Showing posts with label lifestyle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lifestyle. Show all posts

What are microschools? 5 questions answered

Since COVID-19, some parents in search of educational alternatives for their children have turned to microschools. Here, Barnett Berry, a research professor in education at the University of South Carolina, explains what makes microschools distinct from other schools.

Photo by  Monstera from Pexels

By Barnett Berry - September 16, 2021

This article was originally published in  The Conversation

1. What are microschools?

As their name suggests, microschools, which serve K-12 students, are very small schools that typically serve 10 to 15 students, but sometimes as many as 150. They can have very different purposes but tend to share common characteristics, such as more personalized and project-based learning. They also tend to have closer adult-child relationships in which teachers serve as facilitators of student-led learning, not just deliverers of content.

Michael Horn, a fellow and co-founder at Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, aptly noted: “Think one-room schoolhouse meets blended learning and home schooling meets private schooling.”

Microschools can be found inside public schools, such as in North Phillips School of Innovation in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. But they can also be found in the private sector as well, such as the MYSA Micro School in Washington. They can operate almost anywhere – from living rooms and storefronts to churches, libraries and offices.

It is difficult to know just how many microschools there are throughout the U.S. State rules and regulations differ considerably, and there is no one national accreditation agency for microschools.

Horn reported that QuantumCamp, founded in 2009, was a microschool established “out of a dare that one couldn’t teach quantum physics in a simple way.” Acton Academy operates more than 180 microschools in the United States and abroad.

Microschools are often associated with ed-tech and efforts to privatize public education. For example, SchoolHouse – a New York-based ed tech startup – reportedly raised $8.1 million as of 2021 to take its model nationwide.

It is difficult to know just how many microschools there are throughout the U.S. State rules and regulations differ considerably, and there is no one national accreditation agency for microschools.

2. How are they funded?

The cost of attending a privately operated microschool varies widely. It can range from $4,000 to $25,000 per academic year.

These private microschools tend to serve families who can afford them – a 2019 survey found that the majority of microschools serve few low-income students.

Some models are funded through school voucher programs. In Florida, about 1 in 3 students at the BB International School draw on the state’s private choice programs to finance their microschool education.

Microschools can have much lower overhead than public schools, which can in turn reduce the typical per-pupil expenditure. But they also cannot provide the depth of extracurricular opportunities, such as sports, drama, band and more that parents seek in a more holistic education experience for their children.

3. Are they more effective than regular schools?

There is very little, if any, substantive evidence on the effectiveness of microschools compared to regular public schools. However, most research shows little difference in student outcomes between charter, private and public schools. This suggests there might be wide variation in the quality of microschools as well.

Students and parents wanted more personalized learning that connected to their life in the community.

4. Has the pandemic played a role in their popularity?

In the wake of the pandemic, some parents – frustrated with their child’s schools’ response to online learning – have turned microschools and learning pods. For example, The New York Times reported in 2020 that the Pandemic Pods Facebook page had more than 41,000 members, suggesting interest in the concept, although the number had shrunk to 38,000 as of September 2021. Yet it is worth noting that, historically, private schools have served only about 10% of the nation’s students.

The pandemic appears to have played a role in the uptick of interest in microschools, but a 2020 poll showed that 2 in 3 parents have given their local public school an A or B grade in response to the pandemic.

5. Do microschools and public schools work together?

Microschools do work inside the public school system and can be viewed as an extension of the small schools movement.

In 2017, the North Phillips School of Innovation, mentioned earlier in this article, was established to address poor academic performance, high student absenteeism and frequent discipline problems. Students and parents wanted more personalized learning that connected to their life in the community. During the pandemic, the district used their experience with microschooling to create learning pods and has been able to more effectively personalize learning for students and their families.

In addition, during pandemic-induced school closures, the New Hampshire Department of Education developed their version of learning pods to create small multi-age groupings of students – anywhere from five to 10 students – to help up to 500 students who had been struggling with academic and social and emotional setbacks.

