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Free Associate’s Degree: A Solution, But Not the Solution

William E. Spriggs

William E. Spriggs

By William E. Spriggs

We should all congratulate President Barack Obama for pulling the education debate into the 21st century, or perhaps dragging it into the late 20th century, by proposing access to free education through at least an associate’s degree. But this merely restates the obvious.
As the White House documents supporting this policy point out, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, as the economy transformed into the modern era, Americans embraced the call of Progressives to extend public education from 8th grade to 12th grade. New job skills were required in the age that brought about automobile, telephone and airplane manufacturing and new occupations like electrician, motion picture projectionist, X-ray technician, truck driver, bus driver and radio operator-jobs that could not have been imagined in 1880.

So, too, common sense dictates that a high school degree in a world of computer processors and cell telephone communications cannot meet the needs of a changing world where webpage designers, “app” writers and cybersecurity specialists are in high demand.

The president is simply asserting the obvious in extending free associate’s degrees as a democratic right. The price of the basic ticket to the game has changed. That means the full access to society has a new predicate.

Unfortunately, we live with a dysfunctional democracy where anti-democratic forces are strong. There are those who are fighting hard to limit voting rights instead of the American ideal to protect and strengthen those rights. So it isn’t surprising that voices are being raised to limit economic rights, and to instead rail against “government” extension of opportunity. Of course, the movie “Selma” reminds us that small minds have sought to limit opportunity in America for a long time.
But beyond the obvious need to redefine the right to a basic education in a world in which “basic” has clearly changed, the rest of the president’s case is short on the fuller problems and issues facing America.

First is the notion that the extension of the educational right is a solution to the sagging earnings of Americans. At the beginning of this century, in 2001, the median earnings of American men was $42,755, but in 2013 they had dropped to $39,602. This was despite an increase in the share of men with associate’s degrees from 7.5 percent to 9.1 percent and declines in the share of men with less education than an associate’s degree from 63.4 percent to 58.1 percent. It also came despite an increase for those holding bachelor’s degrees or higher from 29.0 percent to 32.8 percent.

So, despite increasing educational attainment, the income of men fell. More to the point, the income of men holding associate’s degrees fell from $51,144 to $42,176. More emphatically, the median earnings of men with bachelor’s degrees fell from $65,769 to $58,170.

Second is the argument that a better educated workforce will lead to a more productive workforce. This is clearly the case. Productivity of America’s workers increased from 2001 to 2013 by 27 percent. And increases in productivity are traditionally the source of increasing wages. But wages did not increase.

The president’s proposal deserves immediate support. But it must be supported in the framework of extending rights and opportunities that is the hallmark of America-the nation that always looks forward. And we must fight against those who want to take us backward.

Still, as the AFL-CIO’s recent National Summit on Raising Wages highlighted, the United States is facing a more fundamental structural problem that must be addressed. We have a better educated and more productive workforce, but a workforce that is getting paid less. Those lower wages are not the workings of the market or some economic necessity. Those lower wages are the result of clear choices to feed corporate coffers at the expense of an economy that functions for all. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, we must have policies that treat corporations as part of America, not above America.

We must commit ourselves to reinvest in America. Those who look backward will see costs; those who look forward see dividends.


Les Kimber

Les Kimber

Fresno – Local icon, legend, and long-time publisher of the California Advocate Lesly Howard Kimber passed away this weekend on January 10th. Affectionately known as “Les” to many, he was surrounded by family and close friends when he passed. Kimber was 80 years old.

Kimber was also known for being the first African-American elected to city council from West Fresno. He was also the co-founder of the California Advocate, Fresno’s only African-American media outlet, and the founder of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday celebration in Fresno. Details of his celebration service will be released in the coming days.
The family of Les Kimber wishes to thank the community for their continued support and prayers, and asks for privacy during this time of grief.

Ask DMV (January 2015 Edition)

Q:   I just paid my registration online, but forgot to change my address.  Can I go back online to make the correction so I can receive my registration tags at my new address?

A:    Unfortunately, it is too late.  When you pay for your registration tags online, our system immediately updates your information and your tags are mailed to you in approximately three days.   Changing your address takes our system a little longer to update.  If you do not receive your new registration tags within 30 days, please apply for duplicate registration tags.


Q:  I heard that select DMV offices will be open on Saturday beginning in January 2015. Which offices will be open and which types of transactions will be handled?

A:   Beginning January 3, 2015, the DMV began offering Saturday hours at 60 select offices statewide from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. where customer representatives will process ONLY driver license transactions for individuals who have scheduled an appointment.

The DMV has also opened four temporary driver license processing centers in Granada Hills, San Jose, Stanton, and Lompoc where individuals with or without an appointment can receive assistance with driver license transactions only.

For a list of offices open Saturday: http://dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/fo/fotocds


Q:  When will the Legacy license plate be issued?

A:  There is a lot of excitement building for our new Legacy license plate and you will soon be seeing them on vehicles driving down our roads and highways.  It’s estimated that production will begin within nine to 12 months.

Legislation introduced the California Legacy License Plate program which offers vehicle owners the opportunity to purchase replicas of California license plates similar to those issued in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.   View them at www.dmv.ca.gov.


Q:  What happens if applicants, under AB60, cannot provide the primary identification documents necessary to verify their identity and residency to obtain an original driver license?

A:   AB 60 applicants may provide additional documentation to verify their identity and residency through the Secondary Review process. An appointment will be scheduled to meet with our specially trained staff in order to review the additional documentation which must be original or certified. The interview may last as long as one hour.

The following documentation may be considered during this appointment: school documents, marriage license or divorce decree, expired foreign passports, foreign driver license, income tax return, and other DMV approved documents. For a full list of DMV approved documents visit ab60.dmv.ca.gov .

If an applicant cannot provide the necessary documentation to verify identity and residency, the AB60 driver license application will not be completed.  Individuals can appeal the decision through the DMV Driver Safety Appeal process.