Tapped: The Prospect Group Blog

Education Reform Democrats on Donald Trump

November 17: Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, issued the following statement: (bolded emphasis mine)

It is, generally speaking, an honor for any person of any political persuasion to be asked by the president of the United States to consider a Cabinet-level appointment, but in the case of President-elect Trump, DFER encourages no Democrat to accept an appointment to serve as Secretary of Education in this new administration. In so doing, that individual would become an agent for an agenda that both contradicts progressive values and threatens grave harm to our nation’s most vulnerable kids.

Foundational education reform principles—from raising standards and strengthening accountability, to expanding public-school choice, to furthering innovations in teacher preparation and support, and advancing resource equity—all find their roots in a progressive commitment to ensuring that all children, particularly our most vulnerable, have access to schools that enable them to fulfill their potential.

This progressive commitment to equitable education policy also goes hand-in-hand with intersectional issues that affect our kids. While effective school policies are vitally important, so too are the environmental conditions affecting children and families. A child who is homeless; a child without access to food or health care; a child whose parent cannot find steady work; a child whose dad is locked up for years on low-level drug offenses—each of these situations dramatically compromise the life chances of our children.

The policies and rhetoric of President-elect Trump run contrary to the most fundamental values of what it means to be a progressive committed to educating our kids and strengthening our families and communities. He proposes to eliminate accountability standards, cut Title I funding, and to gut support for vital social services that maximize our students’ ability to reach their potential. And, most pernicious, Trump gives both tacit and express endorsement to a dangerous set of racial, ethnic, religious, and gender stereotypes that assault the basic dignity of our children, causing incalculable harm not only to their sense of self, but also to their sense of belonging as accepted members of school communities and neighborhoods.

For these reasons, no Democrat should accept appointment as Secretary of Education, unless and until President-elect Trump disavows his prior statements and commits to educating the whole child and supporting the communities and families they depend on.

November 22: Shavar Jeffries expounds on DFER’s statement in a Washington Post op-ed. Excerpts highlighted below:

Based on the positions he has taken, President-elect Trump’s administration will undoubtedly etch away at the progress we’ve made towards creating a more equitable public education system under President Obama—and irreparably damage our children’s futures.

Some have concluded that Trump’s stated support for increasing funding to the federal Charter School Program, an important priority for progressive reformers, ought to suggest reconsideration. High-quality public charter schools change lives throughout the country, and we applaud proposals to increase appropriations to that program. But as much as we enthusiastically support resources to grow and expand any high-performing public school, including public charters, that by itself in no way counterbalances the grave, generational challenge Trump’s retrograde policies and rhetoric present to America’s schoolchildren, particularly our most vulnerable low-income urban and rural children.

We wish that our president-elect represented the broad mainstream of leaders from both parties who have championed a vision of progressive education reform and a commitment to basic social policies that are currently working for kids and communities across the nation. But the stated policies and rhetoric of the president-elect run contrary to our most fundamental values. Until Trump expresses a willingness to educate the whole child and invest in the communities that nurture our children, no Democrat should accept appointment as secretary of education. In doing so, that person would become an instrument of an agenda that both contradicts progressive commitments to educational equity, and also threatens grave harm to our nation’s most vulnerable kids.

November 23: Shavar Jeffries issues an FAQ to “flesh out their reasoning” on what DFER’s official statement, and his Washington Post op-ed meant. Highlights excerpted below:

Q: Why did DFER issue the statement? 

We’re not saying that Democrats should not, when possible, work with President-elect Trump on education issues, but rather that no Democrat should work for him as secretary of education.

We believe it is critical to the long-term sustainability of the work we care about to make a clear distinction between the progressive education reforms that we support, and the agenda put forward by President-elect Trump.

Q: Wouldn’t a Democratic secretary be in a position to get Trump to change those positions? 

