Tag Archives: Data

New study: which group of voters correctly answered questions about basic facts?

Let's take a look at some data and learn how the world really works
Let’s take a look at some data and learn how the world really works

The non-partisan web site Just Facts has been cited as an authority by IBM, PBS, Vanderbilt University, the Wall Street Journal, etc. In their latest study, they tested conservative and progressive voters to see which group had reality-based views of education, taxes, healthcare, national debt, pollution, government spending, Social Security, global warming, energy, hunger, and poverty.

Here is what they measured:

The findings are from a nationally representative annual survey commissioned by Just Facts, a non-profit research and educational institute. The survey was conducted by Triton Polling & Research, an academic research firm that used sound methodologies to assess U.S. residents who regularly vote.

While most polls measure public opinion, this unique one measures voters’ knowledge of major issues facing the nation—such as education, taxes, healthcare, national debt, pollution, government spending, Social Security, global warming, energy, and hunger.

I just wanted to list out a few of the questions, so that you would be able to see the topics, and know that the answers are measurable quantities. This is important because we want to know which groups of voters understand just the facts about the world we live in.

Education sample question:

On average across the United States, how much do you think public schools spend per year to educate each classroom of students? Less or more than $150,000 per classroom per year?

Correct Answer: More than $150,000. The average cost to educate a classroom of public school students is about $332,000 per year.

Correct answer given by 36% of all voters, 26% of Democrat voters, 45% of Trump voters, 46% of males, 28% of females, 25% of 18 to 34 year olds, 40% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 33% of 65+ year olds.

Taxes sample question:

On average, who would you say pays a greater portion of their income in federal taxes: The middle class or the upper 1% of income earners?

Correct Answer: The upper 1%. The Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. Treasury, and the Tax Policy Center have all documented that households in the top 1% of income pay an average effective federal tax rate of about 33%, while middle-income households pay about 13%. These tax rates account for nearly all income and federal taxes.

Correct answer given by 18% of all voters, 6% of Democrat voters, 30% of Trump voters, 21% of males, 15% of females, 11% of 18 to 34 year olds, 19% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 19% of 65+ year olds.

Spending sample question:

Do you think the federal government spends more money on social programs, such as Medicare, education, and food stamps—or does the federal government spend more money on national defense, such as the Army, Navy, and missile defense?

Correct Answer: Social programs. In 2018, 62% of federal spending was for social programs, and 18% was for national defense. In 1960, the opposite was true, and 53% of federal spending was for national defense, while 21% was for social programs.

Correct answer given by 36% of all voters, 14% of Democrat voters, 59% of Trump voters, 40% of males, 33% of females, 23% of 18 to 34 year olds, 36% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 41% of 65+ year olds.

National debt sample question: 

What about federal government debt? The average U.S. household owes about $122,000 in consumer debt, such as mortgages and credit cards. Thinking about all federal government debt broken down to a per household basis, do you think the average federal debt per U.S. household amounts to more or less than the average consumer debt per U.S. household?

Correct Answer: More than $122,000. Federal debt is now $23.1 trillion or about $180,000 for every household in the United States.

Correct answer given by 77% of all voters, 76% of Democrat voters, 81% of Trump voters, 75% of males, 80% of females, 84% of 18 to 34 year olds, 79% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 75% of 65+ year olds.

Global warming sample question: 

Thinking about the whole planet, do you think the number and intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms have generally increased since the 1980s?

Correct Answer: No. Comprehensive global data shows that the number and intensity of cyclones and hurricanes has been roughly level since the 1980s. This data was originally published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2011 and updated this year. Likewise, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported: “There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.” Regional data that extends back for more than century shows the same.

Correct answer given by 32% of all voters, 4% of Democrat voters, 59% of Trump voters, 40% of males, 25% of females, 19% of 18 to 34 year olds, 36% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 30% of 65+ year olds.

Pollution sample question: 

Thinking about the United States, in your opinion, is the air generally more polluted than it was in the 1980s?

Correct Answer: No. EPA data shows that ambient levels of all criteria air pollutants have declined significantly since the 1980s. Criteria air pollutions are those that are deemed by the administrator of the EPA to be widespread and to “cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare….” Likewise, combined emissions of hazardous air pollutants have declined by about 50% since the 1990s.

Correct answer given by 56% of all voters, 44% of Democrat voters, 67% of Trump voters, 67% of males, 46% of females, 47% of 18 to 34 year olds, 63% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 49% of 65+ year olds.

Energy sample question: 

Without government subsidies, which of these technologies do you think is the least expensive method for generating electricity? Wind turbines, solar panels, or natural gas power plants?

