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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

I’ve often explained that “third-party payer” is a major problem in our healthcare sector.

This occurs when consumers can buy healthcare with other people’s money. For instance, nearly half of all healthcare spending in America is directly financed by government. And a big chunk of supposedly private healthcare spending is actually the result of government policies that encourage and subsidize over-insurance (in which case, people may be buying healthcare with their own money, at least indirectly, but in a system akin to a pre-paid all-you-can-eat buffet).

Anyhow, one of the big downsides of this system is that third-party payer undermines market discipline and leads to higher prices and massive inefficiency in the health sector.

This then leads to a perverse outcome as politicians point to the higher prices and inefficiency and say this is evidence of market failure!! In a stereotypical example of “Mitchell’s Law,” they then propose more government to ostensibly deal with problems created by government (and people wonder why I have lots of gray hair).

We have the same problem in higher education, except it may be even worse if you look at these charts. Simply stated, government loans and grants have enabled colleges, schools, and universities to dramatically boost tuition and engage in massive bureaucratic featherbedding.

Interestingly, the Obama Administration has a proposal that sort of addresses this issue. The Department of Education is proposing “gainful employment” regulations that would, among other provisions, limit loans and financial aid on the basis of whether a school produces students with high student-loan debt relative to post-graduate earnings.

This sounds like it might be a good idea. After all, it would presumably lead to less government spending.

But there’s a catch. A giant catch, as explained by Brian Garst of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

…if it is truly needed to protect students, why are public and private non-profit universities excluded? For-profit schools only serve about 20% of all higher education students, and yet are the exclusive target of the regulation.

Yes, you read correctly. The Obama Administration is not trying to save money or impose accountability. Instead, it is seeking to undermine competition.

You may think I’m making this up, but a former senior bureaucrat at the Department of Education bragged, in a speech to a left-wing group, that the goal is to stamp out for-profit schools.

Here’s another excerpt from the folks at the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

Former deputy undersecretary of education Robert Shireman, who initiated the Gainful Employment regulations, is currently under investigation for ethics violations and conflicts of interest relating to these effort. He has made clear through public comments that he sees eradicating private-sector colleges as his ultimate goal. In a recent speech delivered at the Center for American Progress, he said he does not believe that a business should own a college.

This fight illustrates why government intervention is so corrupting.

I don’t like any federal subsidies to education, whether for K-12 or for higher education. I don’t care whether the subsidies are for government schools, non-profit private schools, or for-profit private schools.

So I would like to cut off loans, grants, and other funds to for-profit schools, but that should happen at the same time that handouts also are being eliminated for other types of schools (Tim Carney has a very good explanation of why there are no good guys in this fight).

Let me close with an analogy.

I don’t want federal money in the healthcare system. So that means I don’t want payments of taxpayer money to private hospitals and private physicians.

But I would be even more agitated if the Obama White House said that it would “save money” by cutting off health funds, but only monies going to the private providers. The net result is that we all would be forced into VA-type treatment from government.

The moral of the story is to shrink government across the board.

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From a macro perspective, the most distressing aspect of America’s education system is that taxpayers spend a lot of money (more than any other people in the world, on a per-student basis) and we get very mediocre results.

And it’s getting worse over time. This famous chart, prepared by my colleague Andrew Coulson, shows how spending and bureaucracy have skyrocketed since 1970 while test scores have been stagnant.

Blacks and other minorities are the biggest victims. They are trapped in the worst-performing schools, largely because leftist politicians would rather curry favor with union bosses then help the poor.

But I don’t want to focus on these depressing macro issues.

Instead, we’re going to look at a depressing micro issue. To be more specific, let’s share a story about brain-dead political correctness (another one to add to a depressing collection).

Here are some details from a local news report.

First-grader Darin Simak is a little shy, a little upset and a little confused about why he can’t go back to Martin Elementary in New Kensington.

So what happened? Did he stab a classmate? Set fire to the classroom? Steal from the school’s petty cash fund?

No, none of those options. Instead, he did something far worse.

At least in the minds of brainless school bureaucrats.

Jennifer Mathabel said her son left his usual backpack in a friend’s car the night before, so he packed another one but missed the toy gun inside. “So I send my child to school. My child discovers a fake toy gun at about 1:30 p.m. He turns it in to the teacher and he’s sent to the office and suspended,” said Mathabel.

Yup, you read correctly. Darin found a toy gun in his backpack, and apparently he’s been successfully brainwashed that toy guns somehow are bad, so he gave it to the teacher.

The teacher then acted like a functionary from the Cuban KGB and turned Darin over to her superiors.

Not surprisingly, Darin’s mom is not happy that she’s paying taxes to subsidize such stupidity.

…she felt her son shouldn’t be suspended, and still sent him to school Thursday morning. “I got a phone call from the principal at 9 a.m., and she said, ‘Darin is not to be in school,’ and I said, ‘I’m sending him to school because he is entitled to be in school and be educated,'” said Mathabel. …The New Kensington-Arnold School District superintendent said that bringing a toy gun to school violates the district’s policy at the highest level and requires a child to be suspended immediately until a meeting can be held to discuss what happened and whether punishment is warranted.

You’ll be happy to know that our story has a happy ending.

Actually, allow me to modify that sentence. It’s a happy ending only in the sense that the school bureaucrats graciously and mercifully decided not to expel Darin.

Instead, he was suspended for two days.

Darin will not be expelled. The school district held a meeting and decided to suspend the first-grader for two days.

Astounding, in a horrible way. Makes you wonder whether government-run schools should be considered a form of child abuse.

Since we’re on the topic of government-run education (or mis-education, to use a clunky but more accurate phrase), let’s divert to the topic of common core.

Robby Soave of Reason explores an additional reason to dislike this new form of bureaucratized centralization.

Opponents of Common Core have plenty of ammunition by now: The standards erode local autonomy, are costly to implement, and some experts dispute their rigor. But an underexplored aspect of this problematic national education reform is the massive financial incentive that certain textbook and standardized test companies have to keep the U.S. on board with it. …the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)—recently invited curriculum companies to compete for the contract to design the tests. Textbook giant Pearson won the contract, surprising no one.

Soave explains why this should make parents (and taxpayers) worried.

A PARCC press release described the selection of Pearson as the result of a “competitive bidding process.” But it’s hard to tell whether the process was truly competitive, given that Pearson was the only company to even submit a bid. …Keep in mind that the contract is worth so much money that officials haven’t even attached a formal price tag. Instead, they have used the phrase “unprecedented in scale.” …it certainly undermines the notion that this is a “bottom up” education reform when state and federal lawmakers are colluding with mega corporations to dictate the tests to local school districts.

If you want to know more about the shortcomings of common core, I cite both George Will and one of Cato’s education experts in a post back in January.

But all you really need to know is that we’ll get a far better system of education if the federal government has less involvement, not more involvement.

Indeed, we should get rid of the entire Department of Education. Canada is doing better on education than the United States, and there’s no role for the national government in Ottawa.

Not that I’m a big fan of what state and local governments are doing.

The ideal system would be based on markets and competition. Which means we should copy nations with widespread school choice, such as Chile, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

We have some school choice in America, and the evidence is very strong that we get better results.

P.S. The virus of political correctness is so bad in America’s education system that some schools have even cancelled award ceremonies because they might make some students feel excluded.

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While I mostly focus on bad government policy in the United States, I also think we can learn lessons from what’s happening in other nations.

In some cases, I share positive stories, such as the success of privatized Social Security in Australia, nationwide school choice in Sweden, and genuine spending cuts in the Baltic nations.

In most cases, though, I’m pointing out bad policy.

Some topics deserve special treatment, such as the ongoing horror story of government-run healthcare in the United Kingdom.

In other cases, though, I share one-off stories about government incompetence and stupidity.

*Such as taxpayer-financed friends for mass murderers in Norway.

*Financing a giant “Burger Boy” in the United Kingdom.

*Promoting welfare tourism in the European Union.

*Spending $30 to collect $1 of tax in Germany.

*Regulation of coffee enemas in Japan.

Today, we’re going to share more stories of feckless behavior by foreign politicians and bureaucrats.

From Canada, we learn that the government of Manitoba is micro-managing daycare lunches in such bizarre ways that a family was fined because “grains” weren’t included in their kids’ meals.

Kristin Barkiw of Rossburn, Manitoba, Canada brought two of her children home from Little Cub’s Den daycare when she saw that her kids were sent home with a note. …the message told the mom she had failed to provide a nutritionally balanced lunch for her children, 5-year-old Logan and 3-year-old Natalie.  Not only that, Kristin was fined $10, $5 per child, for missing grains in their lunch of leftover roast beef, carrots, potatoes, an orange and milk. Further, the note said that the daycare staff gave Logan and Natalie Ritz crackers to fulfill the nutritional requirement of grains, which some see as a less than nutritious option. The nutritional regulation for daycare lunches is actually law in the province. The Manitoba government’s Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations state that daycare programs must ensure children are given a lunch with a meat, a grain, a milk product and two servings of fruit and vegetables and any missing food groups must be supplemented by the care provider.

Heaven forbid that parents actually be in charge of what their kids eat!

You won’t be surprised to learn that France is on the list. It appears the government’s rail system is staffed by numbskulls.

France’s SNCF rail company has ordered 2,000 trains for an expanded regional network that are too wide for many station platforms, entailing costly repairs, the national rail operator said on Tuesday. A spokesman for the RFF national rail operator confirmed the error, first reported by satirical weekly Canard Enchaine in its Wednesday edition. …Construction work has already begun to displace equipment and widen hundreds of train platforms to accommodate the new trains, but hundreds more remain to be fixed, he added. …The RFF only gave the dimensions of platforms built less than 30 years ago, but most of France’s 1,200 platforms were built more than 50 years ago. Repair work has already cost 80 million euros ($110 million).