Finally, the microschool concept aligns with Teacher Powered Schools — intentionally small schools inside of the public education system – where teachers have more autonomy to lead as well as teach.

Perhaps the pandemic can spur new public-private partnerships that lead to more equitable and personalized learning in which microschools play an important role.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.
Read the original article.
The Conversation is a nonprofit organization working for the public good through fact and research based journalism.
The Conversation

Garment Workers Win Historic Victory in Effort to Transform the Fashion Industry

The PayUp campaign has clawed back $22 billion from apparel companies owed to factories and workers, and they’re just getting started.

By Loretta Graceffo - September 14, 2021
This article was originally published on Waging Nonviolence

In March 2020, Amanda Lee McCarty was laid off from her job.

For years, she had been working in the fashion industry as a buyer and product developer. But as COVID-19 cases surged and lockdown orders were implemented across the world, retailers were faced with a dramatic plummet in consumer demand for clothing. McCarty, who had been the sole breadwinner in her family for most of her life, was left without a steady income or health insurance.

McCarty wasn’t the only one in the global apparel industry whose future was thrust into uncertainty.

Thousands of miles away, in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, apparel factories had just received catastrophic news from retailers in the West. In order to offset the financial losses of the pandemic, executives had made a swift and nearly universal decision: They were going to steal $40 billion from their most vulnerable workers. 

“This wasn’t theoretical money,” said Elizabeth L. Cline, who works with the consumer activist nonprofit Remake. “This was garment workers not being paid for work already done, which is slavery.”

For many brands, this theft was not only legal, but outlined in their contracts with factories overseas, which enabled them to cancel orders at any time. Retailers cited a force majeure clause to claim that they didn’t need to take clothing they had ordered before the pandemic — and they also didn’t have to pay for it, even if the product had already been made after hundreds of hours of painstaking labor.

This decision was enforced by nearly all of the world’s most profitable apparel companies, only 20 of whom control 97 percent of the industry’s profits. Among the offenders were Walmart, Sears, Kohl’s, Nike, Forever 21, H&M, Gap, Adidas, The Children’s Place and Ross Stores.

What followed was one of the largest transfers of wealth from the Global South to the West in recent history.

The effect of the cancellations was immediate: factories, who could no longer afford to pay textile mills and workers, were forced to shut their doors. Millions of garment workers, most of them young women, were sent home without severance or pay.

While wealthy fashion brands continued to deliver shareholder payouts, workers already living in poverty were plunged even deeper into debt and starvation. 

“Why were companies so comfortable robbing their factories in the middle of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our lifetimes?” Cline said. “It had a lot to do with the fact that the people impacted were in the Global South. They were women of color, who companies were used to being able to subjugate without any consequences — who they thought weren’t going to stand up to them.”

The companies were wrong. In a matter of days, a movement was born, comprised of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, and thousands of garment workers, grassroots organizers and consumers across the globe. They named their first campaign after their primary demand: PayUp.

By March 2021, PayUp had secured $22 billion from brands who had initially refused to pay, and laid bare the exploitation fundamental to the global supply chain. It was one of the most successful labor rights campaigns in the fashion industry in modern times — and activists say they’re just getting started.

“This is an industry that is part of every person’s life, but nobody really knows what happens behind the scenes,” said McCarty, who became a vocal advocate for the movement after being laid off from her job. “If a brand is refusing to pay up, it’s likely they’re paying slave wages in the first place, and not caring about the climate and burning billions of dollars of excess clothing every year. When you take a step back, the fashion industry is really a case study of everything that is wrong in the world right now.” 

“If a brand is refusing to pay up, it’s likely they’re paying slave wages in the first place, not caring about the climate and burning billions of dollars of excess clothing every year.”

Holding brands accountable

From its foundation, PayUp’s strategy has been to discern which brands are moveable and to then target those brands using grassroots pressure. 

“We knew if we were going to wait for fashion brands to gain a conscience, nothing was going to change,” said Cline, one of the founders of the movement. “It was public knowledge who canceled, so we had a list of companies and the amount of money they owed, but we needed a bigger picture of what was happening.”