Correct Answer: Natural gas power plants. Determining the costs of electricity-generating technologies is complex, but data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that natural gas is considerably less expensive than wind, and wind is considerably less expensive than solar.

Correct answer given by 40% of all voters, 23% of Democrat voters, 57% of Trump voters, 53% of males, 29% of females, 25% of 18 to 34 year olds, 43% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 41% of 65+ year olds.

Hunger sample question:

On an average day, what portion of U.S. households with children do you believe will have at least one child who experiences hunger? Less than 1%, 1% to 10%, or more than 10%?

Correct Answer: Less than 1%. Per the latest data from the USDA, 0.14% or less than one out of every 700 U.S. households with children have any child who experiences hunger on an average day. This includes children who are hungry due to poverty, not those who skip meals because they are late for school, don’t feel like eating, or are trying to lose weight.

Correct answer given by 12% of all voters, 2% of Democrat voters, 22% of Trump voters, 15% of males, 9% of females, 3% of 18 to 34 year olds, 12% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 13% of 65+ year olds.

Social Security sample question:

Some policymakers are proposing that individuals be allowed to save and invest some of their Social Security taxes in personal accounts instead of paying these taxes to the Social Security program. In your view, do you think such proposals generally improve or harm the finances of the Social Security program?

Correct Answer: Improve. As shown by analyses conducted by the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration and a bipartisan presidential commission, proposals to give Social Security an element of personal ownership generally strengthen the program’s finances. Although some tax revenues that would have gone to the program instead go to people’s personal retirement accounts, these tax revenues are more than offset by the savings of not paying these individuals full benefits.

Correct answer given by 22% of all voters, 11% of Democrat voters, 33% of Trump voters, 28% of males, 17% of females, 31% of 18 to 34 year olds, 20% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 23% of 65+ year olds.

Health care sample question:

In 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” This law uses price controls to save money in the Medicare program. Do you think these price controls will worsen Medicare patients’ access to care?

Correct Answer: Yes. As explained by Medicare’s actuaries, the price controls in the Affordable Care Act will cut Medicare prices for many medical services over the next three generations to “less than half of their level under the prior law.” The actuaries have been clear that this will likely cause “withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market” and “severe problems with beneficiary access to care.”

Correct answer given by 50% of all voters, 17% of Democrat voters, 80% of Trump voters, 53% of males, 46% of females, 38% of 18 to 34 year olds, 52% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 49% of 65+ year olds.

Poverty sample question:

Including government benefits and private charity, how much worth of goods and services do the poorest 20% of U.S. households consume on average each year? Less than $20,000, $20,000 to $40,000, or more than $40,000?

Correct Answer: According to the latest government data, the poorest 20% of U.S. households consumed an average of $57,049 of goods and services per household in 2010.

Correct answer given by 13% of all voters, 6% of Democrat voters, 20% of Trump voters, 13% of males, 14% of females, 15% of 18 to 34 year olds, 16% of 35 to 64 year olds, and 9% of 65+ year olds.

You can read the full methodology, references and results.

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Christians should support natural marriage because it protects children from adult selfishness

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

I have been following Katy Faust’s work on Twitter. She runs the organization “Them Before Us”. She fights laws and policies which allow adults to put their desires above the needs of children. And especially a child’s need for a relationship with his or her mother and father. In a recent article for The Federalist, she takes on a Joshua Harris, who is attacking traditional Christian moral values.

She writes:

In a recent interview, newly ex-mega-church pastor Joshua Harris and author of the 1990s best-seller “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” remarked that the support President Trump has received from the evangelical community has been “incredibly damaging to the gospel and to the church.” I’d wager Harris is projecting something fierce.

In August, Harris announced that he and his wife Shannon were divorcing, that he no longer considers himself a Christian, and that he regrets “standing against marriage equality.” Just in case the point was lost on any of us, he followed up his announcement by posting a picture of himself eating a rainbow donut at the Vancouver Pride parade.

It’s no coincidence that Harris reversed himself on biblical teachings on sex and marriage while abandoning the core tenets of the faith.

The denial of sexual and marital norms by believers is often adjacent to a rejection of the core tenets of the faith. That’s because to arrive at these “inclusive” and “affirming” positions on marriage, Christians must exalt intoxicants such as emotion over uncompromising scripture, tradition, and natural law. Once you shift the authority from sola scriptura to sola feels, it’s only a matter of time before every other orthodox teaching finds itself on the woke chopping block.

I love this SO MUCH.

