Tag Archives: Educational Savings Accounts

FYI: Retirement funds, pensions, and educational savings plans invested in gun manufacturing?

First, please read the June 2016 article from Mother Jones which describes the ownership of the gun manufacturers who, in turn, direct the agenda of the National Rifle Association.   And now for some financial information:

Sturm Ruger and CompanyNASDAQ reports the company is 88.79% owned by institutional investors. The top five institutional investors are Black Rock (2,948,467 shares), Vanguard (1,659,697 shares), Capital World Investors (1,490,248), London Company of Virginia (1,355,076 shares), Voya Investment Management (777,224 shares)

Blackrock offers college savings plans, retirement investment plans, factor investing, and ironically “sustainable” investment programs.  Vanguard advertises its IRA accounts, retirement savings accounts, and pension plans.  Capital World Investors manages equity and mutual funds for its investors.  The London Company of Virginia is reported as “The London Company of Virginia, LLC is an employee owned investment manager. The firm primarily provides its services to individuals. It also provide its services high net worth individuals, investment companies, pension and profit sharing plans, charitable organizations, foundations, State or municipal government entities, and corporations.”  Voya Investment Management advertises its mutual funds for its investors.  The firm primarily serves insurance companies. [Bloomberg]

American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith and Wesson) includes Smith & Wesson, Gemtech Suppressors, Crimson Trace, and accessories. It is 74.96% institutionally owned. The top institutional investors are Blackrock (6,012,767), Invesco Ltd (4,858,400), Vanguard (4,508,410), LSV Management (2,148,948), Dimensional Fund Advisors (1,774,780), Voya Investment Management (1,655,896) as of December 31, 2017. [NASDAQ]  LSV Management provides investment services to corporate pension and profit sharing plans. [Bloomberg] Dimensional Fund Advisors offers a variety of funds for its investors, most recently noticed for increasing its position in Chevron. [LG]

Remington Outdoor Company is owned by Cerberus Capital Management.  Cerberus advertises its $30 billion under management. [Cerb]   The firm recently drew the attention of Bloomberg News in an article by Joe Nocera, “Cerberus, Guns, and the Legacy of Newtown.” [BN 3/14/18] (Highly recommended reading)

“What Cerberus did right, again in a business sense, was market guns, especially the AR-15. Feinberg helped popularize assault weapons, making them a must-have purchase for a certain kind of gun owner.

The first gun company to make an AR-15 was Armalite in the early 1960s, but it took over three decades for the gun to become a major factor in the business. Only when the culture of hunting began to be eclipsed by a more militaristic gun culture did the AR-15 become popular. At least part of this was due to gun advertising, which stressed both militarization and masculinity.

And no company took this advertising as far as Remington Outdoor. In 2010, it began an ad campaign that showed a picture of a Bushmaster XM-15 in a shooting position. The headline read: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.” Another ad had the headline, “Forces of Opposition, Bow Down,” with a picture of an AR-15. Remington called one of its guns the Remington ACR — for Adaptive Combat Rifle.”

SIG Sauer is a privately held German firm, with SIG Sauer, Inc as its American branch. It’s been most recently in the news for securing a nearly $600 contract with the US Department of Defense to replace the M9 handguns.

Conclusions?  It’s a bit unsettling to consider that the pension plan into which a person might be investing in order to avoid being a burden on one’s children, is the same plan investing in the weapons used to lethal effect on those children?  Or, that the college savings plan might be tragically unnecessary should a child be killed by one of the products manufactured by the gun industry, supported by mutual fund investment companies?

Comments Off on FYI: Retirement funds, pensions, and educational savings plans invested in gun manufacturing?

Filed under Gun Issues, Politics

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Fastens Onto Public Funds For Private Schools

Nevada gubernatorial candidate Dan Schwartz has planted his pennon securely on the so-called “Educational Savings Account” hill.  [RGJ] Schwartz’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned even though ESAs are of highly questionable constitutionality.

