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Presidential Taunts About “Fake News” Bother Many In The Media, While Major Newspapers Continue To Publish Blatant Falsehoods About U.S. Education Spending

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Some members of the media expressed concern this past week about rumors that the Trump administration would be changing policy so that press would no longer receive an advance copy of Department of Labor economic data before it is released to the public. Those rumors turned out to be unfounded, as the the Department of Labor announced on Thursday, January 16, that it would be changing policy on how data is released, and that change is limited to the prohibition of computers from the secure room in which reporters receive advance copies of labor department reports, not an end to that advance access. 

The concern about losing advance access to economic data, unfounded as it turned out to be, comes at a time when multiple major media outlets have been busy demonstrating that they have issues when it comes to accurately reporting on basic government data that was released long ago. 

Washington Post Allows False Claim About Education Spending To Go Uncorrected For Over A Week

Robert C. Pianta, the dean of the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development, authored a December 10 Washington Post op-ed claiming that U.S. public school funding has “decreased since the late 1980s.” The problem for Dean Pianta and Washington Post readers, as the Cato Institute’s Corey DeAngelis was quick to point out, is that the opposite is actually true. Education funding at all levels of government has increased even when adjusting for inflation, not decreased. 

Thanks to DeAngelis’s work and vigilance, the Washington Post ultimately issued the following correction, which now prefaces Dean Pianta’s article. 

Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated that, adjusting for constant dollars, public funding for schools had decreased since the late 1980s. This is not the case. In fact, funding at the federal, state and local levels has increased between the 1980s and 2019.

Some have criticized the Washington Post for taking more than a week to correct what was a blatant and easily verifiable falsehood, one that was central to the arguments made in Dean Pianta’s article. Others have wondered why official fact checkers were nowhere to be found and that it was up to Reason Foundation’s DeAngelis to correct the record. Reporters for Politifact, rather than call out and correct this blatant lie about education spending that was published in the Washington Post, were busy during this time “fact checking” a congressman who said that “Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.” 

The Washington Post even has its own in-house fact checker. Since the correction overturned the central premise of Dean Pianta’s op-ed, some have argued it would’ve made more sense for the Washington Post to retract Pianta’s piece entirely. 

“The false claim was key to the op-ed’s argument that we need to make a course correction,” Ramesh Ponnuru writes. “Without it, the op-ed is left arguing that more spending would turn things around while quietly conceding that we’ve already tried it and it hasn’t yielded promising results.” 

Following that Washington Post correction, it would be only a matter of days before DeAngelis would once again find himself forcing a major newspaper to correct a false claim about public education spending in the U.S. 

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Juliana Feliciana Reyes wrote a December 23 article claiming that U.S. public education has “seen drastic cuts to funding over the last few decades.” Mr. DeAngelis, once again, was quick to correct the record in a series of tweets about Reyes’ incorrect reporting on U.S. education spending. 

It didn’t take the Philadelphia Inquirer as long to correct this clear falsehood as it did the Washington Post, but it did take multiple corrections to get it right. First the Philadelphia Inquirer changed Reyes’ claim about drastic education spending cuts over the last few decades to make it so that sentence was only referring to the last decade. Yet that was still false, as DeAngelis pointed out: 

The Inquirer then made a subsequent correction that made it so Reyes’ article no longer contained false information. The corrected version now concedes that public education spending has been increasing in real dollars over the past decade. 

It’s not only academics and education reporters who are spreading a false narrative about education spending in the U.S. Earlier this year Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, lamented during an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box that there is “financial starvation” occurring in U.S. public education. As this author pointed out at the time about Dalio’s remark, U.S. public schools, in Dalio’s home state of Connecticut and elsewhere, are not remotely close to experiencing “financial starvation,” as Dalio describes it. 

In fact, as DeAngelis has repeatedly pointed out with his recent fact checks, the actual numbers show the opposite, with states going on what could more accurately be referred to as a financial bender. Over the last decade state spending on K-12 education in Dalio’s home state of Connecticut, rather than being “starved,” actually increased in inflation-adjusted dollars during a period during which Connecticut’s population actually shrunk, the result of thousands of families moving to states with lower tax rates, less burdensome regulatory regimes, and more job opportunities. 

False statements about government education spending are nothing new. False claims that public education funding is being “starved” have been repeated in elite circles for years. The economist Dan Mitchell called out the New York Times back in 2012 for printing the same incorrect assertion about imaginary cuts to public education funding that were recently repeated and ultimately corrected in the Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer. The author of that fact-challenged 2012 New York Times piece has gone on to become Canada’s deputy prime minister. 

