JUST IN TIME PRODUCTION

Isn't it funny how new prisons open just after the factories and the public schools close? It must be that efficiency and responsiveness that the free market priesthood is always boasting about.

Isn't it funny how state governments and the Sacred Taxpayer balk at spending $5000 per public school student per year but don't balk at the $75,000+ per year that it costs to incarcerate one person? The free market encourages such forward-thinking investment.

The city of Philadelphia is closing 23 public schools to save money while breaking ground on a new $400 million jail and prison complex. Honestly, the reporting on this story has been disappointing. By focusing on the school closure-vs-jail opening dichotomy, it sets up the weakest possible argument. With falling enrollments (no doubt due in part to previous cycles of budget slashing) it is not hard to construct a logical argument for school closures. If these buildings are at 40% enrollment, it makes some sense for the school district to consolidate.

The real problem, which doesn't make nearly as sexy or ire-provoking of a headline, is what is happening to the schools that will remain open. The closed buildings are the least of Philadelphia students' and teachers' problems. The schools that remain open are now operating with budgets that have been cut to the bone.

Pink slips were recently sent to 19 percent of the school-based work force, including all 127 assistant principals, 646 teachers and more than 1,200 aides. Principals are contemplating opening in September with larger classes but no one to answer phones, keep order on the playground, coach sports, check out library books or send transcripts for seniors applying to college.

Ignore the buildings. This is the real issue. Remove everything that offers the remote possibility of keeping kids (especially in crappy neighborhoods) out of trouble – sports, clubs, music, art, etc. Then cut the staff to the point where teachers won't be able to pay attention to any individual student. Then continue to cut corporate tax rates, cry "budget deficit!", and start the cycle all over again.

So what's the overarching agenda here? Pushing people out of the city and into the suburbs? That doesn't exactly help the local tax base if the Philly school board chases residents away. Funneling more kids into charter and private schools? Conservatives have a hard-on for them, and the shittier they can make the public schools the better private/charter schools will seem by comparison. And for the students who can't afford / get into non-public schools and whose parents can't afford to move into the suburbs? Is the plan simply to use the remaining schools as hollow shells serving no purpose other than to house the children at state expense until they can be shifted to juvenile facilities, adult prison, public housing, and so on?

Yeah. Yeah, pretty much. That's the only possible outcome here when schools are stripped of everything except the light fixtures, one principal, and some teachers. We don't need a crystal ball to see how this is going to turn out.

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25 Responses to “JUST IN TIME PRODUCTION”

  1. wetcasements Says:

    America has become a perpetual race to the bottom.

  2. ConcernedCitizen Says:

    "Ain't it funny how the factory doors close
    Round the time that the school doors close
    Round the time that the doors of the jail cells
    Open up to greet you like the reaper?"

    -Ashes in the Fall, by Rage Against the Machine

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

  3. middle seaman Says:

    Opposition to education and attraction for jails and punishment are more American than motherhood and Apple pie. Many cultures admire education, teachers and school. The last decade witnessed unprecedented attachs on teachers, teaching and intellectuals. Cutting education to the bone just follows the attacks.

    We do have multi million jail system way beyond the proportional size of even dictatorships. Way to go America! Give me your tire your poor your huddled masses, I'll put them in jail.

  4. Xynzee Says:

    It always amazes me that for a group of people who out right reject the theory of evolution and whole heartedly embrace "original sin" (read: *all* human endeavours are tainted) will embrace social Darwinism and the *infallibilty* of the market.

  5. c u n d gulag Says:

    How many hundreds of billions do we spend every year on a Military Industrial Complex that's out there, with less and less to protect?
    They're out there, "protecting" what, exactly.

    Freedom?
    What freedom do the jobless and underpaid, and their families, have?
    What freedom do/will the under-educated, unskilled, have?

    Liberty?
    The government is snooping on pretty much every electronic transaction people make – or, can snoop, if they feel they need to.
    And how does this nation, with the highest per-capita rate of people in jail, dare wave a banner using that word.

    Justice?
    Rates of people in jails, don't mean justice. That shows that the system of justice is rigged, and overly punitive.
    And Justice in America isn't completely blind in this country – it can make out one color: green.

    We are a broken country, not because we're broke, but because we under-tax the people and companies who have money, and use the money that we do get, on the wrong priorities.

