Missing the kiss (and the point), teacher union fantasy, charity for them, and stuff for you
Open post for podcast.
Missing the kiss (and the point), teacher union fantasy, charity for them, and stuff for you
Open post for podcast.
A lack of accountability in public education is creating systemic abuse of students and taxpayers and can only be ended with school choice.
Watching Rhode Island decision-leaders continue to make decisions based on a mix of selfish interest and ideological delusion is frustratingly like watching Idiocracy
As is typical, Kevin Williamson is worth reading on the practical economics of government policy:
We are a very, very rich country. We can afford all sorts of things: food for the hungry, health care for the indigent, education for children, and hearing aids for families that for whatever reason cannot manage to scrape together $1,000 a year to invest in the well-being of their own children. (Those $5,000 hearing aids last for about five years, meaning that their real cost over time is less than the $1,200 a year typical American family spends on cable television.) I myself am all for doing many of those things, though I do not think that government very often is the best instrument for getting them done. But if we are going to use government, then, by all means, let’s use government in the most honest, transparent, and straightforward way we can. Forget the insurance mandate and just write the check.
In that regard, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s free tuition would be preferable to some other policy that tried to force somebody else to pay for it — homeowners insurance or something like that. Of course, other basic economic lessons come into play, which struck me when WPRI’s Dan McGowan tweeted:
“Affordability” is a measure of price against value. Following Williamson’s price estimate for hearing aids, in-state tuition at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) is less than the average family cable bill. Rhode Island College (RIC) and the University of Rhode Island (URI) are substantially more, but both saving and borrowing spread out the payments.
Considering that the average monthly student loan payment for all years of all colleges is somewhere around $280, two years of in-state tuition in Rhode Island would be much less. That means young adults are valuing a large number of other things — cable, cell phones, video games, weekly dinners out, and so on — more than they’re valuing education.
Pushing the price down for them doesn’t make them value the education any more. What it will do, though, drive up tuition and hurt taxpayers.
Scared of the flakes, right to work, against smarts, and parenting through adventure
Open post for podcast.
A closing private school in Newport could teach a lesson on civic society and the role of government, if we let it.
The attack on Charles Murray was another step on a path that I was attacked for warning about years ago, and I fear things will get worse before there’s a correction.
Denisha Merriweather has a powerful school choice story, as told by Alexandra DeSantis on National Review Online. And it has made an advocate of her:
In her view, education policy ought to be a bipartisan issue, and she thinks the strength of the school-choice movement lies in its inclusive mindset. “I do feel like the public-school advocates or the teachers’ unions always want an ‘us or them’ mentality. In their minds, you can’t have both,” she explains.
“And we on the school-choice side are not saying that at all. We’re saying, ‘Let’s all be productive, and let’s all serve our children.’ That’s one thing that really sets us apart from those who are pushing for the public-school system,” Denisha continues. “Why can’t we have more choices, and all the choices? [The unions] can’t understand that we do want to keep the public schools. We just want all of these other choices, too.”
In some respects, she’s incorrect about that. The unions, and the rest of the education establishment, have a different vision of what government schools should be — namely, the monopolistic control of all education, with only the exceptions that the very wealthy can carve out with their own money. That’s what “both” means to them.
Where poor performance and high cost become so outrageous that a somnolent public begins to wake up to the problem, the establishment will concede very limited reforms, perhaps to the degree of setting up a private school system within government itself (that is, charter schools). To rephrase Merriweather, it’s not that the establishment doesn’t believe that we can have both a public school sector and a healthy private school sector; it’s that the establishment doesn’t want both to exist.
State Representative Brian Newberry (R, North Smithfield, Burrillville) has submitted legislation to require Rhode Island schools to teach students about the founding documents of the United States, and I’m not sure Providence Journal reporter Linda Borg quite understands the difference between that proposal and this:
Generation Citizen goes into the classroom and provides students with a hands-on civics project. Last semester, a group of Providence students studied community-police relations and lobbied for the community safety act, meeting with the City Council and others.
