California Schools Need Radical Reform, Not Tinkering

It's time to redesign the system from the ground up.

California’s public schools continue to lay-off teachers, and the process by which they do this is as convoluted and illogical as one would expect in a bureaucratic system in which the needs of the students falls fairly low on the list of priorities. That’s my take-away from a new report by the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office detailing the teacher lay-off process as districts struggle with declining revenue in the face of shrinking budgets.

The big issue, however, isn’t the arcane process of laying-off teachers, but what the system says about the inefficient way that Americans have decided to educate their kids. As the LAO reports, decisions about who stays and who goes are based on which teachers have showed up to work for the most years—i.e., seniority—rather than which ones are most effective and energetic. The hearing and appeals process, by which every laid off teacher gets an automatic hearing, adds enormous costs to a system that always claims to lack enough resources.

The LAO report only looked at one small, technical aspect of the public-school behemoth and was meant to offer a little advice for tweaking the lay-off process. It wasn’t meant to provide a thorough analysis of school systems. But in some ways, that’s what is so frightening about the report. Americans don’t think twice about the way schools are designed. Few things are more important than educating children, yet we accept this current system the way Soviet citizens accepted long bread lines. No doubt, auditors in that system issued reports discussing ways to shorten the lines.

Don’t include me in the chorus of those who claim that the schools are somehow “under-funded,” even as K-14 education consumes more than 40 percent of California’s general fund budget—not to mention all the local bond measures and federal funding. Usually, budget “cuts” in districts refer to the reduction in predicted rate of growth, not actual cuts. One of the nation’s worst-performing systems, Los Angeles Unified School District, spends more than $29,000 per student each year, when all funding sources are included, according to a Cato Institute report. Its graduation rate of only 40 percent is appalling. LAUSD is particularly bad, but it isn’t run that differently than your average suburban district.

Consider the LAO’s chart of a declining teacher workforce over the past few years against this report in the Los Angeles Daily News from 2008: “[A] Daily News review of salaries and staffing shows LAUSD’s bureaucracy ballooned by nearly 20 percent from 2001 to 2007. Over the same period, 500 teaching positions were cut and enrollment dropped by 6 percent. The district has approximately 4,000 administrators, managers and other nonschool-based employees—not including clerks and office workers—whose average annual salary is about $95,000.”

Now consider this tidbit from the Sacramento Bee in June: “The number of educators receiving $100,000-plus annual pensions jumped 650 percent from 2005 to 2011, going from 700 to 5,400, according to a Bee review of data from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.” Here’s a Los Angeles Times headline from October: “California teachers lack the resources and time to teach science.”

Is this an issue of money or spending priorities?

Instead of focusing on the little things, Californians ought to be thinking big thoughts about education. We can start by asking this question: Is the public education system one that best serves the students? The answer, even for people whose kids attend decent schools is, “Obviously not.”

There’s an endless call for reform. Some ideas are useful. For instance, vouchers, which let people take a portion of their school tax dollars and spend them at the school of their choice, or charter schools, which are government-controlled schools freed from some of the government-imposed red tape, offer some hope because they provide some level of competition. But I’m not calling for specific reforms here, but arguing instead for readers to conduct a thought experiment.

If we were tasked with providing an important service, how would we provide it? If, say, we were asked to create the best-possible chain of restaurants to serve hungry customers, would we buy a huge building, hire scores of extremely well-paid administrators and then impose a tax on local residents to fund the chain? Would we let a board of directors, elected from the community, choose the décor, the menu and the locations?

Would we empower a union to make hiring decisions and allow it to grant tenure to waiters and kitchen help, so that we could not fire them even if they were lazy and incompetent? Would we pay the most money to people who worked there the longest rather than to those who were the best workers?

When customers complained that we served too much meat and not enough pizza, would we shrug and ask them to elect board members who preferred pepperoni to cheeseburgers?

Would we pass laws mandating that people who live in neighborhoods near our restaurants eat there only—allowing them to eat elsewhere if they spend additional money or move to the neighborhood where the restaurant more closely meets their taste? Would we ignore the pleas of people who live near filthy restaurants that serve lousy food just because we live near one that at least keeps a clean kitchen and offers adequate meal choices?

Other observers have made similar analogies, and school officials always claim that schooling somehow is different. But it isn’t.

Instead of tinkering around the edges and endlessly fighting for reforms that offer little hope of transforming the system, we need to redesign it from the ground up. Perhaps we should, in the words of the late reformer Marshall Fritz, “separate school and state” and allow the market to provide schools just as we allow it to provide food and other vital services.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • I Blame Videogames!||

    Privatize.

    Yep, one word.

  • Suki||

    +2

  • The Derider||

    The typical libertarian whining about the status quo without any specific solutions.

    What metrics should we use to determine "effective" teachers?

    How will "free-market" schools operate? Is there a model that works anywhere in the world?

  • shrike||

    Free market is fine. Vouchers are the shitty answer. Forcing me to pay for the vouchers of others is not free market. Vouchers will bring in the snake-oil salesman for the easy marks.

  • Almanian||

    The Government Schools® we have now are for the easy marks. Vouchers are helpful for those with initiative and/or smarts - the dumb ones will already use the existing school racket.

