LABOR AND JUSTICE ORGANIZATIONS ARE ABLE TO BE CO-OPTED BY WALL STREET BECAUSE THEY ARE UNDER PRESSURE FROM UNION-BUSTING AND HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT----CLINTON NEO-LIBERALS AND BUSH NEO-CONS ARE THE ONES DOING THIS! GET RID OF THEM.
If Clinton global corporate neo-liberals are pushed out of office the first thing a governor or mayor does is rebuild the small and regional business sector-----Rule of Law to recover the massive fraud -----and hand scholarships to tons of students with bachelor's degrees to law school for a public justice degree. Turning this around will take good public lawyers, domestic economies, and rebuilding the public sector.
'President Obama announced a plan to offer "free" community college for Americans that are "willing to work for it." The plan is not exactly "free" and would cost $60 billion over the next decade. Despite this, education is a worthy investment and shouldn't be linked to the term "wasteful spending" that many on the right are using.
After reading the price tag and the requirements needed to benefit from the program, where do you stand'?
Remember, it is the working and middle-class that pay the bulk of tax revenue so progressive labor and justice would want that tax revenue to be spent on public programs that better their lives----not to maximize corporate profit. So, Obama is doing the opposite----breaking apart all of the structures built by progressive labor and justice to allow people to climb the economic and social ladder.
Obama's 'free' college plan to cost $6 billion a year, a 'worthy' investment
President Obama said he would like to see two years of free community college for anyone "willing to work for it" in an announcement
When you elect a Democrat----you elect a politician that supports the Democratic platform that has labor and justice protected and a strong middle-class with social safety nets. When you get dismantled public education, health care, and rights as citizens----you have a Republican or Clinton neo-liberal. STOP ALLOWING WALL STREET GLOBAL CORPORATE POLS WIN PRIMARIES. THE US IS NOW SECOND WORLD IN THE EDUCATION THESE PRIVATIZED STRUCTURES GIVE!
'Physical classrooms will disappear, academic rigor all but eliminated, and the MOOCs will be taught by uncredentialed "instructors," as attrition claims live professors who must leave for more viable economic positions or simply retire. The public generally thinks that a liberal arts education is a waste of time, but the math and science adjuncts are paid the same, at least at my former school'.
This is a great article----I only posted the education piece since this is my focus today-----we are silent as our elections are rigged to allow only the pols groomed to move this global corporate agenda forward. Both neo-liberals and neo-cons will move education to global corporate control and it will end the American people's access to democratic and citizenship-building education.
This is a long article----please glance through!
Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy
Joanne Barkan ▪ Fall 2013
The Case of Public Education
For a dozen years, big philanthropy has been funding a massive crusade to remake public education for low-income and minority children in the image of the private sector. If schools were run like businesses competing in the market—so the argument goes—the achievement gap that separates poor and minority students from middle-class and affluent students would disappear. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation have taken the lead, but other mega-foundations have joined in to underwrite the self-proclaimed “education reform movement.” Some of them are the Laura and John Arnold, Anschutz, Annie E. Casey, Michael and Susan Dell, William and Flora Hewlett, and Joyce foundations.
Each year big philanthropy channels about $1 billion to “ed reform.” This might look like a drop in the bucket compared to the $525 billion or so that taxpayers spend on K–12 education annually. But discretionary spending—spending beyond what covers ordinary running costs—is where policy is shaped and changed. The mega-foundations use their grants as leverage: they give money to grantees who agree to adopt the foundations’ pet policies. Resource-starved states and school districts feel compelled to say yes to millions of dollars even when many strings are attached or they consider the policies unwise. They are often in desperate straits.
Most critiques of big philanthropy’s current role in public education focus on the poor quality of the reforms and their negative effects on schooling—on who controls schools, how classroom time is spent, how learning is measured, and how teachers and principals are evaluated. The harsh criticism is justified. But to examine the effect of big philanthropy’s ed-reform work on democracy and civil society requires a different focus. Have the voices of “stakeholders”—students, their parents and families, educators, and citizens who support public education—been strengthened or weakened? Has their involvement in public decision-making increased or decreased? Has their grassroots activity been encouraged or stifled? Are politicians more or less responsive to them? Is the press more or less free to inform them? According to these measures, big philanthropy’s involvement has undoubtedly undermined democracy and civil society.
The best way to show this is to describe how mega-foundations actually operate on the ground and how the public has responded. What follows are reports on a surreptitious campaign to generate support for a foundation’s teaching reforms, a project to create bogus grassroots activity to increase the number of privately managed charter schools, the effort to exert influence by making grant money contingent on a specific person remaining in a specific public office, and the practice of paying the salaries of public officials hired to implement ed reforms.
You Can’t Fool All of the People All of the Time
The combination of aggressive style, controversial programs, and abundant money has led some mega-foundations into the world of “astroturfing.” This is political activity designed to appear unsolicited and rooted in a local community without actually being so. Well-financed astroturfing suffocates authentic grassroots activity by defining an issue and occupying the space for organizing. In addition, when astroturfers confront grassroots opposition, the astroturfers have an overwhelming advantage because of their resources. Sometimes, however, a backlash flares up when community members realize that paid outsiders are behind a supposedly local campaign.
In 2009 the Gates Foundation funded the creation of a nonprofit organization to stir up grassroots support for the foundation’s teacher effectiveness reforms. The reforms used students’ scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers and award bonuses, abolished tenure, and ended seniority as a criterion for salary increases, layoffs, and transfers. Gates paid a philanthropy service group called Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) $3.5 million to set up the new nonprofit. Its staff would target four “sites”—Pittsburgh, Memphis, Hillsborough County (Tampa, Florida), and a consortium of Los Angeles charter schools—where Gates was about to invest $335 million to try out its reforms. RPA’s confidential proposal, which was leaked to the media in 2011, described a potential pitfall for “Teaching First” (the nonprofit’s provisional name):
Another risk is that Teaching First will be characterized as a tool of the [Gates] Foundation and/or motivated by a political agenda other than improving public education….One way Teaching First can minimize the likelihood of being tagged as an outsider is to maintain a low public profile and to ensure publicity and credit accrue to local partners whenever possible.
Renamed Communities for Teaching Excellence, the nonprofit was launched in 2010. It survived for barely two years. Operating out of Los Angeles while trying to produce local enthusiasm for controversial policies in Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Tampa didn’t work. In addition, there was growing competition: various philanthropies, including Gates, began funding other nonprofits that sent paid staff around the country to start a variety of ed-reform campaigns. These efforts were also astroturfing, but many had greater success—in part because they had multiple and less identifiable funders. Amy Wilkins, chair of the board of directors of Communities for Teaching Excellence, summed up the problem for the Los Angeles Times (October 19, 2012): “Gates was such a big part of the funding. That made some of the partners and other funders nervous. How do you look like an independent actor? You have to show broad public support so you’re not seen as a phony-baloney front for Gates. People criticized the organization for that, and they didn’t move closer to shaking that label.”
The leaked proposal for Teaching First/Communities for Teaching Excellence reads like a how-to manual for big-budget astroturfing. Here are some of the tips:
[I]t may be important for local Teaching First staff to support and participate in campaigns that only are tangentially related to the teacher effectiveness agenda in order to build trust among allies….
