Archive for February, 2006

The Decline Of Canada’s Health Care System

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

The New York Times reports:

Accepting money from patients for operations they would otherwise receive free of charge in a public hospital is technically prohibited in this country, even in cases where patients would wait months or even years in discomfort before receiving treatment.

But no one is about to arrest Dr. Brian Day, who is president and medical director of the center, or any of the 120 doctors who work there. Public hospitals are sending him growing numbers of patients they are too busy to treat, and his center is advertising that patients do not have to wait to replace their aching knees.

The country’s publicly financed health insurance system — frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity — is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine.

Dr. Day, for instance, is planning to open more private hospitals, first in Toronto and Ottawa, then in Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. Ontario provincial officials are already threatening stiff fines. Dr. Day says he is eager to see them in court.

“We’ve taken the position that the law is illegal,” Dr. Day, 59, says. “This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.”

The article continues with:

Canada remains the only industrialized country that outlaws privately financed purchases of core medical services. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other politicians remain reluctant to openly propose sweeping changes even though costs for the national and provincial governments are exploding and some cancer patients are waiting months for diagnostic tests and treatment.

But a Supreme Court ruling last June — it found that a Quebec provincial ban on private health insurance was unconstitutional when patients were suffering and even dying on waiting lists — appears to have become a turning point for the entire country….

But most Canadians agree that current wait times are not acceptable.

The median wait time between a referral by a family doctor and an appointment with a specialist has increased to 8.3 weeks last year from 3.7 weeks in 1993, according to a recent study by The Fraser Institute, a conservative research group. Meanwhile the median wait between appointment with a specialist and treatment has increased to 9.4 weeks from 5.6 weeks over the same period.

Average wait times between referral by a family doctor and treatment range from 5.5 weeks for oncology to 40 weeks for orthopedic surgery, according to the study.

The long wait times, the doctor shortages, and the overall bureaucratic nature of a nationlized health care system probably also explains this:

You've Had Your Turn

More on the picture can be found here and the full article from the New York Times can be found here.

Update: Newmark’s door has more.

Quote Of The Day

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

“Again, I don’t think European hatred for the U.S. is inevitable. Elsewhere, I’ve written myself that surprisingly large numbers of Frenchmen and Germans—approximately a third—are actually pro-American. I don’t think it’s coincidental that those who most like the U.S. are often the same less educated, less wealthy, lower-middle classes who brought Thatcher and Berlusconi to power. These are the people who have the fewest opportunities in today’s Europe, and who imagine a more “American” society would offer them greater opportunities”. —Anne Applebaum, columnist of the Washington Post writing in Cato Unbound on whether Europe is doomed

America’s Trade Deficit Is A Blessing

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Donald Boudreaux, Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University, attempts to clear up the commonly misunderstood trade deficit:

Contrary to popular opinion, this so-called “deficit” is a blessing.

Consider that if Americans export lumber, sheetrock, and architectural blueprints to China so that people build a factory there, we’re gleeful. “Wonderful!” we proclaim. “Exports are up and our trade deficit is down!”

But if those very same building materials are assembled by Americans into a factory situated and operated in, say, Utah and then bought by Chinese investors, we complain — led today by the likes of Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham — that “Something’s wrong! Our trade deficit is higher!”

Truth is, though, that nothing economically important separates the first scenario from the second. In each case the world’s stock of productive capital grows as Americans produce things for sale to foreigners. Those cases appear different from each other only because of the conventions of international commercial accounting, which records investments separately from imports and exports.

This accounting convention creates the false impression that an excess of imports over exports — called a “trade deficit” — is an ominous imbalance requiring corrective action. In fact, America’s trade deficit is evidence, not of any imbalance, but of the happy fact that our economy is so strong and stable that foreigners invest here eagerly.

When foreigners sell things to Americans they earn dollars. If foreigners then spend all of those dollars on American exports, trade is “balanced.” There’s no trade deficit or surplus. But if foreigners instead invest some of those dollars in dollar-denominated assets — say, by purchasing that factory in Utah, houses in Hawaii, or shares of Google — they obviously must buy fewer American exports. So the trade deficit grows as investment in the U.S. rises.

Although dollars spent by foreigners on investments are not spent on items classified as U.S. exports, these dollars nevertheless are spent in the U.S. They raise the value of American corporations and real-estate, and improve American workers’ productivity. In turn, those increases in asset values and productivity enhance Americans’ current ability to buy goods and services — perhaps the same goods and services that foreigners would have bought had they not invested their dollars here.

Isn’t it better, though, if Americans do the investing and foreigners the consuming? No. What’s important is to have lots of investment to increase worker productivity, which ultimately is the only way to raise our living standards. The nationality of investors is insignificant.

Because savings and investment are indeed so beneficial, we should welcome rather than regret foreign savings invested in our country. If we applaud the guy across the street who forgoes that vacation in Las Vegas in order to save and invest more in the U.S. economy, we should applaud also the guy across the ocean who does the same.