  • The Derider||

    And with "free-market" schools, the dumb ones will...

  • NotSure||

    The dumb ones will learn the hard way, because its the only way they can learn. Your illiterate losers that your stupid schools pump out have no skills and cost a lot of money achieving nothing at the same time.

  • The Derider||

    A 40% graduation rate is bad, but 40% is a lot better than 0%.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    A 40% graduation rate is bad, but 40% is a lot better than 0%.


    0% graduation rate from Amerikan Pulbic Skools is much, much better than 40% graduation from Amerikan Pulbic Skools.

    Because such would mean there is freer education in America, finally.

  • ||

    Presuming that outcomes would be worse in a privatized school system utterly defies every practical example from the past 50 years. At the very least, it relies upon a number of completely unproven assumptions.

  • The Derider||

    So your solution is to get the government out of education entirely, and let each individual parent find a private school for their child?

    Is there any other country or state in the world that has used this method to achieve better educational outcomes?

  • shrike||

    Its no real solution but free market is better than vouchers.

    I will not pay taxes for vouchers redeemed for madrassa/religious brainwashing sessions. Us First Amendment Firsters won that one and we won't retreat.

    I am with Chris Hitchens - religion forced on children is child abuse.

  • The Derider||

    I agree that there are church/state separation issues with vouchers, but they're completely legal says the supreme court.

    The precedent is Zellman v. Harris-Simmons in 2002.

  • thirtyandseven||

    madrassa/religious brainwashing sessions

    Already happening in state schools, just different religions, with different gods.

    I'm with you that a truly free market solution is preferable, but would you grant that vouchers are at least an improvement on what we've got? May not be ideal, but I say press forward, taking the biggest wins we can where we can get them.

  • ||

    Most of the world actually operated on this principle until the last 100 years or so. To the extent that there were public schools, they were hyper-local, community-created establishments.

    Leaving that aside, the appeal to common practice fallacy is not actually an argument. Try harder.

  • ||

    Yes, vouchers will spawn a wide variety of schools, many of which will be as bad as the current mess. But schools that can get their pupils into good colleges and /or into good jobs will prosper, whatever the reasons. Vouchers will produce a MULTITUDE of answers, some of which may be right. The current model only produces ONE answer, and we know from experience that it is inadequate.

  • The Derider||

    The current model produces a variety of answers. There are 50 states and tens of thousands of school districts. They are not monolithic. Plus charter schools. Plus private schools are not illegal.

  • ||

    All 50 states fund public schools with public money, and follow regulations and directives from Washington. Most require teaching credentials from Colleges of Education. All are, to some degree or another, failing. Charter schools are, wherever possible, being strangled by the teachers' unions. Private schools require a double investment on the part of the parents.

    The core model is Public Education as defined by bureaucrats and taught by bureaucrat approved drones. It doesn't work.

  • ||

    It used to work though and it was probably the best in the world and in fact in many places it still works well but I don't know if thats just the few cases where good students would rise to the top no matter where they were taught or what? I don't have an answer nor does the author but the story was about lets look at new ideas.

  • ||

    It worked pretty well while control was largely local. In the 1970's, for a variety of reasons, control climbed up into the Federal level. Without local accountability schools started to ignore parents where they could, and that in turn lead to parents no longer trusting the schools. Which meant that parents would no longer accept punishment of their children. And that meant that it was no longer possible to maintain any kind of discipline.

    A lot of the success of the Public School model was based on unwritten and largely unspoken bonds of mutual trust between parents and teachers. With those broken down, the easiest way to rebuild them is to give parents school choice.

  • Almanian||

    without any specific solutions

    "But I’m not calling for specific reforms here, but arguing instead for readers to conduct a thought experiment."

    Which he then goes on to describe in great detail. Please work on your reading comprehension before posting any more of your idiocy, you simple fuck.

  • The Derider||

    I'm saying his "thought experiment" is a load of shit.

  • ||

    Translation: I'm so thoroughly swaddled in orthodoxy that I can't even contemplate what a robust alternative might look like. And I like it that way, because it absolves me of any obligation to think.

  • The Derider||

    You are making me so wet right now...

  • ||

    What metrics should we use to determine "effective" teachers?

    Howsabout we let the parents decide what metrics they think are effective for their own kids.

    Is there a model that works anywhere in the world?

    Didn't I just see an article about how free market schooling is cropping up all over the place, as even desperately poor parents seek a way to keep their kids out of government schools?

  • Almanian Barbie Derider, Jr.||

    Reading is HARD!

  • The Derider||

    We let the parents decide what metrics are effective RIGHT NOW. There are hundreds of charter schools in Los Angeles. There are good private schools as well. And yet parents leave their students in LAUSD. Either parents aren't effective judges of good education, or LAUSD provides better education than the alternatives.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Either parents aren't effective judges of good education, or LAUSD provides better education than the alternatives.

    Somebody has to babysit the kids during the day, right?

  • The Derider||

    I guess there's a third option, some parents don't give a shit about their kids going to school.

    Which doesn't seem like an argument in favor of "free-market" education.

  • ||

    Why not? Those kids are fucked regardless.

    A free market education at least allows parents who give a shit to avoid having their kids warehoused for 12 years.

