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Nanny taxes 2018, for NC specifically

21 Feb

Good thing I told you I would write this blog post!  I knew that the tax code had changed for 2018, but didn’t think that would change how I pay my nanny.  Obviously it did, so I may as well walk you through how to employ and pay a nanny.  I’m also adding exclamation marks to everything because this is really not very exciting stuff.  I’ve spent hours doing all this so I hope it saves you some time, or you can just pay one of those payroll services that specialize in nannies to do it.  I’m stubborn and heck, I’m a mathematician! and hence doing it myself, but I would not recommend it.

Before nanny starts:

  1. Get a federal employment identification number at this website: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/apply-for-an-employer-identification-number-ein-online.  You need your name, address, social security number.  This takes a few minutes.  They’ll email you and mail you a paper copy of your EIN.  You’re a household employer with domestic workers.
  2. Get a state employment identification number at your state’s website.  For North Carolina that’s here: https://www.ncdor.gov/taxes/business-registration/online-business-registration.
  3. Send your nanny an I-9 form along with their contract, to bring on day one- they need to fill out the first page, then you fill out the second page.  They also need to bring a passport (easier) or a driver’s license and birth certificate/SS card/ other stuff listed on this form: https://www.uscis.gov/system/files_force/files/form/i-9-paper-version.pdf.
  4. Assuming you want to withhold taxes instead of them paying a big sum to government in April, have them fill out a W-4 and give it to you too: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf
  5. If they’re not single or have more than zero allowances, they’ll want to fill out a state withholding form too.  Here’s the one for North Carolina: http://www.northeastern.edu/hrm/pdfs/hr-payroll/NC_4.pdf.  My nanny didn’t fill this out because I’m just doing the standard deduction for her.
  6. Tell your state that you hired a new person.  For NC that site is here: http://www.ncchildsupport.com/employers.jsp.

Paying the nanny!

  1. Each pay period you need to generate a pay stub for your nanny and print it out or email it to her.  I googled “nanny pay stub” and picked a template; it looks like this.paystub
  2. So to calculate all this, the hours and rate part is easy, just keep track of that.  You’ll need to make a big old spreadsheet.  The gross pay with hours*rate + gas (in our case we give a flat amount; if you want to keep track of mileage the IRS mileage rate is 54.5 cents per mile) is what medicare and social security are based off of.  Social security is 6.2% of the gross pay, and medicare is 1.45%.  You withhold this from your nanny, and will match it and pay it to the government once a quarter or year.
  3. For federal income tax, the standard deduction in 2018 is now $12,000.  That means your nanny gets $12,000 of untaxed income: if you pay them once a week, you subtract $230.77 from their gross income to calculate federal income tax.  If like us you do every two weeks, you subtract $461.54 to calculate federal income tax.
    1. Here’s the tax brackets page.  Our nanny lies in the 12% bracket, which means that for her taxes, we do $952.5 plus 12% of anything she makes over $9,525.  As we pay her biweekly, her federal income tax is $36.63 + 12% of (her gross pay – $461.54 – $36.63).
  4. For state income tax, your state might have DIFFERENT standard deductions from the federal rate.  For North Carolina, it’s $8,750.  So again, you subtract from the gross income to figure out how to calculate the state income tax.  North Carolina has a handy chart on page 15 of this book to calculate the state income tax.
    1. State income taxes change per state.  For NC it’s 5.75%, so we have 5.75% of (gross pay – $336.54).
  5. Summary: Pay your nanny hours*rate+gas money (or other taxable money you pay them), subtracting social security and medicare (step 2), federal income tax (3), and state income tax (4), and adding health insurance money (untaxed) and parking money or other untaxed stuff (bicycling is untaxed!).  Our nanny spends about $100 a month on health insurance, so each pay period we tack on $50 of untaxed money.
  6. Bonus: we also do overtime (1.5 times the pay) for any work on holidays (as stipulated in our contract), anything over 40 hours a week, and anything over 10 hours a day.  And we also do paid holidays.  You might consider setting aside a little money each month in case of pregnancy or other short term leave- this isn’t required federally or statewide, but is a good thing to do and if you don’t set aside money you won’t be able to offer paid leave.  Check out http://faircarepledge.com/ for more.

