Sockeye Blog Archives

Happy Friday! Our Oregon kicks off several days of stories about Oregon schools with a post today about the troubling records of for-profit schools, from online K-12 schools to colleges.

Bend resident Tim Collette has sued JP Morgan Chase Bank for wrongful foreclosure, breach of contract, and unlawful debt collection.

Thousands of people joined the Occupy Portland march yesterday (including signature gatherers for the Wall Street-funded Americans Elect, plus circulators for right-wing initiative petitions). Video of the march from the Portland Mercury can be found here: http://www.vimeo.com/30178922.

Happy Friday! Our Oregon kicks off several days of stories about Oregon schools with a post today about the troubling records of for-profit schools, from online K-12 schools to colleges.

Bend resident Tim Collette has sued JP Morgan Chase Bank for wrongful foreclosure, breach of contract, and unlawful debt collection.

Thousands of people joined the Occupy Portland march yesterday (including signature gatherers for the Wall Street-funded Americans Elect, plus circulators for right-wing initiative petitions). Video of the march from the Portland Mercury can be found here: http://www.vimeo.com/30178922.

In the past few months, there have been a number of alarming news reports about the failing records of for-profit schools, from online K-12 schools to for-profit colleges. According to the investigative reports, what we’re seeing is a takeover of public education by large corporations, who are delivering abysmal results.

We’ve seen it right here in Oregon. Back in June, Oregon legislators passed a bill that gave an easy enrollment boost to online charter schools, which are run by out-of-state for-profit corporations. Now, these K-12 schools are able to sap more taxpayer dollars away from our local schools and send it directly to the pockets of charter school shareholders.

While the motive behind the passage of the bill may be murky, the results are unmistakable. Oregon is losing tax dollars to for-profit institutions under the guise that they are educating our youth.

In the past few months, there have been a number of alarming news reports about the failing records of for-profit schools, from online K-12 schools to for-profit colleges. According to the investigative reports, what we’re seeing is a takeover of public education by large corporations, who are delivering abysmal results.

We’ve seen it right here in Oregon. Back in June, Oregon legislators passed a bill that gave an easy enrollment boost to online charter schools, which are run by out-of-state for-profit corporations. Now, these K-12 schools are able to sap more taxpayer dollars away from our local schools and send it directly to the pockets of charter school shareholders.

While the motive behind the passage of the bill may be murky, the results are unmistakable. Oregon is losing tax dollars to for-profit institutions under the guise that they are educating our youth.

These for-profit institutions face little to no accountability, evident by the abysmal graduation rate of Oregon Connections Academy, Oregon’s largest online charter school. Only 30% of their students graduate from their program, one of the lowest graduation rates in the state.

For each student that these for-profit schools enroll, they snatch up $6,000 of government funds. This has become an extremely profitable business in Oregon, with over $12.5 million in taxpayers’ dollars going to Oregon Connections Academy.

Oregon journalists have so far failed to do any investigative work on for-profit virtual schools, reporters in Colorado recently uncovered some alarming facts about online schools in their state:

•    Half of online students dropout within a year.
•    Online schools produce three times more dropouts than they do graduates.
•    Online schools are diverting millions away from local schools and putting further pressure on them to help students who’ve been failed by the for-profit corporations.
•    Contrary to claims by the online schools’ PR departments, their students don't initially face more challenges than the general school population:

However, the I-News/EdNews analysis of state data shows that most online school students do not appear to be at-risk students. Only about 120 students of the more than 10,000 entering online programs last year were identified as previous dropouts returning to school, and only 290 entered online schools after spending the prior year in an alternative school for troubled youth.

In addition, most are not struggling academically when they leave their traditional schools. Among the 2,400 online students who had taken a state standardized reading test in a brick-and-motor school the year before, the analysis showed that more than half had scored proficient or better.

