Educate All Students, Support Public Education

May 23, 2016

Extreme Inequality: MPS Per Student Funding Compared to the Surrounding Suburban Districts

Filed under: Inequality,Racism — millerlf @ 11:16 am
 Following are per-pupil state funds comparing MPS to Milwaukee’s suburban districts.

These figures are based on audited 2014-15 figures and the three-year rolling average enrollment figure:

(2014-15 – SOURCE: WI Department of Public Instruction, School Financial Service Data Warehouse Standard Reports, Revenue Limit Per Member )

MPS Revenue Limit per pupil=$10,261

Mequon = $10,662 per pupil = $401 higher per pupil = $32.6 million annually if applied to MPS.

WFB =$11,248 per pupil = $987 higher per pupil = $80.2 million annually if applied to MPS.

Elmbrook = $11,568 per pupil = $1,307 higher per pupil = $106.2 million annually if applied to MPS

Glendale-River Hills = $12,752 per pupil = $2,491 higher per pupil = $202 million annually if applied to MPS.

Fox Point J2 =$13,577 per pupil = $3,316 higher per pupil = $269 million annually if applied to MPS.

Maple Dale  Indian Hill =$17,231 per pupil = $6,970 higher per pupil = $566 million annually if applied to MPS.

Nicolet =$17,794 per pupil = $7,713 higher per pupil = $626.5 million annually if applied to MPS.


These numbers are based on revenue limit comparisons. The revenue limit is the most important and accurate figure when comparing funding across districts and students.

The revenue limit is the ceiling, the highest amount of money that a district can bring in before other specific categorical aids that are tied to students with disabilities, poverty, ELL etc. are brought into the mix. Districts meet their revenue limit through a combination of state aid and local tax dollars.



February 14, 2016

The People versus Wall Street

Filed under: Inequality — millerlf @ 3:06 pm

Why Wall Street Won Round One and We Might Win the Next
Sunday, 14 February 2016 00:00 By Walden Bellot

The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, New York City.The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, New York City. The question is when – not if – the next financial bubble will burst. (Photo: Wall Street via Shutterstock)

When the ground from under Wall Street opened up in autumn 2008, there was much talk of letting the banks get their just desserts, jailing the “banksters”, and imposing draconian regulation. The newly elected Barack Obama came to power promising banking reform, warning Wall Street, “My administration is the only thing that stands between you and the pitchforks”.

Yet nearly eight years after the outbreak of the global financial crisis, it is evident that those who were responsible for bringing it about have managed to go completely scot-free. Not only that, they have been able to get governments to stick the costs of the crisis and the burden of the recovery on their victims.

How Wall Street Won

How did they succeed? The first line of defence for the banks was to get the government to rescue the banks from the financial mess they had created. The banks flatly refused Washington’s pressure on them to mount a collective defence with their own resources. Using the massive collapse of stock prices triggered by Lehman Brothers going under, finance capital’s representatives were able to blackmail both liberals and the far-right in Congress to approve the US$700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Nationalization of the banks was dismissed as being inconsistent with “American” values.

Then by engaging in the defensive anti-regulatory war that they had mastered in Congress over decades, the banks were able, in 2009 and 2010, to gut the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of three key items that were seen as necessary for genuine reform: downsizing the banks; institutionally separating commercial from investment banking; and banning most derivatives and effectively regulating the so-called “shadow banking system” that had brought on the crisis.

They did this by using what Cornelia Woll termed finance capital’s “structural power”. One dimension of this power was the US$344 million the industry spent lobbying the U.S. Congress in the first nine months of 2009, when legislators were taking up financial reform. Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, alone received US$2.8 million in contributions from Wall Street in 2007-2008. But perhaps equally powerful as Wall Street’s entrenched congressional lobby were powerful voices in the new Obama Administration who were sympathetic to the bankers, notably Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Council of Economic Advisors’ head Larry Summers, both of whom had served as close associates of Robert Rubin, who had successive incarnations as co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, Bill Clinton’s Treasury chief, and chairman and senior counselor of Citigroup.

Finally, the finance sector succeeded by wielding their ideological power, or perhaps more accurately, hitching their defense to the dominant neoliberal ideology. Wall Street was able to change the narrative about the causes of the financial crisis, throwing the blame entirely on the state.