Perhaps anything is possible, but the president-elect has made his positions and discriminatory values clear over the last 18 months. Furthermore, the appointments Trump has made to his administration so far—including white nationalist Steve Bannon as a senior advisor and Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, whose views on race are so problematic that the Senate previously failed to confirm him for a judgeship, do not show signs of moderation.

Much more likely is that the appointment to secretary of a Democrat who is identified with our issue would do irreparable damage to our movement’s credibility with the progressive leaders and voters we hope to engage, and could be seen as giving implicit support to an agenda that attacks the very communities we aim to serve. 

Q: Does this mean you would rather someone incompetent be in this position?

That’s a false choice. There are many competent Republicans who would be a good fit for a Trump administration. Our goal, as Democrats who support education reform, is to work within our party to build support for reform policies. For the reasons stated above, we do not believe a Democrat should accept the appointment. 

Q: Does this mean you won’t work with the Trump administration?

As noted earlier, we draw a distinction between working with and working for Trump. Where appropriate, we will work with the administration to pursue policies that expand opportunity for kids, and we will vocally oppose rhetoric or policies that undermine those opportunities.  

But our mission is to build more support among Democrats for reform—a critical agenda in light of the outsized power of the teachers’ union within the party—and to cultivate bipartisan support for reform by growing the number of Democrats who support pro-child policies. Over the next four years, we will work with the hundreds of Democrats we’ve supported and helped to elect at the federal, state, and local levels to support positive policies for kids and to oppose negative ones.

November 23: Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, issued the following statement: (bolded emphasis mine)

DFER congratulates Betsy DeVos on her appointment as secretary of education, and we applaud Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools.

However, DFER remains deeply concerned by much of the President-elect’s education agenda, which proposes to cut money from Title I and to eliminate the federal role on accountability. These moves would undermine progress made under the Obama administration to ensure all children have access to good schools. In addition, our children are threatened by many of the president-elect’s proposals, such as kicking 20 million families off of health care, deporting millions of Dreamers, and accelerating stop-and-frisk practices. We hope that Mrs. Devos will be a voice that opposes policies that would harm our children, both in the schoolhouse and the families and communities in which our children live.

Finally, regardless of one’s politics, Trump’s bigoted and offensive rhetoric has assaulted our racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, causing millions of American children to perceive that they are less than full members of our communities. We hope Mrs. DeVos will push the President-elect to disavow such rhetoric.

Note: It’s not clear how DFER defines a “commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools.” The DeVos family spent thousands of dollars this past summer to nix the Detroit Education Commission, a legislative reform that would have provided increased oversight and accountability to the city’s drastically failing charter sector.

Sanders Supporters See Some Silver Lining in Trump Victory

A Washington, D.C., rally to celebrate the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership turned into a shout-out to progressives the moment Bernie Sanders took the stage just outside the U.S. Capitol, where hundreds had converged Thursday to catch a glimpse of their hero.

“I’m not here to blame anybody, criticize anybody, but facts are facts,” the one-time presidential candidate said, detailing sobering election losses up and down the ballot. “It’s time for a new direction for the Democratic Party.”

Donald Trump’s surprise win brought unexpected energy to the rally. What would’ve likely been a giant victory lap for progressives had Clinton been victorious, ended up as a lively post-mortem instead. Sanders admitted he didn’t have the slightest doubt that Trump’s promise to take on the establishment was what got him so many votes. “One of the reasons that he [Trump] won is, in my view, a failure of the Democratic Party that must be rectified,” he said, as the crowd cheered and chanted, “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”

That failure, according to Sanders, was neglecting working-class voters. Hillary Clinton lost the election in large part because of a drop in support in states that have substantial blue-collar populations, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Some wonder whether the Obama administration’s bullishness on the Trans-Pacific Partnership made things worse. “I’ve left the open the question whether or not the administration’s push for a lame-duck vote and getting people dispatched all over the country and all over the world, saying we were going to move on this,” said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat. “You have to question whether or not that resulted in the loss of the Rust Belt states.”