Community-based organizations are much more likely to pick up the reform agenda and stick with it if they can support staff through this work and if they are able to forego other sources of funding….
With professional assistance from one or more communications firms, Teaching First will commission public opinion research and focus groups to hone a set of core messages that can be customized to each district’s context.…Teaching First should have a budget for billboards, bus and newspaper ads, and other mass media communications.
The Parent Trigger Trap
In January 2010 California enacted the nation’s first “parent trigger” law. The law gives parents control over the fate of their children’s public school if it persistently underperforms—or if they can be persuaded that it underperforms. When the parents (or guardians) of at least half of a school’s students sign a trigger petition, the signers can then choose to have the school principal replaced, the entire staff replaced, the school replaced with a privately operated charter, or the school shut down. The law was immediately controversial. The process was bound to divide communities, and it was open to abuse and outside manipulation. But most important, the law destroyed the democratic nature of public education. This year’s parents don’t have the right to close down a public school or give it away to a private company any more than this year’s users of a public park can decide to pave it over or name a private company to run it with tax dollars (see Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error, 2013). Voters—directly or through their elected officials—decide on and pay for public institutions in a democracy.
Big philanthropy’s role in the trigger law began with Green Dot, a charter school company with funding from Gates, Broad, Walton, Annenberg, Wasserman, and other foundations (for a detailed account of events, see Gary Cohn’s excellent exposé, “Public Schools, Private Agendas: Parent Revolution,” at www.fryingpannews.org, April 2, 2013). Green Dot created an organization called Parent Revolution to lobby for and then use the law. The Broad Foundation was one of Parent Revolution’s first financial backers in 2009. Once the law passed, other foundations jumped in. Parent Revolution now operates nationally and has received more than $14.8 million, most of it from mega-foundations. Walton has given $6.3 million (43 percent of the total). Other major funders are Gates ($1.6 million), Arnold ($1.5 million), Wasserman ($1.5 million), Broad ($1.45 million), and Emerson ($1.2 million).
Once the law passed, Parent Revolution didn’t wait for actual parents to initiate the trigger process; it hired canvassers to find a serviceable school. The choice was McKinley Elementary in Compton, a city of about 97,000 (97 percent African American and Latino) in Los Angeles County. Parent Revolution drafted the petition, which specified that a charter company called Celerity Education Group would take over McKinley. Paid canvassers, along with fifteen recruited parents, collected signatures and submitted the petition to district headquarters in December 2010. Then the conflict erupted. Some signers maintained they hadn’t realized they were choosing the charter school option. Fifty or sixty parents rescinded their signatures. Other parents and the district claimed the petition was invalid because Parent Revolution had imposed not only the charter option, but a specific company. Each side accused the other of harassment, including threatening undocumented residents with deportation. After a court ruled that the petition was invalid, the parent trigger drive at McKinley ended, leaving community members divided and bitter.
Parent Revolution’s second effort—at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, eighty-five miles northeast of Los Angeles—was equally disruptive. The town of more than 32,000 is about 78 percent Latino and African American. One in three residents lives below the poverty line; the largest employer is the Adelanto school district. In 2011 Parent Revolution hired a full-time organizer, rented a house for a campaign headquarters, and, according to Gary Cohn, “sent in experts to train and advise parents on everything from strategy on dealing with the school board to writing letters to help in researching potential charter schools….It even provided [campaign logo] T-shirts.”
After a contentious process, 100 of the 466 parents who had signed the petition for a charter takeover changed their minds and rescinded their signatures. The school board invalidated another 200 signatures. With just 37 percent of parents remaining, the board voted unanimously in March 2012 to reject the petition. Parent Revolution then paid to challenge the board in court. In July a superior court judge ruled that the trigger law did not provide for parents to rescind their signatures.
When petition signers gathered in mid-October 2012 to vote on which charter company would take over the school, only fifty-three of them showed up. Two parents who opposed Parent Revolution told Cohn why they felt aggrieved. Lori Yuan, mother of two students, said, “We’ve known all along this wasn’t a grassroots movement.” Shelly Whitfield, mother of five students, said, “They’re taking away all the teachers my kids have been around for years. They took over our school, and I don’t think it’s fair.”
In April 2013 Parent Revolution blundered in Florida when it tried to pass off a pro-trigger video it had produced as the product of a local organization called Sunshine Parents. News of the chicanery broke shortly before the Republican-controlled state senate was to vote on a trigger law. Supporters had been confident of victory, but the video revelation helped to change some minds. The bill failed, 20-20 (Miami Herald, April 30, 2013).
The Very Model of a Modern Major Trigger Law
According to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, parent trigger legislation had been brought up in at least twenty-five states as of March 2013. In addition to California, six states have enacted versions of it: Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio (a pilot program in Columbus), and Texas. Much credit for this rapid expansion goes to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the now notorious organization of businesses, private foundations, and over two thousand conservative state legislators. ALEC meets twice a year in closed sessions to draft model legislation on various issues; state representatives can then introduce the bills in their legislatures. According to ALEC’s website, “Each year, close to 1,000 bills, based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation, are introduced in the states. Of these, an average of 20 percent become law.” Many of the controversial “stand your ground” self-defense laws, voter ID laws that suppress minority voting, and parent trigger laws are based on ALEC models.
Despite its obviously political agenda, ALEC is a tax-exempt nonprofit. The Gates Foundation gave the group a $376,635 grant in 2011 “to educate and engage its members on efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement.” After several exposés of ALEC’s work prompted some corporate members to resign, the Gates Foundation announced in 2012 that it would finish out its grant to ALEC but not undertake future funding (Roll Call, April 9, 2012).
He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune
Philanthropies risk losing their tax-exempt status if they donate directly to candidates for public office, so some foundations have tried other ways to ensure they have the people they want in key posts.
The Los Angeles–based Broad Foundation stipulated in the contract for a $430,000 grant to New Jersey’s Board of Education that Governor Chris Christie remain in office. As the Star-Ledger reported (December 13, 2012), the Newark-based Education Law Center had forced the release of the contract through the state’s Open Public Records Act. For the center’s executive director, David Sciarra, “It is a foundation driving public educational policy that should be set by the Legislature.” The Broad Foundation’s senior communications director responded, “[W]e consider the presence of strong leaders to be important when we hand over our dollars.”
The foundation sector will fight reform ferociously—as it has in the past. When asked to forgo some influence or contribute more in taxes, the altruistic impulse stalls.
The keep-Chris-Christie clause was not the first time a staffing prerequisite was discovered in a grant contract with a public entity. In 2010 Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee negotiated promises for $64.5 million in grants from the Broad, Walton, Robertson, and Arnold foundations. Rhee planned to use part of the money to finance a proposed five-year, 21.6 percent increase in teachers’ base salary. In exchange she demanded that the union give her more control over evaluating and firing teachers and allow bonus pay for teachers who raised student test scores. In March 2010 the foundations sent separate letters to Rhee stating that they reserved the right to withdraw their money if she left. They also required that the teachers ratify the proposed contract (Washington Post, April 28, 2010). Critics challenged not only the heavy-handed intrusion into an acrimonious contract negotiation but also the legality of the stipulation on Rhee: hadn’t she negotiated a grant deal that served her own employment interests? The teachers ratified the contract, but the extremely unpopular Rhee resigned in October 2010 after Mayor Adrian Fenty, who had hired her, lost the Democratic mayoral primary. By that time, much of the grant money had been spent, and the new schools chancellor kept Rhee’s policies.