    The Soviets also had a fine military (or, at least they sure spent enough trying to convince the US that they did), and plenty of prisons (GULags), and how did THAT turn out?
    Oh, and they were smart enough NOT to skimp on their children's educations, to the extent that we have.

    In 50 years, we went from a nation with an embarrassment of riches, to the richest in this nation being completely unembarrassed by their own wealth, and demanding even more wealth through even lower taxes.
    And if that has to come out of the skins of the un-and-under employed, and their children, well then, so be it.
    Oh, they say, 'But please do spend the money on our military, and our prisons – to protect "us."'

    Hmm…
    I'm starting to think that the goal of the rich and powerful people here, is to have enough money to get the fuck out of Dodge, when the other citizens have decided they've had enough.

    Of course, before they flee from Dodge, if necessary, they'll call on the government to deploy the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the Coast Guard, to supplement the Police, to try to maintain order – aka: control over the rest of us.

    And THAT'S why the military and prisons trump the needs of children and their parents.

  6. Hazy Davy Says:

    Man, I was with you. But I was missing the final piece, the "what motivation do folks have to put forth this agenda?"

    I suppose there are a few answers, including:
    1) Nobody's thinking that far ahead. They know why they want to crush the schools. They know why they need more prisons. But it's not a fully thought-out strategy.

    2) Look at which private industries benefit from expanding prisons: construction, weapons mfg, restaurant supply, … and those have common large investors.
    Why wouldn't those investors choose to get into similar school markets?
    a) They have tried. Look at the extensive efforts Neil Bush has made to get into educational software.
    b) The market is too established, with too many entrants and competitors.

    3) Schools are egalitarian (well, not really, but they're supposed to be.) Prisons enforce a caste system—those outside, and those inside. Those supporting the process love dichotomies: good/evil/, upper/lower class, nobility/peasants, ….

    But I honestly want to know WHY folks have put this developmental plan in place. Not the muddled masses who went along with it, but those in charge….

  7. Comrade Madison Says:

    Your first sentence reminded me of a lyric from 'Ashes in the Fall' by RATM:

    "Ain't it funny how the factory doors close
    Round the time that the school doors close
    Round the time that the doors of the jail cells
    Open up to greet you like the reaper"

    Thought I oughta share.

  8. c u n d gulag Says:

    Hazy Davy,
    Profit!

    There's GOLD in them thar privatizing schools!

    And when they fail, there's GOLD in them thar holding the former failed students, in private prisons.

    WIN-WIN!!!

  9. Major Kong Says:

    I'm troubled at how prisons seem to be the main industry in many rural communities these days.

    I sometimes lay over in Fishkill New York, about 60 miles up the Hudson from NYC.

    Fishkill has 3 prisons.

    As far as I can tell, half the population of Fishkill is locked up and the other half is being paid to watch them.

  10. Mingent Whizmaster Says:

    "Mr. America walk on by
    Your schools that do not teach…"
    –F. Zappa

  11. Fen Says:

    WaPo says Charter School enrollment is up 150%. Phili should take some of the money saved ($1.53 billion) and build a few Charter schools in the districts affected.

    But then, this isn't about saving kids, its about saving the Public School monopoly and the Teachers's Unions.

  12. c u n d gulag Says:

    Fen,
    We don't feed the trolls around here.

    So, troll elsewhere.

  13. mothra Says:

    You know, 30 years ago when I was telling anyone who would listen to me that the Republican agenda was to destroy public education, people told me I was a crackpot.

  14. Josh Says:

    I think the problem has been that Governor Corbett and his R allies in the legislature have been cutting state aid for years to give tax breaks to frackers and other rich people. Since then, PA job growth has fallen from 2nd to 49th in the nation. Also, local budgets have been increasingly squeezed. My sister-in-law is one of the laid-off. The City says that it will rehire some at the beginning of the new school year. But, this means that the City will not have to pay salary or benefits for 2 1/2 months to all of the laid-off, and will end up with fewer employees come fall. For example, insurance coverage during this period for my sister-in-law is ~ $5K. This has not been the first time Philly has had these problems, nor will it be the last.

  15. eliza Says:

    there are charter schools, but they've got their own problems…http://www.npr.org/2011/06/27/137444337/what-happens-when-charter-schools-fail

  16. Matt Says:

    "Is the plan simply to use the remaining schools as hollow shells serving no purpose other than to house the children at state expense until they can be shifted to juvenile facilities, adult prison, public housing, and so on?"