If I had to pick one conclusion that I have found to be true in 30 years of debating Christian truth claims, it would be that the normal process for becoming an atheist has nothing to do with reason or evidence. People abandon their faith in their teens, long before they have ever done any research into whether Christianity is true. And why? Because they know that their desire to be free of the moral demands of Christianity is true. And they know that their desire to be liked by their non-Christian friends is true.

Katy explains that she loves loves to discuss and debate with non-Christians and LGBT people about the issue she cares about: natural marriage and children’s rights. But she gets annoyed with Christian leaders who misunderstand the gospel.

She writes:

Whether approaching the issue from a natural law perspective where male and female complementarity features prominently, or considering the most widely ratified treaty in human history outlines a child’s right to be known and loved by their mother and father, or through the lens of scripture where God joins together man and woman in life-long union because he is seeking “godly offspring” (Malachi 2), Christian leaders have no excuse for getting marriage wrong.

Zip. Zero. Nada. Their more-tolerant-than-Jesus definition of marriage (Mark 10:6-9) is, to use Harris’ own words, incredibly damaging not only to the church, but to the most vulnerable as well.

The reality is that Christians cannot get gay marriage wrong unless they first get the gospel wrong. Progressive Christians are under the wrong impression that ours is a gospel of affirmation: the idea that God affirms everything we think and say and do and want. This misconceived notion of the gospel believes that for God to genuinely love us, he has to love everything about us.

In this self-esteem-driven, everyone-gets-a-prize culture, a God who sometimes disapproves of our thoughts and behavior (*cough* Psalm 19:14) appears to be quite a bigot. In the “Born This Way” version of the Gaga gospel, Matthew 5:29 would read, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, by all means, redefine the word ‘stumble’ because, well, I wouldn’t want you to lose an eye now, would I?”

An honest reading of scripture reveals that ours is not a gospel of affirmation. Leave aside the 613 laws of the Old Testament in which God is rigidly un-affirming as he imposes devastating consequences on his people when they misuse their words, money, bodies, land, and worship. The New Testament and the gospels are also brimming with commands to put off behaviors that displease God and put on an entirely new nature.

Katy likes to tweet a lot of stories where children who have been impacted by divorce or same-sex marriage or donor-conception or surrogacy speak about how they feel about not having a relationship with their father or mother (or both). But she also knows how to argue against adult selfishness using data.

My advice to Christians is this. If you want to have confidence when defending the Christian teaching on marriage, or defending the rights of children to a Mom and a Dad, then you need to be equipped with research, statistical evidence and stories of those who have been impacted. Being a Christian means advocating for the teachings of Jesus. Jesus cared about children, and he wanted adults to act in a way towards children that would help those children to come to know him and follow him. We should not be affirming adult selfishness when it harms the children who are made to know God.

I think one of the reasons why people like Joshua Harris are abandoning the faith is because abandoning the morality came first. And before the abandoning of morality, there was a refusal to get informed about the harm that sin does. Instead of putting in the time to look at the evidence, they just altered their worldviews in order to feel good and be liked. Well, feeling good and being liked has never been important to the Christian life. But valuing truth, defending Christian convictions with evidence, and protecting the weak from the strong is found everywhere in the New Testament.

Has increased education spending in schools improved student performance in test scores?

When I want a raise, I work harder, but these teachers hold up signs
When I want a raise, I work harder, but lazy teachers quit working to hold signs

One of my friends has been having a debate with one of his former teachers about whether spending more money on government-run education improves tests scores. He tried posting some evidence, but she just dismissed that by claiming:

  1. If we hadn’t spent more money, then the student test scores would have gone down instead of staying the same.
  2. Most of the money that government spends on education goes to vouchers and private schools, not public schools
  3. Economists at prestigious think tanks like that Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute cannot be trusted to accurately cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics because of the Koch Brothers
  4. You can’t compare the test scores of American students with the test scores of Asian students who outperform them, (for less government spending), because math is different in Asia compared to America

Let’s look at some data and see if her arguments are correct.

Does more spending mean higher student performance?

National Review reported on data collected in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which spans all 50 states.

Look:

Comparing educational achievement with per-pupil spending among states also calls into question the value of increasing expenditures. While high-spending Massachusetts had the nation’s highest proficiency scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, low-spending Idaho did very well, too. South Dakota ranks 42nd in per-pupil expenditures but eighth in math performance and ninth in reading. The District of Columbia, meanwhile, with the nation’s highest per-pupil expenditures ($15,511 in 2007), scores dead last in achievement.

The student test scores are dead last, but National Review notes that “according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, D.C. was spending an average of $27,460 per pupil in 2014, the most recent year for which data are available.” They are spending the most per-pupil, but their test scores are dead last.

CBS News reported on another recent study confirming this:

Decades of increased taxpayer spending per student in U.S. public schools has not improved student or school outcomes from that education, and a new study finds that throwing money at the system is simply not tied to academic improvements.

The study from the CATO Institute shows that American student performance has remained poor, and has actually declined in mathematics and verbal skills, despite per-student spending tripling nationwide over the same 40-year period.

“The takeaway from this study is that what we’ve done over the past 40 years hasn’t worked,” Andrew Coulson, director of the Center For Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute, told Watchdog.org. “The average performance change nationwide has declined 3 percent in mathematical and verbal skills. Moreover, there’s been no relationship, effectively, between spending and academic outcomes.”

The study, “State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” analyzed how billions of increased taxpayer dollars, combined with the number of school employees nearly doubling since 1970, to produce stagnant or declining academic results.

“The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects despite a near tripling of the inflation-adjusted cost of putting a child through the K-12 system,” writes Coulson.

Where did the numbers come from? The Koch Brothers? No:

Data from the U.S. Department of Education incorporating public school costs, number of employees, student enrollment and SAT scores was analyzed to explore the disparity between increased spending and decreasing or stagnant academic results.

Well, at least government-run monopoly schools outperform private private schools, right? No:

[…][P]rivate schools, where students excel over public school peers, …manage to operate at budgets about 34 percent lower than taxpayer-funded schools, US Finance Post reports.

Public schools spend, on average, $11,000 per student, per year.

Coulson noted an Arizona study he conducted which showed that the average per-pupil spending at private schools was only about 66 percent of the cost of public schools.

A more recent state-specific study from 2016 found that this is still the case.

This problem gets even worse when you look at test scores from other countries, where even less is spent on education.

As the Washington Post reported at the end of 2016:

When it comes to math, U.S. high school students are falling further behind their international counterparts, according to results released Tuesday of an ongoing study that compares academic achievement in 73 countries. And the news is not much better in reading and science literacy, where U.S. high schoolers have not gained any ground and continue to trail students in a slew of developed countries around the globe.

In the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measuring math literacy in 2015, U.S. students ranked 40th in the world. The U.S. average math score of 470 represents the second decline in the past two assessments — down from 482 in 2012 and 488 in 2009. The U.S. score in 2015 was 23 points lower than the average of all of the nations taking part in the survey.

More money is being spent, but the scores are DECREASING.

Now, why is it that increased government spending in the public school monopoly doesn’t improve student performance? Well, one reason is that very little of the money makes it to the classroom.

Where does all the money go?

Let’s look at four places where the money spent on the government-run public school monopoly ends up.

Administration

First, a lot of it gets paid to administrations who implement politically correct programs designed to turn the impressionable young people into little secular socialists.

Here’s a helpful chart from the American Enterprise Institute:

Where does taxpayer money spent on the public school monopoly go?
Where does taxpayer money spent on the public school monopoly go?

I guess if a school wants to make things like Planned Parenthood sex education and LGBT indoctrination into priorities, then they would need more administrators.

Pensions

Second, education employees get enormous pensions, which are paid by taxpayers and negotiated by their unions. You would never see pensions this large in the private sector.

This is from the leftist Brookings Institute, from 2014:

This figure shows we now spend nearly $1,100 per student on retirement benefits. The average public school student teacher ratio is 16 to 1. So we are spending about $17,000 per year per teacher in pension contributions.

[…]The National Council on Teacher Quality writes,

In 2014 teacher pension systems had a total of a half trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities—a debt load that climbed more than $100 billion in just the last two years. Across the states, an average of 70 cents of every dollar contributed to state teacher pension systems goes toward paying off the ever-increasing pension debt, not to future teacher benefits (p. iii).

While we are spending a huge amount to fund teacher pensions, most of that spending doesn’t go to attracting the best teachers. It’s paying off past debts.

We can’t hire good teachers, because all the education spending of today is paying for the gold-plated pensions of yesterday.

That was 2014. The numbers are even worse today. Teachers contribute very, very little to their pensions, but the benefits are enormous compared to what the private sector taxpayers get in Social Security. (Which is going to be bankrupt by 2034, as reported by the far-left PBS)

Teacher training

Third, a lot of it is spent on teacher training, because apparently teaching multiplication, Shakespeare or geography changes every year, so the teachers need tens of thousands of dollars in annual training.

The Washington Post reports on a recent study:

A new study of 10,000 teachers found that professional development — the teacher workshops and training that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year — is largely a waste.

