Pity The Poor Public Schools' Treatment in the Stimulus Bill

One of the supposed tragedies coming out of the stimulus "compromise" was the cutting of $20 billion specifically earmarked for K-12 school renovation (because, really, a world-class country can't have enough state of the art media labs and football stadiums, not to mention cutting-edge ripple tanks, fetal pigs, and other lab equipment necessary to perform vital experiments by 16 year olds).

Fear not if you like the inevitable cost overruns associated with public construction projects. There's still a whopping $10 billion in the legislation for school construction and renovation, on top of $80 billion in new spending for K-12 costs.

One question that is rarely raised by proponents of new and improved increased spending is how to do things in a more efficient and productive way. As Reason Foundation education researcher Lisa Snell has noted, educrats are really good at spending more but show almost total resistance to spending smart.

Consider these trend lines regarding capital outlays for K-12 education, all expressed in constant 2005 dollars. For school year 1990-91, capital outlays came to 19.7 billion dollars. For 2004-05, the total was 53.5 billion. That's a big increase, for sure, about 2.7 times. (I'm using these numbers because they were most readily available; I'm confident that the general trend is representative).

Over the same period, student enrollments increased by only 7 million students (from 42 million to 49 million) or about 1.16 times.

So file this in your future scandal folder: After two years of a new, federally enhanced building spree, schools will still be bitching and moaning about how what they really need to improve is...more funding for new buildings.

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  • yandus yillib||

    Over the same period, student enrollments increased by only 7 million students (from 42 million to 49 million) or about 1.16 times.



    Picture living in a country where 49 million people can't make change for a dollar.

    Good thing the $15,000,000 Birth-8th Grade Community Learning Center in Peoria, Illinois is still on schedule. The idea of k-12 is so 1900's.

  • Reinmoose||

    I have a question.

    What happens when, after spending all of this money, our kids still don't resemble a hybrid of High School Musical and MIT students?

  • Xeones||

    Yo, fuck the NEA.

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...educrats are really good at spending more but show almost total resistance to spending smart.

    Don't the perverse incentives of public funding punish them for spending intelligently? e.g., by cutting their budgets when they don't spend everything?

  • ||

    The plan is to head off privatization by renovating all these public schools. It will be hard to close a school that just had a million dollars "invested" in it.

  • Xeones||

    Fortunately, James, after it all crashes, private educational interests will be able to pick up nicely renovated school buildings for cheap.

  • ||

    Fortunately for me, this also means a sure increase in school property taxes as well as school income taxes. To go along with the doubled city taxes ( times are hard for the government but they can't cut back like everyone else).

  • Bostondreams||

    Because, you know, the school building constructed in 1938, with tiny classrooms and limited technology, and recently retiled or carpeted to cover the absetsos is so perfect for education in the 21st century.

  • ||

    One question that is rarely raised by proponents of new and improved increased spending is how to do things in a more efficient and productive way. As Reason Foundation education researcher Lisa Snell has noted, educrats are really good at spending more but show almost total resistance to spending smart.

    The answer is having a Chief Performance Officer in the cabinet.

    That'll fix everything.

  • ||

    The Voracity of Hope already exists in our public classrooms. You could pour the entire stimulus into one city, and the kids would still come out screwed up.

  • phalkor ||

    the school building constructed in 1938, with tiny classrooms and limited technology, and recently retiled or carpeted to cover the absetsos is so perfect for education in the 21st century.

    I agree wholeheartedly. These old buildings are fine for education and are typically over-designed and structurally sound. Do you honestly think the age of the bricks is why public education is so rife with fail?

  • ||

    I am old enough to know that the children who came out of those old buildings were vastly better educated than the functional illiterates coming out of todays gleaming palaces.

  • ||

    Let's concentrate on output, instead of process. Instead of throwing more and more money at teachers and administrators, why don't we pay the students? It wouldn't be that difficult to establish financial rewards for educational progress; parents have been doing it for ages.

    Flexible scheduling would reduce the load on existing infrastructure.

    Oh, wait- this is America we're talking about...

  • ||

    Perhaps the begging for money continues because the handing out of funds continues to go to the same places? The haves keep getting and the have nots keep wanting.

  • creech||

    Our local high school (2 years old) now wants $400,000 to put lights on the football field. Apparently, the kids don't get the full experience of high school football if they play in the daylight and it embarrasses them in front of the other teams that already have lighted fields.

  • anti-joe||

    I noticed the seldom mentioned, "Posting on the Internet during work hours" appropriation is about 3 billion. Sigh, better than nothing I suppose.