    You're assuming that there *is* a plan past "pump every drop of money out of the public coffers and into private pockets". It's not at all clear that there is – we're dealing with the public-policy equivalent of Bain Capital here.

  17. cromartie Says:

    But I honestly want to know WHY folks have put this developmental plan in place.

    There is no plan. That's the first thing you have to understand. The only "plan" these people have is to suck as much money out of the rotting infrastructure as quickly as they can for as long as they can. 10% Quarter over quarter growth to feed the belly of an ever expanding investor class is the plan. And if some "other" people have to suffer as a result, well, they just aren't looked upon as fortunately by "God" as you and I. Have a couple of helpings of prosperity theology and call me in the morning.

    Justice in America isn't completely blind in this country – it can make out one color: green.

    It's also pretty good at singling out black.

  18. grendelkhan Says:

    Major Kong: I'm troubled at how prisons seem to be the main industry in many rural communities these days. [referring to Fishkill, New York]

    We imprison too many people, and rural towns rely on this, but New York is actually doing better here. The prison population has dropped by about a fifth over the last decade. They've managed to close a few prisons, but it seems that due industry pushback, the main result for prisons is that there's a very low guard-to-inmate ratio, and the prisons there are relatively safe and not terribly crowded compared to prisons elsewhere in the United States.

    In any case, much as money spent on third-world charity should be compared against the benefit you could get by simply handing the money to the locals, the money spent on prisons should be compared to the money spent on any other crime-reduction or crime-prevention measure. (For example, long sentences don't do much to make people not commit crimes, but "swiftness and certainty" of punishment (e.g., short jail stays for minor parole violations) make a big difference.)

    But I suppose I'm missing the point here; we as a nation aren't really interested in actually making use of all this human capital we've spent the last few decades burning down; if we were, our policies would look very different indeed.

  19. Ten Bears Says:

    There is a reason why I home-school my grand-kids. The public schools are an abject failure.

    And I was a part of it for fifteen years.

    The MS is for Mad Scientist.

    No, fear.

  20. Big dog Says:

    @ Ten bears. Your blanket statement about public schools is a Republican talking point. Many public schools in this country are excellent with the majority of their students going on to higher education. There may be some reasonable alternatives to the way we structure public education but I think charter schools have yet to prove themselves and these ignorant attacks on public education, teachers and their unions have little merit beyond serving the politicians and corporate interests who think that anything run by the government, city, state or federal, is socialism, by which they mean they can't get rich off of it.

  21. Monkey Business Says:

    Since we're posting song lyrics, this is topical: "The system's broken/The school's closed/The prison's open." – Kanye West –

  22. Xynzee Says:

    @tenbears: what big dog said. Though there is an anecdotal connection between states w republican dominated legislatures and the hollowing out of public schools, especially in urban (read minorit)y centres.

    Oregon for example has a fairly strong school system. Multnomah county (effectively Portland) has a mix of haves and have nots. Not to mention urban planning that has encouraged people to actually live w/in the city boundaries which has kept the city from suffering the same exodus as other cities. It's when you get to the economically depressed rural (predominantly white) regions that problems w school funding occur.

  23. geoff Says:

    Rick Perlstein has several excellent and enraging pieces over at The Nation online about the Chicago school closings for those of you interested. Also, I am not Rick Perlstein.

  24. grendelkhan Says:

    Ten Bears: There is a reason why I home-school my grand-kids. The public schools are an abject failure.

    I'm sure that if the public schools could get a teacher-to-student ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 (you said grand-kids plural, so I'm guessing here), they'd have excellent outcomes. If you can find a way to get the benefits of mastery-type teaching (i.e., teach them until they learn it, as opposed to for a fixed period of time) without increasing the cost of schooling by an order of magnitude, there's fame and fortune waiting for you.

  25. Barry Says:

    Hazy Davy: "Look at which private industries benefit from expanding prisons: construction, weapons mfg, restaurant supply, … and those have common large investors.
    Why wouldn't those investors choose to get into similar school markets?
    a) They have tried. Look at the extensive efforts Neil Bush has made to get into educational software.
    b) The market is too established, with too many entrants and competitors."

    They are; that's the entirety of the school 'reform' movement.