Thursday, December 8, 2016

A student’s editorial in favor of Senate Bill 100 to end the School to Prison Pipeline in Illinois

Senate Bill 100

I have a friend was was a teacher in an alternative school in Peoria; she has since moved on.  She commented to me how kids coming to her school were so damaged and in a sense, many kids are just thrown away for different reasons.  She said it is so sad; the kids just need a chance to learn. They need that attention that they are not getting at home.  So, they act out and end up there, in her class.   

High schools have jumped on the bandwagon of zero tolerance when disciplining students; that way they don't disrupt the "good" kids.  The chance of African American kids being suspended or expelled is much higher. During the 2012-2013 school years, Chicago Schools suspended 32 of every 100 black students, compared to just 5 of every 100 white students.  These kids are then funneled through alternative schools, juvenile justice systems, then finally prison. This has got to stop!  This is known as the School to Prison Pipeline. 

Senate Bill 100 would eliminate the zero tolerance suspension and expulsion rules that are already set in place by the majority of schools.  Senate Bill 100 requires all public funded schools to only suspend and expel students as a last resort when coming across student discipline issues.  Therefore, requiring all schools to exhaust all means of intervention before expelling or suspending for more than three days.  The bill also prohibits fines and fees for misbehavior, and required schools to communicate with parents about why certain disciplinary measures are being used.  

Teaching is not easy; we do expect a lot of our teachers and very little from parents.  It is ridiculous to think that we have lost common sense when disciplining kids today. Why would bringing nail clippers or a wearing a  hair style that is distracting merit a high school student to be suspended? Or why do high schools feel the need the  bring in outside law enforcement to handle trivial issues?   The student now has a record before they are even out of high school!  This bill is long time coming and very much needed.  The cost of Senate Bill 100 in the short term, would be the cost of extra tutors, more qualified teachers, and special education services.  The long significant savings  of this bill, would amount to hundreds of millions when these kids do not end up in our judicial systems.

A key point in the justice argument is that the misbehavior of African-American students is neither quantitatively nor qualitatively worse than the behavior of other children (after adjusting for material deprivation and a few other things that contribute to negative behavior), and yet, when we control for those factors that explain negative behavior including income, the higher rate of discipline remains spectacularly high.  A counter argument you can anticipate is that "African-American students behave more badly more often, and that is why they are suspended and expelled more often" and you can anticipate that point and address it by showing the disparities in expulsion and suspension in Illinois schools was not in line with the differences in disciplinary problems.   

Legalizing Cannabis: An Incendiary Topic

An editorial written by a student... a creative student.

