Democrats need credible education policy

Democrats need to be honest and serious about education policy writes Robert Gordon, a former Kerry education adviser, in The New Republic. Simply calling for more spending and carping at No Child Left Behind is bad politics and bad policy, he argues. This is an excellent and important article, and it seems to be readable without a subscription.

To get the politics right, progressives need to act on a policy principle that Americans understand: Money ain’t everything. The United States has tripled education funding per student since the 1960s, and we now outspend all but a few countries. But our students’ reading and math scores have edged up only modestly, and our achievement remains in the middle of the developed world. Yes, money matters; the shortfall in NCLB funding has hurt the law’s own cause. Democrats deserve credit for supporting more spending on schools. But they squander that credit when they make money their only focus. 

In emphasizing resources, Democrats evade questions of culture and institutions. Those matter, too. It matters whether we set high expectations for schools and teachers or accept mediocrity, and whether we impose consequences for failure or excuse it.

“Progressives are misled by the logic of their own Bush-hatred: Bush is for NCLB, so NCLB must be bad.” Accountability didn’t start as a Republican issue, writes Gordon, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. It shouldn’t be conceded to the GOP by a party that claims to speak for the poor.  

At a time when Americans are unsure what Democrats stand for, Democrats should give some resounding answers: The achievement gap is a national disgrace, and equal opportunity is a national command. Democrats will require greater support for schools, and greater demands on them, than ever before. They will use federal power to pursue equal justice–even at the expense of states’ rights, even in the face of their own constituencies. Democrats will put children first. 

Many Democrats are cheering state lawsuits against NCLB. Gordon points out this belated support for states’ rights simply makes Democrats look unprincipled.

Before NCLB, most states didn’t even track the performance of poor students. Thanks to NCLB, many schools are now offering those students help they desperately need. If the NEA’s suit prevails in court, it won’t even yield more money; it will just yield precedents limiting federal power and enable states to ignore the law’s demands. That would be sad: One of the NEA’s plaintiffs told The New York Times that NCLB had forced her district to offer longer school days and Saturday classes for low-achieving students. Progressives should celebrate that fact, not complain about it.

. . . Schools that fall short under NCLB may indeed be required to offer tutoring after school, or to help students transfer to other public schools, or to reopen as charter schools. These steps may look punitive to many adults inside the schools. For children who aren’t learning, however, these measures offer hope for a better education.

Gordon thinks Democrats can recapture the education issue by focusing on improving teacher quality. But that means paying more for some teachers than others based on their abilities and willingness to tackle difficult assignments. Why “offer $80,000 salaries to middle-aged and mediocre gym teachers while losing bright young chemistry teachers who make only $40,000?” Democrats resist market principles when it comes to education.

Read the whole thing. Gordon is right on. But I wonder if the Democratic leaders are capable of leading on this issue.

This Eduwonk post points to the vehement union hostility to paying some teachers more than others. The Sacramento Bee reports on reaction to the (Republican) governor’s plan to pay teachers more to teach in low-performing schools.

“Does he think teachers are whores – that you have to pay them more to do this?” asked Steve Blazak, a spokesman for United Teachers Los Angeles.

Maybe Schwarzenegger thinks teachers are normal human beings.

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Comments

  1. This is all so obvious that it is painful. What I don’t like is that everything is framed as Democrats versus Republicans and how they can regain the high ground or winning position. It’s about who owns what sides of an issue.

    “At a time when Americans are unsure what Democrats stand for, Democrats should give some resounding answers: The achievement gap is a national disgrace, and equal opportunity is a national command. Democrats will require greater support for schools, and greater demands on them, than ever before. They will use federal power to pursue equal justice–even at the expense of states’ rights, even in the face of their own constituencies. Democrats will put children first. ”

    “Equal opportunity?”

    Allow the poor to go to the school of their choice. That means charters and full vouchers. Now. Not sometime in the future when things really fall apart. Now. Not never because the school meets some minimal NCLB test criteria. That’s not equal opportunity. That’s mediocre opportunity. Do you think the achievement gap will disappear if all schools suddenly meet the NCLB requirements?