“Schwartz, a Republican who currently holds the office of state treasurer, told reporters in Las Vegas while announcing his candidacy that, if elected, he would not sign any bills from the Legislature without first seeing an “acceptable” ESA bill on his desk.” [RGJ]

The ESA program failed to secure enough support for enhancement in the last session of the legislature, which instead enacted tax credits for scholarships.  The “school choice” advocates saw this as a blow to their advocacy goals — specifically to the proposition that private schools are ‘better’ than public ones.  Perhaps it’s time to review the issues raised by the opponents?

The narrative, as framed by the proponents, is that private education is (1) better and (2) parents should have a choice to send their children to private schools.  The first proposition is dubious.  Private schools do send more of their students to college, but the reason may well be (and often is) that the schools themselves are selective in the first place.  When considering NCES reports on achievement the following caveat is of extreme importance, which is why it is reprinted here in full:

“When interpreting the results from any of these analyses, it should be borne in mind that private schools constitute a heterogeneous category and may differ from one another as much as they differ from public schools. Public schools also constitute a heterogeneous category. Consequently, an overall comparison of the two types of schools is of modest utility. The more focused comparisons conducted as part of this study may be of greater value. However, interpretations of the results should take into account the variability due to the relatively small sizes of the samples drawn from each category of private school, as well as the possible bias introduced by the differential participation rates across private school categories.

There are a number of other caveats. First, the conclusions pertain to national estimates. Results based on a survey of schools in a particular jurisdiction may differ. Second, the data are obtained from an observational study rather than a randomized experiment, so the estimated effects should not be interpreted in terms of causal relationships. In particular, private schools are “schools of choice.” Without further information, such as measures of prior achievement, there is no way to determine how patterns of self-selection may have affected the estimates presented. That is, the estimates of the average difference in school mean scores are confounded with average differences in the student populations, which are not fully captured by the selected student characteristics employed in this analysis.”  (emphasis added)

Those “patterns of self-selection” are “not fully captured” when the results of testing are reported, or this can be stated as: How private schools select attendees and the population from which they are drawn leaves some wide open questions about the conclusions offered on the effectiveness of instruction in private vs. public schools.

Secondly, the notion that there is no “school choice” at present is misleading in itself.  There is school choice, any parent may send a child to a public school, a private school, or choose to home school — the question is who pays for this.  What the “choice advocates” are saying is that taxpayers should fund the choice of a family to send children to private schools. A tangential argument is often raised that we should ‘expand the number of families who can choose to send children to private schools.’  Left unspoken are some of the practical issues — private schools can limit their enrollment, and if enrollment is limited then what of that “choice” being offered to their parents? Unlike public schools, private ones may select who is accepted for enrollment.  The decision not to offer special educations services is essentially self-selective.  There are some rural areas in which private education at the elementary and secondary level is non-existent or very limited.  In these instances there are few if any choices to be had.  Previous posts, here and here have addressed this issue in more detail.  (See also “Testing Turmoil,” and more on Schwartz’s previous advocacy here.)

Schwartz appears ready to ride this well worn draft horse throughout the campaign season.  It has some appeal — to those who sincerely wish to provide a religiously based curriculum for their offspring as well as to those who sincerely wish their children didn’t have to attend schools with members of other communities with whom they have little in common.  Compared to the economy, taxation, and other more relevant issues, this isn’t usually at the top of any voter’s list of primary concerns and Schwartz’s selection of it is more dog whistle (to ultra-conservatives) than a bull horn to the majority of Nevada voters.

Comments Off on GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Fastens Onto Public Funds For Private Schools

Filed under education, nevada education, Nevada politics, Politics

And then there were two: 2nd Lawsuit filed against Nevada’s school voucher law

School Corridor Lockers There are now two lawsuits filed against the “Education Savings Account” law enacted by the last session of Nevada’s Assembled Wisdom.  The first came late last month from the ACLU, and now a second comes from parents who are disturbed that the law takes revenue collected for public education and diverts it to private and religious schools.

