April 6, 2017

Bellwether ESSA Review, Chicago Teacher Pension Lawsuit, Student Journos Get Results, Rural Teachers, Badgers, More!

By Bellwether

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Bellwether is partnering with the Collaborative for Student Success on a project to review state ESSA plans to highlight innovative ideas and promising policies and call attention to problematic proposals that work against the goals of greater equity and better student outcomes.

Heres The 74 on that.  And here’s a lot more detail about the project.

Charles Lane takes a look at the Chicago pension lawsuit. It’s great to see this issue getting more attention – it’s a big one. Three quick reactions plus a bonus general point to his take:

  • I’m not sure the Brown v. Board frame is either helpful or accurate. The suit, and the pension issue, is a big deal but Brown v. Board was, well, Brown v. Board. In addition, Brown was about an explicitly segregationist system. The pension issue – as it plays out in Chicago, more on that in a second – is part and parcel of the myriad structural issues that continue to perpetuate inequality as an effect but are not explicitly designed to. They’re harder to solve because the normal political alignments fall apart. How many self-described social justice activists do you know who are involved in trying to make the pension system more equitable?
  • In Chicago, there is pretty clear evidence that the way pensions work systematically shifts dollars from poor communities to more affluent ones. Look for more from Bellwether’s teacher pension team on that soon. It’s a big deal. And pensions are not the only education finance scheme to have this effect. But, again, the politics are complicated so groups you might think would be interested in getting more dollars to poor communities – for instance the teachers unions – are on the other side of this issue for institutional reasons.
  • Lane focuses on 401k plans as a reform. That’s one option, yes, but there are others and the framing of the issue as traditional pensions versus 401k plans not only obscures the range of options, it plays into understandable concerns that pension reform is a smokescreen to undercut benefits. Every option, traditional pensions, cash balance plans, or 401k-style plans carries a host of choices about how they’re structured that can make plans more or less effective as a retirement policy.
  • Finally, just a more general reminder that while this debate is often portrayed as greedy teachers versus beleaguered taxpayers, it’s worth remembering that teachers are not big winners under the pension system either. Most don’t get full pensions, only 1 in 5 do nationally. And most of the reforms today are making these plans worse in terms of their benefits for teachers rather than better.


Great moments in student journalism.

Rural teacher shortages. This is an issue Bellwether works on as part of our rural work more generally. 

As a rule, forcing people to argue viewpoints they don’t agree with helps develop thinkers. Also, as a rule, assignments that are pro-Nazi are a bad idea.

This honey badger wants to corner the cattle market.

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