Private foundations have used another tactic to exert influence on the Los Angeles Unified School District: they paid the salaries of more than a dozen senior staffers. According to the Los Angeles Times (December 16, 2009), the privately financed “public” employees worked on such ed-reform projects as new systems to evaluate teachers and collect immense amounts of data on students. Much of the money came from the Wasserman Foundation ($4.4 million) and the Walton Family Foundation ($1.2 million); Ford and Hewlett made smaller grants. The Broad Foundation covered the $160,000 salary of Matt Hill to run the district’s Public School Choice program, which turned so-called low-performing and new schools over to private operators. Hill had worked in Black & Decker’s business development group before he went through one of the Broad Foundation’s uncertified programs to train new education administrators. A Times editorial on January 12, 2010 asked, sensibly, “At what point do financial gifts begin reshaping public decision-making to fit a private agenda?…Even the best-intentioned gifts have a way of shifting behavior. Educators and the public, not individual philanthropists, should set the agenda for schools.”
A Modest Proposal
Big philanthropy is overdue for reform. The goal should be to reduce its leverage in civil society and public policymaking while increasing government revenue. Some possible changes seem obvious: don’t allow administrative expenses to count toward the 5 percent minimum payout, increase the excise tax on net investment income, eliminate the tax exemption for foundations with assets over a certain size, and replace the charity tax deduction with a tax credit available to everyone (for example, all donors could subtract 15 percent of the total value of their charitable contributions from their tax bills). In addition, strict IRS oversight of big philanthropy—especially all the “educating” that looks so much like lobbying and campaigning—is crucial.
Another reform would require private foundations to “spend down” their endowments over a designated number of years. They would no longer exist in perpetuity. This idea has some promise of success: the living donors of several mega-foundations, including Bill and Melinda Gates, have already decided to spend down and are recruiting others to do the same.
The foundation sector will fight reform ferociously—as it has in the past. When asked to forgo some influence or contribute more in taxes, the altruistic impulse stalls. The foundation sector acts like any other powerful interest group. The Obama administration, for example, tried several times to lower the charitable deduction cap, but the foundation lobby battled each effort successfully. Still, the reforms are sound, necessary, and worth pursuing.
Meanwhile, the public needs more critical, in-depth information. The mainstream media are, for the most part, failing miserably in their watchdog duties. They give big philanthropy excessive deference and little scrutiny. Public television and radio live on big philanthropy’s largess. Collaborative programming with mega-foundations has undermined the credibility of major for-profit news organizations as well as public media, especially on health and education issues.
Early twentieth-century skeptics were rightly suspicious of plutocrats deciding how to improve the human condition and then paying to translate their notions into public policy. Now it’s time for a new progressive era—complete with muckrakers and trust-busters to cast a critical eye on big philanthropy.
Joanne Barkan is a writer based in New York City and Truro, Massachusetts. Her other articles on the education reform movement and big philanthropy can be found here. An earlier version of this article appeared in Social Research: An International Quarterly of the Social Sciences, Summer 2013.
A slightly modified version of this article appeared in the Fall 2013 print issue of Dissent under the title “Big Philanthropy vs. Democracy: The Plutocrats Go to School.”
If you think 4 year universities were hit hard by Clinton when he started this public education privatization leading to teaching staff as part-time adjuncts and pushing people with a passion to teach out with conditions people only needing extra cash will take. Think you get quality that way? Of course not. The goal was breaking yet another middle-class employment and silencing the academics THAT HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE SOURCE OF HOLDING POWER ACCOUNTABLE.
Fast-forward to today and now our community colleges are completely adjunct and business-people brought in to teach a vocational class and then leave. They are even more impoverished by the compensation that brings and this is what Obama has worked his entire terms in office-----breaking the community college system as Clinton did 4 year universities and making them subsidized job-training centers. Obama now wants this to be free with students working as they are trained. So, on-the-job training handled by corporations is now completely paid by taxpayers and free labor from students. Remember, the chances of students getting and keeping jobs with these certifications is low so all this specialized training is often met with that student coming back for more training to seek another job.
ALL OF THIS REPLACING THE FUNDING FOR A SOLID 4 YEAR UNIVERSITY DEGREE THAT PREPARED THE STUDENT BROADLY FOR MANY DIFFERENT JOBS AND STAYED WITH THEM AS AN ASSET FOR LIFE.
Corporations are telling us they will not hire someone with a 4 year degree and not this job training certification to make these 4 year degrees obsolete. We need to tell them-----
WE DO NOT WANT NATIONAL AND GLOBAL CORPORATIONS DRIVING OUR STATE ECONOMIES SO GO AWAY!!!!!!!! SMALL AND REGIONAL BUSINESSES DRIVING A STATE ECONOMY GETS RID OF THIS CAPTURE!
The Corporatization of Higher Education, Through the Eyes of an Adjunct Professor
Posted: 03/19/2014 3:34 pm EDT Updated: 05/19/2014 5:59 am EDT
From 2005-2006 I worked my last year (30th) as a technical writer making $65k -- nothing to sneeze at. Then one Friday morning I was summoned to my manager's office and was told my position was being eliminated. At age 54, this should have been devastating. As I packed up, co-workers consoled and asked what I would do. Smiling, a bit perversely, I said "write my memoirs by the pool." I recall driving home on the interstate, laughing like a mad fool. What gave?
I had amassed, through savings and investing (and by being cheap some would say), a decent sum of assets along with, most importantly, zero debt. I knew I would do early retirement in eight years. During the intervening time what might I do? By turns good and bad the technical writing "field" had been decent, but it been a job by default, certainly no career or profession.
Back in 1975 I took a master's degree in English, with the naive hope of teaching college. There were no teaching jobs. Had I gone on for the Ph.D. it may or may not have made a difference. That goal of being an academic in the classroom, the discipline in and focus on literature and writing never left me. In 2007 the local colleges were hiring adjunct professors. And so the dream happened -- sort of.
For those unfamiliar with the term "adjunct," it is considered a part-time supplemental teaching position, requiring only 18 graduate credits. I had the master's. It's a part-time job if you're teaching two or three courses. More than that, you're scraping the 40-hour ceiling, especially when reading student essays. The college deems fit to pay you for class-time only, as if lessons and content sprout fully formed from one's brain.
The compensation was abysmal. Low wages. No benefits (most important of those being a health plan). This came out to about $16-17k a year (about what I made in 1979) and included summer semesters. The only way I could afford to take a position was to supplement the meager wages with $1,000 a month from my investments plus dip now and then for large ticket items (e.g., property taxes). I rarely touch the one credit card I own. I wasn't saving but still, a single drink now and then from a barrel the size of a small Fort Knox can't hurt much.
I had become asset rich and income poor. I was one of the fortunate adjuncts. Some taught several courses a semester because they had to get by. I knew one who taught nine courses across multiple campuses because he had to.
Mine is just one story. To virtually earn somewhere between $10-13 an hour for performing college-level instruction speaks plainly of the Walmartization of our nation's colleges and universities.
