December 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Alooming problem in the current recession is this: Changes in the safety net in the past 20 years have emphasized work – the Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor families and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (welfare reform) of 1996, which requires recipients to work or be in a work-training program in order to receive welfare benefits and sets a five-year lifetime limit. A New York Times reporter attended a poverty conference in Washington, D.C., in May 2009 and quoted an economist as saying, “We have a work-based safety net without work. We’re really in a pickle.” 11 Many of the working poor and unemployed are what Robert H. Haveman calls “earnings capacity poor.” Haveman, Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs and Economics and Faculty Affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he proposed this measure of poverty because he believes that income stream is a crude measure. “Some of my graduate students are probably captured in the poverty statistics but they’re not poor people. They have tons of human capital and education. They’ll do fine.” 12 Haveman uses the earnings capacity measure to identify people who “don’t have the personal resources for the economy alone to boost them above poverty.” The primary resource related to potential earnings is education. Health is another and geography matters, too, because wages vary from region to region. For earnings capacity, he calculates how much a particular type of family, say a single mother with two children, could earn if she worked full-time, given her education, health, and location. Child care, if needed, would be subtracted from her hypothetical income. 13 “There are two ways to boost earnings capacity,” Haveman said. “One is to increase skills. Think schooling, higher education,” he said. “The other way is to increase the returns for using capacity. Now we’re talking about wage rates and employment.” His research also suggests subsidizing child care for the “earnings capacity poor,” along with measures like increasing the earned income tax for families who cannot work themselves out of poverty.14 The implications for the nation’s 15.5 million poor children are clear. Their life circumstances put them in risky, unsupportive neighborhoods and poor schools where they have a hard time gaining the skills needed to build earnings capacity. Without a serious, sustained effort to help them, many are unlikely to have the ability to earn their way out of poverty and fulfill the American dream of getting ahead. Then their children, in turn, will be held captive in poverty.



December 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Last night (Thursday, December 16th) I had the distinct pleasure of being entertained by the Falcon Sound group.  Falcon Sound is the 25 + students of Flanagan High School who play stringed instruments.  Last night was their Winter Concert.  They perform under the direction of Edmund Maina.  The performance was delightful (as you would expect when you have a partnership between  a dedicated teacher, committed parents and engaged students).  The students were impeccably attired, the stage set was sparse but concise, the instruments were polished to perfection (the only thing that ‘shined’ more dazzlingly were the smiles of the proud parents), the look of intensity shared universally among the musicians,  the joy of performance and the quest for excellence made the event special.

Would these children be so attentive if the partnership had not been achieved?  If the school’s administration been less supportive (or driven to diminish this discipline in favor of the dogma of testing drill and kill)?  How are these children doing as students across the rest of their curriculum – I would hazard a guess.

Sitting in the audience, I was proud.  As simply a member of our community I was proud.  As a committed educator, I was both proud and encouraged.  We must support these types of efforts in order to insure that our children have the most enriched opportunity to find the path that they ultimately want tot follow in order to participate fully in our society.


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