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Public education

Inside: The decline of public education, school vouchers, democratic complexes, district bureaucracy, et al.

I wasted 30 minutes writing it, so you can waste 5 minutes reading it. No skimming :P

Discuss.
U.S. Department of Education Funding Vs. Reading Test Scores
U.S. Department of Education Funding Vs. Reading Test Scores
During the past 40 years, funding for primary education has increased dramatically, in terms of constant dollars; yet standardized testing scores show little to no improvement and sometimes even deterioration. Nor does empirical evidence show any marked signs of improvement in education.

It's disingenuous to blame the tests, since other countries are able to outscore the United States, as are certain localities able to outscore the U.S. national average, without "teaching to the test."

It's not a problem of funding. It's a problem of bureaucracy at the Federal, state and district level and more importantly, it's a problem of teachers.

The bureaucracy exhibited in public education is truly astonishing. The U.S. Department of Education, with a budget of $50 billion a year, gives money to states, localities and special programs in the form of grants, but does not fund education directly. But this money does not come with no strings attached. To receive it, schools must implement all manner of wild and crazy programs, such as Title 9.

Take a looksie at this funding chart, plotted against reading test scores. Interesting?

The money schools get from the U.S. D.O.E. is entirely wasted, because it never goes to a school district's general fund, where it might increase the wages of teachers or be put to actual useful purposes, decided locally. It goes to specific programs with specific goals with specific strings attached. (Not that the specific goals are ever met). The school district has to hire an entirely new layer of bureaucracy just to manage all the new rules imposed upon them by the D.O.E.

...

The problem with teachers is not that they are paid too much or too little, but that they're all paid according to a standardized sliding scale, weighted by seniority. This system rewards poor teachers with pay increases, but punishes good teachers by only providing the same mediocre cost of living-type increases provided to all teachers.

There's a reason private schools students consistently score better than public school students. And it certainly has nothing to do with the genetics of the privileged children attending private school. Nor does it have to do with resources to maintain better buildings, better equipment, better textbooks or air conditioners. It's the teachers.

Teachers at private school compete for pay. Good teachers are rewarded, while poor teachers are let go.

Teachers' Unions everywhere loudly proclaim the importance of school teachers - and I couldn't agree more. But the irony is that it is the Teachers' Unions which have hurt education so dearly, by negotiating standard contracts for every teacher.

A good teacher can open a student's eyes to new and wonderful things, excite them about their work and inspire them to truly think, create and improve them self. A poor teacher teaches out of a textbook, encourages the same student to skim the textbook to look for the answer and scrape through the class with a B+ (in between naps and spitball fights).

Unfortunately for public education, good teachers aren't paid well enough and either leave public education for a private alternative, or stop teaching altogether. (Save the few good teachers who actually stick it out, apparently for reasons other than compensation. When I was in high school, out of 30 or 40 teachers, I recall only 2 as having been truly inspiring).

What's the solution? School vouchers.

The reasons for school vouchers go above and beyond the problem of bureaucracy and poor teacher tenure, though.

School vouchers are hardly an 'elitist' idea. It's an idea to expose the same principals that served the rest of our country so well to education. (Namely, the free market).

Society has decided that a free public education is beneficial to everyone. Primarily, it serves to educate citizens enough that they can make informed voting decisions. Secondly, it increases the productivity of society. Studies have shown the more education one receives, the lower the likelihood that person will commit a serious crime. Etc, etc, etc. The list goes on and on.

But the state has shown itself to be completely and totally inept at nearly everything it does. Such large bureaucracies are inherently inefficient (Which is why corporations split themselves up into smaller, self-managing subsidiaries).

School vouchers provide a choice to the parents of a child. Since society as a whole gains so much from education, society will give each child XXX dollars per year for education (probably around $5,500). The parent can spend that money in any way he or she wants, provided the entirety is devoted specifically to educating a child.