The study released Tuesday by TNTP, a nonprofit organization, found no evidence that any particular approach or amount of professional development consistently helps teachers improve in the classroom.

[…]The school districts that participated in the study spent an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development. Based on that figure, TNTP estimates that the 50 largest school districts spend an estimated $8 billion on teacher development annually. That is far larger than previous estimates.

And teachers spend a good deal of time in training, the study found. The 10,000 teachers surveyed were in training an average of 19 school days a year, or almost 10 percent of a typical school year, according to TNTP.

Maybe if more of the money spent on education were spent directly on hiring teachers, then we would see an improvement. Unfortunately, a lot of the money meant for teachers goes to the teacher unions. How do they spend that money?

Political Contributions

Finally, this is from OpenSecrets.org, concerning political contributions made in the most recent election cycle:

Top Political Contributors in 2016 election cycle
Top Political Contributors in 2016 election cycle

The two largest teacher unions came in at #9 and #11. Most of their donations go to Democrat Party. Democrats believe (against the evidence) that spending more money in the government-run public school monopoly will improve student performance on tests.

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is that we abolish the federal Department of Education, which has done nothing to improve the quality of education for students. We need to push the education of children back down to the state and local levels. We need to empower parents to choose the schools that work best for their children by giving parents vouchers. We need to increase tax-free education savings accounts to help parents with school expenses. We should also give free college tuition to homeschooled students who are admitted to STEM programs at any college or university. We can take the money from the pensions of the union administrators, after we abolish ever single public sector teacher union in the country, and seize all their assets and pensions. If that’s not enough money, then we can seize all the pensions of Department of Education employees – a just punishment for their failure to produce results while still taking taxpayer money.

Finally, we should allow people who already have private sector experience doing things like STEM to become teachers. Let’s face it: the departments that grant Education degrees have the lowest entrance requirements, and produce the least competent adults. People with years of private sector work experience teach better than people with Education degrees. Let’s open up teaching to people who have experience in the private sector doing software engineering, statistics, nursing, etc. and then we’ll have qualified teachers.

Has increased education spending in schools improved student performance in test scores?

When I want a raise, I work harder, but these teachers hold up signs
When I want a raise, I work harder, but lazy teachers quit working to hold signs

One of my friends has been having a debate with one of his former teachers about whether spending more money on government-run education improves tests scores. He tried posting some evidence, but she just dismissed that by claiming:

  1. If we hadn’t spent more money, then the student test scores would have gone down instead of staying the same.
  2. Most of the money that government spends on education goes to vouchers and private schools, not public schools
  3. Economists at prestigious think tanks like that Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute cannot be trusted to accurately cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics because of the Koch Brothers
  4. You can’t compare the test scores of American students with the test scores of Asian students who outperform them, (for less government spending), because math is different in Asia compared to America

Let’s look at some data and see if her arguments are correct.

Does more spending mean higher student performance?

National Review reported on data collected in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which spans all 50 states.

Look:

Comparing educational achievement with per-pupil spending among states also calls into question the value of increasing expenditures. While high-spending Massachusetts had the nation’s highest proficiency scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, low-spending Idaho did very well, too. South Dakota ranks 42nd in per-pupil expenditures but eighth in math performance and ninth in reading. The District of Columbia, meanwhile, with the nation’s highest per-pupil expenditures ($15,511 in 2007), scores dead last in achievement.

The student test scores are dead last, but National Review notes that “according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, D.C. was spending an average of $27,460 per pupil in 2014, the most recent year for which data are available.” They are spending the most per-pupil, but their test scores are dead last.

CBS News reported on another recent study confirming this:

Decades of increased taxpayer spending per student in U.S. public schools has not improved student or school outcomes from that education, and a new study finds that throwing money at the system is simply not tied to academic improvements.

The study from the CATO Institute shows that American student performance has remained poor, and has actually declined in mathematics and verbal skills, despite per-student spending tripling nationwide over the same 40-year period.

“The takeaway from this study is that what we’ve done over the past 40 years hasn’t worked,” Andrew Coulson, director of the Center For Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute, told Watchdog.org. “The average performance change nationwide has declined 3 percent in mathematical and verbal skills. Moreover, there’s been no relationship, effectively, between spending and academic outcomes.”

The study, “State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” analyzed how billions of increased taxpayer dollars, combined with the number of school employees nearly doubling since 1970, to produce stagnant or declining academic results.

“The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects despite a near tripling of the inflation-adjusted cost of putting a child through the K-12 system,” writes Coulson.