The implications of this corporatized campus environment has systemic implications for our America's intellectual infrastructure. The delivery of higher education has become a cheat, a hustle, and thoroughly corrupt. Most of all it is unsustainable, for what young person in their right mind will pursue a graduate degree with the intention of becoming a college professor?
The "race to the bottom" continues to accelerate.It has become almost a cliché to say education, K-12 and beyond, is broken. It is dysfunctional now; its prospects, without sweeping reforms, are bleak at best.
A Frontline documentary, Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk (2005) talks about the financial challenges but also of the lowering of standards, referred to as grade inflation as a means of keeping students enrolled. It may be a bit dated but the problems cited not only remain but have worsened. Any parents paying college tuition should see this.
Parents don't know that their child for whom they've paid dear tuition may have courses taught by an adjunct or T.A., who maybe works the night shift at a 24-hour Walmart out of financial necessity. How can classroom performance not be compromised? The reaction has to be more than shaking our heads and dismissing it with, "Oh well, the new normal."
The core of corruption is with the "business" model colleges and universities have adopted: rake in the tuition at all costs, reward the lifeblood of the institution, the faculty, with diminishing compensation and status, throw six or seven figures at the administrators and give athletic programs a virtual blank check.
When the last adjunct dies out (they tend to be in their 60s), they will go after the regular faculty. This is treated in a novel by Alex Kudera (an adjunct) at Clemson University, probably the only novel written whose protagonist is an adjunct.
(I have reviewed Professor Kudera's novel, if you are interested.)
It is a sad irony that the adjunct is no lifetime indentured servant, but rather an endangered species, as institutions of higher learning contemplate "satellite hookups and TVs in every classroom... with the finest Indian universities teaching virtual classes long-distance... the $15,000-a-year they were paying the graduate student [or adjunct] has become $1,500 for a hungrier South Asian." (Fight for Your Long Day, pages 207-208)
Physical classrooms will disappear, academic rigor all but eliminated, and the MOOCs will be taught by uncredentialed "instructors," as attrition claims live professors who must leave for more viable economic positions or simply retire. The public generally thinks that a liberal arts education is a waste of time, but the math and science adjuncts are paid the same, at least at my former school.
Shockingly, there is no public policy debate or discussion on this problem: certainly not in circles where power exists to effect change.
Chris Hedges has written:
"We've bought into the idea that education is about training and "success," defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death." (Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and Triumph of Spectacle).
There's a public perception that a college education is the path to a good-paying job and at least a middle-class lifestyle. This is no longer the case.
CLINTON AND OBAMA ARE NOT BEING MADE TO DO THIS----THEY ARE COMING TO OFFICE WANTING TO DO THIS. STOP BLAMING REPUBLICANS OR WALL STREET AND GET RID OF CLINTON NEO-LIBERALS. This is happening in Baltimore with politicians who are running as Democrats and serving as Johns Hopkins neo-conservatives.
These are the jobs Obama has in the pipeline to receive taxpayer funding at job training centers. These are the jobs that are entry level and have always been on-the-job training for anyone hired. Now, Obama and Congressional neo-liberals want students to work for free and taxpayers provide free job training centers for these entry-level jobs. The American people are now around 70% at or near poverty because the standards for education have fallen----the standards for goods and services have fallen -----and with that wages. We now have McDonald's University and Rupert Murdoch K-12 online lesson plans exposing our children to anything but what it takes to be a citizen and leader. Obama's entire terms in office were about dismantling every aspect of what gives the American people a quality of life.
You see below how to segue to talking about social safety net issues when all of these policies implemented during Obama's Administration has been about dismantling all safety net programs while pushing Trans Pacific Trade Pact super-sizing unemployment and third world poverty.
Low-wage jobs growing in Oregon, straining safety net
January 8, 2015 - 7:45am
A new report by the UO’s Labor Education Research Center finds that more than 400,000 Oregonians work in low-wage jobs and those jobs are increasingly replacing employment that once brought middle-class salaries.
Despite Oregon’s rebounding economy and record corporate profits, these workers often rely on public safety net benefits for food, childcare, and other basic needs, the report finds. In a review of 197,000 working adults who receive food stamps, the report found that taxpayers provide an estimated $1.7 billion a year in safety-net assistance to working families in Oregon.
The report, “The High Cost of Low Wages in Oregon,” was released Jan. 8 and is part of the center’s Low Wage Economy Initiative and the Strategic Training and Action Research Fund. It is available on the UO Labor Education and Research Center website.
Finding that low-wage work comprises a growing share of the state’s economy, the report makes a connection between that trend and the record-high demand for taxpayer-funded public services. More than a million Oregonians now rely on food stamps and other assistance, the report says.
According to the report, women are more likely than men to have low-wage jobs and also are more likely to be single parents with irregular, part-time hours. A majority of the parents interviewed for the study said they had to work erratic schedules that changed weekly.
The report also finds that 50 percent of African American workers and 45 percent of Latino workers fall into the low-wage category.
Three-quarters of all low-wage workers in the state work in just five broad occupational fields: sales and retail, food preparation and serving, personal care services, building and grounds cleaning and health care support.
The study notes that most of the employers of low-wage workers in Oregon are large, profitable corporations. And when compared to other states, Oregon has one of the highest percentages of workers receiving public assistance and one of the lowest corporate tax rates.
For the full report, see “The High Cost of Low Wages in Oregon” on the LERC or UO sociology department website.
The report’s authors are LERC faculty members Raahi Reddy and Bob Bussel, UO sociology and gender studies professor Ellen Scott, UO doctoral student Shauna Dyer and Portland State University School of Community Health affiliated faculty Daniel Morris.
—By Greg Bolt, Public Affairs Communications
What kind of employee teaches at job training centers that used to be community colleges? Part time adjuncts that moonlight from another job. Earning close to poverty after doing both. The employment that comes from Obama privatizing yet another public higher education sector is ever lower than when we had strong public community colleges with a focus for preparing working and middle-class students heading to a 4 year university. The vocational training becomes entry level jobs that pay poverty wages and what used to be strong trade union apprenticeships are now greatly reduced certifications. The ever lower standards of education for 90% of American people soared during the Obama Administration as the dismantling of the equal opportunity and access structures with public democratic education are dismantled. Clinton started the privatization and dismantling of our public universities-----Bush created the for-profit education sector filled with fraud and student exploitation, and now Obama is privatizing public community colleges and K-12. Republican policies from decades ago installed by politicians running as Democrats!
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the goal of attacking professors and higher education teaching profession----Wall Street does not think 90% of Americans need to go to 4 year universities and the 10% that do go will take the route of Ivy League universities where teaching staff and students are treated as professionals. So, make the American higher education system as distasteful as you can for professors and students-----by making teachers employment unbearable and student costs too much to afford and VOILA----
YOU HAVE REMOVED THE ENTIRE PATHWAY TO 4 YEAR DEGREES FOR 90% OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. JUST IN TIME FOR OBAMA TO MAKE JOB TRAINING CENTERS AS COMMUNITY COLLEGES FREE TO THE MASSES!
You see this hits teaching professional for humanities and liberal arts the hardest. Think what happened to law schools-----they dismantled all of the public justice agencies and deregulated so there were no jobs for public justice lawyers and VOILA----law schools have very few public justice lawyers graduating. That is what they are doing with liberal arts and humanities higher education. Now they are going down to the community college.