Buzzards now circle above the trade deal, which isn’t dead yet, but will be soon after Donald Trump’s inauguration: He has promised to kill the TPP in his first 100 days. Trump isn’t exactly the hangman progressives expected, but the imminent death of the trade deal is one silver lining for opponents of the accord.

Another is the chance to reshape the Democratic National Committee. Larry Cohen, former president of the Communication Workers of America, says the political vacuum left by the election could be an opportunity for progressives to gain more influence in the Democratic Party. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled the party’s new leadership team, which included Bernie Sanders as the director of outreach. Progressives are eyeing leadership positions on the Democratic National Committee as well. “[Minnesota Representative] Keith Ellison is an amazing leader,” said Cohen. “He’ll know how to handle the job.”

Kim Kamens, a Sanders supporter who runs a custom wood and metal design, architectural, and technology manufacturing business with her husband in Philadelphia, is eager to see change at the DNC, which she calls an “antiquated fundraising machine.” Kamens has seen more and more full-time workers forced into temporary manufacturing jobs. “The working class was left out of the Democratic agenda,” Kamens said. “It feels like Democrats have lost touch with the American people.”

National Nurses United co-president Jean Ross agrees. “The message of incremental change is not going to work for working-class Americans,” she says. “We need to change the message, not tweak it.” The NNU endorsed Sanders early on in the primaries, but refused to endorse Hillary Clinton in the general, even after Sanders did. Ross has no regrets on not endorsing Clinton. “Our integrity is intact — Bernie’s our guy.”

Trump Falsely Claims Credit for Saving Jobs, and News Outlets Lap it Up

(Wikimedia Commons)

 

How does Donald Trump plan to save American jobs? Apparently, by claiming that he’s saved the ones that were never going anywhere in the first place.   

On Thursday night, the president-elect tweeted out that he had just received a call from his “friend” Bill Ford, the chairman of Ford Motor Co., who told him that Ford will be keeping the Lincoln car manufacturing plant in Kentucky—and not sending the operation to Mexico.

Trump, of course, then claimed that he had helped keep those jobs in the country.

That’s mighty impressive for a man who hasn’t even taken his seat in the Oval Office yet. Reuters, and many other news outlets, took his claim at face value. The Reuters headline declared: “Trump says Ford not moving U.S. plant to Mexico.”

One problem: It’s not true. The company operates two plants in Louisville, Kentucky—one that manufactures the Lincoln Navigator; another that makes the Lincoln MKC and the Ford Escape. But Ford never said it was moving those sport utility vehicle plants to Mexico to begin with.

After Trump’s tweets, the company released a statement saying that it had told the president-elect that they were no longer moving an MKC production shift from Kentucky to Mexico. However, the jobs at that Kentucky plant were never at risk, as The Washington Post reported, because plans were already afoot to increase production of the Ford Escape.

“Whatever happens in Louisville, it will not lose employment,” a union vice president of the United Auto Workers told The Detroit Free Press on November 9. “They cannot make enough Escapes.”

Never mind. Trump’s tweets, and the misleading news reports that ensued, have taking hold the internet, morphing into even more inaccurate news reports, and reassuring Trump’s rabid social-media followers that he is, indeed, the savior of the American manufacturing industry. No amount of fact-checking will change that.

Lost in all this, and of course unmentioned by Trump, is that Ford is still shifting its small-car production—of vehicles like the Focus—to Mexico. This despite Trump’s threats that he institute a 35 percent tariff on imports of vehicles made there.  

New Report Examines How Country’s Largest Banks Finance the Private Prison Industry

When Donald Trump won and private prison stocks surged, an unexpected cheer came from downtown Manhattan. It’s a great time to be in the jail business.

A new report by the progressive advocacy group In the Public Interest reveals the troubling ties between Wall Street and the private prison industry, including hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and revolving credit. Shares of the private prison industry’s two biggest companies, CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group, rocketed after Trump’s win. Bondholders on Wall Street, who raked in tens of millions in interest payments from CoreCivic and GEO Group in 2015, seem confident that Trump will make good on his campaign promises of mass incarceration and deportation.

