The invaluable Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner is an expert at exposing the corruption of big government, and his article about for-profit colleges and government-subsidized tuition shows that everybody involved in this fight is sleazy. Unfortunately, no matter who wins, the taxpayers lose. It’s also worth pointing out that the main effect of government-financed tuition payments and loans is to drive up the cost of college – another example of the third-party payer phenomenon.
Here are key passages from Tim’s column.
For a case study in the tawdry and twisted world of Washington policymaking and lobbying, you can’t do much better than the current fight over the subsidies and regulations for for-profit colleges. Behind every argument is an ulterior motive, around every corner is a conflict of interest, and in every pocket there is cash procured through government policy supposed to serve the public good. …don’t confuse “for-profit” with “capitalist.” Without federal subsidies in the form of Pell grants and federal loan guarantees, the for-profits might not exist. At the very least, they would be much smaller. About 87 percent of the revenue at the biggest for-profits comes from federal taxpayers, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. They belong to a class of company that I call Subsidy Sucklers. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, earlier this year declared war on the for-profits, ordering the Government Accountability Office to investigate these schools’ marketing techniques. The GAO produced a scathing condemnation. …But a closer look revealed a murkier picture. The GAO last month corrected the paper, modifying 16 of the report’s 28 findings. At Education Week, Rick Hess wrote, “all 16 of the errors run in the same direction — casting for-profits in the worst possible light.” The credibility of Harkin’s star witness in his August hearing, Steven Eisman, was also called into question. Eisman is a short-seller who reportedly stands to make big money if the stocks of for-profit colleges collapse. He also is a vocal lobbyist for new regulations that would cripple these colleges. The term for Eisman is Regulatory Robber Baron. … Bill Clinton’s former special counsel Lanny Davis first flagged Eisman’s role in a Politico op-ed, and liberal ethics “watchdog” Melanie Sloan followed up, criticizing Harkin for allowing Eisman to testify, sparking the liberal American Prospect to ask in a headline, “Why Are Progressives Fighting Student Loan Reform?” The answer: money. On September 17 — about three months after Davis’s op-ed — Davis registered as a lobbyist for the Coalition for Educational Success, a trade group of for-profit colleges. Then in November, Sloan announced she was joining Davis’s lobbying firm. Also lobbying for the for-profit colleges are six former Democratic congressmen and three former Republican lawmakers. This tale has no good guys, but it does have a moral: When you inject government into an industry, you get some pretty unsavory results.
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You wouldn’t expect any positive developments from California when it comes to schooling, but this video shows that parents now have the ability, for all intents and purposes, to fire the incumbent management of a government school.
I don’t think this is nearly as good as what’s being proposed in Douglas County, Colorado, but it’s a big step for a union-controlled state such as California.
And the parents of one failing school have pulled the trigger and are forcing good reforms.
2011 could be a very good year for school reform and improvement. That’s bad news for politicians and teacher unions, but great news for parents and kids.
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One of the few success stories in American education is the home-schooling movement. About two million kids are being taught by their parents and the evidence is overwhelming that these students get a far better education than children in government schools. And since my youngest kid was home schooled for a couple of years, I can personally testify that it often is the right approach.
But the real reason for this post is to share this very clever and funny video from Tim Hawkins (creator of the tremendously successful song parody, “The Government Can”).
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Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute blogs at Carpe Diem and perhaps is best known as being the go-to guy for things-are-better-than-you-think statistics. But he has bravely waded into the PC battlefield with a new video examining lower test scores for females on the math portion of the SAT.
Using the same technology as the famous QE2 video, Mark pokes big holes in the feminist argument that cultural bias is responsible for differences in test scores. I suspect “The Janet Hyde” will not be happy with the results.
Lest anyone accuse him of misogyny, Mark’s video also points out that girls do much better than boys on the reading and writing portions of the test, and also get far more college degrees. His goal is to puncture the PC notion that males and females have to be exactly equal and that any differences require government intervention.
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Posted in Education, School Choice, States, Union Bosses, Vouchers, tagged Colorado, Education, National Education Association, School Choice, Unions, Vouchers on November 20, 2010 |
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I generally focus on fiscal policy and I love low tax rates, so when I say that what happens on school choice in Douglas County, Colorado, may be more important to the future of the nation than what happens with Obama’s plan for higher tax rates next year, that should give you an idea of the critical importance of this education battle.
The union bosses at the National Education Association have been waging a vicious national campaign against competition and choice and have succeeded in limiting school choice to a handful of small systems (largely focused just on the poor) in places such as Milwaukee.
