Reinventing High School

WhiteHouse

— General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Founding Chair,  and Alma J. Powell, Chair, America’s Promise Alliance

We want to talk to you about our nation’s high schools for a moment.

In 2008, the Department of Education required all states, for the first time, to use the same calculation for their high school graduation rate — a key accountability measure that this administration has embraced. In 2010, President Obama and Secretary Duncan joined the America’s Promise Alliance at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to launch the GradNation campaign, setting a national goal of a 90 percent high school completion rate by 2020.

We’re seeing tangible results.

High school graduation rates have risen and are continuing to rise across America. Preliminary data from the Department of Education for the 2013-2014 school year show the narrowing gap between students from low-income families, students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners and their peers.

This increase in graduation rates is the result of hard work by millions of young people, families, educators, community leaders, business leaders and policy makers who have come together to create brighter futures for young people.

But while we celebrate this progress, we need to be smarter and more persistent if we want to continue to raise graduation rates for all students.
Today, a diverse group of people is coming together at the White House to talk about how we can do that in a smart way. You should follow along, and join the conversation here.

Young people have to be a respected voice at the center of change. The only way this works is if they’re a part of the process.

The latest report out of our research institute asked young people who left school without graduating what would have helped them stay in school. Here’s what we found:

The most powerful “innovation” contributing to students’ success is support from caring adults in schools. Young people told us they need an anchor, someone whom they can trust to be a stable presence in their lives. Even better is a web of supportive adults and peers to help them navigate their way through life’s challenges and toward graduation and a successful adulthood.

Students who do not graduate on time have been stigmatized as ‘dropouts.’ But we’ve been listening to these young people and learning about the complex and extraordinary challenges they face — unstable housing, food insecurity, trauma, violence, physical and emotional abuse, and bullying. Leaving school may be a last resort — but it may also feel like their only option. We’re humbled by these students’ determination not only to survive, but to craft a safe and meaningful life and to fulfill their dreams.

Today, we want to applaud those participating in the White House Next Generation High School Summit working together to accelerate innovation that creates the conditions under which all children have a real chance to succeed.

We want to encourage everyone who participates in today’s conversation to be guided by the best evidence of what works. We hope we can ‘redesign’ in such a way that teachers and other adults in schools have the time and expectation to forge real and positive relationships at every turn.

And finally, let’s be persistent: The policies, practices and stigmas that contribute to opportunity gaps in this country were long in the making — and they will take time and attention to dismantle.

(As an aside, I was astounded to hear one of the commentators claim with better education systems, her son could have become a doctor, and that her daughter is a teacher and that’s just fine.  From the tone and the demeanor of the comment, it struck me as the roots of systemic gender discrimination.)

If you won’t speak up for yourself, who will?

— by Nick Hanauer, via Democracy for America

President Obama and the Department of Labor just proposed giving millions of Americans a raise, increasing the overtime threshold from $23,600 a year to $50,440. From the fearful squawks coming from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbyists you’d think the sky was falling.

But all this trickle-down scare-talk about job-killing regulations and unintended economic consequences is just that — trickle-down scare talk —  without an ounce of empirical data to back it up.

Business lobbies are already hollering this will kill jobs. Baloney. We call it: Chicken Little Economics.

Far from the end of the world, middle-class Americans never did better than when the overtime threshold  —  the annual salary below which workers are automatically entitled to time-and-a-half overtime pay — was at its peak.

President Obama’s plan is a courageous step in the right direction. It’s like a minimum wage hike for the middle class. The Department of Labor has started the rule-making process to make the increase official. They’re taking public comment right now, and we need you to let them know you support it.

Say no to Chicken Little Economics! Join me, Robert Reich, and Democracy for America and tell the Department of Labor that you support President Obama’s plan to raise overtime pay.

A half-century ago, more than 60 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay. But after 40 years in which the threshold has been allowed to steadily erode, only about 8 percent do. If you feel like you’re working longer hours for less money than your parents did, it’s probably because you are.

The erosion of overtime and other labor protections is one of the main factors leading to worsening inequality. But a higher threshold would help reverse this trend.

Under the higher salary threshold, employers would have a choice: They could either pay you time-and-half for your extra hours worked, or they could hire more workers at the standard rate to fill your previously unpaid hours. Employers could put more money into your pockets, or put more leisure time at your disposal while directly adding more jobs. And either would be great for workers and great for boosting economic growth.

Submit your comment to the Department of Labor today: tell them to raise the overtime threshold.

Here’s why the right-wing and the business lobbyists are wrong about overtime. Lower- and middle-income workers don’t stash their earnings in offshore accounts the way CEOs do . When workers have more money, they spend it. Businesses have more customers; and when businesses have more customers, they hire more workers.

A higher overtime threshold would increase total employment, tightening the labor market and driving up real wages for the first time since the late 1990s.

Conservative pundits and politicians will attempt to preserve the status quo by warning that a return to more reasonable overtime standards would somehow cripple our economy, hurting the exact same workers we intend to help.

But that’s what they always warn about every regulation – from the minimum wage, to Obamacare, to child labor laws. Yet it never turns out to be true. And trickle-down economics looks more like Chicken Little Economics with every passing day.

Let’s put an end to Chicken Little Economics. Join me, Robert Reich, and DFA: tell the Department of Labor you support the new overtime rules.

Thank you for taking a stand against income inequality.