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Making Sense of the Student Debt Crisis: Education Reform is Robbing Us Blind and Helping No One

You are not a loan

 

It’s not just the tech industries, the testing and text book industries and the data crunchers and education reform managers and cheerleaders and edu-investors making billions of dollars. The U.S. student debt market is growing whereby student debt is packaged and sold to investors, like the mortgage backed securities that landed us into the 2009 financial crisis were. These investments are known as SLABS – Student Loan Asset Backed Securities. Sallie Mae is the biggest private provider of student loans AND they also sell SLABS, a $200 billion market.

Since 1983, the United States has supposedly been a Nation at Risk when a report (A Nation at Risk) was written comparing our students’ performance on international tests to the performance of students in other countries. In this report we were warned that we would fall behind economically if we couldn’t better prepare young people for the future. The report was promoted by President Reagan.

To remedy or otherwise “catch up” to the test scores of children in other countries and to make sure our economy remained strong, education reforms were enacted. Under President Bush we had No Child Left Behind and under President Obama we had Race to the Top, and now under President Trump, education reforms are in place, and we see cuts of billions of federal dollars to public education and hundreds of millions of dollars given to private schools, including charter schools

Education reforms include adherence to rigid standards, like Common Core (which one teacher characterized as having “misplaced rigor”), high stakes testing, judging schools by test scores, the push to online instruction and charter schools, and and the forever repeating mantra of making sure students graduate from high school “College and Career Ready” meaning that students are able to enter college without having to take remedial classes in math and/or English. However, despite the decades long clarion call to make sure our students graduate from high school ready for college level work, 40-50% of college students nationwide still have to take at least one remedial course today.

Whether or not we think about it consciously, parents, teachers and society in general expect children in school to learn basic bodies of knowledge like math, history, literature, sciences, the arts and writing. We have also always expected, consciously or not, that during their K-12 (Kindergarten to 12th grade) education, children get a sense of their own strengths and interests and then come to find a general direction in life.

The people behind education reform, largely corporate and wall street interests, have taken advantage of these expectations as well as fears we share, like wanting children to go to college, or fearing we won’t be a strong country if U.S. students can’t do better on international tests. They create products and processes of learning that they then sell back to us, and they have made billions of dollars for themselves in the process. However, despite education reforms, most young people in the U.S. are suffering more now than they had in 1983 and our test scores have not dramatically improved. I think that the “crisis of falling behind the rest of the world” was deliberately created in 1983 to create a system so that a segment of society, the investor class, could make billions of dollars. Why would I say that?

For one, why if we are a nation at risk of falling behind the rest of the world economically because of our education system, why have our states and federal government given high earning individuals and corporations tax breaks, which drains our coffers of money to pay for education? For example, in Washington State, we have among the lowest funded and most crowded schools and the most regressive tax structure in the nation (the poor and middle class paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the rich). We have had well-funded schools until the 1990’s. What happened? Corporate tax breaks. They have risen from 18 billion dollars in 1996 to over 36 billion dollars today. 

Moreover, in 1989 Washington state paid 89% of students’ college tuition. However, in 2017 they cover only 34% of a students’ tuition.  This has resulted in today roughly 44 million Americans holding about $1.4 trillion in student loan debt with the average debt being $37,000. Here’s a breakdown of the average student loan debt by state. If our states and federal government really cared about kids‘ education, why the decrease in school funding when numerous studies have shown that low class size contributes greatly to student success? 

However, surprisingly (or not), many of the people behind ed-reform are also found on Wall Street and in fortune 500 companies clamoring for change in our education system. Take a look at this invitation to a venture capital conference entitled

Private Equity Investing in For-Profit Education… How Breakdowns in Traditional Models & Applications of New Technologies Are Driving Change”

This conference is about how to invest in education products for public schools. The entrance fee to the conference? $1,500.

It’s not just the tech industries, the testing and text book industries and the data crunchers and education reform managers and cheerleaders and edu-investors making billions of dollars. The U.S. student debt market is growing. And student debt is packaged and sold to investors, like the mortgage backed securities that landed us into the 2009 financial crisis were. These investments are known as SLABS – Student Loan Asset Backed Securities. Sallie Mae is the biggest private provider of student loans AND they also sell SLABS, a $200 billion market.