    “… even in the face of their own constituencies.”

    Break the monopoly? Not likely.

    “Democrats will put children first.”

    Not when they are simply looking for a winning formula that will put them back into power. Certain choices will always be off the table.

    “.. put children first”?

    Before politics? The whole point of Gordon’s message is that politics comes first. His whole context is politics, not children.

    “Gordon thinks Democrats can recapture the education issue by focusing on improving teacher quality.”

    This just makes me sick. It’s much more than teacher quality or teacher pay. He is just looking for a more defendable political position.

    The best educational (academic!) opportunity for each individual child is the goal, not NCLB, public education, social engineering, or political positioning. Individuals are important, not institutions. The solution is really very simple.

  2. SuperSub says:

    Until the Dems buy their souls back from the teacher unions nothing will happen

  3. This guy was Kerry’s advisor on education policy? If Kerry’s other advisors were this disconnected from the political realities it’s no wonder Kerry lost.

    Take this line as an example:

    Many progressives are viscerally uncomfortable disagreeing with unions while the president is assailing already decimated rights to organize and bargain. But there has to be a distinction between supporting the rights of unions and supporting their every demand.

    Uh, no, Robert. Ask any union rep, organizer or officer and you’ll be informed – everyone sit down now – that all union demands are based on justice, equity and what’s best for the child. A failure to acknowledge the simple, and inarguable, truth of that position is evidence of political unreliability.

    The unions, particularly the teacher’s unions, are so deeply entwined in the fabric of the Democratic party that any platform that doesn’t acknowledge their power would threaten the existance of the party. So articles like this, full of “we should do this” and “we should do that” slam into the political realities of a dominant influence group that views the sorts of changes espoused by Mr. Gordon as dangerous and not worthy of discussion.

  4. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    The problem with the Democratic Party is that, since LBJ, it has moved to the Far Left; policies under Truman and JFK (foreign and domestic policy) would be considered ‘right-wing’ today. Nowhere is this more apparent than in public education. Let me count the ways:

    1. Systematic lowering of academic and behavioral standards from elem. to high school by leftist policymakers, educrats and teachers. This mirrors the breakdown of societal standards of behavior post -1960’s and the ‘Me’ Decade.
    2. The idea that FEELINGS matter more than ACHIEVEMENT; this is false and harmful to children. ‘Self-esteem’ comes from accomplishments, and is vastly overrated as a predictor of moral behavior.
    3. So-called ‘bilingual’ education–it just ensured a permanent underclass of students and workers in society. People of every ethnic group in our immigration history have learned English and assimilated into American society; taxpayers should not be burdened with inculcating and teaching about every individual ethnicity and culture–that is the family’s responsibility. Bilingual education (in reality: monolingual
    Spanish) was touted by the Left.
    4. Multiculturalism. We still see the harmful effects of the moral relativism and ethnic hostility engendered by splitting apart groups of people. Leftist teachers and professors still propagate the ‘hate America/hate white and Western civilization” garbage. E PLURIBUS UNUM.
    5. Throwing money at every program, whether it works or not. We have spent BILLIONS since 1965 on public education, from Title I to Bilingual Ed. to all kinds of compensatory programs at all levels. Per pupil spending has gone up, not down, based on real dollars and population growth. Both parties have been guilty of this, but the Left continually whines that everything could be better if we ‘spent more’ on public education, whether it works or not. After all, “it’s for the children!”. Reality check: money matters less than effort, values, culture, talent and aptitude. The Left is all about extorting more taxpayer money. We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.

  5. ragnarok says:

    This question has probably been asked many times, but I’ve never heard a plausible reply.
    Question: Why are *parents* so opposed to reform? By reform I mean vouchers/charter schools/merit pay/better textbooks etc.
    The last time there was a voucher fight in California, a venture capitalist named Tim Draper put something like $20M into it, about the same as the teachers’ union – and yet it failed by a sizeable margin.
    Why? I cannot think of a single valid argument against vouchers, and yet parents are apparently largely against it. Many of my friends, who are mostly fairly well-educated, well-read engineering types, will often admit that the public school system is a mess – yet they support it and continually vote to pour more money into it.
    Many people are apparently unaware of the amount of money that the state spends per pupil, although this information is readily available on the Web.
    So what gives? Apathy? “Guilt”? Inertia? Lack of time?
    None of these makes sense to me, hence the question.

