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September 21, 2003

NO SCHOOL LEFT SUCCESSFUL....Speaking on matters educational, Diane Patterson sayeth:

The entire mission of "No Child Left Behind" is to eventually label every single school in this nation as "failing"—it's a backdoor way of forcing vouchers or privatization or whatever the hell they want this time.

Now, there are at least a couple of reasons for thinking Diane has this pegged exactly right. The first has to do with the nature of the program itself. For starters, it mandates that each state has to set standards for student achievement, and by 2014 every single student must meet those standards. Any school with less than 100% success is deemed to be failing. What's more, even in the period between now and 2014, while pass rates are "only" 80 or 90 percent and we're still working our way toward the El Dorado of 100%, there's an absurd concoction of thinly sliced categories mandated by the act, and failure in any one category marks the offending school as a failure. It's pretty obvious that there are a suspiciously large number of ways to fail, and as the years go by the number of "failing" schools will slowly increase to 100%.

Second, it's the kind of devious thing the Bushies would do, isn't it?

But on the other hand, wasn't Teddy Kennedy one of the sponsors of the bill? And a bunch of other Democrats too? I know that they've since taken issue with the lack of funding for NCLB, but they must have agreed with the basic testing regime in the first place, right? And no amount of funding in the world would ever have allowed schools to meet the kinds of targets it mandates.

So what's the deal here? It certainly sounds like a voucher-fueled Trojan horse to me, but then why did Teddy co-sponsor it? Was he just figuring it would provide a nice pot of money in the here-and-now and the standards would eventually end up being rejiggered anyway? Did he get snookered?

Or what?

UPDATE: Oh yeah, and even though I've written about the "Texas Miracle" before, this Village Voice article that Diane points to is a nice summary of the chicanery that went into it. Read it.

Posted by Kevin Drum at September 21, 2003 07:19 PM | TrackBack


Comments

well, i think teddy made a deal with the devil figuring he'd get some money up front and then get rid of the nasty bits later.

Now, what about that money up front..

Posted by: Atrios at September 21, 2003 07:28 PM | PERMALINK

In my experience with the NCLB Act, there, is, in fact, a whole lot of money for the programs it sponsors. Quite a few of the programs I have run across -- I'm a grant writer at a public college -- have gotten increases in funding. But it's not quite that simple. The grunt work of these programs seems to be done at the state level, and there's absolutely no additional funding coming from the Feds to help the already beleaguered departments in Sacramento (and presumably in other states as well) deal with these new administrative responsibilities. It's killing them.

In addition, and this is a bit of a partisan rant, community colleges seem to have been written out of many of these programs. This is a bias that I've encountered consistently at the Federal level over the past 15 years, but with NCLB, there's a new hostility in certain areas, which is too bad.

On the other hand, I would love to see some accountability injected into the public school system. It's a concept that tends to make instructors' heads explode when you bring it up, but it's one of the only jobs I can think of where real accountability need never be encountered, even in light of repeated failure to do one's job at a minimum standard.

I'm just not convinced that this is the way to do it.

As for NCLB being a voucher-driven plot. Don't really think so. It's all too easy to cheat (boot the underachievers like they did in Texas) the system and come out with high scores. Where there's a will there's a way.

Laurie K.

Posted by: Laurie K. at September 21, 2003 07:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a teacher in California who has been meaning for weeks to write something to you about this, but I see I don't have to now. What you've posted is exactly right. The NCLB act is simply a way to destroy public education, particularly in neighborhoods with a diverse population.

Our school, for example, has been a "failing school" for two years now, despite the fact that our average test scores have met or vastly exceeded the goals we were given. Why are we "failing?" because when you disaggregate the data into small enough groups, some group or another is bound to be failing, simply as an artifact of statistics. Last year, our "white kids" failed. This year they did great, while our "English Language Learners" failed to pull their weight (they had made outstanding progress the year before, but, of course, that counts for nothing this year.)

The NCLB act is nothing more than a back-door method to bankrupt public schools and eliminate them, particularly in locations where they are ethnically or economically less than homogeneous, since in that case you can't average test gains across a large segment of the school population.

Once we're labeled a failing school for sure, where are we going to get the extra money to provide extra tutoring, or the help to get kids to go to other prsumably successful schools (if there are any in our part of town), and why (assuming you think the assessment methods are valid, which not all do) doesn't it matter if groups of kids make outstanding progress over several years if one of those years showed a retraction in test scores? I mean, some subgroups are small enough that all it takes is a couple or three families moving into or out of an attendance area to totally randomize the test results, anyway.

Believe me, the main population of this country is suffering a sustained and vicious attack from a well-funding class of propagandists and cheats, and the NCLB act is merely one aspect of this treachery to America. Read Noam Chomsky or Paul Krugman for more articulate explanations of this than I can give.

Posted by: Paul Mac at September 21, 2003 08:09 PM | PERMALINK

So just approve vouchers and settle the debate. There in nothing in "liberalism" that says vouchers are bad, and private schools have proved themselves, even the cheap ones.

So, why complain? The students aren't hurt by vochers, the voucher system would attract private funds, urban parents want vouchers, and there is no reason why "liberalism" should demand total socialism of schools.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 21, 2003 08:11 PM | PERMALINK

"there is no reason why "liberalism" should demand total socialism of schools."

Nor any reason why conservatism should seek total socialism for private schooling. Shouldn't you free-marketers have a little more faith in the "invisible hand"?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement at September 21, 2003 08:19 PM | PERMALINK

'Shouldn't you free-marketers have a little more faith in the "invisible hand"?'

So challeng us on a fair free market for elementary education, or quit bitching.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 21, 2003 08:32 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know how much people have thought about it, but every special ed kid will be tested.

There are a lot of kids far short of special ed for which this is an insane requirement. Some kids with various disorders like Autistic Spectrum or ADHD suffer greatly during test week. Even normal kids have a much higher rate of colds and flu from the stress.

I'll pull my kids out of public school if they are forced into testing. The GOP wins.

Posted by: Pacific John at September 21, 2003 08:34 PM | PERMALINK

Once we've given public schools the funding and attention they deserve, Matt, then we'll work to make your private schools public through funding.

Don't you worry 'bout that none, y'heah?

Posted by: Kenneth G. Cavness at September 21, 2003 08:45 PM | PERMALINK

Private schools sound great, Matt. I assume it's OK with you to require them to take every single kid who wants to attend, and not to allow them to ever expel one? Including the special ed kids?

I could go on, and I have nothing against private schools, but they have hardly proven they're better than public schools in anything close to a fair contest. And vouchers have had very mixed success in the areas they've been tried.

And I'll chime in with Laurie. I'm OK with accountability, but even in the business world it's remarkably tricky to create metrics that genuinely measure what you want to measure. I doubt that the crude kind of testing we're doing for NCLB does a very good job of it.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at September 21, 2003 08:51 PM | PERMALINK

I come from a family of teachers (and, since I live in Texas, teachers than tend to be quite conservative).

They hate NCLB. With a passion. And, just to head it off, it's not because they "hate being accountable". They're all greatly in favor of accountability in teaching.

However, they're rather unified in thinking that non-educators wouldn't know "accountability" if it bit them in the asses.

Oh, and just for grins: 80% of them have no intention of voting for Bush ever under any circumstances. All of them voted for him in 2000. And they all cite NCLB as the primary reason.

Posted by: Morat at September 21, 2003 09:00 PM | PERMALINK

I tell you what folks, I have just gone through the debate, so to skip the inane arguments and move on to the root of the debate, I'll give you a summary.

The fundamentally known quantity is that enthusiastic, two parented children can be taught by almost anybody and they will outperform the public school. This has been proven by low cost home schooling and private schools. The reason is that the top three reasons for good student performance are parents, parents, parents. Teachers are a distant fourth.

Many of these two parented, enthusiastic children are in urban schools where two parented students are a rarity. These schools have a shortage of two parented students.

The cost of public schools per student costs is driven primarily by the mis-parented unenthusiastic students. Most costs are devoted to the badly parented, disturbed child.

The issue is why are the two parented enthusiastic students prevented from attending voucher schools that are cheaper than the public schools. The answers given:

1) We do not want to abandon teachers to mis-parented un-enthusiastic students.

2) We do not want to abandon mis-parented un-enthusiastic students to public school teachers. This is the rationing argument, two-parented students must be rationed out as examples to mis-parented un-enthusiastic students.

3) Teachers unions will be harmed.

Now, I am waiting for arguments that favor two-parented enthusiastic students. These students, often poor, and having very promising future have been abandoned to the urban schools that have a rarity of two-parent families. The wealthy are not so harmed, in either the wealthy public schools or the private schools. Why are the good, poor two-parent families abanboned?

Posted by: Matt Young at September 21, 2003 09:04 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Teddy K. didn't see the enormous trap of NCLB or couldn't believe that that's what would happen. Or maybe (like so many others) he got the bait-and-switch: he showed up to lend support to Bush, who then didn't hold up his end of the bargain. Or maybe "accountability ho!" just sounded too good to pass up.

Or maybe Teddy just wanted some of Bush's then-popularity? Who knows.

Posted by: Diane at September 21, 2003 09:05 PM | PERMALINK

Open question: liberals don't want the government to demand that food stamps or welfare or social security recipients spend their money in government-owned stores, do they? Or, are they perhaps arguing that the government ought to get into the business of food retailing?

Why, then, is it such a given that government should likeways own and operate the assets necessary for publicly-funded education (as opposed to sticking strictly to the funding part, as in the aforementioned cash transfer programs). In other words, the key here is that society deems education so vital that it ensures its universality with public dollars -- not that the government be in the "business" of education (is it)? Or, to put it another way, why exactly is making public education dollars "portable", and letting students vote with their feet, so anathema to the left? I don't see where the conflict is with liberal principles. Can someone enlighten me? Seriously, I don't get it and wonder if I'm missing something; and I say this as a very committed liberal voter. It's just that I don't dare reveal my soft spot in polite company for the idea of voucherization of public eduation, (contigent upon full and radical equalization of per pupil expenditure). I mean, my kid isn't going to suffer when she's of school age because the schools in this community are first rate -- but thank God we bough here eight years ago because we couldn't do so now. I guess my conscience is bothering me a bit, because I know a lot of other kids are stuck in some pretty subpar schools.

Posted by: Mobie at September 21, 2003 09:12 PM | PERMALINK

Another thread hijacked by the iron butt brownshirt fuck Matt Young. He's like the smelly wino who chooses to sit beside you on the bus.

Matt, if you're an idiot it is not a good idea to ask rhetorical questions.

This could have been an interesting thread.

Posted by: zizka at September 21, 2003 09:15 PM | PERMALINK

Matt, pretty much the first time anyone says "let's get to the real root of the question", I stop reading (or listening) and move on to the non-ideologues.

Your "root" is based on...what, precisely? Good studies? The assumption that only two-parent families can educate their children?

Who can know? What I do know is: you're talking about ideology here, and applying your damned ideology to children today. You don't care about the kids, you care about whether your particular worldview "wins" in the end.

It's sickening. And not worth further debate.

As to NCLB: I'm against federal accountability standards as they are currently being set; I was on the tail end of the nascent "teaching to the test" years, and I hated it. And it's the natural progressions. So Kevin, I don't know if there's a devious plan such as you describe, but I think that even without that devious plan, the NCLB's basic tenet is bullshit.

Posted by: Kenneth G. Cavness at September 21, 2003 09:27 PM | PERMALINK

Matt glosses over a lot. Academic performance tracks with the economic and educational level of the parents, and even closer with the educational level of the mother - the closest correlation I'm aware of.

So, should we cherry pick, and only give cash subsidies to the children whose mothers are dentists?

Like it or not, especially in CA, we have tremendous school choice: public school choice, within districts, and between districts. Many districts even offer home schooling using the district curriculum.

As Kevin indicates (and the only of its kind Money Magazine project showed), private schools rarely win in a fair fight.

CA voucher initiatives, which would have transferred cash subsidies to private schools, have gone down by huge margins. Fair fight, ‘n stuff.

The NCLB Act is a colossal mistake. It’s disaster, cloaked in lie, sold under deception, for voucher supporter who can’t win by being honest.

The question is, will we be asleep when this educational PNAC destroys our educational infrastructure?

Posted by: Pacific John at September 21, 2003 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

The thing to do with the wino is to ignore him. He smells, and he keeps mumbling to himself.
This may be one reason Teddy's so angry with Bush. Also, what Kevin and Paul Mac said. If we can just shunt the kids out of the public schools, they won't have to sit with black and Jewish kids, plus we can teach them evolution is crap. And that there's no scientific evidence for global warming. And that cutting taxes increases revenue. Hell, we can even teach them that the Mission is Accomplished.
The things we can teach them in private...

Posted by: John Isbell at September 21, 2003 09:30 PM | PERMALINK

zizka,

Rather than lower yourself, you might answer the inevitable question.

Why does the liberal abandon the hard working, well meaning poor family. Whether it is taking 18% of their pay, or forcing them into bad schools; there always seems to be some hatred for the poor family that does it well but suffers liberal stalinism. What is it exactly that make the liberal hate the well behaved poor family?

Posted by: Matt Young at September 21, 2003 09:32 PM | PERMALINK

John,

You want me to cite the studies that show, and all educators agree, that well meaning, two-parented families yield good students. This is a fact beyond race, income, or neighborhood.

If you haven't reached even this realization then you shouldn't even be in this debate.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 21, 2003 09:35 PM | PERMALINK

Don't put down Matt Y. He's obviously a very unhappy (judging by his style, perhaps autistic) 15 year old whose only joy in life is trolling on blogs he disagrees with. He gets a kick out of making preposterous assertions ('The Republicans keep trying to help the poor, so why are the poor too stupid to realize this?....'). I'm sure Matt didn't ask to be the way he is. Don't blame him or his teachers. As Matt would put it: "parents, parents, parents." Where are your parents, Matt? Isn't it past your bedtime?