Taxes and paperwork for the nanny!

  1. Make sure you send them a pay stub for each pay period.  Also, we tried a lot of ways for payment (paypal, cash app, checks) and ended up using direct transfer between bank accounts since we have the same bank.  Up to you!
  2. To create a W-2 form for them (by January 31), you can pay money to someone online (you can also do that to do all of this), or use the government website at Business Services Online .  After you register you’ll have to fax the EIN form in, from step 1 of before the nanny started.  Then once they receive the fax, they’ll call you (so answer the phone from strange numbers a few days after you send in the fax) and tell you that you can use the services.  Plug in all the numbers you made, and it’ll generate a W-2 to give to your nanny.  The pro of using the government website: it automatically makes and sends a W-3 for you.

Paying the government!

  1. To pay your taxes at April tax time, you need to fill out a Schedule H and file it with your taxes.  Schedule H has all the info in it for you to calculate stuff.  Your nanny’s federal income tax, social security/medicare, and FUTA is paid with your income tax and 1040 in April (but you can/should do estimated quarterly tax payments so you don’t have to pay all of it at once).
    1. To pay quarterly payments, go to the online payment website by the 15th of January, April, June, and September and file the 1040-ES.  That’s where you’ll pay the FUTA, federal income tax, social security, and medicare each quarter.  As usual you need your EIN.
  2. You’ll pay Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA).  Unless you’re in California for the Virgin Islands, FUTA is 0.6% of wages up to $7000 per year.  (It’s more in CA and VI).  So it’s $42 per employee per year that you send in at this website, still using that federal ID number.  It’s due January 31 for the previous year.
  3. You’ll also pay State Unemployment Taxes (SUTA). For NC it’s 1% for the first $23,500 of gross pay.  So that’s just $235 a year to send to the state via this website.
  4. To pay your State Income Taxes that we withheld earlier, go to the state’s Department of Revenue site and send it in there.

 

That’s it!  Easy-peasy!  Not really.  This calendar on Care.com is pretty helpful for staying organized.

Good luck if you have a nanny; this is complicated but ultimately it’s better for everyone if you pay them as a real employee with taxes instead of under the table.

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Poetry for mourners

12 Feb

I went to a party of millenials last weekend, which made me think of the last time I went to a party of people my age- a friend’s wedding.  Weddings make me think of funerals and vice-versa, as the only times in your life when everyone who loves you comes together to think of you.  I guess you can only enjoy one of them.  Anyway, this isn’t the people at the center of attention of these events, but about the attendees.

For the past eight years or so, whenever a close friend of mine loses someone dear to them, I send them some poems.  After my dad died in 2010 I joined a grief poetry group, and I saved a bunch of those poems as they were a comfort to me, and they continue to offer comfort, sometimes, to others.  So I thought I’d share them with you, in hopes that they comfort you or someone you love.

I’ll also stand on my soapbox here and say if someone you know is grieving, please send them a note or a text or a phone call. Use google and your heart and say anything.  Someone peripherally close to my husband lost her spouse a few years ago, and my husband waffled on whether to send an email, since he didn’t know the spouse.  I very passionately implored him to send something, and not expect a response.  It’s not about the person at the center of attention, it’s about the attendees and the mourners- acknowledge grief!  It sucks to feel like everything is going on without you and no one noticed the giant aching hole that appeared in the world when your person left it.  Look, I’m even giving you something to send!

