Tag Archives: Monopolies

International tests show US children lagging despite record spending on education

Jay Richards tweeted this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Since 1998, the Program for International Student Assessment, or Pisa, has ranked 15-year-old kids around the world on common reading, math and science tests. The U.S. brings up the middle—again—among 65 education systems that make up fourth-fifths of the global economy. The triennial Pisa report also shows—again—that East Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea produce the best outcomes.

U.S. performance hasn’t budged in a decade. For 2012, U.S. students placed 26th in mathematics, a bit below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average, and 17th in reading and 21st in science, close to the average. The U.S. slipped in all categories compared to international competitors, plunging from 11th in reading as recently as 2009.

American teenagers seem especially weak in core academic subjects with high cognitive demands, such as translating concepts into solutions for real-world problems. A quarter never become proficient in math. In Shanghai and Korea, the comparable figure is 10% or fewer. Some 7% of U.S. students reached the top two scientific performance levels, compared with 17% in Finland and an amazing 27% in Shanghai. Is it tiger moms or tiger schools, or maybe both?

The U.S. is way out front in one measure: per-student spending. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more. Despite laying out $115,000 per head, the U.S. did no better than the Slovak Republic, which spends $53,000.

Perhaps most depressingly, the data show no statistically significant U.S. achievement improvement over time. None. In an era when it pays to be thankful for small mercies, at least we’re not getting worse, but America’s relative standing is falling as other countries improve.

[…]Massachusetts has been running public schools since 1635 and today is home to some of the best performers in the nation. The state entered Pisa as if it was its own country—but students of the same age in Shanghai performed as if they had two more years of math instruction than those in the Bay State.

[…]Pisa also adds another count to the bill of indictment for the Democrats who block reform to serve their teachers union patrons. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the report “a picture of educational stagnation,” but liberals are major impediments to more accountability, merit-based compensation and school-choice competition. The Justice Department has even gone so far as to sue Louisiana to block its modest voucher program, which is a moral crime against the students consigned to failing schools.

There are a few areas of economics that I think that Christians really ought to understand, and education is one of them. We definitely need to be concerned about policies that make it harder for poor, minority students to get ahead. We keep throwing money at the unionized public school system, and we get no results. We need to think about making education more like online shopping. What makes online shopping great is choice and competition. If schools were allowed to compete with one another, then the customer would be assured of getting more quality for less money. The public school system is a monopoly, and it serves the teachers and the education bureaucrats – not the children.

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Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal unveils education reform plan

Here are the details on Bobby Jindal’s new education plan, from New Orleans Online Access.

Excerpt:

 Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday outlined a far-reaching set of proposals aimed at improving education in Louisiana, including a state-wide voucher program for low-income students, an expansion of autonomous charter schools and steps to link a teachers’ classroom performance to their job protections and their compensation. The governor has been promising for months now to make education reform the centerpiece of his second-term agenda.

[…]The voucher program may prove the most controversial aspect of the plan. Jindal is proposing to help pay tuition at private and parochial schools for any child of a low-income family who attends a school that receives a letter grade of C, D or F.

More than 70 percent of Louisiana’s public schools would fall into that category, opening up districts across the state to competition for public funding from private institutions. Parents who opt out of those public schools would be able to take the public funding set aside for their child with them to pay for tuition.

Voucher opponents argue that offering private school tuition siphons money away from public education, but the governor is framing the idea as a way to put decision-making in the hands of parents.

Also toward that end, Jindal is proposing to fast-track the approval of new charter schools for proven charter operators. Charters are publicly funded but privately managed and typically overseen by nonprofit boards. They compete with traditional public schools in their area for students.

Jindal is also proposing to end regular annual pay increases for teachers based on years in the classroom, ban the use of seniority in all personnel decisions and weaken the power that local school boards have in hiring and firing decisions in favor of superintendents.

Teachers coming into the classroom for the first time would also see major changes under Jindal’s plan: districts would have greater flexibility to establish their own pay scales for new teachers and tenure would be set aside only for those who earn high ratings on evaluations five years in a row.

I thought it might be helpful to also post this quick introduction to the issue of school choice, from the Cato Institute.

I don’t agree with the Cato Institute on everything, but they’re right on this issue. The Heritage Foundation also has 3 small videos explaining school choice – with cartoons!

There’s an even longer video narrated by John Stossel that you can watch, that really explains the why school reform matters – and why it’s a conservative issue. Like the sex-selection abortion issue that I blogged about here before, this is an issue that conservatives need to seize on. Here, we can really let our compassionate side show by helping the poorest students, especially those in visible minorities, who simply cannot get a quality education in a public school monopoly that is not responsive to the needs of parents, or their children. This is an issue where we can win – the only losers are the educational bureaucrats and the teacher unions. But the kids are more important.

Supreme Court narrowly sides with private schools against government

From the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

The Supreme Court’s big school choice decision yesterday is notable mainly for its insight into the progressive mind. To wit, no fewer than four Justices seem to believe that all wealth belongs to the government, and then government allows citizens to keep some of it by declining to tax it.

