The crossroads of poverty and poor student performance

A concerned teacher speaks out:

The strong correlation between poverty and academic achievement has been noted for decades. Nutrition, stress, lack of health-care and housing stability all play a role in brain development and student learning. This is not disputed, yet as educators, we largely ignore poverty and instead focus on how to better teach our students. No amount of revised lesson plans or new curriculum will remove the impact of poverty on student learning.

Taking a stand against low wage poverty is a stand for education. I want to be clear: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the academic abilities of poor children. In fact, when you remove the stresses created by poverty, academic achievement goes up. There is something wrong with a society and economic system that allows so many of our children to live in poverty.

And one of the biggest problems we have to overcome is ingrained prejudice bolstered by a healthy dose of narcissistic navel-gazing. I got into a very unsettling argument with a handful of normally progressive friends and family recently over the living wage issue. The concerns raised by these folks centered around fairness: "Is it fair to the people who have labored to obtain a college degree or professional certification, only to have someone who didn't even graduate high school come along and get paid $15 per hour?" The argument pretty much fizzled out when I explained how they (as taxpayers) were actually paying part of the wages the employers refused to, via food stamps and other public assistance a $7.25 per hour worker was qualified for. But that didn't address the deeper social schism that caused those feelings of unfairness, a schism that is a direct result of decades of Meritocratic thinking. We're programmed to believe we compete with each other, but, in fact, we are competing with the 1%. And losing.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

The NCGA laser-focused on jobs and the economy:

Um, what? Seriously, what? So, if you're in a 55 mph zone, and the car in in front of you is going 30, you're stuck there. *sigh*

Daily dose: Worker abuse, government style

Report calls for ban on certain NC government work contracts (AP) — The General Assembly should ban personal services contracts from state government, a legislative watchdog agency recommended Monday, saying lax oversight has caused the agreements with temporary workers to be "misused and abused." More than 14,600 such personal service contracts were in force across agencies during the 2012-13 fiscal year, valued at $58 million, the legislature's Program Evaluation Division wrote in a report.
http://www.reflector.com/ap/staten/report-calls-ban-certain-nc-government-work-contracts-2789983

Probe into Cope's financial irregularities gets serious

Not exactly sure how serious, but SEANC's 55,000 members deserve better answers than they've gotten so far:

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Monday she is asking the State Bureau of Investigation to conduct a criminal inquiry about possible financial improprieties at the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

Freeman said the SBI inquiry is one step short of a criminal investigation. The SBI will review and attempt to validate information provided to Freeman. "Regardless of how outrageous people may feel the conduct has been, the question is whether there is evidence a crime has occurred," Freeman said. "Poor judgment and abuse of authority does not necessarily equal criminal activity."

Fan mail from a flounder

Hi Patsy.

James here, representing the disillusioned faction of independent Democrats. I'm writing to wish you the very best, and offer some simple advice.

  • Don't lie. I don't know what it is about leaders, but a lot of them seem to drift toward secrecy, which leads to lies, which leads to trouble. Practice radical transparency. It's the easiest way to get people engaged.
  • Fear not. There is a strong and reliable populist base here in North Carolina, the kind of base that communicates actively, turns out to vote, and gets friends to the polls. We live online. Don't be a stranger.

There you go. Fan mail from a flounder.

Preserve the Preservation tax credits

For many rural townships, it's the only economic tool they have left:

Last year, Paul Norby, the director of the City-County Planning Department, told the Journal editorial board that the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, using these credits, “has generated $200 million or more in economic investment.”

We’re not alone in benefiting from these credits. For some rural areas in the state, preservation tax credits could play a significant role in spurring economic and community revival. In a lead up to Wednesday’s address, McCrory toured the Hotel Concord on Jan. 30, which local officials hope to restore, and talked about hosting executives who consider investing in the region. “And the first place they want to go to is the center city, to see is there blight or decay or is there a future,” he told The Associated Press.

Republicans like to talk about bringing back old-fashioned values and such, so it's a little confusing why they would casually discard a program that restores historical structures. Their answer, which is becoming a pat response, is for government to "get out of the way" and let private investors do the work. I can tell you with absolute certainty that government is not standing in the way of investments in small towns or historical sections of larger cities. The truth is, those investments are simply waiting for a catalyst, and that catalyst is the government-sponsored refurbishing of key structures that will anchor the revitalization of a district.

Daily dose: Tribute to Dean Smith

Dean Smith dies at 83; N.C. coaching legend (LA Times) – A blue line, 10 inches wide, awaited North Carolina basketball players at the arena's entrance each day before practice. They knew it as the spot where competition began. It was to be crossed only after both shoes were tied, practice jerseys were properly tucked, and minds were prepared. It was just a line on the floor, but it was also much more: It was a metaphorical border of what celebrated coach Dean Smith called “the Carolina Way” — a sense of humility, teamwork and just plain hard work that came to be seen as the university’s ideal.
http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-dean-smith-story-20150208-story.html

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