The analysis also looked at dropouts—those students who leave school permanently. In Colorado’s online schools, dropouts outnumber graduates by three to one. That’s the reverse of the statewide average, where graduates outnumber dropouts by three to one.

Still, despite the mounting evidence against for-profit online K-12 schools, there hasn’t been much scrutiny given to them by the press or by politicians. What has gotten more attention, however, are for-profit higher education institutions, which have come under fire from the press and the White House.

The Week had an in-depth briefing about the appalling performance of the for-profit colleges:

Do these colleges deliver on their promises?
No, says a growing group of critics, including educators, former students, and the federal Department of Education. They say the schools provide dubious coursework and degrees that don't lead to good jobs, but do leave students with crushing debt. Most students never complete their degrees. The University of Phoenix, for example, is the industry leader, yet it graduates less than 9 percent of its bachelor's degree candidates within six years. Schools have been accused of misleading applicants about loan costs, exaggerating potential post-graduation salaries, and targeting disabled veterans and homeless people to boost enrollment. Former students of for-profit colleges now account for about half of all student-loan defaults. "I don't think I learned anything at the Art Institute [of Philadelphia], other than how to get scammed by somebody," said Taryn Zychal, who accumulated $150,000 in loans, only to find that no other institution would recognize her academic credits. Legions of other students tell similar stories.

Another indicator of the poor quality of the institutions can be found with a simple glance at the student loan default rate.  The inferior quality of the education and inadequate placement programs at for-profit colleges result in few students finding jobs, causing them to default on their loan payments. In fact, The U.S. Education Department figures show that 15% of students who attend for-profit institutions default on their student loan payments compared to 8.8% default rate of students of all types of schools.

The quality of the education (or lack thereof) is not the only appalling revelation about the for-profit colleges. Investigations exploring the strategies used by the companies to recruit students have discovered that the schools are funneling government money straight into their coffers -- at the expense of veterans. One such ploy involves exploiting the Post-Sept. 11 GI Bill, which provides funding to veterans for college, by creating GIbill.com, a website that appears to be a helpful tool for recipients of the bill’s funding, but is in actuality a private site that directs its users to a list comprised only of for-profit institutions. Rather than assist veterans with finding a school that best suits them, the institutions are actively trying to mislead veterans into thinking they can only spend their education dollars at for-profit schools.

The many transgressions of these institutions have gotten so bad that the federal government had to step in. The Department of Education has recently tightened its regulations; as the New York Times reports, “under the new rules, programs would lose their eligibility to dispense federal student aid — and as a practical matter, be shut down — if, over the next four years, their graduates fail to meet new benchmarks for loan repayment and ratio of debt to income.”

Yet, while the federal government is creating new regulations to bring accountability to for-profit colleges, little has been done to stop the similarly negligent practices rampant in the K-12 sector. The young students in Oregon are still losing out, due to lack of oversight in the for-profit K-12 sector.

Happy Friday! Here are a few stories we found that brightened up the OO office throughout the week.

Happy Friday! Here are a few stories we found that brightened up the OO office throughout the week.

A bibliophile's fantasy come true: "The bookstore equivalent of a thrift shop with vintage Chanel on shelf after shelf has landed in Tigard." The non-profit store is devoted to promoting literacy and boasts over 50,000 titles with prices ranging from $1-$2.

Do good, get good: Aveda Institute of Portland is hosting their third annual Locks for Love event this weekend. Donate your locks to the youth who need them (those who suffer from medical conditions that cause hair loss, like cancer) and Aveda will give you that haircut for free!

Take a musical moment to mull over "fame" with Robert Krulwich and Adam Cole:

It's Thursday! The Occupy Portland events kick off this afternoon, with a march through downtown at 2:30. The Oregonian is confused that the thousands of protestors don't have a single goal, while the Register Guard editorial board quotes Bob Dylan in a mostly admiring editorial.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is coming to town next week for a dinner with the Oregon Business Association, but more and more focus is being given by the media to the large role poverty has in student achievement. David Sarasohn's column looks at the problems facing David Douglas High School.

