Economics

Stimulus Won't Change the Education System's Status Quo

Throwing money at failing schools won't boost test scores or graduation rates

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Get ready for the largest transfer of funds from the federal government to local schools in history.

Democrats in Congress are proposing a new infusion of federal cash for public schools through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In the House version of the stimulus package released on January 15, Democrats suggest allocating $120 billion for K-12 education, almost $22 billion for higher education, and close to $5 billion for early education. It includes a $79 billion block grant for states to help stabilize state and local education budgets, $26 billion in new money for existing Title I and special education programs, $1 billion for technology to provide "21st Century Schools," and a new $20 billion school construction program. All this money will be in addition to the approximately $60 billion a year in taxpayer money that the federal government already spends on education in the United States.

The stimulus package will spend more than double the current total federal education budget, bringing federal funding of education to well over $200 billion. Unfortunately, this huge expansion is unlikely to spur improvements in public education and will continue to encourage states and local districts to spend money with little regard to student outcomes.

In the last 30 years, the United States has doubled per-pupil spending in real dollars. We spend more money on education for K-12 than most other industrialized countries. According to the OECD's 2008 Education at a Glance, the United States ranks number one in all education spending and well above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average for K-12 education. Yet, outcomes for students at the end of their public education career have not kept pace with these large-scale investments. The average reading and math scores for 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the nation's benchmark for student achievement, are no better today than they were in 1971; SAT verbal scores show a decline (from 530 in 1972 to 504 today); and SAT math scores have been essentially flat (from 509 in 1972 to 515 today). U.S. graduation rates were 78 percent in 1972 and are 74 percent today; and U.S. 15-year-olds score below the international average on science and math literacy when compared with 30 OECD countries—American kids rank behind students from Poland, Hungary, and France to name a few.

The biggest chunk of this new education stimulus will be a block grant to cover operational costs for local school districts. The federal government will direct large amounts of aid to states struggling with huge budget deficits aggravated by the economic downturn. For example, New York Gov. David Paterson is counting on $6.4 billion in help for teacher salaries and other operating expenses over the next two years if the education block grant is part of the final economic stimulus package.

As a House Democratic leadership aide told Politico,"When the recession ends, you are still going to need teachers, firemen, policemen, and the question is do we step in now or pay more to rebuild later."

Public schools suffer from some of the same problems as the auto industry. In Detroit, the financial meltdown is partially caused by union contracts that make promises to employees that are impossible to fulfill and also remain economically viable. In schools, automatic pay raises and teacher tenure mean that school districts have very limited flexibility in hiring and firing and prohibit them from negotiating pay-cuts that reflect the country's current economic conditions.

School districts have also continued to hire more teachers as enrollments have declined. The National Center for Education Statistics puts the current average teacher-student ratio at 1 to 15. There is little evidence that class-size is correlated with student outcomes, yet districts continue to favor small class size as school reform.

This stimulus plan would also prolong the practice of generous defined-benefit retirement plans, which guarantee teachers specific retirement payments despite school districts ever-increasing unfunded pension liabilities.

School Construction

The stimulus package put forth by House Democrats proposes to spend $20 billion on school construction. But there is no indication new school construction cash will do anything to make the process more efficient or cost-effective. School construction projects are notoriously behind schedule, over budget, and more expensive than other types of construction projects.

Dr. Jay Greene, an education researcher at the University of Arkansas, has noted that building schools costs much more than other types of construction. According to the 34th Annual Official Education Construction Report, the median new school built in 2007 cost $188 per square foot for elementary schools; $211 per square foot for middle schools; and $175 per square foot for high schools. By comparison, the median cost per square foot to build a three-story factory in 2007 ranged from $83 in Winston-Salem to $136 in New York City, with most major metro areas hovering around $100 per square foot.

These stimulus plans contain no incentives for schools to cut costs or reform the school construction bureaucracy by using innovative practices such as public-private partnerships to more efficiently build new schools.