  • yandus yillib||

    after it all crashes, private educational interests will be able to pick up nicely renovated school buildings for cheap.


    More likely they will be converted into correctional facilities. After all, the same architects who design the schools also design the prisons.

    Hot investment tip - Barbed wire futures.

  • ||

    This vexes me.

    I sometimes feel that schools are like the very people that inhabit them: kids - and their perceived worth and status as an entity is tied to the price tag of your appearance.

    One of my professors said a good teacher was one that could take a kid and a phone book and teach that kid to read, write, and be a thinker. Some of the best lessons I taught were outside, walking around and getting my students to look around their environment from different perspectives.

    Yes, we need safe and sound buildings in which to teach, and if we expect children to have a functional level of literacy and etiquette when it comes to technology, we have to have the tools to teach technology.

    I advocate private schooling but understand the argument that not everyone can afford it (and also understand if taxes were reduced we wouldn't have that issue). In NJ we have many successful charter schools that do as much or more with less money per pupil than the school districts to which they are alternatives. My charter school was renovated from the remains of an old warehouse in the middle of the business district of Paterson, NJ. The school gets better year after year and outperformed the local high school on standardized tests (bogus IMO but required by the state). We don't have the highest tech anything but we get the job done.

    My husband has done some work with the SDA (School Development Association formerly the SCC) in NJ. He routinely sees projects that go over budget, most frequently due to mismanagement by the project managers who insist on certain deadlines being met for certain portions of construction, despite the fact that other portions of construction need to be completed first. He was installing an HVAC system in a building and was told to finish it by X-date "or else." 70% of the system had to be ripped out so another portion of the construction could proceed, and he had to reinstall it later on. It kept him working, but it boggled his mind that a project manager could make that mistake. And it happens over. And over. And over.

    Smart spending, indeed. I wonder how much money could be saved by eliminating PMs altogether and just letting the foremen of various construction crews get together to sort it out.

  • ||

    Hey, c'mon! The federal government has a clearly defined obligation to spend money on primary, secondary and higher education! It says so, right here:




    - Constitution Of The United States



    Ooops! Forget I said anything.

    Kevin

  • ||

    Reason obviously isn't with the new Obama science. Obama science is not based on old fashioned notions of experiment and testing results. No. Obama science is based on the iron law of cause and effect. The fact is that many of the best and brightest students also go to school in the best maintained and most luxurious schools. Got to any top flight boarding school or private day school and you will find not only high achieving students. Given this fact, Obama science tells us that if we just put every student in a top flight classroom and facility, every student will perform like those students at Sidwell Friends where the Obama children attend.

    It is time we put an end to old fashioned and racist notions that education is a product of hard work and commitment and embrace the new and progressive ideas of Obama science and understand that the quality of education varies directly with the salary, benefits and job security of the teacher and the luxuriousness of the classroom.

  • ||

    Tiny classrooms fit right in with the Union's constant demands for smaller and smaller class sizes. Not that there is any evidence that 19 students per class produces better results than 30 per class.

  • ||

    James Ard,

    You need to stop with all that racist old science. Who ever said empiracle results matter? Who told you that? That is not what Obama learned in school. The only way kids learn is if they are taught in small groups by a well paid unionized teacher who doesn't have to worry about her job security in a brand new building.

  • anti-joe||

    From these comments, I can tell one thing. You guys are like school in the summer time.








    No Class!

  • ||

    I'm old enough to remember playing high school football in November (in upstate New York), there were actually times when, late in the fourth quarter, the specatators would turn on the headlights of their cars which were parked around the field, to provide a bit of additional light on the field. Not a single player, on either team, ever died of humiliation.

    Of course, we were tougher then, what with all that trudging through the snow, barefoot, twenty miles each way, up hill. Working in the coal mines, nights, for ten cents per month, helped a little, too.

  • yandus yillib||

    Not that there is any evidence that 19 students per class produces better results than 30 per class.


    If you were to reverse the ratio and have 19 teachers per student then you would see progress.

  • BDB||

    Who said anything about racism?

  • BDB||

    You know who loves new schools?

    Real estate companies and their sprawl.

  • ||

    "Who said anything about racism?"

    Didn't you get the memo? Any criticism of Obama or his policies is just an expression of racism.

  • ||

    Who said anything about racism?

    The only schools that fail are black. Didn't you know that? There are no poor predominately white schools with shitty educational records. Therefore, any criticism of dumping money on under-performing schools is racist and can be dismissed out of hand.

  • BDB||

    "The only schools that fail are black. Didn't you know that? There are no poor predominately white schools with shitty educational records."

    OHHHH yes there are! Appalachia says hi.

  • ||

    That is right SugarFree every all black school is failing and every all whtie school is paradise because it our racist society that continues to keep black people from attaining the most powerful and influential positions within it.

  • ||

    BDB,

    Turn up the sarcasm meter, d00d. ;-)

  • BDB||

    SF sorry. But I've actually heard people say that IRL with a straight face. They obviously haven't spent any time in eastern Kentucky or SW Virginia.

    Not a black face for miles, but failing schools? Tons.

  • yandus yillib||

    but failing schools? Tons.


    Solution = more of the same.

    Because doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is...

    Patriotic! (Well at least and American tradition.)

  • ||

    The football team at my high school, they were tough. After they sacked the quarterback, they went after his family.

  • ||

    They obviously haven't spent any time in eastern Kentucky or SW Virginia.

    *raises hand, smiles happily*

  • Xeones||

    More likely they will be converted into correctional facilities.

    Are you trying to say there's that much of a difference now?

  • Bostondreams||

    Choeyt writes:

    "I am old enough to know that the children who came out of those old buildings were vastly better educated than the functional illiterates coming out of todays gleaming palaces."

    Well, let's see. Back when you were in school, we were not required to educate ALL children. Public schools could turn away children with disabilities, discipline problems, or other issues. Access to schools has expanded tremendously since the 1950's, for good or ill. Eliminate mandatory schooling laws and you eliminate alot of the problems with public schools.
    And when private schools are under the same obligations as private schools, then you can compare them.
    We have been criticizing the education of children since the Puritan era. Things are not any worse now than they have ever been; we are just forcing more children to go to school that would have not gone before.

  • yandus yillib||

    Are you trying to say there's that much of a difference now?


    Hell yes!

    Different signs, different toilets.

    And the schools are only open during the day.

  • Bostondreams||

    "And when private schools are under the same obligations as private schools, then you can compare them."

    Brilliant. I meant 'same obligations as public schools.' Geez.

  • ||

    Because, you know, the school building constructed in 1938, with tiny classrooms and limited technology, and recently retiled or carpeted to cover the absetsos is so perfect for education in the 21st century.

    Bostondreams: Others have already thoroughly pwned you on the building age and classroom size parts of your post.

    Asbestos abatement involves more than tiling-over or carpeting over if done to code, and you can be sure that whiny unionized teachers, hysterical parents, and money-grubbing administrators are going to make damn bloody sure that the abatement is done to code.

    Regarding "limited technology" -- WTF? No, they didn't build them with lots of electrical outlets back then, or envision the need for network wiring, but retrofitting these things is fairly easy, and is often best done in conjunction with asbestos abatement.

    Do you actually have a cogent point?

  • yandus yillib||

    More electrical outlets will solve the problem.

  • ||

    I learned most of my programming and computer use on my own, in college, or in the workplace. So all that crap about needing to spend millions on computer equipment and networks so we can make kids function in the 21st century is nonsense. They can do that stuff fine. What they need to learn is how to read, write, perform mathematics, reason, and understand science. Maybe some history. That's about it. Why I'm funding stadiums and other stuff is beyond me.

  • economist||

    " Public schools could turn away children with disabilities, discipline problems, or other issues. , or other issues. "

    What's so bad about turning away kids with discipline problems?

    What sort of disabilities are we talking about? Because, I'm sorry, but Timmy the retarded kid is not a future doctor.

    And what are the other issues?

  • economist||

    ProL,
    Let me tell you about when I went to school. When I went school, we didn't have air conditioning, and the furnace regularly petered out. There were numerous spots where carpet was worn out. And one out of every 20 ceiling tiles seemed to be missing. And yet, somehow, I still managed to go to college and get a (okay) job.

  • economist||

    Wait, while the hell did I address that to ProL?
    I meant to address it it Bostondreams.

    Must remember to use preview button.

  • ||

    Economist, my retarded three year old has absolutely no business in public preschool. But try telling that to my wife.

  • bostondreams||

    "What's so bad about turning away kids with discipline problems?

    What sort of disabilities are we talking about? Because, I'm sorry, but Timmy the retarded kid is not a future doctor."

