Governor Daniels vs. Bloat

August 31, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

From the Indy Star:

Daniels cited a national study released a few weeks ago by the Goldwater Institute in Arizona. It found the number of full-time administrators for every 100 students at 189 top U.S. universities had increased by 39 percent from 1993 to 2007.

The study blamed the administrative bloat on subsidies from federal and state governments and suggested that reducing subsidies would force schools to operate more efficiently.

“The role of trustee has never been so critical as it is today,” Daniels said. “But I don’t want to see you at the Statehouse asking for more money.

“Please stay back at the school and find ways to be more efficient with those dollars.”

The Future vs. Bloat

August 25, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Brian Caulfield asks the question at Forbes: should Apple kill the university as we know it? Cites Jay, Brian and Jonathan’s bloat study.

Answer: yes. If they don’t, someone else will.

Even More Bloat!

August 23, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Yours truly weighs in on the bloat fest!

Blog Envy

December 4, 2009

I’m suffering from blog envy.  Other blogs have had some great posts — much better than what I’ve come up with recently.  If I can’t beat them I might as well link to them and poach their material.

First, Brian Kisida has a superb post at Mid-Riffs on the predictable waste and banality of consultant reports in the political and education arena.  He demonstrates this using as his examples a “curriculum audit” that the Fayetteville school district has commissioned from Phi Delta Kappa for $36,000 as well as a “visioning” report that the City of Fayetteville commissioned from Eva Klein & Associates for $150,000:

To be sure, the report that Phi Delta Kappa comes up with won’t look exactly like the same ideas the community gave them.  They’ll be re-written in such a way that any resemblance or lack of substance will be obfuscated by consultant-speak gobbledy-gook.  For example, when the Rogers School District hired Phi Delta Kappa to conduct an audit, one of the recommendations they received was:

Develop and implement a comprehensive curriculum management system that delineates short- and long-term goals, directs curriculum revision to ensure deep alignment and quality delivery, and defines the instructional model district leaders expect teachers to follow in delivering the curriculum.

Translation: Establish a system to set and achieve goals. And make it a good one.

Here’s another recommendation from the Rogers audit:

Research, identify and implement strategies to eliminate inequities and inequalities that impede opportunities for all students to succeed.

Translation:  Do what you and every other school district has already been doing (or should have been doing) for decades.

I’m willing to bet Fayetteville’s audit will contain many of the same recommendations given to Rogers.  These types of consultant groups have stock boiler-plate language that they recycle time and time again.  I also expect to see some of the views of the community rewritten in consultant-speak.  Here’s some of the comments and concerns the Northwest Arkansas Times picked up from teachers and parents at one of the focus groups:

  • Weaknesses in foreign languages
  • lack of flexibility, especially at the high school level
  • poor communication about special programs
  • lack of strong leadership in some schools
  • the need for more vocational classes, including in middle school
  • too many different intelligent levels in the classroom
  • special needs and at-risk students need more technology
  • need more literacy coaches, especially one at the high school
  • more coordination in all programs
  • need more time for physical activity
  • need more writing in classrooms
  •  I got this list from the newspaper, which cost me fifty cents–a whopping $35,499.50 less than Phi Delta Kappa is going to charge for repackaging these ideas in consultant-speak.

    I don’t know exactly why organizations pay money to outside consultants, like when the city paid Eva Klein & Associates to tell us that the University was one of our strengths, and that the perception that Fayetteville was anti-business was one of our weaknesses.   Don’t we already elect and pay people to think about these things and have a vision for what we need to do?  So why are they sub-contracting out their duties?

    Wow.  Great blogging!

    And Paul Peterson is hitting his stride as a blogger over at the Education Next Blog.  There he notes the political difficulty posed by teacher union financial might for President Obama and Secretary Duncan’s efforts to turn Race to the Top rhetoric into reality:

    The National Education Association (and its local affiliates) gave $56.3 million dollars to state and federal election campaigns in 2007 and 2008, more than any other entity. That’s what we learn from the recently released report issued by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) together with the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

    The much smaller American Federation of Teachers tossed in another $12 million dollars into political campaigns….

    The money is wrested directly from teacher paychecks as an add-on to their monthly dues (unless teachers specifically object), a power granted unions by school boards as part of collective bargaining deals.  So the NEA’s slush fund is in fact built by taxpayer dollars, which flow directly to the NEA instead of into the teacher’s own bank account.  Yes, some individual teachers object and don’t make the political contribution, but unions typically collect the money by default.

    With all that cash in hand, unions are in a position to tell state legislatures what to do, if they want campaign dollars next time around.  Significantly, over $53 million of the $56.3 million dollars went for state-level expenditures, a clear indication that unions know that the action is not in Washington but in state capitols.

    This enormous cash nexus that swamps anything any business entity has contributed creates a huge problem for President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who is asking states and school districts to put merit pay into place.

    Mid-Riffs on Arkansas Charters

    December 1, 2009

    Brian Kisida and Josh McGee, who blog at Mid-Riffs, had an op-ed in the Sunday Arkansas Democrat Gazette on the State Board of Education’s rejection of all six new charter applications.  Here is the money quote:

    The Board often cited the same tired reason for denying charter applicants: The proposed charter wasn’t innovative enough. Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell echoed this sentiment after the Board’s meeting, summarizing that he thought the Board was looking for “something different and innovative that students can’t get in a normal public school.” Likewise, a Springdale representative in attendance said that “if a charter school is going to go in, it should offer something better or do something we can’t.” Board member Brenda Gullett, at a Democratic luncheon last week, confirmed that demonstrating innovation was the standard to which she held charter applicants. Some version of this reasoning seems to show up in state and local school board discussions every time a charter school is opposed in Arkansas.

    It is an undue burden to force charter applicants to demonstrate radically new techniques before they open their doors. Imagine that Taco Bueno had to get permission from Taco Bell to open a store in the same town. You might hear the same anti-competitive argument from Taco Bell: “Why should Taco Bueno be allowed to open? They’re just going to offer the same things that we do. They have tacos; we have tacos. They have burritos; we have burritos.” But of course, the whole point of choice and competition is that a competitor will offer essentially the same goods or services. If the goods or services are too different, it isn’t really competition after all. It’s up to the customer-not Taco Bell-to decide whose tacos are, in fact, “better.”

    Moreover, the question regarding whether charter applicants must demonstrate innovation is a legal one. The state legislature has the power to make laws. The Board, as an arm of the executive branch, has a duty to execute the law. And nothing in Arkansas’ charter school law can reasonably be construed to empower the Board to reject charter applicants solely for not demonstrating innovation. The word “innovation” doesn’t even appear in the Arkansas Department ofEducation’s rules and regulations that govern the requirements for charter school applicants.

    Nominees for the Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year Award — Steve Henson

    October 13, 2009


    We here at JPGB are proud to announce nominees for the Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year Award.  The award is meant to honor a person who has made a significant contribution to improving the human condition. 

    The criteria of the Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year Award can be summarized by quoting our original blog post in which we sang the praises of Al Copeland and all that he did for humanity:

    Al Copeland  may not have done the most to benefit humanity, but he certainly did more than many people who receive such awards.  Chicago gave Bill Ayers their Citizen of the Year award in 1997.  And the Nobel Peace Prize has too often gone to a motley crew including unrepentant terrorist, Yassir Arafat, and fictional autobiography writer, Rigoberta Menchu.   Local humanitarian awards tend to go to hack politicians or community activists.  From all these award recipients you might think that a humanitarian was someone who stopped throwing bombs… or who you hoped would picket, tax, regulate, or imprison someone else.

    Al Copeland never threatened to bomb, picket, tax, regulate, or imprison anyone.  By that standard alone he would be much more of a humanitarian.  But Al Copeland did even more — he gave us spicy chicken.”

    With that introduction, I would like to present the following nominee for the Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year Award — Steve Henson, the inventor of ranch dressing.

    Brian Kisida has submitted this nomination with the following support:

    Like the man who the Al Copeland Humanitarian of the Year Award is named after, this year’s first nominee has also benefited humanity by stimulating our taste-buds.

    The first nominee for 2009 is: The creator of ranch dressing, Steve Henson!  

    Steve and Gayle Henson opened the horseback-riding tourist attraction Hidden Valley Ranch in Santa Barbara, California in 1954.  One of the things guests at the ranch enjoyed was a special salad dressing Steve developed, and soon visitors were being sent home with to-go bottles of the tasty goodness we have all come to love.  After starting a side business for the sole purpose of manufacturing his invention, Steve sold the recipe to Clorox for $8 million in 1972.  At this time Hidden Valley Ranch was nothing more than a packet of seasoning that consumers had to mix with mayonnaise and buttermilk.

    It wasn’t until the 1980’s that a non-refrigerated formula hit grocery store shelves in bottle form, and by 1987 the emergence of Cool Ranch Doritos signaled just how far Steve’s recipe had come.  In 1992, ranch overtook Italian and remains the nation’s top-selling salad dressing.

    Today, ranch dressing is not only the most popular salad dressing, its pervasiveness as an all around condiment is nearly unmatched.  It’s splendid as a dip for fresh vegetables, fried vegetables, French-fries, and chicken-wings.  And it’s not uncommon for ranch to add some zing to baked potatoes, hamburgers, and even pizza.  In fact, I dare you to think of something that isn’t better with ranch.

    Thank you Steve Henson, for the gift you have given to all of humanity. 

    (edited for clarity)