Internet Access

President Barack Obama announced in a recent radio address that his administration would seek to expand broadband access in schools. The House stimulus package contains $1 billion for technology programs and $6 billion to bring broadband access to underserved communities that may include schools. Before moving into the White House, Mr. Obama said, "Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they'll get that chance when I'm president—because that's how we'll strengthen America's competitiveness in the world."

But that's close to being accomplished. The 2007 report "Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2005" that in the fall of 2005 nearly 100 percent of public schools in the United States had access to the Internet. In 2005, 97 percent of public schools had high-speed broadband, with a ratio of 3.8 students per 1 computer with Internet access.

Billions have already been spent through the federal "E-Rate" program to give students Internet access. Like most large-scale government giveaways, the federal E-rate program, which collects $2.5 billion a year in telephone taxes to hook up schools and libraries to the Internet, has produced a huge amount of waste.

Puerto Rico has spent $101 million in federal grants to wire 1,500 public schools for Internet access. Yet the island-wide school district warehoused most of the equipment for more than three years, and only nine schools were actually connected to the Internet. The Chicago public schools have more than $5 million in E-rate computer equipment sitting in a warehouse. In San Francisco, school officials discovered that a $68 million project should have cost less than $18 million.

A huge new federal investment in broadband technology will likely do little to expand broadband access while opening up the potential for even more waste and incompetence. More money for Internet access is a duplicative funding stream to solve a non-problem.

Early Education

The House version of the education stimulus package includes $2.1 billion for Head Start, the federal preschool program for poor children, and $2 billion for additional child care grants. But how will students be helped or what will taxpayers get for the money?

Consider Oklahoma, a state that has spent millions implementing universal preschool. Oklahoma's fourth-grade NAEP reading score in 1998, when it adopted universal preschool, was 219—six points above the national average. Last year, it had dropped to 217—three points below the national average. Similarly, Oklahoma's fourth-grade NAEP math score was on par with the national average in 2000. Last year, it had dropped two points below. Since employing universal preschool, not only is Oklahoma doing worse compared with the nation, but also its own prior performance.

It's also important to note that 70 percent of 4-year-olds are already enrolled in preschool. States with government-run universal preschool programs also enroll about 70 percent of students, so it is not clear how many more kids the stimulus will result in enrolling.

Education Bailout Should Revolutionize Public Schools

The bottom line is that more than $147 billion in federal "education stimulus" will prolong the dysfunctional qualities of the United States education system. It is one of the most expensive and most mediocre K-12 systems in the world. Throwing more money at public schools without addressing the problems inherent in the system—lack of accountability and lack of competition—will simply drive up education costs with little to show for the money.

The best outcome would be to avoid a federal education bailout altogether. However, if an education stimulus is inevitable, it should at least demand some concessions from the education establishment before doling out $120 billion.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Only give money to school districts whose labor unions agree to "flat contracts" that offer flexible employee practices such as firing for "just cause" and are willing to suspend seniority and tenure in exchange for merit-pay.
  • Only give money to school districts that will report transparent budget numbers at the "school level" so parents and taxpayers can see how much money a school spends on education in real dollars and not district averages. It is important to know how much money is siphoned off at district offices and for administrative costs—and how much money actually makes it into the classroom.
  • Prioritize money for, or give incentives to, districts that attach per-pupil funding to the backs of children, letting parents choose the public school (or dare I say charter or private school) that best suits their child.

If the government is going to give the money away anyway, it might as well empower parents and teachers rather than the status quo, which is failing miserably.

Lisa Snell is director of education at Reason Foundation. An archive of her work is here. Reason Foundation's education research is here. This article originally appeared at Reason.org.

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  1. But as Reason Foundation Director of Education Lisa Snell writes, throwing money at failing schools won’t boost test scores and it won’t raise graduation rates. It will only encourage states and local districts to spend money with little regard to student outcomes.

