Tag Archives: poverty

There is something you can do

Anybody who has tried to do much of anything around here has run into this phrase:

There’s nothing you can do.

I was reminded of that when I read this, from the Economist 12 May 2012, Hope springs a trap,

This hopelessness manifests itself in many ways. One is a sort of pathological conservatism, where people forgo even feasible things with potentially large benefits for fear of losing the little they already possess.

The article expands on that idea:

Development economists have long surmised that some very poor people may remain trapped in poverty because even the largest investments they are able to make, whether eating a few more calories or working a bit harder on their minuscule businesses, are too small to make a big difference. So getting out of poverty seems to require a quantum leap—vastly more food, a modern machine, or an employee to mind the shop. As a result, they often forgo even the small incremental investments of which they are capable: a bit more fertiliser, some more schooling or a small amount of saving.

It may seem that the article is about the poorest of people, but that “pathological conservatism” could as easily apply to the hopelessness many people seem to have about ever getting solar panels on their own roofs, or to attracting enough business to our area to employ our high school and college graduates, or that businesses will ever come to the south side.

Yet the point of the article is that field studies by MIT economist Esther Duflo show Continue reading

Videos @ Joint Governments 2012 03 29

Here are videos of the entire “first annual Valdosta-Lowndes Governmental Leadership Meeting” that was held 6:30 PM 29 March 2012 in the Lowndes High School Lecture Hall. Here’s the announcement.

The meeting was introduced by Dr. Steve Smith, Superintendent, Lowndes County Schools. Lowndes County Schools had a written position statement, with everything from a broad variety of test scores and other metrics to specific examples of existing collaborations such as loaning busses to the Valdosta School System for away sporting events.

Dr. Smith clarified that:

This is not a community forum, it is not an open dialogue.
He told me before the meeting started that he was concerned that if they opened it up to questions from the audience it would take all night and it had been hard enough to get the various elected officials to show up at all without expecting them to stay for that. I didn’t see but maybe a dozen non-elected audience members, so I wonder whether that really would have happened, but I applaud the various governments for collaborating at all. He did say if you had a question you could write it down and hand it to a member of your elected government or school board. He also indicated that committees might form, not that evening, but perhaps growing out of that evening’s meeting. He reiterated this meeting was for brainstorming among the elected officials.

The elected officials included Valdosta Schools Superintendent and many VBOE members, Lowndes School Superintendent and Superintendent-elect and many LCBOE members, Valdosta Mayor, City Manager, and many city council members, and Lowndes County Manager, Clerk, and voting commissioners, but not the Chairman.

Wes Taylor, Lowndes High School Principal & Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Elect talked about finances.

Valdosta Mayor John Gayle said we’re regional now (regional hospital, regional university, etc.). He talked about how Troup County went about landing the Kia plant, which had to do with each governmental entity taking a role and collaborating. (It had nothing to do with school consolidation.)

VBOE member Vanassa Flucas said they try to put everything related to their schools on their website, in an effort of transparency for parents and students. Plus:

We noticed that since we put our strategic plan on our website approximately three years ago, it was very well received. It was very heartening; people could find the information that they wanted.
Imagine that! Continue reading

They come to school hungry; they come to school homeless — Bill Cason @ Joint Governments 2012 03 29

Breaking from the agenda of the first annual Valdosta-Lowndes Governmental Leadership Meeting, Valdosta School Superintendent Bill Cason rose above tactics and talked about vision and the root of the matter: poverty.

Supt. Cason started talking about teenage pregnancy and drug use, and then got to the heart of the matter:

They come to school hungry; they come to school homeless. Last year we identified more than 200 homeless kids in our school district. We can talk about all of these other things, but until we can address those as a group, every public entity in this room, is willing to get together as a team and address those issues, we forgot the most important thing we deal with, that is our students.


They will be the future leaders of this community. And if you want to see Valdosta take a backwards slide, then let this problem run as it is and you will see. I’ve seen it before in other communities, and I’m seeing it here now. This is not something we can wait on; it has to be done now. So if we want to really be serious about what we’re talking about tonight, educating our children, having a viable community, having a good community, having recreational facilities everybody can use, then you need to begin to address these problems not only with our mouths, but with our money and with our resources. And until you do this, then we’re going backwards.

Poverty is the root of the matter. It’s great that the local goverments and school boards are talking, and they can tinker around the edges all they want, but until they get serious about poverty in our community, educational improvements and the future of the community will be severely limited.




Mic check stops a police riot at UC Davis

By now you’ve probably seen the video of UC Davis police pepper spraying peaceful protesters who were simply sitting on the gorund. But have you seen what happened next? Police were forming up with weapons raised surrounded on three sides by protesters, when someone yelled “Mic check!” Follow this link. Or, if you want to see it starting with the pepper spraying:

The one with the two pepper spray cans appears to be the same police lieutenant who pepper sprayed the protesters. As the protesters say through the human microphone that they are willing to let the police just walk away, even after the police had assaulted them with pepper spray, that same lieutenant motions to the police, who lower their weapons and back away.

Here’s the police version of the incident: Continue reading

Schools serving children in poverty well —Karen Noll

Received yesterday. -jsq
From: Karen Noll
To: chamber@valdostachamber.com
Cc: [many other people]

Dear Mr. Gooding and Chamber of Commerce,

In response to your most recent correspondence, I dare say many ask why the Chamber has such a single focus on an unproven plan with little or no supporting data. Yet again your answers to the many questions about the reasons that the Chamber is acting in this manner are insufficient and demonstrate quite clearly that you are steadfastly working to undermine the very community you claim to support.

Maybe it is my academic background, but I will use data to support my assertions and hopefully rectify some of the misinformation that has been so disruptive to this community, a discussion of a very important issue: the education of our children.

According to the Chamber’s own study, education ranked

12th out of 16 factors in importance to businesses coming to our community. The Chamber’s own survey revealed that a low crime rate and the business friendliness of the local agencies were most important to businesses in 2009.

Our community sadly hosts a large population of children living in poverty, and education is the best avenue to future success. For this reason, I am very pleased to report that our economically disadvantaged students in Valdosta City Schools met or exceeded the expected CRCT scores for the district last year. This is no small feat and we have some very dedicated educators to thank for this achievement.

Furthermore, research shows that “larger district size has been shown to be negatively associated with the achievement of impoverished students” ( Howley, C. 1996). This means that the fantastic achievements of our most disadvantaged students will be reversed in a larger district and all of the hard work of VCS educators will be lost in order to create, as you claim, “one great public school system”.

Two years ago the city school district asked Chamber members to provide input on their Strategic Improvement Plan through an online survey. Only 5.2% of responses came from Chamber members. Valdosta City Schools encouraged input from all stakeholders, yet these Chamber members in large part did not respond. Now the Chamber claims to have THE solution for the schools they had no time for when asked for feedback.

Research consistently shows that bigger does not mean better in education. So, ‘combining our resources’ does not bring more money, better educational outcomes, or cost savings. According to the Lowndes County Board of Education consolidation would put a number of teachers out of work. That would mean fewer customers in local businesses and less tax revenue. In other words, school consolidation would negatively impact our local economy and its businesses.

The Chamber is acting irresponsibly toward this community and the children served by the Valdosta City Schools. I am again appalled by the callousness of this organization, the petty name calling and repeated misinformation. It is crystal clear that CUEE and the Chamber are not interested in what is best for our children.

As a positive and strong community we will rise above the bad apple that misbehaves and move forward because it is the right thing to do, and we will continue to model appropriate behavior to our children. At the same time, we as a community must remember the lesson we have learned today: ‘greed can blind’. We are called to reach out to and to help those in need. We will continue to work together as a community and work toward the brightest future for our children.

Thank you, Mr. Gooding, for reminding us again of the path we are called to take.

Vote No for our children!!

