Category Archives: Education

The Care Gap

Source: Michelle Chen, Dissent Magazine, Winter 2016
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….The low wage floor in the field of early childhood care acts as a subsidy for wealthier parents purchasing top-quality childcare. And here’s where class divides intertwine with care gaps: poorer teachers and caregivers who are raising children of their own can’t afford the high quality of education they’re trained to provide for other people’s kids. And so, like many other working-class parents, teachers’ children too fall into the yawning developmental gap between rich and poor kids, a gap that is created before they even learn how to count. As childcare becomes more professionalized but wages stay low, the gulf expands between well-off families, who offload care work onto daytime surrogates, and the service workers who absorb the burden, often for poverty wages and at the expense of their own kids. Achieving real equity means state support for working conditions that allow for healthy parenting and a decent livelihood. Investing in early education benefits everyone involved, whether they are paying, earning, or learning…..

The Effects of Collective Bargaining Rights on Public Employee Compensation: Evidence from Teachers, Firefighters, and Police

Source: Brigham R. Frandsen, ILR Review, Vol. 69 no. 1, January 2016
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From the abstract:
Widespread public-sector unionism emerged only in the 1960s, as individual states opened the door to collective bargaining for state and municipal workers. In this study, the author exploits differences in timing of legislative reforms across states to construct estimates of the causal effects of public-sector collective bargaining rights on pay, benefits, and employment for teachers, firefighters, and police. Perhaps surprisingly, estimates that allow for state fixed effects and state-specific trends show little effect on teachers’ pay, benefits, or employment, despite significantly increasing union presence among teachers. For firefighters, the results show a substantial positive effect on wages. For police, the wage effect was more modest but the workweek was significantly shortened.

Making College Affordable

Source: Dustin Weeden and Ben Schaefer, LegisBrief, Vol. 23 no. 42, November 2015

College affordability is regularly on the minds of parents, students and policymakers. In the last decade, however, concerns about college becoming unaffordable have grown as tuition increases annually outpaced inflation and stagnant family incomes limited the ability of Americans to pay for the increases. Consequently, the number of people borrowing to pay for college and the average amount they are borrowing has increased by 89 percent and 77 percent, respectively. At the same time, a postsecondary education has become increasingly important for both individuals and the economic competitiveness of the nation and individual states. The federal government and state governments have taken several actions in recent years to ensure that college remains within reach of all Americans.

Economic Gains for U.S. States from Educational Reform

Source: Eric A. Hanushek, Jens Ruhose, Ludger Woessmann, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21770, December 2015
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From the abstract:
There is limited existing evidence justifying the economic case for state education policy. Using newly-developed measures of the human capital of each state that allow for internal migration and foreign immigration, we estimate growth regressions that incorporate worker skills. We find that educational achievement strongly predicts economic growth across U.S. states over the past four decades. Based on projections from our growth models, we show the enormous scope for state economic development through improving the quality of schools. While we consider the impact for each state of a range of educational reforms, an improvement that moves each state to the best-performing state would in the aggregate yield a present value of long-run economic gains of over four times current GDP.

Early Childhood Education

Source: Sneha Elango, Jorge Luis García, James J. Heckman, Andrés Hojman, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21766, November 2015

From the abstract:
This paper organizes and synthesizes the literature on early childhood education and childcare. In it, we go beyond meta-analysis and reanalyze primary data sources in a common framework. We consider the evidence from means-tested demonstration programs, large-scale means-tested programs and universal programs without means testing. We discuss which programs are beneficial and whether they are cost-effective for certain populations. The evidence from high-quality demonstration programs targeted toward disadvantaged children shows beneficial effects. Returns exceed costs, even accounting for the deadweight loss of collecting taxes. When proper policy counterfactuals are constructed, Head Start has beneficial effects on disadvantaged children compared to home alternatives. Universal programs benefit disadvantaged children.

A Superfund for Workers

Source: Jeremy Brecher, Dollars & Sense, no. 321, November/December 2015

How to promote a “just transition” and break out of the “jobs vs. environment“ trap. …To provide a just transition for workers harmed by environmental policies, Mazzocchi proposed the idea of a “Superfund for workers.” The fund would provide financial support and opportunities for higher education for workers displaced by environmental protection policies. ….

The benefits and costs of investing in early childhood education: The fiscal, economic, and societal gains of a universal prekindergarten program in the United States, 2016-2050

Source: Robert Lynch & Kavya Vaghul, Washington Center for Equitable Growth, December 2015

From the summary:
Research is increasingly demonstrating that investments in education provide significant benefits to children, families, and society as a whole, accelerating economic growth and promoting opportunity over time. This study describes and analyzes the benefits and costs of investing in a public, voluntary, high-quality universal prekindergarten program made available to all 3- and 4-year-olds across the United States. By breaking down these benefits and costs at the state and national levels, we show how such a program would strengthen the U.S. economy’s competitiveness while simultaneously easing a host of fiscal, social, and health problems. Over time, the program would more than pay for itself: By 2050, a universal prekindergarten program would yield $8.90 in benefits for every dollar invested and $304.7 billion in total benefits. If the ultimate aim of public policy is to promote the well-being of individuals, families, communities, and nations, then investment in early childhood education is clearly an effective strategy.