This is best illustrated in the case of Europe. As in the U.S., the financial crisis in Europe was a supply-driven crisis, as the big European banks sought high-profit, quick-return substitutes for the low returns on investment in industry and agriculture, such as real-estate lending and speculation in financial derivatives, or placed their surplus funds in high-yield bonds sold by governments. Indeed, in their drive to raise more and more profits from lending to governments, local banks, and property developers, Europe’s banks poured US$2.5 trillion into Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain.

The result was that Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 148 percent in 2010, bringing the country to the brink of a sovereign debt crisis. Focused on protecting the banks, the European authorities’ approach to stabilising Greece’s finances was not to penalise the creditors for irresponsible lending but to get citizens to shoulder all the costs of adjustment.

The changed narrative, focusing on the “profligate state” rather than unregulated private finance as the cause of the financial crisis, quickly made its way to the USA, where it was used not only to derail real banking reform but also to prevent the enactment of an effective stimulus programme in 2010. Christina Romer, the head of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimated that it would take a US$1.8 trillion to reverse the recession. Obama approved only less than half, or US$787 billion, placating the Republican opposition but preventing an early recovery. Thus the cost of the follies of Wall Street fell not on banks but on ordinary Americans, with the unemployed reaching nearly 10 percent of the workforce in 2011 and youth unemployment reaching over 20 percent.

Big Finance’s Victory in the US and Europe


April 30, 2014

Income Inequality in Milwaukee Among Working Families Unacceptable

Filed under: Inequality,Wisconsin Class Warfare — millerlf @ 9:08 am

Report on income inequality among employed families
The annual ETI analysis of state income tax data showed 12 to 1 differences in family income by Milwaukee County neighborhood in 2012. Working-age married and single families in inner city zip code 53206 had average incomes of $20,260 while families in the “North Shore” suburban zip code 53217 had income averaging $253,082.
Educational opportunity and achievement gaps between children of wealth and children of poverty are profoundly influenced by these extreme differences in family resources. The tax data also showed a $17 million reduction in state earned income tax credit support for “working poor” families in the county after the 2011 state legislation cut EIC supports for families with more than one child.

To see the full report go to:

Income inequality in MilwOther2014

March 16, 2014

We Can’t Grow the Income Gap Away

Filed under: Inequality — millerlf @ 10:48 am

NY Times 3/15/14 Charles Blow

The shocking level of income inequality in this country has set off alarms that grow louder by the day, but little seems to be underway to reverse the trend.

As a January International Monetary Fund paper that was officially released on Thursday points out:

“In the United States, the share of market income captured by the richest 10 percent surged from around 30 percent in 1980 to 48 percent by 2012, while the share of the richest 1 percent increased from 8 percent to 19 percent. Even more striking is the fourfold increase in the income share of the richest 0.1 percent, from 2.6 percent to 10.4 percent.”

In fact, a study published last year in The Journal of Economic Perspectives found that the share of income going to the top 1 percent in America was higher than in other developed countries.

At the same time, the plight of the poor has grown worse and has become stubbornly resistant to improvement.

The rate of poverty in America remains stuck at the untenably high level of 15 percent. Among children, the rate is 22 percent.

We are reminded ad nauseam about the record number of Americans receiving food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. What we hear far less about is that a record high percentage of poor families with children are not receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federal government’s primary welfare program. In 1997, only 36 percent of such families received no TANF benefits; that number in 2012 climbed to 74 percent.

It stands to reason, then, that food insecurity in this country remains alarming high. The United States Department of Agriculture reported in September that 14.5 percent of the country, or 17.6 million American households, “had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources” in 2012.

This widening gap between the hardscrabble and the high rollers is unseemly and unsustainable.

A January poll by the Pew Research Center and USA Today found that “65 percent believe the gap between the rich and everyone else has increased in the last 10 years.”

A February poll by CNN/ORC International found that “more than six in 10 Americans strongly or somewhat agree that the government should work to narrow that gap, compared to 30 percent who believe it should not.”