Posted by: Jeanne at September 21, 2003 09:35 PM | PERMALINK

Zizka says:

"Another thread hijacked by the iron butt brownshirt fuck Matt Young."


Nice tolerance of dissent. It was SO much nicer when only the RIGHT sort of people congregated in this space, wasn't it deary.

Posted by: sd at September 21, 2003 09:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Private schools sound great, Matt. I assume it's OK with you to require them to take every single kid who wants to attend, and not to allow them to ever expel one? Including the special ed kids?"

This issue has nothing to do with letting two-parented enthusiastic parents send their kids to voucher schools. But if this is the issue driving the debate for liberals, lest talk about it.

If you examine school funding, mis-behaved and special education children drive the per pupil costs. We know this because out-performing private schools populated with two parented kids will cost less. We also know the special security costs and special counseling costs drive up the cost of public inner city schools.

So the question is: Do we want to extend vouchers to the high cost students? The answer is yes, why not. The voucher value wis be increased to upgrade the cost of educating these students, and they will end up in different schools than the two parented, enthusiastic students end up. But, you know, to each his needs, so fine, send these kids to voucher schools. My guess the private schools will still outperform.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 21, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

Vouchers will never become widespread, for the same reason that busing/desegregation efforts have not had great success: rich and middle class, mostly white parents will do what it takes to keep their children away from poor kids.

Posted by: tc at September 21, 2003 09:57 PM | PERMALINK

Federal law dictates that states educate all students regardless of their ability. Federal law also dictates that all students be educated as close to the mainstream and in the least limiting way practical. Federal law also dictates that poor students be fed.

Now, many of these costs vary wildly and rapidly based on new medical diagnoses and any learning disabilities that may present them. There is no way to assign a fixed-cost voucher; it would yield services on demand based on the professional opinions at hand.

And where do you draw the line? With a kid who can barely walk and learn? With a kid whose processing disorder requires a crash-reading program? With a kid who is slightly dyslexic? With a kid with a minor auditory disorder who only needs a quiet place during recess?

Posted by: Pacific John at September 21, 2003 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

If it is true that all special ed kids are to be tested and that they must pass proficiency tests in reading and science or the school will be labeled as "failing" then NCLB is asinine.

My autistic son is in the "second grade" for administrative purposes. He does not talk. The chance of him passing a reading proficiency tests in two years is precisely zero.

They can not make him take the test. I do not mean that they cannot pass a rule that requires him to take the test. I mean that Bobby cares not a whit for their rules. If they give him pencil and paper and tell him to answer questions, he will eat the pencil and tear up the paper or vice versa (been there, done that, got the tee shirt).

Bobby has made much progress in school. His teachers are highly skilled professionals. They are also angels descended from heaven for the purpose of helping kids who are the most in need.

Bobby learns crucial skills in school. To call him, his teachers or his school a failure because he can't pass a science test is beyond stupid.

If NCLB requires kids like Bobby to pass reading and science tests, then the legislation gets a failing grade. Can we now transfer to a succesful education policy?

Posted by: dwight meredith at September 21, 2003 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

Education, even more so than biology, seems to be one of the few fields where happily discard the opinions of experts in favor of the opinions of the unlettered.

Why is that, exactly? What other fields (other than biology, at least with evolution) do lawmakers, laymen, and generally society as a whole start by ignoring the experts?

Don't ask teachers! Don't ask people with degrees in education. Don't ask people who have spent 20 years teaching hundreds of kids to read!

Nope. Ask Joe Blow off the street! He's a better source!

Now that I've gotten that off my test: Why are teachers and academics, the people who have the most expertise and experience teaching children, so frequently discounted and blown off?

"Oh, don't listen to them! They'll say anything to protect their jobs!".

I rarely hear that about, say, doctors or mechanics.

Posted by: Morat at September 21, 2003 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

I need to preview these things, especially late at night. "Off my chest" not "test".

Posted by: Morat at September 21, 2003 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

"middle class, mostly white parents will do what it takes to keep their children away from poor kids."

Not true at all.

The successful school districts want one thing, and one thing only, volunteer parents. If you look at these school districts, what you see is parents. Parents selling grocery coupons, parents running pancake day for the music program, parents running the cub scouts or the boy scouts, parents filling the pta meetings, parents coaching the after school programs, parent driving for the field trips, parents everywhere.

Money has little to do with it. There is plenty of private money, but that money comes from parent going out and begging it. These school districts are very careful not to discriminate against the poor, but they do shun you if you don't volunteer. And they take the parents through a 10 year training program, teaching them how to fundraise, coach, referee, run meetings, manage the music program, and running the scout groups. Parents progress in school just like the students.

Like they say in puppy school, its the puppy owners that are trained.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 21, 2003 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Mobie:
They aren't "government-owned" schools, they are public schools. That means they're owned by the people. For example, I went to school in a small town in Maine, where the school was "owned" by roughly 3500 people spread out over three towns. The funding for that school came from local property taxes, and the budget was decided by a publicly-elected school board and approved at public meetings, where board members were accountable to every citizen who bothered to show up. The broad curriculum was determined by the state of Maine, but the specifics were determined by teachers and principals. The heavy hand of government was not easy to see, other than in the requirement that we take a unit of Maine history in grade eight.

Matt:
I don't know where you've "gone through the debate" and since you don't tell us, I'm left to conclude that this means little more than that you've made up your mind. That's good for you, but not very helpful for the rest of us.

If you have sources for the debate you've gone through, you might want to tell us what they are, otherwise, we have no particular reason to accept your conclusions. Your credibility is somewhat damaged when you drop in references to "liberal stalinism," which seems to fit neatly with your claim on the Creative Discussion thread that the plantation economy, politics in the ante bellum south and colonialism are all part of the liberal tradition. In other words, it's not really true.

You might also want to give an actual source when you make a claim like this:
The fundamentally known quantity is that enthusiastic, two parented children can be taught by almost anybody and they will outperform the public school. This has been proven by low cost home schooling and private schools
Hmmmn, that's not a quantity, known or unknown, and I'm quite certain that the idea that "almost anybody" can teach children with good parents better than the public schools can is false. It's certainly counter-intuitive, so maybe you can tell us how this was "proven," or should we just take your word for it?
You add:
The reason is that the top three reasons for good student performance are parents, parents, parents. Teachers are a distant fourth
This could be clever, but it's not. There's a fairly serious error in logic here: even if teachers are fourth (or second), what does that have to do with the putative superiority of private schools or of home-schooling?

One more point, and a final question.
Public school assignment in not-exactly-conservative Cambridge, Mass is now largely determined by parent choice. There are limits, e.g. a school may not have space for all the students who want to attend. But one interesting result of school choice there is that the most important factor for most parents is proximity. Some parents want their kids to go to school x, y, or z because it has a good good reputation, special programs, a trusted principal, or whatever, but most parents want their kids to go to the school that's closest to home. I imagine that this would be the case almost anywhere. So in what way are vouchers or private schools (or NCLB) going to improve over public education in such a situation?

The final question is this: a decade or so ago, the fight against "unfunded mandates" was all the rage. States, we were told, simply should not be saddled with the responsibility of carrying out mandates from Washington unless they were given the funding to do so. I think this question could be directed at several policies of the current administration and the current Congress, but let's focus on the question at hand. Where's the ire about the largely-unfunded mandate that is NCLB?

Posted by: Keith at September 21, 2003 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Funny thing. I've read most of what Matt Young has had to say on this and the other threads here on Calpundit, and I don't recall him sourcing *any* of his claims. Not a single one.

Now, I'm not expecting blog comments to be footnoted like an academic journal or anything, but this is getting silly. I'd therefore like to enjoin you, Matt, to source at least one of your claims in this thread. I'm not saying if you source it I'll automatically agree with you... just to provide some kind of factual underpinnings so we know where you're coming from.

If you'd be so kind, please choose one of the following:

  • "The students aren't hurt by vochers, the voucher system would attract private funds, urban parents want vouchers..." (8:11pm)
  • "The fundamentally known quantity is that enthusiastic, two parented children can be taught by almost anybody and they will outperform the public school. This has been proven by low cost home schooling and private schools. The reason is that the top three reasons for good student performance are parents, parents, parents. Teachers are a distant fourth." (9:04pm)
  • (continuing) "Many of these two parented, enthusiastic children are in urban schools where two parented students are a rarity." (9:04pm)
  • "The cost of public schools per student costs is driven primarily by the mis-parented unenthusiastic students. Most costs are devoted to the badly parented, disturbed child." (9:04pm)
  • "These [two-parented enthusiastic] students, often poor, and having very promising future have been abandoned to the urban schools that have a rarity of two-parent families." (9:04pm)
  • "You want me to cite the studies that show, and all educators agree, that well meaning, two-parented families yield good students. This is a fact beyond race, income, or neighborhood." (9:35pm) [Especially that "all educators agree" part.]
  • "If you examine school funding, mis-behaved and special education children drive the per pupil costs. We know this because out-performing private schools populated with two parented kids will cost less. We also know the special security costs and special counseling costs drive up the cost of public inner city schools." (9:49pm)
  • "The successful school districts want one thing, and one thing only, volunteer parents." (10:12pm)

Please note that I'm not disputing any of these claims at the moment -- I'm simply asking you to source one of them.

PS: Note by "source" I mean "provide a link or a reference to a serious paper or book written on the subject which makes the factual claim made above", not "provide a reason or an anecdote that explains why you think they're true."

PPS: I see Keith somewhat beat me to this; sorry about that.

Posted by: Anarch at September 21, 2003 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

Google search the following.


"two parents" student performance


Note the results you get are controlled to eliminate the effects of parent volusteerism.

Posted by: Matt Young at September 21, 2003 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Once we've given public schools the funding and attention they deserve, Matt, then we'll work to make your private schools public through funding. "

I hate it when people say this. We spend more per child on education than almost any nation in the world. WE AREN'T DOING SOMETHING RIGHT WITH THE MONEY. Until we know what it is we are doing wrong, adding money isn't going to help.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 21, 2003 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Vouchers have an appeal to me, I am not philosophically opposed to them whatsoever. I'm further left than most people here, usually.

I do need to find out more about them. I've heard of experiments in Milwaukee and Ohio, I think, but the results of which were not easy to discern for me, through the partisan sources I have read.

I have always believed that there was a enormous funding discrepancy between rich and poor districts, coming from property values therein, and the little I've seen of the results from Texas' Robin Hood plan, were also not conclusive.

I also agree with Sebastian - America spends way more per pupil than Europe, East Asia and India, and their students destroy ours in tests. So, something is wrong, and I would be reluctant to throw money at it until that is known.

And I think we all agree that family is a stronger predictor of outcome than school district, but we should try to do what can be done.

Posted by: andrew at September 21, 2003 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian is right that there is a great deal of money that is poorly used. Not being a public school teacher or administrator myself, I don't know where the misuse lies, although I imagine the U.S. spends more on administration than most other countries do. However, I don't think paring administrators to "cut the fat" would solve everything, because I can think of a few other things that add to total costs:
1) athletics. in many countries, school sports are mostly internal and serious athletics are pursued through clubs outside of school. my small public school offered several sports throughout the year, and even though it doesn't cost much to pay one coach, it does cost a lot to outfit and equip several teams, pay several coaches, travel and pay bus drivers, build and maintain athletic facilities, etc.
2) buildings and facilities. my admittedly limited experience is that american schools typically have more facilities devoted to non-academic functions than do those in other OECD countries. I have no idea whether German, Japanese or Spanish schools have wood and metal shops, auditoriums and music facilities, student television and radio stations, and the like, but those things are all expensive. I suspect that school libraries may also be less extensive in a lot of countries.
3) transportation. The U.S. is rather thinly-populated, compared with most other OECD countries. My public school district covered three towns, and some kids were more than 15 miles from the junior and senior high schools. There was no public transportation, so the school system bore the cost of getting those kids to and from school.
4) special-needs students. Dwight Meredith wrote about his autistic son above (10:06 p.m.). It's expensive to build schools that are handicapped accessible or retro-fit old buildings. It's expensive to provide for special needs students. I'm sure it's economically inefficient to mainstream these students, rather than segregating them into special schools or institutions. All that adds to school costs, and I don't think that other OECD countries place as heavy a burden on their schools to accomodate special needs students. However, I suspect that almost all of us (perhaps not Matt Young) would agree that there is a social good involved -- that it's not only unfair to leave parents with the responsibility of educating non-mainstream kids, it's also unfair to the children themselves.

Sebastian, even though we spend more than other countries, I think that enough of that spending is on superfluous administration and the things I've mentioned here that we also devote relatively less just to teaching, for students without special needs, than we should. I don't know what the solution is. Do you?

Posted by: Keith at September 21, 2003 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

uh, Matt, that's not sourcing. That's telling someone else to look up the sources theirselves because you're too lazy, dishonest or incapable of doing it yourself.

Sebastian, per funding education varies wildly by state. For example, according to a PBS report (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/backgrounders/school_funding.html) - see, sourcing, Matt, isn't that bizarre? - the per student range is from $9k to $3k. Quite a difference. And a random sampling of countries (actually, just a google search for education funding) led me to Canada's funding (http://www.learning.gov.ab.ca/K_12/FundingFacts/FundingFacts.pdf). Go to page 2 for the chart. When you take into account the conversion rate, they're spending USD5k per student. So, yes, in some cases, we spend more. And in others, we spend a whole hell of a lot less. And I don't really know that we aren't doing something right with the money, but that might be my exposure to teachers who are constantly dealing with budget cuts and extra out of pocket expenses for teaching (and student) supplies.

But anyway, to my point - Prop. 54, although absolutely loathsome, could actually nullify NCLB. Since it restricts the collection of racial data, it disallows the disaggregation of the school's population into small enough groups (at least along racial lines) that the school can be found to be failing. The irony of that lawsuit would be amusing.

Posted by: zhermit at September 21, 2003 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Matt:
What question raised by Anarch does the site your google suggestion answer? The main PISA study opens with this sentence: "It is well established that students who come from more advantaged family backgrounds, in terms of factors such as parental education and occupation, and resources in the home, perform better at school." That doesn't support your claims.

The section on Home Family structure says that students from single-parent families perform less well, "...but the relationship is complex and many other factors are involved." Again, this doesn't support your claims.

Please, I'm sure you can do better than this.

P.S. It would be better to give the URL or a link, rather than just sending people to google.

Posted by: Keith at September 21, 2003 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, correction: that's an older study. Current data shows that state funding is generally much lower than Canada, but overall is higher. Additionally, I don't know if Canada's central government gives funding in addition to the figures shown there.

What's interesting, though, is when I was looking for information to replace my correction, I stumbled across a map (p. 49) that shows the amount of funding spent on instructionally related activities. Only Utah, Tennessee, New York, and several New England states had more than 65% of their funding dedicated to instructional programs. Almost everyone else was between 60-65%. Given the high cost of athletics - well, it's still not a great disbursement scheme. But I don't think it's quite as bad as CW commands.

Posted by: zhermit at September 22, 2003 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

"We spend more per child on education than almost any nation in the world. "

So, prove this, if you can.

BTW, I'm aware of the OECD report, but the $10K figure seems to apply to combined higher education with primary and secondary education from both private and public sources.

Which, to me, doesn't speak of money spent on "children" necessarily. (I'm wondering, for example, if they exclude foreign students studying at U.S. universities from the equation, and also if there are cost-of-living differences or technology purchases factored into the equation.)

Do you have access to more detailed figures than what Dennis Hastert quoted?

--Kynn

Posted by: Kynn at September 22, 2003 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

Google search the following.

"two parents" student performance

I did, and got around 10,200 hits. Would you please specify which of those supports your contention? Or at least, specify one of them which supports your contention?

[And by "specify" I mean "provide a link or a reference to a serious paper or book written on the subject which makes the factual claim made above", as I said above. Directly to the source, not via an indirect listing of a Google search.]

Posted by: Anarch at September 22, 2003 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

In fairness, I should warn you that yes, I ran extensive additional searches and found a wealth of material that might or might not support your contention. [Haven't had the time to properly parse it, alas.] But my point is: you didn't provide it. And frankly, it's impolite to respond to a request for a cite with an offhand Google reference, not even mentioning the landmark studies on this topic.

[One was in 1966, I believe -- found a few peripheral references to it -- and the other in 1992/99. Not sure about that latter; I think it was reissued, but it's a little odd that I can't find any copies of it online.]

Posted by: Anarch at September 22, 2003 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

Matt Young:

You want me to cite the studies that show, and all educators agree, that well meaning, two-parented families yield good students. This is a fact beyond race, income, or neighborhood.

We can't even get everyone to agree that the Earth is round, or that the theory of Relativity is correct. You honestly expect me to believe (soley on your say-so) that 'all educators agree'? Grow up, kid.

If you haven't reached even this realization then you shouldn't even be in this debate.

So, one who thinks they get to decide who should and shouldn't be in the debate based upon what they have 'realized' is taking on what role? Are you the final arbiter of what we get to think?

So, just how much research have you read on the topic? (And I mean research, not some dipshit's opinion peace. Eg, someone that made an effort to to find facts, rather than simply set out to prove their deeply held belief. And had that effort published somewhere, and peer-reviewed by those that would know what the field is about.)

Posted by: Timothy Klein at September 22, 2003 02:16 AM | PERMALINK

"On the other hand, I would love to see some accountability injected into the public school system. It's a concept that tends to make instructors' heads explode when you bring it up, but it's one of the only jobs I can think of where real accountability need never be encountered, even in light of repeated failure to do one's job at a minimum standard. "

Let's start with CEO's, then move to the editors of our so-called liberal media, then move to GOP politicians.

Posted by: Barry at September 22, 2003 03:47 AM | PERMALINK

"I hate it when people say this. We spend more per child on education than almost any nation in the world. WE AREN'T DOING SOMETHING RIGHT WITH THE MONEY. Until we know what it is we are doing wrong, adding money isn't going to help."


Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 21, 2003 10:47 PM


What's our military spending rank? As much as the next 10 countries combined? 20? 30? 40? With none of those posing a direct, immediate threat to the US. And yet we don't have enough troops to deal with Iraq competantly.

Posted by: Barry at September 22, 2003 03:49 AM | PERMALINK

I have a learning disabled child who struggles with school. She's a bright, active, funny and talented child but pathways were jumbled in her brain by total body radiation and chemo used to treat leukemia. Since she might be a reason for a school to "fail", will the school district create schools to house children such as mine? I'm on the phone to my Senators and Rep today. Won't do much good since they're repugs.

Posted by: Barbipoo at September 22, 2003 03:56 AM | PERMALINK

"I also agree with Sebastian - America spends way more per pupil than Europe, East Asia and India, and their students destroy ours in tests. So, something is wrong, and I would be reluctant to throw money at it until that is known."

I can't speak for Asia or India but I lived in Europe for 17 years. Europeans put their children in different tracks. There are schools for children going to college and other schools for children going into trade. Most "blue collar" kids are out of high school by sixteen and apprencticed or going to a trade school. Europeans also don't include sports. Another note, busing is rare as schools are local or children use public transportation.

Posted by: Barbipoo at September 22, 2003 04:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Parents selling grocery coupons, parents running pancake day for the music program, parents running the cub scouts or the boy scouts, parents filling the pta meetings, parents coaching the after school programs, parent driving for the field trips, parents everywhere."

Hmm, I wonder whether there's any correlation between levels of participation in these sorts of activity and income?

Posted by: Merkin at September 22, 2003 04:12 AM | PERMALINK

Lawmakers seem to forget (or hope voters will ignore) that by definition, 50% of anything will be below average: 50% of the students taking the tests, 50% of the schools...

LNCB is flunking schools that are otherwise stellar by using flawed tests and flawed methodologies. Thus, as the schools have to spend more and more money teaching to the test, students at those schools will qualify for vouchers (to private schools which aren't required to hold or pass the exam, so don't have the same pressures and can't flunk!), further devestating public education. It really is a scam.

I wish that all politicians who vote in favor of such high-stakes testing were required to take the tests themselves; then publicize their results. I wonder whether Shrub could pass his own tests...

Posted by: Lis at September 22, 2003 05:10 AM | PERMALINK

Education, even more so than biology, seems to be one of the few fields where happily discard the opinions of experts in favor of the opinions of the unlettered.

Or even better, ask an ideologue that doesn't have kids.

It's just amazing how it changes your perspective when the future well-being of this little person is one of the most important things in your life.

Posted by: Satan Luvvs Repugs at September 22, 2003 05:35 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a sure-fire way of improving education in the US.

Take 5% of the money for education. Wait, that's too much. Take 0.1% of the money for education. The rest will still go for schools, but they'll be much more effective.

Use the money to fund bombing all the TV transmitters in the US. And keep them off the air. For years and years.

Bet it works.

Posted by: Satan Luvvs Repugs at September 22, 2003 05:45 AM | PERMALINK

I've heard this unsubstantiated claim that American schools are worse than European/Asian schools before, always based on the fact that students from these other schools do better on this or that test. Reality check, people. Unless these countries have mandated education for every child under 16, it's simply an apples-and-oranges comparison.

Do conservatives actually believe that third-world countries have better schools than us? And they call libs the knee-jerk America haters?

Posted by: neil at September 22, 2003 05:56 AM | PERMALINK

'Do conservatives actually believe that third-world countries have better schools than us? And they call libs the knee-jerk America haters?'

My thoughts exactly. India scores better than the US? Hummm, do all children attend school in India? Are they testing the sub-castes? I doubt it. I'm sure the same is true for most of Asia.

Posted by: Barbipoo at September 22, 2003 06:30 AM | PERMALINK

I don't have a problem with vouchers if (a) the money doesn't come from the ed budget and (b) I DON'T HAVE TO HEAR ANOTHER BLOODY WORD ABOUT HOW THEY HELP PUBLIC SCHOOLS. They help a handful of kids who can find the few available berths in private schools. Period. The vast majority of students are still dealing with public schools.

I used to work the night shift. A lot of co-workers were single mothers. Around 6:30am or so, the calls home would start: Hi honey, it's Mom. Get up and get dressed, wake your sister . . . you know where the cereal is . . . I'll call back in an hour . . . . A real balancing act. Sleep deprivation was endemic and I know they worked their tails off. I don't know how they handled it--no help, no after-school programs (Republicans sure saw to that), not enough hours in the day.

These are good hard-working women whose kids need--and deserve--the best schools available. But to believe that they'd have the time or energy to win the race for the few private school placements available in their neighborhoods envisioned by NCLB, you'd have to have your head so far up your tuchis you'd need a crowbar to poop. Those seats go to the children of women who aren't working so hard just to keep a roof over their kids' heads.

(BTW--Maybe Ted Kennedy supported it because it wasn't obvious how screwy NCLB was at the time of the vote. )

Posted by: Molly, NYC at September 22, 2003 06:32 AM | PERMALINK

"For starters, it mandates that each state has to set standards for student achievement, and by 2014 every single student must meet those standards. Any school with less than 100% success is deemed to be failing"

This is a recipe for ensuring that (i) the standards are set to low that the vast majority of the students will be able to pass them, and (ii) for the schools to suggest that any who aren't able to pass them leave school quietly.

Posted by: raj at September 22, 2003 06:35 AM | PERMALINK

My goodness, Matt Young has a lot of data to reply to here! He should do so in a jiffy, since his points are self-evident and agreed to by all teachers.
*Crickets.*

Posted by: John Isbell at September 22, 2003 07:21 AM | PERMALINK

Vouchers have an appeal to me, I am not philosophically opposed to them whatsoever. I'm further left than most people here, usually.
I do need to find out more about them. I've heard of experiments in Milwaukee and Ohio, I think, but the results of which were not easy to discern for me, through the partisan sources I have read.

One of the problems for proponents of vouchers is that, AFAIK, no "true" voucher system has ever been implemented in the U.S. (and the results have correspondingly been either underwhelming or not clear cut). That is, in all cases only a portion of the per pupil expenditure has been made portable (typically the portion supplied by the state government). This amount is usually only a modest percentage of what the community spends on each student (for instance the D.C. program voucher amount is only going to be something like one half or two-thirds of D.C. per pupil expenditure, I believe). Some time ago Massachusetts enacted a very limited school choice plan. If a student could find a place in a different school district, the state aid (but not the local property tax revenue) earmarked for that student would follow him. Predictably, the program fizzled because school districts were naturally reluctant to accept students accompanied, by, say, a $2,000 state aid voucher when in fact $11,000 (most of it raised by local property taxes) is what it cost to educate a student in a given district. Make the entire eleven grand portable and you might have had a program whose results would be meaningful.

A true voucher system requires three (interrelated) elements:

A) Divorcing per pupil expenditure from property values (i.e., equity funding). FWIW, I think the only practical way to accomplish this is to do school funding at the state level. Or, to put it another way, get rid of local school districts and make the whole state one big school district.

B) Making the entire per pupil expenditure "portable" (not just the state or federal funded portion).

C) Making the voucher "market" a sufficiently large area to so that it's economically meaningful (i.e., hundreds, if not thousands, of schools need to be present in any given "market"). So, LA county, or all five boroughs of NY City, or, better yet, as mentinoed above, an entire state, would fit such a definition.

Until such a radical transformation is enacted, we're just nibbling at the edges. Current voucher schemes constitute such edge nibbling.

Posted by: Mobie at September 22, 2003 07:31 AM | PERMALINK

A few obervations:

First, my kids (12 and 14) have to live through this endless standardized testing. When they ask why, I tell them it's primarily for the benefit of the kids in the lousy schools in the inner cities, and pretty much irrelevant to them and their school, but they'll just have to suffer through.

Second, I can't understand the opposition to vouchers, except in terms of a desire to protect unionized teaching jobs. If vouchers were offered in my town, I'd probably keep sending my kids to the public schools because they're pretty good and I think that public schools teach some life lessons that private schools don't. But I can't for the life of me understand why people who claim to be concerned about kids trapped in lousy schools would insist on keeping those kids trapped.

Third, as a purely economic matter, vouchers shouldn't decrease the money spent on public schools at all, measured by $/student. As students leave the public school system, the public school system will have to shrink (as it periodically does anyway as a result of boom/bust cycles of childbirth) but the per student spending will stay the same or even increase (which would be the case if the voucher amount is less than the per capita amount spent by the school system). Thus, vouchers have NO IMPACT at all on the resources available for the students staying in the public schools, but only on the teachers' unions (which will lose jobs). See point 2 above.

Fourth, how can it possibly be that New York City or Washington DC can spend over $10-11,000 per student (more than my town) and not have enough money? Assuming 25 kids in a class, that's over $250,000 per class! How hard can it be to hire great teachers and provide a great school for that? Yes, I know that the most exclusive private schools charge $20,000/kid, but that's so they can have 12 kids in a class instead of 25. I don't know about you, but I went to public schools with 25 kids in a class and there were no discipline problems and we learned a lot.

Last, we come to the heart of the problem, which is the unionization of teaching. A generation or two ago, teaching was a severely underpaid profession. Then came the teachers' unions and teachers' strikes and now iner city teachers have better incomes, better benefits, better job security, and the kids have lousy schools. Get rid of unions, give principals the power to hire and fire teachers, hold principals accountable for what goes on in their schools and give superintendents the power to hire and fire principals, and see what happens. That's the principal difference between private and public schools, not the amount of funding or anything else.

