Posts Tagged ‘Education’

This was originally posted at Neighborhood Effects.

Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t. – Traditional idiom

Sayings become traditional if they contain sufficient truth, but truth can usually be graded on a scale, from absolute to non-existent; better writers have called this the “truth-of-the-head” and the “truth-of-the-heart.”

The truth-of-the-head is that American public schooling is failing.Expenses are too highpolitical influence is too systemic, and results areterrifyingly lowThis isn’t news. We’ve written and talked about itextensively.

new study from the National Center for Policy Analysis adds to the mountain of evidence that school choice overwhelmingly benefits studentsespecially the poor.

From 1998 to 2008, the Children’s Educational Opportunity (CEO) Foundation funded a $52.4 million voucher program for residents of the low-performing Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. The vouchers were available to any student in Edgewood whose family chose to participate, regardless of academic ability or income.

The evidence shows that the voucher students weren’t the only ones who benefited. The students who remained in the Edgewood public schools benefited from increased funding resources due to increasing property values, and improvements in the public schools in response to increased competition.

Those are impressive results. Yet anti-reform groups and their legislative supporters have almost successfully killed school choice in Washington, DC, arguably the flagship federal school-choice program. Reason.tv has documented the trials, triumphs, and tribulations of the D.C. program for several years.

The recurring arguments against choice have always been theoretical. Students might be worse off. Communities might be forced into educational ghettos. Students might be subjected to failing systems, where private educators care only about power and money.

But any reasonable person has to agree, replace “might” with “is” or “are”, and “private” with “public,” and you have a fair critique of the current state. When faced with possible problems but tangible benefits, the devil you know seems egregiously evil.

I guess that’s why “idiom” and “idiot” are only one letter apart.

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Can you renounce your state citizenship? (more…)

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There’s an interesting post on the Economist blog today about TABOR, and how it has worked in Colorado and how it might, or might not, work in Maine.

Colorado’s TABOR mandated that taxation and state spending could grow no faster than inflation, adjusted for changes in state population, without approval by voter referendum.


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There’s good news in the Journal this morning, as Senator Durbin expressed he might be willing to grant the D.C. voucher program a second life.

This is great news.  Durbin was the one who originally scheduled the program for cuts, despite it’s massive popularity and success.

Earlier this year, Mr. Durbin inserted language into a spending bill that phases out the program after 2010 unless Congress renews it and the D.C. Council approves. A Department of Education evaluation has since revealed that the mostly minority students are making measurable academic gains and narrowing the black-white learning gap. D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and a majority of the D.C. Council have expressed support for continuing the program.

That’s significantly underselling the support the program has in this town.   The program almost exclusively benefits lower-class urban students, rescuing them from schools that are among the worst in the country.  This program should be a shining light of education reform, and instead congress, with Arne Duncan and President Obama’s tacit approval, have been planning to cut it for a long time.

It’s frustrating to watch the administration, the congress, and D.C.’s own Mayor talk tough about education reform and turn around to kill the one good thing to happen to education in this city in ages.  Especially when the Obama’s and Mayor Fenty either send their children to private schools, or pull rank but won’t extend the same opportunity to those less privileged.  The political class motto as always, kiddies: do as I say, not as I do.

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The Journal has an interesting article on a new study that adds fuel to the education reform fire.   The study, which the journal calls the most comprehensive to date, found that:

New York charter applicants are more likely than the average New York family to be black, poor and living in homes with adults who possess fewer education credentials. But positive results already begin to emerge by the third grade: The average charter student is scoring 5.8 points higher than his lotteried-out peers in math and 5.3 points higher in English. In grades four through eight, the charter student jumps ahead by 5 more points each year in math and 3.6 points each year in English.

Charter students are also shrinking the learning gap between low-income minorities and more affluent whites. “On average,” the report concludes, “a student who attended a charter school for all of the grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86% of the ‘Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap’ in math and 66% of the achievement gap in English.”

This shoots holes in the ridiculous argument that charter schools, and freedom in general, benefits only the rich.  I’ve heard that theory vehemently advanced by people whose intellect I otherwise respect, but it doesn’t make any sense at all.

The rich, the privileged, already have access to all kinds of opportunity.  That’s why they’re called “privileged”.  The poor, or the “disadvantaged” do not, almost by definition. Increasing the amount of choice or liberty in education doesn’t further disadvantage the disadvantaged.

True, this scheme probably does benefit the rich students as well, but the marginal impact on those already free to choose is significantly  less important than the drastic increases that accrue to the poor students.  Arguments to the contrary strike me as just petty vindictiveness directed at the upper crusts.  “You already have some choice, why should you get more?”

The real question is “why should we continue to prevent those without options from improving their lot?”

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I was recently talking with someone who claimed that we should not use vouchers for private schools because such schools have no accountability and teach children things that are very bad for society.

I found myself at a loss for words, and that is quite a rare occurrence!  Is it possible to argue with someone who has somehow completely missed all evidence, both raw data and anecdotes, which show the superior quality and outcomes of private schools?  Is it possible to argue with someone who does not understand or ignores the most basic conception of market discipline?  Is it possible to argue with someone who thinks that governments, insulated from profit and loss signals, somehow have better aligned incentives than private institutions?  Is it possible to argue with someone who thinks that governments have more or better knowledge to produce better outcomes than the knowledge contained in the market?  Is it possible to challenge the horrible intuition that parents are somehow not capable of being responsible for a choice in what institution their children should attend and what the curriculum should be?  Is it possible to argue with such a totalitarian sentiment?

Is it is possible to correct all these profoundly ignorant ideas, or at least keep the people who believe them from meaningfully influencing policymakers?

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