The president has called rising income inequality and lack of economic mobility “the defining challenge of our time.” And he has been pushing an economic agenda aimed at making a dent in inequality, including raising the minimum wage, extending emergency unemployment benefits and, this week, moving to expand overtime pay.

While these moves would help, they are not nearly enough.

Addressing this issue is not about ensuring an even redistribution of wealth while disregarding great ideas and hard work. Imbalance is built into a capitalistic economy. But the degree to which that imbalance has grown in this country is not only alarming; it could prove deleterious to our economic health.

There are some who suggest that the solution to this inequality problem — if indeed they concede that it is a problem — is simply to grow the economy.

A February I.M.F. paper pointed out the folly of such a tactic: “It would still be a mistake to focus on growth and let inequality take care of itself, not only because inequality may be ethically undesirable but also because the resulting growth may be low and unsustainable.”

Furthermore, as the I.M.F. pointed out in its January paper, inequality could, in fact, be an impediment to growth: “There is growing evidence that high income inequality can be detrimental to achieving macroeconomic stability and growth.”

A December survey of several dozen economists by The Associated Press found that most believe that growing income inequality is hurting our economy.

We can’t grow our way out of this obscenity. It’s a barrier to growth. We must forthrightly address the issue with policy prescriptions. The I.M.F.’s list includes things like means-testing benefit programs, improving access to higher education and health care for the less well off, and “implementing progressive personal income tax rate structures” while “reducing regressive tax exemptions.”

Surely we can figure out how to fix this. We just don’t have the political will to do so.

U.S. Inequality by Region

Filed under: Inequality — millerlf @ 10:37 am

NY Times 3/16/14

Fairfax County, Va., and McDowell County, W.Va., are separated by 350 miles, about a half-day’s drive. Traveling west from Fairfax County, the gated communities and bland architecture of military contractors give way to exurbs, then to farmland and eventually to McDowell’s coal mines and the forested slopes of the Appalachians. Perhaps the greatest distance between the two counties is this: Fairfax is a place of the haves, and McDowell of the have-nots. Just outside of Washington, fat government contracts and a growing technology sector buoy the median household income in Fairfax County up to $107,000, one of the highest in the nation. McDowell, with the decline of coal, has little in the way of industry. Unemployment is high. Drug abuse is rampant. Median household income is about one-fifth that of Fairfax.

One of the starkest consequences of that divide is seen in the life expectancies of the people there. Residents of Fairfax County are among the longest-lived in the country: Men have an average life expectancy of 82 years and women, 85, about the same as in Sweden. In McDowell, the averages are 64 and 73, about the same as in Iraq.

There have long been stark economic differences between Fairfax County and McDowell. But as their fortunes have diverged even further over the past generation, their life expectancies have diverged, too. In McDowell, women’s life expectancy has actually fallen by two years since 1985; it grew five years in Fairfax.

“Poverty is a thief,” said Michael Reisch, a professor of social justice at the University of Maryland, testifying before a Senate panel on the issue. “Poverty not only diminishes a person’s life chances, it steals years from one’s life.”

That reality is playing out across the country. For the upper half of the income spectrum, men who reach the age of 65 are living about six years longer than they did in the late 1970s. Men in the lower half are living just 1.3 years longer.

This life-expectancy gap has started to surface in discussions among researchers, public health officials and Washington policy makers. The general trend is for Americans to live longer, and as lawmakers contemplate changes to government programs — like nudging up the Social Security retirement age or changing its cost-of-living adjustment — they are confronted with the potential unfairness to those who die considerably earlier.

The link between income and longevity has been clearly established. Poor people are likelier to smoke. They have less access to the health care system. They tend to weigh more. And their bodies suffer the debilitating effects of more intense and more constant stress. Everywhere, and across time, the poor tend to live shorter lives than the rich, whether researchers compare the Bangladeshis with the Dutch or minimum-wage workers with millionaires.

But is widening income inequality behind the divergence in longevity over the last three decades? Would an economy with a narrower gap between the haves and the have-nots lead to stronger life-expectancy gains, from the richest to the poorest? Might the expansion of insurance through the Affordable Care Act help close the gap? And might the policies that Congress is contemplating to ameliorate poverty — like raising the minimum wage — have a further effect on life spans, too?