Where did the numbers come from? The Koch Brothers? No:

Data from the U.S. Department of Education incorporating public school costs, number of employees, student enrollment and SAT scores was analyzed to explore the disparity between increased spending and decreasing or stagnant academic results.

Well, at least government-run monopoly schools outperform private private schools, right? No:

[…][P]rivate schools, where students excel over public school peers, …manage to operate at budgets about 34 percent lower than taxpayer-funded schools, US Finance Post reports.

Public schools spend, on average, $11,000 per student, per year.

Coulson noted an Arizona study he conducted which showed that the average per-pupil spending at private schools was only about 66 percent of the cost of public schools.

A more recent state-specific study from 2016 found that this is still the case.

This problem gets even worse when you look at test scores from other countries, where even less is spent on education.

As the Washington Post reported at the end of 2016:

When it comes to math, U.S. high school students are falling further behind their international counterparts, according to results released Tuesday of an ongoing study that compares academic achievement in 73 countries. And the news is not much better in reading and science literacy, where U.S. high schoolers have not gained any ground and continue to trail students in a slew of developed countries around the globe.

In the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measuring math literacy in 2015, U.S. students ranked 40th in the world. The U.S. average math score of 470 represents the second decline in the past two assessments — down from 482 in 2012 and 488 in 2009. The U.S. score in 2015 was 23 points lower than the average of all of the nations taking part in the survey.

More money is being spent, but the scores are DECREASING.

Now, why is it that increased government spending in the public school monopoly doesn’t improve student performance? Well, one reason is that very little of the money makes it to the classroom.

Where does all the money go?

Let’s look at four places where the money spent on the government-run public school monopoly ends up.

Administration

First, a lot of it gets paid to administrations who implement politically correct programs designed to turn the impressionable young people into little secular socialists.

Here’s a helpful chart from the American Enterprise Institute:

Where does taxpayer money spent on the public school monopoly go?
Where does taxpayer money spent on the public school monopoly go?

I guess if a school wants to make things like Planned Parenthood sex education and LGBT indoctrination into priorities, then they would need more administrators.

Pensions

Second, education employees get enormous pensions, which are paid by taxpayers and negotiated by their unions. You would never see pensions this large in the private sector.

This is from the leftist Brookings Institute, from 2014:

This figure shows we now spend nearly $1,100 per student on retirement benefits. The average public school student teacher ratio is 16 to 1. So we are spending about $17,000 per year per teacher in pension contributions.

[…]The National Council on Teacher Quality writes,

In 2014 teacher pension systems had a total of a half trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities—a debt load that climbed more than $100 billion in just the last two years. Across the states, an average of 70 cents of every dollar contributed to state teacher pension systems goes toward paying off the ever-increasing pension debt, not to future teacher benefits (p. iii).

While we are spending a huge amount to fund teacher pensions, most of that spending doesn’t go to attracting the best teachers. It’s paying off past debts.

We can’t hire good teachers, because all the education spending of today is paying for the gold-plated pensions of yesterday.

That was 2014. The numbers are even worse today. Teachers contribute very, very little to their pensions, but the benefits are enormous compared to what the private sector taxpayers get in Social Security. (Which is going to be bankrupt by 2034, as reported by the far-left PBS)

Teacher training

Third, a lot of it is spent on teacher training, because apparently teaching multiplication, Shakespeare or geography changes every year, so the teachers need tens of thousands of dollars in annual training.

The Washington Post reports on a recent study:

A new study of 10,000 teachers found that professional development — the teacher workshops and training that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year — is largely a waste.

The study released Tuesday by TNTP, a nonprofit organization, found no evidence that any particular approach or amount of professional development consistently helps teachers improve in the classroom.

[…]The school districts that participated in the study spent an average of $18,000 per teacher annually on professional development. Based on that figure, TNTP estimates that the 50 largest school districts spend an estimated $8 billion on teacher development annually. That is far larger than previous estimates.

And teachers spend a good deal of time in training, the study found. The 10,000 teachers surveyed were in training an average of 19 school days a year, or almost 10 percent of a typical school year, according to TNTP.

Maybe if more of the money spent on education were spent directly on hiring teachers, then we would see an improvement. Unfortunately, a lot of the money meant for teachers goes to the teacher unions. How do they spend that money?

Political Contributions

Finally, this is from OpenSecrets.org, concerning political contributions made in the most recent election cycle:

Top Political Contributors in 2016 election cycle
Top Political Contributors in 2016 election cycle

The two largest teacher unions came in at #9 and #11. Most of their donations go to Democrat Party. Democrats believe (against the evidence) that spending more money in the government-run public school monopoly will improve student performance on tests.

