With UPK off the ground, time to revisit vouchers
by Anthony Stasi
Nov 19, 2014 | 11822 views | 0 0 comments | 506 506 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of the number of students enrolled in universal pre-k (UPK), he can at least call it a win for getting the program off the ground.

He was booed at a reception when he first suggested the idea two years ago. Now, it is policy. Critics argue that there is no evidence that UPK works, but that is no reason to avoid trying it.

There is also no reason to avoid trying a school choice system where parents with children in under-performing schools can get their hands on the resources to send their kids to private school. And it could be a way to address overcrowded schools.

It may seem like an old conservative drumbeat to call for a policy like this, but in reality, UPK was an idea that lingered for years as well. De Blasio would not want to jostle the teachers’ union with an idea like a voucher system, but if anyone can do it, it is the mayor who just gave them a very good contract.

In the end, none of these ideas are left or right, they are all aimed at offering the best to the most students.

UPK is aimed at giving all children the same tools early on. If it fails, we can always discontinue it. But it may result in better performing students and it deserves a chance.

We should be open to other ideas as well. There is no evidence-based data that says either of these ideas can bear fruit, but public policy has to take risks for the least advantaged.

The Death of Television

Working in entertainment television always had one simple good aspect and one not-so-good aspect.

The good: people were familiar with what you (or your company) produced. People have a relationship with the big cable and broadcast networks, their favorite shows, etc.

The bad: television networks often have high-level and low-level employees and not a whole lot in the middle. Now, that gap is getting wider.

Major networks are all going digital, meaning that watching these channels can happen by simply getting the network app on a tablet. You still pay for it, but the way networks connect with viewers is changing.

The timeless art of scheduling when this content should best be aired is quickly waning. What does this mean for New Yorkers? For one, the digital age will cost cable companies serious money. What may be worse is that networks may no longer have as many employees.

Today, networks can operate with less. It is not so much an act of corporate greed than a sign of the times. This means that an economy that already has few opportunities for recent graduates will have even less.

It affects New York because a bulk of television jobs are in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta (if we are counting news). We lost manufacturing to the south, and then to other countries. We may now lose a portion of our entertainment jobs.

New York can make moves in advance and get its arms around this, but it means getting certain types of manufacturing back at wages that are reasonable and sustainable. Television will not come back once it is gone, but as Jim Beam’s ad campaign for bourbon used to suggest, “you always come back to the basics.”

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