Sallie Mae and Wall Street want kids to go to college. More kids in debt means more money for them. And students can’t easily release their debt. Instead, their wages are garnished, their tax refunds are garnished, their social security is garnished and even their co-signer’s money is garnished. The same class of people who benefit from tax breaks are also making money off of student debt. The balance of who benefits from education reform is not tilted towards students. 

Sallie Mae, again the largest private provider of student loans, started an ed-reform group in 2001 called the Lumina Foundation: “Our goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.” The Lumina Foundation’s goal is for 60% of Americans to earn a college degree or workplace credential by 2025. Incidentally, Lumina’s board chair is John Lintzenich, who was a former CEO of Sallie Mae. Both Lumina and Sallie Mae are heavy promoters of ed-reform and have made bedfellows with ALEC, which is a group of the investor class and state legislators who jointly write our laws. Here are  their ties to ALEC.  

Also, while ed reformers assure us that they care about the success of children and young people, they neglect to do anything about the economy which our young people are launched into. Why get young adults into massive student loan debt and then have a system whereby the chance of landing a living wage full-time job is only 50%? 

Education reformers and our state legislators also fail to tell us that the majority of jobs with the most job growth projected to 2024 don’t require a college education. And if you think it’s a sure pathway to success for kids to major in STEM, check out this 2014 report from the U.S. Census Bureau entitled Census Bureau Reports Majority of STEM College Graduates Do Not Work in STEM Occupations.

Indeed, I think our Legislators and leaders in Congress are wasting their time and our time pushing education reform when we have more pressing issues to deal with – Living wage jobs and well-funded schools. For example, just prior to the last recession in 2008, there were 26 million Americans on food stamps, and now we have 44 million

In closing, education reform is a con job whereby the investor class and their servile politicians are seeking to control our perceptions of education and the economy through feel good language and empty promises. Yet, the facts, if people care to look, speak for themselves. We are moving away from an economy that works for people and have instead allowed a top-down education system to be implemented from which the investor class extracts wealth and in the end 50% of kids will be left struggling to get by, like their parents are. Is it any coincidence that they want to control tightly how children are trained to think via common core? You’ll note if you look at the standards that there is very little in there about open-ended problem solving or creative thinking. “Uniformity as sucked the life out of teaching and learning.”

If ed-reform foundations, Wall Street and our legislators really cared about education, they’d be doing whatever they could to reduce class sizes, hire more teachers and build more schools. They’d put their minds together and figure out how to create more living wage jobs (maybe by building more schools). They would denounce regressive taxation and end tax breaks. They would trust teachers to teach instead of spending their money to demoralized the profession and promote charter schools.  We are pressuring kids in K-12 to pass tests that even our legislators couldn’t pass and to make life plans when they are 14 years old. For what? Crushing student debt and a lifetime of precarious work.

This is unacceptable.

Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder a term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.” – Thomas Jefferson

 

-Elizabeth Hansen

Elizabeth has been a teacher since 1985 and a college instructor since 1992. She co-authored the books “Anatomy and Physiology for English Language Learners and Weapons of Mass Deception, the Billionaire plan to destroy our public schools and what you can do to stop them. She is in favor of kids going to college. She lives in Washington State.

2 comments on “Making Sense of the Student Debt Crisis: Education Reform is Robbing Us Blind and Helping No One

  1. Jeffrey L "Jeff" Salisbury
    September 11, 2017

    Reblogged this on Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning" and commented:
    Making Sense of the Student Debt Crisis: Education Reform is Robbing Us Blind and Helping No One
    by seattleducation2010
    It’s not just the tech industries, the testing and text book industries and the data crunchers and education reform managers and cheerleaders and edu-investors making billions of dollars. The U.S. student debt market is growing whereby student debt is packaged and sold to investors, like the mortgage backed securities that landed us into the […]

    Read more of this post…

  2. Laura H. Chapman
    September 4, 2017

    You are amazing. I am in awe of your abulity to connect the dots. This is also a timely post for Labor Day. I knew that the Lumina Foundation was among the many “non-profits in name only” (NPINO) active in reform but connection with Sallie Mae and SLABS.

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