“The lawsuit filed Wednesday claims ESAs violate the state constitution by diverting funds “exclusively” meant for public schools to private schools and other private expenses. It also argues the ESA bill undercuts funding for public schools to a less-than-sufficient level and does not mandate private schools to follow the same non-discrimination and accountability rules that state law requires of public schools.

The lawsuit includes a request for a judge to permanently block the Nevada treasurer’s office from implementing the ESA program, according to a news release.”  [LVRJ]

The notion that private is always better than public seems to undergird the assumptions of the proponents of public support for private education.  There are several streams that converge into this ideological river, some stronger than others.  Some relevant to the issues at hand, and others less so. The arguments are worth exploring.

Diversion

Proponents of the measure argue that since it’s the parents who make the funding request from the State Treasurer’s office, they have every right to make the diversion.  There’s a slippery slope question herein: Does an individual have the right to request the diversion of public funds for the benefit of a private enterprise?

For the sake of the general argument, let’s assume that we are not talking about schools in particular, but any state or local function.  A hypothetical might be illustrative, if not analogously probative – there is a reservoir stocked with fish by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, subsidized from about $231 million is expended in total on “fisheries management.” [NDW pdf] The sale of Trout Stamps brings in about $650,000 annually. [NDW pdf]  Approximately 1% of Nevada’s Department of Wildlife budget comes from the General Fund, and 2% from other state sources.  86% of the budget comes from wildlife fees and grants. Those fees include fishing licenses. A fishing license costs $13, and the Trout Stamp adds another $10 to the total.   Now, imagine an enterprise in close proximity to our hypothetical reservoir which charges admissions and fees to fish in the waters of its reservoir; no state license or special stamps required.

May a individual who doesn’t want to fish in public waters get $23 returned to a “fishing savings account” because he or she doesn’t want to fish in the public reservoir, and prefers to engage in that recreational activity on private lands, under private control?  Taxes and fees are combined to form the revenue base of the Department of Wildlife, so what is the justification for diverting funds from the Department of Wildlife back to those who do not wish to utilize its services?

We might apply the same analogy to other services like local libraries?  If a subscription library were to be established could local residents request a voucher for funds to subsidize their fees to the subscription library?  Could local residents request vouchers to reduce the burden for their payments to use private parks and pools?  May a local resident demand a voucher from a county government which collects property taxes, a portion of which are allocated to the operation of a hospital, if the resident chooses not to use the services of that local hospital?  Might a resident who pays for private security request a voucher for a “protection savings account” to subsidize his or her fees to the private security firm from taxes collected to finance the local law enforcement agencies?

There’s a tricky precedent here in the form of the “individual choice” argument.  The implications go far beyond the funding of private or parochial education, and range from the relatively minor (such as our fishing example) to the more serious (such as the public subsidies for public health or public safety services.)  Extrapolating this precedent could yield a chaotic system in which each individual is only obligated to pay for the “things” he or she personally wants. 

The Grass Is Greener

The “School Choice” argument has been framed as one of allowing parents to choose between the public and private system, with the private or charter schools held to be superior.  This argument branches out into several other strands.  In strand one, the question arises: Should public funds be used for the inculcation of religious ideals and dogma?

Article II of the Nevada Constitution is clear on this subject. “The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district at least six months in every year, and any school district which shall allow instruction of a sectarian character therein may be deprived of its proportion of the interest of the public school fund during such neglect or infraction, and the legislature may pass such laws as will tend to secure a general attendance of the children in each school district upon said public schools.”  Art II, Section 2 (emphasis added)

Sections 9 and 10 are equally exclusive: “No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.” And, “No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.”

