Tag: Education Reform

It Takes a Village to Waste Money

For a time, it looked like Hillary Clinton might actually end up being the more conservative candidate in the race. Trump has been talking about restricting trade, blowing holes in the debt, opposing entitlement reform and expanding executive power.

Well, no longer. Apparently afraid that Bernie Sanders will bolt the Democratic Party for the Green (this tends to happen when you let people run who aren’t technically members of your party), she has now basically adopted Bernie Sander’s agenda in full.

  • She’s supporting the push for universal Pre-K, proposing a new bunch of subsidies and tax credits, doubling the size of the failed Head Start program and pushing for 12 weeks of mandatory paid leave. I’ve argued before the universal pre-K is a solution stumbling around in search of a problem and documented the complete failure of universal pre-K efforts. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • Clinton has now abandoned education reform in favor of more spending and more spending. There’s no evidence that this approach does anything but employ more union members. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now supporting a $15 minimum wage, a plank taken straight from Bernie Sanders. I’ve pointed out before that the push for $15 is a kind of mass insanity that has gripped the Left, only slightly more scientific than if the Republicans had responded to the Ebola epidemic with prayer. The cruelty of this is that it if the Democrats are wrong, it will not destroy their jobs, but the jobs for the people they purport to care for: the poor, the workings class, minorities, dropouts and convicted criminals trying to straighten out their lives. Clint doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now embraced Bernie’s plan to massively inflate college tuition … uh … “make college more affordable“. As has been pointed out innumerable times, shoveling money at colleges will simply raises costs, increase debt and persuade more people to waste their time in college when they could be working or training. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now supporting creating a public option for Obamacare. Obama is now calling for this too, claiming the markets are not competitive enough. You have to admire the gall. First, the crush the insurance market with Obamacare. Then, they refuse to let insurance be sold across state lines. Then they propose a “public option” to bankrupt the insurance companies that remain. Every day, Obamacare looks more and more like a deliberate plan to destroy the private insurance market to create the “need” for socialized medicine. In this case, Clinton does care; there’s vote to bought!
  • She’s now turned not just against TPP but against free trade in general. Never mind that trade has made our country wealthy while almost eliminating poverty in other countries. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • All of this will be paid for with big tax hikes on “the rich”, who are close to maxed out. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!

The $15 minimum wage is the issue for me with Democrats. It is so mindless, so stupid, so at variance with economics and so destructive to the future of the people it supposedly helps. If you wanted to create unemployment, make poverty more intractable and condemn a generation of people to lifelong unemployment and poverty, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better plan than the $15 minimum wage.

I realize that a lot of liberal organizations don’t pay their interns or, in the case of groups like Ralph Nader’s, pay them sub-minimum wage through legal loopholes. But the University of California already fired 500 people to account for the minimum wage. Even the dumbest Democrat can do math. And Hillary Clinton is many things, but she’s not dumb. They must know, on some level, that this is going to be bad. They just Don’t. Fucking. Care.

But it’s worse. As McArdle points out in the link above, Clinton is proposing to pay for all this stuff with the usual litany of Democratic tax hikes: raising rates, eliminating the Social Security cap, closing the “carried interest” loophole, etc., etc. She’a also proposing to eliminate almost all tax deductions for the rich (which will produce 100+% marginal rate in some income brackets). But:

For while it is true that these programs are paid for, that doesn’t mean that the budget math is sound. The government’s spending capacity is, in the end, limited, and every dollar that you spend on one thing is a dollar that cannot be spent on something else. Virtually all of Clinton’s “pay fors” are concentrated on a relatively small number of affluent-to-rich people, and because of that, they represent a large cut of those incomes; if she managed to enact all of her plans, her top bracket would be inching close to a marginal tax rate of 50 percent before you factor in state and local taxes that can easily add another 10 percentage points to that figure.