    Noooooo, that money is to bring value to the economy and, besides, the “community” demanded it – just ask Joe and Neu Mejican.

  2. And, of course, it’s a new baseline. Any attempt to reduce the amount in the future will be “cutting children’s futures,” which is only something evil conservatives and libertarians want.

  3. Doubled? Fuck us all.

  4. “The best outcome would be to avoid a federal education bailout altogether. However, if an education stimulus is inevitable, it should at least demand some concessions from the education establishment before doling out $120 billion.

    Here are a few suggestions:”

    Compromise makes me want to vomit. I’m sorry but I see this as “The best outcome would be to avoid armed robbery altogether. However, if an armed robbery is inevitable, it should at least be one that is warm and fuzzy and tries not to kill to many people in the process.”

  5. $1 billion for technology to provide “21st Century Schools

    California spends 12 grand a year on every student in the state. For 12 grand a year there ought to be a computer on every desk in every classroom in the state.

  6. Meanwhile, from our “Things Lisa Snell Won’t Tell You” department, see this 2004 post for a clue. Maybe if Reason would highlight that, more than five people might be interested in what they have to say.

  7. Shut the fuck up, Lonewacko.

  8. Why the Stimulus Bill Won’t Fix America’s Failing Schools”

    Here’s the real answer: Because the schools are not failing…at all.

    They are doing EXACTLY what they were designed to do.

    Read: The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America

    and

    The Underground History of American Education

    Obama’s “stimulus” is a bonus and a raise for a job well done (as evidenced by his election…)

  9. We already spend more per-pupil than any other nation on Earth. The problems are cultural and institutional, and none of them stem from a lack of funding.

  10. Well, I don’t know about totalitarians schemes in public education, but the whole “the education system is broken” argument is a tired response.

    It’s used by people who either want more pork, or by people who want to dismantle the education department because they don’t like their taxes. Meanwhile, the people who actually care about the topic don’t want to talk about the elephant in the room: Parenting.

    American parenting is broken, and it’s been broken for quite some time. You can continue to braze teachers, and act as if money is the only thing stopping every student from becoming a nuclear physicist, but it’s simply not the case. Why would education be a focus to middle to low income families in America when spending was such an easy thing to do in any economic class?

    People become educated because they either naturally seek knowledge, and/or because they see it as an opportunity to secure a better job. Teachers alone cannot be responsible for a student’s education.

    My only hope is that the McMansion/Debt Rich era that has likely done more harm than good to America over the years is finally over, and that the “real” value of labor, and everything else that came with this faux Cinderella story will finally settle into a more realistic, and sustainable model.

    I doubt it, but if anyone is looking for a Silver lining in all of this, that’s all I have.

    Education is primarily up to the individual, and to the parents. Until you find a way to engineer interest in those two areas, people will constantly blame the education system.

  11. FM,
    How, exactly, are we supposed to “engineer” interest in parents and individuals in education, beyond what they are already told.(“knowledge is power”, “Don’t be a fool, stay in school”, etc.)
    I agree, of course, that the education system won’t work if the users of it (students) lack motivation and drive, and many are unlikely to have that drive if their parents aren’t pushing them. I’m just not sure if there’s anything to be done, apart from giving up on the terminal losers.

  12. I’m starting a betting pool on how long until we collapse into anarchy. Cost for a square is one ounce of gold and a case of ammo.

  13. Education is primarily up to the individual, and to the parents.

    If only it were funded that way. Well it is in the sixstring household, but I’m all for separation of school and state.

  14. We must save our schools

  15. We must save our schools

    Um, OK.

    Let’s grant for the moment that they need saving.

    How?

  16. Well Famous, I think the parenting is broken meme is a tired response as well.

    Catholic schools in the worst parts of Los Angeles draw from the exact same demographic as the public schools. The results are dramatically different.