Last year, the industry’s two biggest companies, CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO Group, reported $1.79 billion and $1.84 billion in revenue, respectively. Of the many Wall Street banks involved in financing the growth and expansion of private prisons, ITPI noted that six represent the majority of those investments: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, U.S. Bancorp, and Wells Fargo.  

According to the report, the banks underwrote bonds for CoreCivic and GEO Group and helped finance them through a combination of term loans and hundred of millions of dollars in revolving credit. This financing allowed the companies to expand and gave the banks a sweet return on their initial investments.

GEO Group and CoreCivic have long since been reading the writing on the wall for private prisons. They figured the “tough on crime” mindset was on its way out and spent years expanding into “community services” like halfway homes and electronic monitoring devices, thanks to their Wall Street financing. To stem the growth of the private prison industry, ITPI wants to see shareholders and other clients of these banks like universities, municipalities, and states pressure bank officials to stop extending revolving credit, awarding term loans, and underwriting bonds to these private prison companies—if bank officials do not move to do so themselves.

Meanwhile, prison divestment campaigns around the country have dug in their heels. “We can’t rely on the federal government,” says Enlace deputy director Amanda Aguilar Shank, who helped organize Portland, Oregon’s Prison Divestment Campaign. “We need to have local elected officials stepping up with the community and taking protective measures. Portland could be the first city in the country to completely divest from banks like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase

In the face of a likely resurgence of interest in the industry, prison divestment advocates are also turning their attention to local institutions. Last year, Columbia University became the first university in the country to divest from private prisons, selling all of its CoreCivic shares in response to a student activist campaign. A few months later, the University of California followed its lead. #ForgoWells is a budding coalition of divestment advocates who have condemned Wells Fargo’s “destructive and extractive” investments in for-profit prison companies. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Trump voter or a Clinton voter,” says Jeff Ordower, who works with the #ForgoWells campaign “This is a bipartisan movement to hold the banks accountable for what they’re doing.”

Private prisons, which account for 6 percent of state and 16 percent prisoners in the country, have been lambasted by critics for their understaffing and poor medical care as well as their high rates of recidivism. Yet, the future of private prisons was at risk not too long ago. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would begin phasing out the use of private prisons. However, this decision could be easily rolled back by the incoming Trump administration. In addition to deporting undocumented immigrants, Trump, who ran as a “tough on crime” candidate, has promised to reduce “surging crime, drugs and violence” and boost funding for police and federal law enforcement agencies. 

Will Trump Deliver for Veterans?

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump repeated one key promise: to “Make America Great Again” by increasing the country’s military might and supporting its 24 million military veterans. After all, he promised to raise money for veterans and said he donated a million dollars out of his own pocket to veterans’ charities.

But Trump showed his true colors long before Election Day. He finally wrote a personal check to one veteran’s group but only after four months when reporters shamed him into doing so. Trump dissed mentally ill veterans for being weak. Most famously, he called Senator John McCain, who was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, a “loser” after being shot down in combat, badly injured, captured, and then abused as a prisoner of war. Nevertheless, many veterans voted for Trump by a large margin.

That’s no great start for “veterans affairs.” But the mistreatment of vets could go from rhetorical to real. That’s because Trump favors some form of privatization of all Veterans Health Administration services, a long sought-after goal of congressional Republicans. His allies on Capitol Hill and his appointees plan to take aim at taxpayer-supported health-care coverage for veterans that actually works better than the federally-subsidized, private health insurance system that was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has promised to repeal.

The federal government currently provides veterans with comprehensive and highly specialized care as needed; outside the VHA, the same services would be far more costly and much harder to find. The VHA Commission on Care estimated that treating veterans in the private sector would be almost four times as high—a whopping $450 billion.