I still feel so grateful and warm about the friends who appeared at my doorstep when my dad died and sat with me, and the ones who called or emailed or texted.  It’s an overstatement to say I never forgave the ones who didn’t acknowledge my grief, or hung out with me and forgot about it- that implies I still hold a grudge, but it’s more like my fondness and friendship has faded to indifference.  Because that’s how it feels when a friend doesn’t acknowledge a major life event- that they are indifferent to you.  Ouch.  Don’t be indifferent, be loving!  Send a poem or three!  The last of these is my favorite poem but doesn’t really belong on this list.

“Greatest hits”-these are great shortly after a death, but also anytime grief hits.

  • The Bustle in a House – Dickinson
    The bustle in a house
    The morning after death
    Is solemnest of industries
    Enacted upon earth, –

    The sweeping up the heart,
    And putting love away
    We shall not want to use again
    Until eternity.

     

  • PUSHING THROUGH

    It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
    in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
    I am such a long way in I see no way through,
    and no space: everything is close to my face,
    and everything close to my face is stone.
    I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
    so this massive darkness makes me small.
    You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
    then your great transforming will happen to me,
    and my great grief cry will happen to you.
    Rainer Maria Rilke

“Anger”- personally, I was into these after a week or so and the shock had died down.  These poems are a bit angrier and darker than the others, and not everyone resonates with them.

  • Funeral Blues
    Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
    Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.
    Put crepe bows round the white necks of public doves,
    Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

    He was my North, my South, my East and West.
    My working week and my Sunday rest,
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

    The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
    Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
    For nothing now can ever come to any good.

    – W. H. Auden

  • Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
    Do not go gentle into that good night
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked not lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night
    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay ,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Dylan Thomas
    1914-53

“Abstract”-this quiet poem talks about how everything must die someday.  I love it.

  • When a thing is placed
    A shadow of autumn
    Appears there.
    Kyoshi Takahama 

“Acceptance”-these two really resonate with people after a few weeks or months.  I still love them and it’s been years.

  • MY FATHER
    I think I am letting him go.
    It is not that my love is diminished
    or that I miss him less.
    It is only that the sun is up
    and there is no milk
    in the refrigerator
    and the bunny got out
    of the cage
    and is eating my red geraniums.
    I think I am letting him go.
    But sometimes at night
    before I go to sleep
    I feel the tears
    fill up my eyes
    and run down my cheeks.
    I do not think I will ever
    let him go.
    But he is gone.
  • Remember me when I am gone away,
    Gone far away into the silent land;
    When you can no more hold me by the hand,
    Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
    Remember me when no more day by day
    You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
    Only remember me; you understand
    It will be late to counsel then or pray.
    Yet if you should forget me for a while
    And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
    For if the darkness and corruption leave
    A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
    Better by far you should forget and smile
    Than that you should remember and be sad.

    – Christina Rossetti

“Love”- these are wonderful warm poems not directly about grief, but great when applied to grief.

  • Love-Czeslaw Milosz
    Love means to learn to look at yourself
    The way one looks at distant things
    For you are only one thing among many.
    And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
    Without knowing it, from various ills
    A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
    Then he wants to use himself and things
    So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
    It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
    Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
  • Love Does That-Meister Eckhart

    All day long a little burro labors,

    sometimes with heavy loads on her back and sometimes
    just with worries

    about things that bother only
    burros.

    And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
    than physical labor.

    Once in a while a kind monk comes
    to her stable and brings

    a pear, but more
    than that,

    he looks into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears

    and for a few seconds the burro is free
    and even seems to laugh,

    because love does that.

    Love frees.

    Czeslaw Milos

On potential failure, and welcome, AAAS MMF judges!

17 Jan

I recently submitted my application for the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship– the deadline was two days ago, so if you’re a graduate student keep this in your mind for future years.  So if you’re coming to my blog from that, here are some of my favorite posts:

On math: Apollonian circle packings, Aaron Fenyes’ research (with GIFs!) and part II, open problem in combinatorics

On news: review of Yale situation, what is a “trigger warning?”, algebra and the NYT

On life: being sexist, being racist, the job search

The rest of this post is for normal readers/not AAAS MMF judges (though you’re welcome to read on as well).