May 6, 2012
The Ph.D. Now Comes With Food Stamps
Laura Segall For The Chronicle
Melissa Bruninga-Matteau, a medieval-history Ph.D. and adjunct professor who gets food stamps: "I've been able to make enough to live on. Until now."
By Stacey Patton
"I am not a welfare queen," says Melissa Bruninga-Matteau.
That's how she feels compelled to start a conversation about how she, a white woman with a Ph.D. in medieval history and an adjunct professor, came to rely on food stamps and Medicaid. Ms. Bruninga-Matteau, a 43-year-old single mother who teaches two humanities courses at Yavapai College, in Prescott, Ariz., says the stereotype of the people receiving such aid does not reflect reality. Recipients include growing numbers of people like her, the highly educated, whose advanced degrees have not insulated them from financial hardship.
"I find it horrifying that someone who stands in front of college classes and teaches is on welfare," she says.
Jeff Haller for The Chronicle
Elliott Stegall, 51, who teaches English courses, picks up food assistance at the WIC office in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. "The first time we went to the office to apply, I felt like I had arrived from Eastern Europe to Ellis Island," he says. "We all had that same ragged, poor look in our eyes."
People with advanced degrees, from Texas to Chicago to Vermont, talk about what it's like to have to live on federal aid.
Ms. Bruninga-Matteau grew up in an upper-middle class family in Montana that valued hard work and saw educational achievement as the pathway to a successful career and a prosperous life. She entered graduate school at the University of California at Irvine in 2002, idealistic about landing a tenure-track job in her field. She never imagined that she'd end up trying to eke out a living, teaching college for poverty wages, with no benefits or job security.
Ms. Bruninga-Matteau always wanted to teach. She started working as an adjunct in graduate school. This semester she is working 20 hours each week, prepping, teaching, advising, and grading papers for two courses at Yavapai, a community college with campuses in Chino Valley, Clarkdale, Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Sedona. Her take-home pay is $900 a month, of which $750 goes to rent. Each week, she spends $40 on gas to get her to the campus; she lives 43 miles away, where housing is cheaper.
Ms. Bruninga-Matteau does not blame Yavapai College for her situation but rather the "systematic defunding of higher education." In Arizona last year, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed a budget that cut the state's allocation to Yavapai's operating budget from $4.3-million to $900,000, which represented a 7.6 percent reduction in the college's operating budget. The cut led to an 18,000-hour reduction in the use of part-time faculty like Ms. Bruninga-Matteau.
"The media gives us this image that people who are on public assistance are dropouts, on drugs or alcohol, and are irresponsible," she says. "I'm not irresponsible. I'm highly educated. I have a whole lot of skills besides knowing about medieval history, and I've had other jobs. I've never made a lot of money, but I've been able to make enough to live on. Until now."
An Overlooked Subgroup A record number of people are depending on federally financed food assistance. Food-stamp use increased from an average monthly caseload of 17 million in 2000 to 44 million people in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Web site. Last year, one in six people—almost 50 million Americans, or 15 percent of the population—received food stamps.
Ms. Bruninga-Matteau is part of an often overlooked, and growing, subgroup of Ph.D. recipients, adjunct professors, and other Americans with advanced degrees who have had to apply for food stamps or some other form of government aid since late 2007.
Some are struggling to pay back student loans and cover basic living expenses as they submit scores of applications for a limited pool of full-time academic positions. Others are trying to raise families or pay for their children's college expenses on the low and fluctuating pay they receive as professors off the tenure track, a group that now makes up 70 percent of faculties. Many bounce on and off unemployment or welfare during semester breaks. And some adjuncts have found themselves trying to make ends meet by waiting tables or bagging groceries alongside their students.
Of the 22 million Americans with master's degrees or higher in 2010, about 360,000 were receiving some kind of public assistance, according to the latest Current Population Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2011. In 2010, a total of 44 million people nationally received food stamps or some other form of public aid, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
People who don't finish college are more likely to receive food stamps than are those who go to graduate school. The rolls of people on public assistance are dominated by people with less education. Nevertheless, the percentage of graduate-degree holders who receive food stamps or some other aid more than doubled between 2007 and 2010.
During that three-year period, the number of people with master's degrees who received food stamps and other aid climbed from 101,682 to 293,029, and the number of people with Ph.D.'s who received assistance rose from 9,776 to 33,655, according to tabulations of microdata done by Austin Nichols, a senior researcher with the Urban Institute. He drew on figures from the 2008 and 2011 Current Population Surveys done by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
Leaders of organizations that represent adjunct faculty members think that the number of people counted by the government does not represent the full picture of academics on welfare because many do not report their reliance on federal aid.
Even as the number of highly educated aid recipients grows, shame has helped to keep the problem hidden.
"People don't want their faces and names associated with this experience," says Karen L. Kelsky, a former tenured professor who now runs The Professor Is In, an academic-career consulting business. She also operates a fund that helps graduate students and Ph.D.'s who are struggling financially, most of whom are women with children.
"It's gone beyond the joke of the impoverished grad student to becoming something really dire and urgent," says Ms. Kelsky. "When I was a tenured professor I had no idea that the Ph.D. was a path to food stamps."
It's difficult to talk about being on aid, says Matthew Williams, cofounder and vice president of the New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for nontenure-track faculty.
"We regularly hear about adjuncts on food stamps," says Mr. Williams, who received food stamps and Medicaid himself when he taught at the University of Akron from 2007 to 2009, earning less than $21,000 a year. "This is not hyperbole and it isn't theoretical."
Some adjuncts make less money than custodians and campus support staff who may not have college degrees. An adjunct's salary can range from $600 to $10,000 per course, according to the Adjunct Project, a crowdsourced database about adjuncts' salaries and working conditions. The national average earnings of adjunct instructors are just under $2,500 per course, according to the American Association of University Professors.
The Road to Assistance Elliott Stegall, a white, 51-year-old married father of two, teaches two courses each semester in the English department at Northwest Florida State College, in Niceville, Fla. He and his wife, Amanda, live in a modest home about 40 miles away in DeFuniak Springs, a conservative bulwark in northwest Florida.
"This is where the poor folk live," says Mr. Stegall. "It's small-town America. The people are nice, but there's no industry. The only jobs are on the coastline."
Mr. Stegall is a graduate student at Florida State University, where he is finishing his dissertation in film studies. At night, after his 3-year-old and 3-month-old children have been put to bed, he grades a stack of composition papers or plugs away at his dissertation. (He's writing about how Hollywood films portray Vietnam soldiers as psychotic men who return home destroyed by the war.) His wife is starting a two-year, online master's degree program in criminology offered by Florida State. They receive food stamps, Medicaid, and aid from the Women, Infants, and Children program (known as WIC).
Mr. Stegall has taught at three colleges for more than 14 years. He says he has taught more than two dozen courses in communications, performing arts, and the humanities and he has watched academic positions in these fields nearly disappear with budget cuts. When he and Ms. Stegall stepped inside the local WIC office in Tallahassee, Fla., where they used to live, with their children in tow, he had to fight shame, a sense of failure, and the notion that he was not supposed to be there. After all, he grew up in a family that valued hard work and knowledge. His father was a pastor and a humanities professor, and his mother was psychology professor.
"The first time we went to the office to apply, I felt like I had arrived from Eastern Europe to Ellis Island," he says. "The place was filled with people from every culture and ethnicity. We all had that same ragged, poor look in our eyes."