However, to the right-wing ideologues already shaping VHA policy under Trump, private health care is the best kind of care there is. Any public program that threatens that framework by being cost-effective, widely accessible, and popular with its patients needs to be curtailed, they believe, regardless of the outcome for millions of veterans.

Trump promised to make outgoing Congressman Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, his secretary of veterans affairs. (Miller did not run for re-election.) He has been hostile to the VHA and will certainly favor some form of VHA privatization. Also leading the Trump charge in the wrong direction is Darin Selnick, a Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) senior advisor and executive director of its “Fixing Veterans Health Care” taskforce. The CVA is an inside-the-Beltway creation of the billionaire Koch brothers rather than a “veterans service organization” with hundreds of thousands of members like the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or Vietnam Veterans of America, which all support the VHA. CVA may not have pumped big money into the Trump campaign but now they see a golden opportunity to downsize government by installing paid hirelings like Selnick in Trump’s VA transition team or in the executive branch.

Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, another conservative think tank funded in part by the Koch brothers, was one of Rudy Giuliani's top health-care advisers when he sought the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. She recently wrote a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, which criticized the VHA as well as any other possible type of single-payer health care. She exaggerated and misrepresented recent problems at some VHA facilities, such as wait times, and accused the agency of “rationing care.” 

Selnick and Pipes are previews of coming attractions in the top administrative ranks of the VHA, when heads start to roll and Koch brothers-minded managers replace them. As Trump’s plans for the VHA unfold, veterans and veterans service organizations must go on the offensive against behind-the-scenes power plays to protect a invaluable, specialized program that cannot be outsourced without compromising the quality of care.

Correction: This post has been corrected to reflect that Sally Pipes is the current (not former) president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, and does not hold a post on the Trump transition team nor does she advise them on VA or other health care issues.

 

From “Trumpkin” to “Trumpista,” Trump-Inspired Words Proliferate

Whether or not Donald Trump wins this election, his candidacy will have added several new words to the nation’s vocabulary.

From Trumpnik to Trumpista, Trumpian and Trumpism, words to describe Trump’s followers, ideology, and movement have popped up in print, on the air, and on the internet. There are trending Twitter hashtags such as #Trumpkin, which could alternately mean a Trump devotee or a Halloween pumpkin in the likeness of the orange-haired GOP nominee. There was also the #NeverTrump movement, and talk of the “Trump Effect.” Here is a brief glossary of the Trump-inspired words that have, for the moment at least, entered the political lexicon:

Trumpkin

The popularity of the term Trumpkin caused some consternation on the right, prompting The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn to chide that it was “meant at once to describe and demean” Trump’s backers. Rhyming as it does with Munchkin, Trumpkin does evoke something small, possibly ridiculous, and not to be taken seriously. Munchkin, in turn, calls to mind the Wizard who created a fantastic but deceptive show in the Land of Oz, giving Trumpkin added resonance. Trumpkin also took on a second meaning last month, as jack-o’-lanterns carved to look like Trump became the rage, and some noted with glee that pumpkin pulp made the perfect hair.

Trumpnik

If Trumpkin ruffled feathers, Trumpnik struck some conservatives as even worse, evoking as it does a Communist apparatchik—an arguably fitting moniker for fans of a candidate who likes to flatter Russian President Vladimir Putin. In one Twitter exchange about the proper moniker for Trump followers, Commentary Editor John Podhoretz declared: “It’s TrumpKIN not TrumpNIK.”

Trumpist

Trumpist is the mainstream shorthand to describe the quintessential Trump follower, who by varying accounts is a non-college-educated white male, an unemployed factory worker, a reactionary with racist inclinations, or any American who’s angry, worried, and economically insecure. Thus The Economist wonders, “What might a Trumpist Republican Party look like?” And Ross Douthat, of The New York Times, warns that it’s not hard to imagine post-election “armed clashes between Trumpist militias and left-wing protesters.” Douthat also wins a wordsmithing prize for referencing, in the same story, the possibility that some Trump supporters will cheer a “Trumperdammerung” should he lose.