Even if you think that it would be politically possible to extract taxes at those levels, and that you could do so without causing any unwanted economic side effects, the question remains: What do you do for an encore? After enacting Clinton’s agenda, America will still need to fix Medicare, Social Security, state and local pensions, the disability insurance program, and so forth. And given that Democrats have proven as unwilling as Republicans to raise taxes on the middle class, where are we going to get the money?

I’ve said this many times and I will keep repeating it until it sinks in: you can’t fund a welfare state by taxing the rich. There simply isn’t enough money. European welfare states aren’t funded by the rich. They’re funded with massive taxes on the middle class.

The United States has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world, being very reliant on the wealthy for revenue. The European welfare states, by contrast, are more regressive, having flatter taxes and relying on VATs and sales taxes that are regressive. They have to be that way because you simply can’t finance a welfare state by taxing the 1%.

A welfare state financed by the rich doesn’t even work politically. When everyone is paying taxes, there is more support for a welfare state because everyone is pitching in. The perception is that you’re getting out something related to what you paid in, which is why Social Security and Medicare are popular in this country (both financed by a regressive tax that is denounced by Democrats for not soaking the rich enough). But a system that is dependent on taxing the rich isn’t a welfare state, it’s a plunder state. And as I’ve pointed out before, most people don’t want that. They don’t want to feel like they’re living on someone else’s dime or on stolen property. The Communists discovered this 70 years ago when they tried to “redistribute” estates to the commoners only to discover that the commoners didn’t want that wealth if it was stolen.

But proposing to fund this garbage through a middle-class tax hikes would be political suicide. So — in a situation where we are already half a trillion in deficit, have $19 trillion in existing debt and have trillions of dollars in future unfunded liabilities — the Democrats are proposing to burn our last few sources of revenue on a series of brand new will-o’-the-wisp social spending programs.

(Yes, yes, we once had marginal tax rates of 70%. And we also had a huge number of exemptions. No one ever paid that rate. We are very close the practical limit on marginal rates.)

I understand why Clinton is selling out wholesale like this. She’s afraid Bernie on the Green Party ticket will wreck her chances. But I think this tells you how principled Hillary Clinton is. She has either completely changed her views on several major issues or she is going to betray her campaign promises the second she gets into office. I don’t think she actually cares either way. She just wants to be President. And if she has to wreck the economy to get there, well, she’ll wreck the economy to get there. This is way more of a sell-out to the party fringe than any Republican has ever made. But you won’t see it described as such because 98% of our media are going to vote for Clinton anyway.

This is worst election ever. Two rich leftists are battling to see who gets to the screw the country over and how badly they can screw us. And people wonder why I’ve voting for Johnson:

I will not vote for Trump. And I will not for Clinton. To hell with them both. The only election I really care about is Congress. It is absolutely critical that the Republicans hold onto Congress, preferably retaining a majority in both houses. Look at the agenda. Imagine the damage Clinton could do with a Democratic Congress. And then, whatever you may think of Trump, put that Republicans roadblock in her way.

Why am I not surprised? (UPDATED)

The other day I wrote about what I felt would fix the broken higher education machine and help us gain control of the student debt bubble, but I didn’t go much into the reason I did it much. See I suspected that whatever scheme the leftoids would come up with simply be a tax payer funded giveaway to those connected people they always favor, and now it looks like I was right:

The difference is likely to be small for many borrowers, but will be much more generous for those who earn bigger salaries, he said.

For someone earning $27,000 in adjustable gross income, for example, the average loan payment will drop from $128 per month to $85 per month. But for someone earning $80,000 per year, payments will plummet over $200 per month, from $619 to $412.

“The people who will see the biggest reductions are people earning higher incomes,” Delisle said. “That is the effect of this change. You put that together with the loan forgiveness, and this is tailor-made for graduate students.”

If you are one of those leftoid special interests – lawyers, doctors, and other such hoi-polloi money earners that lean left because of their guilt – you make out like a bandit. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe the system needs to be fixed to encourage people to actually get a college education in a field that isn’t going to harm their earning potential, but this isn’t the way to do it. The reason is that it doesn’t do anything to break the incestuous relationship that exists today in any meaningful way, or for that matter curtail the insane rise in cost, all while seeing a steep decline in return/value, that the higher education field has expeienced. We need less government involvement, and more liability on part of the schools, so they shed that top heavy administrative system that is sucking up all that big money, and actually shift back to valuing the professors teaching.

UPDATE: Well as I suspected, there had to be some kind of payoff in the new student loan racket Obama was pushing, and it looks like I was right. Basically what Obama has done is made it easier for others to have to bail out student loan debt, which means that you can be certain that the costs of secondary education will yet again soar at factors of magnitude compared to what inflation does. In short, what we have here is a progtard making tax payer subsidize one of the major brainwashing entities the left depends on to push out more low information voters. It looks again like what absolutely must happen is that relationship gets severed and that schools get held liable for the way they are ripping off people.

A Microcosm of Education Fail

Newark has some of the worst schools in the nation despite spending absurd amounts of money on them. It’s a billion dollar school district that routinely gets ten-cent performance. Twenty years ago, the neglect and corruption was so bad that the state took over. But that has not improved things.

A few years ago, Christ Christie and Cory Booker, backed by $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg, pushed to overhaul the school system. The result, spelled out in this long and depressing New Yorker piece, was just another chapter of catastrophe. Some plans were made — maybe good plans, maybe crappy ones. But before you could say “Joe Clark”, the entrenched establishment took over. The union grudgingly agreed to pay bonuses to teachers who did well. But the price was insane:

The union demanded thirty-one million dollars in back pay for the two years that teachers had worked without raises—more than five times what top teachers would receive in merit bonuses under the three-year contract. Zuckerberg covered the expense, knowing that other investors would find the concession unpalatable. The total cost of the contract was about fifty million dollars. The Foundation for Newark’s Future also agreed to Anderson’s request to set aside another forty million dollars for a principals’ contract and other labor expenses. Zuckerberg had hoped that promising new teachers would move quickly up the pay scale, but the district couldn’t afford that along with the salaries of veteran teachers, of whom five hundred and sixty earned more than ninety-two thousand dollars a year. A new teacher consistently rated effective would have to work nine years before making sixty thousand dollars.

The seniority protections proved even more costly. School closings and other personnel moves had left the district with three hundred and fifty teachers that the renew principals hadn’t selected. If Anderson simply laid them off, those with seniority could “bump” junior colleagues. She said this would have a “catastrophic effect” on student achievement: “Kids have only one year in third grade.” She kept them all on at full pay, at more than fifty million dollars over two years, according to testimony at the 2013 budget hearing, assigning them support duties in schools.

The superintendent ran into a firestorm of opposition to any proposed changes. Some of the proposals were probably bad ideas, true. And she handled it poorly, spending more time and effort talking to outside consultants than to parents and local politicians. But in the end, the people did what they always do: rallied to the anti-reformers. This culminated in one of the ringleaders against reform and a shill for the unions being elected mayor on Tuesday. So the people of Newark can look forward to more spending, more bullshit and more failure. Three years and hundreds of millions burned for nothing. It was exactly what I feared would happen when I heard of Zuckerberg’s plans.

Oh, wait. There’s one group that did well. You’ll find them throughout the piece:

Ultimately, Zuckerberg and matching donors paid the firm and its consultants $2.8 million, although Cerf emphasized that he personally accepted no pay, and he left the firm in December, 2010.

During the next two years, more than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties:


With a federal school-improvement grant, he extended the school day, introduced small learning academies, greatly intensified test prep, and hired consultants to improve literacy instruction.

Using $1.8 million from the Foundation for Newark’s Future, she hired the nonprofit consulting group TNTP, in part to develop more rigorous evaluation systems. In her first year, the foundation gave her a four-million-dollar grant to hire consultants at her own discretion.

Anderson spent much of the fall working with data analysts from the Parthenon Group, an international consulting firm that received roughly three million dollars over two years from Newark philanthropy.

This is education reform in the United States. This is Arne Duncan’s America. Consultants and professional “educators” are paid millions to come up with elaborate plans. Sometimes those plans are implemented in a half-assed way. The teachers scramble to meet whatever metric or scheme has been handed down. The plan fails. More money is spent. More consultants are hired. More concessions are made to the unions. The leaders of the reform get elected to higher office. And ultimately nothing changes. Later rinse repeat.

It’s a pretty sweet gig if you’re a politician or a consultant or an “educator”. The only people that lose, really, are the taxpayers. And the kids. And the parents. And the actual teachers.

The more I read stories like this, the more I come to believe that it is impossible to fix the system. The interests, at least in Democrat-run inner cities, are too entrenched and far too skilled at manipulating the public and the media. I’m not going to say I’m in favor of privatizing the whole smash just yet. But … man … when I read something like this it makes that option look awfully tempting.

Making the Grade

Say what?

The dreaded F.

Most parents are alarmed by that letter on a child’s report card. But they won’t see it this year in Milwaukee’s K-8 and elementary schools, as the district does away with traditional letter grades in favor of a new scoring system that separates academic progress from social skills.

In doing so, Milwaukee Public Schools joins a growing number of districts that are eliminating traditional letter grades or untethering student behaviors from academic marks.

The changes — which can include no longer docking points from academic grades for late assignments and offering students multiple chances to submit their work — are a big shift for some teachers, and a head-scratcher for many parents.

“I think (district administrators) want letter grades to go away because they want to blur the line of failing students,” said Sara Andrea-Neill, a parent in the Kenosha Unified School District.

I think you’ve got in one, Sara Andrea-Neill. The new system will give students grades of AD (advanced), PR (proficient), BA (basic) and MI (minimal, but he’s totally not failing so for the love of God please don’t beat your kid). They will also get a separate feedback on “effort” of 1-4.

This is not that unusual. My wife’s high school in Australia used a similar system. However, I think the critics are missing something important. It seems to me that the larger problem is that the grading system continues the trend of emphasizing competence and proficiency over excellence. Notice what is lost. F becomes MI; D becomes BA, C become PR, B becomes AD and A … just disappears. There’s no longer a way to distinguish between kids who are above average and those who are truly exceptional.

I also don’t like that the system interferes with the teacher’s management of their classes by not letting them demand assignments on time. Anyone who has taught at any level above teaching the dog to fetch knows that deadlines are critical to get students to finish assignments and to preserve your sanity. You can’t have students turning in assignment willy-nilly and maintain a consistent pace in class.

The Homework Inequality

No matter how bad things get in this country, we’ll always have Paris … to make us fell not so dumb.

How do you think this would go over in the United States? French President François Hollande has said he will end homework as part of a series of reforms to overhaul the country’s education system.

Hmm. Interesting. There’s been some pushback in our education system against homework. A lot of educators think it’s just busy work and should be scaled back, especially for younger children. So perhaps …. oh:

He doesn’t think it is fair that some kids get help from their parents at home while children who come from disadvantaged families don’t. It’s an issue that goes well beyond France, and has been part of the reason that some Americans oppose homework too.

You know, there’s a reason millions of parents are involved in their kids lives: it’s because they want them to have an advantage in life. That’s the whole point of involved parenting. Otherwise, we’d just dump them at the local gulag and forget about it. I use that word precisely — the Soviet Union infamously forced children into full-time daycare at ages of 2-3 months. This was partially for indoctrination and partially so no kid would have an advantage over any other (except the children of the Elite, of course. I’m betting that his kids got plenty of homework and plenty of help with it.

Progressivism 101: get rid of anything that shows how bad your ideology stinks

And that’s exactly what the plan by the Obama administration that will exempt handpicked schools from the No Child Left Behind federal law’s testing mandate is all about:

(AP) – State and local education officials have been begging the federal government for relief from student testing mandates in the federal No Child Left Behind law, but school starts soon and Congress still hasn’t answered the call. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he will announce a new waiver system Monday to give schools a break. The plan to offer waivers to all 50 states, as long as they meet other school reform requirements, comes at the request of President Barack Obama, Duncan said. More details on the waivers will come in September, he said.

The goal of the No Child Left Behind law is to have every student proficient in math and reading by 2014. States have been required to bring more students up to the math and reading standards each year, based on tests that usually take place each spring. The step-by-step ramping up of the 9-year-old law has caused heartburn in states and most school districts, because more and more schools are labeled as failures as too few of their students meet testing goals.

The liberal controlled education system is failing – because instead of really teaching the three “Rs” we now focus on such idiotic things as self esteem building and education targeted at making one group or another feel included & valuable, at ridiculously high costs mostly to feed the massive bureaucracy around the public school system, while completely ignoring the fact that the indoctrination, while producing many leftard drones also produces the dumbest generation in a while – and the answer is to look away and keep doing more of the same.

Can’t say I am surprised. The liberal nanny state is also failing, and the answer there is to pretend all is well because we haven’t yet – and the operative word is yet – run out of other people’s money to pay for the beast.

Why do you ask are they doing this? Well. What the hell, here is are the critics of No Child Left behind saying it themselves:

Critics say the benchmarks are unrealistic and brands schools as failures even if they make progress. Schools and districts where too few kids pass the tests for several years are subject to sanctions that can include firing teachers or closing the school entirely.

Self esteem. They made progress. So what that they are now still reading at a 4th grade level in 12th grade, if they are even reading, and can’t do math. They where reading at a third grade level and couldn’t do any math before, and that’s an improvement!

We are doomed. But we can not say that the progressive experiment is responsible, because that might hurt progressive people’s self esteem.

The system is broke, but we do not really like the fix, so let’s cheat..

The current abysmal state of education is a particular sore subject of mine. While we as parents made good choices and lucked out as far as school systems go, we remain intricately involved in my son’s education, stressing it’s importance and working hand in hand with his school to make sure he is being educated to the best of both his and the teacher’s ability. However, the more I talk to people or read about the subject, the more I am convinced that education here in the US is going to hell in a hand basket. Cases like this one, where educators simply decided to fudge scores for the kids, not only rob kids of the necessary learning experience of consequences to actions or lack thereof, but drastically undermine the credibility of the teaching profession.

Now let me start off by saying that I admit that I feel the bigger problem here is simply that these kids are already disadvantage, not because of their race or economic status, but because of over 50 years of leftists bullshit that has basically convinced both them and their parents that they will always remain excluded from the American dream, and can only get ahead if democrats hand them things. Going to school thus is simply seen as killing time. When your parents tell you school is a waste of time, you are not going to work at it. And let’s face it, no matter how great the teachers are, someone that doesn’t understand or value the education tax payers are providing them – and the fact is that the kids in this story likely all belong to parents that don’t pay any or minimal taxes – isn’t going to care much about it.

Mandating basic education by law is not enough to educate people. They have to work at it. In fact, I often wonder how much the impact of making education mandated instead of something earned, and thus prized and worked for, has been. We have also seen our school budgets become bloated because of the massive bureaucracy needed to do the paperwork that comes with government regulation. Yes, I know this bloated bureaucratic machine heavily abuses the system. And as hist_ed once pointed out in a comment on a post, whenever we need to reduce spending the powers that be never cut that bloated bureaucratic monster, but always target teachers, out of a callous political calculation that people will feel a lot more inclined to let them increase the pool of educators again when things get out of hand or better.

But all these drawbacks and problems with this system, despite the other players and problems, don’t give educators a pass. Especially when they have if not been the main culprit, actively participated in repeatedly and continuously lowering the bar, focusing on self esteem bullshit instead of rewarding hard work, and more importantly, pulling stunts like this one, likely to cover their asses. And the problem here is simply the following:

Cheating is wrong. Cheating by teachers, who are supposed to be role models, is worse. And cheating by teachers that harms students is worse still.

Weingarten, however, is correct that there is a “bigger issue.” It’s not that tests are terrible but that accountability, the principle behind testing, is under attack, and leading the assault are those educators who fear the consequences of being held accountable. If we allow accountability to be undermined, then school reform –necessary for improving children’s lives and for gaining higher economic growth – will wither and die.

Accountability has been the driving force behind school improvement since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in early 2002 on a vote of 87-10 in the Senate and 381-41 in the House. NCLB drew on a broad consensus in America that meeting high standards, verified through testing, was absolutely necessary to the success of every schoolchild.

The parents are uninvolved & kids don’t care about education because the man is holding them down, the bureaucratic machine is consuming the lions share of the education funding and teachers are treated as cannon fodder by the machine. Most of what is called or passes for teaching these days is focused on self esteem and massive feel good liberal indoctrination, instead of teaching kids what we commonly refer to as the “three Rs”. The valuable and traditional classical education that made the western education system amongst the best and helped us create the modern western world is being abandoned and replaced by insane fringe special interest bullshit to make subgroups in society feel relevant and more disconnected from the whole. And as a consequence of all that, the educational system is in shambles. But instead of dealing with the underlying issues, the damage 50 years of pure bullshit and ownership by one political party of the school system has caused, what these teachers did is try to cover their arses from people now demanding results for all the money the system gobbles up, and thus they cheated. That basically removes any sympathy I might have had for their plight. Worse, it arms those that feel and say that the onus is completely with the educator class with powerful ammunition. Of course, the big losers for the last 2 or so decades are the kids pushed through the system. But who gives a crap about them anyway.

Schools Cheating On Tests

I am Hal’s total lack of surprise:

Widespread cheating on 2009 standardized tests in Atlanta Public Schools — despite “significant and clear” warnings — harmed thousands of students and resulted primarily from “pressure to meet targets” in a data-driven school system, according to results of an investigation released Tuesday.

Of the 56 schools that were examined, cheating was discovered in 44 of them — that’s more than 78 percent — and 178 teachers and principals were found to have cheated on standardized tests, according to a statement released by Gov. Nathan Deal and first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Eighty-two confessed, while half a dozen others pled the Fifth Amendment, which is an implied admission of wrongdoing under civil law.

And cheating was found years earlier than the 2009 administration of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT, according to the statement (which you can read in full below.)

The cheating has devastating consequences. Because the scores were inflated, tutoring was denied for many children that desperately needed it. And Atlanta is not alone. The DC public schools were caught in a big scandal last week.

This is completely expected. As documented in James Bovard’s The Bush Betrayal, Bush and his Secretary of Education Roderick Page had the same thing happen in Texas. The schools falsified dropout rates and test scores to meet various criteria for continued funding. NLCB, built on the Texas reforms, was put in place with almost no safeguards against cheating and sometimes allowed the states to define “success” for themselves. And to he astonishment of everyone, the policies that produced cheating in Texas have now produced cheating on a national level.

I was once a big proponent of testing but my support has waned as my support for school choice has waxed. There are simply not enough people to watch the schools and the incentives for cheating are simply too great. In this case, we had an organized systematic cheating effort and the only reason it is unique is because we have yet to hear about others.

You can’t fix the public schools without removing the word “public” from them. We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars finding that out. Do we really need to keep going down that road hoping that someday, one day, we’ll find the secret sauce to make the system work?

Update: More from Freakonomics. Most schools destroy the tests after scanning them, which prevents erasure analysis.