Earlier today, Dropout Nation reported on the American Federation of Teachers’ 2015-2016 financial disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor. As you would expect, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union spent big on influencing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her apparatchiks, as well as pouring heavily into what should be like-minded advocacy and nonprofit groups.
Start with AFT President Rhonda (Randi) Weingarten, whose paychecks put her in the top five percent of the nation’s income earners even as she engages in class warfare rhetoric. The union paid Weingarten $497,311 in 2015-2016, just a couple hundred dollars more than she pulled down in the previous year.
Also well-paid by the union is Loretta Johnson, who serves as its secretary-treasurer; her $358,225 in 2015-2016 was a grand or so higher than in the previous year. Meanwhile Mary Catherine Ricker, the former Saint Paul Federation of Teachers boss who now serves as the union’s number two (and in the process, serving as an obstacle to United Federation of Teachers boss Michael Mulgrew’s ambitions to succeed Weingarten as head of the national union), was paid $311,311, a 5.4 percent increase over her pay in 2014-2015.
Altogether, the AFT’s top three leaders collected $1.2 million last fiscal year, a slight increase over the $1.1 million paid to them by the union in 2014-2015.
Also making bank are AFT’s staffers, though there are slightly fewer of them this time around. Two hundred twenty-two staffers earned more than $100,000 in 2015-2016, seven fewer than the 229 in the previous year. Three out of every five staffers at AFT national headquarters earn six-figure sums. Among the union’s high-paid mandarins: Michelle Ringuette, the former Service Employees International Union staffer who is now Weingarten’s top assistant, made $230,736, while Michael Powell, who serves as Weingarten’s mouthpiece, earned $240,647. Kristor Cowan, the AFT’s chief lobbyist, earned $186,293, while Kombiz Lavasany, another operative who oversees Weingarten’s money manager enemies’ list, earned $184,158.
Supporting these high salaries is an ever-declining rank-and-file base. AFT counts 675,902 full-time rank-and-filers on its roster in 2015-2016, a 3.4 percent decline over the 699,739 members on the roster in the previous fiscal year. [Dropout Nation does not call them members because in nearly every case, AFT and its affiliates use state laws to force teachers to join.] This marks the third straight year of declines and the fifth year of decline within the past six.
The union also experienced a 1.5 percent decrease in the number of half-time rank-and-filers (or school employees making less than $18,000 a year); a seven percent decline in one-quarter rank-and-filers (nurses and state government employees whose unions are affiliated with AFT); and a 2.7 percent decline in the number of one-eighth rank-and-filers. Seems like the union’s once-successful effort to strike affiliation deals with nursing and other government employee unions, an effort that put it in competition with the much-larger Service Employees International Union, has fallen to seed.
Even worse for AFT: Its effort to increase the number of so-called associate members who pay directly into national’s coffers, continues to be in free-fall. AFT counts just 49,984 such members on its rolls in 2015-2016, a 14.5 percent decline over the previous year. This shouldn’t be shocking. After all, AFT cannot provide associate members any real assistance in terms of negotiating teachers’ contracts or addressing work rules. Besides, the associate members can’t even vote in union elections.
As a result of these declines, AFT’s counts just 1.5 million rank-and-filers and voluntary members, a 4.3 percent decrease over the previous year.
The good news for AFT is that the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year assured that there was a tie vote on Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association; his vote would have likely led to the overturn of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the five-decade-old ruling that gives AFT the ability to compel teachers pay dues regardless of their desire for membership. As your editor noted two years ago, the end of compulsory dues laws could cost AFT 25 percent of its membership and $36 million in revenue (based on 2012-2013 numbers), a hit for which the union isn’t likely ready to address.
The other good news for AFT is that it hasn’t affected revenue. The $192 million in dues and other agency fees (in the form of a so-called per-capita tax collected from locals and affiliates) generated by the union in 2015-2016 is 21 percent higher than in the previous fiscal year. AFT’s overall revenue of $328 million (including loan proceeds) is unchanged from 2014-2015.
This time around, the union didn’t have to borrow as heavily as it has in previous years to keep operations afloat; it borrowed just $55 million in 2015-2016, half the level of borrowing in the previous year. Overall, the union has borrowed $477 million over the past five years. The union did sell more of its investments in order to make due; the union sold $29 million of its portfolio in 2015-2016, more than double the investment sales in the previous year. Without the loans and investment sales, AFT’s revenues were just $244 million, a 15 percent increase over levels in 2014-2015.
But the bad news is that AFT may still lose revenue. One reason: The abolishing of collective bargaining and forced dues collections in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Michigan. This has resulted in AFT losing teachers who realize that they don’t have to pay into unions that don’t represent their interests.
Another problem for the union: More of its affiliates and locals are either merging with those of the National Education Association or striking affiliation agreements with it. Membership declines forcing such mergers is one reason. But as seen in California, where the AFT’s United Teachers Los Angeles has struck a joint affiliation deal with NEA, the AFT’s larger locals are realizing that such triangulation gives them stronger influence over education policy at state and local levels.
But the gains for the big locals (who honestly don’t need AFT affiliation anyway) means both lost revenue for AFT as well as the ability to keep locals from straying away from the party line. [There’s also that pesky matter of being forced into a merger with NEA, a matter long-discussed among hard-core traditionalists.] Given the rancor from AFT rank-and-filers over strong-arm moves by national to remove wayward leaders in locals such as Detroit, expect more large locals to strike joint affiliation agreements or even break away from the national union in the near-future.
The consequences of efforts to abolish collective bargaining and joint affiliations by locals don’t just hurt AFT’s ability to use money to preserve influence. It also harms its ability to pay for the high costs of employing so many six-figure staffers.
While benefit costs have barely budged (remaining at $17 million), AFT’s general overhead costs increased by 4.8 percent within the past year. The good news for AFT is that it was able to offset some of those expenses with a 10.8 percent decrease in so-called union administration expenses. Meanwhile AFT’s post-retirement obligations increased by six percent (to $38 million) in the past year.
Luckily for the AFT, its staffers and leaders pay into defined–contribution retirement plans used by the rest of the private and nonprofit sectors. A funny thing given its opposition to efforts by school reformers and others to move away from the virtually-insolvent defined-benefit pensions championed by Weingarten and the union. Hypocrisy is like that sometimes.
Dropout Nation will provide additional analysis of the AFT’s financial filing in the coming days. You can check out the data yourself by checking out the HTML and PDF versions of the AFT’s latest financial report, or by visiting the Department of Labor’s Web site. Also check out Dropout Nation‘s Teachers Union Money Report, for this and previous reports on AFT and NEA spending.
The American Federation of Teachers filed its 2015-2016 financial disclosure with the U.S. Department of Labor, and once again, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union spent plenty of money securing its ties to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The union gave $250,000 to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the controversial philanthropy run by the Clinton family that has garnered widespread scrutiny during this year’s presidential campaign for receiving donations from corporations and foreign governments that also had business before the former Secretary of State during her tenure in the Obama Administration. AFT gave another $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative, the other non-explicitly political wing of Clinton family’s political (and notorious influence-peddling) activities. Likely anticipating Hillary’s victory over Republican Donald Trump (as well as looking to head off further scrutiny), Clinton Global announced this month that it would shut down at year’s end. Altogether, AFT has doled out $2.2 million into Clinton-controlled nonprofits over the past four years.
As Dropout Nation has reported over the past two years, AFT has worked zealously and successfully to win influence over Clinton and position traditionalists into key roles in shaping education policy if she wins the presidency. Besides the donations, AFT has key supporters within Clinton’s political machine. Hartina Flournoy, a Democratic National Committee member who serves as former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, previously served as top assistant to AFT President Rhonda (Randi) Weingarten. Thanks to her longtime friendship with Hillary, Flournoy now serves as Weingarten’s key go-between. Donna Brazile, the longtime Clinton apparatchik who is now the interim boss of the Democratic National Committee (as well as co-chair of AFT front group Democrats for Public Education), is a longtime beneficiary of AFT’s largesse; her eponymous outfit collected $110,000 from the union in 2015-2015, and has collected $210,000 from AFT over the past two years.
