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Marketplace with host Kai Ryssdal produced and distributed by American Public Media focuses on the latest business news both nationally and internationally, the global economy, and wider events linked to the financial markets.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015 3:13pmWhen VIDA Middle School in Vista, California, received a grant to hand every one of its 680 students an iPad with a free 4G connection, parents were excited.
VIDA Principal Eric ChagalaThey were also a little nervous.
"We have a large population of students who walk," says Principal Eric Chagala. "The fear was, you are putting a $700 or $800 device in my 11-year-old's hand, and they have to get home."
So, Chagala hit the streets of the working class neighborhood around the school. He talked to local police. He dropped in on area pawn shops, to ask them to call the school if people started showing up with iPads to sell.
VIDA, or the Vista Innovation & Design Academy, is a year-old magnet school that replaced the struggling Washington Middle School.
The long rows of classrooms and outdoor hallways now have a fresh coat of paint and regular appearances by the new mascot, a shark.
The VIDA community chose the shark as a mascot because of how it serves as an example of biomimicry, which fits the school's themes of design and innovation.
The old teacher's lounge has been turned into a maker's space, where sixth-graders recently worked to build models of carnival attractions with wood blocks, cardboard and plastic containers. They used their iPads to design the models earlier in the week.
One group of kids is building a haunted house using CDs to create broken glass. Another team is working on an ambitious spinning ride — it has sprinklers, a concession stand and sharks. It's happy chaos.
Traditional classes here have also been transformed by the technology.
VIDA teacher William Olive"We now have students who look at historical dilemmas and be problem solvers," says William Olive, a history teacher with 27 years of experience.
He no longer drills students on facts. He says his job now is to help students use the tech to explore and create. Many of his students didn't have that kind of access before at home or at school. One-third of the students in the upper grades at the school are homeless.
"I teach a junior Model United Nations club, and 13 of the 19 students didn't have a computer or printer at home," Olive says. "For them to have access to an iPad is revolutionary."
At school, students use their tablets for research and to create presentations. Olive says they have a whole new set of questions about the world, from the South China Sea to the Sudan.
"It gives a more of a level playing field, it also helps their families," he says. "Now their families have access to technology and are starting to understand it."
But students are also under a new kind of pressure to take care of their devices. They can't lose it or misuse it. They, and their parents, are anxious about the costs of replacing it if things do go wrong.
Chagala feels a new responsibility too, one with a bigger price tag: keeping up this level of access.
"Our richest kid and our poorest kid, there is no difference in access and opportunity for learning for them at this point," he says.
Students at VIDA middle school use their iPad tablets in class for assignments, but also to complete homework and email teachers.
The current grant from Digital Promise and Verizon lasts two years. After that, the school gets to keep the iPads, but they lose the free 4G connectivity.
"I'm scared to death," Chagala says. "It's been such a blessing. I don't think our kids could imagine not having access."
District and city officials are working on a plan to keep the kids connected and expand access to even more students.
Photos by Millie Jefferson for Marketplace
Is it time to hand every K-12 student a laptop or tablet and let 'em have at it? Teachers, administrators and parents across the country are grappling with the new digital classroom. In a play on the popular children's book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," Marketplace explores the ever-expanding reach of education technology.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015 7:00am
Here's what we know:
-Seven FIFA soccer officials were arrested early Wednesday morning in Zurich as they prepared for their annual meeting.
-Nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives have been charged by the U.S. with a scheme that has allegedly been going on for 24 years, involving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.
-A separate investigation by the Swiss Government was also launched to look into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.
-The seven officials who await extradition to the U.S. for trial are FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb, FIFA Vice President Eugenio Figueredo, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin.
-The arrests and charges come ahead of Sepp Blatter's expected re-election as president of FIFA—it would be his fifth term. So far, Blater is not among those who have been charged with corruption.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015 7:00am
We take a closer look at allegations against several FIFA officials arrested earlier this morning in Switzerland. We'll also talk about news that hackers have accessed the information of roughly 100,000 people through the IRS. Plus, are you sick of long lines at the airport? Well, new technology may help make the flying experience a little more smooth.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015 6:00am
Floods in Oklahoma and Texas have claimed lives and destroyed numerous homes.
Rebuilding those homes and reimbursing homeowners will take months, if not a year or more. But some of those homeowners may not get all the help they will need, because they don't have flood insurance.
In Wimberley, a vacation town in between San Antonio and Austin which is situated on a river that rose 40 feet, flood waters washed away hundreds of homes and businesses.
"There are many people... that lived along the river, that did not have insurance," says Cathy Moreman, head of the Wimberley Valley Chamber of Commerce.
For some, price of premiums may have been a factor.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency underwrites homeowners' flood insurance through a fund set up for that purpose. That fund was $23 billion in debt as of 2014.
Tom Baker, who teaches insurance law at the University of Pennsylvania, says the reason is that flood insurance has historically been too cheap. "It hasn't reflected the real risk that people face," he says.
In recent years, though, premiums have been going up. FEMA also redrew flood danger maps, which caused premiums for some homeowners to go up because they were deemed to be in greater risk, while it also lowered premiums for others.
"Everyone is paying a great deal of attention to the affordability issue," says Howard Kunreuther, professor and co-director of the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Kunreuther is on a government panel studying how to make flood insurance more affordable for those who need financial assistance paying for it. Among the ideas, he says, is to offer a voucher to those who can't pay the full cost of flood insurance premiums.
But, he adds, that kind of financial help could be two years away. In the meantime, those with damaged or destroyed homes by the current floods would have few options if they don't have flood insurance.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015 6:00am
Wednesday is the deadline for negotiators at the U.S. Postal Service to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the American Postal Workers Union, which represents nearly 200,000 workers, including clerks, mechanics and vehicle drivers.
The talks are unfolding against a bleak financial backdrop. USPS’s financial losses have moderated a bit recently, but it’s still very much in the red. It reported a $1.5 billion net loss in the second quarter of the year, compared to a $1.9 billion loss in the period a year earlier.
Its troubles date back at least a decade. The internet chipped away at one of its biggest moneymakers: first class mail.
“That mail has dried up and will continue to dry up as more people migrate to electronic payments,” says Jerry Hempstead, president of the shipping logistics company Hempstead Consulting. Hempstead says USPS has managed to get the internet to work in its favor in other ways; it now ships a lot of the stuff we buy online. But Hempstead says that revenue is not enough to offset some big costs.
“The elephant in the room is the requirement to pre-fund retiree health,” he says.
A 2006 law required that USPS pre-fund 75 years' worth of future-retiree health benefits. That can cost as much as $5.8 billion a year.
“They can’t do it. They missed the last four payments,” says management professor James S. O'Rourke at the University of Notre Dame.
O’Rourke believes the solutions to the Postal Service’s problems include privatizing its pension and health care plans and closing more post offices.
“The union workers simply won't agree to any of that,” he says. “And the Congress won't agree to save them.”
O'Rourke fears those groups will only come together in a crisis, like USPS running out of money to meet payroll.