Posts Tagged "James Linwood Schulman"

The most recent economic numbers just came in from the Labor Department, and on paper it looks pretty good. The jobless rate just fell below under 4% for the first time since 2000; we’ve now had 91 months straight of job growth (thanks Obama). But the problem isn’t about the number of jobs out there: it’s about the ability to make ends meet.

Fifty years ago, the minimum wage was just over $10 per hour in today’s dollars. While it was still difficult to raise a family on that salary (a full time employee would make the equivalent of $21,000 a year), it was 19% more than today’s minimum wage in Florida of $8.25 per hour (where a full-time employee makes $17,160 a year). At that rate, a single parent with one child is under the poverty rate and qualifies for food stamps.

You Didn’t Build That

It seems like eons ago, but Obama got a lot of flak for telling business owners, “You didn’t build that.” But, to be honest, there’s a lot of truth to it.

As an entrepreneur, I can say with certainty that it’s a lot less romantic than it’s portrayed to be. The business I co-own with my wife is going on its 7 year anniversary in business, and we’re very fortunate to have made it this far. But the only reason we made it this far is that we have fantastic clients.

It’s no stretch to say that our clients built our business. If they didn’t trust us and didn’t come on board, we wouldn’t be here, period.

And without our clients, we wouldn’t have been able to build our team – a team that has done an amazing job taking care of our current clients, giving us more time to focus on sales and adding more clients to our roster. It’s no stretch to say that our team built our business too.

And that’s why paying a living wage is absolutely vital. If your team is worrying about survival, if they’re worrying about unpaid bills or something their children need that they can’t afford, then they aren’t worrying about your clients…which means your business will unravel quickly.

My job as a business owner is to make sure my team is taken care of, so that they can help take care of our business.

The Economic Argument For Raising the Minimum Wage

In effect, keeping the minimum wage so low just means that the government is subsidizing companies that pay their employees peanuts.

If we raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a full-time employee is making just over $32,000 a year. Not enough to be living like kings, but enough that the government shouldn’t need to be subsidizing them so that they can survive.

The added bonus: this jump will provide an economic boom. The best way to stimulate the economy is to get the poorest among us more money. The moment they do, they spend it on something they need that they’ve been going without.

Going back to who builds businesses: raising the minimum wage will create more customers for every business. It’s simple trickle-up economics.

The Republican Argument

I receive a great deal of pushback for fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The GOP says it will cause inflation to spike, and companies like Taco Bell will lay off all of their staff because they won’t be able to afford them at $15 an hour.

The inflation spike is a red herring: the Federal Reserve has been trying to get inflation to spike for a decade to no avail precisely because those of us at the bottom of the economic ladder don’t have enough to make ends meet. Since the Reagan era, we’ve been focusing on the supply-side of the economy — but there’s also a demand side. By overemphasizing the supply over the demand, we have a skewed economy.

The potential massive layoffs at Taco Bell is also falsely claimed as we can see by looking at the income statement of Yum Brands (the company that owns Taco Bell). Even if raising wages to $15/hr raised their total operating expenses by 67% (it would be less because minimum wage salaries aren’t their only operating expense), it would only reduce their net income by 8%.

The bottom line is that businesses can afford it.

Let’s Bring Change to Tallahassee

Let’s get the job done. I’d love your support in the Democratic Primary on August 28th; help me get to Tallahassee so that we can stop subsidizing businesses that don’t want to pay their employees a living wage, give a boost to our economy and help grow our businesses.

 

As part of the graduating class of 2002 from Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado, I was part of the last class to not have annualized standardized tests. The classes below me, unfortunately, didn’t fare so well.

As a student, I didn’t fully comprehend what that meant for how my curriculum was shaped each year, and how the students just a year below me had an entire different lesson plan than I did even when taking the same courses the following year.

For my entire class, our teachers were able to develop lesson plans based on what we needed to learn and understand in order to grow and further our knowledge. They were not subject to what test-development contractors appointed by the state had dictated. Our teachers taught with the vigor, excitement and passion that, as a parent, I want to see in my own children’s classrooms.

I had wonderful teachers who taught me how to problem solve, formulate a theory and defend it. Since they didn’t have to waste 25% or more of our class time prepping for standardized tests, we were able to hone those skills and dive deeper into how to apply them across subject areas. These skills have come in handy for me on a daily basis when it comes to tackling real life problems.

Why Standardized Tests Exist

Let’s be frank: we’re never doing away with all standardized tests. They do serve a purpose as a metric from which we can measure competency (namely at one’s ability to take a given test). In fact, I think AP & IB tests, as well as the SAT and ACT, are great tools to help transition students to college.

But the reality is that there can be too much of a good thing. Currently, the Florida Standards Assessments are administered to all 3rd through 10th graders (there are a couple of End-of-Course tests for specific classes like Algebra too). Their stated reason for existing is,

“The Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) provide parents and families, teachers, policy makers, and the general public with information regarding how well students are learning the Florida Standards.”

If all it does is tell us how good our students are at taking a specific test, why are we spending so much time on it?

The Truth Behind the FSA

Standardized tests started out as a universal way to measure schools against each other; in essence, they were a diagnostic tool. It made sense: if we can determine what every fourth grader should know, then we can test all the fourth graders and see if they know the material.

Then, if a school’s 4th grade class, on average, tests lower or higher than another school – we can start to quantify and rank schools.

But this information raised a significant problem: what do we do about the schools that don’t test well?

The Problem

We tie a school’s funding to their student’s test scores (test well, more funding; test poorly, less funding). While this may seem a logical way to respond to these scores, it actually presents a huge problem that our entire state is facing. Because, at its root, schools live or die by a pointless test.

Testing high across the board, for each grade level, logically becomes each school’s mission. More important than how well a child is learning, or what they are learning – a school is entirely focused on how well their students can pass a test. Nothing more.

These tests become the deciding point of school’s survival.

In the end, this derails our children’s education. And perhaps more disturbing, our own students are responsible for their own school’s funding.

The Solution

In my experience, the people with the best solutions are the ones seeing the problem firsthand, day-in and day-out. They are in the best position to see the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.

So I went ahead and asked a few teachers that I know their thoughts on how to fix failing schools. Here are the three things they each told me:

1. Don’t do away with charters – but make sure they play by the same rules. Most important: don’t let them have different admissions standards than traditional public schools (sidenote: most of the teachers — including teachers at charters — want separate funding pools from public schools. They don’t think we should be pitting charters versus traditional public schools — and I fully agree with them).

2. Give Principals more autonomy. Parents, Teachers, and Principals know which teachers do a good job and which ones don’t. Giving the Principal more room to help struggling teachers & students will change things more than any test. Simultaneously, to hold the Principal accountable, let teachers and parents fill out annual surveys for the School Board and Superintendent to review.

3. Change how we punish bad behavior. Right now, we have a schools-to-prisons pipeline. We need alternative ways to get kids back on track and not let them fall further behind as a punishment.

Our public education system in Florida is in desperate need to be fixed; one of the reasons I’m running is to get government out of the testing business and let our teachers teach. If you agree with me and want to see ideas like this pursued, please help me win this race. The Democratic Primary is on August 28th and I’d love your support.

If you have any questions (or even if you completely disagree with me), please feel free to shoot me an email. 

Political advertisement paid for and approved by James Linwood Schulman, Democrat, for State Representative, District 115.