Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home


Politicians worry about job losses this year, not education

Posted: 2004-02-19

"Equally facetious as their corporate gatekeepers is the silence of the school voucher carpetbaggers during the global marketplace job disasters. This seems a bit out of character for so-called education ?reformers? allegedly concerned about the poor. But maybe not. NCLB sanctions dismantling public schools resemble the dismantling of workplaces during the current global marketplace job wars."

Politicians worry about job losses this year, not education

Thursday, February 19, 2004

By Daniel Pryzbyla

With jobs being the No. 1 priority on the election trails, President Bush?s No Child Left Behind education act has taken on additional meaning besides high-stakes testing, sanctions and vouchers.

?Mom and dad ? please don?t leave me behind if you have to go to another city, state or country to find a job.? For social studies teachers, they can use their classroom globe to track the companies leaving homeland security (not that one) to other countries for cheaper labor and profitability. ?I can?t survive if I don?t!? has become the familiar war cry of CEOs now competing in the global marketplace. In turn, this is leaving local and state economies in anguish. As the U.S. trade deficit recently hit a record $490 billion, newspaper headlines added confusion to the calamity. ?Robust productivity blamed for lackluster job growth.? Sounds like an oxymoron, but it?s not.

?In effect, increased demand for goods and services generated by the growing economy has been more than met by productivity gains,? said Madison, WI financial writer Tom Saler in a February 14, 2004 column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, ?If a company experiences a 5 percent increase in demand while its workers produce 5 percent more per hour, there is no need to take on additional help.? But changes in the world economy also are behind the maddening slow improvement in the labor market, he noted. ?Between globalization and geopolitical jitters, even seemingly secure jobs can disappear in an instant.? Even the workers adding those 5 percent productivity efforts have no guarantees they?ll be working tomorrow.

Educrats have a tendency to remain locked inside their education bubble, no matter what the weather is outside, divorced from socioeconomic disparities caused by the yo-yo cycles of the economy or the current global economic crunch. ?Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil.? However, reality speaks another tongue. In a recent February 15 article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (reprinted in EducationNews.org), education reporter Alan Borsuk asked Josephine Mosley, principal of Martin Luther King Jr. public elementary school in Milwaukee, ?Is it the school?s job to make those outside things (home situations, lack of food, medical services, etc. caused by poverty and high unemployment) go away?? The 16-year principal at the central city school with 98 percent African Americans and 93 percent on the free/reduced lunch program answered, ?I guess probably in a perfect world, no. But in the world we live in now, that?s the way it has to be.?

The ?world? she is referring to is central city neighborhood residents that have suffered the brunt of the loss of manufacturing, living-wage union jobs in the past 30 years, from 40 percent employed in 1970 down to a mere 17 percent in 2000. ?We do visual screenings. We give shots here at the school if they don?t have their immunizations. They east breakfast and lunch here on most school days,? she said. ?I would like to think all of these things would be taken care of outside of the school, but I have learned that is not the case.? Although the economic noose is tightening throughout the job markets, these economic conditions are unlike those ?outside? public schools in the predominant white suburban metropolitan middle and upper middle class areas surrounding the city. Mosley is also an associate pastor at a central city church, exuding her religious duties, even though it?s a public school. ?We all feel we have a call and that this is our mission.

Welcome to marketplace fallout of ?trickle down? economic theories that don?t quite meet all the pre-ordained objectives. Of course, it?s also possible some economists intentionally design it to foment these missionary mindsets in public schools and the public domain. This way corporate boardroom mindsets aren?t bothered while seeking their global feasts.

But this feast is also creating the record $490 billion trade deficit biting at the economy?s heels, a record $124 billion with China alone. ?As a consequence of the trade deficit, according to Robert E. Scott, director of trade studies at the Economic Policy Institute, people are being pushed out of well-paying jobs with benefits in manufacturing and into the poor-paying service jobs, often with no benefits,? wrote Elizabeth Becker in the February 14, 2004 New York Times.

It was anything but a romancing Valentines Day as another front-page headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel bellowed, ?Area jobs decline for 4th year ? continued downturn in employment weighs heavily on minds of voters.? This was referring not only to the February 17, 2004 Democratic presidential primary election (5 candidates), but the multitudes of local primary elections the same day for candidates at both the city and county level, including top positions of mayor (10 candidates) and county executive ? presenting voters a ballot with a list of names resembling a page out of a telephone book. According to the newspaper?s poll, ?64 percent of 666 likely Wisconsin primary voters were most concerned about jobs and employment as an issue,? reported Joel Dresang. ?The four-county Milwaukee area lost jobs in 2003 for the fourth year in a row ? the longest drought since at least 1967, the earliest data available.?

Strangely absent from political forums nowadays are the previous corporate catcalls proclaiming a ?lack of educated workers? being the major reason for not being able to ?compete? in the new global economy. This fraudulent rap was delivered uncontested by the news media while beating the drums of ?failing? public schools soon after the publication of the equally deceitful education report ?Nation at Risk? published in 1983. Reading articles about Chinese rice farmers flocking to the new ?enterprise zones? for the growing number of new jobs didn?t exactly fortify their ?lack of educated workers? argument either. Milwaukee education researcher Dennis Redovich has pointed out this ?lack of education? folly dozens of times in his EducationNews.org commentaries. It was confirmed for the umpteenth time at still another recent ?job fair? in Milwaukee.

An overabundance of job seekers showed up at the Milwaukee Diversity Job Fair on February 11, 2004 continued Dresang?s article. His newspaper was a co-sponsor of the event. ?More than 2,000 applicants flocked to recruiters at 23 booths, and at times staff had to close doors to ease crowding.? Jenny Conard, corporate recruiter for WPS Resources Corp., was at the job fair. ?There?s a lot of really qualified people out there looking ? which is really great for us, but unfortunate for them.? The Green Bay, WI utility holding company will probably add 250 to 300 employees to its 3,000-member payroll this year, just as it has each of the past few years, wrote Dresang. ?For all those jobs, WPS Resources receives about 1,000 applicants a month,? said Conard. Yes indeed, for those seeking employment at the company, some 12,000 applicants for 300 jobs is ?unfortunate for them.?

A similar depressing scenario for hopeful employees was true at Milwaukee?s large 12,500-employee Marshall & Ilsley financial corporation that has about 200 open jobs, including 80 in the nearby southeastern region. Paul Renard, director of human resources, said they get about 1,000 applications ?per week.? He too told Dresang, ?We?re seeing some really good, qualified people. Certainly, we?re in a pretty employer-friendly market.? With this grave 52,000 to 200 ratio, including ?really good, qualified people,? and no doubt similar occurrences in other states, is it any wonder we?re no longer hearing corporate catcalls about ?lack of educated workers? in our country?

Equally facetious as their corporate gatekeepers is the silence of the school voucher carpetbaggers during the global marketplace job disasters. This seems a bit out of character for so-called education ?reformers? allegedly concerned about the poor. But maybe not. NCLB sanctions dismantling public schools resemble the dismantling of workplaces during the current global marketplace job wars.

After all, ?birds of the same feather flock together?

More Commentaries

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.