The union even made sure to win over Ann O’Leary, a supposed reformer who is advising Clinton’s campaign on education policy, by giving $125,000 to the Opportunity Institute, an outfit she cofounded (and on whose board she sits) that focuses on early childhood education and other social policy issues. As reformers may remember, O’Leary attempted to quell the fears of the movement last year after Clinton stated to talk show host Roland Martin and at an AFT event that she opposed the expansion of public charter schools. This was music to the ears of AFT, which has long opposed school choice (and whose Big Apple local, United Federation of Teachers, failed miserably in operating charters on its own). Opportunity Institute’s directors include billionaire Tom Steyer, a key player within Democracy Alliance, the secretive progressive political action outfit to which AFT (along with the National Education Association) is a member.
Meanwhile AFT is making sure that the Democratic National Committee feels its presence. This includes handing out $300,000 to Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee, which put together July’s Democratic National Convention; the union paid $180,972 to Leah Daughtry, the chief executive of this year’s convention, through her firm, On These Things LLC, in exchange for helping the union reach black clergy and faith-based groups. AFT also gave $125,000 to the Democratic Governor’s Association, $200,000 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and a piddling $30,000 to Democrats for Public Education.
Back to Democracy Alliance: AFT gave $25,000 to the group directly and another $50,000 to its Committee on States. But as you would expect, AFT spreads its money around. It gave $300,000 to super-PAC American Bridge 21st Century, another $300,000 to America Votes, and $125,000 to Emily’s List.
Just because AFT has spent plenty of money influencing Hillary doesn’t mean that it lost focus on other efforts to maintain its influence. The union spent $34 million on political lobbying activities and contributions to what should be like-minded groups; this, by the way, doesn’t include politically-driven spending that can often find its way under so-called “representational activities”. This is a 19 percent decline from the same period in 2014-2015.
Co-opting progressive groups remains a key focus of its influence-buying. This included handing out $373,000 to Center for Popular Democracy and its action fund in exchange for its efforts against the expansion of public charter schools. The outfit has also been blessed with Weingarten’s presence on its board. The union also gave $60,000 to Gamaliel Foundation, which has long-served as a hub for supposedly grassroots progressive outfits; Gamaliel lists AFT as well as the union’s reliable vassal, Schott Foundation for Public Education, among its funders.
AFT gave $100,000 to Americans United for Change, and $50,000 to In the Public Interest, the latter of which worked with Center for Popular Democracy last year on a series of reports demanding “accountability” for public charter schools. The union also dropped $28,000 into Center for Media and Democracy, the parent of PR Watch; contributed $30,000 to North Star Fund (whose grantees include AFT vassal Alliance for Quality Education); and ladled $25,000 to vassal Netroots Nation.
At the same time, AFT put more money into its effort to win over black and other minority outfits. The Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Action Fund was once again a big recipient of the union’s largesse, collecting $75,000 from AFT in 2015-2016. As it has done over the past few years, Schott continues to repay AFT for its generosity by doing its bidding in defense of policies that benefit the union at the expense of the black children it proclaims to defend.
AFT also gave $80,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation as well as $15,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Institute; those donations assured that the union would have the ear of top congressional leaders such as House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Democrat Bobby Scott (who may succeed Clinton running mate Tim Kaine in the U.S. Senate if the latter becomes vice president). The union also gave $25,000 to National Alliance of Black School Educators, $25,000 to National Council on Educating Black Children, $17,500 to National Black Caucus of State Legislators, $7,500 to National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and $5,000 to the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, one of the leading organizing groups for black churches.
Looking to buy the voices of prominent black leaders, AFT gave $25,000 to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (even though he remains a prominent supporter of charters) and put $10,000 into the coffers of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The biggest pay day was received by media commentator Tavis Smiley, who has become better-known in recent years for teaming up with academic Cornell West in their oft-personally motivated criticisms of the Obama Administration than for his eponymous television show. AFT gave Smiley’s outfit $75,000, more than double what Sharpton and Jackson collected. Romal Tune’s Clergy Strategy Alliance also collected $52,000 in exchange for helping AFT reach black and Latino clergy.
