Monday, January 31, 2011

Wash Post Supports DC School Voucher Program


"An effort is being launched in Congress, aided by the considerable clout of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), to revive the District's unique program of federally funded private school vouchers. No sooner was it announced than Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) attacked it as an assault on D.C. home rule. Others with opposing views called it a test of the Obama administration's promise to work across party lines for the good of the country. Both claims are unfair burdens for a program that should be judged by the only criterion that matters: whether it helps children. 

Too many parents in the District still have little choice but to send their sons and daughters to failing schools. If Congress is willing to give them an alternative, at no cost - in fact, at great benefit - to traditional and charter schools, what's the argument against? We'd like to hear Mr. Gray's explanation to those parents."

31 Comments:

At 1/31/2011 9:25 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

the argument against (as made by obama himself) is that the suffering schools need to keep their bright students and that they somehow owe it to the dumb and lazy ones to raise the level of the place.

i find this to be as wrongheaded as it is despicable, especially coming from BO, who has sent his kids to the exclusive and very private sidwell friends academy.

the real reason that the dems oppose vouchers in all their forms is that the teachers unions are big donors and they will do absolutely anything to avoid being held accountable for their performance.

voucher systems work (and were working well in DC), but the glaring fact that kids given HALF the money of a DC public school student and allowed to chose their own school were getting much better educations and seeing their test scores skyrocket was far to "inconvenient" and thus the program had to be shut down.

note that DC public schools spend more than any other district in the country: $24k per student per year. this is roughly twice the national average. DC has some of the worst schools in the country.

small wonder the unions are so ferocious about defending this little fief.

it's time to do to these teachers what Reagan did to the air traffic controllers.

 
At 1/31/2011 9:55 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Set the children free from the failed government school system. All students everywhere should get vouchers.

 
At 1/31/2011 9:56 AM, Blogger Paul said...

I'm all for vouchers in theory,but my daughter will go to a good, safe school. How can I be sure budding young criminals won't invade her school under a voucher system?

 
At 1/31/2011 10:22 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

paul-

how can you be sure about that now?

do you have any evidence that that has ever happened under a voucher system?

for the most part, it's not the thugs that go looking for a better education.

they will also get bounced out of a real school in short order. i think your concern is pretty much unfounded.

 
At 1/31/2011 10:22 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

morganovich,

Wouldn't the parents who care enough about their children to seek out vouchers skew any results that determine "better education?" I think you would need a random sampling of ALL of Washington D.C.s students being put into charter schools to make a valid conclusion (that includes disruptive special education students and students whose parents cannot read an application to fill one out that the public schools have to deal with by law).

Your example of President Obama's children tends to make my point that involved parents are paramount to their children's academic success (and parents is plural for a reason).

It would not surprise me that organizations that do not have legacy costs have a lower cost structure as you mentioned. Why wasn't the money for the deferred wages expensed in the period that it occurred as it should have been and saved ahead of time just like we have to do for retirement when our working wage decreases? Actuaries are pretty good at forecasting future revenue and expense so legacy costs are no surprise at all, and amateurs like me can pretty easily figure out future cash flows, too. Sounds like poor financial planning by those in charge to me.

Paul, if the criminals don't invade your voucher school in the same ratio that they are in public schools, you can't compare the data between the two and report any valid results. Criminals need equal opportunity, too.

 
At 1/31/2011 10:23 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

also:

if thugs take over her school, you can move her. that's the beauty of vouchers.

 
At 1/31/2011 11:01 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Morganovich,

I can be relatively sure of the school because I live in a good area, and the school has an excellent reputation.

No, I don't have any evidence of a "junior criminal invasion" under a voucher system, but maybe because a voucher system hasn't been tried on a large scale basis.

As I said, I'm for vouchers in theory. But my daughter's safety and well being is my top concern.

 
At 1/31/2011 11:11 AM, Blogger Che is dead said...

Walt G.,

Who are the teachers organized against, and why are their unions entitled to no-bid government contracts? Also, your argument - that it is the parents, plural, that determine the educational outcome of their kids - is actually an argument for both charters and vouchers. As morganovich has pointed out, the D.C. voucher program pays out only about half of the money currently spent by the unionized public school system. If the childs educational fate is determined by his or her parents, as you argue, and not by the efforts of the teacher, why spend the extra tax dollars?

 
At 1/31/2011 11:16 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

walt-

the test scores were for the same kids after a year or two at different schools.

it's the same kid, same parents, just a different school.

that is actually an extremely well controlled study design. there is no selection bias because you are tracking individual progress. those kids likely had higher baselines as well.

i agree with you that parental involvement is a critical factor (though few can afford the $35K a year per kid that sidwell costs), but it is not the only factor.

schools do matter. if kids are worried about safety and have unmotivated or outright stupid teachers, it affects them considerably as does moving to a school full of motivated classmates, engaged teachers, and high expectations.

competition yields better service at lower cost. why should we not utilize that to improve schools? you would never accept having to go to a certain auto mechanic because he was closest to you and accept whatever quality he provided. why would anyone want to accept the same situation for something as important as education?

 
At 1/31/2011 11:20 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

paul-

"I can be relatively sure of the school because I live in a good area, and the school has an excellent reputation. "

all it would take is one bussing program or a new principal with bad ideas to overhaul the curriculum and enrollment and you'd be trapped.

under vouchers, at least you could do something about it. (other than move)

 
At 1/31/2011 11:25 AM, Blogger Che is dead said...

The "invaded by thugs" argument really doesn't hold up. First, it assumes that the parents of these "thugs" will be motivated to enroll their kids in a less convenient school and, if they were motivated to do so, that no new charter or private school would open in their immediate area to exploit the new voucher system. Second, it assumes that your current school would tolerate thuggish behavior knowing that you, and parents like you, would be free to move your kids to a different school taking your funds with you.

 
At 1/31/2011 11:32 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Che is dead,

How much of the cost is controllable (current compensation . . .) and how much is uncontrollable (legacy). Legacy cost is just like sunk cost that cannot be counted when making a decision.

morganovich,

Why would a school hire stupid teachers unless they have a stupid administration? Our highest rated schools in our county are union, suburban, high wage, and high education attainment by parents districts. It appears that the real challenge is educating students from households in poverty, and a one-size-fits-all education system will not work.

 
At 1/31/2011 11:56 AM, Blogger Che is dead said...

Walt G.,

The way that you have avoided the question is an answer in itself.

 
At 1/31/2011 12:07 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

Liberals were once skeptical of public-sector unionism. In the 1930s, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia warned against it as an infringement on democratic freedoms that threatened the ability of government to represent the broad needs of the citizenry. And in a 1937 letter to the head of an organization of federal workers, FDR noted that "a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable."

Private-sector union leaders were also divided. George Meany, the president of the AFL-CIO from 1955-1979 who came out of the building trades, argued that it was "impossible to bargain collectively with the government." Private unionists more generally worried that rather than winning a greater share of profits, public-sector labor would be extracting taxes from a public that included their own workers.

How Public Unions Took Taxpayers Hostage, WSJ

Executive Order 10988 should be revoked and public sector unions declared illegal.

 
At 1/31/2011 12:20 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

walt-

schools keep teachers on by union tenure, not effectiveness. so long as there is no incentive to perform, why would they? do you have any idea how hard it is to fire a teacher in a major city?

you are just picking at nits at avoid the meat of the argument. the best performing schools in the country are not union, they are all private. that is the level to which schools should aspire. the money is already there. $13k per student per year is $260k per class of 20. for that kind of cash, we need to be doing A LOT better. many private schools can. providing them with funds and pushing experimentation and competition will improve the whole system. schools exist to teach, not as employment programs.

for an instructive look at schools and unions, take a look at the harlem school district. just getting from under the union yoke and being able to hire and fire teachers as they chose (harlem now fires many times as many teachers a year as the rest of NYC combined) they have seen huge jumps in test scores despite spending less money than the rest of NYC.

the swedes have shown the power of vouchers. the finns have shown the power of freeing up school administrators. even DC showed that vouchers could yield superior results for less money.

what possible argument do you have for maintaining the status quo in US schools?

 
At 1/31/2011 12:24 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"Executive Order 10988 should be revoked and public sector unions declared illegal."

or, at the very least, public unions and their employees ought to be forbidden from making political donations.

there is a word for giving money to your boss in exchange for favorable treatment: bribery.

paying your boss $1000 to make sure you get $10,000 in benefits (paid by some poor third party dupe) creates a bottomless moral hazard and a death spiral of costs to the dupe (that would be us, the taxpayers).

 
At 1/31/2011 12:29 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Che is dead,

My contention is that the dollars that are now being counted as cost (legacy) were already spent a long time ago. They just have not been paid yet. So your question was answered--you just didn't like the answer.

I agree that new methods must be used in education that will prepare students for work in the 21st century, but how much time that teachers need to take on parenting roles will largely determine that success.

morganovich, why would you need to fire teachers if you hired the correct ones and supported them? The best performing schools in our county are all public schools--I'm not sure about other areas.

 
At 1/31/2011 1:00 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

My contention is that the dollars that are now being counted as cost (legacy) were already spent a long time ago.

Yes, and my contention is that those costs are the result of a corrupt bargain between the public sector unions and the Democrat Party. I don't see why the taxpayer, who has been the victim of this collusion, should be expected to pay for it. Institute vouchers and let the unions compete for students dragging their "legacy costs" along with them.

The best performing schools in our county are all public schools--I'm not sure about other areas.

I don't know how you support that argument, since in order to survive private schools would have to offer a demonstrable advantage. One thing I am sure of is that the worst performing schools in our country are public schools.

 
At 1/31/2011 1:01 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

Walt G.,

Once more, who are the teachers organized against, and why are their unions entitled to no-bid government contracts?

 
At 1/31/2011 1:12 PM, Blogger Paul said...

"morganovich, why would you need to fire teachers if you hired the correct ones and supported them?"

Are you for real, Walt? This is not a difficult concept.

 
At 1/31/2011 1:39 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Che is dead,

In our county, most of the private schools are populated with students from predominantly inner-city schools. Our top school districts are union and suburban and will not let any more students in because they have a waiting list.

I don't know why anyone would be organized against anyone else. Collective bargaining uses power to counteract power. There are two types of people: those who have power and those who don't. I realize unions are not popular. That lack of popularity does not mean they don't serve a purpose.

Paul, I don't have my HR book right now, but the discharge rate for a well-run organization (union or non-union) is less than 2%. If you are above that rate with people you need to fire, you might want to look into your internal organizational policies. I'm not saying firing is not a solution for some people; however, if that is your first solution, it can be an expensive one.

 
At 1/31/2011 1:57 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Walt,

"I don't have my HR book right now, but the discharge rate for a well-run organization (union or non-union) is less than 2%."

So what, we're talking about the public school system, not a well run organization. Besides, when you make it nearly impossible to fire the incompetent and lazy, it breeds resentment and sloth.

 
At 1/31/2011 2:14 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

Our top school districts ....

So, now your argument has changed from "top schools" to "top school districts". Conveniently for you, the union monopoly of public schools eliminates competition on a district level. Of course, that doesn't mean that unions can't screw up whole districts in both urban and suburban areas.

If you believe the union lie about quality suburban middle class public schools, you need to watch this:

"Not As Good As You Think - The Myth of the Middle Class School"

Part 1

Part 2

Teachers unions are putting the very future of our nation at risk. Don't believe for a minute that because you live in the suburbs, no matter how affluent, that your children are getting a quality education. Wake up!

 
At 1/31/2011 2:30 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Paul,

So you want to solve your organizational problems through firing employees until you get it right. How do you think unions get voted in to begin with?

Is your workplace union? If not, what was your approximate employee discharge rate last year (not including voluntary quits and reduction in force)? Piss poor organizations using indiscriminate firing practices without due process are easy and ripe for organization.

 
At 1/31/2011 2:38 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

So you want to solve your organizational problems through firing employees until you get it right.

Hey, you gotta do what works"

DENVER -- When President Barack Obama spotlighted a successful school in his State of the Union speech, he picked Bruce Randolph School in Denver.

"Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver," the president said. "Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado. Last May, 97 percent of seniors received their diploma."

Bruce Randolph was a middle school when it opened in 2002. In 2007, Denver Public Schools gave Bruce Randolph School permission to operate autonomously. It was the first school in the state to be granted autonomy from district and union rules.

Each teacher then had to reapply for his or her job. A published report said only six teachers remained.

 
At 1/31/2011 2:42 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

There are two types of people: those who have power and those who don't.

If that's true, it's the unions that have power. The power to restrict and eliminate competition from other Americans for government contracts. The power to force children to accept a less promising future than they might otherwise have if given more choices regarding their education. Etc, etc.

 
At 1/31/2011 2:45 PM, Blogger Paul said...

"So you want to solve your organizational problems through firing employees until you get it right. How do you think unions get voted in to begin with?"

It's called "capitalism," Walt. People respond to incentives. The threat of losing your job if you slacks off is a powerful motivator.

Unions get voted in for whatever reason, yes, and then they do great damage. The public school system is exhibit A. All your arguments are nothing more than smokescreens to protect your union buddies and their corrupt contracts.

 
At 1/31/2011 2:57 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

The threat of voting in a union is also a powerful motivator to treat your employees right. It's the one I suggest, but a union has to exist as the incentive.

Two of my non-union employers have employee manuals that spells out what is expected from the employer and employee. These due processes are in place partly to deter a union. I don't have a problem with that at all.

 
At 1/31/2011 3:14 PM, Blogger Paul said...

"The threat of voting in a union is also a powerful motivator to treat your employees right."

There's no gun to an employee head, he or she can scoot on down the road if they don't like how they're treated. I do agree, however, that union thugs will inflame any situation in order to get more dues paying members. We need to fix that.

But once again, we're talking about public schools, not well-run organizations. And "due process" is not the same as making it almost impossible to fire.

 
At 1/31/2011 4:22 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

walt-

this is a stupid straw man argument. you are just swapping one extreme for another.

"Piss poor organizations using indiscriminate firing practices without due process are easy and ripe for organization."

such business (deservedly) tend to go out of business, just like the business that are unionized and cannot fire at all.

a good business charts a middle path. you try to hire good people, but it doesn't always work. when you make a mistake, you need to be able to correct it.

teachers unions prevent that. worse, they create such a stifling seniority based compensation scheme that it dissuades any truly good applicants from applying in the first place. why would someone with strong intellect and skills seek to work in an environment that does not reward results?

you need to be able to link pay to performance or you are pretty much doomed. no one competent will want to work for you and instead you get the kind of people who only care about seniority and rent seeking.

in most states, if the teachers at a school unionize (even by a 51% margin), all the other teachers are forced to pay and to play by union rules. the school is then forbidden from hiring non union workers with any kind of other contract. this puts the union in charge of relative compensation and prevents any kind of results based compensation scheme.

that is my problem with unions. you want to organize, fine, but when you get the ability to tell other people they have to pay you to work somewhere and an employer that he cannot hire new employees except by your standards, then you cross the line into a massively destructive force.

why should a union be allowed to dictate who i can and cannot hire or where i can and cannot work and on what terms? if they want to bargain collectively for those who willingly participate, fine, but when they can force that bargaining upon others, they go beyond exercising their own right and begin impinging upon the rights of others.

 
At 1/31/2011 5:14 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

morganovich,

I actually agree with most of your argument. All employees should be able to have a union or not even if the place they work is organized. The problem I have with the right-to-work law is the free riders. Let the union bargain for the employees they represent and let the others bargain on their own.

If I can do a better job than my agent, I should be able to represent myself in any transaction. It would also keep the union on its toes to answer to the membership because they would have to compete and convince me of the union advantage for my dues dollars.

 

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