  6. Question: Why are *parents* so opposed to reform? By reform I mean vouchers/charter schools/merit pay/better textbooks etc.

    Many of them believe that the religious (i.e. conservative and fundamentalist Christian) lobby will hijack charter and voucher-based schools. That is a valid objection – and any reformed system must have safeguards to prevent domination by special-interest groups.

  7. ragnarok says:

    Fair enough, but nobody’s forcing me to send my kids to those schools. What vouchers give you is choice at a lower cost (in the sense that you would presumably pay less out of pocket to go to the school you choose).

  8. Foobarista says:

    The Dems have long ago abandoned the right to call themselves “progressives”. Reactionaries responding to their political masters in the civil-service unions and trial bar is more like it.

  9. Beeman wrote:
    any reformed system must have safeguards to prevent domination by special-interest groups.

    Choice is the safeguard, which is precisely why the public school crowd is so vehemently opposed to it. They know that once choice is available they’ll either have to drop the leftist indoctrination and focus on education, or be out of a job.

    A free market will accomplish great things. The challenge is keeping it free.

  10. “A free market will accomplish great things. The challenge is keeping it free.”

    The threat won’t come from conservative or religious-based groups. It has already and will continue to come from the existing educational establishment, teachers’ unions, and schools of education. They squelch anything that even smells like a voucher and stack the deck against charter schools. Vouchers and charters threaten their progressive, full-inclusion, fuzzy, spiraling, low expectation, and low accountability educational ideology. They do not want to let go of this control and their monopoly. They will say that it is in the best interest of the kids, but it is really only in their own best interest. Twenty-five percent of the K-8 kids in our town go to other schools. Many of their parents grew up in public schools. Many more kids would go elsewhere if their parents could afford it. Something is wrong.

    Choice: Parents are stupid and cannot tell if one school is better than another.

    Choice: Supply won’t meet demand. Why is there a demand?

    Choice: We have all of this opinion- and politically-based pedagogical education and we know what’s best for your child and society. You don’t.

    Choice: It’s best for society to teach your kids with our educational religion, rather than allow you to decide.

    Choice: What about the ideals of free public education? What’s more important; a concept or individual kids?

    Choice: All we need are better teachers. What about a high-expectation curriculum and specific grade-by-grade requirements of knowledge and mastery of skills?

  11. ragnarok wrote:

    Question: Why are *parents* so opposed to reform? By reform I mean vouchers/charter schools/merit pay/better textbooks etc.

    Couple of reasons.

    Life is complicated enough already. It’s just easier to believe that the proper authorities are dealing with the situation then to have to deal with it yourself. That accounts for the interesting poll result in which 80% of parents with kids in school feel the public education system isn’t doing a very good job but 80% believe their kid’s school is doing a good job.

    Also, if someone else’s chosen a charter for their kid it creates a questioning atmosphere: shouldn’t I, as a parent, investigate this just to assure myself I’m doing what’s best for my child? Find a fault with charters and the need to question your own fitness as a parent goes away.

    Inertia. The public school system has been around forever. Probably predates the dinosaurs. That means it will be around forever and there’s not much point in investigating the flash-in-the-pan phenomenon of charters. I leave vouchers out consideration since they aren’t as widely available as charter schools.

    Fear. You wouldn’t perform surgery on your kid so maybe this is a field in which the decisions ought to be left up to the experts.

  12. SuperSub says:

    “Fear. You wouldn’t perform surgery on your kid so maybe this is a field in which the decisions ought to be left up to the experts.”

    Fear that is propogated by the media. For every comment made about the successes of charter schools, 3-5 minutes seems to be given to some union or school official complaining about some supposed intrinsic flaw in the charter system that cannot be shown by any sort of study…

  13. SuperSub says:

    And
    “Does he think teachers are whores – that you have to pay them more to do this?” asked Steve Blazak, a spokesman for United Teachers Los Angeles.