    The parents of the students at Locke High School were not short on parenting skills, the LAUSD told them to pound salt up their collective asses when they demanded an actual education for their children in a safe environment.

    When a student risks getting shot in the head every day of class and the school district fails to respond, and even goes so far as to squash every effort of reform, that is what I define as a broken public school system.

  17. I’m starting a betting pool on how long until we collapse into anarchy. Cost for a square is one ounce of gold and a case of ammo.

    Oh, you sly boots.

  18. When a student risks getting shot in the head every day of class and the school district fails to respond, and even goes so far as to squash every effort of reform, that is what I define as a broken public school system.

    Yeah, I suppose that would qualify as a broken school.

  19. I’m all for separation of school and state.

    Right Arm!

    Compromise makes me want to vomit

    Until there is separation of school and state we’re stuck with public education and there’s nothing we can do but take incremental steps toward our eventual goal.

    Think about this: It took Britain a hundred years to ban guns. They did it in incremental steps and got what they wanted eventually.

    We need to push in the right direction because public education is never going away in our life times. Even proposing such a thing at a cocktail party will have people looking at you like you’re from Mars or need a two week eval at county lockup with a nice doctor in a white coat.

  20. For 12 grand a year there ought to be a computer on at every desk in every classroom in the state.

    Working on it. They will be formerly known as “students.”

  21. If the goal is to “boost test scores and raise graduation rates”, who cares if it works or not? That’s easy enough to do. Make tests easier and loosen the requirements for graduation so that anyone can graduate.

    Now, if the goal is a better education, that may be a bit harder.

    What is the goal here? Better test scores or better education? I think that’s an important question. Anyone else?

  22. Actually, the fact is that the current system doesn’t really work.

    Instead of the government make education an inalienable entitlement as it does now by MANDATING that ALL MUNICIPALITIES pay for the PUBLIC schools of kids in their district via PROPERTY TAXES…the government should make HEATH CARE and inalienable entitlement.

    EVERY SINGLE PERSON should have healthcare. Not every person needs/wants education.

    I agree with libertarians that perhaps we should get rid of TAX PAYER sponsered education. But what do we do?

    The fact is that many families just won’t pay for it for their kids. Yes, the highly paid educated people will pay whatever to educate their children. But, people that don’t value education won’t.

    And for all of you libertarians/conservatives that feel that this is ok and tough-shit to the kids born to parents that don’t value education…just ask yourself, how would you like to be born to one of these parents?

    I speak from experience, I was born in the third world to parents with 3rd grade education and raised in a NYC Ghetto. My parents couldn’t even read the report card. All they cared about was my behavior in class. As much love as they had to offer, they would have NEVER paid for my education. Not because they’d rather spend in on crack/sneakers/liquor either (As most of you would assume)…but because they would never be able to afford it.

  23. But Hey, I’ll settle for NOT spending $10,000 per year on property tax so that I can pay to send my daughters to where every.

    But, isn’t HIGH property taxes the way to keep the riff-raff out (and i know all of u know who they are)?

    Just think, if we got rid of the property taxes, we’d have to come up with a BRAND NEW SEGREGATION MODEL 😕

  24. I speak from experience, I was born in the third world to parents with 3rd grade education and raised in a NYC Ghetto. My parents couldn’t even read the report card. All they cared about was my behavior in class. As much love as they had to offer, they would have NEVER paid for my education. Not because they’d rather spend in on crack/sneakers/liquor either (As most of you would assume)…but because they would never be able to afford it.

    And yet despite the occasionally questionable usage of “ALL CAPS”, you seem to have turned out alright.

    Doesn’t that undercut your argument just a little bit? I mean, don’t get me wrong: structural and economic barriers to getting a fulfilling education are daunting for many. However, economics is no more a dictated destiny than genetics; many, with the requisite will and the tenacity (and occasionally, the luck) overcome those obstacles.

