Tag Archives: School Choice

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.

Is what Ted Cruz does in the Senate relevant to you?

Ted and Heidi Cruz have a plan to simplify the tax code
Ted and Heidi Cruz have a plan to for tax reform

Sometimes, I talk to rank and file Christians and see what they are interested in. Sometimes, they are interested in parenting, sports, movies and the same sort of stuff that non-Christians are interested in. Sometimes, they are interested in Bible study and theology, and maybe even philosophy of religion. But only rarely are they interested in apologetics and public policy. However, public policy is very important to Christians, because it affects how we work, how much we earn after taxes, and how much freedom we have to spend our money as we see fit. If you have Kingdom of God goals for your life as a Christian that are different from the ordinary minimal life goals of a non-Christian, then public policy is very important to you.

With that said, education has to be one of the most important areas that Christians are concerned about. Not only do we not want our children to be taught lies, but we also want them to be taught marketable skills that will allow them to have an influence as a Christian. If public schools are not doing a good job at both tasks, then we need to get the money we were forced to pay in taxes for them back, so we can make better choices about education.

The Washington Examiner reports on what conservative Texas senator Ted Cruz has done lately that will be interesting to Christians who are thoughtful about how their children are educated.

Excerpt:

Parents would get new federal tax breaks for sending their children to private or religious schools or teaching them at home if the final Republican tax overhaul bill becomes law.

For that, they can thank Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who offered the original amendment to extend 529 college savings plans to grade school and high school, including costs for homeschooling.

Cruz’s amendment was the only one, setting aside manager’s amendments, to be added on either chamber’s floor. It passed as Republicans moved their bill through the Senate in the closing hours of Dec. 1. Cruz got an assist from Vice President Mike Pence, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the amendment after Republicans Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine balked at the measure.

The amendment, which would allow $10,000 per child to be distributed from tax-privileged 529 savings plans each year, was included in Friday’s joint House-Senate conference bill. It would represent a tax cut of about $500 billion over 10 years, according to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation.

With the Cruz amendment’s inclusion, passage of the bill would represent a major advancement for school choice at the federal level.

The House version of the legislation contained a similar measure. It also included a noteworthy provision that would have permitted parents to open 529 accounts for unborn children. That language, which pro-abortion rights supporters had decried as an attempt to restrict abortion through the tax code, didn’t make it into the final bill.

One of the things that disappoints me about Donald Trump is that he does so little to persuade others to adopt conservative positions. Instead of being reasonable and using evidence, he is more likely to take to Twitter to get into a third-grade-level mocking match with people who disagree with him. It is true that he has done some conservative things, like reducing regulations, nominating great judges, and so on. But a great communicator creates consensus by being persuasive. You might not be able to persuade the radical leftists, but you have to be able to persuade at least some of the moderates. Ted Cruz has a much better record of being persuasive on policy issues than Donald Trump. And that’s probably because Ted Cruz has experience debating in college, and made it through Harvard University law school as an open conservative. He was considered brilliant by his progressive law professors, even though they didn’t agree with him.

We’re better off – from a public policy point of view – when we elect people who know how to be persuasive on public policy issues. Clowning around is entertaining, but it doesn’t get the wall built, and it doesn’t get Obamacare repealed. You have to be a better debater to get those kinds of things done.