Trumpista

For those who don’t refer to Trump followers as Trumpers, Trumpniks, or Trumpkins, Trumpistas has emerged as an alternative. Trumpistas sound a bit revolutionary, like the Sandinistas who belong to Nicaragua’s democratic socialist party. When Kathleen Parker described the genteel shock that followed Trump’s crass comments at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner last month, The Washington Post fittingly headlined her story: “Elites booed, Trumpistas cheered.”

Trumpian

Trumpian describes all things Trump, good or bad. When The St. Louis Post-Dispatch endorsed Democrat Tammy Duckworth over GOP incumbent Mark Kirk for U.S. Senate in Illinois, the paper referenced Kirk’s attempt to insult Duckworth’s Thai parentage as “a racist comment of Trumpian proportions.”

Trumpism

The movement spawned by Trump is best known as Trumpism, by some accounts an uprising of Americans who think the system is “rigged” against them. “Win or lose, the Trump effect will be felt long after the election,” Showtime President David Nevins recently told The Washington Post in an article titled: “Trumpism isn’t going away.”

Such Trump-inspired words’ staying power will hinge entirely on whether he wins or loses. A Trump win would no doubt enshrine these and many other Trump variants in the dictionary forever. A Trump loss would give them less cachet. One word that will stick around no matter what—a word that existed long before “the Donald” came along, and that may capture him best of all—is trumpery. On October 20, the word-lovers’ website Wordsmith circulated trumpery as its “Word of the Day” with the following definition:

trumpery
(TRUHM-puh-ree)
noun
1. Something showy but worthless.
2. Nonsense or rubbish.
3. Deceit; fraud; trickery.

Trump Bashes Minnesota’s Somali Immigrants

(Photo: Flickr/Lorie Shaull)

Somali-American candidate for Minnesota State Representative, Ilhan Omar speaking at a Hillary for MN event at the University of Minnesota in October. 

Less than 72 hours before Election Day, Donald Trump decided to hold an airport rally in the safely blue state of Minnesota. Why? Apparently, to bash the 70,000 Somali immigrants who have sought refuge, and put down roots, in the state.

“Here in Minnesota, you’ve seen first-hand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with very large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state without your knowledge, without your support or approval and with some of them then joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views all over our country and all over the world,” Trump said on Sunday, as he preached the need for his policy of so-called extreme vetting of refugees.

Trump was clearly trying to exploit isolated incidents within Minnesota’s Somali American community, like the arrests of nine Somali youth who were charged for intending to go to Syria to join ISIS in 2014, or the knife attack by a Somali man in central Minnesota in September.

“Everybody’s reading about the disaster taking place in Minnesota,” he declared. “You don’t even have the right to talk about it.”

Indeed, Trump was so busy trying to stoke fear and xenophobia as a voter-turnout strategy that he forgot to mention the 1,000 Somali workers who help make the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, where he was speaking, function. Nor did he mention the nearly 3,000 mostly East African–owned businesses in the state or the estimated $800 million annual buying power of the African immigrant community in the Twin Cities alone, as ThinkProgress points out.

Perhaps most conveniently of all, he also forgot to mention that Ilhan Omar—who fled violence in Somalia, toiled in refugee camps, and was eventually accepted into the United States as a refugee—is about to become the nation’s first Somali American legislator. After beating a longtime incumbent in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (Minnesota’s Democratic Party) primary, she is all but certain to be elected as the state representative for a Minneapolis district that includes the state’s largest Somali refugee community.

Omar blasted Trump for his bigoted rhetoric in a Facebook post:

Why Are There So Many Different Gender Wage Gap Calculations?

What is the correct figure for how much women are paid relative to men? Is it 80 cents to the dollar? Or is it 83 cents?

The answer, it turns out, is both: There are alternative methods for measuring the gender wage gap, and a Wednesday panel discussion at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., focused on the myriad ways the gap shortchanges female workers. The event centered on a new EPI report entitled “What is the gender pay gap and is it real?”