    Agreed, and that is my point. Public schools cannot turn away these children. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, IDEA, and other laws require public schools to provide a free and appropriate public education to all students, including those identified as mentally, emotionally, or physically disabled. And this can be a huge chunk of students. Until relatively recently, these students were not a part of the educational system.And we require these children to take the same standardized test as their mainstream peers, at least in Florida.
    As to discipline issues, getting rid of a child with a discipline problem can be as hard as some suggest it is to get rid of a bad teacher.
    If we changed the laws so that public schools could better sort and choose students, just as private and many charter schools can, then perhaps things would not seem as bad.

  • ||

    Well, let's see. Back when you were in school, we were not required to educate ALL children. Public schools could turn away children with disabilities, discipline problems, or other issues. Access to schools has expanded tremendously since the 1950's, for good or ill. Eliminate mandatory schooling laws and you eliminate alot of the problems with public schools.
    And when private schools are under the same obligations as private schools, then you can compare them.


    I didn't start school until 1960 (flunked hopping in kindergarten), but yes, we had short buses in my district. Students, even back in those ancient days, turned away (suspended/expelled) only students with behavior problems.

    You will note that charter (public) schools have superior results than the NEA and bottom rung politician run "traditional" schools. They also have to educate everyone, typically selecting their enrollees by lottery because more want in than space is available. Yet the sinecured education establishment fights the introduction or expansion of charter schools tooth and nail, ignoring the demonstrated desire by parents to get their kids out of the dysfunctional establisments and into a viable alternative.

    Your reasoning skillls indicate that the traditional school system failed you as well.

  • economist||

    "Agreed, and that is my point."

    Uh, actually my point was to distinguish between disabilities that might make it difficult to function in school, but did not render the education value-less (like being crippled, blind, or deaf) versus disabilities that make it impossible for a child to function in school and render the attempt to educate them an exercise in futility (like being severely retarded). To be perfectly honest, I think the best think for mentally retarded children might be whatever basic education their condition allows (learning to read and do arithmetic is always useful), and then having them go to a vocational school of some sort. Attempts to "mainstream" retarded children help no one, least of all the children in question.

  • economist||

    I've thought of something. It seems like a word is politically correct until it becomes an insult. Hence, the term "idiot" fell out of favor for referring to the mentally disabled when it became a common insult, in favor of "retarded". Now, "retarded" is an insult, so it's no longer politically correct.

  • Bostondreams||

    J sub D,

    Your tone suggests your manners failed you as well. I'm not sure why anything I said requires you being an utter ass. However, to address your point, we no longer HAVE 'short buses' because those students that would have been on the 'short buses' are required by law to be integrated into the mainstream classroom, with 'accomodations' provided by the school at public expense. This includes providing nursing and physical therapy, language interpreters, physical assistance, adapted texts, public transportation. Students with behavioral and discipline problems can also be a problem to remove from the classroom today, especially if they are also identified by parents or the school as falling under 'special education,' in part due to the requirements of federal law. An example: a student I know of was arrested for drug possession and distribution. Before he could be expelled, the school was required by law to hold a hearing to see if this was in any way related to his disability. This took over a month to arrange. That's insane. It's even harder when the child has done nothing technically illegal.
    Charter (public) schools are certainly better in many ways than traditional schools. The success of charter schools, it could be argued,is due in part to self-selection. The students in these schools are more likely to want to be there and have parents that are engaged with the school and education. These schools are also burdened with far less red tape and nonsense that plagues the traditional public school. Part of the problem is centralization; if we gave more control over budget, teacher selection, student selection, building construction, and related elements, we would see a change. We must also find a way to better engage parents in the process of schooling.
    But whatever. Our views are set and shaped by our own perspectives, experiences, and myths. Schools today are little worse than they ever have been, but they must work with a far greater number of students and with different definitions of success.In 1900, the graduation rate from high school for all American youth was about 6%. Today, it is, for whatever it is worth, approximately 70%, which has been stagnant since the 1960s.

  • ||

    Retard is an insult, but I don't think retarded is yet. Although many moms and sissy dads will come up with dozens of euphenisms to avoid saying it.

  • Bostondreams||

    Economist writes:

    "Uh, actually my point was to distinguish between disabilities that might make it difficult to function in school, but did not render the education value-less (like being crippled, blind, or deaf) versus disabilities that make it impossible for a child to function in school and render the attempt to educate them an exercise in futility (like being severely retarded)."

    You are right, except federal law does not make that exception, and requires all students regardless of cognitive function to be educated in as close to a mainstream classroom as possible, and parents have the right to refuse to place their child in other-than-mainstream classrooms.
    Phillips Howard writes in 'The Death of Common Sense' about a case in New York where a child had suffered massive brain damage and only a functioning brain stem. The child's mother decided that she wanted her child mainstreamed in public education. The school district fought it hard, pointing out that there was no point, and providing expert testimony to that effect. They lost. The courts ruled that as written the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) makes no exceptions about the requirment to educate all students.
    This needs to change.

