Monday Reading List: Occupational Licensing Might Be A Scam, Segregation, and Picking the Right Battles

Jon Marcus of The Hechinger Report examines the value of certain educational credentials:

Policymakers have been pushing certificates as a way of getting closer to a long-sought goal of boosting the proportion of the population that has earned some kind of educational credential after high school. Colleges see them as an increasingly important source of income. Those two factors helped boost the number of certificates awarded annually by 56 percent from 1995 to 2014, the last period for which the figure is available, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That makes certificates the fastest-growing kind of postsecondary credential. Nearly a million a year are now being conferred. But the new analysis, from the Boston-based research firm Burning Glass Technologies, found that, out of 16 million job openings it reviewed over one year that did not require professional licenses, only eight-tenths of 1 percent, or about 130,000, asked for a certificate.

That final statistic is sort of mind-blowing, in that the ostensible point of professional licensing is to prepare people for good jobs. Given the mismatch, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that a non-trivial amount of occupational licensing is a scam. That's how we end up with things like "Trump University."

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Sean Illing of Vox interviewed Nikole Hannah-Jones about segregation, and how housing is at the center of the problem:

Segregation in housing is the way you can accomplish segregation in every aspect of life. Housing segregation means that certain jobs are located in certain communities, that certain grocery stores are located in certain communities; it determines where parks are located, if streets are repaired, if toxic dump sites are built nearby. Segregation accomplishes so many other inequalities because you effectively contain a population to a geographic area and suddenly all the other civil rights law don't matter. We don't have to discriminate if we're living in totally segregated neighborhoods; all the work is already done ... Education and housing are the two most intimate areas of American life, and they're the areas where we've made the least progress. And we believe that schools are the primary driver of opportunity, and white children have benefited from an unequal system. And why is this so? Why have white people allowed this? Because it benefited them to have it that way.

This is an accurate assessment of the linkages between housing wealth and schooling opportunity. Folks can quibble about the available remedies for both housing and schooling segregation, but it's hard to see an immediate future wherein the privileges inherent to both systems can be untangled from one another. Hannah-Jones thinks that legislators should pursue integration as policy. There are plenty of other people who are jaded about the notion of policy solutions for integration, and just want strong schools and economic opportunities in communities as they exist now.

Much of the tired debate about charter schooling hinges on disagreements vis-a-vis the potential for legitimate remedies for segregation. Sharif El-Mekki, writing in Philly's 7th Ward, wants to limit the battling:

Human nature often finds us pointing the finger at others, while absolving ourselves of blame ... Nowhere is this more evident than in the incessant battling between public charters and traditional school districts. While middle-class White people often lament the loss of students in traditional schools, these are the same hypocrites who fled during the White flight or participated in oppressive gentrification and left traditional neighborhood public schools long ago. In Philly, when you want to see a sizable number of White students, you often have to go to the Northeast (a section of the city that once actually tried to secede from Philadelphia) or you have to go to a magnet school (or a gentrified one) that is inaccessible to most Black children.
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Pursuing integration policy and cultivating innovative new charter schools are compatible policy strategies, if both are orchestrated with care. There are plenty of people willing to have that discussion right now, and I wish the sworn enemies of charters would chill the eff out sometimes so we could get some real stuff done.

Have a great day!