“Different gender wage gaps are answers to different questions,” said EPI senior economist Elise Gould, a co-author of the report, during the discussion. “It doesn’t mean [the wage gap] is not real.” While 80 cents to the dollar reflects the median discrepancy for women working full-time, Gould said that EPI uses the 83 percent figure because it looks at per-hour wages and includes part-time workers.

In practical terms, that means that women’s median take-home pay amounts to $15.67 an hour, compared with $18.94 for men. Over the course of her lifetime, the gender pay gap costs the average woman worker more than $530,000 in lost wages. The lifetime wage losses are even greater for college-educated women, averaging close to $800,000. The wage gap reflects not just employers’ decisions to pay women less, the panelists stressed, but also institutional barriers and the work-life decisions that women make.

The gap tends to widen with education levels in part because of wage floors like the federal minimum wage, but also because women face penalties throughout their professional lives for having children or caring for family members. “Women can’t simply educate themselves out of the gender wage gap,” said Gould.

Nor can women simply choose different and higher-paying careers, agreed Wednesday’s panelists, who also included Sarita Gupta, the executive director of Jobs With Justice; Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research; and Latifa Lyles, the director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor.

Occupational segregation still contributes to large pay discrepancies across similar fields, and subtle gender discrimination can inhibit women from crossing over—Hartmann cited the examples of a female machine operator who could make $13,000 more as a welder, and a library assistant who could make $24,000 more as an IT specialist. Gould also noted that as women enter a particular field in increasing numbers, the pay will often decrease as the work becomes devalued.

One of the most consistently devalued occupations is caregiving, a field dominated by women and people of color. Gupta, who is also the co-director of Caring Across Generations, emphasized the need for a better “care infrastructure” that would help both low-paid workers and women who are unpaid caregivers to family members.

In the absence of better paid leave policies for both women and men, said Lyles, “a lot of women are going to have some reason to leave the workforce” in their lifetimes, and that translates into “lost earnings that compound over a lifetime.”

Better paid leave policies would also alleviate a barrier faced by women in high-profile professions that demand longer hours. “I do believe that these long hours were created to reserve these jobs for men,” Hartmann said. Gould added that the willingness to work late is often “an incorrect signal” for productivity.

The EPI report also highlighted the uptick in economic inequality since 1980, which is what primarily accounts for any narrowing of the gender pay gap over those decades. “The stagnation and decline of median men’s wages has played a significant role in the decline in the unadjusted gender wage gap,” the report states. Also Wednesday, Gould unveiled the EPI’s gender pay gap calculator, which tells users how much money they would be making in the absence of a gender wage gap, and how much they would be making if wages had increased with economic growth, as they in the three decades after World War II. For example, a 30-year-old woman with a Bachelor’s degree and an annual salary of $40,000 would be making $44,785 in the absence of a pay gap, and $64,420 if inequality hadn’t increased.

But regardless of gender, the conclusion was the same: “Had workers’ wages continued to keep pace with productivity, both men and women would be earning much more today.”

The ‘Ban-the-Box’ Paradox

For the 70 million-plus Americans living with criminal records, finding a job can be a Sisyphean task. Ex-offenders return to their communities in search of work only to find that many employers are reluctant to hire anyone with a rap sheet. Because they can’t find a job, many will end up back in prison. To break this cycle and reintegrate ex-offenders into the workforce, states have passed “ban-the-box” laws, which prohibit employers from asking job candidates about criminal records until the final stages of the hiring process. Hawaii passed the first ban-the-box regulations in 1998. Today more than 150 counties and cities, 24 states, and the federal government have some type of ban-the-box measure in place.