First, I would like to preface this article with the fact I do not engage in recreational drug use. I refrain from engaging in such activity for personal reasons and, quite honestly, have never felt the desire to pick up such a habit. I understand the moral reasons why some people refrain from casual cannabis use and also the health benefits that some cannabis users claim justify their use. While radical conservatives –even Democrats—may balk at the moral fabric of our society becoming compromised if marijuana is legalized for recreational use, many fail to recognize the economic benefits legalizing marijuana could produce; this is my focus and position for believing marijuana should be legalized.
 As Illinois lawmakers and officials march forward waving figurative signs of protest backing their respective causes, our state flops around like a fish out of water, on the brink of total economic chaos. Proposed budgets ooze with either too many Lucky Charms marshmallows or not enough enough cereal in the bowl to prevent starvation, and the population sits precariously on the edge of their seats waiting for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters to begin his famous walk through the cities eating everyone’s pensions and entitlements for dinner. Instead of opening dusty doors with potential gold nuggets sitting on the other side, our state legislature continues to staple bright yellow caution tape over them to see if everyone will just ignore the doors and move on to something easier to open like boxes of municipal bonds. The problem is that we can all see the rectangular shape of the doors under the layers of bright yellow nonsensical caution tape. We see state after state legalizing recreational marijuana and joining the increasing number of fiscally responsible governments that care about opening the doors instead of finding every possible way to keep them locked. 
Illinois legalized medical marijuana several years ago, and then completely destroyed the financial opportunity by regulating the manufacturers as if they were opening proxy headquarters for the NSA or CIA. How can a viable business break out when the red tape is wrapped around its potential, like titanium shackles? Does each medical marijuana plant in the facility really need to be monitored, tracked and witnessed through Illinois State Police spy cam feeds? Why do we throw away the potential tax windfall from this billion-dollar industry when we are Kung Fu fighting over crumbs? It is unbelievable to think that our elected officials would rather whine and moan about how to fund various programs, while the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that it costs America over $3,600,000,000 to enforce marijuana laws at the local level (Poindexter, 2014).  Law enforcement officers could be spending their time and our tax dollars on more pressing and serious issues, than making it a point to bust “tokers.”  However, Illinois’ recent decriminalization of small time marijuana users will undoubtedly ease the burden on our state’s economic back by  trying to suck money out of the pot smokers instead of spending debt based money to incarcerate them, yet it is just a token of what could be earned from the honest taxation of a fully functioning reefer market. 
How much could Illinois gain, financially, from legalization? We need to look at the experience of other states that have legalized.  Colorado has only had a working recreational marijuana industry for a few years and they are already puffing on an additional $135,000,000 in tax revenue from the almost $1,000,000,000 fledgling industry (Poindexter, 2014). There isn’t any way the United States will ever eradicate recreational marijuana smoking, so why not allow it and tax the puffers? As the residents of Illinois watch their sales taxes, property taxes and medical insurance premiums continue to fatten like a pet wooly mammoth, can there be any wonder why ever higher percentages of the population want to see this prohibition go up in smoke? Every day we read of folks in more enlightened states discovering an increasing number of new uses for the plant, but our ridiculous, overbearing legislative parents maintain the myth of the diabolical gateway drug. 
Marijuana has been proven to be less addictive and much less harmful to the human body than both alcohol and tobacco, yet the cloudy gateway drug argument is continuously used as a rickety old platform from which to stand on by rickety old control freaks who never seem to understand when they have outlived their usefulness in the state legislative body. On the contrary, cannabis has been proven to have legitimate medical benefits, so why require individuals to jump through hoops in order to smoke it legally, when they can purchase without a doctor’s order and use at leisure to alleviate physical discomfort? Cannabis has been shown to reduce discomfort associated with AIDS, chemotherapy, general pain, and glaucoma. Cannabis has also been shown to provide relief from spasms that result from multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease (Poindexter, 2014). 
Illinois taxpayers want to see freedom ring and watch as this budding industry provides another much-needed income source that does not involve the forced theft of a greater percentage of their hard-earned paychecks. 


Poindexter, O. (2014) Available at: says-end-marijuana-prohibition

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Student reaction paper about Workers Compensation

Workers Compensation (A reaction essay)

I choose to talk about workers compensation. According to the social welfare history project at Virginia Commonwealth University, workers compensation is the third biggest social insurance program in U.S. It started in the 1900s (in the Progressive Era). While in the work force I have learned a lot more about this program then I would have learned if it wasn’t offered by my employer. It does not help some workers in areas like farming. With Workers Compensation, the state covers someone who is injured on the job or in a work place. It also covers the family if the person passes way from an injury on the job. In each job situation there should be information for the worker to know how they can get Workers Compensation benefits if needed. At my workplace there are many flyers in the teachers' workroom on workers compensation. These flyers explain things like where employees can get the benefits and who gets affected when the money is taken out for insured workers.  

From working in the school system I have learned that the more money that goes to injured or disabled persons through workers compensation, the more money is taken away from the education system. I feel like some stuff does need to be taken care of by the job if they are responsible. On the other hand I do believe some people abuse the idea and system so that money doesn’t get to go to a better cause. There are many people out there willing to help people who believe they have been hurt on the job due to some kind of unsafe condition. According to the Illinois workers compensation commission once there is a case to deal with it will appear in court for a trial to see if the employer is really at fault. They also stated that in most of the cases there is a settlement from the company to end it all. I have seen this happen and some times the settlement is not always the best bet. For example instead of going after money they just say they can’t be fired. The workers compensation would almost seem better to pay a little money or the amount the judge says to pay. 

Some things I think they could change would be where the money comes from when a worker gets hurt. I know my dad has to have insurance just for if someone gets hurt. It hurts the owner if someone gets hurt and the problem had nothing to do with them. I think if they get hurt and it was something like tripping over there own feet or something feel on the floor that isn’t their fault. The wet floor with no sign or loosing an arm or leg that I understand. The other stuff I just think the money should come from somewhere else.

Could a fast-track to citizenship for undocumented workers help sustain Social Security?

Social Security 

For my second reaction paper, I decided to give more thought to Social Security and ways to replenish the trust fund we are currently pulling funds from. As it is, the social security payroll (FICA) tax is not currently drawing in enough money to cover the payments being made every month to those receiving old-age, survivors’, and disability benefits. Of the items discussed in class to increase funding, we considered a small tax increase immediately, a larger tax increase later, or removing the cap on taxes collected on incomes over $118,500 (, 2016). There was also mention of the increase in revenue possible if current undocumented immigrants were allowed a stream-lined process to citizenship, making their incomes taxable. 