My best wishes to you,
Karen Noll

Why the Chamber Supports Unification —Tom Gooding, Chairman, VLCoC

My opinion is appended. -jsq
Date: Wed, 2 Nov 2011 11:17:00 -0400 (EDT)
From: Tom Gooding <chamber@valdostachamber.com>
Subject: Why the Chamber Supports Unification

Dear Chamber Members:

Some ask why the Chamber supports school system unification, instead of focusing on poverty. The answer is very simple: The Chamber’s mission is to build a strong and healthy community, resulting in job opportunities for our citizens, which addresses poverty. Improving public education is the single most important thing we can do to build a strong community, grow jobs, and reduce poverty.

Valdosta’s business community consistently ranks

Continue reading

The Grassroots Handbook Against School Consolidation

Received yesterday, The Grassroots Handbook Against School Consolidation: The Truth About Unification/Consolidation of the Valdosta/Lowndes School Systems By David E. Mullis, J.D., LL.M., October 12, 2011. It’s a 43 page exhaustive compendium of all the statements against consolidation by both school boards, the Valdosta City Council, etc., together with detailed debunking of every argument CUEE has made.

I think this passage on page 3 sums it up:

In other words, we can offer a great education, provide incentives for students to perform, make modifications to education to help students succeed, and provide technical help, but if the child is homeless, left home alone for long periods of time, living in a high crime area, living in a home with substance abuse, or just downright defiant, there is only so much the school can accomplish in helping these students succeed. Good parental, home and community environments are critical to the success of underprivileged children.

Therefore, CUEE and the Chamber of Commerce’s efforts are focused on the wrong methods of improving our school statistics. Unification will not accomplish any of their stated goals, but will create an enormous financial burden on the community and its families during this time of recession and high unemployment. The business community and volunteer organizations should instead focus on providing educational awareness and success clinics in low income areas. They should organize efforts to reduce poverty by bringing in industry with good wages and sponsoring basic community literacy and vocational training and tutoring. They should focus on programs to promote the value of education. They should organize drug awareness and rehabilitation programs in low income areas. They should focus their efforts in decreasing poverty. They should focus on encouraging community diversity. If they will do this, the educational problems will take care of themselves in good systems like Valdosta and Lowndes.

However, CUEE and the Chamber have insisted on pushing forward with their unification agenda despite the certain negative effect it will have on the community and the education of our children. They deny there will be any negative effect, but they have no personal accountability if they are wrong. They ignore all relevant studies and dismiss the results as being misleading. Then they state their own misleading and false assertions and claim them to be FACTS.

Indeed, what qualifies the Chamber of CUEE to talk about education? Judging by their track record, nothing does.

This Handbook is a great resource, and I applaud David Mullis for producing it.


Neighborhoods matter more than schools?

Where you live makes more difference to your education than where you go to school, says a news study, backed up by an older study.

Maureen Downey blogged for AJC 5 October 2011, Forget school vouchers. The route to improving education may be housing vouchers.

School voucher proponents argue that kids need a way out of failing schools, but research increasingly suggests that it would be more effective to provide them a way out of failing neighborhoods.

Should we consider giving poor families in low-performing school zones housing vouchers that they could use to relocate in the zone of a school performing above the area median?

I’d say that’s a bad solution to the problem the study identifies, and we already know better solutions. But first, from the abstract of the the study Continue reading

And now an educational idea from Shakira

Belief based on evidence! About something that deals with the underlying local educational problem here: poverty. From her speech yesterday at the White House:
It is my belief and its also been demonstrated that if we provide early childhood education to Latino children it would take less than a decade to reap the benefits since investment in early education is proven to generate the fastest returns to the state.

With more ECD programs there will be less Latino students being held back, less dropouts and less crime involving school-age children; and they will be more productive individuals to society.

Continue reading

And poverty, and ignorance, shall swell the rich and grand —Charles Dickens

You, too, can end up in debtor’s prison, much more easily than you might think.

How America criminalised poverty: The viciousness of state officials to the poor and homeless is breathtaking, trapping them in a cycle of poverty:

Photograph: Robyn Beck/EPA
The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalised in America.

Perhaps the constant suspicions of drug use and theft that I encountered in low-wage workplaces should have alerted me to the fact that, when you leave the relative safety of the middle class, you might as well have given up your citizenship and taken residence in a hostile nation.

Maybe you think you’re safe, because you’re not out on the street. Think again: Continue reading