Posted by: douglevene at September 22, 2003 07:45 AM | PERMALINK

or perhaps, doug, the difference between private and public schools is that the kids in private schools come from wealthy, succesfull families, where it is a given that children will go to college, while the kids in the inner city schools do not.
BTW--there are quite a few teachers in private schools (as well as in well-performing public school districts) that are unionized, so you cant really make such blanket claims about unions being the culprit.

Posted by: kokblok at September 22, 2003 07:51 AM | PERMALINK

Doug,
The problems with vouchers come in the details.

Where does the money come from? If it doesn't come from the existing education budget, then you are talking new taxes. Why should my tax money be used to help the subset of students that will use vouchers?

Depending on where the vouchers go, they will either be worthless, or welfare for the middle and upper class. If you make the vouchers available to everyone, it will instantly subsidize the students already in private school - primarily middle/upper class. If you target the vouchers to lower income, but the amount is less than a full ride, only a small group of people will use the vouchers. If you make the vouchers a full ride for low income students, then other factors (such as transportation and private school admittance) come into play.

Vouchers open up a whole can of worms.

Posted by: Tripp at September 22, 2003 08:20 AM | PERMALINK

Tripp,

Yes, of course vouchers take money away from the public schools, but since the public schools system will have to shrink (i.e., some schools will be closed, and some teachers let go) to reflect the reduction in the student population it is serving, the money spent by the public schools on each student will either stay the same or more likely, increase (as explained in my prior post). I think most people would agree that per capita expenditures are the best way to measure the adequacy of school funding, so frankly, I don't see what the problem is.

Posted by: douglevene at September 22, 2003 08:27 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding public schools national funding vs. local funding, rich district vs. poor district, vouchers etc. What does it cost for Mommy & Daddy to teach their 4-year old the Alphabet? No money -- just some time and dedication. Education should be a non-issue. Education is a matter between parents and their kids - period. That it has been politicized by the liberal democrats is a national shame. Liberals have succeeded in convincing parents that somehow education is their children's birthright, and that low public school funding is the biggest obstacle blocking this birthright. Nonsense. Any kid who graduates high school lacking skills has only himself or his parents to blame. Neither race, nor sex, nor economic stature has anything whatsoever to do with a child's education. Education is not a right, but a a goal to be earned, and must be treated that way. It must be tenaciously pursued -- not "enabled" or "granted" or "obtained." Parents who go into debt for cars and houses, but not for a good education for their kids have no right to complain. Parents who cry "racist" because they are stuck in the ghetto are excusing their own shortcomings with false, debilitating arguments. Those who truly desire their kids to be educated will find a way. The bickering over public $$ for education is like kids fighting over their daddy's wallet. Spoiled brats. This idea that an education, which is probably the most valuable commodity a person can own, should be free or cheap, is the biggest, most shameful, egregious, blatant lie, that the left has ever perpetrated. Indeed, this is a direct assault upon children; there is no excuse.

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 08:32 AM | PERMALINK

Doug,
I'm not sure that public school funding for instruction per pupil will stay the same after a significant voucher program.

School funding is always under pressure, and depending on what students you remove from public school, the temptation to cut school budgets could increase. Also, the budget could be diverted to other areas such as transportation.

For example, around here as rural populations shrink, less students are in the schools, and the schools have to consolidate.

This means transportation costs go up, and less money is spent on teaching, and more on busing.

A similar thing could happen if vouchers gut the schools.

Posted by: Tripp at September 22, 2003 08:40 AM | PERMALINK

Running a public school district involves both fixed and variable costs. Private school tuition also reflects both types of costs. So therefore, diverting money from the public schools into vouchers will either cost extra taxpayer money or hurt the public schools. (In the very long term it could even out, but of course in the long term we are all dead.)

Posted by: JP at September 22, 2003 08:48 AM | PERMALINK

Liberals have succeeded in convincing parents that somehow education is their children's birthright...

Oh. My. Goodness.

Posted by: JP at September 22, 2003 08:52 AM | PERMALINK

"Neither race, nor sex, nor economic stature has anything whatsoever to do with a child's education. Education is not a right, but a a goal to be earned, and must be treated that way. It must be tenaciously pursued -- not "enabled" or "granted" or "obtained.""

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to find the cite now, but I will later, for the fact that up to 50% of the variance between children can directly be attributed to socio-economic status of their family.

In fact, socio-economic class is the single largest determining factor in school performance.

Posted by: Lorenzo at September 22, 2003 08:58 AM | PERMALINK

Paul,
The best argument for 'public education' I can make to even the most selfish person is this: It is cheaper to educate them than to incarcerate them.

The second best argument is this: It will keep the peasants from revolting.

See, you don't even have to care about 'them'. You can only care about yourself and still see 'public education' as a good thing.

Once you see 'public education' as a good thing, we can argue about the details.

Posted by: Tripp at September 22, 2003 09:07 AM | PERMALINK

I don't have the time to find the cite now, but I will later, for the fact that up to 50% of the variance between children can directly be attributed to socio-economic status of their family.

The Coleman Report (1965), President Johnson's commission on education, which found socio-economic status the major indicator of educational achievement, and which has been verified countless times since.

Posted by: D. Case at September 22, 2003 09:10 AM | PERMALINK

Doug,

I was going to go into a long treatise on my lack of trust in those who propose vouchers being the source of my opposition. But I think Paul made my point quite well. These people don't want to improve the lives of children, they wish to end the concept of free and public education. Next up, rolling back the child labor laws.

Posted by: Magenta at September 22, 2003 09:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Liberals have succeeded in convincing parents that somehow education is their children's birthright"

No, that was Tom Jefferson who did that, you fool.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan at September 22, 2003 09:30 AM | PERMALINK

Paul,

Please go live in Somalia. There you will not be burdened by taxes or services and public education is only a dream. You can squeak out a living there with no interference to your hearts content. The rest of us want to live in a society where we care about the least of us as we work to make our lives better.

Posted by: Barbipoo at September 22, 2003 09:34 AM | PERMALINK

I'm amused at conservative/libertarian support for school vouchers. They are nothing more than welfare. I guess conservatives/libertarians like some kinds of welfare, as long as they will benefit.

BTW, religious schools (primarily Catholic parochial, but also some protestant) have been trying to figure out a way to get government funding for a number of years. Vouchers are just their latest subterfuge.

Posted by: raj at September 22, 2003 09:41 AM | PERMALINK

Simple but illegal solution: Our public school system problems would be resolved in one semester if private schools were banned.

Posted by: chris at September 22, 2003 09:42 AM | PERMALINK

Raj,

I think the long-term plan is to use vouchers to dismantle the public school system and then eliminate vouchers on the grounds that they are, in fact, welfare. But just closing the public schools outright would be politically unpopular, so they need to take small steps.

Posted by: Magenta at September 22, 2003 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

When they ask why, I tell them it's primarily for the benefit of the kids in the lousy schools in the inner cities, and pretty much irrelevant to them and their school, but they'll just have to suffer through.

Poor education begins at home!

--Kynn

Posted by: Kynn at September 22, 2003 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Chris, why would banning private education help?

Kynn, your type of response is exactly why it hard to be a conservative on this board. I make an easily verifiable statement, which is not controversial, and you respond with 'prove it if you can' instead of bothering to try to verify it yourself. I'm going to source an AFT report which has great data, which they try to spin into showing that America spends too little on education by focusing on per pupil costs as a fraction of GDP which is a totally silly way of analyzing cost. There is no reason why the per pupil cost of education should increase in lock step (or even closely tied to) GDP. I'm using this source precisely because I don't want to get in a pissing match about cherry-picked conservative sources. Table 4 is clear, and we aren't comparing to random 3rd world nations. AFT (a teacher's union) report. I really, really don't mind sourcing obscure things, and I don't mind discussing the intricacies of weird reports. I hate wasting my time looking up things which are both easy to find, and fairly common knowledge. It really isn't fair to the discussion to just throw in "I doubt it" if you don't know something that you would have easily known had you bothered to look. I realize that you don't trust me, but if you don't trust me please spend 5 minutes looking it up before suggesting that I'm just fabricating claims. I'm the first to admit that I pick up knowledge along the way, and sometimes couldn't immediately source it (if I read it recently I link to it). If from an informed position, you think I have picked up bad information, I don't mind being steered right. I don't like wasting time quibbling over stuff that is correct and verifiable just because you want to force me to do all the work. The discussion doesn't go forward that way, because we are wasting time and space.

Barry, I think you don't understand why our military spending is so much more expensive than other countries. We have more than enough troops to run Iraq the way most militaries would--brutally. We have expensive weapons which allow us to avoid indiscriminatly killing civilians. We have expensive communications to allow our soldiers to be up to date. We want to run things right, and it isn't cheap. The military is expensive because we can do things no one else can--that includes bombing a city with (by any comparison except to ourselves) amazingly low civilian casualties. The United States is NOT so much better at educating its children as to require a similar funding differential.

Magenta, may I assume that you are being sarcastic? You don't really believe that conservatives desire an end to all education funding, do you? We like education. We wish some people who have been to college would get an education too....

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 22, 2003 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

With vouchers, public money goes to private schools but the schools are exempt from the testing requirements. (In fact, private schools might turn out to be better if they don't have to take up class time teaching to the test.) No vouchers until there's a level testing field!

Posted by: gmanedit at September 22, 2003 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

JP,

Good point on fixed v. variable costs. As students leave public school systems, variable costs (teachers and administrators) can be decreased proportionately almost immediately; however, as you point out, there will be a lag in reducing fixed costs (physical plant). That is why, I believe, most voucher programs do not provide vouchers equal to the entire cost per child, but something less, usually a lot less, so that the school system will have enough funding to cover its fixed costs until those, too, can be brought in line with the change in school population.

School systems do shrink, you know, as a result of natural changes in birthrates. Once the baby boom went off to college, lots of schools all over the country closed, teachers and staff were laid off and school budgets were reduced. When the boomers started having kids, the schools reopened, teachers were hired and budgets started going up again. I don't recall anyone saying at the time that these fluctuations would destroy the public school system.

I think the enthusiasm for vouchers reflects desparation. That is, a recognition that the unions have the inner city schools in a death grip and will let nothing interfere with the seniority rights, benefits and job security of their union members. If you ended tenure, gave principals the power to hire and fire teachers, grant raises or not, and to discipline students in their discretion, and held principals accountable, I think you would find that most voucher proponents would be content.

Posted by: douglevene at September 22, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

or perhaps, doug, the difference between private and public schools is that the kids in private schools come from wealthy, succesfull families, where it is a given that children will go to college, while the kids in the inner city schools do not.

This is simply not true. My best friend and both of his brothers were educated at private Catholic schools in Cleveland, two at St. Ed's and one at Padua. Both are exemplary schools, and one is a high school football powerhouse.

Three words you would never hear describing them are "wealthy," "successful" or "family." They live in Brunswick, OH (look up the demographics if you're interested). Dad is an alcoholic now sober 7 years, and has worked in unskilled trades all his life. Mom is a nurse, who works in a charity nursing home. Of the three, only Chris went to college, and he's now a cop. Kevin is now in the toold & die biz, and Brian works at a photo developing store while he plays in a rock band.

I know that "anecdote" is not the plural of "datum," but I can assure you that the demographics for large parts of the student body at St. Ed's and Padua, as well as other area Catholic schools, were the same.

Posted by: Phil at September 22, 2003 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,

No, I do not believe that all conservatives wish to see an end to education funding. I do think it is the goal of at least some, and Paul did make my point.

I do believe that once vouchers became the norm and public schools were no more, that the vouchers themselves would come under fire as a form of welfare. That might not be your goal, but yes, I think that sentiment is out there.

IMO, the long-term results of vouchers replacing the entire public school system would resemble Medicare. Suburban children would have myriad schools from which to choose, because that is where the money would be. Rural and urban children would be unable to find few schools nearby, and low-income people generally would have trouble getting any school to take their government voucher in lieu of payment. And setting up a system that resembles Medicare will not improve education.

What is needed is more funding for innovative magnet schools (perhaps in partnership with private corporations but still public schools), programs that stress real alternatives for students who aren't planning for college and a realization that passing a standardized test is not the purpose of education.

Posted by: Magenta at September 22, 2003 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,
Public school problems would be resolved if private schools were banned because private school parental funding power and political clout would go into actually fixing the public schools the minute little Johnny and little Shanika had to start sharing the same system. Did I mention that the funding should be equally distributed?

This is not to say that funding *is* the main problem. What I'm saying is that as long as the problem is affecting *other kids*, there will never be true effort made toward find real solutions. Christopher Reeve didn't become a true believer until he was thrown from his horse.

Posted by: chris at September 22, 2003 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I would still appreciate someone, anyone, telling me why they think NYC and Washington DC can't run a great school system when they are spending over $250,000 per classroom.

Posted by: douglevene at September 22, 2003 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Yikes. Please substitute Medicaid for Medicare in my prior post. Not sure where that error came from.

Posted by: Magenta at September 22, 2003 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Chris,

Do you really think it is moral to hold children hostage to achieve otherwise desireable policy goals? Isn't that what you are urging?

Posted by: douglevene at September 22, 2003 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Doug Levene,
We're holding children hostage right now. From reading your earlier posts, I'd say the think that offends you is holding the *wrong* kids hostage.

Posted by: chris at September 22, 2003 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

You have implied I am selfish. You have called me a fool. You have requested that I go live in Somalia. You have stated that you will not further engage in discussion with me until I concede that public education is a good thing.

Nowhere did I say public education should be banned. My main contention is that education is the most valuable and rewarding endeavor upon which humans embark; yet the attitude toward actually paying for education -- toward actually working for it -- is that of spoiled children: gimme, gimme, gimme! The only excuse for not being educated is not pursuing education.

