“Defund the (School) Police”?: Bringing Data to Key School-to-Prison Pipeline Claims

Source: Michael Heise, Jason P. Nance, Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper 20-23, August 23, 2020

From the abstract:
Calls across the nation to “Defund the Police,” largely attributable to the resurgent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, motivated derivative calls for public school districts to consider “defunding” (or, at the very least, revisit or modify) school resource officer (“SRO/police”) programs. To be sure, a school’s SRO/police presence—and the size of that presence—may influence the school’s student discipline reporting policies and practices. How schools report student discipline and whether it involves referrals to law enforcement agencies matter, particularly as it may fuel a growing “school-to-prison pipeline.” The “school-to-prison pipeline” research literature features two general claims that frame key debates about changes in how public schools approach student discipline and the growing calls to defund school resource officer programs. One is that public schools’ increasingly “legalized” approach toward student discipline increases the probability that students will be thrust into the criminal justice system. A second, distributional claim is that these adverse consequences disproportionately involve students of color, boys, students from low-income households, and other vulnerable student sub-groups. Both claims include important legal and policy dimensions as students’ adverse interactions with law enforcement agencies typically impose negative consequences on students and their futures. We subject both claims to the nation’s leading data set on public school crime and safety, supplemented by data on state-level mandatory reporting requirements and district-level per pupil spending, and explore three distinct analytic approaches in an effort to better isolate the possible independent influence of a school’s SRO/police presence on that school’s student discipline reporting behavior. Results from our analyses, largely robust to various analytical approaches, provide mixed support for the two claims. Specifically, and largely consistent with prior research, we find that a SRO/police presence at a school corresponds with an increased probability that the school will report student incidents to law enforcement agencies. However, we do not find support in the school-level data for the distributional claim.

“They’re Not Alone”: An Oral History of the Pennsylvania Faculty Strike of 2016

Source: Gordon Mantler, Rachel Riedner, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, Volume 17, Issue 3, September 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In 2016, more than five thousand faculty members and coaches in the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties successfully struck in the union’s first ever such action in thirty-five years as an official bargaining agent. Two faculty members active in the union reflect on their experience in a wide-ranging interview about how years of careful, often painstaking organizing made such a success possible. The strike was the product of both ten years of increasingly acrimonious negotiations and considerable tactical work by a new generation of union members who learned a number of lessons from the process, including the necessary work of persuading faculty members that they, too, were workers.

Reducing Unequal Representation: The Impact of Labor Unions on Legislative Responsiveness in the U.S. Congress

Source: Michael Becher and Daniel Stegmueller, Perspectives on Politics, First View, July 21, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
It has long been recognized that economic inequality may undermine the principle of equal responsiveness that lies at the core of democratic governance. A recent wave of scholarship has highlighted an acute degree of political inequality in contemporary democracies in North America and Europe. In contrast to the view that unequal responsiveness in favor of the affluent is nearly inevitable when income inequality is high, we argue that organized labor can be an effective source of political equality. Focusing on the paradigmatic case of the U.S. House of Representatives, our novel dataset combines income-specific estimates of constituency preferences based on 223,000 survey respondents matched to roll-call votes with a measure of district-level union strength drawn from administrative records. We find that local unions significantly dampen unequal responsiveness to high incomes: a standard deviation increase in union membership increases legislative responsiveness towards the poor by about six to eight percentage points. As a result, in districts with relatively strong unions legislators are about equally responsive to rich and poor Americans. We rule out alternative explanations using flexible controls for policies, institutions, and economic structure, as well as a novel instrumental variable for unionization based on history and geography. We also show that the impact of unions operates via campaign contributions and partisan selection.

Forced into Employment Arbitration? Sexual Harassment Victims are Saying #MeToo and Beginning to Fight Back – But They Need Congressional Help

Source: Samuel Lack, Harvard Negotiation Law Review Online, August 2020

As awareness of the prevalence and pervasiveness of workplace sexual harassment has grown in the United States, so, too, has the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts to shepherd employee claims out of courtrooms and into private arbitration proceedings. Though private arbitration is often touted as cheaper and more efficient than traditional litigation, employees are significantly less likely to win in arbitration and, when they do, their awards are often much less.

Grown out of the expansion of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), passed in 1926, mandatory arbitration clauses now cover over half of non-union workers in the United States. Despite evident inequities, Congress has done little to abate the expansion, and the federal court system has adopted a strong pro-arbitration jurisprudence. In recent years, the Supreme Court has gone as far as to limit the use of group arbitration—to the severe detriment of sexual harassment victims amid what can be an already arduous claim process. In response, states and localities have passed laws that forbid or limit the use of mandatory arbitration clauses. These laws, however, are often preempted by the FAA and never take effect. The public has also pushed back against mandatory arbitration and has achieved real success. Many corporations and law firms are stopping the practice amid public pressure, walk-outs, and boycotts.