He took a number, sat in the crowded lobby, and waited to be called up to a plexiglass window by a brusque woman who screamed his name. The Stegalls and the other parents took turns entertaining one another's children. As he looked around, he thought about his situation as a true academic would.
"I tend to look at my experience as a humanist, as someone who is fascinated by human culture," he says. "Maybe it was a way of hiding from the reality in which I found myself. I never thought I'd be among the poor."
Mr. Stegall has supplemented his teaching income by working odd jobs. He painted houses until the housing crisis eliminated clients. He and his wife worked as servers for a catering company until the economic downturn hurt business. And they cleaned condos along Destin beach. They took the children along because day care was too expensive.
"I'm grateful for government assistance. Without it, my family and I would certainly be homeless and destitute," he says. "But living on the dole is excruciatingly embarrassing and a constant reminder that I must have done something terribly wrong along the way to deserve this fate."
As he sat in the WIC office with his family, Mr. Stegall blamed himself. He made a choice, he says, to earn a graduate degree even as he saw the economy collapsing, the humanities under assault, and the academic job market worsening.
"As a man, I felt like I was a failure. I had devoted myself to the world of cerebral activity. I had learned a practical skill that was elitist," he says. "Perhaps I should have been learning a skill that the economy supports."
'Dirty Little Secret' When asked if they believe that full-time faculty, administrators, and scholarly associations know that adjuncts are receiving government assistance, scores of graduate students and adjuncts who get public benefits gave mixed responses. In an informal questionnaire The Chronicle distributed through AFT Higher Education, the New Faculty Majority, and other groups that represent adjuncts, the aid recipients said that some of those people know, some don't know, some don't want to know, and some seem not to care.
At Yavapai, where Ms. Bruninga-Matteau teaches, a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail that the college "does not look into the financial backgrounds of its full- or part-time employees."
"If any employee were being helped or supported by a government program, the administration at Yavapai College would not be privy to that information," the spokesperson said. "In comparison to other community colleges in Arizona, Yavapai College's adjunct faculty are the third highest-paid in the state."
Numerous phone calls to Northwest Florida State College, where Mr. Stegall teaches, were not returned.
"It's the dirty little secret of higher education," says Mr. Williams of the New Faculty Majority. "Many administrators are not aware of the whole extent of the problem. But all it takes is for somebody to run the numbers to see that their faculty is eligible for welfare assistance."
Public colleges have a special obligation to ensure that the conditions under which contingent faculty work are not exploitative, he says. "When public institutions fill those seats in the classroom and tell students that they will be better off because of their education, it is absolutely disingenuous for institutions to promulgate a compensation structure of faculty to be on food stamps and other forms of government assistance."
John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, says he regularly encounters tenured faculty members who are unaware of the extent of the problem of contingent academic employment. At the same time, many tenured faculty members are outspoken advocates of improving working conditions for their colleagues in contingent appointments, he adds. The AAUP has been working with faculty groups, scholarly associations, and disciplinary societies to raise awareness, Mr. Curtis says, so there is "no legitimate claim to a lack of information."
Some leaders of scholarly associations say they are surprised to hear of graduate-degree holders being on public assistance.
James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said in an e-mail that he consulted with his staff, and "nobody has ever heard of this among our members or other historians."
"No e-mails, no postings or tweets," he wrote. "That doesn't mean it's not out there. It just means that historians on public assistance have not crossed AHA communications."
Michael Bérubé, president of the Modern Language Association, says that he and his wife, Janet, qualified for WIC while they were in graduate school in the late 1980s.
"It was great. It paid for Nick's baby formula and food, and was just the kind of social-welfare program liberals should defend," he says. "It was a temporary leg up until we were paid living wages. Janet's mother also gave us her Social Security checks, so here's another cheer for the idea of social welfare."
Mr. Bérubé says, though, that he is disturbed that adjuncts continue to live for extended periods on these low wages, even after graduate school. As for why scholarly organizations don't think about Ph.D.'s being on food stamps, he says the answer is obvious.
"Everyone thinks a Ph.D. pretty much guarantees you a living wage and, from what I can tell, most commentators think that college professors make $100,000 and more," he says. "But I've been hearing all year from nontenure-track faculty making under $20,000, and I don't know anyone who believes you can raise a family on that. Even living as a single person on that salary is tough, if you want to eat something other than ramen noodles every once in a while."
Many people hold on to hopes that they'll be the one to get a lucky break, even as their economic situation deteriorates.
Marc Bousquet, an associate professor of English at Santa Clara University and the founding editor of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, says that ego, identity status, and prestige may explain why so many people refuse to abandon their aspirations of becoming full-time professors.
"A big part of what we do in graduate education is foster this sense of vocation and teaching for love and passion for what you do," says Mr. Bousquet, who is also a contributor to The Chronicle's Brainstorm blog. "We socialize people into accepting the coin of reputation as status capital. Some people are so deeply socialized into the regime of payment by way of status that they are essentially trapped in it for life."
The Role of Race Ms. Kelsky, who helps graduate students and adjuncts who are homeless or on aid, says the false portrayal of aid recipients as "welfare queens" is an illusion that was created for political purposes.
"Racializing food stamps denies that wide swaths of the population, reaching into the middle classes, are dealing with food insecurity," she says.
Thirty-nine percent of all welfare recipients are white, 37 percent are black, 17 percent are Hispanic, and 3 percent are Asian, according to data from Aid to Families With Dependent Children. The majority of the dozens of graduate-degree holders on aid who responded to The Chronicle questionnaire are also white.
But race and cultural stereotypes play a significant part in how many of the academics interviewed by The Chronicle are struggling with the reality of being on welfare.
Lynn, a 43-year-old adjunct professor at two community colleges in Houston, who is on food stamps and Medicaid and doesn't want to give her surname, says, "People don't expect that white people need assistance," she says. "It's a prevalent attitude. Applying for food stamps is even worse if you're white and need help."
Kisha Hawkins-Sledge, who is 35 and a black single mother of 3-year-old twin boys, earned her master's degree in English last August. She began teaching part-time at Prairie State College, Moraine Valley Community College, and Richard J. Daley College of the City Colleges of Chicago while in graduate school, and says she made enough money to live on until she had children. She lives in Lansing, Ill.
"My household went from one to three. My income was not enough, and so I had to apply for assistance," she says. She now receives food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, and child-care assistance.
Like Ms. Bruninga-Matteau and Mr. Stegall, Ms. Hawkins-Sledge says she had preconceived notions about people on government assistance before she herself began receiving aid. "I went to school. I went to grad school," she says. "I thought that welfare was for people who didn't go to school and couldn't get a good job."
Ms. Hawkins-Sledge says she grew up watching her mother work hard and put herself through college and graduate school. "My mom defied the stereotype and here I am in graduate school trying to do the same," she says. And she, too, has worked hard not to become the cultural stereotype of the black welfare queen.
"My name is Kisha. You hear that name and you think black girl, big hoop earrings, on welfare, three or four babies' daddies," she says. "I had to work against my color, my flesh, and my name alone. I went to school to get all these degrees to prove to the rest of the world that I'm not lazy and I'm not on welfare. But there I was and I asked myself, 'What's the point? I'm here anyway.'"