    Wow, anyone else whose pay is based upon their performance should be offended at this. Just goes to show the egotistical attitude of the unions… they are, by nature, better than everyone else.

  14. ragnarok says:

    Thanks for all the replies. I still find it a bit hard to understand how parents can fall for this, but I guess that’s life.

    It’s also hard to reconcile the union’s assertion that they’re highly qualified professionals with their fear of the CBEST, in which the math is roughly 7th-grade level.

    Good to know that my taxes go to support a union with such high standards. I’d rather use it to help pay for the tuition at my kids’ private school, but I imagine the union’s need is greater than mine.

  15. SuberSub wrote:

    Fear that is propogated by the media.

    Yeah, to a certain extent but it’s also a fear that doesn’t require much encouragment. After all, this is your own kid we’re talking about. How much uncertainty does it take before you’re worried enough about making education-related decisions that you’d really rather leave it up to the professional?

    I’m not saying the fear is valid, that the sorts of decisions a parent might be called on to make require the training a professional might have. I’m just saying that in the face of an unfamiliar decision, with the stakes so high, an understandable reaction is to prefer to believe the decision ought to be made by a pro.

    ragnarok wrote:

    Good to know that my taxes go to support a union with such high standards.

    A scorpion and a frog are on an island in a rising river.

    The frog is about to jump into the water and swim away to safety when the scorpion says to him,”I can’t swim but if you carry me to the shore we’ll both survive”.

    The frog replies, “Oh no, you’ll sting me.”

    The scorpion say, “What sense does that make? Then we’ll both die”.

    The frog thinks about it for a second and says, “Ok, I guess you’re right. Hop aboard”.

    When they’re out in the middle of the river the scorpion suddenly stings the frog and as the frog is dying he say,”Why did you do that? Now we’ll both die”.

    The scorpion replies,”Hey, I’m a scorpion. It’s what I do”.

    Getting the best possible deal is what unions do. Expecting them to do anything else is a good way to be dissappointed.

  16. superdestroyer says:

    ragnarok

    Most people oppose a true “choice” system because most people know they will be screwed over by such a system.

    A voucher system cannot produce the one thing that it always promises, seats in the good college prep private schools. Those schools could add seats now but choose not to. Will a voucher entire them to add seats? No. But vouchers will empty the good college prep public suburban schools as parents get into an arms race to look like they are geniuses for getting their children into the best private schools.

    Look at cities where a large percentage of children attend private schools (like Honolulu). Is the economy better? Is the level of academic achievement better?

    All choice will do is make getting into kindergarten as mess, stressful, and hard as getting into college. Most people would like to avoide such a mess.

  17. SD: Evidently your teachers didn’t discuss free markets. One thing about them is that the supply grows to meet the demand.

  18. superdestroyer wrote:

    Most people oppose a true “choice” system because most people know they will be screwed over by such a system.

    If that’s the case why don’t we call the bluff of the voucher proponents?

    Will a voucher entire them to add seats? No. But vouchers will empty the good college prep public suburban schools

    Uhh, supe, where are they going to go? If vouchers are going to “empty the good college prep public schools” but voucher-accepting schools won’t expand and new ones won’t come into the market, where will all those kids go when they empty out of the “good college prep, blah, blah” schools?

    If the voucher-accepting schools won’t expand – for what reason I can’t begin to fathom – and new schools won’t open at a brisk pace then the opponents of vouchers have nothing to worry about. Parents’ll be all vouchered up with nowhere to go.

  19. ragnarok says:

    superdestroyer wrote:

    All choice will do is make getting into kindergarten as mess, stressful, and hard as getting into college. Most people would like to avoide such a mess.

    ??? If you think that your kid’s school is doing a good job, you don’t have to do a thing. If I, on the other hand, think that the local public school is a sink of mediocrity, where they teach that the equator goes through Tucson and Tallahassee and that force can be added to mass (I’m not making this up, BTW) then I can vote with my feet. What’s wrong with this?

    It’s possible that if enough of the better students transfer out of the school, its scores will go down and it’ll be labeled a failing school; but that’s not my concern. Eventually the system will do something to improve it, at least in theory.