But doesn’t a higher trade deficit mean that Americans are sinking more deeply into debt? Not at all. A trade deficit isn’t debt. My young son, for example, received for Christmas several Chinese-made toys. These were bought with cash. If the Chinese toymakers invest their newly earned dollars in, say, that factory in Utah, the U.S. trade deficit rises but no debt is created. Neither I nor any other American owes any foreigner anything as a result of my purchase of toys from China and the corresponding Chinese purchase of equity in a company located in America.

More generally, whenever foreigners buy American real-estate or equity, or when they simply hold dollars in their portfolios, our trade deficit rises without creating debt.

Nor is it true that a higher trade deficit means that Americans are selling off assets. Whenever, for example, IKEA builds a new store in the U.S., a new asset is created. No Americans had to part with assets as a pre-condition for this Swedish investment in America.

Of course, part or all of the trade deficit can become debt. This happens whenever Americans borrow dollars from foreigners. As it happens, the most prodigious borrower today is Uncle Sam. But despite self-righteous accusations leveled at foreigners by the likes of Senators Schumer and Graham, the fact remains that U.S. government indebtedness is not caused by foreigners buying Uncle Sam’s bonds, but by Congress spending beyond its means. If government debt is a problem, then Congress should stop borrowing. Complaints about the trade deficit are a red herring.

We Americans have many real problems confronting us. The trade deficit isn’t one of them.

The full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

Monday, February 27th, 2006

“Talk to top-level scientists and educators about the future of scientific research, and they will rarely even mention Europe. There are areas in which it is world-class, but they are fewer than they once were. In the biomedical sciences, for example, Europe is not on the map, and it might well be surpassed by much poorer Asian countries. The CEO of a large pharmaceutical company told me that in 10 years, the three most important countries for his industry would be the United States, China and India”. —Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek Columnist

HP In San Jose/Walnut Creek Area

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

Tomorrow, Friday, at 8am in the morning I get on a plane to northern California to be in a friends wedding. I won’t get back until Sunday so no blogging Friday or throughout the weekend. I wish everybody a great weekend!!!


In Praise Of Larry Summers

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

Hispanic Business reports:

Until recently, Harvard University has been perhaps the most glaring example of an elite college’s failure to welcome low-income students. With an endowment of $25.9 billion — far larger than that of any other university in the U.S. or abroad — Harvard clearly has the resources to educate the poor.

Yet only about 10% of its undergraduates are eligible to receive federal Pell Grants, which are usually awarded to students from families earning less than $40,000 a year. At Amherst, 15% of the students get Pells, and President Anthony Marx is aiming to boost that to 25% of future classes.

But now, Harvard’s controversial president, Lawrence Summers, is on a campaign to give low-income students far greater representation at America’s most prestigious university. “If Harvard is only for the children of those who have been successful, we will lose the social mobility that has always been America’s strength,” argues the former U.S. Treasury Secretary. “I’d like Harvard to look as much like America as possible.”

Unfortunately, the left-wing faculty at Harvard thought otherwise, and pushed Larry Summers to resign.

The WSJ writes:

Mr. Summers’s fate has unfortunately become all too typical at elite schools in recent decades. The Dartmouth faculty looked down on David McLaughlin as an “anti-intellectual” (he had an M.B.A. instead of a Ph.D.); he was run out of Hanover in 1987 over bitter quarrels over ROTC and disinvestment from South Africa. Benno Schmidt left Yale in 2001, saying his six-year tenure had been marked “by more argument . . . than I would have wished.” Donald Kagan, the dean of Yale College who had handed in his resignation a few weeks earlier, was franker, noting the threat from an “imperial faculty.”

As some of my liberal friends like to say, McCarthyism is alive and well, and it is especially strong at elite schools where liberals control what can and can’t be said.

Paloma Zepeda, a student at Harvard, has more and Thomas Sowell has more.

Update: Thomas Sowell has more.

Quote Of The Day

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

“As Professor Dershowitz rightly reminds us, Summers’ resignation is a heavy blow for academic freedom in the university. Summers’ downfall was engineered by a hard-left faction of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, whose hatred for him reached mythic proportions with only minute fodder. “Only at an American university campus could Mr. Summers, a former Clinton Treasury Secretary, be portrayed as a radical neocon”, remarks the ever-sage WSJ editorial page. I fear for my dear alma mater, because if the orthodoxy of the hard left becomes the only permissible “truth” in this university it will cease to be relevant faster than the USSR ceased to be solvent”. —Paloma Zepeda, a Harvard University student blogging over the resignation of Harvard President Larry Summers

An Interview With Milton Friedman

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

The New Perspectives Quarterly has an interview with Milton Friedman:

NPQ | The so-called “old Europe” of France, Germany and Italy has been stagnating with high levels of unemployment. Germany—one of the last bastions of the Cold War Keynesian welfare state—now has a conservative leader, Angela Merkel.

What should be done to get Germany, and by extension old Europe, back on track?

Friedman | They all ought to imitate Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan; free markets in short.

Germany’s problem, in part, is that it went into the euro at the wrong exchange rate that overvalued the deutsche mark. So you have a situation in the eurozone where Ireland has inflation and rapid expansion while Germany and France have stalled and had the difficulties of adjusting.