  • The Derider||

    Yes, because every kid with shitty parents is fucked, regardless.

    And parents who give a shit can put their kids in private school RIGHT NOW. In most cases, they don't.

  • ||

    Did it occur to you that there could be a financial incentive to use the public schools? Charter schools have limited enrollment, and private schools are expensive (Although considerably cheaper than the $29K being spent by the LA public schools to provide a shitty education).

  • ||

    I see, you think you have the right to tell someone else how to raise their child.

    It is simply none of your damn business.

  • The Derider||

    So you're against child-abuse laws too?

  • ||

    If you're not for something you're against everything!!!!11!!!!1!

  • NotSure||

    Actually the parents are not effective judges of good education, probably because they came from public schools as well.

  • The Derider||

    Ok, so in a "free-market" educational system, parents will be incapable of sending their children to the "good" schools.

    That's my point.

  • NotSure||

    That was not your point, your point was that parents send their children to public schools because they think they are good. The fact is that public schools are shit, and most parents don't even know who thick their children and they themselves are.

  • cynical||

    Well, once you get rid of the public schools, the average quality level will probably jump quite a bit. So it's more like they'll have a much harder time sending their children to the "bad" schools.

  • The Derider||

    Why will the average quality level go up? Magic? Where's the evidence? Where has this worked before?

  • ||

    "Students at grades 4, 8, and 12 in all categories of private schools had higher average scores in reading, mathematics, science, and writing than their counterparts in public schools."

    http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/p.....id=2006459

  • ||

    "The results support the large existing body of research on homeschool academic achievement and show homeschoolers, on average, scoring 37 percentile points above public school students on standardized achievement tests."

    http://www.hslda.org/docs/stud.....efault.asp

  • ||

    "New York City students who win a lottery to enroll in charter schools outperform those who don't win spots and go on to attend traditional schools, according to new research to be released Tuesday."

    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....29871.html

  • ||

    Get this: quality tends to increase in every other industry where this is market competition instead of government-granted monopolies too. You seem to be the last person on planet earth to have gotten the memo.

  • Doctor Whom||

    The parents are not effective judges of a good education until they go to the polls to elect the school board; then, they suddenly get enlightenment.

  • The Derider||

    I'd say it's easier to judge the character an quality of one school board member than an entire school.

  • Doctor Whom||

    You have evidence that it works out that way in the real world, I trust.

  • ||

    I think the article was about private schools in India

  • ||

    "What metrics should we use to determine "effective" teachers?"

    Well, we could start out by ruling out anybody who holds a degree in "Education", and nothing else.

  • The Derider||

    Here's a serious solution!

    Who's going to teach first grade reading?

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Who's going to teach first grade reading?

    The parents? Teaching a kid to read at a first-grade level isn't that difficult if you get off the internet, turn off the fucking TV, put down the smartphone, and actually, you know, READ to your kids on a regular basis.

  • The Derider||

    And yet, status quo, there are many first grade students who cannot read!

    I guess relying on parents to educate their children is a bad strategy.

  • ||

    Doesn't seem like relying on a pubsec bureacracy works so hot, either.

  • NotSure||

    Hey clown, the status quo is public schooling, so it is in fact public schooling that is a bad strategy (using your logic).

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    And yet, status quo, there are many first grade students who cannot read!

    I guess relying on parents to educate their children is a bad strategy.

    Relying on the state to raise children instead of the parents hasn't exactly worked wonders.

  • ||

    Actually, the status quo is that the vast majority of first graders can read.

    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/ki......asp?nav=4

  • ||

  • The Derider||

    Hey moron, "A higher percentage of private schools" =/= "No public schools"

    Try again.

  • ||

    Nice goal post move. You didn't specify "no public schools". I provided a link that shows a system that is better than ours. If 75% of the Netherlands schools are private and they blow us out of the water education wise, maybe we should take a page from that book. There's a non-status quo solution for you.

  • The Derider||

    I specified "free-market" schools. Which since the Netherlands have a large number of state-funded schools, they are not an example of.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_school
    "In The Netherlands over two-thirds of state-funded schools operate autonomously, with many of these schools being linked to faith groups."

    State funded =/= "free market"

  • ||

    Can you read? That doesn't say that 2/3 of the Netherlands schools are state funded, it says that 2/3 of the state funded schools are autonomous. 75% of their schools are private (at least according to that Guardian article).

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: DesigNate,

    Can you read?


    Cut him some slack - he's very likely the direct result of the Amerikan Pulbic Skool Seistem which explains his fondness for it.

  • The Derider||

    That guardian article is using the word "private" when it means "independent".

  • ||

    Wow. You are really trying hard. The only difference between "private" and "independent" is their governing structure. It is still not a public school.

  • The Derider||

    THEY ARE PUBLICLY FUNDED YOU IDIOT.

  • ||

    NO THEY ARE NOT DIPSHIT.

  • yogi||

    The tuition for a quasi-secular pre-school or grade school in the Los Angeles area is about $750/month.

  • The Derider||

    So it's inaffordable for a large proportion of Angelinos.

  • yogi||

    I don't know what's affordable or not to Angelinos, and neither do you. The rent's too damn high? I'm just pointing out the cost of sending your kid to a private school. That would be about $750/month.