  20. superdestroyer says:

    Allen,

    the Ivy league receives many more applications than it has spaces. Why doesn’t Harvard or Princeton add seats? Because it is to their advantage not to. Thus, St Albans and National Cathedral schools in Washington, DC and where Al Gore’s children attended do exactly the same thing.

    Remember, choice does let me choose where my child goes any more than college choice allows everyone to choose Harvard.

    Look at the competativeness of private schools in New York City. That is what you get with choice for the whole country.

    I believe that if you gave everyone a voucher, you are sending the message, “Get out of the Public schools now” Thus, most the demand for private school seats grows by a factor of eight. Those seats do not exist. But parents will feel pressured to try out private school even though most of those seats will be local christain schools. But the good suburban public schools will not longer exist because so many parents will be trying out private schools.

    The biggest problem the model of vouchers is that it assumes that all parents are rational. Yet, the problems with college admission and the problems with private school admission in cities where private schools dominates show that parents are usually not very rational.

    Another issue with ann all private school system is that it rewards long term established families are punishes families who have to be mobile. Imagine a military family moving into the Washington, DC area in an all private school future. Most schools and all college prep schools will be full. If the only seats avaiable will be in the Afro-Centric schools or the La Raza Academy then what is the family to do?

  21. “Most people oppose a true “choice” system because most people know they will be screwed over by such a system.”

    I have never heard this argument at all. Do you think that parents feel “screwed over” by charter schools? The use of charter schools is just choice without the vouchers, except that states severely restrict the supply. Actually, I hear of a lot of comments about how parents feel they are “screwed over” by the public school system. They are so “screwed over” that they have to spend enormous amounts of money to send their kids to private schools. Then, there are the parents who can’t afford to send their kids to private school and find their kids with a horrible teacher because bumping pushed out the better, lower seniority teacher. Someone in our town got a group of 60 parents together to complain about this problem. It’s in the contract – no can change. I commonly hear parents talk about a “wasted year” in public school. I don’t believe your statement unless you are thinking only about some narrowly-defined situation.

    “A voucher system cannot produce the one thing that it always promises, seats in the good college prep private schools. Those schools could add seats now but choose not to. Will a voucher entire them to add seats? No. But vouchers will empty the good college prep public suburban schools as parents get into an arms race to look like they are geniuses for getting their children into the best private schools.”

    So, parents are just stupid and can’t be trusted with choice. You talk about “good college prep public suburban schools”, but what about the rest of the high schools? What about the K-8 schools with curricula so bad that the students are completely unprepared for your “good college prep public suburban schools”.

    “Remember, choice does let me choose where my child goes any more than college choice allows everyone to choose Harvard.”

    Choice does not mean that you can send your child anywhere you want them to go, but it should guarantee that they get a better education. Then again, you seem to think that parents are stupid. Do you think that all colleges should be run by the state because choice limits the number of colleges and seats? This would appeal to the K-16 crowd.

    Your whole argument is based on your belief that supply won’t meet demand and that on the aggregate, education will be worse. (Actually, you seem to be concerned only about one specific situation.) I know for a fact that if our state didn’t severely restrict the formation of charter schools (even requiring approval of the state’s public education hierarchy), there would be many groups of parents falling over themselves to set them up.

    You seem to be only concerned with your “good college prep public suburban schools”, and you have never offered any viable solution to all of the other educational problems.

  22. Look Supe, I appreciate the big, scary bogeyman you’re trying to erect in defense of the current public education system but that defense springs either from an unarguable emotional attachment to that system or a complete misunderstanding of how competition works. Maybe both.

    To deal with your first example.

    Harvard and Princeton compete vigorously with their peers. They just don’t pursue that competition in terms of institutional size.

    Look at the competativeness of private schools in New York City. That is what you get with choice for the whole country.

    You’re going to have to expand on that a trifle.

    I believe that if you gave everyone a voucher, you are sending the message, “Get out of the Public schools now”

    I don’t think the public education system needs any help in delivering that message and the response of parents when choice, either in the form of vouchers or charters, is made available suggests that that message would be redundent. They already want out. Most places there’s just nowhere to go because of the public education system.