As for Latino groups? AFT gave $50,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, while handing off $15,000 to League of United Latin American Citizens (which was once a reliable supporter of systemic reform). The union also gave $15,000 to reform-oriented National Council of La Raza, $15,000 to National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, $12,000 to Hispanic Heritage Foundation, $10,000 to U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, and $5,000 to National Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs.
What about the usual suspects? The union gave $250,000 to Economic Policy Institute, and put down $75,000 into the American Prospect (which, like EPI, was founded by Robert Kuttner and former Clinton Administration adviser Robert Reich). AFT also gave $25,000 through the University of Colorado Foundation to Kevin Welner’s National Education Policy Center, gave $17,500 to Committee for Education Funding, and provided $55,000 to Alliance for Quality Education. As a reminder of the AFT’s unwillingness to support efforts to elevate the teaching profession it supposedly defends, the union gave $71,410 to Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, a key player in vetting the nation’s university schools of education.
Dropout Nation will provide additional analysis of the AFT’s financial filing later today. You can check out the data yourself by checking out the HTML and PDF versions of the AFT’s latest financial report, or by visiting the Department of Labor’s Web site. Also check out Dropout Nation‘s Teachers Union Money Report, for this and previous reports on AFT and NEA spending.
Today at school, our staff decided we needed to press pause and create a space for kids to share their thoughts and feelings in response to the killing of Mr. Crutcher. I was part of facilitating three small group discussions throughout the day: a fifth grade group, a sixth grade group, and a seventh/eighth grade group. I want to share what I experienced with the kids today, because I am convinced that if you can put yourself in the shoes of a child of color in Tulsa right now, you will have a clearer understanding of the crisis we’re facing and why we say black lives matter.
I tell [the fifth-graders] we will read a news article about the shooting together so we can all be informed. As I read, the students busily highlight and underline parts that stand out to them: Fatally shot. Hands raised. “Bad dude.” Motionless. Affected forever. I finish and I ask them, “What are your thoughts?”
They answer with questions. Why did they have to kill him? Why were they afraid of him? Why does [student] have to live life without a father? What will she do at father daughter dances? Who will walk her down the aisle? Why did no one help him after he was shot? Hasn’t this happened before? Can we write her cards? Can we protest?
As the questions roll, so do the tears. Students cry softly as they speak. Others weep openly. I watch 10 year olds pass tissues to each other, to me, to our principal as he joins our circle. One girl closes our group by sharing: “I wish white people could give us a chance. We can all come together and get along. We can all be united.” Let me tell you, these 10 year olds are more articulate about this than I am…
The sixth graders are quiet. The tragedy lives and breathes among them. It could have been their father. Boys are scattered across the cafeteria with their heads buried in their shirts. A girl who just moved to Tulsa from New Orleans because her father wanted to “escape the violence” is choked up as she speaks in the group next to mine. When we come back together whole group, one boy is still crying as another rubs his hand on his back soothingly…
[The seventh- and eighth-graders] are hardened. They are angry. Some students refuse to hold or look at the article. The speak matter-of-factl
“What made him ‘a big bad dude?'” a boy asks. “Was it his height? His size–” I look at the boys in my circle, all former students of mine. They have grown inches since their first day in my class. Their voices have deepened. Their shoulders broadened. They all nod their heads in agreement at the student’s last guess– “The color of his skin?”
I share this story, because Mr. Crutcher’s death does not just affect the students at my school. I share this story, because we are creating an identity crisis in all of our black and brown students. (Do I matter? Am I to be feared? Should I live in fear? Am I human?) We are shaping their world view with blood and bullets, hashtags and viral videos. Is this how we want them to feel? Is this how we want them to think?
Rebecca Lee, a teacher at KIPP Tulsa College Prep, the charter school attended by the daughter of Terence Crutcher, on the reactions of the children to the news of the father’s murder at the hand of a Tulsa police officer. Another sad reminder of the reality that what happens to the children on our streets also affects them in schools.
When we last checked in on Bill De Blasio, the New York City mayor was reeling from the fallout from the string of investigations into possible violations of campaign finance law during his successful campaign for mayor as well as on his unsuccessful effort two years ago to help New York State Senate Democrats regain control of the upper house (and essentially give De Blasio control over Empire State politics).