  25. Alice B,

    I’m going to be the first person in my ENTIRE family to have a college degree. I’m also the only one to make a joke about breaking the tradition.

    More pro-drug renditions, please!

  26. As long as we’re weighing in with our opinions on education: I’m totally against it. Kill it with fire.

  27. It will so fix our schools! Have you seen Obama’s neurokinetics? Just off the charts!

  28. Naga,

    Black Sheep !

  29. “”Catholic schools in the worst parts of Los Angeles draw from the exact same demographic as the public schools. The results are dramatically different.””

    Really? So how is they end up in a catholic school? Random luck? Or parents that care about their kid’s education?

    Living in the same neighborhood doesn’t mean “same demographic”.

  30. SAT verbal scores show a decline (from 530 in 1972 to 504 today); and SAT math scores have been essentially flat (from 509 in 1972 to 515 today).

    I don’t know if Ms. Snell figures took this into account, but they re-normalized the test a few years ago to bring the averages for each section up to around 500 (from the 470’s or so they were). If she just used the raw numbers, the difference between then and now is actually worse than indicated. (Otoh there was a case for renorming, as well as the fact that a good bit of the decline is a much wider pool taking the tests between then and now)

    The swipe at the auto industry was kind of gratuitous, especially considering the problems facing the auto industry and the problems facing education are nothing alike, and in fact mostly in opposite directions (e.g. ‘too much’ productivity gains due to technology in more sector vs ‘too little’ in the other sector)

    But I totally agree on the capital expenditures. The high school I graduated from just spent something like 80 million in remodelling (they effectively built a new high school in the parking lot and practice fields of the old one now are demolishing the old building and putting the parking lot and practice fields on it). The problem is that it’s totally easy to get funding for capital projects, but then you get into a crunch when you have to pay for the recurring expenses for upkeep. This capital expense vs annual expense dilemma is pretty common across all government spending. It’s the reason why no matter how much we spend on highway bills, we always seem to have ‘crumbling infrastructure’ Or why most public transit systems whine about funding shortfalls when they have record ridership.

  31. SIV,

    So it would appear my friend. No one has figured out where I fit in exactly. Personally, I suspect I am a son of Zeus. He always was a whoremonger.

  32. Just 4 U Naga…the Black Sheep

    Keep Dope Alive!!!

  33. Living in the same neighborhood doesn’t mean “same demographic”.

    Here in NY, we are only allowed 100 charter schools (for the whole state!). They run a lottery to assign students to the few spaces available. Usually about a 1:4 ratio of spots to applicants. The parents of the accepted shed tears of joy, the parents of those denied shed tears of frustration. I don’t think it can all be boiled down to a lack of parental involvement; moreso, it’s a lack of options for those parents and students.

  34. Kolohe said most of what I came in here to say.
    There’s always construction money, but never funds for staffing or maintenance. Our disctrict, though, recently bought an old K-Mart store that was sitting empty and remodeled it into an elementary school, which seemed to be pretty cost-effective.

    economist,

    “giving up on the terminal losers” is precisely what we should be doing. A vast amount of school time and resources is bring taken up on kids who are old enoguh to know better, but persist on being disruptive just because they think it’s funny, or because they want to see how far they can push adults. It only takes two or three of them to bring a class to a grinding halt, and these days it is nearly impossible to get them out of there.

    Just to be clear, I don’t mean kids who are simply slow learners, or kids who are too young to appreciate consequences. I’m talking about kids in middle and high school who don’t give a rip about their education, and who show up solely to see how much they can piss off the teacher that day. We need to reduce the age of mandatory attendance to around 12, and kids older than that who persistently misbehave should be shown the door. I think if more parents got phone calls like: “Mrs. Smith, Johnny won’t behave today, so he has to leave now. Will you come pick him up or shall we call a taxicab?” things would improve pretty quickly.

  35. What? Rewarding failure again and again isn’t a viable strategy? Say it ain’t so, or we’ll have to quit rewarding failed banks and car companies, too.