I guess I’m not surprised by that story since the French once built an aircraft carrier with a flight deck that was too small.

In Sweden, a novelty tourist hotel made of ice will have to install fire alarms.

The Ice Hotel, which is rebuilt every year in northern Sweden out of enormous chunks of ice from the Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, Kiruna, will this year come equipped with fire alarms – and the irony isn’t lost on the staff. “We were a little surprised when we found out,” hotel spokeswoman Beatrice Karlsson told The Local. …While it might sound crazy that a building made of water needs to be equipped with fire alarms, the fact that the hotel is built from scratch every year means it needs to abide by the rules that apply to every new building, rules set by the National Housing Board (Boverket).

If I had to pick a prize from today’s list, this might win the prize. It’s a stunning display of government in action. Though probably not as bad as the time it took a local government in the U.S. two days to notice a dead body in a community swimming pool.

And from Germany, we have a story about massive cost overruns incurred by a pan-European bureaucracy that supposedly helps encourage fiscal discipline.

“Do as we say, not as we do”

It was meant to cost £420m of European taxpayers’ money but the bill for the new headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) has more than doubled to £960m and could rise even further. The bank is the key enforcer of austerity measures in the troubled eurozone nations, but appears to be having trouble keeping its own finances in order. The 45-storey glass and steel building, made up of two joined towers, will be more than 600ft tall when it is finished. But it has already been under construction for a decade and is three years behind schedule.

Of course, it goes without saying that cost overruns and delays are par for the course with government.

Just in case anyone thinks I’m picking on foreigners, here’s a story that makes me ashamed to be American. Or, to be more precise, it makes me ashamed that we have some of the world’s most pathetic bureaucrats.

Honors Night at Cole Middle School is no more. Parents got an email from Principal Alexis Meyer over the weekend saying some members of the school community “have long expressed concerns related to the exclusive nature of Honors Night.” The email goes on to say students will be recognized in other ways. …Parents and students are not happy with the change. “How else are they suppose to learn coping skills, not just based on success, but relative failure, it might not be failure, but understand what it takes to achieve high levels,” said parent Joe Kosloski. …“That made me wanna work harder and a lot of other people work harder, so just the fact you can’t work towards it anymore then there is no goal,” said 8th grade student Kaitlyn Kosloski. Changes are also being made to the middle school’s sports awards.

You read correctly. They also won’t recognize athletic success.

I guess everyone gets a participation medal.

Except, of course, we still single out kids who commit horrible crimes in school. Such as having toy army men, eating a pop tart the wrong way, building a motion detector for a school science experiment, or countless other “offenses” that trigger anti-gun lunacy by brainless bureaucrats.

The moral of these stories, both from America and around the world, it that government is not the answer. Unless, of course, you’ve asked a really strange question.

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If you had to pick the most inane, pointless, and intrusive example of government stupidity, what would you pick?

We have lots of examples of regulators running amok.

But we also have really absurd examples of wasteful spending.

We even have examples of government stupidity that can be characterized as a combination of wasteful spending and foolish regulation, such as one part of the government squandering money on research about how to encourage condom use by providing prophylactics of different sizes while another part of the government has regulations preventing the private sector from providing prophylactics of different sizes.

Today’s post, however, could win a prize for the most profound and disturbing example of government stupidity. It mixes foolish red tape with over-the-top political correctness.

Here are some jaw-dropping details of the federal government running amok in Michigan.

A set of seating is being torn down outside the Plymouth Wildcats varsity boys’ baseball field, not long before the season begins, because the fields for boys’ and girls’ athletics must be equal. A group of parents raised money for a raised seating deck by the field, as it was hard to see the games through a chain-link fence. The parents even did the installation themselves, and also paid for a new scoreboard. But, after someone complained to the U.S Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, an investigated by the department determined the new addition was no longer equal to the girls’ softball field next door, which has old bleachers and an old scoreboard.

This is utterly absurd for several reasons, most notably that the federal government shouldn’t have any role in education, much less efforts to micro-manage high school sports facilities.

But even if one accepts that Washington bureaucrats should interfere in such matters, it’s important to understand that it is bureaucratic lunacy to interpret “Title IX requirements to offer equal athletic opportunities to both boys and girls” to somehow mean equal seating.

Sexist bleachers?!?

What happens if there are fewer people who want to watch female sports? Should there be a requirement to build bleachers that are mostly empty?

Or maybe we can blend Obamacare to Title IX and create a mandate that parents and others in the community have to attend female sporting events 50 percent of the time?

Actually, I shouldn’t even joke about such an idea, lest some bureaucrat think it’s a serious proposal.

P.S. The Keynesians will be happy. They like it when wealth and/or capital is destroyed since that supposedly forces “stimulative” rebuilding exercises.

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Imagine you’re a statist and you want to raise your kids to have the same spiteful and envious mindset.

What’s the best approach? Well, sending your children to a government school is an obvious first step.

But kids sometimes rebel against big-government orthodoxy, so perhaps you want to take additional measures such as a visit to their school from President Obama.

As shown in the image, he can tell them about the glories of redistribution.

You can also make sure to have them only visit certain houses on Halloween. That will help them appreciate class-warfare policy.

That being said, you probably want some insurance. An extra way of helping them understand the joy of living off other people.

So what could be better than these new toys, called the Kronies!

With these new toys, your kids will enjoy hours of fun as they learn to use mandates, protectionism, bailouts, and pork to obtain undeserved wealth!

They’ll definitely realize that big government is very profitable if you’re an insider!

P.S. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I feel compelled to inform left-wing readers that this post – including the video – is satire. In other words, there aren’t real action figures called the Kronies. If you want to teach your kids to rape and pillage other people using the coercive power of government, you’re on your own. My only advice is to keep them from reading about the fiscal chaos in Europe so they don’t realize the consequences of redistribution and corruption.

P.P.S. And for the rest of you readers, the Kronies satire video was produced by John Papola, who gave us the famous Keynes v. Hayek rap contest, followed by the equally entertaining sequel, featuring a boxing match between Keynes and Hayek. And even though it’s not the right time of year, he also gave us the satirical commercial for Keynesian Christmas carols.

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I’ve posted hundreds of charts over the past several years, including on favorite topics such as tax code corruption and counterproductive government spending.

But arguably the most powerful and compelling chart I’ve ever shared is on the topic of education. Prepared by my Cato colleague, Andrew Coulson, it shows that massive increases in spending and bureaucracy (which accompanied increasing federal involvement and intervention) have had zero impact on educational performance.

Keep that chart in the back of your mind as we consider what George Will has to say about President Obama’s scheme – known as Common Core – to expand federal involvement and intervention.

We have several excerpts, beginning with this passage outlining some of his concerns.

Common Core…is the thin end of an enormous wedge. It is designed to advance in primary and secondary education the general progressive agenda of centralization and uniformity. …proponents of the Common Core want its nature and purpose to remain as cloudy as possible for as long as possible. Hence they say it is a “state-led,” “voluntary” initiative to merely guide education with “standards” that are neither written nor approved nor mandated by Washington… Proponents talk warily when describing it because a candid characterization would reveal yet another Obama administration indifference to legality.

Will then notes that we’ve been sliding down the slippery slope of centralization and Washington control.

The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the original federal intrusion into this state and local responsibility, said “nothing in this act” shall authorize any federal official to “mandate, direct, or control” schools’ curriculums. The 1970 General Education Provisions Act stipulates that “no provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any” federal agency or official “to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction” or selection of “instructional materials by any” school system. The 1979 law creating the Education Department forbids it from exercising “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum” or “program of instruction” of any school system.

And Common Core is just the latest example.

…what begins with mere national standards must breed ineluctable pressure to standardize educational content. Targets, metrics, guidelines and curriculum models all induce conformity in instructional materials. Washington already is encouraging the alignment of the GED, SAT and ACT tests with the Common Core. By a feedback loop, these tests will beget more curriculum conformity. All of this will take a toll on parental empowerment, and none of this will escape the politicization of learning like that already rampant in higher education.

If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re aware of other slippery slope examples, such as the tiny income tax in 1913 that has morphed into the internal revenue code monstrosity of today.

Returning to the topic of education, Will warns that the one-size-fits-all approach will undermine the innovation and experimentation needed to figure out how best teach kids.

Even satisfactory national standards must extinguish federalism’s creativity: At any time, it is more likely there will be half a dozen innovative governors than one creative federal education bureaucracy. And the mistakes made by top-down federal reforms are continental mistakes.

I particularly like his warning about “continental” mistakes. You get the same problem with global regulation, by the way.

The bottom line, as Will explains, is that Common Core is yet another example of a failed approach.

What is ludicrous is Common Core proponents disdaining concerns related to this fact: Fifty years of increasing Washington input into K-12 education has coincided with disappointing cognitive outputs from schools. Is it eccentric that it is imprudent to apply to K-12 education the federal touch that has given us HealthCare.gov? …Opposition to the Common Core is surging because Washington, hoping to mollify opponents, is saying, in effect: “If you like your local control of education, you can keep it. Period.”

You won’t be surprised to learn that Cato Institute experts are among the leading opponents of Common Core. Here’s what Andrew Coulson, in a column warning about the negative impact on private schools, has written.

…the Common Core–aligned tests create a powerful incentive for schools to teach the same concepts in the same order at the same time. This would make it all but impossible for schools to experiment with new ways of tailoring education to meet the needs of individual children — they will instead have to resort to expecting that all children who happened to be born in the same year progress at the same rate across subjects.

And another Cato scholar, Neil McCluskey, points out that other education experts also think Common Core is a dud.

The Common Core is opposed by scholars at leading think tanks on the right and the left, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Brookings Institution and the Cato Institute. My research has shown that there is essentially no meaningful evidence that national standards lead to superior educational outcomes. Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek, an education economist and supporter of standards-based education reform, has reached a similar conclusion, recently writing: “We currently have very different standards across states, and experience from the states provides little support for the argument that simply declaring more clearly what we want children to learn will have much impact.” Hanushek’s conclusion dovetails nicely with Common Core opposition from Tom Loveless, a scholar at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. In 2012, Loveless demonstrated that moving to national standards would have little, if any, positive effect because the performance of states has very little connection to the rigor or quality of their standards, and there is much greater achievement variation within states than among them. In fact, Loveless has been one of the clearest voices saying the Core is not a panacea for America’s education woes, writing: “Don’t let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.”

We started this post with a very powerful chart, so let’s end with another chart.

It’s not as visually compelling, but it shows that the United States already spends more on education than another other nation.

But if you look at the data is this post, you’ll see that American students are lagging behind their counterparts in other developed nations.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to put kids first. Perhaps we should discard the Bush-Obama approach of centralization and spending and instead choose a better path.

In other words, let’s learn from Chile, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

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The government’s monopoly education system is a travesty mostly because taxpayers spend record amounts of money and we get very poor results.

But I’m also irked at the way government schools engage in absurd displays of political correctness, particularly when it comes to make-believe weapons.

Terrorist!!

A little boy was suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade while playing by himself in Colorado.

A school wanted to force a deaf child to change his name because, when using sign language to say who he is, his fingers looked like a gun.

Speaking of which, a six-year old in Maryland was suspended for saying “pow” while having his fingers shaped like a gun.

All this sounds crazy, but at least school bureaucrats are consistent in their nuttiness. Not only are they against non-existent grenades and imaginary guns, they all have a zero-tolerance approach for bows and arrows that don’t exist.

Here are some of the details about what happened at a Pennsylvania school.

A ten-year-old boy has reportedly been suspended from school after he ‘fired’ an imaginary bow and arrow at another pupil. Johnny Jones, a fifth grader at South Eastern Middle School in Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania, is said to have been suspended for one day after making the gesture and now faces expulsion. According to the Rutherford Institute, which is defending the youngster, Johnny was accused of breaching the school’s regulations on using weapons, even though the bow and arrow were not real. He was reprimanded after the girl he ‘fired’ the bow at notified a teacher.

It’s ridiculous that the little boy was suspended, but you also have to wonder about the mental stability of the little girls who ratted him out. Is she just a run-of-the-mill tattle tale? Or is she in training to become a tax bureaucrat in Chicago? Or maybe she went through training on how to be a snitch in the United Kingdom?

But we also have another story of political correctness run amok in government schools. Bureaucrats in Colorado have nabbed a sexual predator.

Are we talking about a 17-year old gang member who was raping and sexually assaulting other students.

Well…not quite. Here’s what Fox News is reporting.

A 6-year-old boy has been suspended from a Colorado school for kissing a girl on the cheek. School officials in Canon City are accusing the boy of sexual harassment and they want it on his school record. The boy’s mother tells KRDO-TV…the girl did not object to being kissed. She told the station that the two children like each other.

To be fair, maybe the boy is genuinely pestering the girl and – notwithstanding what his mother says – the attention is unwelcome. In that case, some punishment is warranted, particularly since it happened twice.

Though I’m not sure I would categorize it as sexual harassment. This is what makes this story worth sharing. It illustrates the lack of common sense that seems inevitable when bureaucrats are in charge of anything.

And since we’re talking about a lack of common sense, here are previous examples of school bureaucrats going overboard for political correctness.

You’ll notice that all these examples involved non-imaginary objects. Real toy guns. Real army men. Real pencils. Real motion detectors. Real Lego pieces.

Aren’t we lucky that government is there to protect us! Sort of the same way they protect us with regulations, as Dave Barry has explained.

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You would think the bureaucrats who run government schools would want to focus on the basics, such as teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.

After all, no nation spends more per pupil on education than the United States. And based on some Cato Institute research, I suspect the OECD estimate of about $15,000 per student is a low-ball estimate of the burden on American taxpayers.

So what do we get for all this money? To be blunt, the results are miserable, with Americans ranking well below average compared to our overseas competitors.

Here are some comparisons on both literacy and numeracy from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. You’ll have to click the images to get an enlarged view. But maybe you won’t want to do that since it’s depressing to see that Americans are near the bottom for math skills and well below average for verbal skills.

OECD NumeracyOECD Literacy

Geesh, this is embarrassing. I like Slovaks, but I don’t want Americans to be less intelligent. I also like Belgians, but why are they kicking our tail? And I really like Estonians, but they’re putting us to shame.

So how is the education establishment dealing with these dismal results?

Well, they keep asking for more money. But as this remarkable chart from the Cato Institute illustrates, throwing more money at the system is a great way of building bureaucracy. But it sure doesn’t do much for kids. Education spending Cato chart

So you could say this is a form of child abuse. But that would trivialize the plights of kids who are grossly mistreated. So let’s say that the sub-par education provided by government schools is a form of child victimization. Or mistreatment. Or some word that signifies how they are not well served by the government’s education monopoly.

But let’s also remember that sub-par education is not the only bad thing that happens in government schools.

We also have amazing (in a bad way) episodes of intrusive and abusive political correctness.

Here’s a story from Massachusetts about a student being punished for doing the right thing.

It’s tough for Eleanor Cox to talk about how heartbroken her daughter Erin is over the punishment she received for doing what she thought was right. …Two weeks ago, Erin received a call from a friend at a party who was too drunk to drive. Erin drove to Boxford after work to pick up her friend. Moments after she arrived, the cops arrived too and busted several kids for underage possession of alcohol. A North Andover High School honor student, Erin was cleared by police, who agreed she had not been drinking and was not in possession of alcohol. But Andover High told Erin she was in violation of the district’s zero tolerance policy against alcohol and drug use. In the middle of her senior year, Erin was demoted from captain of the volleyball team and told she would be suspended from playing for five games. …the parents of Erin’s teammates have started a petition to support her.

I’m dismayed, of course, that the school wants to punish someone who didn’t do anything wrong, but what really irks me is that the school wants to regulate and control behavior that takes place off school property and outside of school hours.

To be blunt, it’s none of their you-know-what business. Parents should have primary responsibility for their kids and law enforcement has a role if they’re breaking the law.

Let’s now travel down south and read part of a report about how some mindless school bureaucrats punished an autistic student because he drew a picture of a bomb and brought the drawing to school.

…it all started when her son had made the hand-drawn picture of the bomb during the weekend at home. Parham said Rhett is a fan of the video game Bomber Man and drew the cartoon-ish like explosive. She told FOX Carolina on Monday that her son took the picture to Hillcrest Middle School, and that’s where problems arose. Parham said she was told that her son showed the picture to some older children, who reported him to school administration. …She said her son was suspended indefinitely by the school.

Fortunately, the government backed down after the story generated some unfavorable attention for the bureaucratic drones.

But we should ask ourselves why it even got to that stage. And perhaps get some counseling for the little brats who snitched on him. Sounds like they’re future IRS agents in training.

Sadly, this is just part of a pattern we’ve seen in government schools, with bureaucrats hyperventilating over normal kid behavior. Here are some other examples.

Now ask yourself to key question: Do we want to maintain and perpetuate a failed government school monopoly, or should we implement school choice to get better results and less political correctness?

Heck, we should be able to reform our schools if there’s already choice in countries such as Chile, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

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I’m a big fan of school choice. If we bust up the government education monopoly and create a competitive education market, we’ll get a much better education system at much lower cost.

This isn’t just idle theorizing. The evidence shows that competition produces better results.

That will be especially good news for children from poor and minority neighborhoods, as even the Washington Post has admitted.

There’s even good evidence for school choice from other nations, such as Chile, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

And since we’re looking at international evidence, it’s worth noting that America spends more per student than any other nation, yet gets very mediocre results.

However, there’s also a non-educational argument for busting up the government school monopoly. Simply stated, we have to rescue kids from brainless school bureaucrats who impose crazy forms of anti-gun political correctness.

What am I talking about? Well, check out these excerpts from a Fox News report.

Natural Born Killers

Two seventh-grade students in Virginia Beach, Va., were handed long-term suspensions Tuesday that will last until the end of the school year for playing with an airsoft gun in one of their front yards while waiting for the school bus. WAVY-TV reports that 13-year-old Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark will face an additional hearing in January to determine if they will be expelled for “possession, handling and use of a firearm” because the guns were fired at two others playing in Caraballo’s yard. …Khalid claims he never took the toy gun to the designated bus stop or Larkspur Middle School, according to the report. Two other students who fired guns were also suspended.

Your eyes are not deceiving you. The kids were punished for playing with toy guns while on private property.

Yet apparently school bureaucrats don’t think their power is limited by school boundaries.

A neighbor saw Khalid shooting the airsoft gun in his yard and called 911, telling the dispatcher, “He is pointing the gun, and it looks like there’s a target in a tree in his front yard,” the station reported. …The school’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy on guns extends to private property, according to the report.

At least one of the parents has the right view of things.

If you outlaw Zombie Hunters, only outlaws will have Zombie Hunters

Khalid’s mother, Solangel Caraballo, said it’s ridiculous that her son and his friends were suspended because they were firing the airsoft gun on private property. “My son is my private property. He does not become the school’s property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school,” Caraballo told the station.

Now let’s add some important caveats. Even though the toy guns only shoot little plastic pellets, it seems that the boys may have shot at some kids who weren’t part of their play. That’s something that should be punished.

And it’s also possible that the boys are troublemakers and the school was simply using this episode as an excuse to get rid of them.

So maybe there’s some sort of “rough justice” happening behind the scenes. Simply stated, there’s probably a back-story.

But there’s no question that we’re seeing a bad trend.

It’s almost to the point where sending your kids to a government school could be considered a form a child abuse.

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School choice should be a slam-dunk issue. There’s very powerful evidence that we can provide superior education for lower cost if we shift away from monopoly government schools to a system based on parental choice.

Yet some leftists oppose this reform, even though poor and minority kids would be the biggest beneficiaries. Here’s some of what I wrote last year about how the left deals with this issue.

…the school choice issue exposes the dividing line between honest liberals and power-hungry liberals. Regardless of ideology, any decent person will favor reforms that enable poor kids to escape horrible government schools. Lots of liberals are decent people. The ones who oppose school choice, by contrast, are…well, you can fill in the blank.

The Washington Post, to its credit, belongs in the “decent” category. Here’s some of the paper’s editorial on school choice in Louisiana.

Nine of 10 Louisiana children who receive vouchers to attend private schools are black. All are poor and, if not for the state assistance, would be consigned to low-performing or failing schools with little chance of learning the skills they will need to succeed as adults. So it’s bewildering, if not downright perverse, for the Obama administration to use the banner of civil rights to bring a misguided suit that would block these disadvantaged students from getting the better educational opportunities they are due.

The editorial eviscerates the nonsensical data that the Obama Administration is using as it puts the interests of powerful teacher unions above the needs of disadvantaged children.

The government argues that allowing students to leave their public schools for vouchered private schools threatens to disrupt the desegregation of school systems. …Since most of the students using vouchers are black, it is, as State Education Superintendent John White pointed out to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “a little ridiculous” to argue that the departure of mostly black students to voucher schools would make their home school systems less white. …The government’s argument that “the loss of students through the voucher program reversed much of the progress made toward integration” becomes even more absurd upon examination of the cases it cited in its petition. …a school that lost five white students through vouchers and saw a shift in racial composition from 29.6 percent white to 28.9 percent white. Another school that lost six black students and saw a change in racial composition from 30.1 percent black to 29.2 percent black. “Though the students . . . almost certainly would not have noticed a difference, the racial bean counters at the DOJ see worsening segregation,”… The number that should matter to federal officials is this: Roughly 86 percent of students in the voucher program came from schools that were rated D or F. Mr. White called ironic using rules to fight racism to keep students in failing schools; we think it appalling.

Not only appalling, but also hypocritical. The President is sending his children to an ultra-expensive private school, but doesn’t want poor families to have any choice to get a good education.

Unfortunately, though, it is not a surprise from an administration that…has proven to be hostile — as witnessed by its petty machinations against D.C.’s voucher program — to the school choice afforded by private-school vouchers. …Louisiana parents are clamoring for the choice afforded by this program; the state is insisting on accountability; poor students are benefiting. The federal government should get out of the way.

Kudos to the Washington Post for urging a withdrawal of federal intervention. Now if we can get the Post to apply the same federalism lesson to Medicaid, transportation, and other issues, we’ll be making real progress.

For more information on the overall issue of school choice, I strongly recommend this video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation.

By the way, don’t believe propaganda from politicians and union bosses about “underfunded” schools. The United States spends more per capita than any other country.

This isn’t an issue of money. The problem is that monopolies don’t deliver good results. Particularly monopolies controlled by self-serving union bosses that use political muscle to protect undeserved privileges.

P.S. Not surprisingly, Thomas Sowell nails this issue, as does Walter Williams, with both criticizing the President for sacrificing the interests of minority children to protect the monopoly privileges of teacher unions.

P.P.S. Chile has reformed its education system with vouchers, as have Sweden and the Netherlands, and all those nations are getting good results.

P.P.P.S. There are some other honest and sincere liberals on this issue.

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I don’t write or speak about education very much, but, when asked, I explain that America has a very costly and inefficient government school monopoly.

Education spending Cato chartThe strongest piece of evidence is an amazing chart put together by a Cato colleague. It shows that education spending has skyrocketed while educational performance has stagnated.

One of my favorite soundbites, when discussing this issue, is that the U.S. spends more per capita than any nation other than Switzerland, but we get very sub-par results for all that money.

According to new data, though, I can no longer make that assertion. I’d like to say it’s because we now get above-average results, but the real reason is because we’ve now surpassed Switzerland to become the biggest spenders on education.

But we still get a crummy return on all that money that is spent.

Here are the key findings from an OECD study, as reported by the AP.

The United States spends more than other developed nations on its students’ education each year… Despite the spending, U.S. students still trail their rivals on international tests. …brand-new and experienced teachers alike in the United States out-earn most of their counterparts around the globe.

Now let’s look at some of the grim details.

…the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system — more than any other nation covered in the report. That sum inched past some developed countries and far surpassed others. Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922… The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person. …The United States routinely trails its rival countries in performances on international exams despite being among the heaviest spenders on education. U.S. fourth-graders are 11th in the world in math in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, a separate measure of nations against each other. U.S. eighth-graders ranked ninth in math, according to those 2011 results. The Program for International Student Assessment measurement found the United States ranked 31st in math literacy among 15-year-old students and below the international average. The same 2009 tests found the United States ranked 23rd in science among the same students, but posting an average score. …The average first-year high school teacher in the United States earns about $38,000. OECD nations pay their comparable educators just more than $31,000. …The average high school teacher in the United States earns about $53,000, well above the average of $45,500 among all OECD nations.

Here’s the chart from the OECD study showing per-student spending.

OECD Education Spending Rankings

So we spend more, pay more to our bureaucrats, yet we get worse results. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the education monopoly.

Oh, by the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are even worse than we think. Check out this Cato video, which reveals that politicians and bureaucrats hide the real cost of their inefficient and wasteful monopoly.

One reason the system is so expensive is that we squander so much money on bureaucratic overhead. But I guess we need all those paper pushers so we can stop little kids from engaging in terrorist behavior.

But you have to give the teacher unions credit for chutzpah. One of the union bosses actually had the gall to ignore the actual findings in the study and to assert that taxpayers aren’t doing enough!

“When people talk about other countries out-educating the United States, it needs to be remembered that those other nations are out-investing us in education as well,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a labor union.

Not that I can blame union bosses and other defenders of the status quo. They’ve got a great scam going, so why not blatantly prevaricate in hopes that the gravy train will continue.

What makes this situation so tragic is that we have strong proof that we could get much better outcomes by shifting to a system of school choice.

But that’s a difficult fight. The teacher unions understandably want to preserve their undeserved privileges. What really irks me, though, is that some people side with the unions for political purposes, even though it means they deliberately sacrifice the best interests of children. That’s a harsh accusation, I realize, but I think it describes both President Obama and the NAACP.

All the more reason to get government out of the education business.

Though this is not just an issue of government inefficiency. Other nations have government-run education systems and they spend less and produce better results.

In a few cases, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, It’s quite likely that school choice helps to explain better outcomes. But what about other nations? Is there something about the American system that makes it especially wasteful?

P.S. This is a depressing post, so let’s close with a bit of humor showing the evolution of math lessons in government schools.

P.P.S. If you want some unintentional humor, the New York Times thinks that education spending has been reduced.

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I give up.

I’ve been having some fun over the past couple of years by mocking education bureaucrats for absurd examples of anti-gun political correctness.

I have made fun of teachers and other bureaucrats when they wet their pants about tiny Lego guns. I laugh at them when they go after little kids for half-eaten pop tarts that ostensibly have gun shapes. And I abuse them for getting their panties in a wad about pencils, fingers, and…um…well, air.

I’m even willing to enjoy a laugh when idiot bureaucrats bust a 5-year old girl because her pink bubble blower vaguely resembles a gun. Or when they nail a little boy for toy army men.

But in recent months, the exercise has become a chore because I’ve slowly come to realize that bureaucratic stupidity is becoming the rule rather than the exception.

And now I think it’s time to throw in the towel and give up. Why? Because there’s really no hope for government schools when you come across a news report about some moronic paper pushers in Nebraska who wanted a deaf boy to change his sign-language name because it requires his hand to vaguely resemble a gun.

Deaf Child

A clear and present danger?!?

Hunter Spanjer says his name with a certain special hand gesture, but at just three and a half years old, he may have to change it. “He’s deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy,” explained Hunter’s father, Brian Spanjer. Grand Island’s “Weapons in Schools” Board Policy 8470 forbids “any instrument…that looks like a weapon,” But a three year-old’s hands? “Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous. This is not threatening in any way,” said Hunter’s grandmother Janet Logue. …”We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child,” said Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson. That’s just about all GIPS officials will say for now.

The good news is that it appears the bureaucrats have backed off following a public outcry.

But it’s nonetheless outrageous that people like Jack Sheard get our tax dollars and then even contemplate making life harder for a deaf kid.

I realize it’s a gross exaggeration to say that all public school teachers are bad and that all government schools are a failure, but we’re getting closer and closer to the point where the presumption should be that good parents send their kids to private schools whenever that’s a feasible option.

And from a policy perspective, we need to bust up the government school monopoly and implement school choice. And not because suburban kids are being victimized by political correctness. That’s a nuisance, not a crisis. It’s far more important to have competition in education to rescue the kids trapped in failed inner city schools.

We now have lots of good data on the benefits of school choice.  There’s also strong evidence for school choice from nations such as SwedenChile, and the Netherlands.

So next time we see a news report about bureaucrats running amok and ruining the education system, our energies should be focused on promoting school choice, not attacking political correctness.

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I’ve shared some bizarre horror stories about adults being victimized by anti-gun fanaticism, including the Washington, DC, man who got fined $1,000 for saving a child’s life and a British man who got arrested for finding a gun and turning it over to the police.

But I get more worried about the future of the country when I read reports of children being subjected to this kind of politically correct nonsense.

Consider, for instance, these absurd details from a local news report.

Lego gunA Massachusetts kindergartener has been given detention and could be suspended from the bus after bringing a Lego-sized gun to school last week. …the incident happened on an Old Mill Pond Elementary School bus in Palmer last week. A 6-year-old had the toy gun, which is slightly larger than a quarter, on the bus and it was seen by another student, who alerted the bus driver. The boy’s mother, Mieke Crane, said her son had to write a letter of apology to the driver, was given detention and could be temporarily suspended from the bus.

Reading that passage, I don’t know whether to be more angry with the bratty tattle-tale kid who told the bus driver, or with the bus driver who obviously must have informed the school.

Both of them could use some serious counseling.

But that’s just part of the story.

The school sent home a letter to parents explaining what happened, stressing no gun was on the bus and there was never any danger. “(The driver) said he caused quite a disturbance on the bus and that the children were traumatized,” Crane told WGGB.

A letter to parents about a tiny plastic toy gun?!? Are the bureaucrats in this school so under-worked that they have time to waste on such nonsense? If I was a parent in this school district, I would put my kids in a private school.

Especially if it’s true that “children were traumatized” by a piece of Lego. I wouldn’t want to take the risk that wimpiness and poor cognitive skills could be transmitted by proximity to my kids (perhaps causing them to need “emotional support” animals in college).

By the way, this is not an isolated example. To get depressed about the future of the country, read these posts about children being exposed to foolish thinking.

Stories like this make me wonder whether I should emigrate, though the rest of the world tends to be in worse shape so the moral of the story is that we need to save the United States from the brainless (and overpaid) bureaucrats who are trying to ruin our children.

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I was a bit of a juvenile delinquent.

  • I semi-confessed that I may have set off fireworks in a stairwell at my high school.
  • And I’ve already confessed my role in an “attack” on a float during a homecoming parade.
  • So I may as well admit that I got in trouble during college for having a pet snake in my dorm room.

Given that last bullet point, you would think I would sympathize with people who want to bring pets to school.

And I do, but I don’t sympathize with the notion that the federal government should compel colleges to allow pets – even if they’re for “emotional support.”

Yet that’s exactly what’s happening, thanks to some bureaucrats at a Department that shouldn’t exist. Here are some blurbs from the Wall Street Journal about a new breakthrough in human rights.

College freshman suffering from separation anxiety, take heart: The federal government says universities have an obligation to admit “emotional support” animals into school housing. …emotional support animals (dogs, mostly) provide therapy through companionship and affection.

The pinheads at the Department of Housing and Urban Development say this is required by the Fair Housing Act.

Housing providers must offer people with disabilities a “reasonable accommodation” for emotional support animals under both the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a notice to its regional offices late last month. …The April 25 notice was sent about a week after a federal judge ruled that student housing is covered by the Fair Housing Act, in a lawsuit filed by HUD against the University of Nebraska, on behalf of a student there.

Meet Fido, your new dorm neighbor

Best of all, you can bring any animal you want so long as it doesn’t have a track record of bad conduct.

Housing providers can’t exclude animals based on breed, size or weight. They can, however, refuse an animal that poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would wreck havoc on the property, but such refusals must be based on “objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct – not on mere speculation or fear,” the notice says.

So that doberman pinscher is innocent until proven guilty!

Another great development in “human rights” around the world. Indeed, it belongs with these momentous breakthroughs.

Speaking of subsidized birth control, you can enjoy some laughs at Sandra Fluke with this great Reason video, this funny cartoon, and four more jokes here.

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I wouldn’t blame foreigners for thinking the United States is a bit schizophrenic.

This is a nation where you can own a tank or a machine gun, and it’s a country where there are probably more guns than people.

Yet it’s also a country where little kids get suspended for throwing imaginary grenades while playing alone on a playground. A country where cops arrest 10-year olds for having toy guns. And a country where small children get kicked out of school for pretending their hands are guns and saying “pow, pow.”

And now, apparently, it’s a country where kids can’t point a pencil at a buddy and make shooting noises.

Oh my God, It’s an assault pencil!

Here are some of the absurd details from a local CBS news report.

Two Suffolk second graders have been suspended for making shooting noises while pointing pencils at each other. Media outlets report the 7-year-old boys were suspended for two days for a violation of the Suffolk school system’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons. They were playing with one another in class Friday at Driver Elementary. “When I asked him about it, he said, ‘Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy,’” said Paul Marshall, one of the boys’ fathers. “It’s as simple as that.” Marshall, a former Marine, said he believes school officials overreacted. …Bradshaw said the policy has been in place for at least two decades. It also bans drawing a picture of a gun and pointing a finger in a threatening manner. Marshall said his son has good grades and no history of being disruptive in class. On the suspension note, the teacher noted that the boy stopped when she told him to do so. He said school administrators failed to use common sense.

I’m almost at a loss for words. This wasn’t just one brainless bureaucrat. At the very least, both a teacher and an administrator were involved in this farce.

These are the people we want educating our children?!?

At least the dad had the cojones to criticize the bureaucrats.

With apologies to Martin Niemöller, I can’t resist this bit of satire.

First they came for the pop tarts,
and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t care for breakfast pastries.

Then they came for the pink bubble blowers,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a bubble blower.

Then they came for the cupcakes,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a cupcake eater.

Then they came for pencils,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

By the way, the United States is not the only nation suffering from a pathetic and wimpy form of political correctness. Here are some examples of how our cousins across the ocean have gone bonkers about guns.

These are all example from my series comparing brainless policies in the United States and United Kingdom. Though I’m ashamed to say that this latest story puts the United States in the lead in this government-stupidity contest.

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I expressed pessimism a few days ago about the possibility of replacing the corrupt internal revenue code with a flat tax. Either now or in the future.

But that’s an exception to my general feeling that we’re moving in the right direction on public policy. I’ve shared a list of reasons to be optimistic, even on issues such as  Obamacare and the Laffer Curve.

Education is another area where we should be hopeful. Simply stated, it’s increasingly difficult for defenders of the status quo to rationalize pouring more money into the failed government education monopoly. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never has so much been spent so recklessly with such meager results.

That’s true regardless of whether Democrats are throwing good money after bad or whether Republicans are throwing good money after bad.

Fortunately, a growing number of people are realizing that the answer is markets and competition. School Choice CartoonThat’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing progress all over the country. Policy makers have implemented varying degrees of school choice in states such as Indiana, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and even California.

Is this having a positive impact on educational outcomes and other key variables? The answer, not surprisingly, is yes.

Here are some of the details from a new study published by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

This report surveys the empirical research on school choice. …the empirical evidence consistently shows that choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools, saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy.

The data on academic outcomes surely is the most important bit of information, so let’s specifically review those findings.

Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 find that choice improves student outcomes—six that all students benefit and five that some benefit and some are not affected. One study finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found a negative impact.

And since I want to reduce the burden of government spending, let’s see whether school choice is good news for taxpayers.

Six empirical studies have examined school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six find that school choice saves money for taxpayers. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.

Here’s the breakdown of the studies for all the variables.

School Choice Studies

As you can see, it’s a slam dunk, much as a survey of tax research found that nearly 90 percent of academic studies concluded that class-warfare tax policy is destructive.

Some of the tax research was inconclusive, but not a single study supported the notion that higher tax rates are good for growth, much as this new research from the Friedman Foundation didn’t uncover a single study that found negative results from school choice.

So with lots of positive research and no negative research, why would anybody oppose school choice? Unfortunately, politicians like Barack Obama and groups such as the NAACP side with teacher unions, putting political power ahead of progress and opportunity for kids.

P.S. Here’s a video explaining why school choice is better than a government-run monopoly.

P.P.S. There’s also strong evidence for school choice from nations such as Sweden, Chile, and the Netherlands.

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This may be even worse than all the examples of anti-gun political correctness that I’ve shared.

Get a load of what some anti-achievement nutjobs in Taxachusetts have decided.

John Gillis has two students at the middle school who have worked hard to make the honor roll this year, but they won’t be able to attend the school’s annual honors night to celebrate their achievement. That’s because the school administration has decided to end the long-standing tradition… “We took it from an exclusive nighttime ceremony where only honors students were invited and rolled it into our end-of-the-year assembly,” Principal David Fabrizio said. “That way, everybody can celebrate their and their peers’ achievements.”

Yes, let’s all get participation medals simply for breathing. But it gets worse.

Fabrizio said that it is the school’s job to monitor both academic and social emotional growth. Concentrating on grades, “as strange as it sounds, can impinge upon the learning process,” he wrote. “The honors night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade point average,” Fabrizio wrote.

Too bad this didn’t exist when I was in school. I never once made the Honor Roll when I was a young slacker. Too bad political correctness hadn’t taken hold back then. I could have been taught that it was okay to never achieve anything.

But perhaps that would have made my life easier. Instead of engaging in the Sisyphean task of trying to roll back the welfare state, I could be doing something really productive…like being an overpaid bureaucrat making life harder for those who actually are trying to create wealth for the economy.

P.S. Take a wild guess whether Principal Fabrizio supports class-warfare tax rates as a way of mitigating the “devastating” differences between those that produce and those that don’t.

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I like rankings and maps because you get to see a lot of information in a single image.

I’ve shared some maps making very interesting international comparisons.

Here are some good state maps with useful information.

And I even have a local map.

Now we have a map, based on some research from the Friedman Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, showing which states have the most education bureaucrats compared to actual educators.

Non-teacher to Teacher Ratio Map

I’m ashamed that my state of Virginia is the worst in the nation. Maybe paying for this bureaucratic bloat explains why our Governor recently broke his promise and imposed a huge tax increase.

I’m also shocked that Illinois is one of the best states in the nation, at least by this measure. Though I suspect this is the exception to the rule and the Prairie State will still be neck and neck with California in the race to bankruptcy.

Though Illinois is much closer to the bottom than to the top in the “Moocher Index,” so maybe it’s not as bad as we think.

P.S. If you like this “educrat” ranking, here’s a “Poverty Pimp” ranking of “public welfare” bureaucrats compared to state population. Ohio and Alaska do poorly in both, for what it’s worth.

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I’ve reached the point where I can’t even get agitated any more.

The anti-gun ideology in government schools has led to so many stupid incidents that all I can do is shake my head and be thankful my kids somehow were spared this nonsense.

OH MY GOD!!! Call a SWAT team and child protective services!

Our latest story comes from Michigan, where a third grader brought some cupcakes to school for his birthday. That seems innocuous, but the boy’s mother (gasp!) decorated them with toy army men.

The school decided “to remove the Army soldiers from the cupcakes” and called the boy’s family to inform them that they had committed a thought crime.

Last week, Casey Fountain’s third-grade son had a birthday party at his school in Caro. His wife decided to whip up 30 cupcakes for the boy’s classmates. She topped the treats with plastic army guys like the ones countless boys and girls have played with for decades. Fountain says he never thought his innocent act of party planning would lead to controversy. Fountain says the principal of Schall Elementary School called him personally and told him that dressing the cupcakes with soldiers was, in the principal’s words, “insensitive” considering recent gun-related tragedies.

This definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame for brainless political correctness and hysterical overreaction. Other members of this distinguished Hall of Fame include:

At some point, you have to ask whether sending your kids to a government school not only puts them at risk of a substandard education, but also is a form of child abuse.

P.S. Actually, I am getting agitated the more I think about this. For all intents and purposes, the principal was equating soldiers with crazy mass killers. Why hasn’t this person been fired?

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I weep for my country. We are becoming pathetic fools and total wimps.

Consider these jaw-dropping examples of behavior by adults who work in government schools. I think they must be competing for the Stupid Official of the Year Award.

The contestants include:

Here’s another example that belies belief. It starts innocently enough, as reported by a Baltimore news outlet.

Children at Park Elementary School went home with a letter today explaining there was a disruption in school.

A “disruption”? What, pray tell, happened. A fire? A theft? A gang fight?

Well, brace yourself lest you faint in fright at what you’re about to read.

At Park Elementary school, Josh was enjoying his breakfast pastry when he decided to try and shape it into a mountain. Josh said, “It was already a rectangle and I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but it wasn’t.” Josh takes full responsibly for trying to shape his breakfast pastry, but admits it was in innocent fun. He told FOX45, “All I was trying to do was turn it into a mountain but, it didn’t look like a mountain really and it turned out to be a gun kinda.” When his teacher saw the strawberry tart he knew he was in trouble, he recalls, “She was pretty mad…and I think I was in big trouble.”

Oh, Heavens. Get the smelling salts!

What was the punishment for this thug?

Josh’s dad received a phone call from the school saying that Josh has been suspended for two days because he took his breakfast pastry and fashioned it into a gun. Josh’s dad was astounded to learn the school chose such a harsh punishment, even after no one was hurt.
But here’s the real kicker. The supposed adults who run the school (and are in charge of educating children) decided that an artfully chewed pastry was “an inappropriate gesture.”
Late Friday afternoon a letter went home with students explaining the incident saying, “A student used food to make an inappropriate gesture.” But Josh’s dad is not happy saying, “I would almost call it insanity. I mean with all the potential issues that could be dealt with at school, real threats, bullies, whatever the real issue is, it’s a pastry.., Ya know?”

The dad had the right reaction.

And the real moral of the story is that we need to break up the government-run education monopoly and allow school choice.

P.S. Mindless political correctness is not limited to the United States. There are also unbelievable examples from the United Kingdom.

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While writing yesterday about a bureaucrat who might need to give up doggie day care service for his pet because of make-believe “deep spending cuts,” I mentioned that we need something akin to a medal-of-honor award for bureaucrats who endure untold suffering.

In that same spirit, we need some sort of national award for school officials who engage is spectacular acts of heroism to save their communities from the youth brigade of al Qaeda.

If we had this kind of award, some of the past winners would include:

And if we had such an award, Valerie Lara-Black might have an early favorite for the 2013. What did Ms. Lara-Black do to put herself in position for such a high honor? Well, she went above and beyond the call of duty.

A 7-year-old Mary Blair Elementary School student says he’s confused about getting in trouble…Thompson School District officials contend that the boy broke one of the school’s “absolutes.” Parent Mandie Watkins said Mary Blair principal Valerie Lara-Black called her Friday afternoon to inform her that her second-grade son, Alex, had been suspended.

Colorado Grenade Kid

Another thwarted terrorist!

What did this nascent young criminal do? What horrid offense against the community did he commit? Why was he suspended?

…for throwing an imaginary grenade during recess on the playground. Alex did not have anything in his hand at the time and made no threats toward other people, Watkins reportedly was told.

Thank goodness that Ms. Lara-Black was able to nip this crisis in the bud. Showing a mastery of bureaucracy, she quickly deployed her school’s policy against play weapons and she decided that an imaginary play weapon was just as dangerous as a real play weapon.

The rules are laid out by Mary Blair Elementary School in a list of “absolutes” that are posted on the school’s website and are aimed at making Mary Blair a safe environment. Included in those absolutes are no physical abuse or fighting – real or play – and the no-weapons absolute also covers real or play weapons.

I hope the school also has a policy against playing tag as well. After all, that’s a militaristic game that sometimes involves aggressive touching.

And if the kids play kickball during recess, I hope there’s a rule that all games end in ties so there are no winners and losers (or perhaps just require the kids to play soccer, where all games seem to end in scoreless ties anyway).

You can’t be too careful. It takes a lot of care and planning, after all, to raise the next generation of social workers!

Though I am a bit surprised that this happened in Colorado. The folks I’ve met at the High Lonesome Ranch, for instance, obviously were not lobotomized and emasculated while at school, so perhaps mind-numbing stupidity is a recent phenomenon in the state.

At least this type of thinking hasn’t spread to Texas, where policymakers are more likely to let teachers carry guns rather than turn them into enforcers of political correctness.

You can get a sense of how folks think in Texas from this coyote joke and this mock police exam.

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I’m a libertarian because I believe in individual freedom and greater prosperity, but what really motivates me is the desire to protect people from predatory government.

So even though the economist in me wants to reduce the burden of government spending and implement a flat tax because such policies will boost growth and lead to higher living standards, I also want those policies because I don’t like it when interest groups use the coercive power of government to obtain unearned wealth.

And what gets me most upset is when those special interests use their corrupt connections with the political elite to screw the poor. That’s why I despise policies such as corporate subsidiesbailouts and minimum wage laws.

So you’ll understand why I’m particularly upset that the government of India is now trying to undermine opportunity for the poor by shutting down private schools

Here are some of the odious details.

Heera Ballabh walks his youngest son, Pankaj, to school through two kilometres of narrow lanes. He hopes a good eduction will propel the boy out of the cramped lower-class neighbourhood they call home and into middle-class life. But this aspiration hangs in the balance because legislation will force the privately run school Pankaj attends to close as it does not meet the requirements stipulated by the government.

The Ballabh family is not unusual. Because the government schools do a terrible job, there are millions of poor families who are sacrificing to send their kids to private schools.

…Pankaj attends the Pioneer Public School. It is among 2,000 low-fee private schools in Delhi facing closure, threatening to displace more than 500,000 pupils, most of them in primary school. Across India, about 300,000 schools, with an estimated 15 million pupils, may have to close, said Shantanu Gupta, the associate director of the School Choice Campaign with the Centre for Civil Society, a non-profit research and educational organisation.

Apparently embarrassed by the fact that so many millions of poor families would rather pay for good private schools than go to free state institutions, the government is  trying to regulate the private schools out of existence.

…The criteria for private schools to remain open include meeting a minimum requirement for the size of its premises, higher teacher salaries, and government certification. Mr Ballabh would rather pay several hundred rupees a month out of his meagre salary as a private tutor to send his son to Pioneer than to a government school. Although there are no tuition fees at state schools and textbooks and lunches are free, teachers are often absent and there can be up to 80 students per class, he said. Studies published by the Centre for Civil Society showed that schools such as Pioneer perform better than government schools.

Not surprisingly, the government doesn’t want to judge private schools on the basis of performance.

…Mr Gupta said…”The requirements should be performance-based instead of looking at how much land is available to build a school,” …One of the states that has managed to bridge the gap between the requirements of the act and the realities on the ground is Gujarat, said Mr Gupta, where the land requirement was done away with and schools are judged on pupils’ performance.

I’ve previously identified some truly despicable people on this blog (Robert Murphy, Michael Wolfensohn, Olga Stefou and the British moocher mom). Well, I think Ashok Agarwal may beat them in the contest to be the worst person in the world. He’s the one who launched the attack against so-called unauthorised schools.

…there are those who say such schools must be forced to close if the education system is to be improved in India. “We have an act that clearly defines what a school is and that must be respected,” said Ashok Agarwal, a lawyer and an education activist who filed a public interest litigation in 2006 seeking the closure of unauthorised schools.