At issue in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn was a state tax credit for donations to organizations that offer scholarships for private schools, including (but not exclusively) religious schools. A group of taxpayers sued, claiming that religion was being subsidized on their dime, in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

The district court tossed out this novel church-state theory, only to have it revived by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Yesterday’s 5-4 decision was another well-deserved rebuke to the nation’s leading judicial activists who dominate that appellate court.

[…]And what do you know, four Justices assume precisely that. Both of President Obama’s nominees joined the four dissenters, and newcomer Elena Kagan delivered a fiery 24-page apologia for that position, claiming that “the distinction” between appropriations and tax credits “is one in search of a difference.” There’s a good debate to be had about tax credits (see below), but one question for Justice Kagan: Is the government also establishing religion by not imposing a 100% tax rate on churches, mosques and synagogues?With one more vote, the current Court’s liberal minority would surely ban school choice involving any religious schools. The Arizona decision shows again that the Court is only a single vote away from many decisions not all that far removed from those of the Ninth Circuit.

You can also listen to a 5-minute podcast on the decision from the Hugh Hewitt show right here.

Note that Obama’s two new appointees sided against Christian schools and private schools. Yet some brain-damaged Christians actually vote for Democrats, and claim to be Christians. (And they claim to want to get married and to raise children who will presumably be Christians, too!). School choice is as central an issue to informed Christians as is opposition to no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage and abortion.

Must-see videos on education policy

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Republicans in Florida, Indiana and Pennsylvania push school choice

First, education reform in Florida.

Excerpt:

Michelle Rhee, who gained national attention as the chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., called Monday for giving students government-funded vouchers to attend private schools, rating principals based on student achievement and getting rid of teacher tenure.

The release of the blueprint was the first formal action of Ms. Rhee’s new advocacy group, StudentsFirst, which she launched in December, after leaving her job heading D.C. schools in October. Ms. Rhee said she was in discussions with the governors of Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada and Indiana to adopt part, if not all, of the agenda.

[…]The nation’s two largest teachers’ unions criticized Ms. Rhee’s agenda.[…]The detailed plan Ms. Rhee released Monday focuses on overhauling teacher pay and evaluation plans, giving parents more say in their child’s education and spending tax dollars more wisely.

In addition to doing away with tenure, it calls for ending the practice of paying teachers based on years of service and on the master’s degrees they collect. Ms. Rhee said pay should be based on whether teachers boost student achievement.

She also is calling for districts to get parental consent before placing children in the classrooms of low-performing teachers. Ms. Rhee said firing ineffective teachers can be time-consuming and expensive.

“Too many districts hide the fact that they have ineffective teachers and we are saying, ‘If you can’t change the laws, then you have to give parents the information,’ ” she said.

The blueprint also prods states and districts to adopt “parent trigger” laws that let parents force a major overhaul of a school if more than half of them sign a petition. They could vote to turn the school into a charter school or force the district to get rid of most of the teaching staff.A similar policy was used in Compton, Calif., last year.

Ms. Rhee’s document also calls for an end to what she calls ineffective policies that waste taxpayer money, such as class size reduction policies in the higher grade levels. Her plan, she said, wouldn’t increase spending but would ensure taxpayer money was spent more wisely.

StudentsFirst’s initial foray into policy could be in Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who was elected to office in November, appointed Ms. Rhee to his transition team. In a news release, Mr. Scott praised Ms. Rhee’s agenda and said he supported her call to eliminate tenure and expand the number of charter schools, public schools run by independent groups.

And education reform from Indiana. (H/T Heritage Foundation)

Excerpt:

Gov. Mitch Daniels urged the state legislature to finally act on significant reforms to public education and local government in his annual State of the State speech Tuesday, repeating a call for the expansion of charter schools, merit pay for teachers and the elimination of township government.

[…]Now empowered by a Republican majority in both legislative chambers, Daniels said “it’s going to be a session to remember.” He was escorted to the podium by several lawmakers of both parties, including Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary.

He said Indiana should let students finish their high school studies a year early and be given scholarships for college studies. Teachers should be rewarded based on student performance, he said, adding that one in three Hoosier children can pass the national math or reading exam.

Meanwhile, he said 99 percent of Indiana teachers are rated “effective.”

“If that were true 99 percent, not one-third, of our students would be passing those national tests,” Daniels said.

Families who can’t find the right public or charter public school, he said, should be able to apply state dollars toward “the non-government school of their choice.”

And finally, education reform in Pennsylvania. (H/T Heritage Foundation)

Excerpt:

Political momentum is building for taxpayer-funded school tuition vouchers, as hundreds of people clogged the Capitol rotunda Tuesday to support the idea of “school choice.”

[…]During the recent campaign, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley told the boisterous crowd, Gov. Tom Corbett “repeatedly said that things would change in education. Today we start that process of putting children first. State government should be open to and promote charter schools, home schools, private schools and cyber schools” as well as traditional public schools, he said.”I’m more excited and encouraged about the possibility of educational change than I’ve ever been,” said Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin, who has been advocating state-funded tuition vouchers for 15 years.