    -jcr

  36. Using SAT’s scores as a benchmark for student performance is a dumb idea, given that each year’s test is designed so that the average score is near 1000. Of course SAT scores have been flat, that’s how they’re supposed to be. The question is whether the content of SAT has become easier or more difficult.

  37. Not sure I agree with the stats on teacher-pupil ratios. My wife and I are both teachers. She’s a Literacy Coach (Reading Specialist) in one of our middle schools. I’ve been a History prof at our college for 20 years.
    My students arrive totally unprepared for college level work. The high schools are more interested in high stakes test scores. They can pass a multiple guess test but they have to be taught to think when they get to me. (Love the looks I get when I introduce metacognition to them.)
    Three things that would work if there was enough political will.
    1. Privatize.
    2. Close all ‘colleges’ of education.
    3. All teachers must have a degree in the field they teach.

    That would be a good start.

  38. 3. All teachers must have a degree in the field they teach.

    In most fields this is next to impossible, because

    1. Competitive salaries to entice degree-holders away from non-teaching jobs in their field would be prohibitively expensive

    and/or

    2. There simply aren’t enough degree holders to cover the demand

    But, I agree, it would be nice.

  39. the government should make HEATH CARE and inalienable entitlement.

    Why stop there? People need food on a far more urgent and frequent basis than they need medical care, so would you support National Lunch Insurance?

    Nobody has a right to the fruit of someone else’s labor. You’re not entitled to put a gun to my head to take money to pay your doctor bills, and it doesn’t become right if you delegate the robbery to the government.

    -jcr

  40. Nobody has a right to the fruit of someone else’s labor. You’re not entitled to put a gun to my head to take money to pay your doctor bills, and it doesn’t become right if you delegate the robbery to the government.

    This is true in principle.

    In practice, the starving man is restrained not by delegated powers or political theories, but by the dictates of their stomach.

    So, one can either confront the unfortunate reality that the starving man really doesn’t give a damn about your rights (nor realistically should be expected to), or attempt to ignore it.

  41. “Nobody has a right to the fruit of someone else’s labor…”

    “This is true in principle.”

    You know what else is true “in principle”? All the comments in all the blogs don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

  42. You know what else is true “in principle”? All the comments in all the blogs don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

    A starving man could use a hill of beans.

  43. “You know what else is true “in principle”? All the comments in all the blogs don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

    Ahhh, I feel spiritually refreshed, ready to tackle the day. Thanks.

  44. Griff, LMNOP,

    In NJ, you must have a degree in the subject you wish to teach in order to be a teacher. I hold a license to teach in three areas and am working on a fourth (as a special ed teacher – you cannot teach sped unless you have taken 21 credits of specialized coursework). It’s still tough to get work, because I am an “alternate route” teacher. I did not go to a college of education, I came out of the chemical industry as a project manager and, later, as a researcher and compiler of statistics. My BAs are in English and history. I am more or less worthless to most school districts because I don’t have a formal education as an educator. Yet my first year of teaching in a charter school was incredibly successful because I used my real life experience as a worker to form the basis of my teaching strategies. Yes, I think its important that kids know about Shakespeare and poetry and all that, but I found the lessons where we read magazines, newspapers, and job applications, and wrote resumes or letters of intent to be far more satisfying to me and my students. I feel like they actually got something out of English class, and they returned the following year with enthusiasm for school.

    I work with a population that is poor, urban, and largely made up of recent immigrants or first-gen Americans. I agree with Alice inasmuch as the assertion that parenting makes a difference. Even the lower achievers at my school have involved parents who are willing to take responsibility for their kids outside of the school.