It is fairer to parents who already send their children to school, since they will no longer be forced to pay twice for their child's education - once when they pay taxes and again to the private school. (Okay - I know someone is going to complain this is a tax break for the rich. That's stupid. Because the rich obviously don't care about the $5,500. So if you want to set a cap on who gets the voucher, say if your household income is above $120,000/year, perhaps, I could care less. It's about quality education for all children, not quality education for the rich. By the same token, I expect someone will reply that school vouchers help rich kids to the detriment of poor kids still stuck in public education. I don't propose that we offer public education as a choice. I propose we /only/ offer school vouchers (after a phase-in, of course)).

Once all schools are private (but largely financed by public money, through vouchers), the schools will be much more free to hire and fire teachers as they will, set their salaries and generally retain good talent while dismissing the poor. It is in their interest to do this, because parents will choose to take their children to the better schools.

Without the layers and layers of bureaucracy present in the current school system, more money will be available to fund things that are actually important - like the salaries of teachers.

If society is not happy with the quality of education being received, it would be much, much easier to show exactly where all the money is going and what can be done to improve education (by increasing the amount paid by a voucher).

Some will inevitably argue that school vouchers lead to a tiered-system of schooling. Of course it will. But I'd suggest you look at today's system - it's already tiered, and the public schools are right smack at the bottom. They could hardly be worse, so we needn't worry about lowering the quality of education. I'm not sure how it'd be possible.

School vouchers are freer; if parents don't want their children to be taught evolution, now they don't have to be. They can go to a school that teaches creationism (as long as it meets other basic educational standards. Also, I definitely don't like the idea of students being taught creationism in lieu of evolution. But I like the idea of the government deciding what to teach them a lot less).

...

If you won't accept school vouchers as a solution, I hope you'd at least accept this:

Democratic Complexes

Basically a twist on charter schools/SCBM, etc. Education is still entirely publicly funded. But the district is entirely cut out of the equation. Money is deposited directly to the account of a 'democratic complex.' The democratic complex is a group of schools in the same general area. The complex would get a standard amount of funding directly proportional to the number of students attending the complex.

The complex has one Complex Principal, who has authority to hire and fire principals of the many schools, as well as ultimate authority over the hiring and firing of anyone in the complex, the management of the complex, etc. Each school still retains a principal, with the right to recommend hiring and firing of teachers to the Complex Principal.

The Complex Principal is elected annually by the parents of the students attending the complex. If the Complex Principal is not doing a good job, presumably the parents would not elect him come next election. Complex-Parent meetings would be held on a more frequent basis, perhaps quarterly, so that parents can judge the progress of the schools, hold votes of no confidence, etc.

The Complex (read: parents) gets to set its own educational standards, as long as they meet a minimum requirement. They get to set the salaries of teachers, they get to hold individual fund raising efforts if they so choose, etc. They're entirely autonomous from the central school district (which would probably still exist as a skeleton organization, taking advantage of economies of scale where useful, such as HR administration tasks, etc).

You could even take things a step further, and allow the complexes to levy additional taxes or levies where necessary, though I'm not sure that'd be a good idea (and may be extremely unfair to poor families which live in a pre-dominantly upper-middle class neighborhood.

Discuss.
Good Idea, but... 15.May.2003 09:33

asdf

I agree with this in pricipal, private industry is always going to be more efficient then publicly held industry, and teaching is an industry. I disagree that the federal government should have a roll in this, but I can't see us getting rid of them anytime soon.
My biggest issue with this is how economically challenged families can manage to send their kids anywhere beyond their imediate neighborhood to choose a better school? If every family has a choice of what school to send their kids to, the logistics of "bussing" is going to be tough. If both parents work, and there isn't a mass transit system in the city (or isn't one you would trust your kid on alone), how is the kid to get to any school but those in his or her neighborhood?
Even though this idea creates a (sort of) free market solution, an economically depressed inner city will still be economically depressed, so all those schools will still suffer, so only the 'burbs will have good schools. Kids can't always commute.

Either way, giving more money to the government will not fix this problem. Remember that on the 20th.

Bussing 15.May.2003 10:48

Buster

Oh great, bussing every kid in Portland all over the metro area! As if we didnt already have enough traffic and smog and SUV gashog soccer moms cloggging up our streets and fouling our air.

Transit 15.May.2003 12:13

James

Yeah, transit is a definite problem. But all that means to me is that we need more transit options (Something government is acutally useful for!)