These are great success stories, but the government education monopoly won’t be broken until there is a big, highly visible, school choice success in a large, mostly white, jurisdiction. Douglas County is that example. Here’s an excerpt from a story in today’s Wall Street Journal.
The school board in a wealthy suburban county south of Denver is considering letting parents use public funds to send their children to private schools—or take classes with private teachers—in a bid to rethink public education. The proposals on the table in Douglas County constitute a bold step toward outsourcing a segment of public education…In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case involving a voucher program in Cleveland that public money could be used for private religious schools as long as parents were not steered to any one particular faith-based program and had a “genuine choice” on where to use their vouchers. About 160,000 children in the U.S., mostly low-income or with special needs, use vouchers or scholarships subsidized indirectly by the state to attend private schools, according to the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. …Douglas County School District board members are also considering letting students enrolled in public schools opt out of some classes in favor of district-approved alternatives offered at for-profit schools or by private-sector instructors. Students might skip high-school Spanish, for example, to take an advanced seminar in Chinese, or bypass physics to study with a rocket scientist, in person or online. …The school board is dominated by conservatives, including several who won election last fall on vows to expand educational choices. “These days, you can build a custom computer. You can get a custom latte at Starbucks,” said board member Meghann Silverthorn. “Parents expect the same out of their educational system.” …Douglas County, a swath of tidy cul-de-sacs and look-alike subdivisions, already boasts nine charter schools, two magnet schools and an online school as well as 65 traditional schools—all funded by tax dollars. Students receive high scores on standardized tests and a recent community survey found overwhelmingly positive views about the public schools. Fewer than 4,000 students in the district chose private or home schools last year, according to state statistics. “But we will not rest on our laurels,” board president John Carson said at a recent meeting. …The voucher plan…would give participants about $5,000, enough to cover 35% to 100% of tuition at local private schools.
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Some of my Republican friends were disappointed with last week’s election results in Colorado, but something far more important is about to happen in the Centennial State. Douglas County, which is a significant jurisdiction with 240,000 residents south of Denver, appears to be on the verge of implementing a sweeping school choice system. Here’s a blurb from the Denver Post:
Douglas County School District officials say an unexpected level of interest in a retreat exploring school choice today and Saturday is forcing them to add an overflow room and a video feed to allow the public to watch the discussion. The school board is investigating a voucher program that would allow students to use public money to help with tuition at approved religious schools and other private ones. The two-day retreat will discuss the findings of a school-choice task force that has been mulling several issues, including vouchers. …The board will officially discuss the school-choice recommendations at a meeting Tuesday night, during which the public will be allowed to comment. No Colorado school district has a voucher program.
Here’s a link to the proposal, but if you just want my summary, I’m told that parents will have a voucher for about $4,500 per child that can be used to finance tuition at any qualifying school. This is more than enough money to cover costs at most non-government schools, and the population is sufficiently large to make this program a dramatic test case.
Keep your fingers crossed that Douglas County officials resist special-interest groups that are seeking to thwart this reform. The teacher unions have been vicious in their efforts to stop this kind of development. If Douglas County succeeds in putting kids first, this could break the logjam and lead to better education policy across the nation.
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Imagine having your child suspended for two years because he took a toy gun to school. Sounds absurd, right? Well, it’s real life in Broward County, Florida.
Samuel Burgos has fond memories of his friends at school, but he only gets to see them in pictures now. The 8-year-old boy hasn’t been in school for a year and will likely miss another year if the Broward County School Board has its way. Burgos was suspended from school in November after a teacher found a toy gun in his backpack. But when the boy went to register to go back to Pembroke Pines Charter School, he was told he will be expelled for this school year, too, as part of the county’s zero tolerance weapons policy. …School board officials said the rules are quite clear and that the toy gun constituted a weapon. A school board report on the incident mentions that Samuel showed the toy gun to another student and it was capable of firing projectiles. That’s all it takes for it to be considered a weapon. “This is in his backpack and it’s a toy. It’s not a real gun. It’s a toy,” said Magdiel Burgos, twirling a plastic gun. The school board said they would admit Samuel into a correctional school for problem children who have been expelled located in Hallandale Beach. …”I can’t sit here and allow them to send my kid to a school where students have committed actual crimes,” Burgos said. “He hasn’t committed a crime.”
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Posted in Chris Christie, Education, National Education Association, New Jersey, Union Bosses, tagged Education, Governor Christie, National Education Association, New Jersey, Union Bosses on September 10, 2010 |
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I wish GOPers in DC could make persuasive arguments like this. One has to wonder whether Governor Christie will be a player in 2012.