  • phalkor ||

    So, Bostondreams, you are pointing out that the real problem with our education system is all those cripples, rejects, and 'tards needing special care. So, if that is the problem why don't we just send them to labor camps? Could we turn them into biofeul? You haven't provided a solution, I'm hoping I'm on the right track.

  • Back to Work||

    [quote]because, really, a world-class country can't have enough state of the art media labs and football stadiums, not to mention cutting-edge ripple tanks, fetal pigs, and other lab equipment necessary to perform vital experiments by 16 year olds[/quote]

    Argue against state-run schools all you want (I'll probably agree with you), but if you think the above is an accurate description of the public school system in this country, then you are horribly disconnected from reality.

  • Bostondreams||

    Phalkor,

    Oh yes that is what I am suggesting, exactly. I am pointing out that claiming schools today are worse than they were in the past ignores the fact that schools today have been required since the late 1960's to educate students that were exempted from compulsory attendance laws in the idealized past. Private schools do not have this requirement, and many charter schools have a far easier time dealing with the red tape of federal and state laws relating to special education, student expulsion, and access issues.
    I am suggesting that we reconsider the language of compulsory education laws, IDEA, and other laws mandating mainstreaming so that schools may better meet the needs of their students. Yes, I have no problem with 'the short bus,' separate facilities, and making it easier to expel students for discipline and behavior problems regardless of what their special education status is.

  • economist||

    James Ard,
    It's an insult if the person you say it about isn't technically retarded.

  • economist||

    I think this might have been all a huge misunderstanding. From what I think now, Bostondreams is just saying that the statement about students today sucking worse than students in the past is based on the fact that they now have to accept students who wouldn't have been accepted in the past.

  • ||

    Your tone suggests your manners failed you as well. I'm not sure why anything I said requires you being an utter ass.

    Bostondreams,

    You must be new here. The minor opprobrium of your alleged reasoning skills I displayed would be considered unusually polite discourse from me by most.

    Let me phrase this in short words that, unlike paragraph breaks, a dumb fuck like you may be able to understand.

    You have a awfully thin fucking skin, retard.
    In short other words that

  • ||

    The success of charter schools, it could be argued,is due in part to self-selection.

    I've only seen one study that compared those who won the charter lottery and those who lost and were relegated to traditional school, thus eliminating self-selection bias.

    Take a wild guess which group who performed better?

  • ||

    I'm amazed with the staying power of retard/retarded in the general lexicon of insults. I see it here as often as I used to use it in the seventies.

  • phalkor ||

    short bus = 'tard cart

    that said, we can blame the boomers who want their children to be the best and brightest, but then blame the system when their children fail.

  • ||

    It's a boring day - I've got nothing to do
    Except to get a load of retards and drive em to the zoo

    Oh oh oh takin' retards to the zoo

    Load 'em on a bus just for laughs
    Down a winding road
    stepping on the gas
    Down a winding road
    just to stay dreaming
    Down a winding road
    with the retards screaming

    Oh oh oh takin' retards to the zoo

    One of them blowing a big spit bubble
    Slam on the brakes at the first sign of trouble
    Head on collision, bodies everywhere
    Head on collision, retards beware

    Oh oh oh takin' retards to the zoo

  • phalkor ||

    splenda, you made me smile.

  • ||

    I used to have Big Lizard In My Backyard on vinyl. Ex-girlfriend stole it. Jerk.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Public schools are a state and local responsibilty - not a federal one.

    The is no power delegated by ennumeration in the text of the Constitution for the federal government to be involved in education.

    Furthermore, cash is fungible and giving states and local governments money to build schols (just like giving them money for anything else) only serves to further enable the states own irresponsible profligate spending.

  • ||

    Making fun of retarded people isn't as innocent as calling your friends retards, but that was funny, SF. My girl blew a booger bubble the size of a baseball last week.

  • economist||

    "The is no power delegated by ennumeration in the text of the Constitution for the federal government to be involved in education."

    When, since the early 1900s, did the lack of a specifically enumerated power in the Constitution stop the federal government from doing anything? I'm pretty sure there are no constitutional powers to draft, ration goods, put people in internment camps, or impose wage and price controls, and yet all of those things were done by the U.S. government in the last century.

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