  • The Derider||

    We know 16 percent of Angelinos live below the poverty level. That means they don't have 7000 dollars in disposable income per child to spend.

  • ||

    Yes but if you removed most of the silly regulations on the schools and where they can be located you increase the number of schools and lower the cost then more people of all incomes can start to afford private schools.

  • ||

    $6,750/year is less affordable than $29,000/year? Wait, I forgot, gubmint school is free! Because we totally don't pay taxes!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    The typical libertarian whining about the status quo without any specific solutions.


    "La-la-la! La-la-la! I don't hear solutions! La-la-la!"

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    How will "free-market" schools operate?


    The same way as free-market farmer markets operate: They would compete for your business.

  • The Derider||

    No shit. I'm asking for specifics. I'm asking for a model where this has worked somewhere else.

    No one can provide these.

  • ||

    If you had bothered to read and comprehend that article I posted you'd know that it was all about how competition has made education better in those countries.

  • The Derider||

    "Competition" =/= "Free-market" education.

    I know how vouchers work. I know how charter schools work. Both encourage competition but neither is "Free-market".

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    No shit. I'm asking for specifics.


    I don't think you care to see such proof.

    I'm asking for a model where this has worked somewhere else.


    You must be joking. In India, parents and children prefer the private schools to the public schools.

    There is NO question that private schools outperform public schooling on average, and homeschooled kids outperform publicly-schooled kids on average. So it has been tried and the private organizations always outperform the public ones which explains why Pulbic Edukashion is made mandatory.

  • The Derider||

    Public education is not mandatory in the US, you moron!

    It is legal to send your child to a private school. It is legal to homeschool your child. Most people choose to send their children to public school anyway.

    And you still have not described how a "free-market" school system, completely divorced from the state, would work.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    Public education is not mandatory in the US, you moron!


    You don't say, D? Except when it is, right?

    I mean, what is it about the word compulsory that you don't understand, D?

    It is legal to send your child to a private school.


    Just because you can "choose" to send your kids to private school does not mean you are not made to send them to school at gun point.

    Most people choose to send their children to public school anyway.


    They are not choosing, D. Again, the fact that you have "choises" on methods of execution is not a life or death choice.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    And you still have not described how a "free-market" school system, completely divorced from the state, would work.


    Are you dense? It has been explained to you: It would work exactly like any other business that is not under government control. What is it you want, really?

  • FlyoverCountry||

    ..But but, who would control it? That's what D wants to know. Who would be in charge.

    That's how these things are measured. If we can't show that TOP MEN will be running it, then it will not, nay, cannot be done.

    Seriously. "How would it work? We don't know because it's never been tried!" I imagine people were saying this about searching for items on the world wide web before Google. Jesus. We don't know what it would like, because it doesn't exist! Why not give it a try and see what comes around...

  • FlyoverCountry||

    God damn italics.

  • ||

    "It is legal to send your child to a private school. It is legal to homeschool your child. Most people choose to send their children to public school anyway."

    Stop being disingenuous. Care to take a wild guess why most people, especially poor people, choose public school over home schooling and private school?

  • ||

    Define "works"

  • The Derider||

    Has educational outcomes that we can compare to those in the US.

  • ||

    Outcomes determined by whom? parents? peers? college entrance requirements? the state? the teacher's unions?

  • ||

    The very idea of a "free market model" makes no sense. If there was a free market in education there would be no "model" imposed from the top. Each person would pursue the education they need--as determined by themselves--choosing from competing providers.

    You no doubt recoil in horror at the very thought. But today's "model" is nothing to be proud of. They have children for twelve years--the children's best learning years at that--and when the twelve years are done, the graduates are good for almost nothing. To get any sort of decent job requires more education. What sort of "model" can't produce useful skills in twelve friggin' years?

  • ||

    "What sort of "model" can't produce useful skills in twelve friggin' years?"

    Serving in Congress or the State legislature, apparently. Officeholders are so vehemently against term limits, claiming that two or three terms is not enough time to learn the ropes and achieve anything of consequence. Term-limited State officeholders, knowing that they will soon be kicked out automatically, are constantly campaigning for the NEXT job, rather than mastering and doing the jobs they were elected to do.

    Boo-hoo. Anyone in the private sector who can't learn the ropes in ONE year, let alone two, is usually let go. The pols need to understand what the people demand and put some effort into providing it: Learn your job in your first year, spend the second year making a difference, and run for re-election on your record, if you want to stay in the capital. How hard can that be?

  • ||

    New Orleans after Katrina. You should read about how the education system got better after the public school system collapsed, try the interweb.

    Fire them all (teachers, administrators, clerks, janitors, social workers, teacher assistants, librarians and lunch ladies, etc., etc., etc.), sell the buildings and refund the taxes. Let the parents and students fend for themselves. The involved parents will force the private schools to do a good job and the uninvolved parents will reap the benefits.

    They will get a "better" education without all of the waste, corruption and fraud. Imagine a private school with a drug problem or a teacher that molested a child. Either the school would fix the problem immediately or the involved parents would place their kids in a different school, thus solving the problem.

  • ||

    Is there a model that works anywhere in the world?

    I know you find this disorienting, but there was once such a model right here in this country.

  • The Derider||

    I know you find this disorienting, but RACIST!

  • Almanian||

    I say spoof and I say C-.

    If you're real, then A+ for continuing to deomnstrate for everyone what a dumbass you are.

  • The Derider||

    Spoof sorry.

  • The Derider||

    No, there wasn't.

    US states have provided state-funded education since before the revolution.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    No, there wasn't.

    US states have provided state-funded education since before the revolution.

    Perhaps it's no coincidence then that, as the teaching profession became more enamored of the Prussian model and then cultural marxism during the course 20th century, that the quality of education that children have received has subsequently deteriorated.

    You'd likely have more success teaching reading skills today with a pack of McGuffey Readers than anything modern academia has devised in recent decades.

  • The Derider||

    Shockingly there is a wealth of research regarding which instructional techniques are effective. And data shows that we have far better educational outcomes with modern techniques than "McGuffey Readers". This is true across the western world, not just in the US.

  • ||

    There sure are - as I linked to before, instructional techniques that don't entail running children through the public education mill result in better outcomes for the students.

    Since I actually bothered to take 2 seconds on Google to cite my sources, are to cite yours?

  • ||

    Facts have no place here! You're just trying to confuse him with logic and reason.

  • ||

    http://www.cloudnet.com/~edrbs.....eline.html

    The first public high school didn't open till 1821. Some colleges before that, but it doesn't appear that they were full out funded by the states.

  • The Derider||

    1635 - The first "free school" in Virginia opens.

    1647 - The Massachusetts Law of 1647, also known as the Old Deluder Satan Act, is passed. It decrees that every town of at least 50 families hire a schoolmaster who would teach the town's children to read and write and that all towns of at least 100 families should have a Latin grammar school master who will prepare students to attend Harvard College.

    Read closer next time.

  • ||

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syms-Eaton_Academy

    There's a reason free school was in quotations dipshit. It wasn't a public school run by the state.

    http://www.extremeintellect.co.....aw1647.htm

    Sounds like all the government did was tell the parents to pay one of their own to teach the children. Not exactly a public school owned and operated by the state.

  • The Derider||

    The state required towns to PUBLICLY FUND schools.

    That's not "free-market" education.

  • ||

    So me paying someone to teach my kid to comply with an ordinance == state funding?

    Do you have a newsletter I could subscribe to? I find your logic and use of the English language interesting.

  • ||

    No TRUE Scotsman...

  • Fidel yogi||

    Long live the Revolution.

  • ||

    I seriously believe that what is wrong is less that the model is wrong than that the model has been in place for too long and has calcified. Which doesn't change that we need to change models. Just don't expect the new model to continue working forever. ANYTHING involving humans tends to silt up with special interests, distractions, waxy rule buildup, and so forth, and needs regular shaking-up.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Should we require that all diners, regardless of their dietary needs, eat exactly the same thing? It's high time to ditch the "Handicapper General" model of education.

  • ||

    LAUSD’s bureaucracy ballooned by nearly 20 percent from 2001 to 2007.

    Somebody has to devise and oversee the system of purging teachers from those classrooms.

  • Almanian||

    I think they're really there for purging no one, and just replicating themselves (see the increase in % non-teachers in, like, every school district everywhere).

    Sorry - that was kind of a serious response. :)

  • The Derider||

    The "29000" dollar figure that LAUSD spends per pupil, per year is complete bullshit. It was based solely on Fiscal 2008, when LAUSD spent a bunch of bond money to replace aging school buildings.

    So yes, if you divide total school costs by the number of students in 2008, you get that figure. BUT THE FIGURE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PER PUPIL COSTS IN 2009, 2010, or 2011!

    Hacktacular.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I heard the $29,000 figure (per student in California) quoted by James Forman, Jr. yesterday on Which Way, LA? on KCRW 89.9 FM. It was not specific to LAUSD. So does LAUSD spend less per student than other CA school districts? What was the LAUSD per pupil spending in 2009-2011?

  • ||

    Well, can you at least provide the numbers for those years so we know the full story?

  • ||

    Forcing me to pay for the vouchers of others is not free market.

    Forcing (childfree) me to pay for the education of other people's children is not free market; where's my refund?

  • shrike||

    You're right, neither vouchers or property confiscation is free market.

    I would rather shitcan the whole system than support vouchers. Let the little rugrats work or sit at home like in a Dickens novel.

  • ||

    You know, I actually don't disagree with you on this shrike.

    Scary as that may be.

  • ||

    And the marginal cost of educating one additional child is zero.

    So what?

  • The Derider||

    No, it's not.

  • ||

    Also, bitching about how "charter schools are no better than regular old neighborhood schools!" is complete and utter bullshit as long as the charter schools are forced to adhere to the same outmoded and defective factory-derived assembly line techniques used in the government schools.

    Moving kids through the building in age-based groups makes no sense whatsoever.

  • The Derider||

    The only thing they're "forced" to do is provide 180 days of instruction and to administer statewide testing. How they teach is up to them.

    The same with private schools.

  • ||

    Private schools do not have to administer state testing.

  • ||

    I don't know about your state, but they most certainly are required to in mine.

  • ||

    California

  • ||

    I'm to the north of you in WA. Had to take the standard WASL tests in both private and home schooling. That test has since been replaced by a new acronym, but standardized testing is still a requirement.

  • ||

    "charter schools are forced to adhere to the same outmoded and defective factory-derived assembly line techniques used in the government schools."

    This brings up a critical issue with vouchers, or ANY new model; that we not allow the morons and parasites who control the current model to seize control of the "standards" for the new model. In fact NO standards might produce better results (overall) than standards that can be subverted to (for example) the needs to the teachers' unions.

    Yes, no standards would make racist KKK and Afrocentric schools possible. If they managed to teach the kids how to read well enough, I'm not sure it wouldn't come out in the wash.

  • The Derider||

    Are there any school models in the world that don't have educational "standards" which produce better educational outcomes than we currently have?

  • ||

    The history of private schools and "Charity Schools" is one of schools that did not teach to a centrally determined standard. They did pretty well.

  • ||

    US states have provided state-funded education since before the revolution.

    Central planning and control, however, are recent "innovations".

  • The Derider||

    Is that your way of saying "you're right, there has never been a "free-market" schooling model"?

  • ||

    Who's going to teach first grade reading?

    My mom did a pretty good job (when I was four years old).

  • The Derider||

    Teaching to one child is a lot different than teaching a room of 25. The latter requires a much different skill set.

    And what degree, other than education, should a first grade reading teacher have?

  • ||

    Practically anything. But I am a Professor's brat, and know the depth of contempt with which almost all scholarly disciplines regard Colleges of Education. They are genuinely considered LESS legitimate that Ethnic Studies programs.

  • The Derider||

    Considering that college professors tend to be the worst educators, I'm sure the feeling is mutual.

  • ||

    My experience has been otherwise, but I'll accept that college professors are often work-shy bums with assigned parking. There is, however, in almost all disciplines, a core of dedicated scholars who teach, mentor, research, and publish. The scorn these genuine intellect workers reserve for Colleges of Education, Journalism Schools, and Trendy Revolutionary types who don't publish would take the enamel off your teeth.

  • ||

    Wanna see someone with a PhD laugh? Watch someone with an EdD ask that they be referred to as "Dr."

  • ||

    Want to see someone with an MD give a you a look of bemused contempt? Tell them you have a PhD and would appreciate it if they would call you "Dr".

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Teaching to one child is a lot different than teaching a room of 25. The latter requires a much different skill set.

    Which is irrelevant if the parents are teaching their children basic reading skills to begin with.

    Workers in the CCC had a literacy rate upwards of 90%, back when the country was much more rural than it is today.

  • The Derider||

    Do you realize how many children in Los Angeles have parents who cannot speak, let alone read, English?

  • ||

    Sadly, I am seeing postings all over the interwebs that indicate Spanish speaking users cannot read, write, or spell in Spanish. No matter the language, global-dumbing is REAL!

  • 4chan||

    Not really, the issue is mostly getting kids on the same page. Which means that the smarter kids need to be stimulated, while holding the hands of the not so smart kids. You're juggling multiple hats at the same time, but you'd still be doing that even with one child.

    The real answer is that you need more adults/teachers/helpers in the room in the first place, not some magic ratio.

    Teaching anyone to read is hard, and requires constant everyday pratice. That's probably the job of the parents, and what a teacher job (at least in the K-6) area is to constantly assess where the kids are. If anything, teachers are just as much of an evaluator than a teacher are at this stage, especially with bullshit high stakes testing.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    Teaching to one child is a lot different than teaching a room of 25. The latter requires a much different skill set.


    Indeed, like a prison guard's.

    Who the fuck said that teaching requires having 25 kids locked together in a room?

    And what degree, other than education, should a first grade reading teacher have?


    How about a discernable degree of intelligence, rather than the ability to hold anti-Walker signs?

  • 4chan||

    Don't know about K-5, but if I'm a parent, I want my teachers to have at least a BA in the subject that they're teaching. There should be no Communication majors teaching a Science course, for instance.

  • ||

    So you're saying that if someone is to teach Chemistry, they should have a Chem Degree?

    You. Monster.

  • The Derider||

    Are you willing to pay for that? Schools have Comm majors teaching because teacher salaries don't attract people with more valuable educations.

  • 4chan||

    No, Schools have Comm majors teaching Science because their rules allow them to. A lot of these teachers were grandfarthered in, and they don't even have to take the state requirement tests to show competacy in a subject.

  • The Derider||

    So you think if two teachers applied for a chemistry position, one with a chemistry degree, and one with a communications degree, that, all other things being equal, the school would pick the communications major?

    That's quite an assertion.

  • 4chan||

    I'm saying that if the Communications degree holder was hired first, the school would just shift him to teach Chemistry instead of hiring a person with a Chem degree.

    The logical thing would be to fire the Comm major and hire the Chem major.

  • 4chan||

    This is for all other subjects as well. We have people with PE degrees teaching History or English classes. This is mostly a function of the old farts in the system getting to choose what subjects they teach instead of on merit.

  • The Derider||

    Your argument assumes there are Chem majors who want the job, but are not being hired.

    This is untrue.