Mr. Agarwal admits that the government schools don’t work, but he thinks he should have the right to decide what is best for other people’s children. What a disgusting human being.

“We admit our education system has been derailed but we are trying to fix it, and if you are unhappy with how government schools are run then pressure the government to make changes but don’t put your children in substandard schools,” he said.

The same issues exist in the United States. Children from poor families often are in neighborhoods where the government schools are a dismal failure.

Leftists want to use this horrible performance as an excuse to throw more tax dollars into a failing system, but this amazing chart shows that huge increases in staff and money have not helped the system.

School choice is one of the best ways of giving poor kids an opportunity for a brighter future. But the teacher unions are opposed, largely because they want to protect their privileged status.

That’s reprehensible, but understandable. What’s unforgivable, though, is when politicians like Barack Obama and groups such as the NAACP side with the unions, putting political power ahead of progress and opportunity for kids.

Shame of people in the United States who put government before kids. And shame on people in India who also put the interests of the state before the interests of children.

P.S. Here’s a video explaining why school choice is better than a government-run monopoly.

P.P.S. Read here how Chile has achieved great results with school choice.

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What’s more realistic: A unicorn, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or a successful government program?

This isn’t a trick question. Even though I’ve presented both theoretical and empirical arguments against government spending, that doesn’t mean every government program is a failure.

I suppose the answer depends on the definition of success.

Government roads do enable me to get from Virginia to Washington every day. And the Post Office usually gets mail from one side of the country to another. By that standard, many government programs and activities yield positive results.

But if the question is whether government achieves anything in a cost-efficient manner, you’re probably better off searching under your bed for unicorns.

If you pose this question to someone on the left, however, don’t be surprised if they point to Head Start. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that this program gives low-income kids a critical leg up before they start school.

I would like this to be true. I may not be fond of big and bloated government, but the best interests of these kids are more important than my desire for a talking point against the welfare state.

So what does the evidence say?

Head Start CartoonHere’s what the Washington Examiner wrote about the program, starting with an explanation of what the program is supposed to accomplish.

There are few institutions more sacrosanct in Washington than President Johnson’s Head Start program. The federal government spent more than $7.9 billion on the program in 2012 alone to provide preschool services for nearly 1 million low-income Americans. The program represents everything that is supposedly great about the liberal welfare state. It redistributes resources from wealthy to poor. It uses the power of the federal government to combat inequality by giving poor and minority students an educational boost before they fall behind their wealthier peers. There’s just one problem: It doesn’t work.

Is that an empty assertion? Nope, it’s the evidence from the government’s own research.

The ongoing randomized study of Head Start was based on a nationally representative sample of 5,000 children who applied for the program in 2002. Approximately half of the subjects received Head Start services, while the other half did not. The students were then tested on their language, literacy, math and school performance skills. …the 2010 Head Start Impact Study report notes, “the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole.” Specifically, the language, literacy, math and school performance skills of the Head Start children all failed to improve. …Now, the HHS has finally published a follow-up to its 2010 study that follows the same children through the end of third grade. And again, the HHS has concluded that Head Start is ineffective, concluding that Heat Start resulted in “very few impacts … in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices.” And those impacts that were found “did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.”

So what’s this costing the nation (above and beyond the failure to improve the lives of children)?

Since 1965, the federal government has spent $180 billion on Head Start. …Does that sound like a program you’d want to spend $8 billion on next year?

Now imagine the good things that would have happened if that money was left in the economy’s productive sector.

Or, if you like government, but at least want good results, imagine the good things that would have happened if state and local governments shifted $180 billion from the failed school monopoly into genuine school choice programs.

But let’s close on an optimistic note. As far as I know, there’s no evidence that Head Start actually damages children. It’s just wasted money.

That’s a much better track record than other welfare state programs.

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It appears that my contest between the United States and United Kingdom for the most inane government policy how has to be augmented by a new contest between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Just yesterday, I mocked Maryland officials for suspending two little boys for the horrific crime of playing cops and robbers (and noted that this is not the first time such stupidity has been displayed by Maryland school officials).

Preferred Weapon of al Qaeda

Apparently, the pencil-neck bureaucrats in Pennsylvania are jealous that their neighbors are getting a lot of attention, so they’ve branded a five-year old girl as a terrorist threat for talking about her pink toy gun that shoots bubbles.

Yes, bubbles.

Here are some of the absurd details from a local news report.

Talking with a friend about a pink toy bubble gun got a five-year-old kindergarten girl in the Mount Carmel Area School District labeled as a terrorist threat, according to an attorney.The incident occurred Jan. 10 while the girl was waiting in line for a school bus, said Robin Ficker, the Maryland lawyer retained by the girl’s family. …Talking with a friend, the girl said something to the effect “I’m going to shoot you and I will shoot myself” in reference to the device that shoots out bubbles. The girl did not have the bubble gun with her and has never shot a real gun in her life, Ficker said. Elementary school officials learned of the conversation and questioned the girls the next day, Fickler said. He said the girl did not have a parent present during the 30 minutes of questioning. The result, he said, was that the student was labeled a “terrorist threat” and suspended for 10 days, Ficker said. The school also required her to be evaluated by a psychologist, Ficker said. “This little girl is the least terroristic person in Pennsylvania,” he said.

In yesterday’s post, I speculated that it was a teacher who reported the little boys for playing cops and robbers and I said that teacher should be suspended.

I also said the principal should be fired for punishing the boys for acting like boys.

But after reading this story, I realize that I was being wimpy. These stories show that the time has come to end the government school monopoly.

We already know that government schools do a rotten job, consuming ever-larger amounts of our tax dollars for a system that produces very mediocre results (check out this chart if you don’t believe me).

But that’s just part of the argument for school choice.

We also need to protect our kids from being exposed to bureaucrats who are jaw-droppingly stupid.

“I want to work for the IRS when I grow up”

Actually, WordPress is telling me that “droppingly” isn’t a word. So maybe instead we should take Instapundit’s advice and reward these idiot officials with some tar and feathers.

And I hope the tattle-tale punk from the bus stop who ratted out the little girls is condemned to some sort of grade-school purgatory featuring never-ending wedgies.

On a more serious note, I hope the parents sue the you-know-what out of the school.

Then I hope Pennsylvania’s state legislature and Governor quit screwing around and implement a sweeping school choice plan, as they supposedly were going to do two years ago.

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Notwithstanding the title of this post, perhaps nobody deserves blame.

Sometimes, a good or service rises in price solely as a result of changes in supply and demand. And if the price of something climbs because of market forces, then it’s merely a reflection of unfettered exchanges between buyers and sellers.

But politicians and bureaucrats often distort market forces with subsidies. And even though consumers ostensibly benefit when government helps to pay for something, intervention can have very costly consequences.

I’ve already shared an amazing chart and a very powerful video to help explain how government subsidies in health care have created a third-party payer problem that has resulted in rapidly rising prices and considerable inefficiency in that sector.

Well, the good intentions of government also are causing problems for higher education.

Here’s a superb video from Learn Liberty, explaining why college expenses are skyrocketing.

The first part of the video shows that a college degree has become more valuable, so it’s understandable that the relative price of higher education has risen.

But then, beginning at about 1:55, the video discusses the role of subsidies. Echoing points I’ve made in the past, the professor explains how subsidies have simply generated higher prices. In other words, colleges have captured all the benefits, not students.

Business Week recently published a story that provides some glaring example of how universities have wasted all the additional money. Here are some remarkable excerpts.

“I have no idea what these people do,” says the biomedical engineering professor. Purdue has a $313,000-a-year acting provost and six vice and associate vice provosts, including a $198,000-a-year chief diversity officer. Among its 16 deans and 11 vice presidents are a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief. The average full professor at the public university in West Lafayette, Ind., makes $125,000. The number of Purdue administrators has jumped 54 percent in the past decade—almost eight times the growth rate of tenured and tenure-track faculty. “We’re here to deliver a high-quality education at as low a price as possible,” says Robinson. “Why is it that we can’t find any money for more faculty, but there seems to be an almost unlimited budget for administrators?” …Purdue is typical: At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty. “Administrative bloat is clearly contributing to the overall cost of higher education,” says Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas. In a 2010 study, Greene found that from 1993 to 2007, spending on administration rose almost twice as fast as funding for research and teaching at 198 leading U.S. universities. …Trustees at the University of Connecticut are reviewing administrative salaries at the school’s main campus in Storrs, following a controversy over the compensation of the school’s former police chief, who received $256,000 annually—more than New York City’s police commissioner. …Mitch Daniels, a fiscal hawk who will become [Purdue's] president when his term expires in January…says he wants to take a look at administrative costs that he suspects are “marbled” throughout the university—beginning with his office. In anticipation of his arrival in January, and without his knowledge, the school renovated the president’s 4,000-square-foot suite. The cost was $355,000, enough to send 15 Indiana residents to Purdue for a year.

Wow. Reminds me of this post about politically correct featherbedding at the University of California at San Diego. I can see why college administrators like this system. But it’s definitely bad news for students who get stuck on a treadmill of higher tuition and more debt.

P.S. At 2:18, the video has a discussion of how subsidies lead to higher costs, which then leads to more demands for additional subsidies. Hmmm…bad government policy leads to more bad government policy. Seems like there’s a term for that phenomenon.

P.P.S. I highly recommend the Learn Liberty videos. Here’s one on protectionism, one on the legality of Obamacare, and here’s another about how excessive federal spending is America’s real fiscal problem.

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On rare occasions, when I get really irked, I complain about media bias. Examples include this AP story on poverty, the Brian Ross Tea Party slur, this example of implicit bias by USA Today, and a Reuters report on job creation and so-called stimulus.

On other occasions, though, you stumble upon a news report or column that is ignorant beyond belief and you have to assume that the person has transcended ordinary bias and belongs in a special category.

The Washington Post seems to specialize in this kind of über-mistake. It was a Post reporter, after all, who wrote last year about a GOP plan to “slash” spending when timid GOPers were merely trying to trim 0.15 percent from the growth of federal spending. Not 15 percent. Not 1.5 percent. A mere $6 billion out of a bloated federal budget of $3,800,000,000,000.

And it was the Washington Post that decided to refer to a certain country as fiscally conservative. Was the reporter writing about Hong Kong or Singapore, the two jurisdictions with the smallest government and freest markets? Nope. Was the reporter referring to Switzerland, with its strong human rights policy on financial privacy, or Australia, with its personal retirement accounts? Nope, the reporter wrote about “fiscally conservative Germany.”

I guess the folks at the New York Times were feeling left out, because our latest example comes from that newspaper. Someone named Chrystia Freeland wrote an article about income inequality, making some decent points about cronyism, but also reflexively regurgitating talking points on class-warfare tax policy. What caught my eye, though, was this incredible assertion about government funding of education.

Educational attainment, which created the American middle class, is no longer rising. The super-elite lavishes unlimited resources on its children, while public schools are starved of funding. …elite education is increasingly available only to those already at the top. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama enrolled their daughters in an exclusive private school; I’ve done the same with mine.

So “public schools are starved of funding”? That’s a strong statement. It implies very deep reductions in the amount of money being diverted from taxpayers to the government schools. So where are the numbers?

You won’t be surprised to learn that Ms. Freeland doesn’t offer any evidence. And there’s a good reason for that. As show in this chart, government spending on education has skyrocketed in recent years.

This data isn’t adjusted for inflation or population, but you can peruse this amazing chart put together by one of Cato’s education experts to see that per-pupil spending has skyrocketed even after adjusting for inflation.

In other words, Ms. Freeland has no clue what she’s talking about. Or, to be fair, she made a giant-sized mistake, perhaps because she’s lives in a statist bubble and blindly assumes that left-wing politicians tell the truth.

Though I do want to giver her credit. She acknowledges that Obama and Clinton both decided to save their kids from a failed government-run school system, thus exposing some hypocrisy on the left. So it’s quite possible that she wanted to write a fair piece, but simply had a few major blind spots.

And it goes without saying that none of the editors or (non-existent?) fact checkers at the New York Times knew enough or cared enough to catch a huge blunder.

P.S. You can enjoy some cartoons about media bias here, here, and here, with the last one being my favorite.

P.P.S. Yes, I know Paul Krugman writes at the New York Times and sometimes seems to specialize in big mistakes. But he’s explicitly an opinion writer, so readers are forewarned to expect a certain point of view.

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I’ve previously shared an amazing chart that shows how more government spending on public schools has yielded zero positive results.

Well, it seems that government spending on colleges and universities also leaves a lot to be desired.

Three academics investigated the relationship between higher-education spending and economic performance and it turns out that this perverse form of redistribution from poor to rich is counterproductive. Here’s the key sentence from the abstract.

Results from a series of fixed-effects regressions using a 1992-2002 panel of state-level data indicate that increased spending on higher education generally exhibits a relatively large negative effect on private sector employment or gross state product growth when the increase in education spending is financed through own-source revenue.

Yet Obama and most of the other politicians in Washington want to increase the subsidies for colleges and universities – even though the macroeconomic effects are dismal.

But I guess that doesn’t matter since politicians seem more concerned about creating more comfortable lives for unproductive professors and bloated school bureaucracies.

By the way, let’s not forget that students also suffer. As the federal government has squandered more money on higher education, colleges and universities have responded by jacking up tuition and fees, leaving more and more students deeply in debt.

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I wrote back in July about the remarkable transformation of Chile into a prosperous market economy.

In that post, I noted that Chile was a pioneer in the shift from unsustainable tax-and-transfer entitlement schemes to savings-based personal retirement accounts. And with good reason. That system, which has been in place for more than three decades, is hugely successful.

We should do the same thing in America, and we should do it yesterday, if not sooner.

But Chile’s success is driven by more than just pension reform. And I want to mention something remarkable about what’s happening with school choice in that country.

Jose Pinera – Freedom Fighter

First, some background. I’m currently at a Cato Institute donor retreat, where I had the chance to talk to Jose Pinera, who is now the Co-chairman of Cato’s Project on Social Security Choice, but who also was the person who implemented the pension reforms in his home country of Chile.

I knew Chile had a school choice program, and I wrote a brief post about those reforms back in 2010.

But I was stunned when Jose told me yesterday that about 60 percent of Chilean kids – of all ages – now attend private schools.

That’s far better than Sweden, which also has nationwide school choice, but has only about 20 percent of high school-age kids in private schools.

Jose thinks that it is just a matter of time before more than 80 percent of Chilean kids are in private schools. Why? Because people like freedom and choice.

He often brags – and rightly so – that more than 95 percent of workers chose personal retirement accounts when given the option of staying with the old government-run pension system. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that parents also choose wisely when deciding how to get the best possible education option for their kids.

Now, if we can just figure out how to expand school choice in America

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As a general rule, I’m completely neutral about private-sector unions. As I argued in this interview, the federal government should not take sides or tilt the playing field when unions and management squabble.

I have a more skeptical view of unionized bureaucrats, though, because politicians (acting as “management”) have no incentive to be frugal since they’re spending our money and there’s no competitive pressure to be efficient.

Which is why this cartoon is the best summary of “negotiations” between politicians and union bosses, and this video is damning proof that bureaucrats are wildly over-compensated.

So it’s no surprise that I’m unsympathetic to the striking teachers in Chicago. They earn more money than the taxpayers of the city, yet they do a terrible job of educating students.

Here are some good cartoons, beginning with a gem from Michael Ramirez.

You can see some of my favorite Ramirez cartoons here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehereherehereherehere, and here.

Here’s another cartoon. Instead of mocking teachers for doing a crummy job, it zings them for insatiable greed (similar to this cartoon).

Lisa Benson did this cartoon, and you can review some of her best work herehereherehereherehere,here, herehere, and here.

Last but not least, I’m not even sure what we’re supposed to learn from this cartoon. But it implies thuggish tactics in Chicago, so let’s add it to the list.

Sort of reminds me of this cartoon about Wisconsin.

The best outcome of the strike, by the way, is to junk the government education monopoly and implement a sweeping school choice program.  Chile has reformed its education system with vouchers, as have Sweden and the Netherlands. So why shouldn’t kids in Chicago get the same opportunity?

The answer, of course, is that there’s a corrupt and symbiotic relationship between unions and local politicians. The kids are nothing more than collateral damage.

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I’ve criticized union bosses for fighting school reform, and I’ve condemned the so-called civil rights establishment for opposing school choice.

And here’s a powerful video from Reason TV that combines those themes, noting the unholy alliance of teacher unions and the NAACP.

The spiritual leader of the teacher unions?

Fortunately, the statists seem to be losing this issue. Louisiana recently adopted school choice legislation that will give poor children an opportunity to escape failing government schools.

But the left isn’t losing gracefully. In a move that would make George Wallace proud, they are threatening schools that will participate in the new program.

Here’s some powerful criticism of their sleazy tactics from today’s Wall Street Journal.

In some parts of the antebellum South, it was illegal to teach blacks how to read. Are teachers unions in Louisiana trying to turn back the clock? Last week, lawyers for the Louisiana Association of Educators, one of the state’s two major teachers unions, threatened private and parochial schools with lawsuits if the schools accept students participating in a new school choice initiative that starts this year. Education reforms signed into law in April by Governor Bobby Jindal include a publicly funded voucher program that allows low-income families to send their children to private or parochial schools. …lawyers representing the unions faxed letters to about 100 of the 119 schools that are participating in the voucher program. “Our clients have directed us to take whatever means necessary,” the letter reads. Unless the school agrees to turn away voucher students, “we will have no alternative other than to institute litigation.” The letter demanded an answer in writing by the next day. Louisiana’s voucher program is adjusted for family income and is intended above all to give a shot at a decent education to underprivileged minorities, who are more likely to be relegated to the worst public schools. …Demand for vouchers has been overwhelming: There were 10,300 applications for 5,600 slots. Despite claims to the contrary by school-choice opponents, low-income parents can and do act rationally when it comes to the education of their children. State officials have rightly slammed the union’s tactics. A spokesman for the Governor said in a statement that union leaders are “stooping to new lows and trying to strong-arm schools to keep our kids from getting a quality education.” State Superintendent John White said it was “shameful” that the unions were “trying to prevent people from doing what’s right for their children.” The unions claim that vouchers don’t benefit students, but we know from school-choice programs in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that voucher recipients attend safer schools and enjoy higher graduation rates than their peers in public schools.

As I note in this post (featuring a great column by Jeff Jacoby), I’ve always believed that the school choice issue exposes the dividing line between honest liberals and power-hungry liberals.

Regardless of ideology, any decent person will favor reforms that enable poor kids to escape horrible government schools. Lots of liberals are decent people. The ones who oppose school choice, by contrast, are…well, you can fill in the blank.

P.S. Here’s some wisdom on the issue of school choice from a former University of Georgia quarterback.

P.P.S. Not surprisingly, Thomas Sowell nails the issue, as does Walter Williams, with both criticizing the President for sacrificing the interests of minority children to protect the monopoly privileges of teacher unions.

P.P.P.S. Chile has reformed its education system with vouchers, as have Sweden and the Netherlands, and all those nations are getting good results.

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