Liberals who blame their child's poor education on underfunded ghetto schools can complain all they want -- but the only thing that helps their children is action. Move to a better school district; go into DEBT to enroll them in private schools. Do what it takes. Education is worth it.

Meantime, the liberal propagandists would have us believe that the ONLY option is to keep the public schools as is... only with more money! There is no creative thinking, no willingness to explore a world where the free market opens up a true variety of choices for all Americans. Why are we willing to pay expensive tuition for universities, but not K-12? Consider the variety of college level education in this country. There are schools for everyone: Junior colleges, liberal arts schools, technical schools, art schools, schools that specialize only in IT & computers, schools that specialize in education, big schools, small schools, law schools, medical schools, expensive schools, cheap schools, and on, and on, and on. And people are willing to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt just to attend! How did all this come about? It is all a function of the free market -- the most beautiful and lovely of human institutions.

The sooner we unlock the monopoly choke hold that public schools have on education, the sooner that K-12 will become as varied and customizable as college education.

Bottom line... even with the current monopoly in place, anyone in this country -- regardless of race, sex, or economic standing -- may pursue and earn a superb K-12 education. By relieving the monopoly, the opportunities will simply be richer, more plentiful, and cheaper.

(P.S. I am not familiar with the Coleman Study in 1965. But from what you tell me about it, I reject it. If you're poor, you are incapable of being educated is what I am hearing. Does the study go any deeper than that? Does it explain exactly what it is about most poor people that causes them to be stupid or maybe just uninterested in education?

P.P.S. Yes, Jefferson said an educated populace is the only populace capable of sustaining a democracy -- and therefore, public education would be a worthy pursuit. Above absolutely all, however, Jefferson was an individualist. He would not have stood for these childish arguments about "who is paying for MY education as long as it is not me.")

--Paul (a K-12 public school alum)

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I think magnet programs are great, but if you want them to work you are going to have to find a way to keep the teacher's unions from constantly acting to thwart them. I know that opposition to a union raises a liberal's worst fears about conservatives, but really there a major problems in schools that are closely linked to the teacher's unions. Off the top of my head there are two huge issues:

1) Accountability. I know, I know, testing isn't perfect. Teaching to the test is a worry. Cheating on testing is a worry. Fine. We still need some mechanism for producing accountability that can be tracked across the nation. If you want to debate the exact form of this accountability fine, but we aren't ever going to get to that point so long as the Democratic party buys the union line that we shouldn't even try for it.

2) Closely related, firing bad teachers. It is practically impossible in many states unless there is child molestation going on. If we can't sue bad teachers for malpractice like we do for other professions (and I'm not at all saying that we ought to be able to sue teachers) we have to be able to weed out the bad teachers by firing them. Pretty much, we can't.

I also think there is way too much distraction about 'rich districts' vs. 'poor districts' In most of the large states, there is centralized funding. Most of the worrys about unequal funding were put to rest in the late 1970s. This is decades later, and there are other problems to worry about, especially in the big states (which need I add educate or miseducate a lot more students than small states.)

To hone doug's point even further: Why can't Washington DC and NYC educate students when the schools there have been run under the proposed Democratic plans for 40 years?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 22, 2003 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I only made it halfway through this thread, so I apologize if somebody has already pointed this out. I haven't talked to anybody who works for Teddy K about this, but spending levels tend to ratchet in only one direction -- up. You could appropriate money to teach cats to do the mambo, and when people figure out that doesn't work, the money will go somewhere else. It won't disappear.

By contrast, the revision of regulation and mandates is mostly invisible to the public. A regulation or mandate that is untenable will not stand.

So Teddy's support makes sense. The money will stay in education; the regulations -- albeit after causing some harm and needless cost -- will go. Two steps forward, one step back.

Posted by: Max Sawicky at September 22, 2003 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Chris,

What kids are being held hostage now? Are you saying we are holding inner city kids hostage? To force whom to do what? I don't get your point.

On the other hand, you seem to be suggesting that affluent parents can be coerced into supporting the public schools by making them send their children to the public schools. Is that what you are saying? It reminds me of the old Harvard Lampoon cover, the one where they showed a picture of dog and someone holding a gun to its head, and the text read, "Buy this magazine or we'll shoot the dog." The next month the cover said, "We warned you. We shot the dog."

Posted by: douglevene at September 22, 2003 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

"I do believe that once vouchers became the norm and public schools were no more, that the vouchers themselves would come under fire as a form of welfare. That might not be your goal, but yes, I think that sentiment is out there."

That would be a very compelling scenario - if there was a chance in Hell that welfare itself could be abolished. I don't see that happening any time soon, nor do I see any successful move to cut off poor children from education, with or without government-run schools.

"IMO, the long-term results of vouchers replacing the entire public school system would resemble Medicare. Suburban children would have myriad schools from which to choose, because that is where the money would be. Rural and urban children would be unable to find few schools nearby, and low-income people generally would have trouble getting any school to take their government voucher in lieu of payment. And setting up a system that resembles Medicare will not improve education. "

Well, the low-income people could hardly get a worse education than they're getting now. Without the burden of operating public schools for middle class people who are perfectly capable of paying their own way, we could fully fund vouchers for the low income people that would enable them to go to school.

Now I don't think that No Child Left Behind could force much of anything to occur. The states get to set the standards, so they could theoretically end up with every last one of their schools "succeeding" by their standards. If this is a nefarious plot to force all the public schools to "fail" and shut down, it's also an exceedingly inept plot.

Posted by: Ken at September 22, 2003 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

I live in CT, my kids go to public schools. There haven't been any teacher's union fights about magnet schools here - magnet schools are sprouting all over the place. Unionized teachers work at them.

Do you guys know any teachers? My sister is a teacher. She is passionate about teaching. She didn't become a teacher so she could have summers off.

Inner city schools have so many problems to deal with it's hard to know where to begin. How many kids in D.C. have 2 parent households? How many kids in D.C. have incarcerated family members? How many of them don't have breakfast before school? How many of them have parents who have succeeded in school?

I believe the ultimate goal of a voucher program is to eliminate all public school funding. Instead of a community putting it's money together to provide education for everyone, it'll be every man for himself. You want to talk about class warfare? Right now, I probably pay in the neighborhood of $4000 in property taxes (because I live in CT, where we pay either the highest or second highest property taxes as compared to anyplace but NJ - I have a modest, 1300sf house and one car). I can't assume that all of that $4000 would come back to me if public school funding were eliminated, because if Grover Nordquist hasn't gotten his way, I'd still have to pay for police, the fire dept., water/sewer, sidewalks, roads, etc. So let's be generous and say I get back $3000. You know what $3000 could buy me at a private school in CT? Oh, about a month's worth of schooling for one kid. I couldn't even send both my kids to the crappy Catholic school in my town for $3000.

What the conservatives seem to want to do is make the system so it will benefit the few, the lucky, the wealthy, at the expense of lower middle class people like myself and my children. That, my friends, is the kind of thing that would seriously make me consider taking up arms.

Posted by: Maureen at September 22, 2003 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Paul,

Sorry but you are wrong. Education should be a birthright in this society. How much the parents want it to happen or how little they care shouldn't be an issue. Every American child deserves a standard of education that is top rate. Again this is not Somolia, we are a society that depends on all its members. No one should be wasted. Your 'program' will leave too too many behind. There are many ways to improve Public Education but pouring public money into unaccountable private schools shouldn't be one of them. FWIW, my husband is the product of a private school, a wonderful talented and smart man, but don't ask him to write a letter. You see kids with learning disabilities were smacked with rulers in his private school, not taught to cope and adjust. They felt it was just willfullness on his part, he could learn if he really wanted it. He has coped in his own way, he married a public school educated woman who takes care of the admin responsibilities in our family.

Posted by: Barbipoo at September 22, 2003 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

"You know what $3000 could buy me at a private school in CT? Oh, about a month's worth of schooling for one kid."

And you think that would still hold true if there weren't any public schools? You think that the loads of middle class families that aren't about to pay $3000 per month per child will go unserved forever?

Of course not. The public school system serves all of the price conscious members of the school market, at a price (zero) that no private school could possibly beat. So the private schools don't bother to compete on price - they can offer improvements to those willing to pay any price for such improvements, and/or they can offer a complete absence of classmates whose parent's are unwilling or unable to pay large amounts of money.

Put all of those price-conscious customers in the private school market, and you'd see serious shifts in the mix of providers. You'll see providers charging a hell of a lot less than $3000 per month per child, because the vast majority of customers simply aren't going to pay those kinds of rates.

Posted by: Ken at September 22, 2003 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

'Put all of those price-conscious customers in the private school market, and you'd see serious shifts in the mix of providers. You'll see providers charging a hell of a lot less than $3000 per month per child, because the vast majority of customers simply aren't going to pay those kinds of rates.'

What are all the families of children with learning disabilities, medical issues and whatnot going to do? You really think the private sector is going to address these issues at a modest cost? These children are not lost causes and deserve an education.

Posted by: Trent's Lovely Hair at September 22, 2003 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Sorry but you are wrong. Education should be a birthright in this society. How much the parents want it to happen or how little they care shouldn't be an issue. Every American child deserves a standard of education that is top rate."

That's a worthy goal, the only problem is that no one has any idea how to meet it. Public school officials routinely admit that they cannot teach children when they and their parents don't give a damn.

Posted by: Ken at September 22, 2003 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

That's a worthy goal, the only problem is that no one has any idea how to meet it. Public school officials routinely admit that they cannot teach children when they and their parents don't give a damn

That's bunk. Every child deserves the right to the standard. No one is saying every child will achieve it, just to have the access. Vouchers will ENSURE that access is privilege not a right.

Posted by: Trent's Lovely Hair at September 22, 2003 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Carl Levene,
What I'm saying, Carl, is that the problems of the public school system make interesting talking points for those who aren't affected. And until the people who have the money and power to do something about fixing the problems are directly affected by the problems, nothing serious will be done to solve them. Talk is cheap. That's why there is so much of it.

Posted by: chris at September 22, 2003 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Why are we willing to pay expensive tuition for universities, but not K-12? Consider the variety of college level education in this country. There are schools for everyone ... And people are willing to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt just to attend! How did all this come about? It is all a function of the free market -- the most beautiful and lovely of human institutions.

Paul, could it possibly have escaped you that students in college and above are adults that are responsible for themselves, whereas K-12 students are kids? Perhaps your definition of Rational Man differs from mine, and everyone else's, or maybe you have no problem with locking people in to their parents' destinies, but if so it sure seems to me like you stand outside every tradition of Western Liberalism we have, not just Jefferson's.

Posted by: JP at September 22, 2003 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ken,

Sure, someone will open a school that competes on price, but I'll bet you quite a bit that school will offer fewer programs and a lower quality of education than what your typical middle-class surburban school currently does. Albeit, it might well be better than the inner city schools.

Not a winning scenario for everyone.

Posted by: Magenta at September 22, 2003 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Maureen,

If you're paying $3000/year property taxes in Connecticut, that's a bargain. I pay $10,000 and count myself lucky that I don't live in Westchester County across the border in NY, where the taxes would be $20-30,000.

Now one of the reasons I consider the $10K/year a bargain is that I get a pretty good school system for it. Indeed, I've spoken up at town meetings in support of higher school budgets in part because I can see the direct connection between high quality schools and high property values (the entire town votes on the school budget at the annual town meeting - it's the essence of democracy). This message - higher school taxes = higher property values - appeals both to parents and to non-parents (others have called it the "virtuous circle" of school finance). If that connection is severed, as so many of you have urged, I would expect that public support for the schools here would drop considerably.

Posted by: douglevene at September 22, 2003 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Vouchers will ENSURE that access is privilege not a right."

That is a nice slogan, but I don't understand how that would happen. Everyone gets a voucher, no?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 22, 2003 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Baripoo... I feel for your husband. I don't wish his struggles on anyone. Nonetheless, his experience is irrelavent to the public vs. private debate. If anything, it bolsters my argument. Under a true free market education system, your husband's parents would have had dozens of private schools from which to choose, some of which would have certainly included "no corporal punishment" amongst the schools main features. As we stand, the choice for many kids is between expensive, sometimes far away private schools or failing, dangerous public schools.

We need "edu-preneurs" in this country, but the k-12 education market has been dried up by the perceived cheap price of public education. Hence, there is little incentive to invest in a "school company" if you will. All the lower and middle class people who would consider a reasonably priced private school instead choose the so-called "free" and subpar public school. The profit motive would help education more than any other factor.

Regarding "How much the parents want [education for their children] to happen or how little they care" I disagree with you. A parent's involvement has everything to do with a child's education. By stating that a child has "right" to be educated, we absolve the parents of responsibility. The implication is that education can just happen, without, effort, without support, without pursuit. All true rights are the "right to pursue" not the "right to have." Every child in this country, therefore, already has a right to education.

Respectfully... Paul

Posted by: paul at September 22, 2003 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Move to a better school district; go into DEBT to enroll them in private schools.

How exactly does the single mother on welfare, or the disbled single father on SSI accomplish this miracle?

Your prescription might work fine for the involved two parent (middle class) families Matt Y is so fond of, but what about the children whose parents don't give a shit or are in no position to go the extra 5 miles you prescribe? We forget about them?

Posted by: flory at September 22, 2003 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

'By stating that a child has "right" to be educated, we absolve the parents of responsibility. '

Exactly!!! It shouldn't matter if the child has piss poor parents or parents who don't give a shit. The child is ours, collectively. That is what makes a society.

Posted by: Trent's Lovely Hair at September 22, 2003 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, douglevene, I pay closer to $5000, and I don't live anywhere near Fairfield County, where I'm guessing you reside. (I live east of the river, in Hartford County. By Fairfield Co. standards, my little house probably would be closer to $10,000.)