Well... 15.May.2003 13:33

Dark Woodsman

You people keep forgetting that you elected the school council in the first place so take your lumps. BTW, the last figure I heard regarding cost per child per year in PPS was $11,000 not $5500. Heck, you could send a graduate of PPS to OSU and it would cost less for a year. The issue here isn't money. School districts around the state and the country for that matter have plenty of money but the majority of it isn't being spent on children or teachers. Instead, the vast majority of this money is going to admistrators and everything else in the big pie chart. I don't know why education has to be so complicated. What happened to the concept of the one-room school house or at the most a small school every 10 blocks? The point is to learn, not build huge, expensive to maintain buildings and bus children 30 miles a day...

Voucher schools will bring change in name only 15.May.2003 14:50

White Lilac

>>I don't propose that we offer public education as a choice. I propose we /only/ offer school vouchers (after a phase-in, of course).

This is nothing more than a change in name. Yesterday Philip Morris, today Altria. After changing the sign out front and the secretaries' stationary, we're a new company, which has nothing to do with the former one that did things like market cigarettes to minors, ignored and concealed evidence that smoking causes lung cancer, and other assorted nasties.

Banishing public schools and rolling out voucher schools would do nothing but change signs and administrators. It would only change the pieces of paper that funnel money into schools, which would come in as vouchers instead of as a check from the city treasurer's office.


This would change little for four reasons:

1. Teaching pool would overwhelmingly be the same as now
2. Teachers aren't "the problem"
3. Existing models of private schools are not relevant models when discussing future voucher schools, because they have the right to exclude
4. Voucher schools do not take into consideration the hidden costs of education



1. Teaching pool would overwhelmingly be the same as now

In Oregon, teachers are being laid off, but in California and Texas they're being hired.

See  http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/04/15/teacher.poaching.ap/

Over the next 9 years, Education Word estimates 2.4 million new teachers will be needed in the U.S.:

 http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin274.shtml

However, the key problem is not a lack of people being trained to be a teacher, but a lack of teacher retention.

Voucher schools will face the same problems that public schools do about retaining teachers. They can try, as public schools do to varying degrees, to increase the support offered to teachers, to increase the respect of the profession, and to increase teacher pay. However, as I argue below, there are many factors that influence how well a teacher is able to teach, which are separate from and out of the control of an individual teacher. When a teacher has worked hard yet her pupils score poorly, the voucher system would not reward her, but would reward the teacher who had a comparatively easy year and achieved success (by whatever standard you measure it). The first teacher will become demoralized when she sees others rewarded while she has worked hard, and thus we arrive at the demotivation built into the voucher system's proposed reward system.

For this reason, and because teacher pay would not be able to increase significantly under voucher schools, I predict the teaching pool will remain very much the same as it is now. Certainly a voucher system, when first getting started would not be able to start out with fresh recruits from other professions or just out of college, because there wouldn't be enough teachers and they would all lack experience. A voucher system would draw upon the existing teaching pool for staffing, and nothing much would change.

It is argued that poor teachers would be fired, and that's a good thing. However, it's sometimes hard to draw the line between a poor teacher and a demotivated teacher. As I've argued above and will argue below, teachers under a voucher system will face the same problems they face now under a public system ... and so the same pressures that frustrate teachers now will continue to wear away at them under a voucher system, leading to the demotivation, frustration and apathy that many teachers battle today.

In addition, strong teacher's unions and employment contracts will make it hard to fire teachers without a substantial showing of wrongdoing. If you imposed a voucher system by law you can bet teacher unions everywhere would refuse to join a voucher school unless they had certain employment guarantees.

For these reasons I think the teaching pool under a voucher system would be similar to what it is now. You're not going to see NASA scientists come teach calculus to high school seniors.

2. Teachers aren't "the problem"

My friend Sarah teaches fourth grade in the Bronx. A year ago, she stepped over chalk lines on the sidewalk in front of the entry to her school ... another drive by shooting, another senseless death. A few months later, she was briefly called out of her room by her principal. She was only in the hallway, but when she reentered the room, she found that a student had locked a classmate in a closet and was raping her. Later that week, another student was raped in a stairwell.