As a service to those planning on attending Occupy Portland, Our Oregon has put together a blog post featuring some recent comments from Wall Street speculators about how they're profiting from the economic crisis.

It's Thursday! The Occupy Portland events kick off this afternoon, with a march through downtown at 2:30. The Oregonian is confused that the thousands of protestors don't have a single goal, while the Register Guard editorial board quotes Bob Dylan in a mostly admiring editorial.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is coming to town next week for a dinner with the Oregon Business Association, but more and more focus is being given by the media to the large role poverty has in student achievement. David Sarasohn's column looks at the problems facing David Douglas High School.

As a service to those planning on attending Occupy Portland, Our Oregon has put together a blog post featuring some recent comments from Wall Street speculators about how they're profiting from the economic crisis.

As the heat turns up on the Occupy Wall Street movement—including the Occupy Portland kickoff today—there’ve been a few opportunities in the last couple of weeks to peek inside the minds of the Wall Street investors who tanked our economy and then profited from the crisis.

As it turns out, they see the economic crisis as another opportunity to make money, and they’re not going to be helping to create any jobs any time soon, no matter how many tax breaks we give them.

You may have seen a video circulating recently of a Wall Street trader named Alessio Rastani giving an eye-opening interview to the BBC. The BBC hosts were asking Rastani about efforts by European governments to fix the Euro economy. His bold, direct answers left the newsroom (and everyone else who’s seen the video) speechless. Here's the video, with partial transcript below:

As the heat turns up on the Occupy Wall Street movement—including the Occupy Portland kickoff today—there’ve been a few opportunities in the last couple of weeks to peek inside the minds of the Wall Street investors who tanked our economy and then profited from the crisis.

As it turns out, they see the economic crisis as another opportunity to make money, and they’re not going to be helping to create any jobs any time soon, no matter how many tax breaks we give them.

You may have seen a video circulating recently of a Wall Street trader named Alessio Rastani giving an eye-opening interview to the BBC. The BBC hosts were asking Rastani about efforts by European governments to fix the Euro economy. His bold, direct answers left the newsroom (and everyone else who’s seen the video) speechless. Here's the video, with partial transcript below:

BBC: We keep hearing whatever the politicians are suggesting admittedly it’s all been rather wooly so far, it’s right. Can you pin down exactly what would keep investors happy and make them feel more confident?

Alessio Rastani: Ah, that’s a tough one. Ahhh – Personally, it doesn’t matter. That’s see – see – You see I’m a trader. I don’t really care about that kind of stuff. I got with – if I see an opportunity to make money, I go with that. So, for most traders it's not about…we don’t really care that much how they’re gonna to fix – how they are gonna fix the economy, how they’re going to fix the whole situation. Our job is to make money from it. And, personally, I’ve been dreaming of this moment for 3 yrs. I – I – I have a confession, which is: I go to bed every night, I dream of another recession. I dream of another moment like this. Why? Because, ahh people don’t seem to maybe remember, the 30s depression, the depression in the 1930s wasn’t just about a market crash. There were some people who were prepared to make money from that crash. And I think anybody can do that. It isn’t just for some people in the elite. Anybody can actually make money its an opportunity. When the market crashes. When the euro and the big stock markets crash, if you know what to do, ahh if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this. For example, Hedging strategies is one, ahh then investing in bonds, treasury bonds, that sort of stuff.

…This is not a time right now to – wishful thinking, that the government is gonna sort things out. The government doesn’t rule the world. Goldman Sachs rules the world. Goldman Sachs does not care about this rescue package, neither does the big funds. So, actually what I would – I would actually tell people, I want to help people. People can make money from this, its not just traders. What they need to do is learn how to make money from a downward market.

Then, earlier this week, venture capitalist (and “free market” advocate) Bill Frezza gave an interview to NPR in which he spoke frankly about the fact that investors don’t actually want to create any jobs. In fact, investors want to create as few jobs as possible to maximize their profits. By admitting this, Frezza is exposing the lie behind the claims that tax breaks for the rich will lead to more jobs.
Here’s an excerpt (but I highly recommend reading/listening to the whole jaw-dropping interview):

BILL FREZZA: Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, I wanted to increase my payroll because I think it's good for the American economy. People run businesses because they want to satisfy their customers, they want to grow, and they want to make money. Jobs are an input. Rent is an input. The raw materials are an input. Those are all the things that you put into your products and services, and your goal is to have the highest quality at the lowest cost.

Your goal is not to increase one segment of your cost because somebody tells you it aligns with social policy. So - and even though we're in the business of creating new companies, as a venture capitalist, you know, the first question we ask in every board meeting is, what's your head count? And we watch it like a hawk because head count is an expense that will eat you alive if the business isn't large enough to support it.

...

NEARY: So what responsibility does business have in getting the economy on track so people can find work?

FREZZA: Well, businesses have the responsibility to build the best product at the best price for their customers. That's what businesses are in business for. They do not own a responsibility to put people to work. For example, if you were to make that the major goal, you would outlaw word processors or bring back the typing pool. I remember typing pools with hundreds of people in them. They were mostly women back then, but that created a lot of jobs.

So there are a lot of ways to create jobs if that's your goal. And if you follow any of those approaches, you will do more to hurt the economy than you will do to help it.

You know, each business is run for the benefit of its owners, its shareholders, its customers and its employees. It's not run for the benefit of the country. That's not why people run businesses.

Yesterday, occupants of the Chicago Board of Trade building had a little message for the Occupy Chicago protestors. In the windows of the building appeared this message: "WE ARE THE 1%."

Image Credit: USAanon/"T"/OccupyChicago

It's Wednesday. In a message to the Governor via a posting on Blue Oregon, Oregon Center for Public Policy's Chuck Sheketoff points out that the most effective way to improve outcomes in our public schools is to reduce the number of families living in poverty. Talent writer and photographer Matt Witt suggests in the Medford Mail Tribune that we should play "Moneyball" with the way we spend tax dollars on breaks for corporations.

A chart that's making the rounds on social networking sites shows the rapid concentration of the banking industry over the past decade and a half. And Gordon Lafer writes in the Eugene Weekly about the impact of teacher layoffs at a small Lane County school, where individual teachers are now teaching two grade levels each--in two different classrooms separated by a storage closet--leaving students effectively without a teacher half the day.

It's Wednesday. In a message to the Governor via a posting on Blue Oregon, Oregon Center for Public Policy's Chuck Sheketoff points out that the most effective way to improve outcomes in our public schools is to reduce the number of families living in poverty. Talent writer and photographer Matt Witt suggests in the Medford Mail Tribune that we should play "Moneyball" with the way we spend tax dollars on breaks for corporations.

A chart that's making the rounds on social networking sites shows the rapid concentration of the banking industry over the past decade and a half. And Gordon Lafer writes in the Eugene Weekly about the impact of teacher layoffs at a small Lane County school, where individual teachers are now teaching two grade levels each--in two different classrooms separated by a storage closet--leaving students effectively without a teacher half the day.


Click to enlarge chart.

The last two years have been littered with terrible editorial writing about Measures 66 and 67. The Oregonian—under the direction of publisher N. Christian Anderson III—has taken the cake, but they’re getting some competition today from the Salem Statesman Journal.

The SSJ’s editorial board published an opinion today critical of Measures 66 and 67, arguing against national efforts to increase the marginal taxes on millionaires.

They were wrong on all the facts a year and a half ago when they endorsed a No vote, and they’re wrong on all the facts today. It’s disappointing that 21 months after the measures passed, opponents are still ignoring the facts in order to score political points with the corporate lobby.

