Randi Weingarten Endorses Florida K-12 Jebolution

May 6, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Keep reading the story past all the complaints about cuts…

While praising Orange educators, Weingarten, a former New York City teachers-union leader, was sharply critical of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, whom she accused of taking “a wrecking ball” to the academic progress Florida has made.

Though not all teachers agreed with all facets of the state’s reform efforts in the past decade — pushed initially by former Gov. Jeb Bush — most embraced the effort to improve public education, she said.

And across the country, Florida gained notice for improved test scores, better national rankings and winning a share of the federal Race to the Top grant last year.

“There was a real sense of Florida schools moving in the right direction,” she said.

Ok- so let me catch my breath here.

The story seems to be Florida used to be making progress, but now that the housing bubble crash is forcing spending cuts and Florida law is no longer going to treat teachers as interchangeable widgets, it is all going to fall to pieces.


“Not all teacher agreed with all facets” is a true statement. It would also be true to say that “teacher union leaders opposed almost all facets” of the reforms and that the NAEP has revealed their opposition to have been utterly and totally indefensible.

Sorry Randi- as Jay has noted, teacher union leaders have approximately the same level of credibility on education reform as tobacco executives have on cancer research. If you didn’t dislike the latest reforms, there would be something wrong with them.

Big Lunchlady Is Watching You

April 13, 2011

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Theorists like Amy Gutmann argue that parental freedom needs to be compromised in the name of democracy because parents can’t be trusted as the default authority over the education of children. Jay has frequently responded by pointing out that this logic, applied consistently, would produce not just government control of formal schooling but government control of every aspect of child-rearing. One example I’ve seen him use to devastating effect is to point out that we don’t establish government control over children’s meals in order to ensure kids are getting proper nutrition. Jay suggests that this inconsistency indicates that these theories of democracy are really invented post facto to justify social institutions whose real existential principle is to provide unions with a gravy train.

Well, Jay, you should be careful what you ask for.

The Chicago Tribune reports that some Chicago schools – a government spokesperson declines to say how many – forbid students to bring any food from home unless they have a medical excuse.

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” Carmona said. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

Carmona said she created the policy six years ago after watching students bring “bottles of soda and flaming hot chips” on field trips for their lunch. Although she would not name any other schools that employ such practices, she said it was fairly common. [ea]

The Tribune headline writer makes an amusing attempt to soften the obvious implications here – the headline says the school forbids only “some lunches” from home. The actual policy described in the article is that all food from home is banned unless you challenge the ban and have a special medical reason.

Most readers of JPGB probably won’t need to have the real agenda spelled out here. Kudos to the Trib writers, Monica Eng and Joel Hood, for spelling it out to the paper’s readers:

Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.

This lunchroom needs a better class of criminal.

It’s the same basic principle that has been driving the runaway overhiring of teachers for decades. It just involves the extension of the principle to a new sphere of social control.

HT Joe Carter at First Things

Arne Duncan to schools: WAKE UP!

November 19, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Rick Hess has provided a summary of a speech that Arne Duncan delivered at AEI yesterday that is a MUST READ. The hyperlink function of the blog seems to be malfunctioning, so here is the link:


Go read it NOW.

P.S. The Longhorn family is happy to accept Mike Petrilli into the ranks of BOOM Nation. As Lyle likes to sing:

Government Subsidies Subvert Colleges

October 28, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

One of those little one-sentence news items on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal reads:

College tuition and fees climbed again this year, but the burden was tempered by an increase in financial aid.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t that read:

The real price of a college education remained constant, but concealed government subsidies to colleges kept growing.

If you add up the revenue colleges derive directly from government through grants and contracts, the indirect revenue from government cartelization of labor pools such as teachers, nurses and social workers, and concealed subsidies through student loan programs, I wonder how big the total financial dependence of our higher education institutions on socialism in its various forms really is.

Over 50%, do you think?

It doesn’t actually matter; the tipping point beyond which an institution becomes de facto subservient to socialism is well below the halfway mark. The ideological reasons colleges indoctrinate students with collectivism and use their social prestige to promote it in the nation at large have been widely analyzed. The institutional reasons seem to me to require further publicization.

Catholic Schools version 2.0

October 21, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I have been participating in a series of conversations about the future of Catholic schools, in part because Arizona’s tax credit system has helped Catholic schools defy a national trend towards closures. During a recent discussion, the point was made that waves of Catholic immigrants opened schools during the 19th Century, but the current Hispanic wave is not replicating this trend. This got me to thinking “Why not?”

Part of the reason: finances. The religious orders from which the Catholic schools of old drew for faculty have declined in numbers. The low-cost part of a low-cost/high quality education has steadily eroded.

Catholic schools generally have the basics down for success a strong culture controlled by the staff focused on academics, active opt-in required by parents.  Suburbanization and the decline in participation in religious orders have thrown Catholic schools into a spiral of decline nationally. The advent of charter schools threatens to deliver the coup de grace for inner city Catholic schools, many of which have served as the only high quality schooling option in their neighborhoods for decades.

Today’s Catholic immigrants don’t face the same type of religious discrimination faced by their 19th Century forerunners, but let’s face it, they are getting the short end of the public schooling stick more often than not. Earlier I had written about the possibility of creating high quality/low-cost private schools in which content is partially delivered through technology. So could this come in the form of Catholic schools version 2.0?