So, what’s the solution?

The solution is that we abolish the federal Department of Education, which has done nothing to improve the quality of education for students. We need to push the education of children back down to the state and local levels. We need to empower parents to choose the schools that work best for their children by giving parents vouchers. We need to increase tax-free education savings accounts to help parents with school expenses. We should also give free college tuition to homeschooled students who are admitted to STEM programs at any college or university. We can take the money from the pensions of the union administrators, after we abolish ever single public sector teacher union in the country, and seize all their assets and pensions. If that’s not enough money, then we can seize all the pensions of Department of Education employees – a just punishment for their failure to produce results while still taking taxpayer money.

Finally, we should allow people who already have private sector experience doing things like STEM to become teachers. Let’s face it: the departments that grant Education degrees have the lowest entrance requirements, and produce the least competent adults. People with years of private sector work experience teach better than people with Education degrees. Let’s open up teaching to people who have experience in the private sector doing software engineering, statistics, nursing, etc. and then we’ll have qualified teachers.

The Economist: some problems with the peer-review process

From The Economist, of all places.

Excerpt:

The idea that the same experiments always get the same results, no matter who performs them, is one of the cornerstones of science’s claim to objective truth. If a systematic campaign of replication does not lead to the same results, then either the original research is flawed (as the replicators claim) or the replications are (as many of the original researchers on priming contend). Either way, something is awry.

It is tempting to see the priming fracas as an isolated case in an area of science—psychology—easily marginalised as soft and wayward. But irreproducibility is much more widespread. A few years ago scientists at Amgen, an American drug company, tried to replicate 53 studies that they considered landmarks in the basic science of cancer, often co-operating closely with the original researchers to ensure that their experimental technique matched the one used first time round. According to a piece they wrote last year in Nature, a leading scientific journal, they were able to reproduce the original results in just six. Months earlier Florian Prinz and his colleagues at Bayer HealthCare, a German pharmaceutical giant, reported in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, a sister journal, that they had successfully reproduced the published results in just a quarter of 67 seminal studies.

Let’s take a look at some of the problems from the article.

Problems with researcher bias:

Other data-heavy disciplines face similar challenges. Models which can be “tuned” in many different ways give researchers more scope to perceive a pattern where none exists. According to some estimates, three-quarters of published scientific papers in the field of machine learning are bunk because of this “overfitting”, says Sandy Pentland, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Problems with journal referees:

Another experiment at the BMJ showed that reviewers did no better when more clearly instructed on the problems they might encounter. They also seem to get worse with experience. Charles McCulloch and Michael Callaham, of the University of California, San Francisco, looked at how 1,500 referees were rated by editors at leading journals over a 14-year period and found that 92% showed a slow but steady drop in their scores.

As well as not spotting things they ought to spot, there is a lot that peer reviewers do not even try to check. They do not typically re-analyse the data presented from scratch, contenting themselves with a sense that the authors’ analysis is properly conceived. And they cannot be expected to spot deliberate falsifications if they are carried out with a modicum of subtlety.

Problems with fraud:

Fraud is very likely second to incompetence in generating erroneous results, though it is hard to tell for certain. Dr Fanelli has looked at 21 different surveys of academics (mostly in the biomedical sciences but also in civil engineering, chemistry and economics) carried out between 1987 and 2008. Only 2% of respondents admitted falsifying or fabricating data, but 28% of respondents claimed to know of colleagues who engaged in questionable research practices.

Problems releasing data:

Reproducing research done by others often requires access to their original methods and data. A study published last month inPeerJ by Melissa Haendel, of the Oregon Health and Science University, and colleagues found that more than half of 238 biomedical papers published in 84 journals failed to identify all the resources (such as chemical reagents) necessary to reproduce the results. On data, Christine Laine, the editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine, told the peer-review congress in Chicago that five years ago about 60% of researchers said they would share their raw data if asked; now just 45% do. Journals’ growing insistence that at least some raw data be made available seems to count for little: a recent review by Dr Ioannidis which showed that only 143 of 351 randomly selected papers published in the world’s 50 leading journals and covered by some data-sharing policy actually complied.

Critics of global warming have had problems getting at data before, as Nature reported here:

Since 2002, McIntyre has repeatedly asked Phil Jones, director of CRU, for access to the HadCRU data. Although the data are made available in a processed gridded format that shows the global temperature trend, the raw station data are currently restricted to academics. While Jones has made data available to some academics, he has refused to supply McIntyre with the data. Between 24 July and 29 July of this year, CRUreceived 58 freedom of information act requests from McIntyre and people affiliated with Climate Audit. In the past month, the UK Met Office, which receives a cleaned-up version of the raw data from CRU, has received ten requests of its own.