A Region Left Behind: Lost Opportunity In The Deep South

Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, 2015

….It is a downbeat reality for a region that for much of the second half of the 20th century was actually closing its gap with the rest of the country, helped by the federal war on poverty and the end of legalized segregation. But during the past 15 years — and particularly since the Great Recession — the catch-up has stalled. By some measures, it has reversed. Somebody born today in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia or South Carolina is far more likely than someone born elsewhere in the United States to attend a poorer school, drop out before high school, work a low-paying job, struggle with debt, go to prison and die young, according to national health, labor and education statistics. …. But the troubles in the Deep South go well beyond race to include frayed state finances, which have eroded the safety net for the poor, as well as public school underfunding, which leaves those who can afford it scrambling to private schools. And it extends to a growing technological divide that has left significant rural areas without access to the digital world; a rise in single-parenthood, which is a major indicator for generation-to-generation poverty; and the decline of rural job opportunities in states that have long relied on agriculture rather than on urban hubs….

Articles include:
An opportunity gamed away
Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, July 11, 2015
For a county in the Deep South that reaped millions from casino business, poverty is still its spin of the wheel. …. What went wrong in Tunica is a matter of perspective. For many African Americans — and the county’s current officials — it was a story of a largely white political leadership that did not grasp the depths of poverty facing many black residents and did not choose to use the casino revenues that flowed into the county in an equitable way. So instead of funding skills training and providing programs for the vulnerable, they poured money into a riverfront wedding hall, an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool and a golf course designed by a former PGA Tour pro — all while implementing a massive tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthy. …..

Graduating, but to what?
Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, October 17, 2015
Poor students in the Deep South who successfully navigate traumas at home and dysfunction at school find few opportunities afterward. ….The Deep South’s paralyzing intergenerational poverty is the devastating sum of problems both historical and emergent — ones that, in the life of a young man, can build in childhood and then erupt in early adulthood. Students such as Davis deal with traumas at home and dysfunction at school — only to find themselves, as graduates, searching for low-paying jobs in states that have been reluctant to fund programs that help the poor. That cycle carries implications not only for the current generation, but also for the ones to come, and holds back a region that has fallen further behind the rest of the nation….. In recent years, shriveling job prospects for the high-school-educated and scant state support for the poor have combined with the Deep South’s more timeworn problems — single-parenthood and under-education — to diminish the chances of a middle-class life for somebody born into poverty….

A grim bargain
Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, December 2, 2015
Once a weakness, low-skilled workers who get paid little have become the Deep South’s strength. ….In wide swaths of the Deep South, public schools struggle, turning out workers who lack basic skills. Agricultural work has long faded, while job opportunities in once-prosperous industries such as textiles and timber have been lost to cheaper options in Latin America or automation at home. Politicians say they must give freebies to lure companies here, or offer nothing at all and watch the region — which already lags behind the rest of the country on most measures of well-being — fall even further behind. But in some cases, when opportunity arrives, it highlights a grim bargain: Jobs come at great cost but offer only a slightly better version of a hard life. The region’s weaknesses — a low-skill workforce that doesn’t expect particularly high wages — become its competitive strengths. And suddenly, the only opportunity for somebody such as Deshler becomes a Chinese company looking for a place from which to do more business in the United States….

State Expenditure Report (Fiscal 2013-2015 Data)

Source: National Association of State Budget Officers, 2015

Highlights include:
– In fiscal 2015, total state spending increased at its fastest rate since 1992, primarily due to growth in federal Medicaid funds resulting from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
– Spending from states’ own funds moderately grew in fiscal 2015, while federal funds to states rapidly increased due to the ACA.
– Medicaid represented over half of all federal funds to states in fiscal 2015.
– State revenue growth accelerated in fiscal 2015, although it was hampered somewhat by the decline in oil prices.

From the summary:
Total State Spending in Fiscal 2015 Increased at Its Fastest Rate Since 1992, Driven by Federal Medicaid Growth

Estimated total state spending (including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds) sharply increased in fiscal 2015. The year-over-year percentage growth rate of 7.8 percent was the highest rate since fiscal 1992. The rise in total state spending resulted from a combination of a rapid increase in federal funds to states, and modest growth in states’ own fund sources. The acceleration of federal funds to states in fiscal 2015 was almost solely due to states receiving significantly more federal Medicaid dollars as part of the first full-year of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Evaluating Public Programs with Close Substitutes: The Case of Head Start

Source: Patrick Kline, Christopher Walters, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21658, October 2015
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From the abstract:
This paper empirically evaluates the cost-effectiveness of Head Start, the largest early-childhood education program in the United States. Using data from the Head Start Impact Study (HSIS), we show that Head Start draws roughly a third of its participants from competing preschool programs that receive public funds. This both attenuates measured experimental impacts on test scores and reduces the program’s net budgetary costs. A calibration exercise indicates that accounting for the public savings associated with reduced enrollment in other subsidized preschools substantially increases estimates of Head Start’s rate of return, defined as the after-tax lifetime earnings generated by an extra dollar of public spending. Control function estimation of a semi-parametric selection model reveals substantial heterogeneity in Head Start’s test score impacts with respect to counterfactual care alternatives as well as observed and unobserved child characteristics. Head Start is about as effective at raising test scores as competing preschools and its impacts are greater on children from families less likely to participate in the program. Expanding Head Start to new populations is therefore likely to boost the program’s rate of return, provided that the proposed technology for increasing enrollment is not too costly.