Dalio, Dean Pianta, Canada’s deputy prime minister, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and New York Times are not the only ones spreading a story about education spending in the U.S. that simply isn’t supported by the numbers. During a presidential campaign stop in South Carolina earlier this year, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) claimed that “savage cuts” have been made to public education spending in South Carolina. As is the case in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and other states, the actual spending numbers in South Carolina show the opposite to be true. 

Over the last five years, state spending on public education in South Carolina has risen 38%, more than twice the growth rate of national education spending. It’s not just the nominal level of public education spending that has risen in South Carolina; education now consumes a greater share of the Palmetto State budget than it did in the past. A decade ago state spending on K-12 education in South Carolina accounted for 17% of the state budget, a figure that has risen to nearly 20% in 2019

“There is a lot of room for debate about education spending. But there is no excuse for getting basic verifiable facts about real spending trends completely backwards,” DeAngelis said. “Journalists and editors should check these basic facts before publication. And education scholars should know better.”

Many members of the press don’t like it when the President, his supporters, or anyone else derides certain media outlets or personalities as “fake news.” If members of the media want such criticism to cease or at least wane, major outlets like the Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer need to better police their own practices and stop providing so much ammo for the aforementioned criticism. 



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Education

Family Planning and Education Are Key for Women Worldwide

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CARE

Source: CARE

In a northern state in India, known as Uttar Pradesh, a woman named Meena has just met her newborn child. She is joyful while breastfeeding in the crucial hours after giving birth to a healthy little one. She gave birth with help from the Sure Start program, which helps mothers give birth in clinics, assisted by a birth attendant and with the right equipment.  

Now, consider yourself going to congratulate her on the good news.  By joining, chances are you’ll share in her state of elation, as most couples cry at delivery from tears of joy.  But, if the scene doesn’t already pull at your heartstrings, this might: Imagine Meena asks you to take her newborn child with you. Not only her newborn, but her other little one as well.  

Meena faces an uncertain future, in an impoverished area in India, without the means to secure education for her children and without assurance they will be okay with her as their mother. Meena herself hasn’t heard about family planning services or accessing contraceptives until now. “It’s too late for me,” she says

Ultimately, Meena’s hopes for a brighter future for her babies lie uncertain and too difficult to bear. Make no mistake—Meena is a mother in search of help for her family.

Why Can’t We Provide the Help Meena Needs?

Today, childbirth is the leading cause of death for teenage girls ages 15 to 19 around the world.

As a result of cultural biases, child marriages, and impoverished conditions, girls as young as 9 years of age are married and face pregnancy in their teenage years in countries like Niger and Senegal. When they are married off, the promises of education fall to the curb and early motherhood often becomes their destiny.  

Young mothers lacking an education, studies show, are less able to avoid poverty, avoid premature illness or death, or keep their families healthy. Families thrive less—and the world is a less healthy place—when young mothers continue to have child after child, often without knowing the means by which they might survive. A cycle of poverty and hardship can ensue.

How can we help mothers like Meena? Through family planning services—at least, by one measure.

The definition of family planning (in part by the Kaiser Family Foundation) is: the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of births through use of modern contraception. As defined by the United Nations Population Fund, abortion is not viewed as a component of family planning.  

What Are We Doing to Provide Family Planning to Those Who Need It?

Born out of the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012, the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) program aimed to increase access to contraceptives to 120 million women and girls worldwide in the poorest countries by 2020. Currently, 53 million more women and girls are using modern contraception than were doing so in 2012.    

The FP2020 program states that, in line with country strategies to deliver family planning services, 10 dimensions of family planning are supported, including but not limited to: accessibility, acceptability, quality, empowerment, and voice and participation. 

If enacted, the program’s vision could help break biases and rebuild perspective on the value of girls and women in society. But what is certain is the impact of family planning services and education goes far. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one-third of global maternal deaths—roughly 100,000 deaths—could be prevented annually, “if women who did not wish to become pregnant had access to and used effective contraception.”  FP2020 has helped guide national governments in many countries to deliver such efforts.