These are fourth graders!

A few months after that, one of her students at the back of the room went over to a window, opened it, and proceeded to climb out of the fourth story window. There were no screens or bars on the windows because the school could not afford them. Sarah said she initially froze in terror, finally yelled at the student to stop and then flew across the room and managed to grab him before he jumped. She was so terrified that she was shaking and crying uncontrollably. A few weeks later, the same student escaped from the class as they went to lunch, and made his way to the roof. The access door was locked, but it was rusty and he managed to wiggle the lock open somehow. He then locked it behind him (this time the lock apparently held) and then walked to the edge of the roof and shouted he was going to fly. No one inside the school noticed he was missing until pedestrians alerted administrators to his presence on the roof. Several minutes of chaos ensued as no one could find the key to the little-used door to the roof. After he was dramatically rescued by firefighters in a cherry picker, Sarah had to accompany him to the hospital where it was found that he had missed several doses of his many medications because his prescriptions had expired and his mother couldn't afford to refill them.

The school managed to replace the lock on the roof access door, but the windows still lack screens or bars. A plan to lock the windows is being floated, but hasn't been funded yet.

I could go on and on ... but you get my point. It is a cheap shot to say the problem with schools lies with teachers. Yes, I do not deny that there are teachers who take advantage of tenure and unions and proceed to teach the same curriculum for the next 30 years, with minimal changes, and are basically leeches on the system. However, those teachers are also stereotypes, and in my experience are not the norm, but the exception. Most teachers I know, of all grade levels, work hard and take their jobs very seriously.

What would you do if you were in Sarah's position? How do you teach math skills to kids who have a very real, very justified fear that they might be the next one raped in the closet, or the next one to get hit by a stray (or on target) bullet? She teaches that all-important grade, fourth grade, which introduces comprehensive exams that have a ridiculous amount of weight, and determine which teachers get encouraged or reprimanded, which districts get the most funding, and which principals and administrators get promoted or reassigned.

The exams mean little, as usual. If we understood them as marks on a paper, rather than as abstract representations of people, we'd be closer to the mark. Last year Sarah's class did very poorly on the exams despite her hard work as a teacher. But should we hold her at fault? Consider that when her students arrived in fourth grade, about 40% of them could only read at a first grade level. Maybe 20% could read at a fourth grade level, 2% at above a fourth grade level, and the rest were at second and third grade levels. So Sarah, like all the other fourth grade teachers in her school, spent the year teaching first, second, and third grade reading skills to fourth graders.

Her room is overcrowded, with between 36 to 41 students in a room designed for 25. She has absolutely no supplies, and has to photocopy workbooks that are meant to be disposable (the pages rip out, etc.) for her class to use at her own expense. Students have to bring their own pencils, paper, crayons, and even their own toilet paper. Of course many cannot afford this, and so it comes out of Sarah's own salary.

The turnover (and burnout) rate is very high, as you might imagine. After completing two fully years of teaching at the school, she is the most senior teacher there. She had no prior teaching experience ... that is, two years is the longest anyone has stuck it out among the school's many teachers. Even with this small amount of experience, she trains and mentors incoming teachers.

Her principal is a total fruitcake and spends all her time looking at superficial details. Her particular thing (which is actually a city-wide phenomenon) is bulletin boards. She recently tore down all fourth grade bulletin boards because they "weren't creative enough." Sarah is required to display the best work of each student, yet is reprimanded when a particular student has no representative good work. It's so ridiculous as to be absurd ... that with all these problems, a huge amount of teacher time is consumed by bulletin boards and other presentation details, all of which are designed to offer an appearance of success and progress to visiting administrators and school officials.

I think anyone would agree that these circumstances are beyond any one person's control. They aren't Sarah's fault, and they aren't the fault of any specific parent or any specific previous teacher. Instead, there's a systemic societal failure at work here that plagues all involved. The myth of the gifted teacher won't solve these problems.

The myth of the gifted teacher

As a society we are afraid of the average. We don't dare call an average plumber when our sink overflows, or an average doctor when we're sick. We demand the very best, and won't "settle" for a wallowing-in-tepid-mediocrity average anybody. We're only kidding ourselves, because we encounter average workers and professionals every day. In fact, by definition, we encounter average people most of the time.

What we should be focusing on are standards, qualifications and training. If my plumber, no matter how gifted, has never seen old copper pipes like the ones under my sink before, then I shouldn't call him to come fix them. Generally speaking, we visit average doctors when we visit the emergency room, trust average bus drivers to get our kids safely to school, and trust average contractors to fix our house. This is OK ... because what's important is how the relative average sample rates on an absolute scale of skills and qualifications.

The same with teachers ... most teachers, by definition, are average! If we replace all of them with "gifted" teachers, then we've merely raised the bar, raised expectations and standards, and our formerly gifted teachers are now average once again.


I've rambled in this section but I hope it's clear that teachers aren't "the problem," the only problem, or even a major part of the problem with education. The major problem, as I see it, can be traced to socioeconomic factors.

3. Existing models of private schools are not relevant models when discussing future voucher schools, because they have the right to exclude.


We can look at existing private schools and say, wow, look at Andover and Exeter and all the wonderfully spoiled rich kids that go there, and then start to feel that our kids should be just as spoiled too. However, that's not going to happen under the way that education is funded in our country, and it won't happen under voucher schools. A key factor as to why this won't happen is because private schools have the right to exclude.

Private schools can exclude students for any reason, provided it doesn't violate their charters or internal policies or applicable state or federal laws. They can exclude "behavioral problems," poor students, students with special needs, or students demonstrating poor academic performance. Many of these factors can be traced to socioeconomic roots ... a student can be rowdy because of a horrible or no family life, or has done poorly in school because she needs to go home and work to take care of her family.

Public schools don't have this "luxury," or more accurately, this right to blatantly discriminate on the basis of what is at it's root a socioeconomic problem. Public schools are required to open their doors to everyone.

One immediate difference that leaps out is that many private schools are not required to make such a enormous investment in special education for its students, because they can be selective as to who gets admission. (I understand that some private schools cater to children with disabilities, but these are the exception.) Public schools have spent a fortune on special education: $50 billion in 1999-2000, which was 21% of all elementary and secondary educational expenditures that year. In fact, the expense necessary to educate the average student with disabilities is an estimate 1.90 times the cost of educating a student with no special needs. So private schools, especially private for-profit schools, have an immediate incentive to ignore and exclude special needs students from their ranks.

Voucher schools, on the other hand, will be more like public schools than private ones. They will not have the right to exclude students outright. More accurately, a specific school will have the right to exclude applicants if more students want to attend than the school has room for. That will lead to the competition for the best schools that drains resources away from improving the worst schools. But my point is that a student with a voucher will have a right to attend *some* voucher school, if not a particular one, and so voucher schools will need to deal with the special needs of its applicants.

The gist of what I'm saying is that private schools can selectively cultivate the cream of the crop, whereas public schools have to take anyone who walks in the door. To point to the "success" of particular private schools when advocating a voucher system is to ignore the crucial factor that private schools can exclude students that don't "fit in." Who wouldn't want to teach at a private school where students are generally motivated, want to learn, and are well provided for in a clean, safe environment? On the other hand, who would want to teach in a dangerous urban public school where students are variously dazed, confused, high, have concealed weapons in their backpacks, on multiple medications, have all kinds of special needs, and say "fuck you" to your face every single day? [Re my friend Sarah, where all of this occurs.] A voucher system will change none of this, but will provide incentive for students who are able to escape such a situation. Students who are most at risk don't have parents that care at all, and will be powerless to switch to a better school.

4. Voucher schools do not take into consideration the hidden costs of education

Voucher systems would hand parents a sum of money and tell them to go shopping for a school. However, that sum does not reflect the true cost of an education, but only a narrow piece of it that places (hopefully) desks in a room and a teacher at the front. It does not take into account the sum needed to maintain an environment conducive to academic success, which requires everything from money to food to intangibles such as peace and quiet and safe surroundings. We could try to place a dollar value on these intangibles by looking at real estate values and trying to figure out what it would cost to move from a dangerous, noisy neighborhood to a peaceful, quiet one. A more accurate method, in my mind, is to look at what boarding schools charge, because they need to provide this "complete package," if you will, to their students.

This year's tuition at Andover is $28,500, a sum far above the $5,500 proposed for voucher systems. The sum does not include personal expenses such as clothing, supplies, a computer, or the like (although computers are available at the school). The sum does include room, board and tuition ... and factored in there somewhere are the actual costs of providing the intangibles (a safe environment conducive to study) critical to nurturing academic success.

Andover and schools like it provide the very things proponents of voucher systems want: a first rate faculty, a well funded athletics and recreational program, opportunities to advanced studies and scholarship, on and on. Admission to Andover opens doors to the right college, and continues to open doors throughout its students lives.

Good luck getting in if you're poor. Over 61% of students receive no financial aid. While everyone is encouraged to apply, the school only has a limited amount (about $8 million, but it goes quickly) of financial aid, and so you have a better chance of getting in if you can afford to pay full costs.

Why can't we all attend schools like this? Why can't we make Andover an average school, instead of the internationally recognized Harvard of boarding schools that it is? I don't want a voucher system that will introduce incremental change, I want the average public school in America to reflect these world-class standards. Maybe if we mobilized our defense budget for schools and fought a war on ignorance instead of terror, we'd be a giant step closer to getting there ... but of course throwing money at schools alone isn't the answer. We have to consider how our tiered economic system results in tiered educational opportunities: a gulag at the bottom for most of us and a world-class education at the top for the handful of wealthy people and royalty that can afford it.

A voucher system won't increase what we're spending on education, but as I see it will make mobility easier. You can apply your voucher to the school of your choice (maybe confined to a certain district). This solution does not consider that the students who are most in need of the best resources are the least likely to be able to attend the best schools ... they won't have the right grades or otherwise be qualified for the best schools, and these factors are correlated to their socioeconomic status. As I've said before, competition will be necessary because more people will want to attend the best schools than there are seats.

I predict our educational system won't substantially improve until we change the economic system that it behind it. It amazes me that few people point to our economic system directly when trying to figure out what's wrong with our schools, but to me it it seems readily apparent. Our property, state and federal taxes fund them, and academic success is correlated to socioeconomic status (until you reach a plateau at the upper end).

A voucher system, as I see it, is akin to deregulation of the educational system. We've seen what happens when you deregulate the telecommunications and energy industries. Students competing on an "open" market for the best schools is going to be fraught with problems we can't even foresee yet.


As for the proposed democratic complexes, I think they will fail too, for similar reasons. You would fund them proportionately to the number of students attending, but this overlooks the high fixed costs of facilities. There's the overhead of busing, the kitchen and meals, administration, a gymnasium or auditorium, special needs teachers, etc. that don't vary a whole lot (certainly not proportionately) whether you have 400 or 1000 students.

But more than that, they presuppose that parents will actually participate. How do you participate when one parent is missing, the other is in jail and the kids are being raised by their grandparents? That story is repeated so many times in New York it's enough to make anyone's heart break just thinking about it. These are socioeconomic ills, and not flaws of individuals. As I've been arguing, the school "problem" doesn't exist in a vacuum, but it is inextricably tied to other social problems.



One more thing before I quit ... I take issue with your assertion that the free market has served our county well. I agree that it has served the Vanderbilts, Morgans and Carnegies quite well in the past, and is serving the Gates, Walton, Bush and Hurwitz families quite handsomely today. The free market is not free, but depends on huge corporate welfare subsidies to farmers, ranchers, miners, the timber industry, the automobile industry, on and on. But that's for another day.

I want to talk about Edison Schools,  http://www.edisonschools.com . Chris Whittle founded the company in 1992 as a venture to make money from running public schools. He felt he could run them better and cheaper than they were currently run, so he reasoned that the city could just pay him 100% of the school budget, Edison would run the schools and he would pocket the money left over.

