[MKE - Indymedia] poverty no excuse?
pryz1 at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 1 08:45:25 PST 2004
(Published education.news commentary November 29, 2004)
NCLB Poverty is no excuse, echoes political times
By Daniel Pryzbyla
Although its on the rise, poverty never made the political radar screens during election campaigning. Poverty is no excuse has ridiculed education achievement debates, and living in poverty is now okay too.
Former U.S. Department of Education chief Roderick Paige drummed the No Child Left Behind education mantra poverty is no excuse at the starting gate, demonizing alleged failing public schools (using only high-stakes testing scores) to promote private, religious and charter school options for the Republican education market place agenda. This proved to be a valuable political cover for both Republicans and Democrats alike to ignore the socioeconomic conditions of poverty outside the school doors in distressed neighborhoods. If poverty was no excuse for public school students, then by default it was no excuse for parents or a single parent (predominantly women) living in poverty either. Case closed. Scrap poverty discussion from political debates.
Waves of mostly students and middle-class white folks emptied vans of hustlers into traditionally low voting central cities, i.e. poverty, people of color some to encourage voter turnout (Democrats and neutrals) and others to discourage voter turnout by demanding insidious voting rules and regulations (Republicans). But their single important issue was limited to vote or make certain they were eligible to vote without the political entanglement of day-to-day poverty living conditions for these potential voters. However, this was not the case with either the middle class or wealthy electorate. Both these electoral clientele had their political needs and contentious differences debated, discussed and reported endlessly throughout the multi-million dollar campaign season. Poverty had been silenced successfully See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.
Shhh, dont say poverty, was an op-ed piece in the November 22, 2004 New York Times by columnist Bob Herbert. Data gathered from the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report showed an astounding 12 million families 11.2 percent of all U.S. households continuing to struggle to feed themselves. Of the 12 million families worrying about putting food on the table, wrote Herbert, 3.9 million had members who actually went hungry at some point last year. The other two-thirds obtained enough food to avoid hunger using a variety of coping strategies, the report stated, such as eating less varied diets, participating in federal food assistance programs, or getting emergency food from community food pantries or emergency kitchens.
A new study from the Center for Urban Future, reported Herbert, said most low-income working families do not conform to the popular stereotype of the working poor as young, single, fast-food workers. Instead, he noted, 88 percent of low-income working families include a parent between 25 and 54 years old. In addition, Married couples head 53 percent of these families nationwide. Important jobs such as health aide, janitor and child care worker pay a poverty wage. Later in his op-ed, he quoted former President Franklin Roosevelt speaking to a crowd at his 2nd Inaugural Address: The best of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. In jest, Herbert added, I can hear the politicians in todays Washington having a hearty laugh at that sentiment.
Of course, highbrows running archconservative think-tanks like Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, would be in line laughing the loudest now that conservatives have been proposing to retool our countrys socioeconomic safety nets while enjoying Roosevelt rolling over in his grave too.
Conservatives stepped in. Our idea included requiring that welfare recipients actually work or train to work if they wanted to receive a check. In the last eight years, child poverty and dependence have plummeted, and employment among single mothers has skyrocketed, he gleefully proclaimed in a published November 4, 2004 statement. Well, yes Ed. Likewise if you kick poor people out of your house, the numbers will plummet, and the numbers exiting will also skyrocket. The heralded spokesman for his corporate godfathers has no problem with single parent welfare mothers in Wisconsin now trying to survive on their $673 monthly check either, although still locked into poverty. Of course Ed, never having been a poor single parent on welfare, knows whats best instead, his compatriots at Halliburton, Enron, etc. can fill their pockets with those tax-dollars for lucrative government contracts.
Here are 3 economic questions relating to the other NCLB test No Corporation Left Behind and poverty. The current federal minimum wage per hour is: (a) $6.45 (b) $7.10 (c) $5.15 or (d) $4.85. A full-time worker (2,080 hours per year) with 2 children, and earning the current minimum wage would have an income: (a) above the poverty level (b) below the poverty level (c) just about at poverty level. Because inflation is uncertain, federal law adjusts the minimum wage accordingly every 3 years: (a) true (b) false.
The federal minimum wage is still only $5.15 per hour, and this adjustment was last made back in September 1997. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) data, this was 1 of 3 adjustments since 1990 when the minimum wage was $3.80 per hour. Some states enacted laws that provide higher minimum wages, such as Alaska at $7.15 per hour. A worker under 20 years of age can be paid $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days under current federal law minimum wage law. This was obviously devised for part-time summer employment of students. Okay, questions 1 and 3 have been answered.
A full-time worker (2,080 hours per year) being paid $5.15 minimum wage would earn $10,712 per year well below the 2003 federal poverty line of $14,403 for a family of 3. Although food-stamps and the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) helps, a mother and 2 children would still remain in poverty (answer to question 2). Importantly, EPI points out, not all workers can find full-time work, and others are unable to balance full-time work with family responsibilities. Sound familiar? This scenario is difficult even for current middle-class employees. With non-profits now in charge of reformed welfare, their rules and regulation demands can be horrific, depending on the disgruntled underpaid client administrator and the high turnover of staff at any given time. Stories of punishment abound with poor single mothers being tossed out of the program or simply demoralized, leaving for a variety of reasons. Many directly related job issues could be and often are handled within normal full-time, employee-employer job conditions, if they were regular employees. But similar to their children attending alleged failing public schools being sanctioned, unfair W-2 welfare sanctions have become a way of life too.
In its proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $7 per hour, EPI data showed the current minimum wage is 26 percent lower in 2004 than it was in 1979. In addition, comparing the wages of minimum wage workers to average hourly wages, we find that the wages of minimum wage workers have not kept up with the wages of other workers. The federal minimum wage is 33 percent of the average hourly wage of American workers, the lowest since 1949. A proposal that sets annual increases to the federal minimum wage to adjust for changes in the cost of living, said the EPI, would ensure that the combination of full-time work and the EITC would keep this family of 3 example above poverty. For Republican compassionate conservatives, this increased federal minimum wage proposal would be anathema. Their successful hit jingle Poverty is no excuse could fall from both the public educational and political radar screens.
Without a doubt a significant number of people at the St. Benedict hall near downtown Milwaukee on Thanksgiving Day this year included W-2 welfare reform families. The annual sit-down charity dinner enabled many children and adults in financial need to enjoy traditional foodstuffs, often taken for granted during the holiday. From 2 pm to 3:30 pm, the 28 folding tables in the hall seating 6 people per table were filled and emptied on a continuous basis. It was a precision operation, people seated in available areas while other tables were being cleaned. Volunteers brought individual trays to each person, loaded with turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, salad, mixed fruit, bread and rolls. Coffee, apple cider, milk and water were readily served, as were choices of a variety of pies for dessert and fresh oranges. Understanding the plight of the homeless in attendance, volunteers also passed out sheets of aluminum foil, allowing them to portion a share of their meal for later need. The sit-down meal was not rushed, but those eating were conscious and respectful of those still waiting, keeping after-dinner discussion and camaraderie to a minimum.
Not everyone celebrates the traditional Thanksgiving. In addition, Native Americans in different parts of the country have a variation to the national holiday, respecting it instead as a Day of Mourning. Imagine all the conservative think-tanks together celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully, the centerpiece placard on their tables Poverty is no excuse would be taken down before their Thanksgiving prayers.
pryz1 at earthlink.net
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