I used to live in a much wealthier community than I currently live in, and my kids are getting a better education in the more diverse, less wealthy town where we bought our house - although the test results for the town don't show it.

Where we used to live, the test scores are high, the property values are high, and the people who live there couldn't be happier. However, when my daughter was in 3rd grade in that wealthy town, every lesson in every subject was presented in CT Mastery test fashion. We were told by the principal and teacher that they will put a lot of pressure on the kids to do well on the test, and that we shouldn't be surprised if our kid comes crying from time to time.

If we eliminated public school funding, the best schools would be the most expensive, and my money would probably buy me a school that doesn't even meet the standards of some of the worst public schools.

The education of a child should not be left purely to the resources of the parents - society as a whole benefits when all our children are educated.

Posted by: Maureen at September 22, 2003 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,

If I give you a house voucher for say, $300 a year, does that mean you have access to a house if you're working for $7.50 an hour?

Vouchers are incredibly unlikely to cover the entire tuition costs of private schools. And that doesn't even take into account the added costs of buying books and providing individual transporation for the children. Because no public schools would mean no public school buses, which currently are already a huge subsidy for those private, self-sufficient schools.

Posted by: Magenta at September 22, 2003 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

'As we stand, the choice for many kids is between expensive, sometimes far away private schools or failing, dangerous public schools.'

Oh give me a break. This is a blanket horseshit statement. There are wonderful public schools all around this country EVEN in inner cities. Where I live in Fairfax County, Virginia, I feel you are throwing your money away if you send your children to private school. My children are getting a wonderful education in the public schools and I received a great public education in Texas. (Of course my public school was next to an army base and received tons of federal money and had every state-of-the-art teaching aid.)

Posted by: Barbipoo at September 22, 2003 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

I support vouchers for a simple reason. I think that if a private school funded dollar for dollar with a public school will give children a MUCH better education. There are a few massive advantages a private school have. First there isn't the need for the massive bureaucracy that public schools have. Second, Private schools would have more flexibility in hiring qualified teachers. Right now a teachers pay is based on the number of years on the job, not the quality of the teacher. I think that private schools would simply be able to pick and choose and get better teachers. Third, private schools will be able to kick kids out who are chronically misbehaving. The threat of expulsion from a private school is something that public schools simply cannot match.

Personally I think that liberals oppose vouchers because it is less than a perfect solution. Having public schools give an education as good as the top private schools would be the perfect solution, and they are willing to keep up the lousy system we have now in hopes that we will eventually hit the perfect solution. I think that there are fundamental reasons why private schools will always beat public schools so the best possible solution to me is to give as many people access to private schools as possible. I am not willing to sacrifice any more generations of kids hoping that eventually the public schools become adequate. For the amount of money we spend per student in this country, we should be getting better results.

Posted by: Damon at September 22, 2003 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

"what about the children whose parents don't give a... We forget about them?"

Flory... We can never account for every scenario. Some children will probably be left behind -- truly a tragedy. But -- until the monopoly is broken (and even beyond that) -- we can all pitch in to do our best to help these kids. One way I am helping is by donating my time to a local school district every semester, presenting supplemental lesson plans. What are you doing?

Posted by: paul at September 22, 2003 01:00 PM | PERMALINK

'Third, private schools will be able to kick kids out who are chronically misbehaving. The threat of expulsion from a private school is something that public schools simply cannot match.'

Yes and they will quite often. This will most likely be children with medical issues, emotional issues and kids with learning disabilities. The majority of these kids will be boys. Boys who will later cause more problems. Just because you kick them out of school doesn't mean they'll go away. Sorry but problem not solved. Just because some children are more difficult to educate doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to educate them.

Posted by: Trent's Lovely Hair at September 22, 2003 01:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Exactly!!! It shouldn't matter if the child has piss poor parents or parents who don't give a sh--. The child is ours, collectively. That is what makes a society."

Did I stumble onto a cyber-commune here? Seriously, did I? I am obviously a Libertarian/Conservative type. I was just searching around and Googled across this site. I know nothing about it. What is it?

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 01:05 PM | PERMALINK

Did I stumble onto a cyber-commune here? Seriously, did I?

Yes we're all yoghurt slopping, bran muffin eating, Volvo driving, anti nuke, anti gravity people.

Oh and Libertarians are against welfare so why are you trolling for Federal bucks for vouchers.

Posted by: Trent's Lovely Hair at September 22, 2003 01:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Your prescription might work fine for the involved two parent (middle class) families Matt Y is so fond of, but what about the children whose parents don't give a shit or are in no position to go the extra 5 miles you prescribe? We forget about them?"

They're already screwed in the system we have now. It would be difficult for us to worsen their situation even if we wanted to.

"Sure, someone will open a school that competes on price, but I'll bet you quite a bit that school will offer fewer programs and a lower quality of education than what your typical middle-class surburban school currently does. Albeit, it might well be better than the inner
city schools."

Right now, that middle class family pays taxes to support its middle-class suburban school, and chips in to support schools for poorer families. If we stop collecting the taxes to support the suburban middle class schools, how do you figure that a private school charging an equivalent amount would offer a worse education?

"Paul, could it possibly have escaped you that students in college and above are adults that are responsible for themselves, whereas K-12 students are kids?"

And why are the older members of that group still kids? It wouldn't have anything to do with the snail's pace curriculum or the long frequent breaks, stretching education that could occur over 9 years out to 12?

There's no biological or cognitive reason why "adolescents" can't be adults. When the need for more extensive education developed, there's no reason why schools couldn't have eliminated summer breaks or sped up their curriculum to compensate. Instead, since they had us over a barrel, they told us to just bend over and accept lengthened sentences for our kids. And, for the most part, we did.

If we'd had a completely private school system, I suspect that the schools wouldn't have dared to try this maneuver - they would have adjusted their offerings and helped our kids to grow up in a timely manner.

Posted by: Ken at September 22, 2003 01:09 PM | PERMALINK

By stating that a child has "right" to be educated, we absolve the parents of responsibility.

No, we're not. Please. Is it not obvious that parents who don't care about their kids in the first place aren't going to be deterred from bad decisions or incentivized into good ones just because you burden them with "responsibility." The simple fact is that you're advocating punishing kids for the sins of their parents. That is the inescapable logical conclusion of your argument.

Yes, some of this is unavoidable, and yes, it happens now to a certain extent. I realize full well that parental involvement is one of the most important factors in a kid's educational achievement. But it's not the only factor. There are people out there who are able to rise above the hands they're dealt at birth and our proper response should be to loosen their ties to their parents' fortunes, not to tighten the screws.

You don't seem to understand the concept of the tradeoff between efficiency and equity. It's as if you've never taken a college-level econ course, because that's a pretty basic concept. And even if efficiency is the more important consideration under most circumstances, when you have a market where the people who make the decisions and the people who benefit or suffer from those decisions are not the same people, I don't see how you can in good conscience oppose all intervention with the free market in the interests of equity.

Posted by: JP at September 22, 2003 01:11 PM | PERMALINK

Trent- and in a perfect solution those children wouldn't be a hinderance to the rest of the children in the class. But in the real world they would are a hinderance in the class. If getting kicked out of a private school isn't enough motivation for the child, perhaps it would be enough motivation for the parent. Perhaps the parent would look to sending that child to a private school in the area that would have more flexible discipline guidelines where that child might be more suitable. Perhaps after getting kicked out from one private school, starting over with a new group of friends is all the child needs and another private school will be just fine. Or maybe that kid will end up back in public school JUST LIKE HE IS NOW and we will be no worse off than we currently are. Because some students will not benefit from vouchers does not mean that we should deny it to all the children who would benefit greatly from it.

Posted by: damon at September 22, 2003 01:11 PM | PERMALINK

What does it cost for Mommy & Daddy to teach their 4-year old the Alphabet? No money -- just some time and dedication. 08:32 AM

Paul--You don't actually have any kids, do you?

Posted by: Molly, NYC at September 22, 2003 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

Trent (of Lovely Hair fame) -- L.O.L! :)

Ken -- "you're advocating punishing kids for the sins of their parents." And you are advocating the punishment other people's kids for the sins of other people's parents.

Actually, I took a number of college level economics classes. I retained some of the supply-demand mathematics (just numbers, right?), but eventually rejected the rest -- being that it was dominated by Marx and Keynes -- just as soon as I discoverd Smith, Hayek, Friedman, and Sowell (no thanks to any of the public schools I attended).

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 01:24 PM | PERMALINK

And why are the older members of that group still kids? ... There's no biological or cognitive reason why "adolescents" can't be adults.

Well, maybe for 11th and 12th graders, but if you honestly think fifteen-year-old high school freshmen can be adults, maybe you should volunteer to go down to your local school and teach a few PE classes. Just because there's some blurring of the child/adult line on the margins doesn't change the basic point that it's pretty unrealistic and unfair to expect most K-12 students to be responsible for their decisions and the lifelong consequences of those decisions. And since this is an argument about privatizing all public education, I don't see how any of this is particularly relevant.

As for lengthening the school year, I don't have a strong opinion on that either way.

Posted by: JP at September 22, 2003 01:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Ken... My most recent post was supposed to address JP.

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 01:25 PM | PERMALINK

Ken ... And you are advocating the punishment other people's kids for the sins of other people's parents.

Actually that was me. And you're going to have to spell out how, instead of just saying it like it was obvious.

And how is this responsive anyway? This is a substantive argument we're having, not high school debate team. Do you just not care about those kids? You're that comfortable with the idea of sacrificing them on your ideological altar?

Posted by: JP at September 22, 2003 01:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Paul--You don't actually have any kids, do you?" --Molly, NYC

Two beautiful babies -- both under 4! I now know what love is. Thank you for your interest.

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 01:31 PM | PERMALINK

Two beautiful babies -- both under 4! I now know what love is. Thank you for your interest

Okay now stop. You've replenished yourself and spouse, no need for any more.

Posted by: Itsgettingcrowded at September 22, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

JP - Fair enough. I'll spell it out. Child A has parents that don't give a damn. Child B's parents make just enough $$ to send him to a nice private school.... Until... taxes are increased to further subsidize the ineffective money-pit public school where child A attends. Now Child B must forgo the better education for the poor public school. The sins of Child A's parents are now impacting Child B.

By the way, I care deeply about children. Otherwise, I would not be spending all this time trying to persuade everyone out here to do what is right: namely allow and encourage parents to take full responsibility to educate their own kids. (Sure, help your neighbor, be charitable... but do not demand and expect charity like we do today with the public school situation.)

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 01:44 PM | PERMALINK

So, Paul, you are arguing that society will be better served by letting Child A's school close completely? Then Child A can just start working for Child B's parents for $5.15 an hour (although I assume you also oppose the minimum wage, so say $2 an hour) when she's 14!

That will most certainly improve our society. That is if you think the Third World really surpasses our standard of living.

Posted by: Magenta at September 22, 2003 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

Paul,
Lets take this out of hypothetical land.

Do you have a specific school in mind that is an 'ineffective money-pit'?

Because it seems like you have this image of something that does not square with my reality.

For example, my local school is not an ineffective money-pit. Also, I don't know any parents who think public school is a charity.

So who and what exactly are you talking about?

Posted by: Tripp at September 22, 2003 02:17 PM | PERMALINK

Barbipoo:
"There are wonderful public schools all around this country EVEN in inner cities. Where I live in Fairfax County, Virginia, I feel you are throwing your money away if you send your children to private school."

You also live in one of the richest counties in the country. I wonder if your neighbors down the road in SE DC would agree with those statements?

Paul:
Sorry, nice try. I volunteer at the local city run afterschool art and science program. (BTW, I don't even have kids, so ask me why I'm doing this?)

"Some children will probably be left behind -- truly a tragedy"

Some children? There are entire communities of children (see SE DC, above) who fit this scenario. Your answer is fairly stunning in its glib willngness to throw away entire communities of children in the interest of throwing some blame on parents.

BTW, I have always, without really paying to much attention to specifics, believed there was merit to the idea of vouchers. I've learned a lot on the antivoucher side of the argument reading this thread. I can't say the pro-voucher folks are doing a great job defending their positions.

Posted by: flory at September 22, 2003 02:33 PM | PERMALINK

Magenta - Nice doomsday scenario... JP asked me (rightly) for facts. Now I ask you the same courtesy.

Tripp -- The "money pit" example is an extreme scenario. All we have to assume is that the private school is better (if only marginally so) than the public school. In fact, we need only assume that the parents of the would-be private school student believe the private school is better. They WANT to send their kid there. At issue here is choice. Choice. Choice. The parents choice to send kids to private school should not be less palatable because of public policy (i.e. increased property taxes to support a public school they don't patronize).

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 02:36 PM | PERMALINK

Flory:

I'm glad to hear you are a fellow volunteer for children's education (and not surprised, as I suspect I agree with your heart if not your ideas).

--Paul

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 02:45 PM | PERMALINK

Two beautiful babies -- both under 4! I now know what love is. Thank you for your interest. 01:31 PM

Congrats. Per your 8:32 am post, have you taught them to read yet?

Posted by: Molly, NYC at September 22, 2003 03:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Well, maybe for 11th and 12th graders, but if you honestly think fifteen-year-old high school freshmen can be adults, maybe you should volunteer to go down to your local school and teach a few PE classes."

15 year old (and younger) adults have existed in significant numbers throughout much of human history.

Granted, they didn't have nearly as much education as an adult of today requires, but then again, they didn't have nearly as much free time in which they could have gotten such an education even if it were available.

Today, high school freshmen of any age can't really be effective adults. But there's no reason that 15 year olds have to be high school freshmen, either.

And what the hell does PE have to do with any of this?

"Yes and they will [kicked out] quite often [in private schools]. This will most likely be children with medical issues, emotional issues and kids with learning disabilities. The majority of these kids will be boys. Boys who will later cause more problems. Just because you kick them out of school doesn't mean they'll go away. Sorry but problem not solved. Just because some children are more difficult to educate doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to educate them."