Because of this, the testimony of garment workers themselves has been critical to the success of PayUp. In November 2020, the Worker Rights Consortium released a survey of garment workers who had lost their jobs across Cambodia, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Lesotho and Myanmar. Nearly 75 percent of these workers reported going into debt to buy food since the pandemic began. Many described skipping meals in order to feed their families, being unable to afford food with protein, and having to withdraw their children from school due to lack of funds. 

Garment workers who remained employed, many of whom were working overtime to produce personal protective equipment for countries in the West, were similarly plunged into destitution. Even as the world’s most profitable fashion brands saw an 11 percent increase in value over the past year, garment workers experienced pay cuts averaging around 21 percent. 

“When you’re working in the industry, you know there are people that aren’t being paid, but they’re sort of these ‘others’ that you don’t know,” McCarty said. “It allows you to say, ‘Oh, things are different where they live’ or ‘These people are unskilled.’ All these other functions of racism, classism and colonialism are so baked into every person.”

By the summer of 2020, #PayUp had been shared on social media millions of times. A petition, which was sent to over 200 fashion executives directly, garnered nearly 300,000 signatures calling on companies to pay for the cancellations. Behind the scenes, NGOs and activist groups like Remake, the Worker Rights Consortium and Clean Clothes Campaign moved in tandem to negotiate with brands. 

This pressure was combined with direct action by workers around the world. In response to factory shutdowns that left thousands in the apparel industry without jobs, workers in Myanmar went on strike, eventually securing a wage bonus and union recognition through a two-week sit-in. In Cambodia, around one hundred workers marched to the Ministry of Labor to submit a petition requesting compensation after their factory shut down. When they weren’t offered a resolution, protesters continued their march to the prime minister’s house, where they were blocked by nearly 50 police officers. 

Similar actions took place in Pakistan after factories cut holiday bonuses that usually allowed rural workers to return home for Eid. Striking workers gathered in protest outside factories, chanting slogans demanding better wages even as police fired shots into the crowd. In Bangladesh, garment workers who staged protests outside factories were also met with opposition, with many workers reporting that they had been attacked by police with batons, water cannons and tear gas while they were sleeping.

To date, 21 brands monitored by PayUp have committed to paying for cancelled orders in full, unlocking a total of $22 billion for factories and garment workers globally. Eighteen brands have still refused to pay — and many have deleted #PayUp comments on their social media accounts in an attempt to shut down the conversation. 

“We need contractually enforceable commitments from brands, and we need brands and unions sitting across the table in real negotiation.”

A deepening crisis

Despite the tremendous victories of the PayUp campaign so far, the past few months have revealed worrying trends within the industry, and the crisis surrounding garment workers continues to worsen. The vast majority of the money PayUp secured from brands went to factories, enabling them to pay their debts to textile mills and stay open. While this has potentially prevented even more disastrous factory closures and mass layoffs, most workers still haven’t received their stolen wages — and the crisis surrounding the garment industry continues to deepen.

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve seen retailers squeezing factories for lower costs and pushing them for faster turnaround,” McCarty said. “Even more product is being imported into our country by plane, instead of by boat, so the carbon footprint is even worse — and people overseas are being paid even less. We have to end the cycle now.”

One year after the founding of PayUp, garment workers who are struggling for survival have yet to see any financial relief from brands. There is also the issue of safety; in Sri Lanka, over 7,000 cases of coronavirus, more than half the nation’s total, were traced back to a factory that manufactures clothing for Victoria’s Secret.

In many apparel-making countries, garment workers who demand safety measures have been met with brutal repression, facing threats, physical attacks, dismissal and imprisonment for speaking up or attempting to organize. One of the most recent examples of this repression took place in March, when nearly 1,000 garment workers who produce clothing for Primark were allegedly locked inside factories for hours to prevent them from joining anti-coup protests in Myanmar. 

“Brands’ labor codes and monitoring systems don’t exist to protect workers,” said Scott Nova, the executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium.“ They exist to protect the image and reputation of brands … even as they squeeze suppliers on price, driving down working conditions and wages.”

Perhaps the most compelling illustration of the failures of self-regulation can be seen in garment factories in Bangladesh. For decades, these factories were notorious for being little more than death traps. Despite frequent mass fatality fires and factory collapses, major brands and retailers continued to tout their voluntary codes of conduct as a reliable method of protecting workers. It was only after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in 2013 — a disaster that killed 1,134 people and injured another 2,500 — that meaningful protections were put into place. 

Even as rescue workers were still searching for survivors in the rubble, thousands of garment workers and relatives of the dead rose up, storming the streets of Dhaka to demand safer working conditions. 

Within a month, the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety was launched, requiring independent building inspections and reviews of safety standards. The accord functions as an international compact between NGOs, Western manufacturers and Bangladeshi and global unions. Since the program began, two and a half million garment workers have been working under vastly safer conditions — and Nova believes the accord can serve as a roadmap for accomplishing PayUp’s long-term goals.

“We need contractually enforceable commitments from brands, and we need brands and unions sitting across the table in real negotiation,” Nova said. “If we want brands to behave responsibly, we need to get it in writing.”

Last fall, PayUp founder Ayesha Barenblat sat down with the founder of the Awaj Foundation, an NGO that represents 600,000 garment workers in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Together, they launched the website for Pay Up Fashion, where they outlined seven demands for action going forward: worker’s safety, transparency, giving workers a platform, enforceable contracts, an end to starvation wages and the implementation of labor laws. 

“Besides a handful of rich factory owners, executives and shareholders, it’s an industry where there aren’t a lot of people benefiting,” Cline said. “I think brands wanted a pat on the back after they paid up, but for us, the campaign revealed everything that’s broken about the fashion industry.”

Resisting a return to business as usual

Around the same time PayUp was founded, McCarty utilized her insider experience to launch Clotheshorse, a podcast exposing dark truths about the world of fast fashion. It was the start of a new chapter — and an inadvertent decision to never return to the industry, no matter the financial consequences.

“Coming from a lower-class background, it’s been challenging knowing what goes on behind-the-scenes and having to keep going,” McCarty said. “For so long, I felt like a hamster running in a wheel, going to this toxic, abusive job that I hated. There is something very strange and liberating about no longer having a job, because now I can speak the truth about it.”

Over the course of more than 60 episodes, Clotheshorse has explored issues like labor rights, greenwashing, consumerism and the PayUp movement. McCarty often features the stories of retail workers, who can call through a hotline to speak about common practices such as non-disclosure agreements, wage theft and requirements that unsold merchandise be destroyed.

Before long, McCarty was getting up to a hundred messages a day from fashion lovers and activists. Though the pandemic prevented them from meeting in person, Clotheshorse listeners began coming together online to call out brands, quit fast fashion and support one another’s sustainable businesses.

“A lot of people found their lives completely upside down last year, and we’ve all been getting educated about things that we weren’t before,” McCarty said. “It’s amazing that we were all able to find each other and respond to one another’s ideas — I feel so lucky that at least once a week I start to cry.”

As PayUp enters its second year of campaigning, this kind of community building could prove essential to ensuring the movement doesn’t lose momentum.

“PayUp was able to reveal the inner workings of this power dynamic that was hidden from view for a long time,” Cline said. “That’s made it much easier to propose reforms, but everybody has to be ready to fight for the long haul. The fashion industry we want to see is going to take commitment and perseverance — and a belief that anything is possible.”

Loretta Graceffo is a writer, artist and activist from New Jersey. She currently attends Saint Peter's University.

This article is republished from Waging Nonviolence under a Creative Commons license.
Read the original article here.
Waging Nonviolence is a nonprofit media organization dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world. With a commitment to accuracy, transparency and editorial independence, they examine today’s most crucial issues by shining a light on those who are organizing for just and peaceful solutions.

As Housing Prices Rise, Affordability Squeeze is Coming

By ZillowIndraStra Global - September 11, 2021

Housing affordability improvements brought on by historically low mortgage rates and dampened rent growth are quickly evaporating as housing costs rise faster than incomes. A new Zillow® analysis finds this affordability[1] issues are expected to worsen by the end of the year and are likely to leave millions of newly housing cost-burdened. 

Interest rates play a major role in determining monthly payments, a key component of affordability. For the average U.S. home buyer, rates that began dropping in late 2018 and fell to record lows in January 2021 have kept mortgage payments[2] as a share of income lower than their previous peak in late 2018. But that's about to change. 

Mortgage payments as a percent of income reached 19.4% in June -- the most current observed data -- and are forecast to surpass 2018 levels in August. Assuming home values grow in line with Zillow forecasts, that burden could rise to more than 23.1% by the end of the year, depending on the path of mortgage rates going forward.

In the nation's most expensive markets, San Jose and San Francisco, an increase in interest rates to 3.5% by December could cost homeowners an extra $378 and $334 more per month in mortgage payments, respectively.

"Strong demand and rising prices for homes are overwhelming the ability of low mortgage rates to keep monthly payments down," said Nicole Bachaud, Zillow economic data analyst. "As prices continue to outpace income gains, affordability constraints will start to slow home price growth."

Austin in particular has seen monthly payments for new mortgages rising faster than income growth, a trend that has pushed the Sun Belt standout six spots down the affordability ranks over the past year. As of June 2021, Austin is more affordable than eight major U.S. metros. But by December, it should surpass Seattle, Miami, and New York, leaving only expensive California metros beyond it: San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Riverside. Keep in mind, though, that typical home values and sale prices in Austin are still less than half of those in San Francisco and San Jose. 

New home buyers in Austin in June 2020 spent 19.7% of their income on monthly mortgage payments, but by June 2021, that number had risen to 25.3%. If mortgage rates stay at just under 3%, Austin will see new home buyers' share of income spent on mortgage bills rise to 30.1% by December, beyond the 30% threshold generally considered to be housing burdened.

If rates rise above 3% over the next few months, monthly payments for new mortgages will go up as well, and the change is more pronounced for costly houses. In the nation's most expensive markets, San Jose and San Francisco, an increase in interest rates to 3.5% by December could cost homeowners an extra $378 and $334 more per month in mortgage payments, respectively. If interest rates rise to 4%, those increases stand at $751 and $663, respectively.

Previous research found that when rent affordability reaches above 32% housing costs can lead to a rapid rise in homelessness.

The Cost of Rising Rents

Rent payments as a portion of income are forecast to rise from 29.96% in June to 30.2% by December. That will push U.S. rents beyond the 30% threshold for renters being housing burdened, leaving less money left over for groceries, bills, and other expenses. The pandemic's impact was felt more keenly by renters, who were more likely to report a loss of income and/or job loss than homeowners, according to a recent Zillow survey, and homeowners typically earn more than renters do. 

Previous research found that when rent affordability reaches above 32% housing costs can lead to a rapid rise in homelessness. As of June, 10 of the 50 largest U.S. metros have rent burdens beyond 32%, and Denver is expected to join that list by December.  

Some metros are forecasted to take a dramatic step down in rent affordability, while others (13 of the top-50) are predicted to improve. Buffalo, NY is expected to drop from 23rd most affordable in June to 35th among the 50 largest metros, while red-hot Phoenix will drop from 29th to 38th. But, in Cleveland, where the for-sale market has been red-hot, renters can expect to save about $23 on rent per month between now and 2022, while Providence, RI moved up five spots on the rental affordability charts, from 31st to 26th.

"Increasing the available supply of homes -- especially more dense, affordable housing types like townhomes and condos -- will help balance the market and give renters and prospective home buyers opportunities to seek relief from being burdened by housing costs," Bachaud said.  


[1] The rent and mortgage affordability metrics used in this report were produced using the Nowcasting methodology explained in this document.

[2] Monthly mortgage payments include principal, interest, property taxes, and insurance.

Reprinted with permission of IndraStra Global and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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