[…]His bill, Senate Bill 1, would create a three-phase program for making state-funded vouchers available to low-income students who now have no choice but to go to public schools that consistently score poorly on state proficiency tests.

[…]The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on the bill in mid-February, and it could get a Senate vote in March. Since Republicans control both the Senate and House, and since Gov. Tom Corbett supports the school choice idea, the bill is likely to be enacted. But opponents could file a court challenge.

Last week was “School Choice Week“, and there were a lot of events promoting school choice. Republicans noticed these events and participated in them. And now Republicans are making a push to sign bills that help poor students to get better educations. Democrats are opposed to school choice because they are supported by teacher unions who want guaranteed jobs for teachers regardless of performance.

I like that the Republicans are making pushes to cut spending, ban taxpayer funding of abortions, and introduce school choice. These are all issues that I strongly agree with, because they are all pro-child. Children shouldn’t have to pay for the debts their parents run up, children shouldn’t be killed in the womb, and children shouldn’t get a crappy education just so that badly performing schools can stay open. These policies make sense to me. Next, they should introduce a federal law for charter marriages, and introduce a federal voucher program for pre-marital counseling.

Must-see videos on education policy

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What issue could propel the Republicans to victory in 2012?

The issue is school choice. Are the Republicans aware of this issue?

You bet they are.

Excerpt:

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, as it is known, was launched in 2004 as the first federally funded program providing K-12 education grants. Though supporters say it gives poor students an alternative to the city’s underperforming public school system, teachers unions and other opponents say it draws sorely needed money away from the public system.

Lawmakers opposed to the program succeeded in eliminating it after Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — who could not be reached for comment Tuesday — attached an amendment to a 2009 spending bill. President Obama stepped in and agreed to allow students currently enrolled to graduate. But the program is no longer accepting new applicants.

Lindsey Burke, a Heritage Foundation analyst also on Boehner’s guest list, said she hopes the proposed legislation finds an audience on the Hill.

“We know that demand is very high for the program,” she said. She said there were four applicants for every available scholarship when the program was accepting students and that graduation rates were far better than in the public system.

Under the program, low-income parents in the District of Columbia were eligible for grants worth up to $7,500 annually to send their kids to private school. According to statistics provided by the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, the average household participating in the program earned just over $25,000 a year. There are still more than 1,000 students enrolled in the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Washington, D.C., has one of the most troubled public school systems in the country; its students consistently lag behind national averages on standardized testing. According to the scholarship program data, 93 percent of enrolled students would have otherwise attended an underperforming school in the District.

How much does it cost to provide a POOR education to one of these children?

Excerpt:

The most common per-pupil figure used for D.C. Public Schools is an estimated $13,000. That figure is used by all of Washington’s major daily newspapers – The Washington Times, The Washington Post and the Washington Examiner. Local radio and TV stations quote that number as well. But the actual dollar amount is $24,600 – which is “roughly $10,000 more than the average for area private schools,” as Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute pointed out in his April 4 blog, “The Real Cost of Public Schools.”

Mr. Coulson did not use “new math” to come up with $24,600. He used simple arithmetic. Total funding for D.C. Public Schools this fiscal year (including federal dollars) was $1.216 billion. He divided that by the official enrollment figure of 49,422 and the sum became $24,606.

Also, Mr. Coulson averaged the published tuition costs for private schools in the region and came up with four figures: average tuition paid ($11,627); median tuition paid ($10,043); estimated average per-pupil spending ($14,534); and estimated median per-pupil spending ($12,534). Using simple math, we learned that average per-pupil spending at D.C. area private schools is $10,000 less than at D.C. Public Schools.

And more from the Washington Examiner.

Excerpt:

In a presentation at the Heritage Foundation, Dr. Patrick Wolf, a University of Arkansas researcher who has studied school choice programs, including OPS, for the Department of Education, said that the data shows that public charter schools and voucher programs educate a higher percentage of disadvantaged and minority children on average than traditional public schools.

About 90 percent of OPS recipients are African American and 9 percent are Hispanic, Wolf says, with 17 percent diagnosed with disabilities. Their families’ average income of $17,356 is well below the federal poverty line. But they still managed to do slightly better than their peers in the District’s public schools.

You can get better performance for much less money, even with more disadvantaged children – it just takes vouchers.

The money for the vouchers would naturally come from closing down the schools that cannot satisfy parents, who will use the voucher to go elsewhere to buy their children’s education. Instead of a monopoly where customers are forced to pay for a product they don’t want just because of where they live (because they are POOR and cannot afford to live elsewhere), parents will have a choice of where to send their children, and schools will have to compete to please parents by providing a good product to buy – a quality education. It will turn the public school system from a monopoly into a free market, where the customer (parents) will be king, and the children will benefit. Only underperforming teachers and their allies in the Democrat party stand to lose.

If Republicans take steps to enact robust school choice using voucher programs NOW, then propose a national voucher program in the 2012 election, then they will win the 2012. This is the winning issue. We need to put the children first and put the underperforming adults last.

Must-see videos on education policy

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