This Comment will detail the prominent inequities present in mandatory arbitration, particularly in cases of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. Then, it will advocate for one of two things: (1) judicial reinterpretation of the FAA and its savings clause to permit states to pass laws that restrict the use of mandatory arbitration, or (2) congressional action, namely the passage of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act. This legislation, combined with strategic public pressure on legislators and businesspeople, would lead to immediate relief for sexual harassment victims and signal larger arbitration reform on the horizon.

COVID-19 and the Higher Education Quandary

Source: Dante DeAntonio, Regional Financial Review, August 2020
(subscription required)

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across nearly every part of the U.S. and global economy. While higher education has typically been insulated from the business cycle—and sometimes has even been the beneficiary of economic downturns—the current pandemic-induced recession has hit the sector head on.

The Next Recovery: Regional Leaders and Laggards

Source: Adam Kamins, Regional Financial Review, August 2020
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With the national COVID-19 recession having officially ended, the varying nature of the recovery across regions has become an increasingly important consideration. Some key short- and long-term considerations are examined in order to determine which places are best positioned in the years ahead.

Better Rating Agency Relations Are Just a Few Steps Away

Source: Liz Sweeney, Government Finance Review, Vol. 30 no. 4, August 2020
(subscription required)

Much is at stake for public finance debt issuers that request credit ratings from Wall Street’s big credit rating agencies, which include S&P Global Ratings, Moody’s, Fitch Ratings, and Kroll Bond Rating Agency. Historically, many public finance issuers avoided credit rating agencies entirely by purchasing bond insurance, a strategy that fell off substantially after the insurers were downgraded during the financial crisis more than a decade ago. Although bond insurance has lately been making a comeback, it still represents a much smaller share of tax-exempt debt issuance than it did before the financial crisis. Similarly, direct placements with banks soared after the financial crisis, when low interest rates and lack of other lending opportunities made it attractive for banks to lend directly to municipalities. But the lower corporate tax rates established in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 have made tax-exempt debt less attractive to banks.

All this means that public finance issuers are finding themselves face to-face with credit rating agencies more often, and it can be a stressful and intimidating experience. Here’s the good news: Whether you are a new debt issuer dealing with credit rating agencies for the first time or you have long-standing established relationships with them, there are a few simple ways to maximize your rating agency relations, reduce the anxiety of the rating process, and maybe even get that long-wanted upgrade.

Spatial Planning and Fiscal Impact Anaylsis

Source: Linda Tomaselli, Government Finance Review, Vol. 30 no. 4, August 2020
(subscription required)

As part of a realistic long-range financial forecast, a finance director needs to estimate the impact of future land use—and this calls for a good picture of revenue and expenditure patterns by land use type. Spatial Planning and Fiscal Impact Analysis Method: A Toolkit for Existing and Proposed Land Use (Routledge, 2019) describes a way to link information from finance directors to planners who are using geographic information systems (GIS). It provides finance directors with information about where the revenues and expenditures in their cities are located on an annual basis, and which types of land uses generate surpluses or deficits. The planning and finance departments can also provide immediate fiscal impact information for a currently proposed development.

Balancing the Budget in Bad Times

Source: Shayne Kavanagh, Government Finance Review, Vol. 30 no. 4, August 2020

The June 2020 issue of Government Finance Review featured resources for local governments navigating the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. These included an overview of retrenchment techniques and opportunities to access more cash (“Cash is King”)—early steps in GFOA’s 12 steps to recover from financial distress.

This article takes a close look at Near-Term Treatments, which build on the concepts introduced in the first four steps of the recovery process. Near-Term Treatments are the next level of treatment for the ensuing 12 to 18 months. They might be enough to resolve minor cases of financial distress. For severe cases, the Near-Term Treatments buy time for extensive changes, such as those suggested in Step 8, Long-Term Treatments.

Pension Obligation Bonds: Yes or No?

Source: Government Finance Review, Vol. 30 no. 3, June 2020
(subscription required)

Pension obligation bonds (POBs) are taxable bonds that some state and local governments have issued as part of an overall strategy to fund the unfunded portion of their pension liabilities by creating debt. When economic times are bad, governments sometimes consider issuing POBs to reduce their fiscal stress, but the practice is controversial. The use of POBs rests on the assumption that the bond proceeds, when invested with pension assets in higheryielding asset classes, will be able to achieve a rate of return that is greater than the interest rate owed over the term of the bonds. However, POBs involve considerable investment risk, making this goal very speculative.

For these reasons, GFOA President and Hanover County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations Terry Stone sticks with GFOA’s position that state and local governments should not issue POBs. On the other hand, Girard Miller, former chief investment officer of the Orange County Employees Retirement System with a career in public finance spanning 30+ years, suggests that, at certain times and under certain economic circumstances, a pension fund can reasonably consider POBs as part of its overall strategy.