After reading a few articles from various sources, I found many economists and politicians agree that allowing undocumented workers to become legal citizens will only further strengthen our economy and Social Security. An article from The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (n.d.), states the Congressional Budget Office believes allowing the 11 billion undocumented workers currently in the United States to become legalized citizens could increase economic growth by 1.3%. The article also cites Social Security trustees as claiming legalizing 100,000 workers would improve the Social Security Trust Fund deficit and quotes Edward Alden, from the Council on Foreign Relations, as saying undocumented workers are currently holding low-wage jobs and giving them a legal status will increase their confidence to look for higher earning employment, thereby contributing more in taxes (, n.d). 

But there are people who believe the benefits of higher tax revenues on these workers will be short lived due to the increased number of people who are eligible for benefits later. With this in mind, I searched for a good source on the ages of undocumented workers and found a report from the Department of Homeland Security (2013) showing in the year 2012, 61% of these workers are between the ages of 25-44. This is a high percentage of workers who would have at least 20 years to contribute towards Social Security before receiving benefits if they were legalized. 
I find this information interesting and useful as an additional source to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund. While there are those that support a stream-lined immigration process for both economic and humanistic reasons, there is definite opposition to the idea based on national security concerns. It is an area, I believe, which needs more consideration and scrutinizing to find if it is a valid source of revenue. 

Good essay.  I will point out a couple minor details that do not have bearing on your conclusions. 

 First, I have read that the estimate of 11 million undocumented non-citizen residents in the United States dates back to before the Great Recession (from an estimate made in 2005 or 2006), and that the population may now be much smaller, although the latest Pew Research Center report I could find (from November 3, 2016) suggests 11.1 million is the most accurate current figure. A Census Bureau study discussed in the Atlantic in January of this year reported 10.9 million undocumented residents in 2014. So, my point is that your estimate of 11 million is probably quite accurate, and the higher number that existed here before the Great Recession was about 12-13 million.

Secondly, among the objections to legalizing persons who are here without proper permission and documentation there are many plausible reasons.  Some I'm sympathetic to, and others I reject, although I have not made up my mind and remain neutral on some of these immigration policy disputes.  On one extreme are people who worry that the character of the United States will be changed if too many “non-European” immigrants are allowed in.  Of course, the Hispanics of Latin America (including Mexico) are a mix of indigenous native Americans and Europeans, so not only is this sort of objection stupid (for suggesting that culture exists in blood, or that national character is inherited with genes), it is also ill-informed (since most immigrants are coming from persons with Native-American and European genetic stock, making it ridiculous to call them alien or non-European, since they are neither). On the extreme that I am sympathetic to are the arguments that our population in the USA is too large, given our carbon footprint, and bringing more immigrants here to help us continue to maintain a growing population will harm the planet, and therefore we ought to diminish immigration (but not necessarily eliminate it—I personally would cut it by 40% or so), and we could start by having undocumented American residents return to their nations of origin and apply to return here, giving them favorable consideration if a certain number of American citizens support their immigration applications with testimonials about how these persons have contributed to American society while living here as undocumented residents, but denying them readmission as immigrants if they could not establish that they had contributed to community life and integrated into American society.  Another argument is that even if legalization made sense economically, there are issues of justice here, since many foreign persons would love to come to America, and they are following the rules and applying for permission through the official channels.  Giving amnesty or creating policies to help undocumented residents become citizens quickly allows some people to get away with essentially jumping to the front of the line without waiting their turn.  That makes sense to me, but of course there is a counter-argument based on humanitarian grounds that many of these persons have lived her a long time and established themselves in their communities.  I personally know several undocumented American residents (mostly from Mexico and China) who stand as significant persons in their communities, having lived here for more than a decade (or for a few decades in one case) and naturally I would want these friends to be well-treated by any new immigration policy.

All in all, the idea that allowing a mass immigration of young working-aged immigrants to join our society as Americans and then collect from them sufficient payroll taxes to keep Social Security and Medicare going without increasing FICA taxes does have its appeals.  In fact, I can remember in 1993 making exactly this same argument to Martha Ozawa in a policy course... suggesting that America could always increase payroll taxes by allowing more young immigrants to come here so we did not end up with an inverted population pyramid of many elderly citizens and few working-aged citizens to support them.  Dr. Ozawa thought it was a very intriguing idea, but suggested it was unlikely because Americans would be too anti-immigrant.  And, here we are about 23 years later, and you are making the same point I suggested, and my thought is sympathetic, but I retain some of the same skepticism that Dr. Ozawa showed me.