A few weeks ago I posted a wrap-up of 2017 on Facebook and received some kind comments on it, and then a friend who visited me told me that she finds me inspiring.  (Not a humblebrag, a straight up brag-I believe in bragging!)

But I’m concerned that these stories we tell of strings of success and people we admire can be de-motivational and contribute to imposter syndrome.  Here’s the inner monologue I’m imagining:

Oh look at Sandra Dee, she got a fancy fellowship and a great job and has a perfect family; she works so hard and is so smart.  There’s no way I could be like her.  I don’t deserve what I have and I am a lazy pants who played Candy Crush for half an hour today and I can’t do my toddler’s puzzle.  Why should I even try.  Boo me.

When we have idols and heroes, we aspire to be like them, but know that we’ll never actually be like them–they’re too good and have never had anything bad happen.  I don’t believe that every time a door closes, a window opens, because then your house would be really cold, but I do think that opportunities present themselves to those who seek them out.  And that the key to success is lots, and lots, and lots of failures (hello, math research!)

That’s why I’m telling you that I’m applying for this extremely competitive fellowship. If I get it, that’s great, and if I don’t (91% chance!), then you will know that I tried, and I failed, and that door closed.  It’s important to try, it’s important to fail. 

I can already see in our toddler the fear of failure, that he second-guesses himself and won’t enter an answer he’s not 100% sure of into his play laptop even though nothing bad happens- it just prompts him to try again.  I don’t know how to convince him that failure is good and okay- I’ll just keep trying things, and showing him that I fail at things and I’m still okay.  I want you to know that I’ll keep trying things, and I’ll keep failing at them, and I’ll still be okay, and you will be too.  Yay failures!

Here’s a run-on sentence of a failure anecdote that I think about sometimes.  I tried to fight for the editor in chief of my high school newspaper, who was forced to resign after writing an article about kids coming out/being gay in high school.  I wrote a petition with a friend and circulated it.  It got confiscated by our journalism adviser (I had left it in my open backpack) and everything went bad- I got mildly kicked off the paper (immediately reinstated, both in a 1-on-1 conversation with the vice principal), we had to sign a piece of paper saying we wouldn’t ever badmouth our paper or editors or adviser (remember we were idealistic journalism students at the time so this hurt), our adviser left (rumor was she went to Colombia for a while) and we got a new one, we had to get parent permission slips signed for every interview, and we generally had much less leeway.  I was perhaps in the running for editor in chief for the next year, but definitely that did not happen after that fiasco.  If this anecdote was mysterious and didn’t make sense to you, don’t worry, it DEFINITELY didn’t make sense to me as it was happening.  I had many teachers take me aside and try to give me wisdom via metaphors that I didn’t understand then and still don’t.

I’ve had plenty of failures, but I don’t dwell on them- even that high school paper one, which bothers me, doesn’t eat at me.  Probably because I tried, and maybe there were other things I could’ve tried, but I know I did something.  This line of reasoning and blog post are now going nowhere, I am very tired, but I said what I wanted to say – that I’m applying for a fellowship with small chance of winning, but I put a LOT of time and effort into it because I believe in trying.  And failing, and telling the stories of our failures.

Favorite easy recipes

1 Jan

Personal update: we have moved into our own house!  I’ve been busy watching two kids and setting up the house and holidays, and this blog will be updated only occasionally until further notice (if I do end up getting an academic job I’ll go back to biweekly posting, but for now we’ll go with bimonthly-ish).

That said I have two things I want to share with you: how to do payroll for a nanny yourself so you don’t have to pay a payroll company nor spend 5 hours looking up IRS publications etc. like I did (and *still* mess up and owe the nanny $100 more than expected and the government less than expected), and my favorite memorized recipes.  I’ll do the nanny post separately, here are some recipes off the top of my head that are always hits.

