July 19, 2019
(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Over at RedefinED I dip a toe into podcasting with my old nemesis Sherman Dorn (wait…that makes one of us the bad guy right? Not it!) Dr. Dorn and I used to argue about Florida NAEP scores, but now we both live in the Cactus Patch. Anyway Dorn very kindly hosted me at Arizona State to record the podcast, which is in two parts, and (I think) we basically agree that public schools are over-regulated and seem to reach a consensus on a lighter footprint testing system. Along the way we discuss the 20th anniversary of Jeb Bush’s reforms and other stuff. Jayblog fans should take a listen: part I and part II.
July 10, 2019
(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Much of the old education policy agenda – indiscriminate spending, top-down technocratic standards – is discredited. What would a next-generation policy agenda for education reform at the state level look like? OCPA publishes my policy brief on the subject.
I argue that the experiences of the past generation point to three promising areas for the next generation: parent choice, professional academic standards, and clean systems of school governance.
On parent choice:
Putting parents in charge is the real accountability system that improves education. It is the only education policy that has consistently worked to raise student outcomes, not just in pilot programs or special cases, but at scale and in a wide variety of cities and states over long periods. The benefits are sometimes moderate in size, and there are cases of failure. But the overall track record not only supports moving forward with choice, it suggests that better policy design would produce bigger improvements. Hence the opportunity for policy entrepreneurs to take the next step.
Setting the right standards for public schools is an ongoing need. Systems can’t perform if they don’t have clear goals. Unfortunately, most states have inherited standards that are unclear or too low, as a result of historical factors ranging from ethnic discrimination to messy political battles. Oklahoma’s repeal of Common Core standards, followed by the national collapse of the Common Core project, provides an excellent opportunity for the state to revisit its standards on its own terms. Independent state-standards reforms adopted (for example) in Massachusetts in the 1990s demonstrate the enormous value that comes from states setting their own standards and doing it right.
Governance reforms to the public-school system should be ambitious, but aim for clearly defined, non-comprehensive objectives. An effort at comprehensive overhaul is unlikely to be successful; the special interests that have colonized the system are very powerful, with large resources of money and volunteer labor to deploy in political battle, and they would go all out to resist anything that threatens their power at its source (as the ferocity of their opposition to school choice attests). At the same time, small reforms that merely tinker around the edges are not likely to be worth the effort. Governance reforms should be big in terms of ambition, but narrow in terms of scope.
In each area I propose a series of policy specifics for Oklahoma policymakers to consider. And if smart policy entrepreneurs in other states want to crib, there’s no law against that!
Let me know what you think.
July 10, 2019
Greg Forster after his 9th consecutive win.
(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)
As regular Jayblog readers know, back in 2011, Brother Greg challenged WaPo’s Jay Mathews to a bet in response to the latter’s prediction that the school choice movement was petering out. Mathews accepted the challenge. Forster would win “if at least ten legislative chambers pass bills in 2011 that either create or expand a private school choice program.” Forster not only won in 2011, he has won in every year since. (For a few examples, see 2015 Part 1 / 2015 Part 2, 2016, and 2017. Note: I’m only including states that added a new program or increased appropriations or available tax credits for an existing program, not those, like Virginia, that only expanded eligibility.)
Here’s a brief list of the new and expanded programs signed into law this year:
- Florida: New school voucher program for 18,000 low- and middle-income students that automatically grows by about 7,000 vouchers each year. $23 million additional funding for Gardiner education savings account program for students with special needs.
- Indiana: Increased the tax-credit scholarship program by $16.5 million over the biennium.
- Iowa: Increased the tax-credit scholarship program by $2 million over the biennium.
- Mississippi: Increased funding for the education savings account program by $2 million.
- Ohio: Increased funding for three voucher programs (the EdChoice Scholarships, the Income-Based Scholarships, and the Cleveland Scholarships) and expanded eligibility for two of them (EdChoice and Income-Based).
- Pennsylvania: $30 million increase in tax credits available for tax-credit scholarship programs.
- Tennessee: New school voucher program for low-income students in Davidson and Shelby counties.
Additionally, by my count, here are the states in which at least one legislative chamber passed a new or expanded school choice program:
- Arkansas (SB 539)
- North Carolina (HB 966)
- Oklahoma (SB 407)
- Utah (SB 177)
- West Virginia (SB 1040)
Let me know in the comment section if I missed any!
[Note: Updated on July 19 to include the recently signed Ohio expansion.]
July 8, 2019
(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Herodotus called Egypt “the gift of the Nile” and Arizona is the gift of the Colorado (and a canal). Both Egypt and Arizona have alas been afflicted by an edifice complex- giant mountain sized stone tombs in the case of Egypt, very pricey new construction for districts in the case of Arizona, as I detail in a Chamber Business News column. Any chance $330 per square foot schools will attract tourists thousands of years from now? Warning: reading this piece will expose you to earworm Egyptian themed songs.
July 3, 2019
My favorite part of this is the invocation of “data” to prove the click-bait opinion that the US is just OK. Technocratic and anti-patriotic is precisely the NYT brand.
Of course, the most relevant data might be net migration (or attempted net-migration). After all, unlike the Soviet Empire, no one is proposing a wall to keep people in. But the beauty of technocracy is that the technocrats get to pick the metrics.
Similarly, when it comes to school choice one might think that economists would be persuaded simply by the fact that people choose schools to believe that those are likely better for them — revealed preference. But no. They demand test scores, integration measures, social-emotional learning scales, etc.. to judge chosen school quality. Keep measuring (more likely mis-measuring) until the technocrat can find the metric to show how your own better judgement is mistaken.
July 1, 2019
Image HT ABC7 News
(Guest post by Greg Forster)
1936: New Deal commissions mural in San Francisco public school, painted by a member of the Communist Party, with the purpose of delegitimizing liberal democracy and freedom by reminding America of the terrible crimes it has committed against the principles of liberal democracy and freedom, on the assumption (not yet disproved) that people are foolish enough to think the horror of these crimes undermines rather than reinforces the case for liberal democracy and freedom.
2019: San Francisco will spend $600,000 to paint over the mural in deference to activists whose purpose is to delegitimize liberal democracy and freedom, not because the activists misunderstand the purpose of the mural, but because confronting people with uncomfortable realities is now considered a form of violence.
Kicker: Of the $600,000 it will cost to destroy the mural, $500,000 comes from a mandatory environmental impact statement.
I can’t believe the American Right is actually losing to this idiocy.
Oh, wait, never mind.