    The biggest problem the model of vouchers is that it assumes that all parents are rational.

    I knew that a lack of faith in the public education system could only be as a result of mental illness or stupidity and I see you’re vote is for mental illness.

    By the way Supe, what’s the diagnosis for teachers who send their kids to private school, and would presumeably use vouchers if they could? They irrational too?

    Another issue with ann all private school system is that it rewards long term established families are punishes families who have to be mobile.

    Since you aren’t being entirely clear, I’ll have to guess that what you mean is that “long term establish families” will have an extra “in” with the schools, kind of like alumni have when they send their kids to their alma mater. That’ll let their kids get into the very few private schools ahead of kids from more mobil families.

    This is just a variation on the “Lizzie Borden” defense. The reason there are so few private schools is precisely because of the existance of the public education system and because there are so few private schools we can’t do anything which might endanger the continued existance of the public education system.

    Let me clue you in, Supe. It ain’t working any more.

    The charter movement is thirteen years old, has spread to forty states, consists of over 3,000 schools and doesn’t look like it’s going to run out of steam any time soon. If there aren’t enough alternatives to the conventional, district-based public school right now, give it a couple of years.

  23. ragnarok says:

    superdestroyer wrote:

    “The biggest problem the model of vouchers is that it assumes that all parents are rational. Yet, the problems with college admission and the problems with private school admission in cities where private schools dominates show that parents are usually not very rational”

    Hmm, I don’t really understand this. Are you saying that the fact that we favour vouchers proves that we’re irrational? If so, letting us escape is a win-win; the public schools win because we take our equally irrational kids out, thereby improving the the public schools’ scores, and we win because we feel (wrongly, of course!) that we’re giving our kids a better education.

    Make sense?

  24. superdestroyer says:

    Allen,

    Yes, I know how competition works but the rapid voucher types seem to forget that educatin works on a not-for-profit model just like universities. If you are saying that profits will motivate the creations of more schools then you are telling aprents that they will be sending their kids to the University of Phoenix while the rich get to send their children to Harvard.

    I am still waiting for the privitization crowd to present a currently working model of their system. Is there a country in the world that does not have public schools? I would guess that any country without public schools is a third world country.

    Also, I am always amazed at the pro-privitization crowd always develop a plan that keeps public schools around because privates schools fail to provide for the learning disabled and how the pro-voucher crowd seems to forget about the issues of admissions, wait listing, entry points, etc that complicate private schools. Since you don’t seem to know how kids apply to the college prep private school, it puts the rest of your arguments in question.

  25. “rapid voucher types”? Does that mean that “slow voucher types” would meet with your approval?

    seem to forget that educatin works on a not-for-profit model just like universities.

    Three words: University of Phoenix

    And as for your elitist comparison of U of P to Harvard, I wonder which school provides the most education for the dollar? There may always be a market for Rolex’s but if all you’re interested in is telling the time a 5$ watch does pretty well.

    Also, I am always amazed at the pro-privitization crowd always develop a plan that keeps public schools around

    “The” privatization crowd doesn’t develop a plan that keeps public schools around. “The” privatization crowd trys to get what it can within the framework of the current political realities. Political realities like one third of the representatives at the last Democratic National Convention being NEA/AFT members.

    What amazes me, well, it doesn’t amaze me but it does fascinate me, is that the public school absolutists seem to think that the inevitable result of a monopoly, the absence of a free market, somehow legitimizes the prevention of the formation of a free market.

    That’s the “Lizzy Borden” defense I mentioned previously.

    If you’d like to sell the notion that the absence of enough seats in private schools is the reason public schools are sacrosanct, let’s keep in mind what it is that prevents the establishment of more private schools.

  26. “If you are saying that profits will motivate the creations of more schools then you are telling aprents that they will be sending their kids to the University of Phoenix while the rich get to send their children to Harvard.”

    What is this hang-up with Harvard? There are many state universities that provide a better education than Harvard at a lower cost. Besides, what is your point? Are you saying that public schools currently do a better job at preparing ALL kids for Harvard, or the University of Phoenix, for that matter?