“Our young people don’t see politics and government as a path to real change,” [Generation Citizen Providence lead Tom] Kerr-Vanderslice said. “If we provide local, project-based civics education, they start to see politics as a pathway to making an impact.”
Newberry’s objective (I infer) is to educate students on the structure and boundaries of government. Understanding our founding documents is understanding the agreement we have made with each other about what we can and can’t use the force of government to do. Generation Citizen is teaching students how to be activists (generally left-wing activists, by the looks of it).
Those are very different lessons — in some ways opposing and in some ways complementary. Borg’s article, however, tells the reader almost nothing about Newberry’s perspective with his legislation. Rather, his bill is mainly a framework in which to present Kerr-Vanderslice’s perspective.
In that regard, the article presents an excellent illustration of the dangers of the progressive mentality. What is important, under its sway, is for people to learn how to leverage government (implicitly serving the interests of people who deify it), not for them to understand people’s right to live independently from government. The message being taught is: If you want something, go get government to force people to give it to you at the point of a gun.
As one constitutionally disposed (so to speak) to resist the temptations of Donald Trump, I have to say that it’s great to hear sentiments like this from the President of the United States:
President Donald Trump visited a Florida Catholic school on Friday, praising the Catholic education system and touting his support for school choice programs.
“You understand how much your students benefit from full education, one that enriches both the mind and the soul. That’s a good combination,” the president told Bishop John Noonan of Orlando at St. Andrew Catholic School March 3.
Among the most compelling testimonies for school choice that I heard in Rhode Island came from a native American woman who told legislators about rebounding from childhood of abuse and a young adulthood addicted on drugs. She emphasized that, although not Catholic herself, she valued the moral norms and religious foundation that her daughter’s Catholic school provided.
Looking at data, earlier, that suggests that public schools are keeping kids not only from dropping out, but also from transferring to schools outside of the state’s government system until senior year makes me wonder how many of those students needed what that woman thought her daughter needed. Whether the problem is (a) the local economy — affecting both parents’ ability to afford tuition and donors’ ability to finance the education of others’ children — or (b) the government’s move into the private school market with charter schools or (c) the expanding perks that taxpayers subsidize exclusively for government-school students, if children aren’t finding the schools that are right for them, then we’re all worse off for it.
The data for dropouts and graduation from Rhode Island public schools adds to the impression that government education is increasingly about keeping enrollment up as long as possible.
Whether or not graduation rates have improved, the ability to lower standards without being caught makes them of diminished utility.
Last week, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo and Democrat Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed visited Rogers High School in Newport to promote the governor’s plan to buy votes by giving families taxpayer dollars for two years of public college:
“When I talk to people around the state like your parents, they tell me that they are kept up at night thinking about your future,” Governor Raimondo told the students. “I want you and Rhode Islanders like you to get the jobs companies are creating here. The number one barrier to a college degree is cost. Our Free College proposal is affordable and an investment we need to make in your future. I am so thankful for Senate President Paiva Weed’s leadership and partnership. Working with her, I’m confident that all of you will have a shot at a good job here in Rhode Island.”
The women didn’t mention that 96% of students at Rogers High School are not proficient in math, and only 21% are proficient in reading. A more honest message would be:
In cooperation with your teachers’ union, we have ensured that most of you are not receiving the education that you deserve. You’ll be excited to hear that rather than fix the problems that we’ve created for selfish reasons, we’re going to take tens of millions of dollars from your parents and neighbors and cut two to four years out of your adult life in order to try to get you to where you ought to be right now.
The reception that these politicians get when they abuse their power like this — using school time to campaign to children — ought to be more like a Tea Party town hall than a pep rally. It would seem that keeping students under-educated has its benefits.
The Trump administration’s change of course on the issue of transgender bathrooms (and similar facilities) — sending the question back to state governments — was excellent for illustrating the narrative-driven bias in the news. The best expression that I’ve seen came from the Newport Daily News, which ran a front-page headline last Thursday proclaiming that “Transgender students lose bathroom choice.”
The McClatchy news service article beneath the headline, however, immediately tells a different story:
The Trump administration Wednesday told public school districts across the nation that they no longer have to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
In the progressive lexicon, when the federal government doesn’t force a position that progressives support, it is automatically forcing the opposite position. In the terms of the headline, transgender students didn’t lose anything by this decision; rather, states gained a choice.
And what happened? At least in Rhode Island (which should be the central concern of the Newport Daily News), Education Commissioner Ken Wagner immediately issued a statement to say:
The rescinding of this federal guidance does not change our policy – there is no room for discrimination in our schools, and we will continue to protect all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, from any type of bias.
Of course, what he says isn’t exactly true. Students who aren’t comfortable sharing bathrooms with those of a different sex are “all students,” but the system is explicitly biased against accommodating them. If they should be so bold as to express their discomfort, the state government suggests, “administrators and counseling staff” should get involved to change their beliefs.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that the state of Rhode Island is perfectly able to continue setting its policy, and several school districts have made a point of proclaiming their agreement.
For some, though, that’s never sufficient. They are incensed by the notion that people hundreds or thousands of miles away might be able to agree among themselves to disagree with the progressives of Rhode Island. Our freedom is only ever to agree with the Left.
I’ve attended events similar to this one, as described by Jackie Roman in the Valley Breeze:
Plans to give Smithfield’s education facilities, mainly the elementary schools, a facelift are coming to fruition. …
The event was attended by Smithfield administrators, teachers, government officials, parents, and even a few elementary school students.
“We are crafting ideas of what defines the future of teaching and learning,” [Frank Locker of Frank Locker Educational Planning] said.
That sounds good, and to some extent, of course, government schools must plan for the future. But the whole endeavor raises a basic question: What qualifies these people to “define the future of teaching and learning”?
A follow-on question is what stake, really, these people have in the outcome, such that they might pursue what works, rather than what feels good? That’s a problem endemic to all government activities.
It’s very easy, and disproportionately fulfilling, for people to sit around and imagine what a wonder the future could be. But unless families are empowered to reject those plans by sending their children elsewhere, the folks “crafting ideas of what defines the future of teaching and learning” are just playing with other people’s lives.
The odds are pretty obvious and challenging, if you think about it: Government at all levels employs millions of people; many of them have access to information the public does not; many of them make decisions that affect their own compensation and that of their peers; and (at least for now) their continued wealth and opportunity depends on getting people to allow government to take their money away.
Since the years of Obama stimulus spending — let’s say Rhode Island’s fiscal years 2009 through 2011 — I’ve been convinced that the administration’s goal was to ensure that government agencies were insulated from the recession. (Another goal was to launder money to left-wing activists, but that’s not my subject with this post.) As time moves along and data becomes more available, it’ll just take some work to trace the dollars.
But it is a lot of work. The general public, occupied during working hours in their own private-sector occupations, can’t hope to keep up. This fund blends into that fund from the other source through technical accounting categories, with repositories here and there that must remain shielded from public view for privacy or other reasons. The opportunity to mislead is structural.
In a small way, though, I think I’ve got a handle on how the Tiverton School Department transformed temporary stimulus money into a permanent increase in local funding and have written about it on Tiverton Fact Check:
In summary, when the state money shifted from regular aid to “restricted,” the school department built the excess into its budget. But when the funds shifted back, the increase was buried in this “restatement,” so local taxpayers would remain forever responsible for the supposedly temporary increase. As a matter of fact, the “restricted” aid didn’t actually decrease much; the accounts just changed.
Thus, the Tiverton schools maintained healthy budget growth even as the Great Recession wore on and housing values plummeted.
I’d be surprised if something similar wasn’t accomplished by school districts throughout Rhode Island and across the United States. Actual stimulus would have been a government reduction in taxes, but that wasn’t Obama’s goal.
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.
The evidence continues to appear that government schools are drifting from their educational mission and toward left-wing indoctrination.
“Racial equity” in school discipline statistics has been another disastrous policy emphasis serving the Left’s drive to break up families and siphon off their power.
American fascism, Moira Walsh’s evil men, and the governor’s bad arguments.
Click here for the podcast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Demonic possession, the media, Trump, Raimondo, and 1984.
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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.
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?
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.