  • 4chan||

    Can't hire a new person until the old ones retire. That's senority at work.

  • The Derider||

    Lowering class sizes is expensive. We put a bunch of kids in the same room now because it saves money.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    Lowering class sizes is expensive.


    How do you know that? It may be more expensive for Amerikan Pulbic Skoolz, but who said that Amerikan Pulbic Skoolz are the business model to follow?

    We put a bunch of kids in the same room now because it saves money.


    Saves money for whom? You? Don't make me laugh.

  • The Derider||

    I'm saying PRIVATE SCHOOLS put a bunch of kids in a classroom because it's CHEAPER than educating them all individually.

    This is true not just in the US, but in ALL SCHOOLS EVERYWHERE.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    I'm saying PRIVATE SCHOOLS put a bunch of kids in a classroom because it's CHEAPER than educating them all individually.


    A "bunch of kids" is twenty five, now?

    This is true not just in the US, but in ALL SCHOOLS EVERYWHERE.


    Not true: Homeschooling in California, by law, has to be set up as if a private school. Many moms pool together to school their kids in a room of 4 or 5 only. So it is NOT what you say.

    You don't understand the economics of schooling, Derider. Just because it is cheaper for a school district to cram students into a room to be taught by some unionized orangutan just to keep costs down does not translate to better schooling. Private school managers *know* this, because competition is fierce.

  • 4chan||

    Not true, there are public school districts that can and will set up a system to 'homeschool' your students and provide materials and training to help you too. But its at the district descreation.

  • ||

    Teaching to one child is a lot different than teaching a room of 25. The latter requires a much different skill set.

    Oh bullshit. I've taught reading and math to primary-school-aged kids individually and in groups; the ONLY difference in requisite skill set is either the ability to keep things relatively interesting for the group, or the ability to herd cats. That's it.

    Seriously: give up on the idea that a degree in education confers skills that are useful in the classroom that cannot be easily learned virtually anywhere else. It's weapons-grade bullshit.

  • ||

    a lot different than teaching a room of 25. The latter requires a much different skill set.

    And again, it works backward from its conclusion.

  • The Derider||

    I'm explaining why your personal anecdote is not applicable to the discussion.

  • ||

    No.

  • NotSure||

    I don't know much about the schools in India and China, but I do know that they produce better students at a fraction of the costs than the Californian schools mentioned in the article.

    There is something seriously wrong with those Californian schools, and you cannot blame it on the lack of money or centralized planning, the two things most liberals will say is the problem.

  • yogi||

    Nothing grounds you to reality more than poverty.

    In the case of China you need to consider the inputs. The average IQ of an East Asian is 105/106.

    In the case of India, you need to consider the filtering done by US immigration laws.

  • yogi||

    Nothing grounds you to reality more than poverty.

    In the case of China you need to consider the inputs. The average IQ of an East Asian is 105/106.

    In the case of India, you need to consider the filtering done by US immigration laws.

  • ||

    In China they don't teach a lot PC crap and to some detriment they don't build earthquake proof schools. On the other end in California all schools have to be earthquake and terrorist proof no matter where they are located. that cost alone is tremendous.

  • ||

    Just trying to keep score here:

    So, Derider, your position is that the CA model is the best of all possible ways to educate children?

  • NotSure||

    I doubt even he could defend their performance, his argument is that there is no alternative, so carry on as usual.

  • 4chan||

    California is a huge state, and like any large, complex organization will have abject failures, and successes. Even within LAUSD, there are public schools that will compare favorably even to the best private schools in the country. Granada Hills Charter High School (Which is still part of LAUSD, and became a charter school in order to keep more of its property school money) is the defending National champion of the Academic DeCatholon. That tradition started decades before they became a charter school. The Irvine Unified School District as a whole sends about 75% of their gradurating seniors to 4 year colleges.

    A poster upthread mentioned that while the model we use in California may not have failed, it has calcified. That's probably true, but try not to brush every state or school with the same brush, you'll lose the bigger picture.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: 4chan,

    That's probably true, but try not to brush every state or school with the same brush, you'll lose the bigger picture.


    No, what you do through such nit-picking is glossing over the fact that the end result of all that money thrown into the sea is not more intelligent or better educated kids. The reason some schools do better than others is because the parents are more committed to the education of their kids OFF SCHOOL, especially in higher-income places. In most disctricts where both parents have to work (thank you, Federal Reserve!) schools serve only as taxpayer-subsidized daycare centers or part-time prisons for teenagers, NOTHING MORE.

  • The Derider||

    Do you have any data to back this up?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    Do you have any data to back this up?


    And it only took me 10 seconds.

    "Families from low-SES communities are less likely to have the financial resources or time availability to provide children with academic support.

    Children’s initial reading competence is correlated with the home literacy environment, number of books owned, and parent distress (Aikens & Barbarin, 2008). However, parents from low-SES communities may be unable to afford resources such as books, computers, or tutors to create this positive literacy environment (Orr, 2003)."


    But then again, *I* am not the direct result of the Amerikan Pulbic Skool Seistem.

  • 4chan||

    Mind explaining where in 'high income' areas were both parents don't work? Not everyone is a retarded 'Real Housewife' of Whatever Podunk area they live in.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: 4chan,

    Mind explaining where in 'high income' areas were both parents don't work?


