Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 26th, 2016

Texas’ Strategy to Slash Much-Needed Special Education Services

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Texas seems burdened by a terrible state government. Charles Ornstein in ProPublica takes a look at how Texas is moving against another group of citizens now that their efforts to shut down medical services for women’s health have suffered a setback. He writes:

Federal law mandates that school districts provide special education services to students with disabilities–physical, emotional or developmental. But outside the public’s view, the state of Texas has decided that fewer students should get those services. It pressured school districts to meet an artificial benchmark of 8.5 percent, a rate far below that of any state, according to aHouston Chronicle investigation.

The article, by Brian M. Rosenthal, documents how “unelected state officials have quietly devised a system that has kept thousands of disabled kids” out of special education.

“We were basically told in a staff meeting that we needed to lower the number of kids in special ed at all costs,” one former teacher told Rosenthal. “It was all a numbers game.”

In a related piece, Rosenthal deconstructs the various excuses provided to justify the reduction in students receiving special education services. There’s no evidence, for instance, that fewer Texas babies are being born with disabilities; in fact, statistics suggest the reverse is true. He also debunks efforts to credit innovative new teaching techniques for the reduction.

In response to the Chronicle’s reporting, the U.S. Department of Education said it is looking into the matter, and the Texas Education Agency also has promised a detailed review.

We talked to Rosenthal about the genesis of the story and what he found. Some highlights, edited for length and clarity:

One thing I think our listeners will be interested in is how you found out about this story.

Actually, it was from an advocate. This particular advocate actually was confused about the fact that Texas had the lowest percentage of students receiving special ed services by far of any state in the country. This advocate didn’t actually even know about the 8.5 percent, he just thought that we should be looking into this mystery of why Texas serves so few children with disabilities. We started looking into it and in talking with other advocates and people working in schools, we found out about this unannounced 8.5 percent target.

Where did these students go? So if they existed before, and one would presume they exist now, where are they getting educated?

Most of them, it appears, are in schools in general education classrooms and simply not receiving these services that they are entitled to. We’ve heard from some parents that a lot of these children, from some parents and advocates, that a lot of these children have actually been pulled out of public schools when parents were unable to obtain services they decided to homeschool their child or pay to put them in private school. So there were certainly cases like that but it appears as if most of these children are just in regular schools and just not receiving the services that they could be.

How did nobody know about this?

[Many school officials] said that they were told by the TEA, the Texas Education Agency, that this was a policy that was mandated by the federal government or at the very least, backed by research. Turns out neither of those things are true. I think school officials kind of accepted it as reality. They didn’t realize that it was arbitrary and originated from the TEA itself.

After your story ran, it seems that you received quite a bit of feedback from parents who had children with special needs and who had tried to get services. What did they tell you? . . .

Continue reading.

There’s also a podcast at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2016 at 1:44 pm

Why Wells Fargo’s Executives Will Keep Their Bonuses, Even After Fake Accounts Scandal

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David Dayen reports in The Intercept:

Last week, Well Fargo CEO John Stumpf testified before the Senate Banking Committee after the bank paid fines for creating over 2 million fake customer accounts to boost their sales growth statistics. Stumpf, under fire from senators demanding that the bank claw back executive bonuses as punishment for the scandal, insisted that any such decision would be made by a committee of the board of directors that handles compensation issues.

That board is made up of five current and former CEOs and executive chairpeople who have enjoyed giant salaries throughout their careers. Pulling the trigger on clawbacks would force them to turn on the system that made them rich. They’d also have to bite the hand that feeds them a steady supply of Wells Fargo stock.

This is a common situation, and it helps explain why executive compensation has inflated in recent decades. Corporate CEOs sit on one another’s boards and approve oversized pay packages, in the expectation that they will get the same treatment from their board in return. Some, like Stumpf, serve as both the CEO and board chairperson simultaneously.

Stumpf has said that he would make no recommendations to the board on whether they should claw back any of his compensation, or that of his fellow executives.

