Tag Archives: School Choice

Why is America so much more prosperous than other nations?

It occurred to me that young people are being taught in government-run schools that central planning of the economy by the federal government works better than allowing states to decide policy for themselves. Naturally, the students – lacking life experience and at the mercy of the unionized teacher’s grading pen – have no choice except to be indoctrinated. But what are the facts?

The genius of America is that the Founding Fathers allowed the federal government to only have power in certain areas of life. Other areas of policy were delegated to the states. This allows states to try different policies to see what works best, or even just what works best for them. Then the other states have the option to emulate that success, or continue doing what doesn’t work. States that do what works will see more success, with more businesses and people migrating to their states. States that persist in doing what doesn’t work will see business and taxpayers flee. That is the genius of America’s design.

Federalism encourages states to operate according to the “principle of subsidiarity”, which is an economic principle that states that problems are best solved at the lowest level possible (individual -> family -> church – > business -> community -> local government -> state government -> federal government). This is because the people at the lowest level have the most KNOWLEDGE about how to solve the problem.

Case study: right-to-work laws

Let’s look at an example – unions and right to work laws. Starting after world war 2, some states decided to pass right to work laws. These laws allowed workers to decide for themselves whether to join a union or not. Since workers had the choice about whether to join the union, the union had to care about the workers and advocate for them, instead of enriching themselves at the expense of the workers via corruption and thuggery.

Here is how different states adopted right to work laws at different times:

Map of states showing adoption of right-to-work laws
Map of states showing adoption of right-to-work laws

What happened in these states? Well job creating businesses started to move from forced-union-membership states to right-to-work states. Why? Because unions were stopping them from innovating. Companies would figure out new ways to improve productivity, such as using machines and computers. But the unions would step in and insist that the old ways were best. The unions wanted their union members to just be able to do the same job, e.g. – pulling a lever over and over, for the entire 35 years of their career. And the unions wanted their members to be paid like a software engineer or a doctor for pulling a lever over and over. The unions also wanted to make sure that underperforming workers could never be fired, or replaced. And so on. Companies realized that they couldn’t compete in a global market like this, so they got up and left for right-to-work states.

Here’s what happened next:

Rates of employment in forced union states vs right to work states
Rates of employment in forced union states vs right to work states

States with right-to-work laws never said that there couldn’t be unions, only that workers wouldn’t have to join a union to work. And in right-to-work states, not only did workers not join unions, they voted not to unionize at all. This resulted in a massive decline in private sector unions in America:

Decline in private sector union membership
Decline in private sector union membership

As a result of job creating businesses not being hampered by union corruption and thuggery, American businesses quickly outpaced their rivals in forced union membership states in productivity, as measured by GDP. They also outpaced the productivity per worker in other economically illiterate countries. Why? Because allowing companies to innovate meant that workers were using more machinery and computers to do their jobs. They learned new skills. Underperforming workers could be replaced with workers who were willing to grow and adapt. Non-union workers higher productivity allowed them to find other jobs if they were laid off.

Right to work states innovate, creating more skilled workers
Right to work states innovate, creating more skilled workers

The job security of the American worker comes from his improved worker productivity – not from the union. Not only did unemployment go down in right to work states (more jobs!) but salaries and benefits also increases, as companies had to compete with each other for workers. However, companies were ok with paying more for workers, because they would rather pay ONLY the workers who deserved it, rather than pay one rate for all union workers, regardless of performance.

This article from the far-left New York Times explains how slaries and benefits rise when job creators move to right-to-work states: Income Rises When Right-to-Work Laws Are Passed because job creators must offer workers a lot in order to get them to sign. Not just salaries and benefits, but realistic development plans to grow the workers skills, making them even more resistant to layoffs and economic downturns.

Quote:

While some persons may favor right-to-work laws largely on philosophical grounds (people should have the freedom to decide whether they want to belong to a union or not), the major reason I support such laws is that they seem to promote prosperity — specifically, higher incomes. Real personal income in the right-to-work states rose nearly twice as much as in other states from 1970 and 2013.

To be sure, most of that reflected higher population growth in right-to-work states — there was massive in-migration to these states from the states denying workers the right to not join a union. Yet even after correcting for population growth, income per person on average rose somewhat more in the right to work jurisdictions. Capital moves to right-to-work states with a more stable labor environment, and that increases labor demand and, ultimately, income and wages.