What about kids that are impossible to educate?

Some kids aren't going to learn no matter what you do. Worse, all they'll do if you keep them in school is terrorize the smart kids, inducing some of them to achieve less than they otherwise would. The lost opportunity to educate the smarter kids to their full potential definitely outweighs the miniscule amount of education that the school might manage to pound into the heads of the little thugs.

So yes, we as a society would be better off keeping the thugs out of school, than letting them stay in school and keep terrorizing our best and brightest. And a credible threat of being kicked out of school will induce the ones that aren't completely hopeless to shape up.

Posted by: Ken at September 22, 2003 03:34 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.v-roc.20m.com

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 03:36 PM | PERMALINK

Paul,

It's not a doomsday scenario. It's the natural outgrowth of eliminating the public school system (which has a long tradition in our country that predates Marx, BTW, and is one of the ways that we inculcate some common culture on the country). If you close the schools that are available to Child A, who has the disadvantage of disinterested parents, where exactly where will Child A go? Homeschooling? A private school paid for by her disinterested parents? These seem unlikely by virtue of the disinterested parents.

So, what exactly does Child A do if not go to work?

Posted by: Magenta at September 22, 2003 03:39 PM | PERMALINK

Fun debating with everyone today. I invite you all to visit my website, http://www.v-roc.20m.com.

I'll be glad to publish any letters/comments (in agreement AND descent) if you e-mail them to v_rocmail@yahoo.com.

--Paul

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 04:03 PM | PERMALINK

douglevene posts: Last, we come to the heart of the problem, which is the unionization of teaching. A generation or two ago, teaching was a severely underpaid profession. Then came the teachers' unions and teachers' strikes and now iner city teachers have better incomes, better benefits, better job security, and the kids have lousy schools. Get rid of unions ...
Oh, I see. We had great schools when teachers were underpaid, so now the way to save the whole system is to go back to using teachers as serfs? Where are you going to find the teachers? Are we going back to the Fifties when the only jobs intelligent women could get were teacher/ nurse /social worker? I taught in a private school, 30 years ago -- my first job after grad school -- and the students had bigger dress allowances than my salary. Care to ask why I don't teach any more?

Posted by: Temperance at September 22, 2003 04:13 PM | PERMALINK

Just a few extra points:
1) Paul and Sebastian:
You ask why schools are so bad in places where per-pupil costs are high. It's obviously not teacher salaries, but beyond that, I don't know. Do you? That's not a rhetorical question, I'd really like to know. Would you, or is this just a debating point? (that is a rhetorical quesiton).
Several comments upstream, Sebastian asked why per pupil costs are so high. I offered several possible reasons. I see that Sebastian has neither responded to those suggestions, nor offered any of his own, so what exactly is the point of the question?

2) The notion that the public school system is horrible isn't really supported by anything, is it? Obviously, some schools have problems, and obviously the system doesn't work perfectly. Nonetheless, the U.S. continues to produce a large number of extremely qualified high school graduates every year, and a much larger number of basically qualified graduates. NCLB, the original topic of this thread, won't change that in any substantial way.

3) Vouchers: as Mobie pointed out, an effective voucher system would be very, very expensive. In truth, this is a fairly attractive notion to me, and I'm not worried by the idea that it would save wealthy families some money. But neither do I suffer from the illusion that it would be cheaper than what we have now. It can be argued that there would be a huge increase in private schools -- including relatively low-cost private schools -- if public schooling ended at age twelve. Of course there would. But most of those low-cost schools would be cheap for a reason: they wouldn't be very good. Plus, as several others have already pointed out, if they were forced to accept children with mental, emotional, and physical problems, they would soon find their expenses rising. Dwight Meredith wrote of his autistic son. How will we educate children like that in a totally private school environment? What kind of voucher will parents like Dwight get? Will a few thousand dollars suffice?

4) I believe it was Paul who asked what it costs to teach a 4-year old the alphabet. Another rhetorical question, I presume. Primary school education is cheap, as is (for example) Head Start. But if you only have one parent, or if the parents aren't home during most of the hours their 4-year-old is awake, then teaching the alphabet is quite difficult, which is more relevant than expensive or inexpensive.

5) Paul or Doug also questioned whether education is, or should be, a birthright, I think we already had that debate well over a century ago. Universal education is a tool for creating citizens, for creating an educated workforce, and for teaching skills that are useful for citizens and the society they occupy. This is one reason why adopting universal education is a hallmark of modernizing societies. The fact that England, Japan, India and Chile spent money, resources, and political capital to erect public education systems shows that they saw this as a tool of nation-building, and as something that the private sector was unwilling or unable to offer. The fact that they maintained those systems shows that they are of continuing value. That doesn't mean that there's no role for vouchers, or more private alternatives, but it's little short of delusional to think that the private sector will magically provide a superior version of something that it has never provided in both great quantity and at high quality -- never, ever, anywhere.

Finally, there are plenty of alternatives beyond 1) keeping the system as is, 2) adding poorly- funded vouchers, or 3) eliminating public education. When Sebastian asked about relatively lower funding in other countries, he inadvertently hinted at this. There are scores of alternative education systems across the globe. Rather than proposing hypothetical systems, why not start with a real-world system that has demonstrated itself as successful, then propose how it might be adapted to the U.S. Frankly, I would find that sort of approach much, much, much more convincing than a simple assertion that the private sector and the market will cure everything, which appears to be based on wishful thinking (at worst) or theories (at best), but no hard evidence.

Posted by: Keith at September 22, 2003 06:18 PM | PERMALINK

Well, there are the non-hypothetical Catholic schools in the inner cities which do quite well educating the kids there. They don't keep bad teachers. They test rigorously. They have fairly strict discipline. But I guess we should avoid looking at successful nearby schools if they are also religious schools because religion is bad.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 22, 2003 07:46 PM | PERMALINK

Bizzaro Paul wrote:

We can never account for every scenario. Some children will probably be left behind -- truly a tragedy.

Spoken like a true ideologue. The hell with pragmatism, the hell with the wounded, forward the libertarian revolution! Can't make an omelette with without breaking some eggs. Truly a tragedy.

I realize that not every conservative thinks this way, but people who want to turn society into a perpetual struggle of all against all just boggle my mind.

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2003 08:08 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastan writes: Well, there are the non-hypothetical Catholic schools in the inner cities which do quite well educating the kids there. They don't keep bad teachers. They test rigorously. They have fairly strict discipline. But I guess we should avoid looking at successful nearby schools if they are also religious schools because religion is bad.

F*&K your "strict discipline". Codeword for corporal punishment. I suggest you get beaten at work as an incentive. Lets see how productive that makes you. Afterall what's good for a child is good for an employee.

Posted by: Nakadie at September 22, 2003 08:16 PM | PERMALINK

"It can be argued that there would be a huge increase in private schools -- including relatively low-cost private schools -- if public schooling ended at age twelve."

How would the yearly cost of private schools depend on what age schooling ended?

(I could see where a school that offered a year round, intensive (by today's standards) curriculum that graduated 12-14 year olds with today's high school education would be more expensive. But, unless the costs over the kid's entire childhood were way, way, way, out of line, it would be worth it.)

And why do you think that, without public schools, private schools of equivalent quality would cost more than the public schools do today? I don't see any reason whatsoever to believe that.

"Plus, as several others have already pointed out, if they were forced to accept children with mental, emotional, and physical problems, they would soon find their expenses rising."

The same thing happens in public schools. So the state can give an enhanced voucher for students with these sorts of problems just as cheaply as it can "mainstream" them in today's public schools.

Of course, some of these kids cannot be educated by any means known to man. Making them go through the motions is useless at best. Others may theoretically be able to learn, but any gains made from teaching them will be more than offset by their insistence on terrorizing the smart kids in the class and interfering with their achievement. Private schools would accept the former with a suitable payment (voucher or otherwise), but would tend to (quite properly, and to society's benefit) reject the latter unless truly phenomenal payment were offered.

Posted by: Ken at September 22, 2003 08:16 PM | PERMALINK

This is a bitter pill to swallow, but I am actually going to stand up for NCLB (or at least partially). My defense is not so much the policy itself, but more in defense to Kevin's black helicopter claim about NCLB as trojan horse that will destroy public education (as if the system needed any help in its destruction).
Obviously, it is quite difficult to construct an accountability system that will have real teeth and that will bring about improvement for the nation's failing schools (rural and inner city). If the test scores are not disaggregated, then it becomes all too easy for a higher achieving majority to mask the failures of a lower achieving minority. Also, we must keep in mind the principle of bounded rationality. The designers of NCLB could not have thought of ALL eventualities.
Do I think NCLB is good educational policy- as a former school board member, teacher and education policy analyst, no. But I also do not think of it as some trojan horse to destroy public education. Rather, I see it as a well intentioned attempt (albeit underfunded and underguided) to address the very real problems of educational failure in the US.

Posted by: justin at September 22, 2003 09:22 PM | PERMALINK

Keith's comment should really have ended the discussion--it showed an unusual level of clarity for a weblog post.

Can someone please explain to me how private school vouchers and NCLB fit together? I was under the impression that NCLB was a policy designed to rigidify curricular standards across different public schools, a move which seems to go directly in the opposite direction of the logic of privatization/decentralization.
But there seem to be some conservatives and liberals here that are arguing as though the two policies can be coherently joined. This makes no sense to me.

Also, can someone please explain to me exactly in what sense private schools would remain "private" in any meaningful sense of the term after the kind of massive voucher program that some of you seem to be proposing? What you are actually proposing, in spite of your free-market rhetoric, is the nationalization of private schools. As soon as this amount of taxpayer money will be going to support "private" schools, all kinds of new political questions will be raised, people will want to know where their money is going, and all the dysfunctions of the public school (which are not caused by public-school status or teacher's unions, but by deeper social problems in the geographically-defined districts) will re-appear in a new guise. Then, who will you blame? (for that matter, who are you blaming now?: Parents? kids? teachers? You can't have it all ways...)

Targeted, limited voucher programs involving a small number of specially-selected students are quite different from wholesale voucherization, and you cannot neccesarily use the arguements for the former in support of the latter. Not that any of the arguements are terribly strong--it's a double bind: too few vouchers and the system is grossly unfair, too many and the public/private distinction becomes meaningless anyway.

I am all for dissolving the arbitrary geographic boundaries between school districts so that students can study at any public school of their choice; the problem is that for this to work would probably require a nationalization of the education budget, eliminating local funding.

Sebastian, son--instead of kicking poor-performing students out or hitting them with a ruler, might it not be more productive to, um, try to make the school learning more relevant to their lives and aspirations? But I guess "Lean on Me" is still the model for righteous conservative educators...sigh...

Posted by: kokblok at September 23, 2003 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Stricter discipline is not synonymous with corporal punishment. Sheesh people, get a grip. There is a serious discipline problem in many public schools, and it doesn't help education one little bit.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 23, 2003 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Paul,
"Tripp -- The "money pit" example is an extreme scenario. All we have to assume is that the private school is better (if only marginally so) than the public school. In fact, we need only assume that the parents of the would-be private school student believe the private school is better."

Thank you for your response to my question about whether you had an actual school in mind when making your accusation.

I know you have gone back to your website, but I must say you are simply pulling things out of the air up there in hypothetical land. You don't know a thing about what you are talking about. You are one of the millions of internet nuts who spin fantasy worlds with fantasy solutions to fantasy problems.

So good luck in your fantasy world. If you ever want to take the time to join the real world, go out to a school in your area and talk to the people there. You might be suprised what you find.

But I'm going to guess you will stay in lala land, because it is safer there, and you don't have to confront anything that would disrupt your fantasies.

Posted by: Tripp at September 23, 2003 06:44 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,
I agree that there is a discipline problem, and apologize for insinuating that you support corporal punishment (some conservatives do, of course, particularily in the Catholic school system which you praised). You do, however, favor expulsion for poorly-performing students, which is fine for private schools where there exists a public alternative. The situation is a little different with public schools, since there is no alternative for these students. My broader point was that such discipline only works for those who want to be disciplined. Isn't the underlying problem the fact that these kids do not *want* to learn in the manner they are being forced to? Instead of attributing this to laziness, might we not concede that they could be right and that much of what is learned in high school is completely worthless in their lives?

I don't think it is the discipline of private schools that sets them apart, but rather the flexible teaching methodology. I went to both public and private schools, and I actually found there was a lot less "discipline" in the strict sense in the private schools, and more of an attempt to teach to the individual student. (Catholic Schools are not a representative sample, and in any case one can question how successful they are vis-a-vis public schools in the same areas) Public schools can, and should, learn by these examples. But this has nothing to do with bashing unions; in fact the main demand of teachers' unions these days is increased teacher control over the curriculum. If teachers really were lazy slobs who didn't care about kids, then they would surely want to make their job easier by "teaching to the test" and becoming well-paid proctors instead of maintaining their autonomy. As far as accountability goes, there is a myth that it is currently impossible to fire a poorly-performing teacher in the public schools. This is simply not true. High school teachers do not generally have the kind of tenure as professors do, as any of the large number of laid-off, unionized teachers here in southern Wisconsin can tell you. My brother-in-law was himself fired from a rural public school, a fate he richly deserved.

Posted by: kokblok at September 23, 2003 08:52 AM | PERMALINK

Kokblok, there is an enormous difference between teachers being laid off, and teachers being fired for incompetence. Laid off is a neccessity caused by demographic shifts. Fired for incompetence is only important for protecting the ability of our schools to actually educate. If the schools in question are using mandatory lay-offs to rid themselves of awful teachers, so much the better, but that doesn't help the large number of schools who need teachers yet also need to rid themselves of bad teachers.

BTW, kids get expelled from public schools all the time. Technically they are subject to year-long 'suspensions'.