    You could say that parents do “pay” for an education – vis a vis the level of property tax they pay – and care enough to pay for a better education by choosing where they live (a luxury not many have). I live in a suburb of modest property taxes, next to a suburb of outrageously high taxes, and I routinely meet parents of moderately high income place all responsibility for their kids education on the school, and then wonder why their child is not doing better in class. The common belief seems to be that they are paying a staggeringly high property tax to fund the school, so the school should be performing better. What they fail to realize is that money (via taxes) is the least contribution parents make to a quality education, IMO.

  45. In NJ, you must have a degree in the subject you wish to teach in order to be a teacher.

    RI has a similar rule. IIRC, though, they were having such problems with recruitment that they were granting waivers faster than they could print them.

    I suppose it would depend a great deal on the local labor economy.

  46. “Nobody has a right to the fruit of someone else’s labor…”

    Oh yea, well, weather you liked it or not, the fruits of your labor went to spending 10billion in iraq, giving money to israel, and the drug way…we can afford to get rid of 50% of those programs and help those without heathcare. And you would still be able to keep most of the precious fruits of your hard-earned and well deserved labor.

    although I’m an agnostic, i do believe that we shouldn’t let anyone starve or go sick. That’s all.

  47. Well alice, if you believe that, then you and others like you, should pay with your own money.

    I don’t need to here what you think I can and can’t afford.

  48. although I’m an agnostic, i do believe that we shouldn’t let anyone starve or go sick.

    All very laudable, but its still a leap from “we shouldn’t do X” to “we should use the tools of the state to do X”.

  49. Alice, if all that money was saved by the people rather than wasted by government, we could afford to be more charitable but also put more people to work, offer more people insurance they could afford. Don’t even get me started on how governments limit the product offerings of insurance companies or mandate equal products when a person may WANT a cheaper policy that covers less things. Or they could provide proper rating based on risk like they do with life and property insurance. No need to involve government when people and businesses can and will pick up the slack without the use of force. So, while I agree one thing for government to spend on is “better” than another that doesn’t mean it really needs to be done that way.

  50. Being an architect in LA I have to take exception with the cost comparison between schools and factories. It is an apples and oranges comparison. Factories are big open spaces while schools require walls to create rooms. Walls, doors, and windows cost money. Schools are also going to have a much greater articulation of material which is also goingn to drive up the cost. I know that LA is quite overpriced, but we would have a difficult time building a house for any less than $150/sqft. An institutional structure that has to be designed for such high use/abuse coming in at $183/sqft doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me, at least in LA.

  51. All very laudable, but its still a leap from “we shouldn’t do X” to “we should use the tools of the state to do X”.

    Don’t look now, but it seems human society lept that way a few hundred years ago. And that’s being charitable; many would place that leap closer to a couple thousand.

    Not saying it’s right. Saying it *is*.

  52. And, of course, it’s a new baseline. Any attempt to reduce the amount in the future will be “cutting children’s futures,” which is only something evil conservatives and libertarians want.

    Yep. This ain’t stimulus, this is payback to the NEA. We all should know by now that the feds tossing money at schools, even when they “demand accountability”, is just more money for sinecured education professionals and has no measurable effect on student performance.

    The problems with K-12 education in America ain’t all the public schools establishment’s fault, but certainly they deserve a significant portion of the blame.

    Rewarding failure is generally not a good idea.

  53. Here in NY, we are only allowed 100 charter schools (for the whole state!). They run a lottery to assign students to the few spaces available. Usually about a 1:4 ratio of spots to applicants. The parents of the accepted shed tears of joy, the parents of those denied shed tears of frustration. I don’t think it can all be boiled down to a lack of parental involvement; moreso, it’s a lack of options for those parents and students.

    Students who are winners in charter school lotteries do better than students that aren’t. This kinda erases the “parental involvement is why charter schools do better argument”.

    Charter and private schools do better.

  54. Heck, for $200B, can’t we just buy the kids new parents to make sure that they can perform the three R’s, do their homework and actually attend classes?