    Do you think pro-choice advocates expect all of the problems with education will disappear? Not as long as schools of education keep pumping out pedagogically indoctrinated teachers and union seniority rules prevail. However, choice is a much better mechanism for improvement than a monopoly.

    There is no perfect solution, but you seem to argue that the “choice” solution must ensure that all students get to go to schools like Harvard. Then, you don’t provide any solutions to the existing problems of bad high schools and K-8 schools that can’t seem to prepare many kids for your precious “good college prep public suburban schools”. These kids will have no chance at going to ANY college. What about those problems? You have never offered any viable solution to these problems and cling to some vague ideal of public schools. Just don’t tell me that all we need to do is (see Gordon) “… recapture the education issue by focusing on improving teacher quality.”

    Parents are being “screwed over” RIGHT NOW by public schools. What is your solution? What do you tell the poor, urban child who is capable of going to Harvard (or the University of Phoenix)? No voucher for you to get out of a bad public school because we cannot guarantee that vouchers will allow all kids to go to Harvard. Do you tell the child that everything will be OK if they can somehow magically get themselves into one of your “good college prep public suburban schools”?

  27. superdestroyer says:

    Allen,

    My two biggest compliants against a voucher, privitization plan, is that the supporters massively oversell it while ignoring potential problems and that it is supposedly aimed at inner city kids while in reality making the sales pitch to the middle class.

    The alternative to an very unworkable voucher system would be four things:

    First, make schools for academic education only. Get rid of the social engieering, social work, etc and make schools for academics.

    Second, make high school voluntary immediately with the long term plan of getting rid of mandatory attendence. Why spend resources on trying for teach kids who do not want to learn.

    Third, establish a “right to know” policy for all school, either public or private, that want their graduates to attend any university that accepts federal funds, that says that they have to release all statistical information about the school (test scores, admission statistics, violence, teacher qualification, etc).

    And last, make principals certify high school graduates as functioning at the 12th grade level and make all four year universities that accept federal fund only admit certified graduates. Certified graduates who cannot really function at the 12th grade level should also be allowed to sue a school for fraud.

  28. ragnarok says:

    superdestroyer wrote:

    “My two biggest compliants against a voucher, privitization plan, is that the supporters massively oversell it while ignoring potential problems and that it is supposedly aimed at inner city kids while in reality making the sales pitch to the middle class.”

    I don’t think you’ve answered a single question that the voucher proponents have raised. Why not try it? Public education has a long and distinguished record of expensive failure. Here in California the state spends more per pupil than many private schools, yet the public schools churn out kids who can barely read. Nowhere do I see an ounce of shame at this dismal performance, just repeated whining about needing more money. How much more? The union constantly quotes a per-pupil figure of ~$7300, which is only the Prop. 98 part of it, and never mentions the total per-pupil amount (including Federal funds, lottery money and so on) of ~$10,000. This, mind you, is without taking into account the school construction bonds, the parcel taxes and so on. Why is this?

    BTW, I don’t see why vouchers shouldn’t be pitched to the middle class. They pay for a large part of school funding, why shouldn’t they benefit? Is it your thesis that “they don’t need it, so they shouldn’t get it”?

    “The alternative to an very unworkable voucher system would be four things:

    First, make schools for academic education only. Get rid of the social engieering, social work, etc and make schools for academics.”

    Right, I’m sure the union would back this 100%. What would we do with all those people whose jobs would be eliminated?

    “Second, make high school voluntary immediately with the long term plan of getting rid of mandatory attendence. Why spend resources on trying for teach kids who do not want to learn.”

    Ahh, yes, and the average daily attendance (ADA) figures would be revised downward, meaning less money for the schools? Yes, I’m sure the union would love this idea too.

    “Third, establish a “right to know” policy for all school, either public or private, that want their graduates to attend any university that accepts federal funds, that says that they have to release all statistical information about the school (test scores, admission statistics, violence, teacher qualification, etc).”

    This right already exists in California, but try telling that to people who’ve tried to get data from public schools.