Although unions mostly died out in the private sector, the ones that remained actually functioned well as unions – focusing on their workers instead of enriching union bosses. They had to, because if they didn’t, then the workers would just opt out of them. The only places where unions still survive is in the public sector, i.e. – government. This is because government is (by law) a monopoly, where consumers have no choice except to accept the garbage that they are offered. They can’t go anywhere else for a lower price, or a better product, or a better service. Public sector unions are immune to innovation, because they lobby the government to prevent any improvement or accountability.

Here is an example of a public sector union’s effort to “help the customer”:

Political contributions by the American Federation of Teachers union
Political contributions by the American Federation of Teachers union

And here’s what those efforts to “help the customer” produced for the customer:

Education spending has tripled since 1970
Education spending has tripled since 1970

They aren’t really helping the customer, are they? What they do is collect dues, enrich their union leaders, intimidate their opponents with threats and force, and then give money to secular left politicians to prevent their customers from opting out of a system that doesn’t produce higher quality and lower prices for the customer. The secular left politicians pass laws that prevent the customers (parents) from being able to get a better product (education for their children) for a lower price. We should abolish public sector unions in order to get the benefits for the customer that we see in the private sector.

Will paying teachers more money improve student performance?

Public school teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arizona are striking this spring, affecting hundreds of thousands of students. The teachers say that spending more money on education will help children learn more. There’s an excellent article by Joy Pullmann in The Federalist that looks at whether increasing spending raises student performance. (H/T Vanessa)

Oklahoma teachers want a $10,000 raise, and Arizona teachers want a 20% increase in base pay. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get anything near that for my annual raise.

Educational bureacracy

Will raising taxes on taxpayers in order to spend more on education improve student performance? Joy says we can look at the past in order to understand whether spending more money gets results.

She writes:

Research has also long and conclusively shown that school spending hikes usually don’t go to teachers, they go to administrators and other bloat outside classrooms. So the kids are just unions’ human shields on their way to raid the kids’ public bank accounts — again.

[…]As the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey has shown, U.S. public K-12 spending has skyrocketed over the past 50 years with no improvement in academic outcomes. Other researchers repeatedly find increasing spending doesn’t help students. That’s because, as noted above, schools typically don’t send more money to classrooms, they use it to increase bureaucracy and nonacademic programming.

Got that? When taxpayers throw money at public schools, the teachers don’t see very much of that money. It gets put into education administrators and indoctrinators – people whose sole job is to make sure that the children accept secular left values.

Check out this graph of education spending compared to test scores:

Federal spending has increased astronomically, but test scores are flat
Federal spending has increased astronomically, but test scores are flat

Spending more doesn’t produce the results that parents are looking for, for their children. Parents want children to learn what they need to find work and become financially independent. But teachers, adminsitrators, etc. have a very different goal: making little secular leftists. And that’s what they use increased funding for that. Numbers don’t lie.

Another way that public schools waste money is by promising massive gold-plated public sector pensions to teachers – pensions that no private sector  taxpayer would ever get themselves. And they use any increase in their budgets to pay the pensions of teachers who are retired, and not helping students to learn.

Teacher pensions

I saw a really nice map of the United States over at Daily Signal, with all the outstanding pensions liabilities, and the amount ranges from about $7600 in Tennessee (the best state in the union) to tens of thousands in the big blue socialist states.

Unfunded pension liabilities for public sector workers
Unfunded pension liabilities for public sector workers

Joy explains:

States promised such outsized retirement benefits to the last generation of public-school teachers that they’re paying off this promise with current revenues. A national average of $6,800 per year per teacher pays former teachers’ pensions that state and local governments failed to save up for while those teachers were working. That’s money that could have instead boosted current teachers’ salaries. The problem is only going to get worse as more baby boomers retire and legislatures continue to hide their heads in the sand.

It’s not just that states and districts failed to save up for pensions they knew would come due, it’s that they offered literally the cushiest pensions available to teachers, notes a 2016 study: “as a group, [teachers] have by far the highest retirement costs, even compared with other public-sector employees. While the average civilian employee receives $1.78 for retirement benefits per hour of work, public school teachers receive $6.22 per hour in retirement compensation.”

Like I said, I don’t have a pension funded by taxpayers. I’m having to saving for my own retirement, as well of the retirement of these wealthy government workers. Public sector benefits are paid by taxpayers in the private (free market) sector. We are the ones wh have to make products and services that consumers are actually willing to pay for in a free market. Unlike teachers, I can’t go on strike if I feel I’m not paid enough. If I go on strike, I’ll be fired. But they go on strike, holding children hostage to get more money. With no guarantee of improved student performance.

Joy also notes that teachers are actually vastly overpaid already, based on what their marketable skills:

[…][R]esearch finds teachers are overpaid by an average of 50 percent relative to their skills and mental abilities. The overage comes almost exclusively from their fat benefit packages.

The reason they complain about pay is because the majority of their pay is going into extravagant health care, paid time off, pension, paid training, etc. benefits. When you add back all those benefits, they’re being overpaid compared to an equivalent private sector worker.

Regulations

Another factor that lowers student performance is that the fact that teachers are highly regulated. Instead of spending their time teaching students, they are forced to waste time doing other non-teaching tasks.

Joy explains:

Education regulations are almost always decided by non-teachers, and the effects are about what you would guess from that fact. Rather than benefiting students, these regulations typically require or justify ever-expanding employment for the very bureaucrat types who come up with them. I’m talking about things like teacher licensing mandates, which researchers have long found do not improve teacher quality and traffic in disproven education fads (but do provide easy-access cash cows for state departments of education and teacher colleges since teachers are required to keep buying their products to maintain certification); ever-increasing testing and data-entry mandates; centralized curriculum mandates like Common Core; centralized teacher evaluation and ratings systems; and the massive data entry required to document things like student behavior problems and special education services.

More money being wasted that doesn’t help students to learn more at all.

So what’s the solution?

The solution is to allow parents to choose who provides their children with an education, instead of having the money automatically taxed and spent by a massive secular left education bureaucracy. If teachers have their money in their hands, they will spend it where they can get the best quality for the best price – just like they do in every other area of their lives. That might be scary for teachers, administrators and indoctrinators, but in a free market, the parents should not be obligated to pay for something they don’t want. We should be concerned about the children first and foremost.

Republicans introduce new federal legislation to expand school choice

If I were giving advice to the Republican party about how to win in 2020, I would advise them to focus on three priorities. Lowering unemployment, reforming the criminal justice system, and expanding school choice. They should also paint the Democrats as the party of infanticide, Green New Deal and elimination of private health insurance.

So far, Trump has done an excellent job of encouraging private sector job creators to create millions of new jobs. Unemployment is at a record low, and that’s important for persuading Black and Hispanic voters to vote for smart policies instead of tribal identity and envy. I don’t agree with with reforming criminal justice to favor criminals, but that will help with minority voters as well. But what we really need to do is provide Black and Hispanic voters with a way to get their children out of failing public schools. Public schools are filled with lazy, unionized Democrat teachers and administrators who care more about indoctrinating kids with Democrat propaganda than teaching them job skills that will make them independent, self-sufficient adults.

The Republican party knows that school choice is a win for them, and they are doing something about it.

Here’s the latest from the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that promotes fiscally conservative policies:

Today, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), to announce new federal legislation that would establish a federal tax-credit expanding school choice. The proposal would give dollar-for-dollar tax credits to individuals and corporations who donate to state designated scholarship granting organizations (SGOs). While its particulars bear scrutiny, the “Education Freedom Scholarship” (EFS) proposal’s overall design is a solid attempt to walk a tightrope of backing state efforts at school choice while protecting against federal meddling now and in the future. Unfortunately, a number of critics on the right are too quick to react on their fears, and too slow in remembering what is holding back school choice.

Some conservatives and libertarians worry that solving the problem of underforming schools from the top down is a political overreach, but the AEI policy analyst writing the article says that the Republican bill doesn’t have that problem:

As I wrote back in 2017, backing state developed tax-credit scholarships is the best, and probably only, way the federal government could support state efforts without overreaching.  It would not be a federal program, but a tax credit that supports programs where states are explicitly responsible for policy particulars.

[…]No doubt, the bill would need to be explicitly structured to ensure the states’ primary role, and durably prevent federal overreach; fortunately defending states’ role is a paramount feature of the bill’s design.

School choice is a nice issue for Republicans, because it allows them to point out the hypocritical nature of Democrat politicians. Democrat politicians are essentially hypocritical. They want to ban guns for you, but they have armed security to protect themselves. It’s the same thing for education. They want to ban private schools for your children, but their own children all attend private schools.

Top Political Contributors in 2016 election cycle
The top Political Contributors in 2016 election cycle includes two teacher unions

Democrats are obligated by teacher unions, (e.g. – the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers), to vote against parents who want their children to get a better education. That’s because teacher unions are some of the biggest Democrat donors. Teacher unions just want more salary and bigger benefits, despite the evidence that clearly shows that more education spending doesn’t produce better student achievement.

Education spending has tripled since 1970
Education spending has tripled since 1970

Here’s a study from 2012 published in the journal “Education and Urban Society“. It says:

The possibility is examined that school choice programs could be a means to reducing the achievement gap. Data based on meta-analytic research and the examination of nationwide data sets suggest that school choice programs that include private schools could reduce the achievement gap by 25%. The propounding of this possibility is based on research indicating that the achievement gap in faith-based schools is generally 25% narrower than one finds in public schools. Results of these studies suggest that both the racial achievement gap and the socioeconomic achievement gap are reduced by the same degree (25%). The significance of these results is discussed, especially as it pertains to the attitudes that people frequently have toward school choice.

Not only do children do better in non-public schools, but the competition forces public schools to focus less on leftist indoctrination, and more on reading, writing and math.

This study from the on-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) explains why.

It says:

A school that is more productive is one that produces higher achievement in its pupils for each dollar it spends. In this paper, I comprehensively review how school choice might affect productivity. I begin by describing the importance of school productivity, then explain the economic logic that suggests that choice will affect productivity, and finish by presenting much of the available evidence on school choice and school productivity. The most intriguing evidence comes from three important, recent choice reforms: vouchers in Milwaukee, charter schools in Michigan, and charter schools in Arizona. I show that public school students’ achievement rose significantly and rapidly in response to competition, under each of the three reforms. Public school spending was unaffected, so the productivity of public schools rose, dramatically in the case in Milwaukee.

School choice makes public schools perform better because competition between providers always lowers the cost and increases the quality of services and products being provided to the consumers. Consumers always suffer when there is a monopoly. This is why people are more satisfied purchasing goods from Amazon and Netflix than they are lining up at the post office or the department of motor vehicles. The free market serves the consumer.

I was raised in a poor background, and I am a visible minority. If Republicans want to get the votes of people in my community, it makes sense to put in place policies that allow people like me to get a good education so we can get good jobs and do better than our parents did. Republicans should be all about equipping people to be independent and self-sufficient. These are conservative goals.

Education Secretary Betsy Devos scores a victory against public sector union

Secretary of Education Betsy Devos
Secretary of Education Betsy Devos

Although you would never know it from the mainstream news media, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos is doing her best to advance a taxpayer-friendly agenda in education policy.

Here’s the latest from the American Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank:

In a noteworthy development, DeVos’s team this month radically revamped the collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) that governs the 3,900 employees at the U.S. Department of Education. The new CBA, between the Department and Council 252 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), includes big changes from the 2013 agreement negotiated under the Obama administration.

The new agreement doesn’t address compensation or benefits, of course, since those are governed by federal law, but it does include a raft of sensible, taxpayer-friendly changes.

The new CBA eliminates the set-aside of “official time” for union business. Under the old agreement, designated union representatives were free to work on union business during normal, government hours — all on the taxpayers’ dime. The old CBA stipulated that “no fewer than 75” (!) union stewards across the country could work up to 40 hours a year on “official time,” while another three union officers would devote 100 percent of their time to union business. Henceforth, union business will be done on union time, rather than on the taxpayers’.

Under the old agreement, department employees were given only a solitary 48-hour window each year in which they could opt out of union membership; miss that, and they were automatically enrolled. Henceforth, employees who wish to be in the union each year will be free to do so, and they will have an extended period in which to enroll — but they will have to actively choose to join.

The revamped accord also removes the requirements for “pre-decisional consultation.” Under the previous CBA, the department was required to consult the union before every agency-wide decision that could be construed as affecting the work of employees (such as transferring employees from one office to another, or even shifting employees from one project to another within the same office). Now, the department needs only notify the union of such decisions.

Under the new CBA, the union will be charged “fair-market rent” for the use of government office space and federally furnished equipment to conduct union business. Under the Obama-era accord, taxpayers were required to provide space and equipment to the union free of charge.

More generally, the new agreement removes a number of provisions that added burdensome procedural directives above and beyond statutory requirements when it came to things such as telework and grievance procedures.

If there is one thing I expected from Betsy Devos, it’s taxpayer-friendly education policy.