Jhpiego

Source: Jhpiego

FP2020 Country Examples
 
According to the World Bank and Jhpiego, respectively, Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in South Asia at 638 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births; Afghanistan aims to achieve 30 percent modern contraceptive prevalence among married women by 2020 under FP2020.  It is unclear whether Afghanistan has met its 2020 targets yet since joining FP2020 in 2016

Niger, located in central Africa, has had an uptake of 350,000 additional women using contraceptives since joining FP2020 in 2012, with 760,000 women now reporting use; however, a 21 percent unmet need remains in Niger today even with the efforts by FP2020.  

As made evident by Afghanistan and countries like Niger, it is clear that FP2020 still has much progress to make. As of mid-2019, an estimated 214 million women worldwide still have an unmet need for modern contraception; for comparison, the size of this unreached population equates to roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population.  FP2020 workshops in Asia and Africa this year, in part, will reveal newer country-led strategies aimed to reach 120 million in uptake of modern contraceptives by women and girls by 2030; more clearly, the revised strategies will strive to reach the initial 2020 goal by the 2030 deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a 2019 Devex report.   

SDGs on Family Planning 

SDG 3.7 says, “By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information, and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.”

In order to ensure “universal access” to family planning services by 2030, funding, planning, collaboration, and leadership will be essential by stakeholders in low and middle-income countries.  What else is needed among young girls? A strong education.

UNESCO

Source: UNESCO

SDGs on Education of Girls

SDG 4.1 says, “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”

Currently, the United Nations for Women (UN Women) states that up to 48 percent of young girls are out of school in some regions. Education of young women is key, especially in low-income settings such as Afghanistan and Niger. Studies show that education of young women helps them to avert poverty, reduce rates of illness and death, and keep their families healthy.

In order to reach more young girls, leadership and advocacy efforts by partners such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are vital. Further, investments in education—and closing of its gender gap—by national governments and philanthropic organizations are critical.  

Reaching more young girls via primary and secondary education, combined with family planning services, is akin to strengthening families all over the world—including those like Meena’s.  

Consider the power of ending cultural biases, child marriages, and impoverished conditions through universal access to family planning services. Consider what it would mean to end the cycle of poverty via continued education throughout girls’ youth and teenage years. These are the tools or building blocks to lead toward a healthier and vibrant future for all.  

Please note: Meena’s story is a real-life story from The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates (see reference below).  It is included in this post in order to show the importance of family planning services for women and girls in impoverished settings.
 

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CANADA: The struggle faced by Canadian adults with autism

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Every day, Maureen Francella visits her son Steven at a psychiatric hospital and every day, he asks if he can come home.

“Are you taking me home yet? Am I better now? Did I break things? Are you angry with me?” he asks his mother.

“It’s tough to leave him. I have to say, ‘I can’t bring you home,’” Francella, told Global News.

Steven, 36, has severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and he often experiences moments of stress and frustration, becoming violent towards himself and others.

Francella and her husband, who are both 60, are unable to take care of him at home. He currently resides at psychiatric ward at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ont.

Steven was brought to the emergency room after a particularly bad episode, and Francella had him admitted to the psychiatric ward for what was supposed to be a short stopover before a long-term care facility. He’s been there for 14 months.

Francella is terrified Steven will never get into another care facility, given the long wait times and limited space.

“We’ve been [on the wait-list] for a very long time, long before he was ever admitted to [the emergency room],” she said.

It’s a reality for dozens of families across Canada: Once a child turns 18 — an adult in the eyes of the government — they typically lose access to a lot of government funding and services intended for children. Autism services are currently a provincial jurisdiction, but many adults like Steven end up in psychiatric wards where they don’t get the care they need.

For a few years, Steven lived in a group home during the week, going home to his parents on the weekend. The arrangement worked for three years, but then Steven started becoming more violent, self-injurious and prone to destruction of property. He was home one weekend with his mom and a support worker when things took a turn.

“I was putting groceries away and he was sitting on the sofa, interacting with his support worker,” Francella said. “He suddenly got up, started biting himself, hitting the walls, [he] broke the television and smashed the lamp. He tried to put his head through patio doors.

“We looked at the damages and [his injuries] and his support worker said to me, ‘Maureen, you can’t continue to do this.’”

Francella couldn’t give Steven the type of care he needed, but she doesn’t think the psychiatric ward is the right place for him either.

“The number one treatment of patients [at the psychiatric hospital] is medication, but Steven has been overly sensitive to all medications he’s ever taken in the past, even Tylenol,” said Francella. “He’s been given very large doses of a number of medications here, [and none] had a positive impact.”