The laws, named for the checkbox on a job employment applications requesting disclosure of criminal history, give an applicant the opportunity to explain why he or she is a good fit for a position and why his or her criminal record should not be a barrier to employment.  But a new study by Jennifer Doleac, a University of Virginia assistant professor of public policy and economics, and Benjamin Hansen, a University of Oregon associate professor of economics, suggests that banning the box comes with unintended consequences. Doleac and Hansen measured the laws’ effects and found that they exacerbated certain racial disparities in employment.

The study found that between 2002 and 2014 in states where ban-the-box reforms have been implemented, total employment for young African American and Hispanic men declined by 5.1 and 2.9 percent, respectively. The researchers hypothesized that due to popular stereotypes of young minority men as ex-offenders, some employers screen out candidates based on age, race, and ethnicity early in the hiring process if they do not have information about a person’s criminal history.

Doleac and Hansen’s conclusions about a widening racial employment gap in employment are consistent with other recent studies. The reforms have worked, but not for recently released ex-offenders who have the most difficulty in finding employment. Certain groups including college-educated black women and low-skilled, older black men did better in the job market after ban-the-box reforms were implemented.

“Ban-the-box reforms were never intended as a panacea for the severe employment barriers facing people with records, and certainly not for the entrenched employment challenges of young men of color locked out of the job market,” National Employment Law Project program director Maurice Emsellem and Ford Foundation fellow Beth Avery argued in a recent policy brief.

Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and age is hard to detect and even harder to prosecute. However, criminal justice reform advocates continue to view ban the box as a step forward in promoting a wider range of reform strategies that include record-sealing and other “clean slate” measures.

Chicago Charter School Strike Deadline Looms

Unionized teachers and staff at UNO, a charter network comprising 16 elementary and high schools in Chicago, may go on strike Wednesday.

Many local news organizations have incorrectly claimed that a walkout by the unionized charter school teachers would be the first labor action of its kind. But as Jacobin first reported, teachers at a Philadelphia charter school staged a “sick-out” in 2011 when school administrators refused to bargain in good faith; the two sides ultimately reached a contract compromise. In 2014, the unionized teachers at the same Philadelphia charter voted to strike, but reached a contract deal with administrators before a walkout took place.

Nevertheless, a UNO strike would be significant development. UNO is one of the largest charter chains in the city, educating roughly 8,000 students. As more charter teachers opt to unionize across the country, more educators will likely begin engaging in traditional labor protests.

More than 95 percent of the 532 unionized UNO workers voted in favor of going on strike. The stickiest points of the charter union’s negotiations revolve around pension payments, class size caps, and salary increases. Their first-ever contract, negotiated in March 2014, has expired. Teachers and school administrators have been in contract talks for the past eight months.

“We aren’t going to strike just to make history,” says Erica Stewart, a fifth grade UNO teacher on the union bargaining team. “It’s just not feasible, or the right thing. If we need to walk off the job, it needs to be for the right reasons.”

While UNO administrators have said that they can’t afford to pay for all the teachers’ demands, the union members don’t believe them. Teachers point to things like UNO's central offices located in downtown Chicago, which rent for more than $30,000 per month. They argue that their employer could be making very different budget choices.

Union leaders and school administrators plan to bargain all day Tuesday. If they fail to reach an agreement by midnight, then teachers will strike. UNO has already reached out to families to warn them that all school and extracurricular activities may be cancelled beginning Wednesday.

Stewart, who has taught at UNO for six years, says that the working conditions at her school were very challenging before the charter network formed a union in 2013.

“I was constantly afraid to ask for anything, I was afraid to leave my classroom if I needed a bathroom break,” she says. “I always felt I was going to get fired, and I took the job because I’ve got three kids at home to feed and I needed the work. I love teaching, and I love my students. It was just really difficult to work in a culture of fear like that.”

When I asked how parents and students have reacted to the possibility of a strike, Stewart says they’ve tried to keep bargaining politics out of the classroom and have organized informational meetings for parents, off-campus, after school hours. “The parents have been going out of their way to talk to us,” says Stewart. “They’re also trying to get their own voices heard within UNO.”

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