The problem is that education isn't an area that generates profit. Even if it could, it shouldn't ... profits should be redirected towards improving education. The idea of education isn't that you make widgets at a fixed cost (although that seems to be what's going on now), but that you teach each student to think for herself and help each student reach his highest potential. There is always room for improvement and hence always room to put more money to good use. However, we all know that resources are finite and we have to live within our means.

Edison (NASDAQ: EDSN) currently operates about 150 schools in over 20 states, and "serves" more than 110,000 students. It has yet to turn a profit.

The free market doesn't solve everything, and I think it would be anathema to education. There's always incentives to cut costs and pocket the savings ... at our children's expense.


asdf ... teaching is a profession and an art, not an industry. A teacher is more like a farmer than a manufacturer: she is nurturing individual students so they can grow to their highest potential. She is not (or should not be) a manufacturer stamping out identical clones.

Dark Woodsman ... the problem with a small school every 10 blocks is economy of scale. Small schools wouldn't be able to afford a library, let alone a good one. You could use the public library, if it wouldn't be overwhelmed ... but this goes back to the high fixed costs I was talking about. What about a sports program? Even if you stick to bare-bones academics, you still need to provide for special needs. All of these things cost money and are better addressed by larger (not too big) schools IMHO.

Excitement 15.May.2003 18:10

James

White Lilac - I'm always excited to read your posts :) Very persuasive.

At work now, so I don't have much time to respond right now...Rest assured I disagree with most of what you said. :)

Have to respond to what's freshest in my mind though:

"The free market is not free, but depends on huge corporate welfare subsidies to farmers, ranchers, miners, the timber industry, the automobile industry, on and on."

Ahem. Corporate welfare, subsidies to farmers and ranchers, etc are the antithesis of the free market. Ever wonder why milk is so expensive? Government-set price controls in various 'milk territories,' government dairy-cow purchases, etc. It's the very representation of central management.

The free market is much as it sounds - free, as in free of government interference, free to manage things itself.

More to follow, hopefully :)

Voucher schools will bring change in name only? 15.May.2003 21:07

LeapFrog

The benefit I see to vouchers is that the ciriculum could be varied according to the school. So you could have schools that would emphasize science, or the arts, etc. Or schools that focused more on sports. The point is that kids are different and by offering vouchers people could choose the best school fit for their kid. It seems to make sense to me - more than just a name change - but I am just one vote, one person with kids caught up in the struggle.

Free Market? 15.May.2003 22:18

HouseofLeaves

The U.S. doesn't run on a free market. In order to run a free market system, the government must drop all regulations. This policy quickly leads to a cascade of abusive practices and out right failure of most economic systems. A free market counts on the companies being self-regulating. They must be or they face economic or public failure. As evidenced by such companies as Enron, WorldCom, McDonalds, GE, Song, Viacom, Clear Channel, News Corp, the Carlyle Group, ExxonMobil, the WTO, the IMF, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, PGE, Raytheon, BP, Brechtel, Dow Chemical, DuPont, AT&T, Comcast...companies are unwilling/unable to self regulate. They systematically destory their own consumer base by attempting to provide "better," profit increasing products. The free-market requirement of increasing returns inevitably dooms any company.
I would loath to see how such a system would affect our children.
Unfortunately, you make some very good points, and i have very little to offer back. Aside from some general fear of vouchers (social stratafication, which happens but i believe would get worse under vouchers), it just makes me a little scared to talk about education as something to buy and sell. Have we really hit that point?
Damn it. I wish that i had something better to say that to point out all the bad things. Sorry about above, i was just ranting. But i think it is important that people don't place too much faith in always running everything like a business.
I'm not being constructive...but i'll post anyway, just for kicks.