For Ms. Hawkins-Sledge, there is good news. She will begin a full-time, tenure-track job as an English professor at Prairie State in August.
Look at what Prairie State is----a community college and do you think Ms Hawkins-Sledge will have a full-time tenure track job with Obama's job training structure? NOT LIKELY.
Prairie State College offers associate degrees that prepare students for transfer to four-year institutions, associate degrees and certificates that prepare students for specific careers, and an associate degree that recognize the completion of a broad range of college-level courses.
Remember, third world nations have professional class barely earning over poverty and that is to where Clinton neo-liberals are taking us. Doctors, lawyers, etc impoverished. Meanwhile, the rich circulate family through revolving doors receiving super-sized pay. That is what is reflected in family wealth and it will soon be reflected in wages. If you work with the 90% of Americans----you will not receive a professional wage. That is what Clinton neo-liberals in Congress and your statehouse have as a goal working as a tag-team with Republicans for wealth and profit.
Those small business education owners gone and national and global education corporations in control of K-12, community colleges, and our public 4 year universities!
THAT IS TO WHERE THESE POLICIES LEAD AND THEY ARE ALL REPUBLICAN POLICIES TO PRIVATIZE THE PUBLIC EDUCATION SECTOR.
If Clinton global corporate neo-liberals are pushed out of office the first thing a governor or mayor does is rebuild the small and regional business sector-----Rule of Law to recover the massive fraud -----and hand scholarships to tons of students with bachelor's degrees to law school for a public justice degree. Turning this around will take good public lawyers, domestic economies, and rebuilding the public sector.
This College Professor Has a Master's...And Is Living in Poverty Brianne Bolin is among a growing segment of Americans who are both hypereducated and poor.
By Alissa Quart / AlterNet January 9, 2015
Professor Bolin, or Brianne, as she tells her students to call her, might as well be invisible. When I arrive at the building at Columbia College in Chicago where she teaches composition, I ask the assistant at the front desk how to locate her. "Bolin?" she asks, sounding puzzled, as she scans the faculty list. "I'm sorry, I don't see that name." There is no Brianne Bolin to be found, even though she's taught four classes a year here for the past five years. She doesn't have a phone extension to her name, never mind an office.
The mother of a disabled eight-year-old boy named Finn, Bolin rushes in late to the lobby—she'd offered to give me a tour of her workplace. Her red hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and red electrical tape is wrapped around the left temple of her black geek-chic glasses; they broke a few months ago, and she can't afford a new pair. Bolin dressed up for the occasion: a black vest (from a thrift store, she'll tell me later), jeans (also thrift), and a brass anatomical version of a heart dangling at her throat from a thin black string. This is a rare and coveted evening off for her—Finn's father's fiancé agreed to babysit—but so far she's too agitated to enjoy it. She just learned that the woman and Finn's father, a blacksmith, are getting married in a few weeks, and they won't be able to take care of the boy during that time. It's all on her, again.
After she shows me the computer lab and some of the students' abstract photography and video installations, we settle down to talk in the student lounge, which features sleek modern furniture and high-rent views of the city's Grant Park and Lake Michigan. By this time, Bolin seems more angry than anxious. An adjunct professor, she earns $4,350 a class, never more than $24,000 a year, she says. At the moment, she has $55 in the bank and $3,000 in credit card debt. She is a month behind on the $975 rent she pays for a two-bedroom house next to railroad tracks in a western Chicago suburb, where every 20 minutes a train screeches by. Her bookshelves are full of poetry and philosophy from grad school, she can recite poems from memory, and she collects French 1960s LPs, but she must rely on food stamps to feed herself and her son. And because her job doesn't offer health insurance, they're both enrolled in Medicaid, the state and federal health-care program for the poor. (Coverage for a child Finn's age in Illinois caps at an income equaling 142 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $22,336.)
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Bolin, the English major, knows that's a cliché, but she can't help thinking it all the time.It wasn't supposed to be this way. In college at Eastern Illinois University downstate, she inhaled books—lived "in a trailer park with a friend, reading the novels of Virginia Woolf and Marguerite Duras, getting into Kerouac and Ginsberg and that Beat rebellion thing," she recalls. She earned a bachelor's and a master's, studying avant-garde poetry. She didn't expect to become an academic star—Eastern Illinois wasn't the University of Chicago—but she did assume she'd have a steady job with adequate pay. "I like nice things—I'm a little bourgeois," she says. "I thought at 35, I'd have clothes without holes in them and money in the bank, but I shop at Goodwill exclusively. I wear Banana Republic $5 suit jackets that wear out quickly because they've already been worn so much beforehand….
"My dreams did this to me. It's not a shameful thing, although I wonder if there is something wrong with me."
Much political rhetoric these days is devoted to the importance of broadening access to college—and there is plenty of evidence that it's still better financially to have a degree than not—but in the postcrash world of 2014, a good education may not keep you from hovering near the poverty line. The number of people with graduate degrees receiving food assistance or other forms of federal aid nearly tripled between 2007 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. More specifically, 28 percent of food-stamp households were headed by a person with at least some college education in 2013, compared with 8 percent in 1980, according to an analysis by University of Kentucky economists.
The hypereducated poor, as I've come to think of them, are as hidden to the country at large as Bolin is at Columbia. "Nobody knows or cares that I have a PhD, living in the trailer park," says a former linguistics adjunct and mother of one child, who lives in Eugene, Oregon, and was on welfare and food stamps. A St. Paul, Minnesota, librarian, who admits that few of her friends have any clue how broke she is, puts it this way: "Every American thinks they're a temporarily embarrassed millionaire: I am no exception."
Bolin keeps in touch online with a large circle of her fellow travelers, including Justin Thomas, a friend from college who has a master's degree in history. An adjunct at Lake Land College, about three hours south of Chicago, Thomas teaches between four and six classes a semester, earning between $1,500 and $3,087 per class. His paychecks arrive a month after each semester begins, he says, and during those four weeks it's macaroni and cheese and baked potatoes every night for his two daughters. (Because he doesn't have full custody of them, he isn't eligible for food stamps.) "I say, 'Sorry I can't afford to buy you anything, even an ice cream,'" he says, getting choked up as he adds, "For me to help my daughters with their dreams, I have to give up my dreams." Though he has been moonlighting for his father in construction, money remains tight. "I'd love to get my daughter music lessons—she's talented. But right now I don't have the resources to take advantage of her ability."
It's not just academics who are highly educated and downwardly mobile. Employment for recent law school graduates fell from 92 percent in 2007 to 84.5 percent in 2012, according to the National Association for Law Placement, and the average law student's debt was about $100,000. Other professions that haven't regained many of the jobs lost during the recession include architecture, market research, data processing, book publishing, human resources, and finance—all of which either require or tend to attract workers with a master's degree.
Bolin was different from the other kids at her school in small-town central Illinois. For starters, she was adopted and an only child. Early on, she tested into a gifted program and was the kind of smart her mother proudly calls "scary," though it morphed into "troubled" when she became a teenager. In high school, she didn't fit in—she was very emotional, she says, wore all black and read all the time.