Those are questions that researchers armed with reams of data on mortality, poverty, health, social spending and income are struggling to answer.

Continue reading the main story

“The gaps continue to widen between the communities with the highest life expectancy and the lowest,” said Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, which produces the county-level life-expectancy figures. “There is nothing in sight that suggests that the 25-year trend is going to stop.”

“Would that be different if the income inequality were reduced?” he added. “If you took a 30-year view, then yes. There does seem to be that long-run relationship between community income and these life-expectancy outcomes.”

Living in Fairfax is different than living in McDowell.

In Fairfax, there are ample doctors, hospitals, recreation centers, shops, restaurants, grocery stores, nursing homes and day care centers, with public and private entities providing cradle-to-grave services to prosperous communities.

The federal government, especially security and military contracting, drives the economy. While cutbacks — through sequestration and reduced military spending — have slowed the rate of growth in recent years, the government nonetheless provides a steady base on which the region has flourished over the last decades. Currently, the local unemployment rate is just 3.6 percent; the national rate is 6.7 percent.

“We aren’t like Beverly Hills or some other place with lots of multimillionaires,” said Stephen S. Fuller, the director for the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, in Fairfax County. “But we have more workers per household than just about any metro area in the country. We have more people working, and more people working in every age cohort.”

The jobs tend to be good jobs, providing health insurance and pensions, even if there is a growing low-wage work force of health aides, janitors, fast-food workers and the like. “It’s a knowledge-based work force,” Mr. Fuller said. “And we have an economy built on services, technology-intensive services.”

Social services — judged against those of poorer counties — are stellar, too. The local government, which runs some of the best public schools in the country, also offers its older citizens services as varied as rides to senior centers and “care and enrichment consultations” for those looking to adopt a pet rabbit.

A retired home-health nurse, Tena Bluhm, heads the local Commission on Aging. “We were seeing a big change in demographics,” she said, “with the boomers aging and a trend where folks, as they aged, wanted to stay in this area.”

On a cool weekday morning, John McGinnis, 57, emerged stiffly from a shallow pool at a public indoor facility, where there were also gleaming squash courts, a golf course and three bored-looking lifeguards. A water-exercise instructor had led him and nine others through a series of gentle movements with pool noodles.

“I’ve had six back surgeries,” he said, shuffling toward an oversized hot tub after the class. “This is a lifesaver.”

On a sunny weekend afternoon, 350 miles away, Chea Lockwood, a registered nurse with the Commission on Aging in McDowell County, visited Melissa Courtner, 38, who lives in one of McDowell’s few high-rises, a bare-bones facility for disabled and elderly residents.

Coal miners still dig into and blast off the tops of steep Appalachian hills. But the industry that once provided thousands of jobs is slowly disappearing, and the region’s entrenched poverty has persisted. The unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, down from more than 13 percent in the worst of the recession. The current number would be even higher if more residents hadn’t simply given up looking for work.

Government assistance accounts for half of the income of county residents. Social workers described shortages of teachers, nurses, doctors, surgeons, mental health professionals and addiction-treatment workers. There is next to no public transportation. Winding two-lane roads, sometimes impassable in snow and ice, connect the small population centers of trailers, small homes and the occasional minimart. “It’ll take you an hour to drive 15 miles,” Ms. Lockwood said.

Ms. Lockwood has lived in McDowell County long enough to be widowed twice, and on this morning she first checked on two older patients in the housing project, cheerfully going through a checklist of questions. “Is your health aide on time?” “Do you need help washing that pretty hair of yours?”

She checked in on Ms. Courtner, whom she had seen for her first evaluation earlier in the week. “I’m going to steal your man,” Ms. Courtner said with a whoop as Ms. Lockwood entered the room.

“You can’t have him!” Ms. Lockwood said, reaching down to hug Ms. Courtner in her wheelchair before sitting down on a coffee table to talk.

Ms. Courtner’s medical problems started early. She dropped out of high school and started smoking and drinking at 16. She had a stroke at 21, leaving her with partial paralysis. She has multiple sclerosis and bipolar disorder. A fistula, only partially repaired, makes a colostomy bag necessary.

She is unable to work, she said, so she manages with disability payments and food stamps. Before moving into her housing unit, she lived in a shed without plumbing or electricity on the property of her parents, who are also disabled.

Many people have similar stories. Ms. Lockwood notes that other residents have multiple woes: “Diabetes. Obesity. Congestive heart failure. Drug use. Kidney problems. Lung conditions from the mines.” Problems often start young and often result in shorter lives, she said. Earlier that day, she handed me a list of recent funerals with about half highlighted in yellow; they signified that the deceased was under 50.

Since the 1980s, “socioeconomic status has become an even more important indicator of life expectancy.” That was the finding of a 2008 report by the Congressional Budget Office. But dollars in a bank account have never added a day to anyone’s life, researchers stress. Instead, those dollars are at work in a thousand daily-life decisions — about jobs, medical care, housing, food and exercise — with a cumulative effect on longevity.

“Why might income have an effect on morbidity or mortality?” said David Kindig, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and an expert in longevity issues. “We have these causal pathways, through better jobs, better health insurance, better choice of behaviors, he added. On top of that, “there’s the stress effects of poverty and low educational status.”

As such, the health statistics for Fairfax and McDowell are as striking as their income data. In Fairfax, the adult obesity rate is about 24 percent and one in eight residents smokes. In McDowell, the adult obesity rate is more than 30 percent and one in three adults smokes. And the disability rate is about five times higher in McDowell.

In both counties, food availability matters. There are only two full-size grocery stores in McDowell; minimarts and fast-food restaurants are major sources of nutrition. “We don’t have gyms or fitness centers,” said Pamela McPeak, who grew up in McDowell getting creek water to flush her family’s toilet. “It’s cheaper to buy Cheetos rather than apples.” She now runs a nonprofit program that provides tutoring and helps high school students get into college.

Education is also correlated with longevity, as it is with income and employment. Educated individuals are much more likely to work, and much more likely to have higher incomes. In McDowell, about one in 18 adults has a college degree; in Fairfax, the share is 60 percent.

Finally, and perhaps most powerfully, researchers say that a life in poverty is a life of stress that accumulates in a person’s very cells. Being poor is hard in a way that can mean worse sleep, more cortisol in the blood, a greater risk of hypertension and, ultimately, a shorter life.

As southern West Virginia has foundered, northern Virginia has flourished. But do the two counties’ diverging life expectancies relate to their diverging economic fortunes? And might that be true across the country?

It is hard to prove causality with the available information. County-level data is the most detailed available, but it is not perfect. People move, and that is a confounding factor. McDowell’s population has dropped by more than half since the late 1970s, whereas Fairfax’s has roughly doubled. Perhaps more educated and healthier people have been relocating from places like McDowell to places like Fairfax. In that case, life expectancy would not have changed; how Americans arrange themselves geographically would have.

“These things are not nearly as clear as they seem, or as clear as epidemiologists seem to think,” said Angus Deaton, an economist at Princeton.

Further, there is nothing to suggest that, for a given individual, getting a raise in pay or moving between counties would mean outliving her peers.

“The statistical term is the ecological fallacy,” Mr. Kindig said. “We can’t apply aggregate data to an individual, and that’s underappreciated when you’re looking at these numbers.” But, “having said that, I still think that the averages and the variation across counties tells us a lot,” he added. “We don’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good here.”

Despite the statistical murk, many epidemiologists, economists and other researchers say that rising income inequality may be playing into the rising disparity in health and longevity. “We can’t say that there is no effect, just because we don’t have clear methods to test the effect,” said Hui Zheng, a sociologist at Ohio State University.

In particular, changes in smoking and obesity rates may help explain the connection between bigger bank accounts and longer lives. “Richer people and richer communities smoke less, and that gap is growing,” said Dr. Murray at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Mr. Zheng has also posited that inequality, by socially disenfranchising certain groups and making them distrustful of public systems, may have a long-range effect on health.

To some extent, the broad expansion of health insurance to low-income communities, as called for under Obamacare, may help to mitigate this stark divide, experts say. And it is encouraging that both Republicans and Democrats have recently elevated the issues of poverty, economic mobility and inequality, But the contrast between McDowell and Fairfax shows just how deeply entrenched these trends are, with consequences reaching all the way from people’s pocketbooks to their graves.


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