    “And last, make principals certify high school graduates as functioning at the 12th grade level and make all four year universities that accept federal fund only admit certified graduates. Certified graduates who cannot really function at the 12th grade level should also be allowed to sue a school for fraud. ”

    Just what we need, the potential for more lawsuits. Don’t we already have this kind of check? It’s called “graduation”. As a matter of detail, assuming a student sued and won, who’d pay? The principal and the teachers, out of their own pockets? Or the school district, out of our tax dollars?

    Cheers!

  29. superdestroyer says:

    ragnarok

    Is seems like what you want to do is end the teachers union by starting a voucher program. Why not just get rid of the teacher’s unions instead.

    Also, do the private schools in California actually publish their mean SAT scores or their percentage of students taking Calculus? On the east coast, the college prep private schools never release any data except for the catholic schools. And guess what? the catholic schools usually don’t do any better than the suburban public schools with similar demographics.

  30. superdestroyer wrote:

    My two biggest compliants against a voucher, privitization plan, is that the supporters massively oversell it while ignoring potential problems and

    Yes, I know. You’ve been hammering on that particular theme. Trouble is, it’s a phony complaint. Voucher proponents don’t massively oversell anything.

    All voucher proponents are “selling” is that parents ought to be the ones making the primary educational decisions. That’s it.

    The only way your complaint gains any validity is if there is a large-scale lack of satisfaction with the public education system among parents. If that’s the case then more choice, in whatever form, vouchers, tax credits, charters, privatization, is the right solution and it’s the only solution.

    I’d address a couple of more comments to your view on parental qualifications to make education decisions for their children but I’d be tempted to suggest the Coach Brown-approved use to which you could put that particular opinion.

    that it is supposedly aimed at inner city kids while in reality making the sales pitch to the middle class.

    What’s “supposed” about it? Without exception, all the currently active voucher programs are aimed at inner city kids. By virtually any measure, political, ethical and even financial, that makes the most sense.

    Besides, that particular objection smacks of conspiratorialism. Every voucher program may be explicitly aimed at poor kids but that doesn’t fool you. You know that spending the money on poor kids is really an appeal to middle-class parents.

    Sorry Supe, sounds like a much more direct appeal to poor parents. To the extent it appeals to middle-class parents it’ll be because they’d like to have the same opportunities to control the education of their children that rich, and with vouchers, poor parents have. And that opportunity would hold no particular interest to middle-class parents if they didn’t have some reason be less-then-satisfied with the educations their kids are getting.

  31. ragnarok says:

    superdestroyer,

    “Is seems like what you want to do is end the teachers union by starting a voucher program. Why not just get rid of the teacher’s unions instead.”

    First, it’ll never happen. But assuming it did, why would the school listen to me? I’d have no power to withhold the money.

    “Also, do the private schools in California actually publish their mean SAT scores or their percentage of students taking Calculus? On the east coast, the college prep private schools never release any data except for the catholic schools. And guess what? the catholic schools usually don’t do any better than the suburban public schools with similar demographics.”

    Don’t know the answer for all private schools, but in my son’s school(s)there’s no problem getting the scores. They’re generally in the mid-90%iles. For comparision, the local public school has scores in (I think) the 50s or so.

    Cheers!

  32. First, Second, Third, and Last. What are the chances they will ever happen? Besides, many have a fundamental difference of opinion over what constitutes a good, basic education. And who gets to decide what “functioning at the 12th grade level” really means? Apparently it won’t be the parents.

    As I said before, you have never offered any viable solution to these problems and cling to some vague ideal of public schools. Voucher and choice systems have certain risks, but your plan is simply impossible.

    “.. the catholic schools usually don’t do any better than the suburban public schools with similar demographics.”

    So, very many parents are really, really stupid and spend massive amounts of money to send their kids to private schools even though it doesn’t make any difference. You give yourself away. You try way too hard to protect the public school monoply. Your first, second, third, and last list shows that you understand SOME of the problems of public education, but you propose a completely impossible solution. Your proposals have no risks. They are DOA! You KNOW they are impossible. Kids are waiting RIGHT NOW for educational opportunities, risks and all, but you offer impossibilities.