So, without spending too much time knocking down every one of the SSJ’s tired, inaccurate claims and straw men arguments, here are the basic reasons why they’re wrong:

The last two years have been littered with terrible editorial writing about Measures 66 and 67. The Oregonian—under the direction of publisher N. Christian Anderson III—has taken the cake, but they’re getting some competition today from the Salem Statesman Journal.

The SSJ’s editorial board published an opinion today critical of Measures 66 and 67, arguing against national efforts to increase the marginal taxes on millionaires.

They were wrong on all the facts a year and a half ago when they endorsed a No vote, and they’re wrong on all the facts today. It’s disappointing that 21 months after the measures passed, opponents are still ignoring the facts in order to score political points with the corporate lobby.

So, without spending too much time knocking down every one of the SSJ’s tired, inaccurate claims and straw men arguments, here are the basic reasons why they’re wrong:

Source: Oregon Economic AdvisorsFact 1. Since December 2009, just before the passage of Measures 66 & 67, Oregon has added 35,140 jobs.  Unemployment dropped from a high of 11.6% in May 2009 to around 9.6% in August. The numbers would be even better, except that budget cuts to schools and critical services have led to a large number of layoffs of teachers and other public employees.

Frankly, the cumulative impact of state and local budget cuts across the country is what is threatening our economic recovery. And now, the U.S. Congress is guaranteeing the status quo by derailing jobs plans that would put people back to work.

Fact 2. Oregon’s budget crisis would be hundreds of millions of dollars worse if not for the passage of Measures 66 and 67. The measures raised between $600 million and $700 million for the budget cycle. Combined with the federal funds we would have lost from those budget cuts, Oregon’s schools and critical services would have faced additional budget cuts of up to $1 billion on top of already deep cuts.

If you think our state budget is in crisis now, try taking another $1 billion out of it.

Fact 3. We still have the fifth lowest business taxes in the nation.

Fact 4. Measures 66 and 67 had nothing to do with the Republican gains in the state legislature last November. Perhaps Dick Hughes and company are unaware of this, but November 2010 saw a gigantic Republican surge across the country. Nineteen state legislative bodies around the U.S. switched hands from Democratic to Republican—and not a single one of them had anything that resembled Measures 66 and 67. By contrast, Oregon Democrats fared well. Democrats won the governorship, kept a majority in the State Senate, and held the House to a tie.

The reason Republicans made gains? They beat Democrats in voter turnout by 4.5 percentage points, fueled by a nationwide surge in GOP enthusiasm.

Fact 5. Businesses have not left the state. And why would they? 97.5% of Oregon businesses either saw no change in their corporate taxes or are paying just $150 per year (up from $10). The remaining businesses are either paying slightly more in taxes on their profits above $250,000, or are paying one tenth of one percent of their sales—a miniscule fraction of what they’d pay in other states, like Washington. 

In direct contrast to the Statesman, the Medford Mail Tribune’s editorial board—which opposed both measures in 2010—recently looked at the facts and admitted that there was no evidence that businesses left. In fact, they chastised business owner Bruce Hough and his partner, GOP Rep. Sal Esquivel, for their apparently empty threats to move to Nevada.

Fact 6. A wide majority of Oregonians voted in favor of Measures 66 and 67—by a margin of about 8 percentage points. There’s exactly zero evidence to suggest that Oregonians now believe we should lower taxes for large corporations and the richest 2%. In fact, national opinion polls show exactly the opposite. The Statesman’s vague, unsubstantiated comment about what “many Oregonians” think says more about who the writers spend time with (corporate lobbyists, Republican leaders, and the rich) than what Oregonians actually believe. 

Editorial boards are certainly entitled to their opinions, even when we disagree with them. But it’s simply irresponsible for editors to use their opinion page to regurgitate false talking points just to score political points.

If we can offer a word of advice to the editorial boards of Oregon’s major newspapers: Perhaps if you spent less time golfing and back-slapping with your friends in the corporate lobby, and more time interacting with members of the community you’re actually obliged to represent, you might stop the flow of readers away from your paper. And you might be able to speak with authority on what “many Oregonians” believe. Just a thought.