When the topic comes up three times in one brief segment of the State Constitution, we have to believe that those who crafted the document were serious about the subject.   So, when Bishop Gorman High School schedules Mass during the school day, would this violate the funding proscriptions in Article II of the State Constitution?  The answer seems clear in Section Ten. NO public funds of any kind or character whatever….”  Would this proscription also apply to the Southern Baptist Academy (K-12) online home schooling curricula?  Most likely.

Strand Two assumes parents want to make the best choices for their children, while the state has an obligation to create a “uniform system of common schools.” And at this point the categorization gets complicated.  There are parochial schools which are required to accept the children of any member of the parish.  There are also parochial schools, such as Bishop Manogue in Reno, NV which offer applications including recommendations from at least two teachers (math and English), and high school placement test results.  We should probably guess that those scoring higher will swim faster in the decision pools.  The Meadows is a non-sectarian school in Las Vegas, and its exclusivity is emphasized by the $15,500 to $24,025 tuition fees.  Neither exclusive (as opposed to totally inclusive) schools such as Bishop Manogue or The Meadows quite constitutes a “common” (as in totally inclusive) school.  Now, does a voucher – in the form of an ESA – violate the provisions of the State Constitution that revenue collected for educational purposes be used for schools which are not part of a “uniform system of common schools ” and really don’t intend to be?

Strand Three raises other categorical questions, such as when are other educational alternatives to be considered part of a “uniform system of common schools?”   For example, there are three forms of charter schools in Nevada depending on their sponsorship: District, University/College, and those approved by the State Public Charter School Authority.  The latter category gets us into some Alphabet Soup.  A private charter hires an ESP (Educational Service Provider) to handle day to day operations, and this management comes in two forms, the CMO and the EMO.  (Charter Management Organization, and Educational Management Organization) The EMO’s are more often those corporations which can afford to purchase school facilities.  Once the Alphabet Soup is sorted, it’s easier to examine the program management to see if it fits the template of a school’s definition of an institution fitting into a framework of “a uniform system of common schools.”

The extensive provisions of NRS 386 on Charter Schools should give some assurance of public accountability. There is an annual report from the Sponsor  NRS 386.610: For each charter school that it sponsors with a written charter, an evaluation of the progress of each such charter school in achieving the educational goals and objectives of the written charter. And, For each charter school that it sponsors with a charter contract, a summary evaluating the academic, financial and organizational performance of the charter school, as measured by the performance indicators, measures and metrics set forth in the performance framework for the charter school.  Three consecutive years of underperformance and determined by the CMO/EMO evaluation standards, and they’re out.

Not surprisingly, most of the Nevada charter schools are located in the Las Vegas suburban area.  Nor is it any great surprise that the ethnicity of 61.61% of the state charters is White, as compared to 35.98% statewide, and while the composition of public schools is about 40.56% Hispanic, the state charters enroll only 16.11% of that student population subset. [NVReport Card]  Surely, schools part of a “uniform system of common schools” would have enrollment statistics which better mirror those of the public schools? 

Thus, the question: If a school, while adhering to the testing regime of the State, isn’t representative of the enrollment of the “common schools” using even the most broad statewide description, does it qualify for public funding for its operations?  And, may a school, with the permission of the state, expend public funds if it fails to offer the same programs for special students as are required in the public schools?  In other words, do we have one system of common schools or two?

Who’s Choosing?

Heaven forbid I’m bashing private schooling – I’m one of its products.  However, I am also one who believes that private schooling is a choice, a choice made by parents who don’t want to avail themselves of the choice to send the kids to the public school.  Taxes are paid into state and local coffers for the maintenance of “a uniform system of common schools,” so that every other youngster in town who isn’t a parish member or having the luck to be born to parents who can afford private education,  isn’t denied  schooling.   The passage of the ESA legislation simply means I don’t have the choice NOT to pay for someone else’s choice to attend a private school.

Comments Off on And then there were two: 2nd Lawsuit filed against Nevada’s school voucher law

Filed under education, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics