My Blog List

Monday, February 28, 2011

Losing the Brains Race?

I got into a debate on Facebook a month back relating to a post from a friend relating to education and spending. The link that triggered the whole debate was from Economist View's blog found here:


The following below is a full summary of our debate. I include this because I believe it is important build up to the article below. In other words, I believe I am right on this point. I am wrong on my fair share so don't take this as arrogance. This is an extremely important topic and one that must be resolved if the U.S. economy is to continue being the most dynamic generator of wealth the world has ever seen.


Chris W: A worrying trend indeed....


Corinna G: we are ameriCANs.. we dont need education. duh.


Jule D: We will be AmeriCANT with that attitude..


Even Walser: The thing about these types of op-ed pieces that really bother me is that the discussion is always about the lack of funds and never about the wasteful use of the tremendous resources schools are given. The perfect example is the D.C. school system where it was revealed that the federal government spends $24,600 a year per child. The D.C. school system is widely considered one of the worst in the country. For $24,600 each child in D.C. could attend the best private school in the city. The problem is not the amount of funds made available for education it is the ridiculous wages, benefits and working agreements of administrators, teachers and education bureaucrats.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/04/AR2008040402921.html


http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/the-real-cost-of-public-schools/


The knee jerk liberal reaction is always to blame under performance on a lack of funds but from my experience there will never be enough funds. The problem is the system which traps and routinely fails poor children. As an economist Chris I do not know how you could not be in favor of letting the market improve public education. I am not suggesting for profit schools I am suggesting parental choice. Let parents decide which school is best for their child (within credentialed options obviously) and I assure you there will be no more poor public schools


Corinna G: I am a community college instructor and we barely have enough money to cover a substitute for my maternity leave. Since I am an adjunct the only insurance offer I get costs half of my monthly salary. I work at 4 schools and still cannot pay back my student loans. My students come out of high school unable to write a complete sentence and with the idea that cutting and pasting from wiki pedia is equal to writing a research paper. These are the people who are going to be incharge when we are old.


Jule D: Parents have a choice, and that choice is responsibility! There are far too many parents who abandon that responsibility and lay it on the schools and educators. Under performing students are due to under performing parents. The best educators, public or private will never succeed if parents don't get involved. There are many problems with funding. I agree that administrators have gone to far with their salary demands in the public system, but yet to say that the people in the front lines, the teachers who for the most part want job security as oppose to salary is a narrow view at the problem. There's also a key element that most free marketeers tend to miss, and that's the students will to want to learn. That will, will only be achieved if a parent is there to educate as well. I'm a great example. My mother came to this country not knowing a word of English, but yet when it was time for me to learn how to read, it was my mother (along with my teachers as well) who took that responsibility and worked with me. I learned the basics at the beginning because of her. Today my mother doesn't speak very good English, but she taught me to read, in English


Even Walser: Ahh the parent argument, the old red herring of the educators unions. Well it would be nice if I could blame my poor work performance on someone else. How convenient. As to teachers not being paid enough I am not sure how an average salary & benefits package totaling over $91,000, in CA, for 9 months work a year, could not be considered generous enough. As for you Corinna I am sorry you are so poorly paid and your work environment is no the best but rather than blame the taxpayer blame the educators unions which allows for tenured teachers to take absolute advantage of new/aspiring teachers. If you don't believe me on the pay take a look at these links.


http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2010/02/bloodcurdling-tales-of-horror-how.html


http://www.calnews.com/Archives/1YB_II_sal.htm


As for the various arguments both Jule and Corinna have made neither has bothered to explain to me how allowing all parents to choose which school their children go to would be bad for the children. The reality is that wealthy parents already can choose what school their children attend so why is it fair, in this society, to force poor children to be further disadvantaged by being stuck in a school that does a very poor job preparing them for success. School choice works, the market works and letting parents decide which school is best for their children will absolutely transform education in this country overnight. To be clear, I am not saying we should not fund public education, we should 100%, we should just assign the funds to the child and let the parents decide what is best for their child


Corinna G: I totally agree that parents need to be more involved with thier kids, but lots of parents just dont care, or dont have time because they have to work two minimum wage jobs and are not educated themselves. Even, dont know you, but you seem to be realatively disconnected and condescending. In the case of children being ignorant because they have never been exposed to whichever technology, idea, work of art, book, or technique-- their work performance is poor PRECICELY because of someone else: parents AND teachers have a role to play. Also, for what its worth (maybe not much) but none of us teachers got into this line of work for the money... however, almost all of us live in debt because of the cost of our own educations.


Viljami H: Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? It's frighteningly accurate..


Even Walser: Corinna, it is unsurprising to see that you have decided to take refuge in the last of the Liberal canards, which is to paint me a rich, out of touch and somehow ununderstanding of the plight of the poor. Well unfortunately you are completely wrong as Liberals usually are. I was born to a single mother of 4 with a high school education who worked as a waitress. I worked my way through university and prior to me getting an education I would have been just like everyone else who has posted on here. I would have been decrying the cruel, shortsighted conservatives who are screwing over the teachers and children so they can save the rich a few percentage points on their taxes. Fortunately for me I got a degree that required me to look at the evidence before forming an opinion on a subject and what I found was that on the evidence a good portion of the feel good Liberal thinking was absolute BS. Most Liberal policy are designed to sound good for the disadvantaged while actually harming them and concentrating power in the the hands of government by creating new dependents that see the state as their principle vehicle for advancement and betterment. I am in favor of school choice for parents because I believe in the power of each parent to decide what is best of their children. I do not believe in the benevolent state anymore.


I would be willing to wage that neither you nor Jule took the time to look at the actual links I provided to back up my statements. I understand that it is hard to abandon long held ideologies because we tend to build an identity around them. For me however it was important that I knew the facts on a subject. As a teacher Corinna you more than most should understand the value of facts.


Corinna G: eererrr. condescending does not equal rich. And regardless of your personal trials and tribulations, I hate to break it to you, but you are out of touch and I did read your links. They did not impress me. I am well versed in looking at facts, and also well versed in looking at information manipulated to suit purposes at hand. as academics, that is what we do. kudos, to you, though, on your personal accomplishmets.. you should be very proud of yourself, as you are, and that comes through very clearly in your writing.


Even Walser: Your personal attacks are quite pathetic really Corinna. As a teacher I should not have expected you to consider something that would run contrary to your interest regardless of how it would help poor children and families. But you are right protecting your income and livelihood is more important that the civil rights issue that is is education justice.


Jule M: Sir, I never disagreed with your arguments regarding School Choice or Vouchers, yet your knee jerk reaction to an angle that one takes to bring light to the issue is typical of the holier than thou, "Right Wing" approach, scream liberal and and repeat it multiple times and that makes the case (that I've made) some how wrong and insignificant. As too your links that you post. They may hold some water, but that doesn't take away from the reality that we have failing students due to a lack of parenting. Even, if you would like to sight information on the internet to back up your statements using Blogs and News sights, that's fine. But it's credibility can only go as far as the person piecing the information. "Liberals" get accused of this often! Dot Edu's Dot Gov's next time..


Corinna G: eeeww. me personally attacking you? really? pointing out that you are condescending might be considered a personal attack, I suppose.


Even Walser: Lets see calling me condescending and full of myself both seem kind of like personal attacks to me. As to your point Jule I find it fitting that from your perspective only government and universities are qualified to present facts. This perfectly represents the differences in our philosophies. If history has shown us anything it is that government and so called experts in academia are just as fallible.


Corinna G: Evan is clearly in attack mode. With each post he continues to condescend!! Reinforcing my observation.


Even Walser: Congrats Corinna you have successfully changed the subject from the value of parental choice to me. I backed my argument up with data and educated opinions while you focused on me and not the message. Nice work sadly transparent but nice work none the less.




Now the article:




In November the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its Program for International Student Assessment scores, measuring educational achievement in 65 countries. The results are depressingly familiar: While students in many developed nations have been learning more and more over time, American 15-year-olds are stuck in the middle of the pack in many fundamental areas, including reading and math. Yet the United States is near the top in education spending.


Using the OECD data, Figure 1 compares K–12 education expenditures per pupil in each of the world’s major industrial powers. As you can see, with the exception of Switzerland, the U.S. spends the most in the world on education, an average of $91,700 per student in the nine years between the ages of 6 and 15. But the results do not correlate: For instance, we spend one-third more per student than Finland, which consistently ranks near the top in science, reading, and math.








Naturally, the OECD’s report has sparked calls for more spending. Speaking at Forsyth Technical Community College in North Carolina at the beginning of December, President Barack Obama said the federal government should spend more on improving achievement in math and science, much as Washington did in response to the Soviet Union’s Sputnik launch a half-century ago.


But throwing more money at poorly performing schools has not moved the needle on performance. During the last 40 years, the federal government has spent $1.8 trillion on education, and spending per pupil in the U.S. has tripled in real terms. Government at all levels spent an average of $149,000 on the 13-year education of a high school senior who graduated in 2009, compared to $50,000 (in 2009 dollars) for a 1970 graduate.


Despite the dramatic increase in spending, there has been no notable change in student outcomes. Using data provided by Andrew Coulson, an education policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, Figure 2 shows National Assessment of Educational Progress scores in reading, math, and science, along with per pupil spending. The only trend line with a pulse is the amount of spending.




More spending usually means more teachers. Last year Obama not only used stimulus funds to preserve education jobs but called for “10,000 new teachers.” Yet as Figure 3 shows, the number of students per teacher in U.S. public schools fell from 17.4 in 1990 to 15.7 in 2007.








We have tried spending more money and putting more teachers in classrooms for more than a generation, with no observable improvements to anything except the schools’ bottom lines. Why? Because of the lack of competition in the K–12 education system. Schooling in the United States is still based largely on residency; students remain tied to the neighborhood school regardless of how bad its performance may be. Federal spending on education (which amounted to 8.3 percent of total public education spending in 2007) is funneled to students through the institutions to which they are tied, largely regardless of student performance. With no need to convince students and parents to stay, schools in most districts lack the incentive to serve student needs or differentiate their product. To make matters worse, this lack of competition continues at the school level, where teacher hiring and firing decisions are stubbornly divorced from student performance, tied instead to funding levels and tenure.




If reform is to be defined by something other than the amount of money flushed down the toilet, it is time to reverse the flow of power from the top (administrators, school districts, teachers unions, governments) to the bottom (students, their parents, and taxpayers who want their money spent wisely). A first step in that direction is to change our teacher labor market practices in terms of both hiring and firing. On the hiring end, there are too many restrictions on who can become a teacher. On the firing end, we need to restore the relationship between job retention and job performance. Lisa Snell, director of education at the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit organization that publishes this magazine and does public policy research), points out in an email one recent example of how bad a school’s labor practices can be: “L.A. Unified School District laid off hundreds of its top teachers and replaced them with lower-performing teachers with seniority.”






In long-suffering California, a bipartisan coalition is supporting a new response to such irrational practices: the “parent trigger,” which allows fed-up parents whose children are in a consistently underperforming school to quickly change the school’s leadership. By signing a petition, parents can force reorganization of a school’s management or conversion into a charter school. In December parents of students at Compton Unified School District’s McKinley Elementary School did just that.


A parent trigger is not a panacea, but it introduces an element of choice (and hence competition) into a monopoly that has been shortchanging its customers and benefactors for decades. Wealthy people already exercise school choice, either by sending their kids to private schools or by choosing where to live based on school districts. The parent trigger gives less fortunate parents a similar and much less expensive tool. Along with the growth of online education and the charter school movement, these lurches in the direction of consumer choice are heartening and long overdue.


Contributing Editor Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

1 comment: