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Posts Tagged ‘education’
February 28th, 2017 at 1:51 pm
Image of the Day: Education Spending Has Skyrocketed, Educational Performance Has Stagnated
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Courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), educational spending has actually skyrocketed over recent decades, yet educational performance has stagnated:

Education Spending Up, Performance Stagnant

Education Spending Up, Performance Stagnant

Something to forward whenever someone claims that education spending has somehow been starved, or that insufficient funding is the source of our problems.

October 2nd, 2015 at 12:18 pm
Arne Duncan Takes His Leave
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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Friday announced he would be stepping down after seven years of service to the Obama administration. In a letter to department employees, Duncan said he wished to return to Chicago to be with his family. Duncan’s wife and two children moved back to their hometown earlier this year. He plans to leave by the end of the year.

President Obama has already selected John B. King, Jr., the current deputy secretary of education, to replace Duncan.

Duncan’s announcement is a bit out of the blue. From the Washington Post:

Even after Duncan’s family relocated to Chicago at the end of the summer, and their home in Arlington was put up for sale, Duncan insisted that he would stay until the end of the Obama administration.

In an interview with The Washington Post in June, Duncan said he planned to stay put because he felt he had a long list of unfinished business and felt an urgency to keep pushing toward unmet goals. He called his job the dream of a lifetime. “I still pinch myself some days,” he said.

Duncan’s announcement came as a surprise, even to some people who are close to him. Just two days ago, after a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Duncan artfully declined to answer when he was asked whether he planned to stay until the end of the administration’s second term.

Duncan’s tenure at the Education Department was a curious one. Conservatives in Congress weren’t fans, which could be expected. But the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers denounced him regularly, as well. Last year, he rejected calls by the NEA and AFT to resign. The NEA’s resolution blamed Duncan for a “failed education agenda” of policies that “undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions.” The AFT, meantime, demanded — among other things — that Duncan do away with the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top “test and punish” model, and replace it with a “support and improve” system.

Yet in most respects, Duncan has acted as any down-the-line Democrat would. He has opposed every meaningful effort to rein in federal education spending. He opposed Congress’s reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, for all the wrong reasons.

Along with President Obama, Duncan used Race to the Top — a $4.35 billion grant competition that was included as part of the $787 billion stimulus in 2009 — as a way to strong-arm states into adopting the Common Core standards.

And, of course, he opposes school choice. As I wrote in July:

Although it’s true that Duncan has supported charter schools throughout his tenure at CPS and the U.S. Department of Education, he is no friend of public school choice.

Last week, when the House of Representatives passed HR 5 to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, Duncan made a point of denouncing the bill’s “Title I portability,” which would allow a portion of federal dollars to follow low-income students to the public school of their choice.

Again, this isn’t even a question of sending tax dollars to private schools, which most Democrats and a fair number of libertarian-leaning Republicans oppose. Duncan labors under the widespread misapprehension, born of a career spent toiling in the government-school bureaucracy, that tax dollars are best distributed to institutions. Institutions are wise. Individuals are not. (Never mind individuals run those institutions.)

To change the way the federal government funds school districts would mean to deny special interests their due. But Duncan says Title I funding portability would be “devastating” to poor children—as if poor children and poor school districts are synonymous.

Duncan will leave office with “a long list” of items left undone. But insofar as the federal education apparatus has expanded to heretofore unimagined powers, Arne Duncan has been a smashing success. And the republic is much poorer for it.

January 27th, 2015 at 9:49 am
Free Community College: Who Pays for It?
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In an interview with CFIF, Patrick Hedger, Policy Director at American Encore, discusses how President Obama’s community college plan is just another unworkable scheme, how ObamaCare will affect your tax returns, and more.

Listen to the interview here.

July 14th, 2014 at 4:42 pm
Illegal Immigration Cleanup Falls on Public Schools

“All politics is local,” goes the saying, and it looks like local public school districts will be the political entities dealing most directly with the surge in illegal immigration when classes begin.

“While politicians spend the summer fighting over how to turn back the tide, school leaders across the country are struggling to absorb a new student population the size of Newark, New Jersey,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “More than 40,000 children, many of them fresh from violent, harrowing journeys, have been released since October to stateside relatives as courts process their cases.”

The issues facing public school personnel include lack of immunizations, emotional distress caused by the trip north and an expected surge in non-English speaking students. The money and manpower required to meet these challenges is immense, but at least as far as local schools are concerned, also worthwhile. No one wants to perpetuate the trauma caused to the children who survive this experience.

It’s important to remember that each child is a person deserving of care and assistance, and one hopes that public officials will work with civil society organizations – including faith-based groups – to help each child heal.

That said, the fallout from the Obama administration’s deliberately poor management of the southern border is a profound object lesson in avoidable tragedy. As usual, the cleanup effort will be done by those that can least afford it.

June 12th, 2014 at 7:05 pm
The Liberal Case Against Common Core

Diane Ravitch is calling on fellow liberals to oppose Common Core.

The NYU education policy expert wants Congress to investigate how Bill Gates bought off various groups to support his Common Core initiative, and whether Gates colluded with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to ram through implementation.

First, consider who wrote Common Core.

“The writers of the standards included no early childhood educators, no educators of children with disabilities, no experienced classroom teachers; indeed, the largest contingent of the drafting committee were representatives of the testing industry,” Ravitch writes at the Huffington Post.

Not only this, but “No attempt was made to have a pilot testing of the standards in real classrooms with real teachers and students. The standards do not permit any means to challenge, correct, or revise them.”

Ravitch then reminds her liberal readers why state and local control matters. “Until now, in education, the American idea has been that no single authority has all the answers. Local boards are best equipped to handle local problems. States set state policy, in keeping with the concept that states are ‘laboratories of democracy,’ where new ideas can evolve and prove themselves.”

Ravitch’s commentary is just the latest in a long line of bipartisan populist backlash over the top-down imposition of Common Core. Voters don’t have much of an opportunity strike back at the elites who are pushing this, but they can remove politicians who support the switch.

As Ravitch’s piece shows, opposition to Common Core is quickly becoming a rallying cry on both the right and the left.

Let’s hope it continues.

February 14th, 2014 at 1:12 pm
Video: Dumbing Democracy Down
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the disturbing level of civic illiteracy in the United States and offers some advice on what all of us can do to help spread the word about the basic principles of American government and why it makes our country so special.

November 19th, 2013 at 5:50 pm
Common Core Could Spark Another Tea Party Election

Add Education Secretary Arne Duncan as the latest Obama administration official to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.

Late last week the face of the controversial Common Core curriculum standards tried to dismiss opposition in terms of race, class and gender. Categorizing opponents as “white suburban moms,” Duncan said bad performance on new standardized tests is the culprit.

“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought… and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan told a group of superintendents.

It’s pretty clear from his statements that Secretary Duncan doesn’t have a clue how deep and wide Common Core’s problems run.

Even though all but four states have adopted the Common Core State Standards – which seek to nationalize math and language arts curriculum from kindergarten to 12th grade – grassroots opposition is bipartisan and fierce.

“Catholic scholars say the standards aren’t rigorous enough. Early childhood experts say they demand too much. Liberals complain the Common Core opens the door to excessive testing. Conservatives complain it opens the door to federal influence in local schools. Teachers don’t like the new textbooks. Parent’s don’t like the new homework,” reports Politico.

Those in Washington, D.C. who live to dictate rules to the rest of the country should take notice. It sounds like the Tea Party’s ranks may be getting reinforcements just in time for the next election.

November 15th, 2013 at 1:19 pm
Podcast: Battle Continues in Education over Common Core
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In an interview with CFIF, Michael Brickman, National Policy Director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, discusses Common Core, the national education curriculum adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, and the impact of Common Core on American competitiveness.

Listen to the interview here.

October 25th, 2013 at 1:10 pm
DOJ Steps Up Thuggishness in Louisiana School Choice Case
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The idea that this disservice to poor, primarily African-American children is is the product of the nation’s first black Attorney General, serving at the pleasure of its first black president is appalling. From Elizabeth Harrington at the Washington Free Beacon:

The Justice Department is attempting to block parents from defending the Louisiana school voucher program in court, according to a brief filed Tuesday.

… The DOJ is seeking a permanent injunction against the school choice program, which would block access to vouchers beginning in 2014 unless a federal judge approves them. The lawsuit claims the vouchers are “impeding desegregation” because some recipients were in the racial minority at their failing school. Vouchers are awarded randomly by lottery.

The DOJ said in a motion filed Tuesday that parents whose kids have benefited from the program have no legal standing to become defendants in the case.

The racial bean-counting is (A) a fig leaf for the Administration’s real goal of scoring a win against school choice and (B) a window into the collectivist’s soul: they care more about the amalgamation of pigment in any given classroom than the lives of the children living within that skin. Now add to that injury the insult of being told by your government that you have no right to defend your child’s right to a decent education.

Shameful and wrong. Let us hope that the DOJ is defeated—and that the courts treat it with the scorn it so richly deserves,

October 18th, 2013 at 9:42 am
Video: Political Correctness in the Classroom
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses political correctness run amok in our nation’s schools and how it distracts from the main goal of effectively educating our children.

August 23rd, 2013 at 5:39 pm
Why College Prices Keep Going Up
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A few weeks ago, I wrote here about the fact that Congress’ ‘fix’ to interest rates on college loans was small potatoes compared to the rapid inflation in the underlying principal. Moreover, I noted, most of President Obama’s proposals for making higher education more affordable have the economics precisely backwards. Today, AEI’s Richard Vedder sounds a similar note over at Bloomberg:

The president’s proposal has one very bad idea: a forgiveness boon for those paying off loans right now. The proposal, limiting loan payments to 10 percent of income, potentially relieves millions of students from repaying part of their obligation. So why not major in fields the economy values least — anthropology or drama instead of engineering or math — if you don’t have to worry about earning enough to pay off your student loans over a certain period?

The idea simply raises incentives for future students to borrow more money, if they know their obligation to pay it back is capped. That, in turn, allows colleges to keep raising costs.

Obama proposes to ignore or worsen the root cause of much of the explosion in student costs: the federal financial assistance programs that encourage schools to raise costs and that haven’t achieved their goals of providing college access to low-income Americans.

As Vedder notes, virtually all of our federal policy on higher education (and most of the policy proposals that have any traction at the moment) generate precisely these kind of perverse incentives. Recommended reading.

August 23rd, 2013 at 9:56 am
Education: A Nation at Continuing Risk
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Lance Izumi, Koret Senior Fellow and Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, discusses why 30 years after President Reagan’s groundbreaking report, “A Nation at Risk,” America’s education system continues to fail and the role unions have played in the demise of public education.

Listen to the interview here.

August 9th, 2013 at 5:29 pm
Waiver Wars
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There are a lot of reasons to lament the rise of the administrative state. There’s the lack of accountability that comes from policy decisions being made by unelected bureaucrats. There are the cozy relationships that often form between regulators and those they regulate. There’s the avalanche of rules and regulations that make the law so vast as to be virtually unknowable. But one factor that’s become especially salient during the Obama years is the fact that administrative caprice undermines equality before the law. Case in point: the outbreak of waivers for favored clients of the Obama Administration.

While we’ve heard about this trend most often in regards to Obamacare, it’s also become a serious issue in education. As noted in Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook:

No Child Left Behind technically expired in 2007. But Congress didn’t manage to do anything about it. They just kept appropriating money for the zombie bill. And so the outdated provisions of this out-of-touch bill began strangling the education system.

NCLB says that fully 100 percent of school districts need to meet tough proficiency goals in reading and math in 2014 or they lose tons of money. It’s not going to happen. They’re not going to hit those targets and that’s been clear for years now. Everyone knows NCLB needs an overhaul. But, you know, Congress.

So the Obama administration has started waiving NCLB for states that propose sufficiently rigorous alternative plans. So far, 39 states and the District of Columbia have been let out of No Child Left Behind. On Wednesday, they were joined by eight individual school districts in California — Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and Sanger. That’s the first time that’s ever happened.

“This is a pretty troubling development,” Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, told The Post. “The states have always traditionally been in control of accountability for most school districts. . . . The idea that the secretary of education is controlling the accountability system in eight districts in California is kind of mind-boggling.”

Of course, the Obama administration says, with some justification, that it would’ve been even more troubling to leave the million kids in these districts in the grips of a law that no longer makes any sense.

Luckily, we have a mechanism for amending or repealing laws that don’t make sense: it’s called Congress. If you can’t get a fix through, too bad. You don’t get to change the rules when you don’t like the outcome.

The Obama Administration shouldn’t be in a position to determine “sufficiently rigorous alternative plans” and favor some states over others. That’s a legislative judgment that needs to be worked out on Capitol Hill. And even that, frankly, is too much. Ideally, education should be managed exclusively at the state and local level. The bowels of the federal administrative state, however, are the last place from which control should be emanating.

April 30th, 2013 at 7:47 pm
California Teachers Sue NEA to Block Forced Union Dues

Ten California public school teachers are suing both the National Education Association (NEA), and its state affiliate, the California Teachers Association (CTA), to block a mandatory $1,000 annual contribution to the union – even though none of the teachers are members of the union.

California’s “fair share” and “agency shop” laws allow CTA, the state’s dominant teachers union, to extract involuntary contributions to fund its activities since non-members are deemed to benefit from the union’s collective bargaining agreements, reports Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner.

The teachers’ lawsuit “claims that NEA and CTA dues fund a Democratic political agenda, not just collective bargaining.” And since the teachers suing don’t agree with that agenda, their coerced dues amount to compelled speech.

In other words, California’s draconian employment tax on non-CTA teachers could be unconstitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning in Knox v. Service Employees International Union (2012).

Such a ruling could help weaken the CTA’s stranglehold on California politics, and stop its pilfering of non-members’ paychecks.

Stay tuned.

February 22nd, 2013 at 12:30 pm
More on the Growing Charter School Movement

Nationwide, there are 5,277 charter schools serving 1.6 million K-12 students.

But not all of them are urban minority, low-income students.  Some serve suburban middle class families looking for an alternative to the curriculum on tap in a traditional public school.

For example, Hillsdale College is spearheading a national campaign to create at least one charter school in every state with a classical education curriculum.  Readers of the school’s popular Imprimus publication won’t be surprised to learn that that “These schools will be based on a classical liberal arts model and have a strong civics component that will equip students to understand and defend the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” according to the college’s website.

So far, three parent groups have partnered with Hillsdale to create this distinctive new brand of charter school in Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas.  The Texas version, Founders Classical Academy in Lewisville, began construction in 2012, and expects to start classes this fall.

Hillsdale’s involvement shows that the real genius of the charter school option is that it allows any community of families, regardless of socio-economic status, to opt out of a public school system overburdened by bureaucracy, unions, and questionable curriculum standards.  The charter school option gives local families the choice to spend their tax dollars to, in the words of Founders Classical Academy, “provide a well-rounded education that is distinctively classical, that pursues knowledge, promotes virtue, and prepares students for prosperous lives in a free society.”

What more could a conservative education reformer ask for?

February 15th, 2013 at 12:45 pm
Los Angeles Approves First Conversion of Public to Charter School

The Daily Caller spotlights a landmark decision in the Los Angeles Unified School District this week:

The Los Angeles Board of Education signed off on a parent-led plan to turn a failing public school over to a private charter company this week — the city’s first use of the controversial “parent trigger” law.

The 5-1 vote granted parents in downtown Los Angeles final approval to convert 24th Street Elementary School into a charter school. The new school will be better equipped to handle demographic changes to the area, parents said.

Unsurprisingly, and despite the fact that the parents pushing for the change met for over a year to put together a charter proposal, the United Teachers of Los Angeles, affiliated with the deplorable California Teachers Association, has been opposing the parents’ move by essentially calling the group insane.

In relevant part, the union’s statement declares:

We believe parents do not want a private charger corporation to take over 24th Street Elementary, which is exactly what is happening at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto as a result of the Parent Trigger.

So, parents who have deliberated for over a year about converting their public school into a charter school, used the state’s parent trigger law to do it, have now been approved for the change, and will get a privately run charter school don’t, in fact, want any of this to happen?

It’s hard to know which is more offensive – saying that adults who navigate a rigorous legal process don’t understand the consequences of their actions, or that the union who released this statement is in a superior position to judge what’s best for students in a failing school.

Thanks to the parent trigger, California parents of kids in failing public schools now have a mechanism for saving their child’s education – and their future.

Conservatives looking for ways to grow the movement’s electoral base should pay close attention to this development.  If championed, it could become a key reason why traditionally liberal voters start supporting more conservative candidates.

February 14th, 2013 at 2:08 pm
Peter Orszag: Less Wealth Means More Equality

Get a load of this economic reasoning from Peter Orszag, Obama’s first Director of the Office of Management and Budget and current vice chairman at megabank Citigroup:

More graduates would mean lower inequality, because the wage premium for a college degree would be reduced by the additional supply. And it would mean higher national income, because better-educated workers are, on average, more productive.

So, lowering the “wage premium” means that income for college graduates will go down with more of them in the job market.  This is a good thing according to Orszag because reducing the value of a college degree will have a leveling effect on incomes (in a downward direction, of course).

On the bright side, it’s a remarkably honest admission about everything that’s wrong with the analysis of people who obsess over economic inequality.  In this worldview, government policies that devalue education and distort the labor market should be praised if it means less people have an opportunity to be rewarded for superior ability.

Thus, while Orszag’s analysis doesn’t square with the diminished aspirations of millions of under- and unemployed college graduates in the Age of Obama, it does help explain why his former boss isn’t putting any muscle behind addressing the depressed job market.  In Obama World, so long as more people make the same – even if it’s less – everything is just fine.

November 26th, 2012 at 6:30 pm
A Sooner State Win for School Choice

Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation shows the depths sunk to by opponents of school choice:

Last Tuesday, Oklahoma’s special-needs students received a pre-Thanksgiving win. The state’s Supreme Court ruled that two school districts that had challenged the legality of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program—a voucher program for special-needs students—were out of line in bringing the lawsuit.

The school districts had challenged the scholarship program on the basis that it violated the state’s Blaine Amendment by allowing scholarship money to be used at religious schools. Other opponents of school choice programs have time and again brought similar claims to the courts.

Eric Baxter of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty said that the Supreme Court’s decision in this case “is a great victory for both religious freedom and the disabled.”

“Let’s hope the school districts drop their paranoia that allowing disabled kids to go to a private religious school of their choice somehow creates an official state church for Oklahoma,” said Baxter. “The message from the Supreme Court today is unequivocal: These school districts should stop spending taxpayer dollars suing their most vulnerable students and focus on what they are supposed to be doing—teaching kids.”

Here, here!

No one seriously thinks that allowing a college freshman to spend taxpayer money on tuition at a religious university violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.  The same holds true when a high school senior attends a sectarian primary or secondary school.  That school choice opponents would try to deny disabled children the same freedom of choice available to able-bodied adults shows how badly the public sector wants to maintain its monopoly on students.

September 20th, 2012 at 12:46 pm
The Party of the Teachers Unions
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Now that the Chicago teachers’ strike has come to an end (a mostly unsatisfactory one, as chronicled by my colleague at the Manhattan Institute’s Public Sector Inc., Paul Kersey), the issue will likely fall out of national consciousness by week’s end. But there is one fact from this struggle that will remain with me for the foreseeable future. It was buried deep in the recesses of the Wall Street Journal‘s interview from last weekend with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and it’s an extremely telling statistic about the party that considers itself the vanguard of civil rights:

We’re seven weeks from a presidential election in which Barack Obama needs all the cash and foot soldiers that organized labor can provide. His Super PAC’s chief fundraiser is none other than Rahm Emanuel. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s chief funders remain teachers unions, groups that also accounted for an estimated 20% of delegates at the recent Democratic National Convention. So you can imagine why Chicago’s unionized teachers struck now, gambling that Mr. Emanuel’s killer instinct may be stayed at least for the season.

One out of every five representatives of the Democratic Party on the floor (or at least at the hosted bar) in Charlotte represented institutions whose lust for self-preservation has the practical effect of killing minority achievement and ambition  in school districts throughout America. Their parents, who are overwhelmingly expected to vote for Barack Obama, ought to pause on that fact. The sacrifice of generations of schoolchildren is too high a price to pay for identity politics.

September 12th, 2012 at 12:59 pm
Chicago Charters Are Better Bargain Than Teachers Union

Christian Schneider  writing in City Journal shows the vivid cost/benefit contrast between members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and their public charter school counterparts.  CTU members average $76,000 in annual salary before benefits, while public charter school teachers make $49,000.

Charter school teachers are a bargain.  A study by the Illinois Policy Institute cited by Schneider indicates that nine of Chicago’s top ten performing schools are open-enrollment, non-selective charter high schools.

Faced with this kind of competition, CTU members did what any self-respecting public employee union would do when offered a sixteen percent pay raise in exchange for linking employment to student test results – they went on strike.

Change is coming to all levels of the education industry.  Groups like CTU need to adapt to the new reality of pay-for-performance or risk expulsion from the system.