  55. Sad, following your criticisms what do you suggest: “concessions” before “doling”.

  56. “”Here in NY, we are only allowed 100 charter schools (for the whole state!). They run a lottery to assign students to the few spaces available. Usually about a 1:4 ratio of spots to applicants. The parents of the accepted shed tears of joy, the parents of those denied shed tears of frustration. I don’t think it can all be boiled down to a lack of parental involvement; moreso, it’s a lack of options for those parents and students.””

    Agreed. It can’t all be boiled down to parental involvement or lack of.

    But if a my children end up less educated than I would like. I promise you, the first person I will blame will be myself. The second will be my wife. Then I will blame my kid. Later on, if I still have the energy, I might wonder if the government maybe could have done more to help.

    I went to some decent schools growing up. I also went to one very good school(St.Barnabas), and two lousy schools(Tilden middle school & Bartram High). I got out of each exactly what I, and my mom, put in.
    The best school on the planet, however you define best, can’t help the unwilling.

  57. i do believe that we shouldn’t let anyone starve or go sick. That’s all.

    Then by all means, help them. Nobody’s stopping you. What I object to is the Robin Hood idea of rationalizing robbery.

    -jcr

  58. “Charter and private schools do better.”

    Assuming that your claim is true, it’s likely due to the fact they Charter and Private schools are dealing with a fraction of the burdens that public schools deal with. If you placed the entire public student body into their hands, they would be forced to contend with the same issues that public schools are forced to contend with.

    This means that they would likely have to be Parent, Counselor, and Prison Warden.

    I understand that it’s the standard Libertarian script to shit all over anything that is even remotely associated with taxation, but even a few seconds of contemplation would have revealed an obvious counter to your claim. This is why people need to spend less time in echo chambers.

    Public schools cannot work magic, nor are they meant to work magic. Private schools function with fewer problems because they’re allowed to expel monsters, and lost causes.

    Stop using the system as a scapegoat. We know it’s bad, but it’s bad because too many of you fuckers want to make copies of yourself. I don’t see that changing, therefore, I don’t see any significant improvement in public schools. It will always be just a basic education.

    The extra effort needs to come from parents, but that’s not what people want to hear. They want a babysitter that can fulfill a good portion of their duties while they’re out collecting money to pay them.

    In reality, once children reach school age, it’s astonishing how little the average parent is involved in their lives. You’re complaining about taxes, when you’re getting a babysitting service that provides a basic education on the side. It’s not a bad deal.

  59. Observation one, My first home was in a lower income neighborhood. One summer night my window was opened and I overheard my neighbor and his friend discussing his son doing poorly in school. The friend told him not to worry, you didn’t need an education to get a job.
    Observation two, A story in the paper several years ago described a young black student from a low income family getting a scholarship and going to college. His biggest hurdle was that because he was “acting white” he was socially ostracized. Several of his equally talented friends could not take the loneliness and dropped out.
    Observation three, My daughter had a problem with her classes being disrupted by another student. This kid was bright but came from a dysfunctional family, he fully admitted that the only reason he came to school was to cause problems.
    As other commenters have pointed out the problems are far more complicated than unionized school teachers. But some comments do show how ideology turns the mind to mush, no rigorous analysis of the problem, just find a group to scapegoat and blame away.

  60. Wow! Texas High School Football teams are gonna get even better!

  61. Standardized tests were never intended to be used for anything other than feedback for teachers to drive instruction. They’ve become co-opted for political and financial gain, and need to be returned to their original usage or scrapped entirely. This mythological “accountability” fetish is part of the problem – schools don’t get the freedom to step back, assess the problem, include all stakeholders (including businesses), and restructure pedagogy without having to answer to politicians or the testing industry. We also need to stop holding schools accountable for dropout rates and hold dropouts accountable. A solution to the first problem would solve the second because 80 percent of dropouts say they leave school not because it is too hard but because it has no application to the real world. Allowing schools to make all instruction career-based instead of testing-based would reverse this trend.

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