Category Archives: Education

Three Big Ideas for a Future of Less Work and a Three-Dimensional Alternative

Source: Cynthia Estlund, Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 82 no. 3, 2019

….At the same time, each of those three big ideas holds within it an essential component of a sound three dimensional response to the uncertain but real prospect of job losses. In lieu of UBI [universal basic income], we should expand universal social benefits—starting with health care and higher education—and income support for the working and non-working poor. In lieu of a federal job guarantee, we should ramp up public investments in infrastructure, social and community services, and early education, all of which would address unmet societal needs while creating decent jobs. And in lieu of (or at least before) reducing weekly hours of work across the board, we should expand access to paid leaves, holidays, and vacations, as well as voluntary part-time work and retirement security; we could thereby spread work and meet varied individual needs and preferences through days, weeks, months, and years of time off.

In combination, these three interventions—expanded universal social benefits and income support, public investments in physical and social infrastructure and the job creation those will entail, and wider access to paid leaves and respites from work—would advance core objectives of each of the three big ideas while muting their disadvantages. Together they would both cushion and offset automation-related job losses, while spreading the work that remains and maintaining or boosting incomes. This trio of policies could and should also be funded in a way that helps to redistribute income from the top to the bottom of an egregiously and increasingly lopsided income distribution.

…..In what follows, I will fill in the outlines of this argument. Part II will briefly set out some normative priors about the multiple ends we should be pursuing as we face a future of less work. A long Part III will take up each of the Three Big Ideas, briefly tracing their genealogy and identifying some strengths and weaknesses of each. Part IV will return to the core aspirations of the Three Big Ideas, and sketch a combination of the three – a three-dimensional strategy – that can preserve much of the good while avoiding much that is problematic in the more single-minded Three Big Ideas. ….

The Effects of Performance Audits on School District Financial Behavior

Source: Paul N. Thompson, Mark St. John, Public Finance Review, Online First, Published September 8, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Performance audits are a form of weak financial oversight intended to curb inefficient spending and help alleviate financial problems. This study examines the effect of these performance audits on school district finances in Ohio, where performance audits are used on their own and within the context of the state’s fiscal stress labeling system—a strong financial oversight system. Using a difference-in-differences analysis, we find school districts do reduce expenditures as a result of these performance audits. These changes in financial behavior are found even for performance audits in nonfiscal stress districts, suggesting that weak oversight programs may be an effective means toward changing fiscal behavior. Despite the financial changes in nonfiscal stress districts that receive audits, there appears to be little impact on school district proficiency rates. These results suggest that audits may provide a useful mechanism for changing financial behavior of school districts without much associated efficiency losses.

How Local Economic Conditions Affect School Finances, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement: Evidence from the Texas Shale Boom

Source: Joseph Marchand, Jeremy G. Weber, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Early View, August 29, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Whether improved local economic conditions lead to better student outcomes is theoretically ambiguous and will depend on how schools use additional revenues and how students and teachers respond to rising private sector wages. The Texas boom in shale oil and gas drilling, with its large and localized effects on wages and the tax base, provides a unique opportunity to address this question that spans the areas of education, labor markets, and public finance. An empirical approach using variation in shale geology across school districts shows that the boom reduced test scores and student attendance, despite tripling the local tax base and creating a revenue windfall. Schools spent additional revenue on capital projects and debt service, but not on teachers. As the gap between teacher wages and private sector wages grew, so did teacher turnover and the percentage of inexperienced teachers, which helps explain the decline in student achievement. Changes in student composition did not account for the achievement decline but instead helped to moderate it. The findings illustrate the potential value of using revenue growth to retain teachers in times of rising private sector wages.

Highlights from occupational safety and health continuing education needs assessment

Source: Joshua G. Scott, Erin Shore, Carol Brown, Carisa Harris, Mitchel A. Rosen, American Journal of Industrial Medicine,
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
There is a lack of trained Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals able to meet the current and future demand for such expertize in the United States. Many OSH professionals are required to perform duties, which are outside of their primary area of expertize; thus, expansion of continuing education (CE) may be necessary to properly train individuals for new OSH responsibilities.

Methods:
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health‐funded Education and Research Centers collectively developed and distributed an internet‐based survey to gauge the CE needs and interests of the OSH workforce.

Results:
A total of 2064 responses were received. The most common primary professions represented were safety (28%), occupational health nursing (18%), and industrial hygiene (12%). The majority of respondents (61%) reported that they perform work activities outside of those associated with their primary OSH profession. The CE offerings with the highest interest among respondents were related to safety. Other courses with high levels of interest included topics such as legal issues in OSH (88%), compliance (88%), risk management (85%), OSH management (83%), risk communication (83%), and communication in accident prevention (81%). Health and safety leadership (82%), health and safety culture (78%) and total worker health (74%) were also significant interests.

Conclusions:
It is important to be responsive to the evolving needs of the OS&H community. Developing relevant courses will help ensure that OS&H professionals have access to the training they need to perform essential job functions and keep employees healthy and safe.

Meeting the Need: Developing Certification for Advanced Water Treatment Operators

Source: Steven Garner, Journal – AWWA, Volume 111 Issue 9,
September 2019

(subscription required)

Key Takeaways
The California–Nevada Section of AWWA and California Water Environment Association sought a new industry certification for operators working with advanced water treatment (AWT) processes.

A diverse set of stakeholders and experts added their perspectives on the development of the new certification.

The AWTO Grade 3 exam was released in July 2019.

Teachers Fighting for Public Schools Were Key to the Uprising in Puerto Rico

Source: Mercedes Martinez and Monique Dols, Labor Notes, August 15, 2019

In the two months leading up to the uprising which ousted Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Roselló, educators celebrated hard-fought victories against the privatization of their education system. Struggles by teachers and families against school closures and charter schools helped pave the way for July’s unprecedented outpouring of protest (see box).

By the end of the school year in June, it became clear that the struggle to stop charterization had largely won. There is only one actively functional charter school on the island.

Then in July, teachers and families who had fought pitched battles against the closing of 442 public schools by ex-Secretary of Education Julia Keleher were vindicated when Keleher was arrested on corruption charges.

As the new school year starts in August, educators are still fighting to fully fund and staff the schools, reopen those shuttered under Keleher, and keep the charters out. In the weeks and months to come, expect educators to keep playing a critical role in the struggle for democracy, against austerity, and for the dignity of the working class in Puerto Rico….

Professional certifications and occupational licenses: evidence from the Current Population Survey

Source: Evan Cunningham, Monthly Labor Review, June 2019

This article uses data from the Current Population Survey to analyze the role of professional certifications and occupational licenses in the U.S. labor market. It discusses the prevalence of these credentials among the employed by age, gender, race, ethnicity, educational attainment, and occupation. This analysis also explores the relationships between certifications, licenses, and earnings. Finally, the article presents new data on certification and licensing by detailed occupation and whether the credential is required for one’s job.

The Changing Pattern of Returns to Education: What Impact Will this Have on Inequality?

Source: Harry A. Patrinos, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 8866, May 28, 2019

From the abstract:
The pattern of economic rates of return to investments in education can help us to understand the benefits of schooling. It was common knowledge that the returns to education were highest for the primary level of education and lower for subsequent levels. Recent evidence suggests that the pattern has changed. Since the 1980s, the returns to schooling overall have increased. The returns to higher education have increased the most. The fact that the more educated have improved their position, despite an increase in their numbers, must mean that the demand for more educated workers has increased more than supply over time, causing an increase in the overall returns to schooling. Possible reasons include technological change favoring higher-order skills, increased coverage at lower levels of schooling, and the quality of schooling.

State and Local Financing of Public Schools

Source: Rebecca R. Skinner, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45827, July 23, 2019

The funding of public elementary and secondary schools in the United States involves a combination of local, state, and federal government revenues, in proportions that vary substantially both across and within states. According to the most recent data, state governments provide 47.0% of these revenues, local governments provide 44.8%, and the federal government provides 8.3%. Over the last several decades, the share of public elementary and secondary education revenues provided by state governments has increased, the share provided by local governments has decreased, and the federal share has varied within a range of 6.0% to 12.7%. The primary source of local revenues for public elementary and secondary education is the property tax, while state revenues are raised from a variety of sources, primarily personal and corporate income and retail sales taxes, a variety of “excise” taxes such as those on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, and lotteries in several states.