Posted by: Sebastian holsclaw at September 23, 2003 09:12 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,
In my neck of the woods (MN) students suspended from school still get their education at a 'bad student' school. The state is required to provide education, even for the students expelled from a real schools.

Posted by: Tripp at September 23, 2003 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I have no answers. I am not smart enough to decide how EVERY SINGLE CHILD in America can possibly be properly educated. The job is too daunting for my feeble mind and limited (I'm only one man!) resources.

So my answer to all this is... let the parents decide. Give them choices and let them decide. Seems to me that they will know what is best for their children anyway.

Bizarro Paul (me! I believe I'm winning the "nickname" award in this string) thinks that the biggest obstacle in the way of school choice (which equals school freedom, better schools, more schools, cleaner schools, better teachers, more books, better books and on and on and on) is the MONOPOLY held by public schools in this country.

I'll spell out the monopoly issue: Before starting a business, the entrepreneur analyzes barriers to entry when choosing the industry/market. In the education market, the barrier to entry is the public schools which will beat him on price every time (--even though public school is not really free...) The entrepreneur is left with only one choice: exclusive, expensive schools aimed mostly at upper class consumers. Voila! School choice is mostly a fantasy in the U.S. because the entry barriers are prohibitive for all but a very select market segment.

Nowhere have I said to close the public schools or any of that non-sense. My ONLY argument is that somebody besides government should have a shot at fixing the system. So, public schools should be supported by tuition (at least partially) instead of just taxes. If public schools weren't free, hundreds of very creative, caring risk-takers (maybe even some of you liberals :)) would say, "Hey! I think I can open a school, attract students, and even make a profit because I can now compete on price." As more private schools opened, the product would continually improve (better schools, teachers, and books) and the price would drop in relative terms.

There should be more to education than government perscriptions -- no matter how well conceived (such as magnet schools and vouchers). I want to really give private citizens a shot at fixing education.

I honestly think many of you are being closed-minded here. You cannot get beyond government solutions. I think you are not even willing to discuss a market system (not just vouchers -- a true market system like I laid out above).

Instead of really debating me on market vs. govt, you keep asking "what about the poor single Mom who can't afford or doesn't care about private schools?"

And several of you have stung me for "We can never account for every scenario. Some children will probably be left behind -- truly a tragedy."

That would look nice in a TV debate, but give me some credit here. I have two kids. I adore children. If it makes you feel good to think I'm a monster, fine. If you, however, care to agree with or refute my argument for a market-based school system based on facts, then I invite you to respond.

Posted by: Bizarro Paul at September 23, 2003 03:48 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian:
Some Catholic high schools do a lot of testing, some don't. Some public high schools do a lot of testing, some don't. That in itself is not a crucial difference. I'm well aware of your oft-expressed support of testing, but I've yet to see you offer a detailed explanation of why you think it will make things better, rather than add bureaucracy and detract from time spent on teaching.

Ken:
Age twelve was an arbitrary choice. I was assuming that the people hollering about bad high schools would want to increase private alternatives for junior high school and high school children. However, if you feel that there's a crisis in elementary school education, feel free to re-read my remark with "age six." The cost of schooling obviously depends on the age of the students involved, because high school education is more expensive than primary school education. So, if you end public education after elementary school, but still require that students attend secondary school, you'll have fairly expensive schools.

However, as my post stated, you'll have a variety of schools, at a variety of prices. My point is this. The better private schools will cost more. If you give people $3000 vouchers, you'll have secondary schools that charge $3000 and try to make a profit. Those schools will be bad.

You add that ...the state can give an enhanced voucher for students with these sorts of problems just as cheaply as it can "mainstream" them in today's public schools
Maybe. Maybe the state will give vouchers for less than it costs to educate these children. In any case, we already had a system that segregated these children, and was cheaper than the current system. It was also substantially worse for the children. Do you think that a private system that educated these children for the same cost or less than public schools do now, but withdrew them from mainstream society, would mark an improvement? If so, I suggest you speak with some parents of disabled children and explain your reasoning to them.

Paul:
Parents already decide. Can you name a major urban area that does not have private schools with room for more students? We've had plenty of people on this thread talk about parents who sacrifice to send their kids to private schools. How will vouchers, other than very expensive vouchers, change this? Except at the margin, parents who are unwilling to pony up several thousand dollars to send their children to a private school are not suddenly going to change their minds if they receive a voucher for $2500 or so. Let me repeat the remark I ended my last post with, and ask that you provide a response to it. Ready? Here goes:

There are plenty of alternatives beyond
1) keeping the system as is,
2) adding poorly- funded vouchers, or
3) eliminating public education. ...
There are scores of alternative education systems across the globe. Rather than proposing hypothetical systems, why not start with a real-world system that has demonstrated itself as successful, then propose how it might be adapted to the U.S.

I think this is an important question because the private sector has never provided high quality education in great quantity -- never, ever, anywhere. You may think that it's being closed-minded to worry about ending public education, but I think it's closed-minded to ignore a globe full of examples of public education in your rush to erect an entirely unprecedented system. So let's start with something that might work outside of pure theory.

Posted by: Keith at September 23, 2003 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian: They don't keep bad teachers. They test rigorously.

I assume you're speaking about the students here, but read differently this actually relates to something I've been meaning to ask you, Sebastian. You've often expressed a desire to eliminate poor teachers from the system -- a desire which with I heartily agree -- and, IIRC, you specifically cited a Spanish (?) teacher at your child's high school who was well-known to be wretched but was unfirable due to union restrictions.

Assuming I've got the background correct, here's my question for you: Can you provide a measure, specified however you please, that could be added to the current system that would determine when a teacher was sufficient bad as to warrant firing? In other words, is this notion of a "bad teacher" sufficiently describable as to be systematizable, or is it one of those "we'll know it when we see it" type of things?

I'd explain why I'm asking this only it's 3:30am and I'm incoherent after a six-hour bout of grading, so it'll have to wait until the morrow.

Posted by: Anarch at September 24, 2003 01:33 AM | PERMALINK

Keith -- Private schools have empty seats because they are expensive. They are expensive because the only market-segment worth risking for "edu-preneurs" is the upper crust. This is also why (as you claim) private schools have "never, ever, anywhere" provided widespread, high-quality education. Our best and brightest do not take risks in the education market because it is impossible to compete against public schools on price. I spelled all this out in my last post. As for real examples from around the world, I am not against trying any of them. I am just against having any of them coerced upon us by government. Go get a loan and try one of the ideas in your own school venture, Keith. I would be rooting for you all of the way -- could possibly even be persuaded to invest.

Some general responses to the group...

Many of you say I live in a fantasy world, or "la-la" land? The only reason my idea sounds like fantasy is because the beneficiaries of the entrenched system (teachers unions, politicians) and their misled "profit-phobe" followers do everything in their power to prevent these ideas from coming reality.

A word on fantasies. Where do your realities start? Where did PCs start? The internet? How about televisions, radios, telephone service in every home? Air travel? What about indoor plumbing? Cheap books? Vaccines? Clean Water in every town? Where did cheap food start for heaven’s sake? All of the above – and much more – come to you from fantasy land. Come join me here. Your mind will open. Your intolerance will melt away.

On being an "ideologue." You think ideologue is a dirty word. I disagree. If we do not aspire to our ideals, then to what do we aspire? You want pragmatism from me? Fine. Elect me to office, and I’ll start compromising so I can appeal to more voters. We are not congress. This is just a blog. We can afford to be – and should be – ideological out here. (And by the way, many of you are no less ideological. Your ideals just happen to be in line with socialism. Mine are with individualism.)

As for this comment about how "some kids will likely be left behind – truly a tragedy..." This was an admission that no approach to k-12 education (not even mine) will account for every child. This, however, is not the fault of the educational system. This is the fault of parents and children. Nor can the system account for every poor working Mom who doesn’t care about private school. No system ever has been able to. At some point, we need to hold parents accountable. Accountable, poor moms will find a way much more often than not. I want to trust poor moms – you don’t. Yes, I want to trust that in a world where education is not free, poor moms will have the moral fortitude to do what is right for their children. You, who are committed to the socialized approach, afford no such trust to poor people.

Will NCLB ever progress from fantasy to reality? I do not know. My opinion, though, is that with trust and accountability in the equation, a market approach gives us the best chance.

Gotta go! Mr. Roark and Tatoo await!

Posted by: Bizarro Paul at September 24, 2003 07:17 AM | PERMALINK

"Age twelve was an arbitrary choice. I was assuming that the people hollering about bad high schools would want to increase private alternatives for junior high school and high school children. However, if you feel that there's a crisis in elementary school education, feel free to re-read my remark with "age six." The cost of schooling obviously depends on the age of the students involved, because high school education is more expensive than primary school education. So, if you end public education after elementary school, but still require that students attend secondary school, you'll have fairly expensive schools. "

OK, fine, the people who need vouchers get bigger ones for high school. Happy now?

"However, as my post stated, you'll have a variety of schools, at a variety of prices. My point is this. The better private schools will cost more. If you give people $3000 vouchers, you'll have secondary schools that charge $3000 and try to make a profit. Those schools will be bad."

How about we max out those vouchers at the same level as a decent public school spends per student? Put them on a sliding scale, so those vouchers drop towards zero as your income rises.

Unless you can convince me that a private school charging the same rate as a public school will provide a worse education than the public school, I figure that should answer your objections on that score. And we'll still come out ahead, money-wise, because we won't be subsidizing the middle class (with their own money!), we'll just be helping out those who need help and let the rest pay their own way.

"I think this is an important question because the private sector has never provided high quality education in great quantity -- never, ever, anywhere. "

That's because there never was demand for high quality education in great quantity anywhere in the world until after we had our public education system in place. The private sector isn't going to sell something that people aren't buying, and until long after public education was firmly entrenched, people just didn't need or profit from education nearly as much as they do now.

Posted by: Ken at September 24, 2003 08:03 AM | PERMALINK

A link to information about vouchers
Voucher Veneer: The Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education
http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=11379

Posted by: J Edgar at September 24, 2003 02:04 PM | PERMALINK

Ken:
I'm not philosophically opposed to vouchers, and I think that if voucher proponents were talking about giving $8000 or so per secondary school student, I'd be willing to give their arguments a lot more credence. I don't even care about a sliding scale, as I have no particular need to see wealthy parents pay for educating their children when other parents get it for free. However, that is not what most proponents are talking about.

You're not exactly correct about demand. Late-modernizing countries typically lacked broad-based education systems of any kind when their governments instituted universal education. There are no cases where private enterprise looked at this new market and jumped in with an offer to educate all, or even most students. It just didn't happen.

The private sector frequently innovates in areas where people aren't buying at the time in the hopes that they will be buying in the future. Immediate profit is certainly one calculation, but market share and long-term profit is another. Some Hyundai or Daewoo education corporation could've jumped in with a plan to run secondary education in Korea when universal education was put in place after World War II. That didn't happen.

Posted by: Keith at September 24, 2003 07:00 PM | PERMALINK

Ken:
Late-nineteenth-century Germany, Japan, and Italy (I think) all instituted universal education. They saw a need for this, in order to catch up to Britain, and to a lesser extent France and the U.S. They thus had a demand for high quality education in large quantity before public education was established. What's more, they had private education systems already in place, although those served relatively small numbers of students. Where were the education entrepreneurs who figured that could capitalize on economies of scale and a largely captive market and make a profit providing a service to either millions of consumers or the state?

Posted by: Keith at September 24, 2003 07:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Then came the teachers' unions and teachers' strikes and now iner city teachers have better incomes, better benefits, better job security, and the kids have lousy schools. Get rid of unions, give principals the power to hire and fire teachers, hold principals accountable for what goes on in their schools and give superintendents the power to hire and fire principals, and see what happens."

Have you EVER worked in education???? I am an inner city teacher with the so-called better benefits (actually, it's $300/month for an HMO and a $20 copay), higher salary (33,000), and we have had three teachers fired from my school in the last year, none of whom were molesting children.

I find the task of meeting our students' needs rather daunting. Because of mainstreaming, the 35 students in my class at one time breaks down like this:

10 are English Language Learners that do not understand the nuances of the texts we read. Yes, I modify considerably, but they are still expected to take THE SAME TEST. To their credit, the vast majority work hard to try to master the language, but we test them about their third year in the country. They still don't understand our idioms, slang, and figurative language, all of which is needed for the critical thinking portions of the test.

5 have major behavior modifications. One of my students frequently crawls under his desk to growl. Another has explosions when corrected in any way, and has free reign to leave class whenever he feels "pressured", which is any time there is work to be done. All of these students serve as major disruptions to instruction. The documentation alone on every outburst requires that I stop teaching to fill out paperwork once every hour. This happens in every class these students are in, regardless of the teacher. I am told that they do not qualify for alternative schools and should stay in their "least restrictive environment".

Another 5 are special ed and are reading around a 2nd grade level. (I teach middle school).

The rest are what we consider the average students. However, I am so busy differentiating curriculum, working one on one, DOCUMENTING EVERYTHING, and striving to meet the special needs in my classroom (all auditable, we need more teacher accountability after all) that they are often the students who are getting "left behind".

Hiring and firing teachers and principals won't change the fact that we have lost all power over our classrooms (it looks bad on paper to send troubled students to a school that is trained to help them). It won't change the fact that it takes more than 3 years of students hearing English a few hours a day to pass a test where the passages are on grade level and heavy on inference and critical thinking. It won't change the fact that most teachers are so over-burdened with paperwork that we work 12 hours a day in order to be labled as "fat, lazy slobs" when our students don't excel on standardized tests.

Fire back at the evil "teacher's unions" when you've been in the classroom a while. Oh wait, no one asks teachers anything about how to handle the educational crisis, that would be a ludicrous as asking a doctor how to treat cancer.

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