The Human Resources Committee of the Wells Fargo board evaluates and approves executive compensation plans for the bank. Here are its five members:

  • John Chen, the executive chair and CEO of Blackberry, Inc. since November 2013. In 2014, as a reward for his employment, Chen received a stock-based bonus of $84.7 million on top of $1 million in salary. The board said that the $84.7 million stock award helped “align the interests of Executive Officers with the achievement of the Company’s long-term business objectives and the interests of shareholders.” Chen’s 2015 compensation, which included even more stock, was $3.4 million, and in 2016, $3 million.
  • Donald James, the retired CEO of Vulcan Materials. James served from 1997 to 2014, and in his final year, he earned $13.36 million. Of that $3.9 million came from stock awards, and another $1.3 million in options.
  • Stephen Sanger, the former CEO of General Mills from 1993 to 2008. In his final two years at the company, Sanger earned $19.15 million and $18.57 million, respectively. The majority of these earnings came in the form of stock grants and options.
  • Lloyd Dean, the CEO of the nonprofit Dignity Health Foundation, one of the three largest hospital systems in California. Since Dignity Health is a privately held company, it’s difficult to find executive compensation statistics, but in 2010 the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policyreported Dean’s pay for that year at $4.76 million. Kaiser Health Newsreported in 2013 that Dean’s compensation had increased to $5.14 million, with $2.05 million of it in “bonus and incentive pay.”
  • Susan Engel, the CEO of Portero, a luxury retail sales company, from 2009-2013, and before that the CEO and chairwoman of Lenox Group Inc., a holiday gift manufacturer, from 1996-2007. Engel received $837,865 in compensation from Lenox Group in 2006, the last year for which a proxy statement can be located. Her salary as CEO of Portero is unavailable because the company is privately held.

In addition to the millions bestowed upon them by their own boards, these current and former CEOs receive a generous stipend for being on the board of Wells Fargo. According to the company’s most recent proxy statement, in 2015 Chen made $279,027; James made $293,027; Sanger made $382,027; Dean made $346,027, and Engel made $331,027. The majority of those payments came in the form of stock as well.

Top executives often receive stock instead of a base salary because of a Bill Clinton-era law exempting “performance-based” pay from a cap on corporate tax deductions for executive compensation.

Under Wells Fargo’s self-imposed “clawback” policy, the Human Resources Committee can revoke executive stock awards in the event of misconduct, including anything that causes the company reputational harm or a failure in risk management. While companies rarely enforce these provisions, as former FDIC chair Sheila Bair told CNBC when the false account scandal broke, “If you’re going to use clawbacks, this would be the situation.” . . .

Continue reading.

The article ends with a fact that ensures corporations will continue to defraud the public:

Despite the fact that Wells Fargo was fined $190 million in the fake accounts scandal, the executives responsible for the misconduct have paid no price.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2016 at 12:55 pm

“Where did the money go?” Part 5: Turning up like a bad penny

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David Dayen publishes part 5 of his Penny Stock Chronicles in The Intercept. The blurb:

The penny stock Chris DiIorio invested in that crashed and burned was one of many stocks with similar trajectories traded by the same two giant companies. But if one was the buyer and the other the seller, how could this be in both of their interests?

It’s worth reading the entire series.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2016 at 9:57 am

Mühle brush, Dead Sea shaving soap, and the X3, finish with Barrister & Mann Reserve Spice

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SOTD 2016-09-26

This Mühle silvertip badger brush has a fine and hefty handle and a wonderful soft knot. I was careful to shake it out until it was just damp because the Dead Sea doesn’t need much water (the literal Dead Sea or the soap Dead Sea). I got a very good lather, and did work a little more water into it on my face, but very little. The lemon and rosemary fragrances are easy to detect, and I think I pick up the sandalwood as well, but I’m not sure I sense the cannabis and saffron.

The X3 is a superb razor, I have to say: three very easy passes, no drama, totally BBS result.

I like Barrister & Mann’s Reserve Spice, so I thought I’d use it again to provide the picture: very pleasant feel and effect, and a fine fragrance.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2016 at 7:48 am

Posted in Shaving

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