  • French Toast Souffle, blog post here. 425 degrees, 1 stick of butter in pan. Whisk 3 eggs, 1.5 c milk, 1/4 c flour, 6 TB sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, pour on bubbling butter. 30 minutes
  • Biscuits and gravy, blog post here. Make biscuits. 1 lb sausage, cook. 2 TB flour, toss. 3 C milk, stir until gravy.  Lots and lots of black pepper.
  • Banana cinnamon rolls, blog post here. 350-375 degrees, 2 TB butter in pan. Crescent roll dough, butter, banana, cinnamon sugar. Sprinkle brown sugar on bubbling butter. Roll up dough, cut into cinnamon rolls, put on brown sugar butter, bake 10-15 minutes.
  • Bacon clam sauce. Cook bacon (2-6 strips, chopped), add garlic (2-6 cloves), add canned tomatoes (1-2 cans), simmer. Eventually, add can of clams with juice, cook briefly.  Serve on spaghetti, stir in parsley if desired.

    IMG_20180101_120719171.jpg

    I’m making this while IRONing out the details of this post.  Tonight’s foreCAST: delicious pasta!

  • Shakshouka. Cook onion, garlic, jalapenos. Add canned tomatoes, lots of cumin, simmer. Make room for eggs, poach in tomato sauce.  Serve with pita and hummus.
  • BLT.  After cooking bacon, toast your thick bread IN THE BACON FAT.  Then the best tomatoes, mayo, lots of lettuce, avocado.
  • Grilled cheese. Spread mayo on both sides of both pieces of bread before grilling.  This will change your grilled cheeses.
  • Pork with mushroom sauce, this is from the Campbell’s soup label.  Salt pork chops, brown in oil.  Take out, cook onions, garlic, mushrooms.  Add can of cream of mushroom soup some milk, and pork chops back, simmer until done.  Serve with rice.
  • Salsa chicken. 1 jar of salsa, pour on chicken pieces (frozen is ok).  Cook in crock pot.  Serve on rice or in tacos, or in quesadillas, etc.
  • Root vegetable soup. Onion, celery/carrot if you have them, garlic/ginger if you want in oil.  Add your root vegetable (butternut squash is great, carrots are also great) and enough stock (chicken, veggie, or water) to just cover.  Simmer.  Puree.  Add: curry, ginger, pepper, cardamom, some kind of spice. Serve with yogurt or sour cream.
  • Kale or collard greens or rau muong, blog post here for rau muong. Garlic, olive oil. Kale, 1/4 c water, cover, 5 minutes. Add balsamic or apple cider vinegar, plenty.
  • Ga kho, blog post here.  Onion, garlic, ginger in oil.  Cut up chicken pieces. Fish sauce, coconut water or soda. Braise.
  • Three-ingredient peanut butter cookies, blog post here.  1 c peanut butter, 1 c sugar, 1 egg.  Make into cookies, bake until done.
  • Strawberries, sour cream, brown sugar. Dip.

Thank you for reading my blog and being part of my e-life for the past several years!  And if this is your first time, thanks for stopping by!  This blog has been a lot of fun and a great source of pride for me.  On days when I burned the cookies and forgot what a determinant was, I could still point to this blog and say look, I did something!

Here’s a treat for you, a picture of my baby.

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School segregation, pt 2: mitigating the effects/what we can do

20 Oct

The hardest post of this series will be part 3, delving into the problems that I ran into when thinking about where to buy a house without perpetuating systemic inequality by focusing on “good” schools, and also the problem of “safe” as a coded word to mean “predominantly white” when describing neighborhoods.  But this is part 2, which are small solutions to the as-yet-undefined problems.

Income disparities and property taxes mean unequal funding for schools.  I can live in a less-desired neighborhood (which I won’t do, because I want my short commute times and walkability and access to grocery stores etc. and I am unwilling to sacrifice those things for my ideals), or I can advocate for mixed-income housing on a local level, and be a YIMBY (yes! In my backyard!)  Especially in Charlotte, where the city has agreed to add 5000 affordable housing units within the next few years- but where?  We were looking at Cherry, a historically black neighborhood (literally where the black servants of the rich white people lived)- the builders there are building some number of subsidized houses along with the expensive fancy houses (as in this program).  What’s nice is that it’s the same builder, so you can’t really tell from outside who has the fancy expensive house and who has the subsidized house across the street (and everyone gets new houses!).  So we can be like the neighbors there and advocate for mixed-income housing, or we can be NIMBYs like in this story and say that affordable houses will “hurt our property values.”  If you find yourself saying “I’m worried that X will hurt my property values,” you may be part of the problem.

PTA “dark money” keeps “good” public schools “good” when state budgets are cut.  Rich people who do opt to send their kids to public school often give lots of money to the PTA- there’s some amazing examples in this Atlantic article (Taylor Swift ticket auction vs. bake sale?!) Of course you aren’t going to stop giving money to your kids’ schools so they can have better playground equipment or science equipment or books etc.  So one thing that we can do is match our PTA donations- for every $1 we spend at our local school, we can send $1 to the PTA of a needier school in the city.  It’s a small, band-aid solution, but when you’re not a policy-maker you do the best you can.

Shouldn’t these problems be addressed at the policy level?  What can I do as an individual?  Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose NYT magazine piece really started my spouse and I on this journey, stated it well in an NPR interview:

“It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it’s also upheld by individual choices,” she says. “As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children … we’re not going to see a change.”

If you’re a podcast listener, Hannah-Jones also appears on this episode of This American Life talking about the same issue.  (She also just won the Macarthur so she is no lightweight).  So do the things I list in this post!

School rankings on real estate sites mostly show you how rich and white a school is. They use Greatschools.org info, which relies on standardized test scores.  So if you’re like my spouse and filter your real estate search by school scores, you’re just filtering for the white neighborhoods.  From this Washington Post article:

As research has found, school factors explain only about 20 percent of achievement scores — about a third of what student and family background characteristics explain. Consequently, test scores often tell us much more about demography than about schools.

Instead of relying only on a number, try visiting the schools and talking to the people there about your own kids’ needs.  My kids are very young, but based on the evidence we have we’ll want a school with some gifted and talented programs, and light on homework, and a lot of emphasis on social learning/getting along with others (I have a shy guy toddler).  So a high-power, worksheet and results focused school is probably not for us.

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.  Corollary: naming a problem can make you feel defensive, like these Seattle white progressive parents .  Try not go be like them.  As I noted in a previous post, people don’t like being called racist- people didn’t even like it when I called myself racist!  Let’s try to quell our knee-jerk reactions to the problem of school segregation and think about what we can do.  To be clear, I am writing from a huge position of privilege.  You know what correlates strongly with kids’ academic achievement?  Their mothers’ education level.  My kids are maxed out on that.  So I can talk about these issues and freely decide what schools to send my kids to, and they’ll be fine pretty much anywhere they go.  Other people don’t have such advantages.  Here’s an anonymous quote that I loved about this topic, to finish off the post:

We have to balance many variables in making our choices. But there are others too–and they concern not only who we want our child to be, but the society we want our child to live in.

If you want to read more about the topic of school segregation, I suggest googling Nikole Hannah-Jones and checking out this great Facebook page (LA-centric), Integrated Schools.

 

 

Personal Update

13 Sep

Hi, blog reader!  Apologies for not writing in months; I wanted to let you know that I’m still around, trying to get my life together- we moved a few weeks ago to Charlotte, NC where I’m living with my in-laws while we’re still trying to sell the house in Austin, TX.  Just fired our realtor and got a new one, so fingers crossed this works (the old one did nothing; the new one has already cleaned our house, brought in a stager, and set up a painter).  The toddler started school recently, so now I have a few hours to “myself” everyday (but those are actually spent with a baby).

I also set up a conference for this next weekend: Carolinas Women in Mathematics Symposium.  I was having difficulties communicating with people I don’t know to make the website look how I wanted, so I ended up hosting it on my own server.  Turned out to be a great decision because I could update it anytime instead of sending the HTML over for each change to some administrator!  This also meant that I sharpened my HTML skillz.

I picked up a side gig as a coach for Testive, just so I could do something besides watch my kids.

I read The Hate U Give in one day and highly recommend it.

I will take your friend leads, job leads, and life advice for Charlotte, NC!

One day I will write a real blog post: I’ve got school segregation pts 2 and 3, the job search, how I became a slacktivist, Bakewell tart, my thesis on the list of things I want to write about.

This is my life lately:

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School segregation, pt 1: grappling with our racism

26 Jul

I’ve been trying to get this post out for a month and finally have decided that I’ll break it up into mini-posts in order to publish anything at all.  Yes, I finished my thesis and packed my house, but my mom was here to help with the kids during that time.  Now that thesis is done, mom is back in California, and it’s just me and kids and house-selling.  Mostly the kids part is what takes up my time and energy.  But they’re so cute!  Here’s a pic of me and baby napping on an air mattress during a trip to my brothers’ house.IMG_3825

We went on a house hunting trip to Charlotte, NC, where we’re moving at the end of the summer.  When my spouse was in high school there, Charlotte public schools were still integrated.  But in 2001, mandatory busing was ruled down, and now Charlotte schools are again segregated neighborhood schools (because housing is segregated/there are segregated neighborhoods): here’s the article summing this up.  As we looked at houses, we also looked at what schools they were zoned into, and the makeup of those schools.  I was amazed looking at greatschools.com how very close to 100% black and 100% white schools there are.  Public schooling is really important to us (we both went to public schools, and ideologically we believe in them), but when we consider school zones when choosing a house, are we being racist?  By which I mean, are we perpetuating structural inequalities based on race?  I think so!

We read the NYT Magazine article a few years ago about choosing a school in a segregated city, and the following quote is from a follow-up NPR interview:

 “It is important to understand that the inequality we see, school segregation, is both structural, it is systemic, but it’s also upheld by individual choices,” she says. “As long as individual parents continue to make choices that only benefit their own children … we’re not going to see a change.”

There’s a new, controversial book out called Dream Hoarders, which has as a thesis that the top 20% of Americans by income “hoard” resources etc. for their children and hence hurt the American Dream of upward mobility for anyone.  They also made a cute little game explaining it, here.  And here’s an excerpt from the book if you want more.

An excerpt from the excerpt:

There is clear danger of a vicious cycle developing here. As inequality between the upper middle class and the rest grows, parents will become more determined to ensure their children stay near the top. We will work hard to put a “glass floor” under them, to prevent them from falling down the chutes. Inequality and immobility thus become self-reinforcing.

Downward mobility is not a wildly popular idea, to say the least. But it is a stubborn mathematical fact that, at any given time, the top fifth of the income distribution can accommodate only 20 percent of the population. Relative intergenerational mobility is necessarily a zero-sum game. For one person to move up the ladder, somebody else must move down. Sometimes that will have to be one of our own children. Otherwise the glass floor protecting affluent kids from falling acts also as a glass ceiling, blocking upward mobility for those born on a lower rung of the ladder. The problem we face is not just class separation, but class perpetuation.

So so far we have two different but very related topics that are affected by my individual choice of where to buy a house and send my kids to school: perpetuating class inequality, and perpetuating racial segregation.  When it comes down to it, of  course we try to choose the “best” fit for our kids, but we need to really explore and come to terms with what we mean by “best.”  Do we mean best test scores?  Because those correlate with family income.  Do we mean best teachers?  How do we put a metric on teachers?  How do we put a metric on schools at all?

In this series I’ll write posts about how we address the two topics (sneak peak: we will do so by trying to mitigate our effects as gentrifiers in the neighborhoods we choose).  And I’ll post pictures of my kids!

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