Some lawmakers, judges and regulators are trying to rein in the U.S. debt-collection industry’s use of arrest warrants to recoup money owed by borrowers who are behind on credit-card payments, auto loans and other bills.
More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can’t or won’t pay to be jailed. Judges have signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties with a total population of 13.6 million people, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of filings in those counties. Nationwide figures aren’t known because many courts don’t keep track of warrants by alleged offense. In interviews, 20 judges across the nation said the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began.
“I wish I could do it more,” said Piatt County Circuit Judge Chris Freese, who has heard hundreds of debt-collection cases. “It’s often the only remedy to get people into court and paying their debts.”
In one of those cases, Emmie Nichols, 26 years old, was arrested in June at her mother’s house after lawyers for Capital One Financial Corp. won an arrest warrant against her for skipping a court hearing about $1,159.87 she owed on a credit card from the company. The $500 bond that freed Ms. Nichols from the county jail was turned over to Capital One as a partial payment of the debt, court filings show. A Capital One spokeswoman declined to comment on Ms. Nichols.
Some judges are worried that the jump in debt-related arrest warrants is creating a modern-day version of debtors’ prison. The practice ended in 1833 after decades of controversy, since borrowers owing as little as 60 cents could be held indefinitely in squalid jails until they paid off their debt.
And it goes without saying it’s not actual journalism… I can’t remember where I read it, but someone called the Daily Caller “Tucker Carlson’s high school newspaper.” Heh.
Funding schools through local property taxes is a really stupid system, and while I’m happy that Christie’s not getting away with these school cuts, the fact remains that the system left in place is a really bad one:
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie’s deep cuts to state school aid last year left New Jersey’s schools unable to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to the state’s nearly 1.4 million school children, a Superior Court judge found today.
Judge Peter Doyne, who was appointed as special master in the long-running Abbott vs. Burke school funding case, today issued an opinion that also found the reductions “fell more heavily upon our high risk districts and the children educated within those districts.”
“Despite spending levels that meet or exceed virtually every state in the country, and that saw a significant increase in spending levels from 2000 to 2008, our ‘at risk’ children are now moving further from proficiency,” he said.
Gov. Chris Christie’s office said that Judge Doyne himself acknowledged that the Supreme Court limited his inquiry by excluding consideration of the state’s budget crisis.
“Critically, he also noted that, despite the fact New Jersey meets or exceeds all other states in spending for ‘at-risk’ students, many of those students continue to fail to meet basic educational proficiency,” said spokesman Michael Drewniak. “The Supreme Court should at last abandon the failed assumption of the last three decades that more money equals better education, and stop treating our state’s fiscal condition as an inconvenient afterthought.”
The Abbott vs. Burke case landed back in court after the Education Law Center, a Newark-based school advocacy group, filed a motion charging that Christie’s aid cuts violated the state’s school funding formula.
Christie slashed state aid by $820 million last year, and Doyne found that altogether, the state would have needed twice that much — $1.6 billion — to fully fund the School Funding Reform Act formula.
Was it you who used to tell me/ The trick is not to care.
Schools are no longer legally segregated, but because of residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom, they most emphatically are in reality.
“Ninety-five percent of education reform is about trying to make separate schools for rich and poor work, but there is very little evidence that you can have success when you pack all the low-income students into one particular school,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who specializes in education issues.
The current obsession with firing teachers, attacking unions and creating ever more charter schools has done very little to improve the academic outcomes of poor black and Latino students. Nothing has brought about gains on the scale that is needed.
If you really want to improve the education of poor children, you have to get them away from learning environments that are smothered by poverty. This is being done in some places, with impressive results. An important study conducted by the Century Foundation in Montgomery County, Md., showed that low-income students who happened to be enrolled in affluent elementary schools did much better than similarly low-income students in higher-poverty schools in the county.
The study, released last October, found that “over a period of five to seven years, children in public housing who attended the school district’s most advantaged schools (as measured by either subsidized lunch status or the district’s own criteria) far outperformed in math and reading those children in public housing who attended the district’s least-advantaged public schools.”
Studies have shown that it is not the race of the students that is significant, but rather the improved all-around environment of schools with better teachers, fewer classroom disruptions, pupils who are more engaged academically, parents who are more involved, and so on. The poorer students benefit from the more affluent environment. “It’s a much more effective way of closing the achievement gap,” said Mr. Kahlenberg.
About 80 school districts across the country are taking steps to reduce the concentrations of poverty in their schools. But there is no getting away from the fact that if you try to bring about economic integration, you’re also talking about racial and ethnic integration, and that provokes bitter resistance. The election of Barack Obama has not made true integration any more palatable to millions of Americans.
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