Education RSS feed for this section
justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Educational Efficiency Requires Lower Spending

Here’s an interesting study.  It’s from GEMS Educational Solutions, and I found it via a positive mention in a Guardian article, so we’re probably not talking a right-wing group, here.

The study compares certain educational statistics across countries, and one of its principles is that “inefficiency can be a result of either underpaying or overpaying teachers.”  By that measure, the United States would become more efficient (better managing results versus tax rates) by lowering salaries by five percent and increasing class sizes by 10%.

Rhode Island’s teacher salaries are top 10 for the country, so 5% would be too low for our state.  Also, the 15.3 student:teacher ratio listed on GEMS’s application compares with a Rhode Island average of 8.

To be clear, these are back-of-the-envelope comparisons.  A more-thorough review might require adjustments of the numbers (different years, different teacher roles included in the student ratios, etc.).  I come across people, though, especially locally, who find inconceivable the idea that less spending on anything government does might be bad.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

When School Budgets Become Sky’s the Limit

I’ve got a post on Tiverton Fact Check pointing out the oddly divergent trends of school enrollment and budgets:

Think of it this way:  When the PTOs send out notices that the Budget Committee will be considering the school budget, parents and teachers fill the town hall.  How many of them show up at School Committee meetings when important curricular questions are on the table?  How many parents step forward during contract-negotiations to express concern that large increases for employees could eat up funds for innovative technology or even for fixing roofs and HVAC systems?

The taxpayers of Tiverton should absolutely provide the resources necessary to ensure our children and our neighbors’ children have every opportunity to succeed.  But acknowledging that principle still leaves us having to answer an important question:  How much is really necessary?

The following chart shows the trends in student enrollment in Tiverton public schools and the school department’s budget since the 2001-2002 school year.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Weird: Good Teachers Want Pay Flexibility; Not-so-Good Ones Want Rigid Pay

Check out this unsigned editorial in the Wall Street Journal about an amazing innovation in Wisconsin education: letting school districts pay teachers based on their value to the schools!

As Stanford University economic researcher Barbara Biasi explains in a new study (which is awaiting peer review), Act 10 created a marketplace for teachers in which public-school districts can compete for better employees. For instance, a district can pay more to recruit and retain “high-value added” teachers—that is, those who most improve student learning. Districts can also cap salaries of low-performing teachers, which might encourage them to quit or leave for other districts. …

She also found changes in salary structure. For instance, salaries in Green Bay increased about 13% for teachers with five to six years of experience but a mere 4% for those who had worked 29 or 30 years. Salaries among teachers with the same seniority also diverged more. In Racine the opposite occurred. Green Bay was able to pay better teachers more without regard to the lock-step pay scales traditionally dictated by unions.

Well, you don’t need a degree from Rhode Island College to reason out why this would be so: “better teachers gravitate to districts where they can negotiate their own pay while lousy teachers tend to migrate toward those where salary scales are regimented.”

I’d add that it’s not just teacher quality.  Some teaching roles are easier than others, taking less learning and less work, depending on grade level or subject.  Sometimes unique challenges will be entirely specific to a school.

Only a system run primarily for the benefit of labor unions would organize something as critical as educating children in such a ridiculous way.

marc-comtois-avatar

Superior Court Reverses RI Labor Relations Board in Warwick Schools Case

RI Superior Court has ruled that the State Labor Relations Board erred in ordering the Warwick School Committee to seek arbitration with the Warwick Teachers Union under the conditions of the expired contract. As report by the Warwick Post:

In May 2016, the State Labor Relations Board ruled the Warwick School Committee had engaged in unfair labor practices by failing to arbitrate WTU grievances under their contract, an extension of which expired Aug. 31, 2015. The Board originally ordered the School Committee to “cease and desist from refusing to participate in the processing of grievances, including proceeding to arbitration.”

The next day, the WTU filed a motion to amend the decision to maintain the terms and conditions of the contract until a new contract was settled, which the State Labor Relations Board granted without further hearings.

“The Board issued its Amended Decision in this case on the Union’s motion without further hearing. The School Committee, it appears, was provided no opportunity to present for the Board’s consideration the particulars of any proposed departures from the terms of the expired CBA, along with its reasons why it should not be constrained by the Board’s status quo rule. In doing so, the Board acted arbitrarily and erroneously,” Gallo wrote.

The key point lay in the timeline of the items that the WTU sought to arbitrate: in short, they came after the contract had expired and therefore did not fall under the old contract.  As Judge Gallo explained:

“The Court’s review was limited to whether the layoff grievances were arbitrable,” Gallo wrote in his decision. The Supreme Court, he said, “held the obligation to arbitrate a grievance survives expiration of a CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) only where the grievance arises under the contract.”

“Unlike in Litton, where the employer refused to discuss or participate in any grievance process with the union regarding the layoffs, here, the School Committee did engage with the Union regarding the two grievances filed after the expiration of the contract. See 501 U.S. at 194-95. There is simply no evidence in the record to support a finding of bad faith bargaining in violation of § 28-7-13(6) and (10). Under the circumstances, the Board erred in concluding that the School Committee committed an unfair labor practice,” Gallo wrote.

“After review of the entire record, this Court finds the Amended Decision of the Board was clearly erroneous based on the evidence of record. Substantial rights of theSchool Committee have been prejudiced. Accordingly, the Amended Decision of the Board is reversed,” Gallo ordered.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Resisting the Push to Make College Degrees More Useless Paper from the Government

Given debate in Rhode Island about taking more money from already-overburdened taxpayers in order to allow politicians to buy votes by giving away college tuition, the headline of Jeffrey Selingo’s article in The Washington Post catches the eye: “Is a college degree the new high school diploma? Here’s why your degree’s worth is stagnant.“:

… a new study of the degree premium, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds that its growth has flattened in recent years. While the premium grew rapidly in the 1980s — mostly because of the decline of manufacturing jobs that required just a high school diploma — its growth slowed in the 1990s, followed by a small uptick in the first decade of the new millennium.

Since 2010, however, the premium has largely remained unchanged, said the report’s author, Robert G. Valletta of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The “patterns indicate that the factors propelling earlier increases in the returns to higher education have dissipated,” Valletta wrote.

As I’ve been saying.  People should question the promises of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s free-college grab and ponder whether it’s really just the government trying to give itself two or four more years of taxpayer subsidization to accomplish the task of educating students whom it has failed for the first thirteen (or more) years of their education.

The “value of a degree” will fluctuate depending not only on the job market, but also on the purposes to which it is put.  If employers are just using degrees as they might once have used self-administered literacy tests, then the education itself is next to useless.

We should question, too, whether it’s proper to assign value to the piece of paper rather than the holder.  Selingo’s article includes a chart that does indeed show that people with higher-level degrees tend to cluster at higher income levels, but one can’t leave the reasons people seek degrees out of the equation.  A better phrasing might be that people who achieve high pay tend to seek higher degrees.  Those who get the degrees because they’re free or cheap won’t have the same results.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

At Providence Journal, Union Sympathy Overshadows Reporting

I still can’t get over the headline that the Providence Journal gave to Linda Borg’s Providence Journal article about the school choice rally at the State House:

At R.I. State House, Trump proposal overshadows rally for school choice

Add in the contrast with the relatively objective first paragraph, and the agenda of the folks who write the headlines couldn’t be clearer:

Thursday’s annual School Choice rally at the State House, which brought together dozens of private and religious schools, carried some additional weight this year due to President Donald Trump’s pitch to dedicate $20 billion in federal education dollars for vouchers.

So for the first time of this annual event, the President of the United States is bringing “additional weight” to the issue, and that “overshadows” the rally?  That’s just a bizarre way to frame the story.  It’s as if the headline writer called up the self-interested activists at a teachers union and asked them how to spin it.

For her part, Borg quickly recovers her bias in the subsequent paragraphs, highlighting that charter schools (which are the government’s attempt to edge into the private school market) didn’t attend the event and giving paid lobbyist William Fischer an opportunity to dismiss broader school choice than that provided by his paying clients in the government charter school interest group.  (Observe that Borg doesn’t label Fischer as a lobbyist, but as a “spokesman” — “lobbyist” having the unavoidable taint of organizations that want to push their selfish interests.)

The open question is whether the journalists at the Providence Journal are akin to activists deliberately pushing an agenda or are just so steeped in left-wing ideology that they really can’t get their brains around a truly multicultural movement, aligned more with conservatives than progressives, that wants to increase freedom and improve students’ education with much less direct personal interest than cash-flush labor unions.

Or maybe it’s just personal allegiances on the journalists’ part.  After all, although they don’t like to talk about it much, they are all AFL-CIO union members, themselves, and the AFL-CIO has a “partnership agreement” with the National Education Association (NEA), which is very strong in Rhode Island.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

School Choice Makes Families Consumers, Not Commodities

A great short report for which I’ve done some research, but which I never manage to get to, would look at the effects of Vermont’s legacy school choice program.  Given the long-rural history of the state, some districts offer students actual school choice, including to private schools, and a key finding that Rhode Island homeowners should find interesting is that property values go up significantly in areas with choice.  Geoffrey Norman doesn’t offer more than a nod to that dynamic in a recent article in The Weekly Standard, but he does use the current debate in Vermont to make a key, fundamental point (emphasis added):

So, school choice is not—and could never be—supported by the education bureaucracy. It threatens not just their convictions but their livelihoods. Where parents can take their kids and the public money that is being spent on them out of one school and move them, and it, to another—well, this threatens the entire system.

Why it might even, in the dark vision of one of the prominent Vermont opponents of school choice, “turn children into commodities.”

Which of course stands the whole thing on its head. Commodities don’t make choices. They are manipulated, packaged, and bundled. As are students in the grip of the industrial-education complex.

What Norman is touching on, here, is the government plantation.  Attracting people to an area who are likely to need government assistance, binding them to their region with government dependency, and locking their children in government schools creates a captive audience with little power to affect the services their receiving.  Again, “commodities don’t make choices,” but when human beings are “manipulated, packaged, and bundled,” they lose the authority to do anything but sit on the shelf until they’re of use to some powerful consumer.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

So, Free Tuition to a College with “Deficiencies” Training Teachers Whose Students Aren’t Proficient?

This news, reported in an early-January article by G. Wayne Miller in the Providence Journal kind of disappeared with the governor’s announcement of free tuition, but it’s relevant at the front and back ends:

A Rhode Island Department of Education review of Rhode Island College has found multiple deficiencies in educator programs at the school, which graduates a majority of the state’s elementary and secondary school teachers and administrators.

Problems at two master’s-level programs were judged so severe that RIDE declined to renew them. Seven other programs were conditionally approved. A tenth was approved “with distinction.”

As the article states, this college is graduating “a majority” of the “teachers and administrators,” and the schools at which those graduates are going on to teach are often leaving students to graduate without being proficient in math and reading.  So Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo is proposing to give free-to-the-student (paid by taxpayers) tuition to students who often aren’t adequately prepared for college, some of whom will enroll in programs for which the state has reason for concern and then go on to teach at the schools that aren’t offering adequate college preparation.

That sounds very Rhode Island, but it doesn’t sound like a winning formula for the people who live here.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Governor Pitches Free College at High School 98% Not Proficient in Math

Ian Donnis of Rhode Island Public Radio noted, yesterday, that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo continues her inappropriate exploitation of government schools’ access to young Rhode Islanders for political purposes today.

iandon-013117-raimondoschools

At Central Falls High School, a jaw-dropping 98% of students are not proficient in math and 93% are not proficient in reading, and Gina Raimondo is going there to pitch taking money from taxpayers to give away two years of free-to-students college.  She should be embarrassed, and if the public were adequately informed, she would meet an enraged auditorium rather than a laudatory one.

Will any journalists ask her about the apparent disconnect?

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Considering Real Children to Help Them Engage in the Practice of Freedom

Marquette University Professor Howard Fuller’s commentary on school choice is well worth a listen:

I do believe that education is about liberation.  It’s about freedom.  So, if people have freedom, but the freedom is to choose from mediocrity, then it’s the illusion of freedom, so that the fight for quality has to be a critical part of ed reform.  But at the same time, it isn’t just about high test scores.  We want to develop kids who can do what?  Engage in the practice of freedom.

To accomplish that, Fuller insists, we must be honest about the circumstances that children are facing and get off of the talking points that only make sense in “cocktail party conversation” so that we can address the real challenges of real people.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

When Public Higher Ed Falls into the Government Monopoly Model

I’m not sure what the effect may be, but this, from Melissa Korn in the Wall Street Journal, is certainly interesting in light of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s vote-buying move to force Rhode Island taxpayers to cover two years of college in public institutions of higher education:

Small, private colleges have found a new place to troll for prospective students: At community colleges down the road, or even across the country.

Private colleges regularly discount listed tuition rates, often by more than 50%, to appeal to students, though extreme price cuts can lead to further financial stress. In shifting some aid money to transfer students who would otherwise go to public four-year schools, the private institutions are betting they can win over cost-conscious prospects and book at least a few years of enrollment at small margins, which they say is better than none at all.

One could suggest that government’s providing a free college option would drive down the prices of private-sector competitors, but one suspects the more-likely effect will be to drive them out of business.  It isn’t easy to compete with “free.”

If I had to bet, I’d predict that moving higher education toward the public education near-monopoly approach we see in lower-order grades will, at first, put a lot of private schools out of business, preserving mainly those that serve as markers of social class for wealthy Americans or offer unique curricula.  Then, down the road, as we’ve seen with elementary and secondary schools, as higher ed increasingly follows the government model (rather than being an area in which the government attempts to generally follow a private-sector model), the quality will collapse, and demand will increase to provide subsidies to private colleges and universities as a matter of equity.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Fix-the-System Reform Means Preserving the Very Things Causing the Problems

Andy Smarick, of the American Enterprise Institute, explains how President Obama wasted a whole lot of money for zero results in education reform:

The final IES report on the SIG program is devastating to the Obama administration’s legacy. An evaluation commissioned by the US Department of Education and conducted by two highly respected research institutions delivered a crushing verdict: The program failed and failed badly.

As I’ve periodically written, fix-the-system education reforms that seek to preserve the very qualities that are causing the problem — predictable labor union incentives, central planning, the disconnect of decision making from bill paying, and a lack of direct accountability to students and parents — cannot work. We must admit this.

In any area of life except government (specifically, progressive government) it would be considered pathological to look for all sorts of complicated ways to avoid addressing the underlying problem of unhealthy behavior.  Unfortunately, the clear objective of those who do such things (specifically, progressives) is to make government do things it shouldn’t be doing, so of course perpetuating that activity becomes the irreducible factor.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Sleazy Raimondo Political Pitches to Under-Prepared Students Continue

Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo brought her gross pitching-politics-to-public-schoolers road show to Johnston Senior High School this week:

Gov. Gina Raimondo is out on the campaign trail, taking her pitch to high schools.

“You go from kindergarten to twelfth grade with public education. Why should it stop at twelfth grade?” Raimondo asked an auditorium of students at Johnston High School on Tuesday.

Afterward, she told reporters it is indeed a campaign to rally support for her plan to offer two free years of college tuition to Rhode Island high school graduates.

One wonders whether she believes it’s a positive or negative that the school has left her audience poorly equipped to assess the wisdom of her proposal.  More than 82% of Johnston Senior High School students are not proficient in math, and two-thirds miss the mark in reading.

Sadly, it isn’t clear that Rhode Island adults are very proficient in government ethics and simple good political taste.  Whether or not the governor’s political visits to government-run schools violate any campaign finance or ethics laws, this whole campaign is just unseemly.  The governor is using public schools to lobby our children on a politically charged policy proposal.  Just… yuck.

Shame on the school districts for allowing her to take advantage of their access like this, and shame on the parents for taking the abuse quietly.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

When the “Home-School Community” Is Separate from “the Community”

In Tiverton, the School Committee sees public education as promoting government-branded schools, not ensuring educational services that suit the needs of all of our children, as I’ve written on Tiverton Fact Check:

This distinction became clear at the January 24 meeting of the Tiverton School Committee, which introduced a new policy explicitly denying home-schooled students the opportunity to take classes — particularly technical and vocational classes — outside of the district through arrangements that Tiverton has made. Students enrolled in Tiverton schools can take such classes, even attending alternative schools full time at no cost to their families. …

The education officials in Tiverton have already decided that it is the responsibility of taxpayers to cover the tuition of students who want courses of education that they can’t get within the district. They are just applying that policy in a discriminatory way. No matter how much you may pay in taxes or contribute to the town in some other way, unless you put your children under their complete control, you are part of “the home-school community,” which is apparently separate from simply “the community.”

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Toward an Obvious Education Reform

Rachel McGuire is correct when she writes:

The answer is obvious: We shouldn’t deny any parent – or any child – the benefits of school choice. That’s what National School Choice Week is all about. As we gather this week (through Jan. 28), let us reaffirm the value that comes with opportunity and pledge to continue our work to extend that value to every child in Rhode Island.

Stop by the State House this afternoon to see what school choice is already available in Rhode Island and to hear how more could benefit the state.  This is an issue that should cross ideological and partisan lines.  Indeed, it’s only not obvious because the special interests that benefit from the status quo are so well funded (at taxpayer expense).

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

The Start of a Trail of Revelations About Obama Administration Deception

Surprise, surprise.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration used bad data to justify a policy attack on for-profit colleges:

In early January the department disclosed that it had discovered a “coding error” that incorrectly computed College Scorecard repayment rates—that is, the percentage of borrowers who haven’t defaulted and have repaid at least one dollar of their loan principal. The department says the error “led to the undercounting of some borrowers who had not reduced their loan balances by at least one dollar.”

The department played down the mistake, but the new average three-year repayment rate has declined by 20 percentage points to 46%.

Oops!  On the pretext of this information, the Obama administration forced only for-profit colleges to put warning notices on all of their promotional materials, while…

When proposing the regulation, the department claimed that its analysis of Scorecard data showed that a large number of for-profits have repayment rates below 50% while very few public or nonprofit schools do. The department said it would not be fair to “burden” public and nonprofit colleges with a regulation that would apply to so few. Yet based on the updated data, 60% of two-year public colleges and nearly all historically black institutions have repayment rates below 50%.

So was the bad data “alternative facts” or “fake news”?  Ah, never mind.  President Trump insists more people watched his inauguration than probably did.  That’s what’s important.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Surprise: Teachers’ Unions Are Just Political Activist Groups

I’ve written several times in the past that employee representation services are simply the fund raising mechanism for teachers’ unions’ real reason for being: progressive political activism.  Here’s Paul Bedard in the Washington Examiner:

Promoting a “National Day of Action” on Thursday, the NEA said, “On Thursday, January 19, the day before Donald Trump assumes the presidency, thousands of students, parents, educators and community members from across the nation will hold rallies in front of school buildings to inclusively stand up for all students.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to represent their members enough to ensure that they stay members (with wide rivers of funding) at the expense of those whom progressives claim to support.  David Harsanyi in The Federalist:

… teachers unions are the only organizations in America that openly support segregated schools. In districts across the country — even ones in cities with some form of limited movement for kids — poor parents, most typically black or Hispanic, are forced to enroll their kids in underperforming schools when there are good ones nearby, sometimes just blocks away.

The National Education Association spent $23 million last cycle alone working to elect politicians to keep low-income Americans right where they are. Public service unions use tax dollars to fund politicians who then turn around and vote for more funding. The worse the schools perform, the more money they demand. In the real world we call this racketeering.

It’s a travesty that teachers give these organizations a prominent, lucrative place in our government.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Governor Takes Class Time from School with 10% Proficiency in Math to Pitch Free College

Not to belabor Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s free-tuition vote-buying scheme, but doesn’t this seem presumptuous and out of line:

Gov. Gina Raimondo brought her proposal to provide free tuition to students attending Rhode Island’s public colleges to a cheering crowd of juniors, seniors and faculty at Cranston High School East on Wednesday morning.

In keeping with every other news report I’ve seen, Providence Journal reporter G. Wayne Miller doesn’t say whether the governor made her remarks while appearing at the school for some other reason, and she shared the stage with a bunch of like-minded politicians, so it seems as if class time was simply being used for a political event and photo op.  Republican Mayor Allan Fung — a past and possibly future contender for governor — had to offer his views via press release.

One could see allowing the governor to explain her proposal in the context of a debate in front of the students, but something so even-handed and educational is apparently beyond the ken of Rhode Island public schools.  Instead, Rhode Islanders receive the spectacle of their governor sounding like a candidate for class president, promising that all grades will be on a curve and the cafeteria will bring back decent food.

In case you’re wondering, only 30% of Cranston East students are proficient in reading and 10% in math, which makes the event just about a perfect representation of the governor’s political strategy.  Her policies are geared toward and presented to people who stand to benefit directly, who lack the context or experience to understand the likely consequences, and many of whom can’t legally vote.

justin-katz-avatar-smiling

Raimondo Insults Your Intelligence with College Plan

This morning, I noted that legislators are the only people in Rhode Island who can promise workers a 10% increase in pay without worrying about where the money will come from.  It just magically appears in their imaginations.  At noon, I suggested that Rhode Islanders should be embarrassed that their state is so dependent on federal government welfare.

The state government’s latest revenue and caseload conference estimated that the government’s revenue will fall $52 million from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2018.  And during the budget process, last year, the state expected that deficits would climb $40-60 million per year, hitting $333 million by 2021.

So how in the world does Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo state the following — and get away with it in G. Wayne Miller’s Providence Journal article — while promising the new $30 million expense of giving all Rhode Islanders two free years of college at a state institution?

We have the money. This is affordable. It’s a smart solution.

It’s a vote-buying giveaway pure and simple that counts on Rhode Islanders’ not noticing that they’re paying the bill.  It’s an insult to our intelligence.

Moreover, we should expect that the estimated cost is laughably low.  Given free tuition, more families will use the colleges and university, and the institutions will surely increase their tuition rates once the cost to the decision makers (students and their families) is zilch (or half-price, for four-year degrees).  And this doesn’t even get into the governor’s assumptions that people who have no financial skin in the game for their degrees will actually take their studies seriously and apply themselves and that those who do will stay in the state rather than taking their subsidized degrees to states that actually have healthy economies.

One can only hope that Rhode Islanders aren’t so far gone, at this point, that they fall for the governor’s snake oil sale.

mike-stenhouse-avatar

The Conversation Starts Tuesday: Opportunity To Become Self-Sufficient

Everyone concerned about the well-being of our state’s families should be alarmed by our unacceptable 48th-place ranking. It is time to challenge the status quo insider mindset and to search for a more holistic path to help real Rhode Islanders improve their quality of life. This week, the Center will co-host a forum at Bryant University, that will provide an ideal opportunity for community, religious, and political leaders to convene and begin the process.

Quantcast