Just wanted to add that its nice to see this kind of discussion without people yelling (or are they? haha).

how about charters for home schooling? 16.May.2003 03:28

working mamansita

hey- if the government would just pay me 11,000 per year -per child- to educate my own child- maybe i wouldn't have to work a shitty job and would actually have time to give them a real educate them myself.

seems to me paid work can be one way of avoiding the responsibility of caring for the one's who depend on us for the actually physical work of food gathering, prep., and housing, health, and safety.

we;d rather pay under-educated part-time high school students to do that job for us so we can get on with the "important" things in life like working for minimum wage. where are our priorities. i'd rather spend my time filling my childs hearts and miiinds instead of some rich fucker's bank account.

speak for yourself, i don't support no school board. i don't believe more "jobs" or "employment" doing who cares what will solve all of lifes ills. i know i speak for the majority of loving parents when i say give my share so i can educate my own with the care they deserve. they don't deserve no lumps from brutes like you.

so- 3 kids at 11,000 dollars makes me middle class, i believe. first year ever i make that kind of dough.

and while you're at it- where's my 40 acres and a mule? why should i have work for you to get my share of mother earth's good plentiful bounty? i w on't sacrifice my kids every day and send me them to someone who cares for them just because that's what they're paid to do. they deserve my attention and a real education on the real things that are important to sustain life-
not death culture.

I thought for a second I was at the Cato Institute website!? 16.May.2003 09:36

David

All of this has been debunked. There's a great book called The manufactured crisis : myths, fraud, and the attack on America's public schools which does a good job of proving the flaws in the article posted. Our public schools are not perfect, but they're damn good considering all the crap they have to deal with. I've got Mulnomah County Library's copy of the book checked out right now ;-) but will soon return it so you can read it for yourself.

Unschool! 16.May.2003 10:15

Yanqui

I agree with working mamansita. The government should help you educate your own child. I was unschooled (self-taught home schooling) and i repeatedly find that i have a much better education and understanding of the world than most of the kids i meet who have straight A's in school. It would also help if there wasn't so much stigma to being a "drop-out". Hey, I dropped out in 8th grade, doesn't that make me sound dumb?

Bureaucracy? 16.May.2003 11:16

Student Activist Alliance kid

The problem is bureaucracy? The solution is vouchers? Let this article be a testament that indymedia does not, in fact, censor right-wing bullshit.
Several independent audits have been done on Portland Public Schools, and they have been found to spend less money on bureacracy than almost any other known large-scale organization.
Yes, school vouchers would be a great idea! If only everyone was as wealthy as the person who probably wrote this article. With school vouchers, I would not be a senior in high school right now. The money you get with a voucher is good for helping pay for a private education, but unless you have some extra money lying around, that money isn't going to help with anything.
To be frank, I am shocked at the amount of comments on this site that support privatization in general, and specifically privatization of an education system. Virtually every industry that has gone from public to private has resulted in more money for a few and lots of problems for everyone else. I oppose putting my learning into the hands of a corporation that only has money in mind.

Public town hall Meeting 16.May.2003 11:40

KARI propagandaoperation@hotmail.com

You are all invited to come to the town hall forum on the CRISIS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION.
June 1st 3-5pm
South Park Blocks at PSU.

We need some radical ideas on how to solve the long term problem of public education, the problems that this temporary tax increase won't solve.
This is a moderated open forum, politicians and media will be there : hopefully there will be some good ideas that will be taken seriously.

There is no doubt a crisis : got ideas, come voice them other concerned people.

Want more information?
Contact: Virginia at 503.725.4500

if rain, PSU Browsing Lounge, Smith Union, Rm 238

Good, set the record straight 18.May.2003 19:32

ranger

I agree with student activist. I'm tired of that old right wing line about beurocratic wastes in the public school system, or unecessary "special" programs. I have had two girls in the system and am a parent that participates in their education. I have been to all the meetings, and I have seen all the cuts and its direct effect on their education. I also know a number of teachers very well. The only problem they see has been with the school board. There are no frills in the public schools. One of my daughters is in 8th grade right now and it is pathetic how little money is available for basic materials and programs. What they do have is absolutely necessary as she has benefited greatly from a special program without which, she would have been left behind and neglected. The comment about privitization being problematic is quite true. There are a number of examples where corporate takeover has resulted in a more expensive and less effective educational program. I am appalled at the lack of support for education in this state, and disgusted with our weak governors who seem to just sit and watch it all go down the tubes. I am tired of the rest of the politicians who have bypassed creative ideas for generating school funding and I am especially angry that so many people were duped into believing that Measure 5 was going to reduce their taxes and still fund education. It did neither and the sponsors should be answering to every student and teachers who are currently feeling its effects.