    I apologize, I should ahve remembered that I am dealing with direct results of the Amerikan Pulbic Skool Seistem.

    I wrote: "... where both parents HAVE to work ..."

    In high-income communities, both parents don't have to work. I know of many moms that only work part time to be with their kids, whereas low-income communities both parents have to work full time just to keep up with Ben Bernanke's helicopter rides.

  • 4chan||

    Yeah, still calling bullshit on this. You're making an assertion your mouth can't cash. If we're claiming antedotical evidence, I also know of many parents where both parents work full time jobs despite affording the option of one of them working less if they wanted to, fincially.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: 4chan,

    I provided a link above where I replied to Derider, if you care to visit.

  • The Derider||

    Absolutely not.

    I agree with the article that firing teachers based on seniority is stupid.

    I don't think "free-market" education will solve any of the problems associated with California's schools.

  • ||

    Of course you don't.

  • ||

    "I don't think "free-market" education will solve any of the problems associated with California's schools."
    you may be partly correct because no matter where your child is taught in California weather it be at home or private school they have to past the same standardized test to be considered a high school equivalance therefore they all have to teach the same subjects. Further California Teachers unions have tried and are still trying to make it a law that any person who teaches must be state certified which would preclude home schooler's from teaching unless they became state certified, who has time for that?

  • Old Mexican||

    One of the nation’s worst-performing systems, Los Angeles Unified School District, spends more than $29,000 per student each year, when all funding sources are included[...]


    Government economics 101: The more you spend, the worst you will perform, especially when the money ain't yours and burns your pocket.

    That is, you will spend the money on everything except what needs to be done.

  • ||

    Anyone who defends the status quo of california public school system is a stool pigeon or a fool.

  • joan of snarc||

    Baloney, public compulsory education is a 20th century invention, not only in the US but throughout the world. Anyone who says differently like Derider is a fracking, lying, ignorant POS.

  • The Derider||

    Public education is certainly not a 20th century invention.

    Compulsory education laws existed before 1900 in the US, as well, but not by a lot.

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0112617.html

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: The Derider,

    Public education is certainly not a 20th century invention.


    That is completely true. Pulbic Edukashion is a Prussian invention derived from the need to create more compliant soldiers, workers and citizens.

    Compulsory education laws existed before 1900 in the US, as well, but not by a lot.


    Existed and were violently rejected by many, especially in Massachussets.

    Just because they exist does not mean it makes it moral or ethical to make a person go to school.

  • The Derider||

    Whatever, just as long as we agree that Joan of Snarc is a fracking, lying, ignorant POS.

  • ||

    I hate to defend him, but no, compulsory education has been with us pretty much since the country was founded.

  • ||

    I make a pretty decent income from being a tutor, and the public school kids I get for math and science lead me to only one conclusion: burn it all down.
    Get rid of educational standards and the bureaucracy that hides behind them.
    Since our country seems wedded to having education paid for, use vouchers, and otherwise, stay out of it.
    There will be charlatans and failures, but it cannot be worse than what we have right now.
    I think there are three inescapable problems that all the anti-reformers willfully ignore. First, that someone who lives in a shitty neighborhood is literally forced to send his/her kid to a failing school with no other options.

  • ||

    Second, our goals for education are arbitrary, and we would be better served letting parents and kids use a market to determine what their educational goals are. Third, our current system is very much a one-size-fits-all industrial model. Anti-reformers pretend it is not, but changing the fucking front door on a house does not make it a new house.

  • ||

    vouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchers

  • ||

    You Said It... Public Schools are not about the needs of students, they are about the needs of adults... Sad.

  • shrike||

    Better dead than Red

  • ||

    buddy's mom made $19011 a month ago. she is making an income on the computer and bought a $529600 condo. All she did was get lucky and put in action the information shown on this web site NuttyrichDOTcom

  • endicott||

    Great analogy, because schools should be run just like restaurants. Let's allow teachers to be hired off the street, pay them minimum wage and force them to live off tips.

    btw The pic from Fast Times perfectly illustrates the serious nature of your article.

  • ||

    Get the local government (the school board for those who are too simple to understand), the state government and the Federal government out of education, period. More government money produces fewer children who graduate, let alone are literate, numerate and able to reason. How many more millions of kids have to be made into helpless dependents of politicians before enough people see what the problem is?

  • SirTenenbaum||

    Awesome! It's good to see Reason saying no to public education--it's only logical. Trying to reform public education is like trying to universal healthcare. It doesn't work!

  • mammoth3||

    cool! we shall see how this works

  • mammoth3||

    indeed we shall

  • ||

    I am from Canada. In my province, where I teach, we have one of the best education systems and some of the best results in the world on the PISA. Our movement for improvemtns in our system is more towards the Finnish School system because they are testing as the best in the industrialized world.

    Are you aware, when referring to free market schools, that the Finnish system has absolutely no private schools and that teaching is the hardest career to get into?

    I recognize that you are trying these suggestions as "new" , but it has been done, and it isn't working for the children.

  • emily12||

    New Era Hats
    "it is released by http://www.hatbrandshop.com/ 2012.06.15"

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement