Greg Wins Forster-Mathews Bet Yet Again

July 10, 2019
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner GIF - WinnerWinner ChickenDinner MrBean GIFs

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:

  • Arkansas: Tripled the appropriation for the Arkansas Succeeds voucher program for students with special needs or in foster care.
  • 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 and updated July 25 to include the Arkansas expansion.]

Edifice Complex Strikes the Gift of the Colorado

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.


Technocratic and Anti-Patriotic — The NYT Brand

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.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

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.

The Price of Bigotry

May 19, 2019


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Three cheers for George Will’s column today calling upon the Supreme Court to strike down Blaine Amendments:

Blaine came within 1,047 votes of becoming president when, in 1884, hoping his anti-Catholicism would propel him to victory, he lost New York by that margin to Grover Cleveland. A large multiple of that number of New York’s Irish and other Catholic immigrants had become incensed when a prominent Protestant minister, speaking at a rally in New York City with Blaine present, said the Democratic party’s antecedents were “rum, Romanism, and rebellion.”

Blaine paid a steep price for his bigotry. More than 13 decades later, schoolchildren in Montana and elsewhere should not have to pay for it.

I reach the conclusion by different legal reasoning (I think the key point is that Blaine Amendments inevitably create unconstitutional government discrimination against religious organizations, not that they would have been understood to do so in the 19th century). But it rounds up to three cheers!

Serious Scholarly Research on B.S.

May 13, 2019


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The Institute of Labor Economics brings you a highly scholarly study entitled: “Bullshitters. Who Are They and What Do We Know about Their Lives?”

You see, PISA 2012 included a very interesting test item designed to discover which students would claim to know more than they did. The item listed 16 mathematical concepts (e.g. “exponential function”) and asked test-takers to indicate how familiar they were with those concepts. The catch? Three of the concepts – proper number, subjunctive scaling and declarative fraction – were fictional. (“Subjunctive scaling” is my favorite.)

The ILE researchers coded test-takers who claimed to be highly familiar with these concepts as “bullshitters” and proceeded to analyze their characteristics. The analysis was limited to the nine English-speaking countries in PISA, but that still left them with 40,000 test subjects.

The U.S. and Canada rule the roost as the nations with the most dishonest teenagers. Meanwhile, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland were clustered at the bottom. Apparently the Celts are trustworthy after all – who knew?

Other findings:

  • Teenage boys, you will not be shocked to learn, were more likely to puff themselves up than teenage girls in all nine countries. However, the gender gap was substantially smaller in North America than in Europe.
  • Socioeconomic advantage is also associated with self-fabrication in all nine countries, but with variations in size that follow no obvious pattern (larger differences in Scotland and New Zealand, smaller in England, Canada and the U.S.).
  • There was greater variation in the results for immigrants v. native residents. In Europe, immigrants were more likely to feign expertise; they were less so elsewhere, and there was no visible difference in the U.S.
  • No summary could do this one justice, so I will simply quote: “Finally, in additional analysis, we have also estimated the within versus between school variation of the bullshit scale within each country. Our motivation was to establish whether bullshitters tend to cluster together within the same school, or if bullshitters are fairly equally distributed across schools. We find that the ICCs tend to be very low; in most countries less than three percent of the variance in the bullshit scale occurs between schools. This perhaps helps to explain why everyone knows a bullshitter; these individuals seem to be relatively evenly spread across schools (and thus peer groups).”

Also of interest in ILE’s study is the extensive literature review on the subject, undoubtedly a helpful service in this emerging field of study. The authors point to Harry B. Frankfurt’s pathbreaking inquiry On Bullshit as the reigning theoretical account of the phenomenon.

Hopefully we can expect to see more research on this important topic soon!

Summarizing the Research on School Choice

May 1, 2019


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA has published a new policy brief by yours truly, summarizing the research on school choice. For example, on academic effects:

Academic effects may be the most important empirical question we ask about school choice. At one time, it was by far the most hotly debated, whereas today it is much less frequently mentioned by opponents of choice. Having been in the school choice movement since 2002, I can remember when we constantly heard claims that “there’s no evidence school choice actually helps kids learn” or “the research on outcomes is mixed.” Such claims were a primary focus in the 2005 book Education Myths, which I co-wrote. We almost never hear that kind of thing now, because the research on academic outcomes is so consistently positive.

Readers of JPGB will recognize the concern in this paragraph:

Most of these studies examine test scores, although a handful look at other metrics such as high-school graduation rates and college attendance rates. Recent research has called into question the value of test scores as a measurement of academic outcomes. This research finds little or no connection between improvements in K-12 test scores and improvements in long-term life outcomes, in contrast to high-school graduation and college enrollment (which do seem to be more strongly associated with long-term life outcomes). This limitation is worth keeping in mind.

The brief also looks at the research on fiscal effects and civic concerns (segregation and good citizenship).

You may recall there was some, er, confusion recently in Oklahoma when some local academics published a summary of the research on choice that was, er, less than fully accurate.

Let me know what you think!