Why would scientists hide their data? Well, recall that the Climategate scandal resulted from unauthorized release of the code used to generate the data used to promote global warming alarmism. The leaked code showed that the scientists had been generating faked data using a “fudge factor”.

Elsewhere, leaked e-mailed from global warmists revealed that they do indeed suppress articles that are critical of global warming alarmism:

As noted previously, the Climategate letters and documents show Jones and the Team using the peer review process to prevent publication of adverse papers, while giving softball reviews to friends and associates in situations fraught with conflict of interest. Today I’ll report on the spectacle of Jones reviewing a submission by Mann et al.

Let’s recall some of the reviews of articles daring to criticize CRU or dendro:

I am really sorry but I have to nag about that review – Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting (Briffa to Cook)

If published as is, this paper could really do some damage. It is also an ugly paper to review because it is rather mathematical, with a lot of Box-Jenkins stuff in it. It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically, (Cook to Briffa)

Recently rejected two papers (one for JGR and for GRL) from people saying CRU has it wrong over Siberia. Went to town in both reviews, hopefully successfully. (Jones to Mann)

One last quote from the Economist article. One researcher submitted a completely bogus paper to many journals, and many of them accepted it:

John Bohannon, a biologist at Harvard, recently submitted a pseudonymous paper on the effects of a chemical derived from lichen on cancer cells to 304 journals describing themselves as using peer review. An unusual move; but it was an unusual paper, concocted wholesale and stuffed with clangers in study design, analysis and interpretation of results. Receiving this dog’s dinner from a fictitious researcher at a made up university, 157 of the journals accepted it for publication.

Dr Bohannon’s sting was directed at the lower tier of academic journals. But in a classic 1998 study Fiona Godlee, editor of the prestigious British Medical Journal, sent an article containing eight deliberate mistakes in study design, analysis and interpretation to more than 200 of the BMJ’s regular reviewers. Not one picked out all the mistakes. On average, they reported fewer than two; some did not spot any.

The Economist article did not go into the problem of bias due to worldview presuppositions, though. So let me say something about that.

A while back Casey Luskin posted a list of problems with peer review.

Here was one that stuck out to me:

Point 5: The peer-review system is often biased against non-majority viewpoints.
The peer-review system is largely devoted to maintaining the status quo. As a new scientific theory that challenges much conventional wisdom, intelligent design faces political opposition that has nothing to do with the evidence. In one case, pro-ID biochemist Michael Behe submitted an article for publication in a scientific journal but was told it could not be published because “your unorthodox theory would have to displace something that would be extending the current paradigm.” Denyse O’Leary puts it this way: “The overwhelming flaw in the traditional peer review system is that it listed so heavily toward consensus that it showed little tolerance for genuinely new findings and interpretations.”

Recently, I summarized a podcast on the reviewer bias problem featuring physcist Frank Tipler. His concern in that podcast was that peer-review would suppress new ideas, even if they were correct. He gave examples of this happening. Even a paper by Albert Einstein was rejected by a peer-reviewed journal. Elsewhere, Tipler was explicitly told to remove positive references to intelligent design in order to get his papers published. Tipler’s advice was for people with new ideas to bypass the peer-reviewed journal system entirely.

Speaking about the need to bypass peer-review, you might remember that the Darwinian hierarchy is not afraid to have people sanctioned if they criticize Darwinism in peer-reviewed literature.

Recall the case of Richard Sternberg.

Excerpt:

In 2004, in my capacity as editor of The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, I authorized “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories” by Dr. Stephen Meyer to be published in the journal after passing peer-review. Because Dr. Meyer’s article presented scientific evidence for intelligent design in biology, I faced retaliation, defamation, harassment, and a hostile work environment at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History that was designed to force me out as a Research Associate there. These actions were taken by federal government employees acting in concert with an outside advocacy group, the National Center for Science Education. Efforts were also made to get me fired from my job as a staff scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

So those are some of the issues to consider when thinking about the peer-review process. My view is that peer-reviewed evidence does count for something in a debate situation, but as you can see from the Economist article, it may not count for as much as it used to. I think my view of science in general has been harmed by what I saw from physicist Lawrence Krauss in his third debate with William Lane Craig. If a scientist can misrepresent another scientist and not get fired by his employer, then I think we really need to be careful about the level of honesty in the academy.