Unfortunately, the Republican party didn’t help her very much in that massive $1.3 Billion spending bill that they passed, with Democrat support. Betsy wants to cut federal spending on education, and return control of education policy to the states and municipalities. But the GOP just gave the Department of Education a bigger budget. We really need to switch out some of these big government Republicans for authentic conservatives.

Five liberal Democrat policies that hurt minorities

Marriage and Poverty
Marriage and Poverty

The five policies are:

  • higher minimum wage rates
  • opposition to school voucher programs
  • releasing criminals from jail
  • affirmative action
  • single mother welfare

This article is by Jason L. Riley, and it appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

At the urging of labor unions, President Obama has pushed for higher minimum wages that price a disproportionate percentage of blacks out of the labor force. At the urging of teachers unions, he has fought voucher programs that give ghetto children access to better schools.

Both policies have a lengthy track record of keeping millions of blacks ill-educated and unemployed. Since the 1970s, when the federal government began tracking the racial achievement gap, black test scores in math, reading and science have on average trailed far behind those of their white classmates. And minimum-wage mandates have been so effective for so long at keeping blacks out of work that 1930, the last year in which there was no federal minimum-wage law, was also the last year that the black unemployment rate was lower than the white rate. For the past half-century, black joblessness on average has been double that of whites.

Last week the Justice Department said it would release some 6,000 inmates from federal prison starting later this month. The goal, according to the White House, is to ease overcrowding and roll back tough sentencing rules implemented in the 1980s and ’90s.

But why are the administration’s sympathies with the lawbreakers instead of their usual victims—the mostly law-abiding residents in low-income communities where many of these inmates eventually are headed? In dozens of large U.S. cities, violent crime, including murder, has climbed over the past year, and it is hard to see how these changes are in the interest of public safety.

The administration assures skeptics that only “nonviolent” drug offenders will be released, but who pays the price if we guess wrong, as officials have so often done in the past?

When Los Angeles asked the Rand Corp. in the 1990s to identify inmates suitable for early release, the researchers concluded that “almost no one housed in the Los Angeles jails could be considered non-serious or simply troublesome to their local communities” and that “jail capacity should be expanded so as to allow lengthier incarceration of the more dangerous.”

A 2002 federal report tracked the recidivism rate of some 91,000 supposedly nonviolent offenders in 15 states over a three-year period. More than 21% wound up rearrested for violent crimes, including more than 700 murders and more than 600 rapes. The report also noted the difficulty of identifying low-risk inmates. Auto thieves were rearrested for committing more than a third of the homicides and a disproportionate share of other violent offenses.

Keep in mind that when criminals are release, they don’t go move into wealthy progressive neighborhoods. It’s not the wealthy leftists elites who have to deal with the released inmates. It’s the poor, low-income minority neighborhoods that have to deal with them.

By the way, I covered the minimum wage argument here, and I covered the school choice argument here.

That covers the first 3 policies. This article from The College Fix covers the fourth policy, affirmative action.

It says:

A UCLA law professor critiques affirmative action as detrimental to the very people it strives to aid: minority students.

Professor Richard Sander, though liberal-leaning, has deemed affirmative action practices as harmful, a notion that contradicts a liberal view in college admissions, said Stuart Taylor, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

[…]Sander began teaching law at UCLA in 1989. After a few years he garnered an interest in academic support and asked permission to analyze which strategies most effectively assist struggling students.

After reviewing statistics on performance, especially those of students with lower academic merit, he noticed correlations between race and academic success.

“I was struck by both the degree to which it correlated with having weak academic entering credentials and its correlation with race,” Sander said in a recent interview with The College Fix. “And as I looked into our admissions process I realized that we were giving really a large admissions preference.”

Sander noticed that students admitted into the law school with lower academic credentials than their peers had significantly lower percentages of passing the Multistate Bar Examination, Sander said. This especially pertained to minority students who were given special consideration in the admittance process due to their race rather than their academic preparedness.

He then began thinking about whether or not these students would have better chances of succeeding if they went to a less elite university, he said.

He called this discrepancy a mismatch; when minority students with lower credentials than their peers are accepted into more challenging universities and then suffer academically as a result.

And the fifth policy is welfare. Welfare encourages women to not marry the men that they have sex with, since they will lose their single mother benefits if they do. Children who are raised fatherless are more likely to struggle in a number of areas, and they are especially likely to be poor. What we should be doing (if we really want to help the poor) is paying people to get married and stay married. But Democrats are opposed to that. The connection between welfare, fatherlessness, poverty and crime is explained in a previous post.