to the Women’s College Coalition, a nonprofit group. Last year, there were 46. But Chatham University in Pittsburgh is set to admit men this fall, dropping the number to 45. Without Sweet Briar, there will be 44.”

The plight of women’s colleges has been going for several decades.  Many of these colleges began admitting men as early as the 1970s, others simply closed due to decreased enrollments and financial difficulties.

Tony

 

 

Analyzing the Rewrite of No Child Left Behind!

NCLB

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. House of Representatives continues to work on a rewrite of No Child Left Behind, the signature education policy bill of the George W. Bush administration.  Actually it is formally a reauthorization of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act.   Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking minority member, are drafting the rewrite that they expect to have ready next month.  There are many issues associated with the old bill related to standardized testing, federal funding aid, and labeling schools as failing that need to be addressed.   The New York Times has an article today focusing on a number of NCLB issues.  Here is an excerpt:

“No Child Left Behind was a bipartisan effort that was intended to help schools improve reading and math in the third to eighth grades. The law required that every child in the nation be proficient by 2014 in those subjects, as measured by standardized tests. Cascading punishments — beginning with mandated tutoring and going all the way to school takeover — were imposed on schools that failed to make sufficient progress toward this goal.

As Arne Duncan, the education secretary, put it in a speech this year, the law “created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed or to reward success.”

As almost all schools began to fall into the failing category — and a partisan logjam kept Congress from reauthorizing the law when it expired eight years ago — the Obama administration began granting states waivers from its requirements.

Over the past three years, schools in all but a few states have been given waivers, allowing them to show success through measures other than test scores and eliminating the 2014 deadline for universal proficiency.

Those waivers, though, came with conditions. Among them were that states adopt academic standards like the Common Core, which defines what students need to know and be able to do between kindergarten and high school graduation, and that they agree to base teacher evaluations in part on test scores.

Parents have been rebelling against new tests based on the Common Core, and many Republicans, as well as a group from the left, see these requirements as a federal power grab in an area traditionally governed by the states. Those lawmakers are determined to keep the requirements out of the reauthorization. Leading Democrats and many civil rights groups, though, worry about giving too much control back to the states.

“The worry is that if you leave it to the states, they will drop the ball, as they did in the past,” said Martin West, who studies the politics of kindergarten through high school education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

No Child Left Behind required the public release of test scores by race, sex, disability and family income. The release of those subgroups’ scores is broadly considered a success, bringing transparency that focused attention on children needing the most assistance, and helping to shrink achievement gaps.”

It remains to be seen how the rewrite of NCLB plays out.  There is hope that something positive will come out of it mainly because of the leadership (Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray) of the House Committee.  Both are moderates not ideologues who have invested time and energy in understanding the complexity of public education issues.

Tony