Monday Reading List: Presidential Debate Prep and Poverty Statistics

I can barely contain my excitement that there's a presidential debate tonight. I look forward to these sorts of things anyway, but it seems as if tonight offers a greater likelihood of shenanigans than prior instances of presidential parlay. I, for one, am trying to ensure adequate preparation; one of my favorite writers/tweeters agrees:

Normal presidential elections deliver a verdict on the economic performance of the country under the current president. If that's the case, Hillary Clinton got some good news this morning, as Patricia Cohen in The New York Times reports on the declining poverty rate:

More than seven years after the recession ended, employers are finally being compelled to reach deeper into the pools of untapped labor, creating more jobs, especially among retailers, restaurants and hotels, and paying higher wages to attract workers and meet new minimum wage requirements ... Poverty declined among every group. But African-Americans and Hispanics — who account for more than 45 percent of those below the poverty line of $24,300 for a family of four in most states — experienced the largest improvement. Government programs — like Social Security, the earned-income tax credit and food stamps — have kept tens of millions from sinking into poverty year after year. But a main driver behind the impressive 1.2 percentage point decline in the poverty rate, the largest annual drop since 1999, was that the economy finally hit a tipping point after years of steady, if lukewarm, improvement.

This good news comes with hardly any caveats, except to say that there are still some outlier states with high levels of poverty. Interpret the political implications of the accompanying map as you will.

If poverty was one loser of the tenure of the Obama administration, so was the for-profit higher education industry, whose demise Molly Hensley-Clancy chronicles in Buzzfeed:

When Barack Obama took office, America’s seven largest publicly traded college operators were worth a combined $51 billion, with more than 815,000 students enrolled at campuses spread across the country. The schools were flooded with with people seeking shelter from the recession, returning to school to pick up new skills. Almost eight years later, the industry has been decimated. The seven largest listed operators are worth just over $6 billion, and the most valuable company in the sector has spent the last two years desperately trying to become a non-profit. Two of the largest companies in 2009 are now bankrupt, and two more are in the process of being taken private.

While the administration is unapologetic about waging war on the fraud in the for-profit college sector, some critics cry "foul" and "government overreach." Read the whole article to get a better flavor for the pushback. While I disagree with the folks defending the for-profit sector, if you understand the overreach critique, you'll have a better sense for where conservatives stand on education more generally right now.

Shifting to the local level, Ann Schimke in Chalkbeat looks at an innovative preschool in Denver that serves all children in a particular neighborhood:

The new complex, called the Dahlia Campus for Health and Well-Being, opened in January. Besides the preschool, it offers an array of health and mental health services and includes a vegetable garden, greenhouses and a fish-farming operation. Sewell Child Development Center, a longtime Denver nonprofit specializing in inclusive education, runs the preschool. Denver Public Schools, which provides funding for some of the preschool slots, and the mental health center are both partners in the program. It’s not a simple or cheap program, which explains why there aren’t more centers like it. It requires a complicated mix of state, school district, city and private funding to pay for the extra staff needed to maintain high adult-child ratios, including a raft of specialists such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and social workers.

Because the school is committed to serving all children, the additional services allow educators to address the non-academic needs of children with significant physical and mental health issues. It is hard to overstate how difficult it is to achieve this goal. If this campus is successful, it will be important for the K-12 space to understand what they did.

Finally, T.D. Williams, writing at The Root, encourages White America to look inward. He reacts to this video of Donald Trump's Ohio campaign chairwoman, Kathy Miller, suggesting that racism did not exist until Barack Obama became president: 

Miller is the campaign chair for a candidate who has drawn substantial interest and support from the American public. The candidate is a charlatan, a grifter, a sexist and a racist. He enjoys the support of a significant portion of Americans because these people live in an ahistorical vacuum and view American history only through distorted lenses that reflect their own delusions back to them. They live in a world where blacks created racism (racism against whites and racism against themselves), where blacks have had the same educational opportunities as whites as well as unfair advantages, where whites are blameless victims, bewildered by the inferior, dark animals among them. They live in a world that is a direct inversion of reality. At some point, decent white Americans have to realize the impetus is on them to issue some sort of corrective to these psychopathic monsters. This is not a black problem, terrorized as we remain by it; it is a white problem. It always has been.

Amen to this. The White community created racism to justify a caste system based on race, and we have left that system, and its justification, intact. We should end it. Have a great week.