Since then, Hillary Clinton’s former U.S. Senate campaign manager has suffered more setbacks. This includes revelations by the Empire Center that he handed out $2 million in raises to his political appointees, as well as losing out on an opportunity to speak at the Democratic National Convention during prime time, the latter a reprisal from former boss Clinton and her presidential campaign for failing to endorse her run until he had no choice but to do so.
Meanwhile his likely campaign for re-election, already weakened by low poll numbers as well as the unwillingness of the AFT’s United Federation of Teachers to back him, took another hit when Harlem pastor Johnnie Green announced he would challenge the mayor in the Democratic mayoral primary next year. While Green isn’t likely to garner a lot of votes, the move presages the entry of more-formidable candidates such as City Comptroller Scott Stringer (who will likely gain UFT’s backing if he decides to run) and Bronx Borought President Ruben Diaz Jr. (whose support for expanding charter schools would likely attract reformers in the city).
But for Big Apple taxpayers, none of De Blasio’s political problems mean as much for them as the long-term financial woes they and their children face as a result of the long-term mismanagement of the city’s two defined-benefit pensions for teachers and other district employees. As a Dropout Nation analysis of the latest financial statements reveals, the pension shortfalls for the Teachers Retirement System and the Board of Education Retirement System have worsened under the mayor’s tenure.
Let’s start with TRS, the larger of the two pensions. It officially reports a shortfall of $27.5 billion as of 2013-2014, the latest year available. This is a 2.5 percent increase over the officially-reported shortfall in the previous year. But as readers know by now, those reported numbers don’t reflect reality. For one, this doesn’t include $4.2 billion in unrealized losses kept off the balance sheet as part of “smoothing” efforts by the city to avoid dealing with the shocks that come with financial market volatility. Add that number onto the total, and the shortfall would amount to $31.7 billion, or 15.3 percent higher than officially reported. As Dropout Nation noted last year, such accounting tricks can help pensions appear more-solvent than they really are, making it difficult for policymakers to make smart fiscal decisions.
But the smoothing isn’t the biggest problem. What is? That TRS assumes an investment rate of return of seven percent. Not only is this rate of return higher than the six percent median rate Wilshire Associates expects over the next decade, it is even higher than the 2.8 percent rate of return(net of fees) the pension’s investments generated in 20114-2015. [TRS’ rate of return for this year is just 2.7 percent, according to the New York City Comptroller.]
Because of the inflated rate of return, TRS (and ultimately, the city) understates what is likely the true level of insolvency that taxpayers will ultimately have to bear, and thus, results in lower than necessary contributions being paid by the city and teachers. Given that the pension annuities paid to retirees are essentially obligations like bonds, TRS’ assumed rate of return should be much lower, aligned with yields being gained in the bond market.
To figure out TRS’ true insolvency, Dropout Nation uses a version of a technique developed by Moody’s Investors Service, which assumes a more-realistic 5.5 percent rate of a return on investments. [Moody’s bases its rate of return on the performance of a bond index, which can range between four and six percent.] Based on the formula, using just TRS’ officially-reported number, the pension is underfunded to the tune of $32.9 billion. This is 20 percent more than it officially reports. If the shortfall had to be amortized (or paid off) over the next 17 years, Big Apple taxpayers and teachers would have to contribute an additional $1.9 billion annually, or 60 percent more than the $3.2 billion contributed in 2013-2014.
Yet this number doesn’t include the unrealized losses. Account for those and Dropout Nation estimates that TRS’ insolvency is $38 billion, 20 percent more than the unfunded liability adjusted for unrealized losses. Based on a 17-year amortization schedule, taxpayers and teachers would have to pay an additional $2.2 billion a year, or 69 percent more than contributed to the pension in 2013-2014.
Then there is Board of Education, which officially reports a shortfall of $1.8 billion, a 3.8 percent increase over the previous year. Just like TRS, Board of Education is using smoke and mirrors because it also assumes an investment rate of return of seven percent. The pension’s rate of return in 2014-2015 was just 3.4 percent. [The rate of return for this year is just 3.1 percent, according to the City Comptroller.] The result? Board of Education’s shortfall appears to be lower than it really is.