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Posted in Education, National Education Association, School Choice, tagged Education, Monopoly, National Education Association, NEA, Pennsylvania, School Choice, Vouchers on September 7, 2010 |
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When Democrat and Republican candidates for governor in a large state both endorse school vouchers, that doesn’t necessarily mean genuine educational reform will take place, but it surely is a positive sign. If a state like Pennsylvania breaks the grip of the teacher unions and ends the state school monopoly, the impact would be powerful – and nationwide. The Wall Street Journal opines about the meaning of this development and also take a much-deserved shot at Obama, who is phasing out a school choice program in Washington, DC, because he cares more about appeasing unions than helping poor kids get a good education.
Last month, and to widespread surprise, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato came out in support of school vouchers for underprivileged kids. Mr. Onorato said that education “grants”—he avoided the term vouchers—”would give low-income families in academically distressed communities direct choices about which schools their children should attend.” Mr. Onorato’s Republican opponent, state Attorney General Tom Corbett, is also a strong backer of education choice, which means that come November Pennsylvania voters will get to choose between two candidates who are on record in support of a statewide school voucher program. Mr. Onorato, the Allegheny County Executive, adopted his new position at the urging of state lawmaker Tony Williams, a voucher proponent whom he defeated in a May primary. The speculation is that Mr. Onorato, who trails Mr. Corbett in the polls, is looking to attract financial support from pro-voucher businessmen who backed Mr. Williams in the primary. Mr. Onorato could also be responding to the public education reality in Pennsylvania. On state tests last year, only 56% of 11th graders scored proficient in math, and 65% in reading. In Philadelphia, only 48% of public school students read at grade level and 52% reach the standard in math. Clearly, the status quo isn’t working. The Obama Administration, which is phasing out a popular and successful school voucher program in Washington, D.C., at the insistence of teachers unions, refuses to acknowledge that vouchers can play a role in reforming K-12 education.
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This video from Reason TV about school choice in New Orleans is a perfect example of something good resulting from a bad event. Lemonade out of lemons!
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A very powerful video from the folks at Reason.tv. I hope the spokeswoman from the Nurse’s union suffers from guilty nightmares.
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Posted in Big Government, Centralization, Dependency, Education, Federalism, nanny state, Obama, tagged Big Government, Centralization, Education, Federalism, nanny state, Obama on August 3, 2010 |
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Michelle Obama has a column in the Washington Post
about the supposed wonders of giving schools a bigger role in the feeding of children. My first reaction is to roll my eyes. I understand that every First Lady picks a pet cause. I just wish they found causes that didn’t involve bigger government. My second reaction is that there should be zero federal government involvement in education, much less micro-managing menus in local schools. My third reaction is that parents should be in charge of the feeding of children. And my final reaction is that if the nanny-state nitwits in Washington really want to deal with childhood obesity, they should outlaw video games, computers, and TVs. I suspect those are the main culprits causing chubbier kids. But please don’t share this blog post with any politicians. They might actually propose such a law. As this excerpt indicates, the First Lady already is pushing a bad idea, so we don’t want to give the crowd in Washington any ideas to make the bill even worse.
The Child Nutrition Bill working its way through Congress has support from both Democrats and Republicans. This groundbreaking legislation will bring fundamental change to schools and improve the food options available to our children. …the bill will make it easier for the tens of millions of children who participate in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program — and many others who are eligible but not enrolled — to get the nutritious meals they need to do their best. It will set higher nutritional standards for school meals by requiring more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while reducing fat and salt. It will offer rewards to schools that meet those standards. And it will help eliminate junk food from vending machines and a la carte lines — a major step that is supported by parents, health-experts, and many in the food and beverage industry. …That’s why it is so important that Congress pass this bill as soon as possible. We owe it to the children who aren’t reaching their potential because they’re not getting the nutrition they need during the day. We owe it to the parents who are working to keep their families healthy and looking for a little support along the way. We owe it to the schools that are trying to make progress but don’t have the resources they need. And we owe it to our country — because our prosperity depends on the health and vitality of the next generation.
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This is not a story from The Onion. Instead, the Associated Press has a report of a school in Rhode Island that banned the hat of little eight-year old David Morales because he decorated it with a couple of toy soldiers that…gasp…had tiny little plastic weapons. I’m not even sure what to say about this, other than that the school bureaucrats probably applied for jobs with TSA and were demonstrating that they were qualified. On the other hand, if the school’s history classes teach that we beat the Nazis by prevailing in a game of rock-paper-scissors, then perhaps the school truly does have a “zero tolerance” policy about weapons. Here’s the relevant section of the report:
Christan Morales said her son just wanted to honor American troops when he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and small plastic Army figures. But the school banned the hat because it ran afoul of the district’s zero-tolerance weapons policy. Why? The toy soldiers were carrying tiny guns. “His teacher called and said it wasn’t appropriate,” Morales said. Morales’ 8-year-old son, David, had been assigned to make a hat for the day when his second-grade class would meet their pen pals from another school. She and her son came up with an idea to add patriotic decorations to a camouflage hat. Earlier this week, after the hat was banned, the principal at the Tiogue School in Coventry told the family that the hat would be fine if David replaced the Army men holding weapons with ones that didn’t have any, according to Superintendent Kenneth R. Di Pietro.
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There’s a controversy in Texas because the State Board of Education has mandated the inclusion of certain materials in textbooks. This has elicited howls of protests from the left, which generally has controlled how some issues are portrayed. Since I don’t want leftist propaganda being pushed on kids, I’m mildly sympathetic to the Texas educrats, but the best way to solve the controversy is school choice. As Jeff Jacoby explains for the Boston Globe, education in America should be more like religion. This means getting rid of one-size-fits-all monopoly schools operated by the government:
“Throughout American history,’’ writes Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, “public schooling has produced political disputes, animosity, and sometimes even bloodshed between diverse people.’’ Political fighting is neither rare nor anomalous: In the course of just one school year, 2005-06, McCluskey tallied almost 150 reported cases of public-school conflicts. There were bitter battles that year over Darwinism-vs.-intelligent-design in Pennsylvania and Kansas, heated fights over books about Cuba in Florida, and an emotional dispute in California over the portrayal of Hindus in history texts. In Lexington, Mass., a teacher’s decision to read a story celebrating gay marriage to her second-grade class without first notifying parents triggered a fight that ultimately wound up in federal court. Again and again, Americans find themselves at war with each other over public schooling. Yet furious conflict over religion in this country is almost unheard-of. Why? Why don’t American Catholics and Protestants angrily attack each other’s views of clerical celibacy or papal infallibility? Why is there no bitter struggle between Orthodox and Reform Jews to control the content of the Sabbath liturgy? Why don’t American atheists clash with American believers over whether children should be taught to pray before going to sleep? …The answer is no mystery. America is a land of religious freedom, in which people decide for themselves what to believe and how to worship. No religion is funded by government. Elected officials have no say in the doctrine of any faith or the content of any religious service. Religion flourishes in America because church and state are separate. And it flourishes so peacefully because no one is forced to support anyone else’s faith, or to attend a church he isn’t happy with, or to bring up children according to the religious views of whichever faction has the most votes. Religion is peaceful because it is government-free. Liberate the schools, and they too would be at peace. Taxpayer-funded, one-curriculum-fits-all schooling makes conflict inevitable. There would be far less animosity if parents were as free to choose how and where their children learn as they are to choose how and where they worship. Separation of church and state has made America an exemplar of religious pluralism and tolerance. Imagine what separation of school and state could do for education.
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Posted in Corruption, Education, Hypocrisy, National Education Association, School Choice, Sleaze, Uncategorized, Union Bosses, tagged Corruption, Education, Hypocrisy, National Education Association, School Choice, Sleaze, Union Bosses, Unions on May 17, 2010 |
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There are a handful of issues that expose hypocrites on both sides of the philosophical spectrum. Republicans and conservatives love to talk about free markets, for instance, but you often find them voting for completely sleazy and corrupt forms of corporate welfare such as the ethanol subsidy for big agri-business. For Democrats and leftists, a powerful example is education. They claim to want to help the poor, especially minorities, yet all too often they cast aside those people and instead side with the teacher unions by opposing school choice. So kudos to the Philadelphia branch of the ADL, as well as a local Democratic politician, for doing the right thing and putting kids before special interests. Jeff Jacoby explains in his Boston Globe column:
Three months ago, the executive committee of ADL’s Philadelphia chapter voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution endorsing vouchers. Now it is urging the entire organization to follow suit.”We believe school choice to be an urgent civil rights issue,’’ the committee argued in a brief being circulated among ADL’s 30 regional offices. Despite decades of increased spending on K-12 education, “the evidence that our public education system is failing to educate our children is staggering.’’ ADL should reverse its longtime position “as a moral imperative,’’ the Philadelphia leadership urges, and “issue a resolution in favor of school choice.’’As it happens, the ADL regional board isn’t the only liberal voice in Philadelphia calling for expanded school choice. State Senator Anthony Williams, a black Democrat and a candidate in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial primary this week, is the founder of a charter school, a champion of vouchers, and an ardent believer in the power of competition to improve the quality of education. His position puts him sharply at odds with the state’s largest teachers’ union, which opposes choice and has endorsed his main opponent. But Williams — like the local ADL leadership — sees school choice as the great civil rights battle of the day.”Anybody who was for Brown v. Board of Education — it baffles me that they would be against vouchers,’’ he told me last week.
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Posted in Education, Republicans, School Choice, Uncategorized, Union Bosses, tagged Education, Illinois, Republicans, School Choice, Union Bosses on May 11, 2010 |
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Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but I had to paraphrase her famous line after reading this Bill McGurn column in the Wall Street Journal about how Republican political hacks in the Illinois state legislature voted to kill a voucher bill that would have rescued inner-city children trapped in terrible government monopoly schools. If you don’t hate government and despise politicians after reading this excerpt, there is something deeply wrong with your soul:
Illinois has given us a new breed of Republican: Roger Eddy. Mr. Eddy is what they call a downstater, an assemblyman who serves an east-central Illinois district hugging the Indiana border. His day job turns out to be in government as well, as a public schools superintendent. Last week Mr. Eddy became the face of the Republican failure to get a voucher bill through the Illinois assembly. The bill had passed the Senate. Yet despite being pushed by a remarkable coalition involving fellow Republicans, a free-market state think tank, and a prominent African-American leader, only 25 Republicans in the House voted yes. That was 12 votes short. Mr. Eddy was one of 23 Republicans who killed it by voting no. …the GOP failure is striking. Republicans typically complain about not getting black support for reforms that would benefit primarily black families. In this case, however, they had that support, in the form of the Rev. James Meeks, a African-American state senator leader whom Barack Obama has called a spiritual adviser. …According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, since 2002 Mr. Eddy has accepted more than $76,000 in campaign contributions from the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the Chicago Teachers Union. … Less than a month ago, the same teachers unions that have given so generously to Mr. Eddy made up a large chunk of the 15,000 protestors who converged on the state capital shouting “Raise Our Taxes” as the solution to the state’s $13 billion budget gap. ..The pity is there were 25 Republicans who did come through. The Republican house leader did what he could. One Republican legislator, a former public school teacher, was in tears on the House floor, begging for this bill. All these people went out on a limb with Mr. Meeks—and Republicans like Mr. Eddy sawed that limb off.
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Posted in Bureaucracy, Bureaucrats, Education, Government stupidity, Local government, Uncategorized, tagged Bureaucracy, Bureaucrats, Education, Government stupidity, Local government on May 9, 2010 |
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We should always remember that the federal government may be the biggest problem, but that does not mean that state and local governments should be exempt from scrutiny. A good (or perhaps I should say bad) example of bone-headed stupidity by bureaucrats and politicians outside of Washington comes from Texas. A local school bureaucracy has given a student detention for the horrible offense of eating a piece of candy her parents packed in her lunch. That clearly was a stupid move by the local official, but don’t forget that state officials also deserve some blame for a state law that limits so-called junk food in schools. I can understand if states (or, more preferably, local governments) try to serve healthier foods in cafeterias, but the foods that parents prepare for their own kids are not any business of politicians and bureaucrats. Period. Case closed:
A third-grader at Brazos Elementary was given a week’s detention for possessing a Jolly Rancher. School officials in Brazos County are defending the seemingly harsh sentence. The school’s principal and superintendent said they were simply complying with a state law that limits junk food in schools. But the girl’s parents say it’s a huge overreaction. “I think it’s stupid to give a kid a week’s worth of detention for a piece of candy,” said Amber Brazda, the girl’s mother. “The whole thing was just ridiculous to me.” Leighann Adair, 10, was eating lunch Monday when a teacher confiscated the candy. Her parents said she was in tears when she arrived home later that afternoon and handed them the detention notice. According to the disciplinary referral, she would be separated from other students during lunch and recess through Friday. Jack Ellis, the superintendent for Brazos Independent School District, declined an on-camera interview. But he said the school was abiding by a state guideline that banned “minimal nutrition” foods. “Whether or not I agree with the guidelines, we have to follow the rules,” he said. The state, however, gives each school discretion over how to enforce the policy. Ellis said school officials had decided a stricter punishment was necessary after lesser penalties failed to serve as a deterrent.
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Teaching Math in 1930:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?
Teaching Math in 1950:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?
Teaching Math in 1970:
A logger exchanges a set “L” of lumber for a set “M” of money. The cardinality of set “M” is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set “M.” The set “C”, the cost of production contains 20 fewer points than set “M.” Represent the set “C” as a subset of set “M” and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set “P” of profits?
Teaching Math in 1990:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.
Teaching Math in 2010:
By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? There are no wrong answers.
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Posted in Big Government, Corruption, Education, Health Care, Sleaze, tagged Big Government, Corruption, Education, Health Care, Sleaze on April 3, 2010 |
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George Orwell’s Animal Farm is famous for showing how the revolutionary zeal of the animals begins to wane after they take over the farm and the slogan “All animals are equal” is eventually amended by adding “But some animals are more equal than others.” The same is true for the American government. Investor’s Business Daily recently opined about the corrupt favoritism shown by Obama’s education secretary when he was in charge of Chicago’s miserable government school system:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan taught us Orwell this week, showing how some are more equal than others with his VIP list for admission to Chicago’s best schools. …Duncan…didn’t quite persuade that city’s well-connected elites of the value of his reforms, given the number who sought placement in the district’s better schools. Duncan insists it was just an appeals list on which parents could place kids who didn’t make it into the schools they wanted. He says that he didn’t do any lobbying for special placements. …But that argument doesn’t hold water, given that the list was kept secret from the public and Duncan’s initials appeared on 50 placement appeals, along with those of his wife, his mother and other political insiders with the clout to decide who got onto the list. Duncan’s staff also made calls to principals. So those initials wouldn’t carry any weight now, would they? And if they meant nothing, why were they there at all? The Tribune, which broke the story, noted that parents have long suspected Chicago’s public school system of being rigged in favor of the connected, based on experience. The paper found that at least one student placed on the VIP list by Duncan’s pal, former Democratic U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, made it into an elite school with substandard admissions scores. …Instead of taking on the unions, demanding performance, and shutting down bad schools, Duncan declared victory and permitted special placements to shield his friends from the impact of his liberal policies. Given the government takeovers in the private sector, it’s a sign of a growing problem coming down the pipeline, of two-tier systems to distribute spoils. Special privileges for the cronies, slop for the middle class.
Special access for powerful insiders is inevitable when government has too much power, so Duncan’s corrupt behavior is hardly surprising. James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal applies this lesson to healthcare and poses a very relevant question:
If you and Larry Summers both get sick and need a treatment that the Medicare Advisory Commission (dysphemistically known as the Death Panel) deems too expensive, what are the odds that you’ll find a way to get it anyway and he won’t? How about the other way around? In the Soviet Union, those privileged by political connections were called the nomenklatura. Here, we can call it the Obamaklatura.
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I realize that the “Taxpayers vs. Bureaucrats” series is rather depressing, with only two tiny pieces of good news out of 18 installments, so I’m almost reluctant to unveil a new series. But odious and corrupt deal-making is a fundamental – and probably unavoidable – feature of government, and we need to shine a spotlight on the way government really works. This is especially important since the bigger the government, the more rampant the sleaze. Our first post in the series highlights a Wall Street Journal column exposing how one Congressman is funneling some of the loot from a new government monopoly to a campaign contributor:
President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been criticized for being antibusiness. But Washington is about to bestow a huge gift upon one particular type of business—the type that doesn’t pay taxes. Despite bipartisan opposition, this week the Democrats hope to use budget reconciliation in the Senate to ram through changes to the health-care bill the House passed on Sunday. Coming along for the legislative ride is a federal takeover of the student-loan market. …All such loans will now come directly from the U.S. Department of Education. …But while Democrats are eliminating a revenue stream at for-profit companies, they are simultaneously creating another one for a handful of favored nonprofit companies. Currently, for loans that the government makes directly to students, the Department of Education conducts competitive bidding and hires private companies to service the loans. But in the pending bill, several dozen nonprofit firms will be eligible to receive no-bid servicing contracts on up to 100,000 student accounts for each firm. Which nonprofit organizations will qualify? California’s ALL Student Loan looks to be a big winner, thanks to language written by Representative George Miller of California. ALL Student Loan may have helped its cause by retaining the services of Vincent Reusing, a lobbyist whom the Chronicle of Higher Education has described as a “personal friend” of Mr. Miller. …According to OpenSecrets.org, Mr. Reusing has contributed more than $80,000 to various Democratic campaigns, including Mr. Miller’s.
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Posted in Big Government, Education, National Education Association, Taxpayer Ripoff, Union Bosses, Waste, tagged Education, Monopoly, National Education Association, Unions on March 15, 2010 |
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Here’s a great video, put together by my Cato colleagues, exposing the real cost of government-run school systems.
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The healthcare fight in Washington is not about access to doctors and hospitals, or the cost of those services. It is an effort by the left to create more dependency on government. George Will examines this theme in a Washington Post column:
Killing this small program, which currently benefits 1,300 mostly poor and minority children, is odious and indicative. It is a small piece of something large — the Democrats’ dependency agenda, which aims to multiply the ways Americans are dependent on government. Democrats, in their canine devotion to teachers unions, oppose empowering poor children to escape dependency on even terrible government schools. …For congressional Democrats, however, expanding dependency on government is an end in itself. They began the Obama administration by expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It was created for children of the working poor but the expansion made millions of middle-class children eligible — some in households earning $125,000. The aim was to swell the number of people who grow up assuming that dependency on government health care is normal. …Democrats’ “reforms” of the financial sector may aim to reduce financial institutions to dependent appendages of the government. By reducing banks to public utilities, credit, which is the lifeblood of capitalism, could be priced and allocated by government. …Many Democrats, opposing the Supreme Court, advocate new campaign finance “reforms” that will further empower government to regulate the quantity, timing and content of speech about government. Otherwise voters will hear more such speech than government considers good for them.
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My Cato colleague Izzy Santa explains why a free-market approach is the key to better schools.
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Here’s another study showing the benefits of comprehensive school choice in a foreign country. Interestingly, the author of the report about the Chilean system clearly is not a fan of competition, yet even his data shows higher scores for private schools and rising overall scores, even in the government schools – which is exactly what one would expect since competition encourages every type of school to do a better job:
Chile’s education system was decentralized in 1980, and a voucher-type subsidy was introduced to encourage private providers to enter the market. …Following the reform…, the subsidized private sector rapidly expanded…with 56 percent of enrollments in the municipal sector and 34 percent in subsidized private schools. The fee-paying private sector has expanded…to account for 10 percent of total enrollment. …test results have tended to improve over time, especially at 4th grade, but there are significant differences…fee-paying private schools on average score 19 more points than municipal schools in the SIMCE test, whereas subsidized private schools score 4.5 more.
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I was vaguely aware the there was a school choice system in the Netherlands, but I had no idea how good it was. Nearly three-fourths of all schools are privately controlled. Not surprisingly, the Dutch score very highly compared to other nations. Here’s some of the data from a recent study:
One of the key features of the Dutch education system is freedom of education—freedom to establish schools and organize teaching. Almost 70 percent of schools in the Netherlands are administered by private school boards… it is shown that the Dutch system promotes academic performance. The instrumental variables results show that private school attendance is associated with higher test scores. …a significant part of the high achievement of Dutch students in international achievement tests is due to the institutional features associated with school choice. …Money follows students and each school receives for each student enrolled a sum equivalent to the per capita cost of public schooling. …achievement levels are high, while relative costs are low. …Private school size effects in math, reading and science achievement are 0.17, 0.28 and 0.18, all significant. Given PISA’s scaling, this is close to 0.2 of a standard deviation in the case of math and science, and almost 0.3 of a standard deviation in reading. In other words, these are large effect size effects, indicating that school choice contributes to achievement in Netherlands.
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When I saw this story on the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web, all I could think about is staging a contest between education bureaucrats are TSA bureaucrats to see which group should symbolize the inherent incompetence of the public sector:
Patrick Timoney, a fourth-grader at PS 52, South Beach, was nearly suspended after playing with LEGOs during his lunch period because one of the action figures was carrying at toy machine gun. He and his friends had planned a playdate with their respective toys, and were sitting around the cafeteria table when the principal walked in and saw the action figure carrying the fake gun. While the action figure was a standard LEGO policeman figure, the brand of the gun could not be determined. “She took him into her office in the middle of the lunch period and he was crying,” said the boy’s mother, Laura Timoney. “He was afraid.” The principal called Ms. Timoney and said she considered the toy suspension-worthy, and that she was going to double-check with a security administrator from the city Department of Education. According to Ms. Timoney, the administrator said the toy should be confiscated and returned to the parents at the end of the day, and that no other action was necessary. …She pointed out that another child had an action figure that was holding an ax, but that only Patrick was reprimanded.
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This story from San Diego seems like a typical case of bureaucratic over-reaction. A school vice principal decided that a student’s science project may have been a bomb, so he set in motion events leading to a school evacuation. Without knowing further details, that decision may have been at least somewhat reasonable, but the part of the story that seems completely absurd is that the authorities (not clear whether the story is talking about school authorities or local cops, or whoever) want the student and parents to get counseling – even though it was determined that the science project was harmless and that a search of the home revealed nothing hazardous. I first saw this story on Instapundit and I fully agree that the student’s family should sue the school:
Students were evacuated from Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School in the Chollas View neighborhood Friday afternoon after an 11-year-old student brought a personal science project that he had been making at home to school, authorities said. …The school, which has about 440 students in grades 6 to 8 and emphasizes technology skills, was initially put on lockdown while authorities responded. Luque said the project was made of an empty half-liter Gatorade bottle with some wires and other electrical components attached. There was no substance inside. …A MAST robot took pictures of the device and X-rays were evaluated. About 3 p.m., the device was determined to be harmless, Luque said. Luque said the project was intended to be a type of motion-detector device. Both the student and his parents were “very cooperative” with authorities, Luque said. He said fire officials also went to the student’s home and checked the garage to make sure items there were neither harmful nor explosive. “There was nothing hazardous at the house,” Luque said. The student will not be prosecuted, but authorities were recommending that he and his parents get counseling, the spokesman said. The student violated school policies, but there was no criminal intent, Luque said. …Luque said both the student and his parents were extremely upset. “He was very shaken by the whole situation, as were his parents,” Luque said.
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Walter Williams eviscerates the government education monopoly for its grotesque failure to properly educate most black students. Walter punctures every shibboleth the other side has created, including the notions that more money and smaller class sizes are the keys to educational achievement:
Detroit’s (predominantly black) public schools are the worst in the nation and it takes some doing to be worse than Washington, D.C. Only 3 percent of Detroit’s fourth-graders scored proficient on the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test, sometimes called “The Nation’s Report Card.” Twenty-eight percent scored basic and 69 percent below basic. “Below basic” is the NAEP category when students are unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their grade level. It’s the same story for Detroit’s eighth-graders. Four percent scored proficient, 18 percent basic and 77 percent below basic. …The academic performance of black students in other large cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles is not much better than Detroit and Washington. What’s to be done about this tragic state of black education? The education establishment and politicians tell us that we need to spend more for higher teacher pay and smaller class size. The fact of business is higher teacher salaries and smaller class sizes mean little or nothing in terms of academic achievement. Washington, D.C., for example spends over $15,000 per student, has class sizes smaller than the nation’s average, and with an average annual salary of $61,195, its teachers are the most highly paid in the nation. What about role models? Standard psychobabble asserts a positive relationship between the race of teachers and administrators and student performance. That’s nonsense. Black academic performance is the worst in the very cities where large percentages of teachers and administrators are black, and often the school superintendent is black, the mayor is black, most of the city council is black and very often the chief of police is black. …Another issue deemed too delicate to discuss is the overall quality of people teaching our children. Students who have chosen education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any other major. Students who have an education degree earn lower scores than any other major on graduate school admission tests such as the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, represent the academic slums of most any university. They are home to the least able students and professors. Schools of education should be shut down.
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Even though Pat Buchanan sometimes veers into big-government populism and has odd theories on things such as World War II, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for him – perhaps because he featured one of my Wall Street Journal opeds in a 1992 campaign commercial when he challenged President George H.W. Bush. But he’s also a crisp writer, and his Townhall.com column on education is right on the mark:
As George W. Bush famously asked, “Is our children learning?” Apparently not in the twin capitals of liberalism, D.C. and New York. In a ranking of 50 states and D.C. by how much each spent per pupil in public schools in 2005, New York ranked first; D.C. third. The state spent $14,100, and New York City just a tad less. And the bountiful fruits of this massive transfer of taxpayers’ wealth? In D.C., nearly half of all black and Latino students drop out. Of those who graduate, nearly half are reading and doing math at seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade levels. D.C. academic achievement ranks 51st, last in the U.S. Yet last week came a report from New York that makes D.C look like M.I.T. Some 200 students, in their first math class at City University of New York, were tested on their basic math skills. Ninety percent could not do basic algebra. One-third could not convert a decimal into a fraction. …As 70 percent of all CUNY students are graduates of city schools, a question arises: What are the taxpayers of New York getting for the highest tax rates in the nation? If a private business annually turned out products that were of inferior quality than the year before, management would be thrown out by the board. Yet, the education racket has been shaking us down for four decades, and turning out graduates that know less and less. Scholastic Aptitude Test scores peaked around 1964. Ever since, the national average has been in an almost unbroken descent. So embarrassing did it get that, a few years ago, the SAT folks retooled the test to produce higher scores.
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