A little snooping around on google revealed that people are way ahead of me. Go here for a link to a Virtual Catholic school effort aimed at both Catholic homeschoolers and supplementing the effort of existing Catholic schools. They even mention a “Clicks and Bricks” solution on the page.

Began in 2009 in Florida (of course) the project’s first release explained:

“Our core mission is to partner with existing Catholic schools so that they can extend their reach, and broaden their curriculum offerings without the added expense of staffing high end, small class loads. We offer a cost effective alternative for small, advanced classes, summer school programs, credit recovery, hospital-homebound programs, and many other options, saving schools the expense of running their own costly programs in the traditional manner. Students may sign up for individual classes, or schools may enroll entire classes or grade levels of students with us.”

Can technology and programs such as the Alliance for Catholic Education at Notre Dame and elsewhere replace the religious orders in the cost structure of Catholic schools?  How far can innovative school models such as Cristo Rey go if they successfully substitute technology for labor to lower costs? What does the staffing stucture look like for a hybrid school, and what is the optimal mix of personal instruction and technology? On the revenue side, can states with significant and growing tax credit programs provide the seed capital to spur this type of innovation? Moreover, could a Spanish/English online Catholic school hybrid model (clicks and mortar) lead to a revival of the high quality/low-cost Catholic schooling in both the United States and Latin America?

I honestly don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know that there is both a revenue and a cost side to providing K-12 options to disadvantaged children.  If Catholic schools reboot, they might not only survive, they just might prosper. I’m anxious to see what happens next.

Irony Alert!

August 11, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So the Edujobs bill apparently has a provision designed to keep states like Texas from keeping their rainy day funds dry and use federal bailout funds to maintain current expenditures. Apparently Texas did just that last time, and a number of Congressional Democrats went out of their way to get even with Texas Governor Rick Perry this time around. From EdNews.org:

Texas is taking money out of the mouths of children and putting it somewhere else,” insisted Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston. “We have language in here to say to the governor of the state of Texas, ‘Don’t fool with money for our children and education.’ ”

I don’t know where to start with this…

Taking money out of the mouths of children? 

Better yet…

Putting it somewhere else?

Perhaps Rep. Jackson Lee got confused by the fact that this bailout is being paid for with a cut in Food Stamps. That’s called “taking food out of the mouths of children.”

Perhaps the Jackson Lee would like to take her foot out of her mouth and stick it…back in her shoe.

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words on Why Edujobs was Misguided

August 10, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So the yellow line just put another $10 billion on the credit card of the red line. Let them eat cake!  From the Rockefeller Institute, hat tip EIA.

Arizona and Alabama RTTT

August 2, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

As an Arizonan, this article is quite satisfying to read, not so much because I’m a big fan of RTTT, but because I am proud of the steps Arizona lawmakers took to reform K-12 last session.

Arizona went from second to last in the first round of the RTTT to finalist in the second round, mostly on the strength of the 2010 reforms. Alabama meanwhile continues to languish in education union imposed stasis.

Bill Gates on Teacher Pensions

July 15, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Interesting article from John Fund from the Aspen Ideas Conference.

UC Berkeley Going Online

July 14, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Interesting article about a controversy at UC Berkeley concerning the provision of online coursework.

Of course, Edley is right and his opponents have their heads buried in the sand.  Remember, you heard it here first:

The only question in my mind is how long it will be until an elite player has the necessary vision to defect from the comfortable cartel. Several universities have the means to do this, and could receive philanthropic help to do so. Attention Oxford and Cambridge: it wouldn’t require an American university to pull this off. A British university could put out a low-cost version of this, and unlike their American counterparts, they aren’t swimming in resources.

This is not what Berkeley is doing.  At least, not yet. Their approach seems like a more limited foray into the use of technology to lower higher education costs, given that their state government benefactor is completely bankrupt and dysfunctional to boot. I’m amused by the resistance. Guess what Berkeley reactionaries: if you don’t start down this course, someone else is going to do it to you. 

I bounced my theory that it is only a matter of time until an elite private university begins offering tuition free online degrees under a Google financial model off of two executives from a private for-profit online university a few months ago. Their response:

“We know it is coming. We are trying to figure out what to do about it.”

Jay has touched on the impact of general fiscal calamity and specifically Obamacare will have in moving states to consider innovative approaches for lowering costs in education. After a recent conference in Las Vegas, Patrick Gibbons of the Nevada Policy Research Institute summed it up:

Dr. Greene didn’t make this point to scare people away from Obamacare. He was pressing a point about the financial imperative of using existing resources more efficiently to provide a better system of public education. We have to reform, because public education is simply unsustainable in its current form.

I wrote recently about the Carpe Diem charter school’s successful use to boost strongly boost academic scores while fundamentally incorporating technology into the education model. The good in all of this is that while creative destruction is painful, the fact is that we can get better schools and better universities out of it. International comparisons show that American K-12 schools spend lavishly and teach ineffectively.  American universities, in my opinion, tend to be overpriced, overrated and blissfully unconcerned with student learning or their own ever-increasing costs. If ever there were two sectors in more dire need of a shakeup, I would be hard pressed to think of better examples than American K-12 and American academia.