In the clinical setting of a hospital, Francella said Steven is also missing out on the type of human interaction and socialization he craves.

“He should be in a supported home of his own [and] that could look … many different ways,” she said.

Mainly, Francella said Steven needs a safe and comfortable home that offers 24-hour support.

The age of 18 isn’t a ‘magic number’

Many types of autism support greatly decrease or even stop altogether when a person turns 18. According to Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou, senior clinician scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, this is the wrong approach.

“Autism is a developmental condition. By definition, you don’t stop having autism when you turn 18,” she told Global News. “There’s [nothing] magical about the number 18. People a day under 18 will get quite a bit of service, and the day they turn 18, the services start decreasing rapidly.

“The adult sector is not as well-developed as the childhood sector for autism.”

In her view, there need to be way more support available for adults with autism, and among other things, they should address housing, employment, healthcare and recreation.

“What is a good life for a person with autism? … All the things that we consider to be part of a good life when we don’t have autism,” said Anagnostou.

“There is a cliff parents talk about after their kids transition out of their childhood system, and it comes from this lack of a well-developed adult sector that meets the needs of the kids so that they can have a good life.”

Without these services, families can experience burnout and people on the spectrum can fall through the cracks.

It can also lead adults with autism to homelessness and other risky situations.

“We know that people with autism are over-represented in our homeless population. We know that people with autism are over-represented in long-term care facilities,” she said.

There’s very little data on autism in homeless populations, but a 2011 survey conducted in Wales by the National Autistic Society Cymru reported that 12 per cent of their adult participants disclosed being homeless at some point in their lives.

“It’s fair to say that the sector is experiencing quite a bit of distress. The families are experiencing quite a bit of distress and [so are] the individuals with autism,” Anagnostou said.

Transitioning to adulthood

When a person with autism turns 18, a lot of things in their life change very suddenly.

Community worker Jennifer Bodiguel, the co-ordinator of the Transitioning to Adulthood program at New Heights School & Learning Services in Calgary, says continuity of care can make a world of difference.

“Going from childhood into adulthood, almost everything changes,” said Bodiguel. “You don’t have your pediatrician, you don’t have your high school teachers, you don’t have some of the funding childhood gets you.”

The Transitioning to Adulthood program aims to lessen the blow, and “almost all” of the students at New Heights have signed up.

“Clearly, the parents are really wanting support,” Bodiguel said. “I look at our transition program as a bridge [to supports that are out there].”

The program focuses on four main areas: employment, education, independent living and social environments.

“The thing about individuals with autism is that they [typically] thrive in routine and fear the unknown. Graduation and adulthood is the ultimate fear of the unknown. They haven’t a clue what’s next,” she said.

Bodiguel often finds herself accompanying members of the program to outreach programs or job fairs, just to help them feel comfortable with someone they recognize nearby.

“I’m just trying to be that familiar face for them [so they can] access what’s actually out there.”

Call for a national strategy

There are gaps in care throughout the system, but according to Autism Canada, the major problems are the availability of post-secondary programs, employment, innovative housing solutions, mental health support and support with medical health conditions commonly associated with autism.

Mental health support is crucial. Seventy per cent of individuals on the spectrum have a comorbid mental health condition (like anxiety, depression, psychosis and suicidality), with 40 per cent having two or more disorders.

“For a family with a young child, they may be able to choose between a handful of early-intervention or social skills programs in their community. However, as one grows up, the selection decreases significantly if available at all,” Autism Canada said in a statement to Global News.

The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) believes a national strategy is necessary to improve life for Canadians with autism.

The group is a national coalition of organizations and individuals committed to securing a federal strategy for ASD funding and policies, and it has spent the last 12 years creating a recommendation for the government.

According to CASDA chair Debbie Irish, the current system — which calls on each province to create its own autism strategy — results in inconsistent care for Canadians with autism, varying widely between jurisdictions and leaving whole communities vulnerable.

Francella agrees — the government needs to make drastic changes, and fast.

“It’s extremely traumatic to go day in, day out, knowing that nothing is changing and being scared every day that Steven might end up being here for a very long period of time,” said Francella.

“I believe the government should be supplying money to help everybody — not just autistic individuals — but anybody with a disability who requires a home. No one should have to remain in a hospital that doesn’t need to be in the hospital.

“Every person out there should have the supports and services they need for their child, teenager or adult to live a happy independent life.”

— With files from Caryn Lieberman

Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca

– Global News



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