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Entries tagged "state budgets"

Stealing From The Mouth of Public Education to Feed the Prison Industrial Complex

February 27, 2012 ·

States across the US are excising billions of dollars from their education budgets as if 22% of the population isn’t functionally illiterate. 

Mass cction against prisons displacing education in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Brant Ward, SF Chronicle.

According to the NAAL standards of the National Center for Education Statistics 68 million people are reading below basic levels. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “nearly all states are spending less money (on education) than they spent in 2008 (after inflation), even though the cost of providing services will be higher.” On top of cutting 4 billion dollars from their budget, Texas has also eliminated state funding for pre-K programs that serve around 100,000 mostly at-risk children. North Carolina has cut nearly a half billion dollars from K-12 education resulting in an 80 percent loss for textbook funds and a 5 percent cut in support positions like guidance counselors and social workers among numerous other cuts. Decisions like these leave little reason to wonder why both those states are facing 27% drop out rates.

Closing public schools has so become the rage that the state of California has even produced a best practices guide on how to close and make them fit for turn-around. Why not promote a ‘best practices guide for keeping a school going’ instead? Why make these decisions when we know that a lack of education decreases access to quality (and legitimate) employment opportunities, increases the likelihood of encounters with the criminal (in)justice system, negatively impacts health outcomes, and altogether limits one’s ability to determine her or his own future?

What we’re witnessing is a systemic recasting of education priorities that gives official structure and permanence to a preexisting underclass comprised of largely criminalized poor black and brown people. Certainly having a prominent underclass isn’t new to the US as it has quite the track record of denying fill-in-the-blank people fill-in-the-blank rights. But the material outcomes of this shift are as communally and economically devastating as were the outcomes of the Black Codes in the 1800s and subsequent Jim Crow laws that persisted until 1965; both of which were legal, with implementation that varied from state to state and still impacts communities today.

The collusion between this government and private interests are not new either. It is not a coincidence that at the same time neighborhoods with high incidences of black people are being destabilized and displaced through fast track urban-land grabs, or gentrification, by developers empowered by local municipalities states are divesting from the public school infrastructure serving them. This is an insidious process that forces the hand of communities. Public education is something more than a right, a liberty, or a privilege. It is a need. One as basic and inarguable as the land we must walk on, food we must eat, water we must drink, and air we must breathe to live. For absolutely nothing will or can be done in human society without it. So who would want to send their children to schools that have police presence and metal detectors in place of books? Or to overcrowded schools with teacher to student ratios of 1 to 30 and little to no extra curricular activities or wrap-around services? These are the material consequences of divestment from public schools. Who wants to send their children to schools in neighborhoods that are mini-police states? If it can be helped, no one.

Charter schools by definition aren’t the real problem. They have been practical and creative solutions to educating children when needs go unmet. Forming alternative centers of education has been a norm practiced in communities across the country since the 1800s. But what we have today is something very different. Charters now elbow out established public schools in part or completely. Corporations like Wells Fargo, BOA, JP Morgan,and Wal-Mart, all major investors in private prisons and players in corporate education reform, have extraordinary influence on education policy at the state and federal levels.

Parents, students, teachers, and other relevant stakeholders are manipulated into making a false choice, drawing a line in the sand where the wrong group of people is on the opposing side. Whether for public schools or charters, both sides want the same outcomes - creative, critical thinking students who are equipped to participate fully in their community and society at large. Instead of charters continuing to operate as creative workarounds, especially for communities in crisis, sharing in the resources for the public, they’ve been co-opted. Now taking an antagonistic role towards traditional public schools.

While these turf wars are being fought, the children who don’t make it into the tier one schools or roll sevens in the charter lotteries are left behind and to their own devices in these poorly administered, under resourced and overcrowded schools.

Forty-six percent of the 2.3 million people incarcerated are without a high school diploma and the skills to compete in an ever-shrinking job market.  This means roughly a million people won’t ever get a shot at what should already be low-hanging fruit—a low-waged, skill-lite, benefit-deplete, socially unrewarding job with a work environment that’s likely to be mentally and spiritually stifling.

Little guesswork is needed around what will happen to these unskilled and undereducated millions who have been failed by these schools that continue to be eroded. It is the prisons that will have them; for these youth are the preferred meat of the criminal (in)justice system.

This is why we can have record closings of public schools throughout the country, and at the same time witness the rise of corporate backed charter schools and private prisons. The message to the people being that a select few will be educated and the rest will be locked in struggle against their own commoditization. This is why we must continue to fight.

Wisconsin 2.0: Stop the Corporate Tax Dodgers

February 23, 2011 ·

This article was originally posted on Common Dreams.

The protests in Wisconsin could easily spread.  While not every governor will recklessly attack collective bargaining, all states are facing major budget constraints.

This is the strategic moment to dramatically juxtapose the pain of local budget cuts with the scandal of corporate tax dodging.   This April 15th Tax Day, let’s make our national focus be on stopping tax haven abuse and closing corporate tax loopholes.

States must close combined budget gaps of over $102 billion –and most are choosing deep budget cuts.  Meanwhile, thanks to ways that U.S. corporations game the system to reduce their taxes, overseas tax havens cost the U.S. treasury over $100 billion a year.

In England, the movement UK UNCUT, has galvanized street protests, media investigations and legislative action.  They have dramatized the scandal of billions lost thanks to overseas tax havens and corporate loopholes with the human face of federal and state budget cuts.

In every U.S. state, we should be doing the same.  Every time a politician complains that “there is no money” or “we must make these cuts,” we should be pointing to the corporate tax dodging that could immediately close our budget gaps.

We should name names and show up at their branches.  First there are the banks that wrecked our economy and accepted billions in taxpayer funded TARP funds.  These include Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.  Our message: Pay up!

Pay up! General Electric, Carnival Cruise lines, Boeing, FedEx, News Corp, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, Proctor and Gamble.  They pretend their profits are earned in tax havens like the Grand Cayman Islands and their losses are earned in the U.S., lowering their tax bills.

These US companies use our shared infrastructure, but don’t pay their fair share.  They enjoy our roads, national defense, emergency services, and federally-funded research.  They are profitable but don’t pay their full freight.  They undercut local businesses that pay their taxes while struggling to compete on an unlevel playing field.

 “There’s a direct connection between corporate tax dodging and what’s happening in people’s lives,” said Carl Gibson one of the founders of US UNCUT Mississippi. “If we close those loopholes, we wouldn’t have to be cutting back on firefighters, library hours and student loans.”

Gibson started a web site after being inspired by the movements in England. “I work three jobs and can barely cover my $450 per-month rent,” said the 23-year old Gibson. “But I still pay my taxes.  All I’m asking is that the wealthiest corporations pay what they owe, too.”

US UNCUT is launching the first wave of protests this Saturday, February 26th with a focus on Bank of America. There are actions planned in over 20 states. Bank of America has launched a glitzy PR campaign about how charitable and community-minded they are.  But we should remind them the only way back into our good graces is to “Pay up!”

The Tax Justice Network and Business and Investors Against Tax Havens have been pressing over the last year to keep these issues in the public spotlight. With US UNCUT teaming up with the Other 98 and other coalitions focused on corporate tax dodging, we can anticipate a lively April 15th Tax Day.