Based on the Moody’s formula, Dropout Nation concludes that Board of Education is actually underfunded to the tune of$2.2 billion. That’s 20 percent higher than officially reported. Based on a 17-year repayment schedule, taxpayers and district employees would have to contribute an additional $127 million a year, 59 percent more than the $214 million contributed in 2013-2014.
Altogether, based on the best-case scenario, New York City taxpayers face a virtual insolvency of $35.1 billion for the two education pensions. That’s $35,885 for every child within the Big Apple’s traditional district and public charter schools. Use the worst case scenario (which includes the unrealized losses), and taxpayers must address an insolvency of $40.2 billion. That’s $41,099 in pension debt for every child in school today.
Given that the Big Apple’s other defined-benefit pensions for city workers are also virtually busted, it is harder than ever to address the insolvency of the two education pensions. Contributions to TRS and Board of Education account for 38 percent of the $8.1 billion in contributions taxpayers put into all of the city’s pensions in 2013-2014, the latest year available, according to the Big Apple’s annual financial report. The city’s plan to increase contributions to all pensions by $600 million a year from 2016-2017 to 2019-2020 will not cut it
By the way: None of this includes the $28.9 billion in unfunded healthcare liabilities for retiree healthcare expenses; these account for 42.6 percent of the $68 billion in unfunded health liabilities on the city’s balance sheet. All of these obligations must eventually be met.
Put it simply, Big Apple taxpayers and children (who will one day become adults) face a fiscal disaster of massive proportions. One that won’t be easy to overcome. This isn’t all De Blasio’s fault. As Dropout Nation noted two years ago, his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg and his contemporaries in city government leadership continually provided generous annuity benefits and healthcare benefits (along with salary increases) in part to get UFT to go along with his systemic reform efforts. In the process, Bloomberg failed to require teachers to pay more toward their retirements, hoping in vain that stock market gains would cover those benefits and reduce liabilities. None of this worked out.
Yet De Blasio has learned nothing from Bloomberg’s failings on this front. Between 2011-2012 and 2013-2014, the contributions made by teachers to their retirements declined from six cents to 4.5 cents for every dollar put in. The collective bargaining agreements struck De Blasio struck with UFT and other unions representing district employees two years ago required no additional contributions to pensions and healthcare expenses (including the $1,700 a year the city pays in prescription drug coverage and other so-called welfare benefits for every retired teacher). The low member contributions, along with the salary increases a decision two years ago to allow 777 teachers to retire early, and other early retirement plans currently in place, are adding to the virtual insolvencies of TRS and Board of Education. Like Bloomberg, De Blasio is betting on investment market gains, even though history has proven this to be unreliable.
De Blasio should have pushed to increase retirement contributions by UFT-represented teachers, who make up the vast majority of current and future annuitants. Don’t think it is possible? Look at the city’s charter schools, whose expansion the mayor has actively opposed. The average charter school teacher in New York contributes 17 cents out of every dollar to their pension, four times the contributions by peers working in the traditional district. Given the low contributions of their traditional district colleagues, can easily argue that charter school teachers (who are also often Big Apple taxpayers) are bearing an unfair share of TRS’ burden.
The consequences of De Blasio’s and Bloomberg’s fiscal recklessness can be seen on the city’s ledger. Teacher benefit costs as a percentage of district spending increased by 53 percent (from 17 cents of every dollar spent to 26 cents) between 2004-2005 to 2013-2014, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. If not for the corresponding 63 percent increase in revenue during that period, De Blasio would face the same dire choices confronting Chicago counterpart Rahm Emanuel. The city’s Independent Budget Office expects overall city spending to increase at a slower annual rate (3.5 percent from 2016-2017 to 2019-2010). But those assumptions depend on an average 1,769 Baby Boomer teachers retiring every year, as they have between 2004-2005 and 2013-2014, as well as low initial annuity payouts. Both assumptions are probably optimistic.
If that doesn’t happen, De Blasio will be in for an even tougher time. While the city still managed to wrangle an increase in state aid because of other districts, the mayor can’t expect Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Republicans in control of the state senate to help him with any pension bailout. Nor can De Blasio count on UFT; having gotten most of what it wanted out of De Blasio (who it didn’t back), the union seems to already be moving on to a more-pliant candidate for mayor.