At college, however, she quickly felt like she'd found her place in the world. "Literature gave life an extra resonance," she says. Then, in her sophomore year, Bolin's boyfriend was murdered by his roommate. The trauma led her to dive yet more deeply into literature, especially poets such as William Carlos Williams and George Oppen. What was the soul? she wondered. Was her boyfriend's out there? "I had camaraderie in a personal way with the authors I studied," she says. "I was a lonely person—I still am—and books made the world a more beautiful place."
No one at her college mentioned that becoming an academic might not be the wisest career path, she says. Instead, her favorite professor, Michael Loudon, who taught American Romanticism, encouraged her to come to his office and sit and talk. (He is now retired.) "He had faith in me: He knew I'd continue with the ideas I was working with and write a dissertation. No, he didn't think I'd have a big career, but he was sure I'd have decent work. That was a given."
But during Loudon's collegiate era at least 75 percent of professors were tenured or tenure-track (a status that includes health benefits), while the exact reverse is true today: 75 percent are adjuncts or part-timers like Bolin. This sea change in academia had begun by the time Bolin went to college, but neither she nor her parents were aware of it. Her father, who hadn't gone to college, worked building tires for Firestone; her mother was a homemaker who had an undergraduate degree in home economics. "Clocking in at nine and home by dinnertime," Bolin says of her dad. He worked to live, not the other way around, and he didn't necessarily understand his daughter's quest for work she loved.
Nevertheless, Bolin's parents, who paid for her undergraduate education with savings, were impressed when in her midtwenties she graduated and immediately started teaching composition at Westwood College in Chicago. (Soon after, she switched to Columbia.) She'd hoped to teach literature, but she came to love basic writing and comp, she says, relishing the process of helping her students learn to write cogently. And Chicago thrilled her. She'd never seen people of so many races and nationalities. She could hear eclectic music night after night: klezmer, Balkan folk music. She even formed her own two-piece band, Mud Show, with a cast of instruments such as an accordion, a bass made from a steamer trunk, a bucket of chains, and a typewriter. "I was making it financially, but I was living as a 26-year-old in the city, with several roommates, hosting house parties with live music, enjoying life," she says. "I had no serious partner and no future plans. I was living an extended youth."
Then, at 28, she got pregnant, the result of a random hookup with a 20-year-old in a band she liked. She knew she'd be raising her child mostly on her own, but Bolin says she never considered not having the baby. To make matters more difficult, Finn was born with quadri plegic cerebral palsy. To devote herself to his care, she quit work for several years and moved back in with her parents. Her mother remained proud of her daughter, no longer as an academic but now as a caretaker of a boy with bright blue eyes and a crown of sandy brown hair who can't eat or walk without assistance, whose ribbon-thin body must be lifted in and out of his wheelchair many times a day.
In 2008, when Finn was two, Bolin returned to Chicago and started teaching as many classes as she could get from Columbia, but her boss recently warned her that she'll never get a permanent job. "[Academia] just isn't a career choice anymore," Bolin says.
One reaction to Bolin's plight might be, Get over yourself! Find something that pays the bills! Or, as Karen Kelsky, a former anthropology professor who founded a counseling service called The Professor Is In, has put it: Find a "real job." Her clients pay $300 an hour for e-mail counsel about how to reinvent themselves, and, sometimes, to express "rage, despair, and disappointment" about their disappearing profession, Kelsky says. "Adjuncts can accrue massive debt to support their children, destroy their health, teach at five campuses, in a professional death spiral. Once you've given it your best shot, it's time to move on." She helps people with postgraduate degrees to identify other marketable skills, such as analysis, data gathering, writing, and public speaking.
Bolin is an avid follower of Kelsky's blog (she can't afford her one-on-one service, perhaps needless to say), and though Kelsky's advice sounds sensible, Bolin, already stretched thin working and caring for her son, says she struggles to find time to send out her résumé or get additional training, the latter of which isn't free, of course. She has thought about supplementing her income with some kind of retail job, but Finn's child-care costs would eat up her paycheck. She started to train as a speech-language pathologist a few years ago—her son has needed speech therapy since birth—but the further along she got in her studies the more despondent she became, she says, and she eventually dropped out: Her experiences with her own son were traumatic enough. Lately she's been looking into work as a campus union organizer, to capitalize on her interest in improving adjuncts' lot, but so far that hasn't really panned out either.
Yet Bolin's situation is not just the result of too few hours in the day. As social psychologists who study what's known as "decision fatigue" have found, being poor takes a huge amount of mental work. There is a constant need to weigh the merits of spending even the smallest amounts of money: Yes, maybe I should buy a few extra bars of that seriously marked-down soap—one of the experimental conditions tested by a Princeton economist in poor Indian villages—but wait, then I can't afford this week's medicine, food, school fees, et cetera.
Tagging along with Bolin at Trader Joe's, I saw how wearing it was for her to try to stay within her monthly $349 food-stamp budget, for which she qualifies only in the summer, when school isn't in session. (She also can apply for about $600 in Supplemental Security disability payments in months when she earns less than $2,000.) Finn must have expensive almond and rice milk—he's lactose intolerant—but then Bolin is on the hunt for the 59-cent-per-pound giant bag of chicken legs, 49-cent bag of carrots, and forget about buying anything other than the absolute cheapest ground beef. "I read blogs about people wasting $20 on frivolous things like a photo booth or fancy cheese," she says. "I'll never do that."
The point of the social-psychology research is that when so much mental activity is devoted to basic survival, little is left to engage in long-term thinking or to muster willpower—which Bolin well knows. "I need to smoke to relieve the pressure," she tells me as she feverishly rolls her own cigarettes one evening when I take her out to a bar, where she also finds relief in the form of plentiful margaritas. She's self-medicating, she says; other times, she uses Xanax for anxiety. She also takes a daily antidepressant. As Linda Tirado, whose rawly honest blog post on her own minimum-wage existence catapulted her into the national spotlight last year, bluntly writes in her new book, Hand to Mouth: "Being poor while working hard is fucking crushing."
Bolin's desperation comes through perhaps most poignantly when she takes me to her favorite Chicago neighborhood, Andersonville. Her education has influenced her tastes, and she peers longingly into shopwindows filled with midcentury antiques, wax flowers, handmade hats, toffee made with European beer. She tells me she's a foodie and loves pasta with cream sauce and shrimp cocktail, as well as the "opera cake" sold at the tourist-ready Austrian bakery, but the cafés and restaurants here are as out of her reach as the rents, which are around double those in Brookfield, where she lives. She stops in a feminist bookstore, wishing she could spring for a book on sex and feminism, or a new collection of essays on living in the Internet age.
The next day, Bolin and I spend the afternoon pushing Finn in his wheelchair through Chicago's Lincoln Park. At a playground, Finn rushes down the slide on his stomach, with a big smile on his face, but at other times he screams in frustration at his physical limitations—he just wants to run or kick a ball. What Bolin wants shouldn't be so hard to achieve: a steady version of the job she has now, making $35,000 a year. "Finn would be okay with that," she says simply. She'd be able to afford the next size up in a tricycle for him—though he can barely walk, he loves to ride. Bolin also says she hopes to find a partner to love and share practical tasks such as child care, but she hasn't met anyone who seems right for a serious relationship.
With twilight approaching, she points out an attractive dark-haired couple sitting with their toddler son on a bench, a fancy stroller parked next to them. "When I see couples who have jobs," she says, "couples who look perfect, I want to ask them: 'How did you do it?'"