School’s back in session, and these two items are related:

INCOME INEQUALITY

From 1976-2007, average real (inflation adjusted) income reportedly grew at 4.4% for those in the top 1% compared with 0.6% for the bottom 99%. The top 1% captured 58% of all the income growth ( rising to 65% from 2002-2007).

If you are concerned that the top 1% failed to capture 100% of the income growth (or 150% or 200%, which they could have done if the bottom 99% had seen their income fall) – these are the job creators, after all, and it’s important to us that they do well – never fear! We slashed their taxes along the way, so that, after-tax, they did even better.

And that, my friends, is why unemployment is today so low: because we’ve given the job creators unprecedented incentive to create jobs.*

*You will recall that no jobs were created in the Fifties and Sixties and Seventies when tax rates were high. No businesses were started. Not Apple, not Intel, not FedEx, not Wal-Mart or Microsoft, Humana, Oracle, Nike, Gap, Southwest Airlines or McDonald’s. With taxes high, there was simply no incentive. Would you try to make a fortune if you knew you’d have to pay taxes on it? I rest my case.

UNACCEPTABLE TEACHERS

And speaking of income inequality, here’s a rant by a public school administrator who I suspect works rather hard at his job, and deserves a listen. Or just read it here:

by John Kuhn

Let me speak for all public school educators when I say unequivocally: We will. We say send us your poor, send us your homeless, the children of your afflicted and addicted. Send us your kids who don’t speak English. Send us your special-needs children, we will not turn them away.

But I tell you today, public school teacher, you will fail to take the shattered children of poverty and turn them into the polished products of the private schools. You will be unacceptable, public school teacher. And I say that is your badge of honor. I stand before you today bearing proudly the label of unacceptable because I educate the children they will not educate.

Day after day I take children broken by the poverty our leaders are afraid to confront and I glue their pieces back together. And at the end of my life you can say those children were better for passing through my sphere of influence. I am unacceptable and proud of it.

The poorest Americans need equity, but our nation offers them accountability instead. They need bread, but we give them a stone. We address the soft bigotry of low expectations so that we may ignore the hard racism of inequity.

Standardized tests are a poor substitute for justice.

So I say to [Education Secretary] Arne Duncan and President Obama, go ahead and label me. I will march headlong into the teeth of your horrific blame machine and I will teach these kids. You give me my scarlet letter and I will wear it proudly, because I will never cull the children who need education the most so that my precious scores will rise.

I will not race to the top. I will stop like the Good Samaritan and lift hurting children out of the dirt. Let me lose your race, because I’m not in this for the accolades. I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it because it’s right. I am in it because the children of Perrin, Texas need somebody like me in their lives.

Our achievement gap is an opportunity gap. Our education problem is a poverty problem. Test scores don’t scream bad teaching. They scream about our nation’s systematic neglect of children who live in the wrong zip codes.

Listen to me, Arne Duncan: It’s poverty, stupid. And that’s not an excuse, that’s not an excuse, it’s a diagnosis. We must as a nation stop assuaging the symptoms and start treating the disease.

Let me ask you a simple question: Where is adequate yearly progress for the politician? Will we have 100 percent employment by 2014? Will all the children have decent health care and roofs over their heads by their deadline? But wait. They don’t have a deadline. They aren’t racing anywhere, are they?

When will our leaders ensure that every American community offers children libraries and little leagues instead of drugs and delinquency? Lawmakers sent you into congressional districts that are rife with poverty, rife with crime, drug abuse and poor health care, but lawmakers will never take on the label of “legislatively unacceptable” because they do not share the courage of a common school teacher. I say let us label our lawmakers like they label teachers. Let us have a hard look at their data. Let us have merit pay in Congress.

Congressmen, politicians, if you want children that are lush, stop firing the gardeners and start paying the water bill. Politicians, your fingerprints are on these children. What have you done to help them pass their tests?

President Obama, why don’t you come and join me in a crucible of accountability. We have talked enough about the speck in our teachers’ eyes, let’s talk about the plank in yours.

☞ And by the way? While I claim no expertise here, my own sense is that this is not either/or. Clearly, in many places, it’s been too hard to fire bad teachers, institute best practices, or streamline administrative bloat. That’s why I support Democrats for Education Reform and Harlem Success Academy; why I cheer for Race to the Top and my friend Steve Brill’s Class Warfare. But as is clear from the speech above, and this illuminating review of Steve’s book, there is very much another side to the story. And in my view, both are right: we absolutely need to encourage excellence, competition, and innovation. But we also need to recognize that most public school teachers – including most unionized public school teachers – are entirely deserving of our respect and appreciation. And that we’d better think hard about the income inequality cited above if we truly want a better outcome.

(One more thing on this topic, in case you haven’t seen it? Matt Damon’s wonderful clip, with his Mom.)

 

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