No matter what happens to De Blasio, the city’s taxpayers and children are stuck with the financial consequences of what could be a very short tenure.
Aleppo, once, but perhaps not still, the largest city in Syria, is divided into one section occupied by President Assad’s government of Syria and another besieged section. Recently, Russian airplanes have been bombing the latter, causing deaths and immense suffering to children as well as adults. The story runs on the news, worldwide, every day. The United Nations and other entities are in nearly continuous session to consider what can be done.
Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin, is divided as starkly into two sections: one White, one non-White. According to one of a recent series of articles in The New York Times, schools in metropolitan Milwaukee “are as segregated now as they were in 1965. Nearly three in four black students attend schools where at least 90 percent of the students are not white . . . Only 15.7 percent of Milwaukee Public School students tested proficient in reading in 2013-14, and 20.3 percent in math . . . Nearly one out of every eight black men in Milwaukee County has served time behind bars . . . The black unemployment rate in Milwaukee County is 20 percent, nearly three times greater than for white people.”
That sounds familiar. Nearly three years ago, in a Dropout Nation essay, I compared Milwaukee to Mississippi. The bad news is that Mississippi came out better. Back then, I pointed out such data as:
- More than 40 percent of Black families with children in Milwaukee had incomes below the poverty line.
- The median household income of Black families in Milwaukee was $26,600. The poverty line for a family of four in Wisconsin was $23,550.
- Seventy percent of male Black students in Milwaukee scored at the Below Basic level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress Grade 8 Reading examination. For most purposes that meant they couldn’t read.
- Of the 3,100 male Black students in grade 9 in the 2007-08 school year in Milwaukee, 1,300 made it to grade 12 by 2010-11 (42 percent).
- Wisconsin’s incarceration rate for Black people was 4,416 per 100,000, ten times the rate at which it imprisoned White people.
Some things have improved. The percentage of male Black eighth-graders in Milwaukee schools who can read at grade level has increased from three percent to four percent. At this rate, most Black male eighth-graders will be able to read at grade level by the year 2100, give or take a few years.
On the other hand, of the 2,506 Black male ninth-graders in the 2010-11 school year, 1,004 made it to senior year of high school by 2013-14 (a drop from 42 percent to 40 percent). At that rate, by the year 2100 no male Black students would be promoted from freshman to senior year.
The percentage of Black families with children with incomes below the poverty line has increased from 40 percent to 47 percent. The median household income for Black families in Milwaukee has declined to $24,967 (just above the current poverty line for a family of four of $24,300).
The Times article emphasized housing segregation, using as its human interest hook an affluent Black family to illustrate the ghettoization of Black families achieved by redlining of loans and White hostility. A nearly simultaneous Boston Globe op-ed focused on the way that now-Governor Scott Walker has manipulated mass transit to isolate Black residents of Milwaukee and increase Black unemployment. There is little or no access to mass transit for Black residents of Milwaukee and, as Lois Quinn and her colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, have demonstrated for years, driving while Black in the area is a gateway to mass incarceration.
Milwaukee is not Aleppo. County Sheriff Clarke is not President Assad. Governor Walker is not Putin. It is more banal than that. Black men in Milwaukee have faced incarceration and unemployment as normal events for many years now. Black families have been forced to live in restricted and deteriorating neighborhoods as a matter of routine. Black children have been forced into schools that do not educate them—for many years now. This goes on, year after year. It is normal. No conferences are called. Unless there is violence, as there was recently, occasioning the articles in the Times and the Globe, there are no headlines in the mainstream media.
When will something be done? What is to be done? Who is to do it?
Speaking of President Putin, about ten years ago he crushed a rebellion in the region of Chechnya, killing large numbers of people and leveling the city of Grozny, which was then rebuilt, sparing no expense. One can imagine Governor Walker sending uniformed forces into Milwaukee with Ferguson-style armored vehicles. One can imagine the Black neighborhoods of the city burning. However, one cannot imagine Governor Walker and his supporters subsequently rebuilding those neighborhoods, improving the schools, ending redlining and mass incarceration.
They have had plenty of time to do those things. It is quite evident that they like things the way they are.