It's Tuesday!

The Register Guard turns in an eye-opening look at the drastic increase in the homeless student population in Lane County. Statewide, the number of homeless students has increased by 7.9% over last school year. In Lane County, the increase was 23.5%. The article looks at the impact of the loss of basic services for families living in poverty, and tells the personal stories of several homeless students.

With that backdrop, Oregon economists weigh in on the possibility of another recession in Oregon, and OSU economics professor Patrick Emerson blogs about the impact that drastic cuts to state and local governments are having on the national economy. (Oregon's monthly employment figures have shown this on the state level--cuts to education and public service jobs have overshadowed job gains in the private sector.)

It's Tuesday!

The Register Guard turns in an eye-opening look at the drastic increase in the homeless student population in Lane County. Statewide, the number of homeless students has increased by 7.9% over last school year. In Lane County, the increase was 23.5%. The article looks at the impact of the loss of basic services for families living in poverty, and tells the personal stories of several homeless students.

With that backdrop, Oregon economists weigh in on the possibility of another recession in Oregon, and OSU economics professor Patrick Emerson blogs about the impact that drastic cuts to state and local governments are having on the national economy. (Oregon's monthly employment figures have shown this on the state level--cuts to education and public service jobs have overshadowed job gains in the private sector.)

It's October! And it's Monday!

The Medford Mail Tribune editorial board, which opposed Measures 66 & 67, tries to shine a light on claims that the measures caused businesses to leave. There's no evidence, the editorial writers say, and "Oregon remains a hospitable place to live and to do business, despite overheated rhetoric from some in the business community."

As the Commission on Public Safety begins its examination of Oregon's sentencing laws (and their associated costs), the Oregonian reports that the state is on track to add 2,000 more inmates over the next decade.

Meanwhile, the impacts of the recession and budget cuts continue to be felt on the local level. Need for food bank services is at a record high, while the real world effects of cuts to programs that aid families living in poverty are becoming apparent.

It's October! And it's Monday!

The Medford Mail Tribune editorial board, which opposed Measures 66 & 67, tries to shine a light on claims that the measures caused businesses to leave. There's no evidence, the editorial writers say, and "Oregon remains a hospitable place to live and to do business, despite overheated rhetoric from some in the business community."

As the Commission on Public Safety begins its examination of Oregon's sentencing laws (and their associated costs), the Oregonian reports that the state is on track to add 2,000 more inmates over the next decade.

Meanwhile, the impacts of the recession and budget cuts continue to be felt on the local level. Need for food bank services is at a record high, while the real world effects of cuts to programs that aid families living in poverty are becoming apparent.

Well, Happy Friday! Here are a few stories we found that brightened up the OO office throughout the week.

Well, Happy Friday! Here are a few stories we found that brightened up the OO office throughout the week.

Oregon is the proud home of a celebrity arachnologist (an arachnolebrity?) Greta Binford has been known in the arachnosphere for quite some time for her work milking venom from spiders. Now she has been recognized and celebrated in a way that only a spider-lover can truly appreciate -- by having a newly discovered species named after her. You can check out the Austrarchaea Binfordae here.

Another battle of the "it's good -- no, it's bad -- no, it's good for you" war on coffee turns out positive. Looks like drinking coffee really does make us happy!

Awwwww.

The beginning of October brings us Oregon Days of Culture, the week-long, state-wide celebration of Oregon culture and heritage. Some of our personal favorites from the lineup include:
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women (Portland)
Performance by The Blue Man Group (Eugene)
Nikki McClure: Cutting her own path  (Portland)
Urban Folk Art (Hillsboro)
Cowgirls Exhibit (Pendleton)
But you can check out the whole list of events (there are over 450 events to choose from!) to find the one that suits your tastes and location.