The euro is going to be a big source of problems, not a source of help. The euro has no precedent. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a monetary union, putting out a fiat currency, composed of independent states.

There have been unions based on gold or silver, but not on fiat money—money tempted to inflate—put out by politically independent entities.

At the moment, of course, Germany cannot get out of the euro. What it has to do, therefore, is make the economy more flexible—to eliminate the restrictions on prices, on wages and on employment; in short, the regulations that keep 10 percent of the German workforce unemployed. This is far more urgent than it would otherwise be if Germany were not in the euro.

This set of policies would open up the German potential. After all, Germany has a very able and productive workforce. It has high-quality products that are valued all over the world. It has every opportunity to be a productive, growing state. It just has to give its entrepreneurs a chance. It has to let them make money, hire and fire, and act like entrepreneurs.

Instead, what you have as a result of past policies is that German entrepreneurs go outside of Germany for many of their activities. They are investing abroad instead of at home because there isn’t the openness, fluidity and opportunity they find outside their borders.

NPQ | British Prime Minister Tony Blair argues there is a “third way”—for example, flexible labor markets without hire-and-fire American-style. This, he argues, is more suitable to the “European social model” with its enduring concern with social justice. Is there an in-between way, or must it be all or nothing?

Friedman | I don’t think there is a third way. But it is true that a competitive market is not the whole of society. A great deal depends on the qualities of the population and the nation in how they organize the non-market aspects of society.

NPQ | Perhaps the Scandinavian countries are a model to look at. They are high-tax but also high-employment societies. And they have freed up their labor markets much more than in Italy, France or Germany.

Friedman | Though it is not as true now as it used to be with the influx of immigration, the Scandinavian countries have a very small, homogeneous population. That enables them to get away with a good deal they couldn’t otherwise get away with.

What works for Sweden wouldn’t work for France or Germany or Italy. In a small state, you can reach outside for many of your activities. In a homogeneous culture, they are willing to pay higher taxes in order to achieve commonly held goals. But “common goals” are much harder to come by in larger, more heterogeneous populations.

The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically. Government intervention can’t do that. Politics exacerbates and magnifies differences.

He continues more on the euro and the problems/benefits therein. Than, he switches gears and talks about the USA:

NPQ | The US Treasury debt is held mainly by China, Japan and South Korea. Is the huge foreign balance of payments deficit a problem for the US and world economy?

Friedman | I don’t think so. It may well be a statistical mirage. If you look at the balance sheet, the US is heavily in debt. If you look at the income account—the amount of interest the US pays abroad—it is almost exactly equal to the amount of interest that it receives from abroad. American assets held abroad are earning a higher rate of return than foreign assets held here.

That is understandable because what is most attractive about the US to people and countries with wealth is that it can provide security, insurance really, against political instability. Nobody is afraid that the money they place in the US is at risk of expropriation or of in some other way being taken away. For this safety, the wealth holders of the world are willing to accept a lower rate of return. US assets abroad, in contrast, are riskier and thus yield a higher rate of return.

This explains why there is a rough balance in real terms. It is not clear there really is a debt. It looks like the imbalance concerns are misleading. It doesn’t worry me a bit that China and Japan hold so much US debt. In a way, it seems foolish for them to do it because they get lower returns than they might elsewhere. But that is their business.

He also responds:

NPQ | Does the large US fiscal deficit worry you?

Friedman | Not at all. It is the spending that got us there that worries me. If the US government spends 40 percent of the nation’s income, as it does through either borrowing or taxes, that income is not available for people to spend. The deficit is an indirect method of taxation. Of course, politicians prefer to borrow instead of tax because then someone down the road has to deal with the consequences.

If anything, at the moment, the large deficit has a positive effect of holding down further spending. In that sense, it is a good thing. But it is not a good thing if produced by more spending.

He also discusses China:

NPQ | China has registered tremendous growth since 1979 through what might be called a “market Leninist” model, or an “authoritarian free-market system” like the Pinochet government you advised in Chile. Can this model last?

Friedman | No. The same thing will happen in China that happened in Chile. Political freedom will ultimately break out of its shackles. Tiananmen Square was only the first episode. It is headed for a series of Tiananmen Squares. It cannot continue to develop privately and at the same time maintain its authoritarian character politically. It is headed for a clash. Sooner or later, one or the other will give.

If they don’t free up the political side, its economic growth will come to an end—while it is still at a very low level.

The situation is not all bleak. Personal freedom has grown greatly within China, and that will provoke ever more points of conflict between the individual and state. There is a new generation that is educated and travels abroad. It knows firsthand the alternatives out there. So, the authoritarian character is softening somewhat.

Hong Kong is the bellwether. If the Chinese stick to their agreement to let Hong Kong go its own path, then China will also go that way. If they don’t, that is a very bad sign. I’m optimistic.

…and he talks about all of the progress that has been made:

NPQ | So you see the march of liberty and free markets going forward into the 21st century, not taking a detour backward in China or elsewhere?

Friedman | Yes. The world as a whole has more or less embraced freedom. Socialism, in the traditional sense, meant government ownership and operation of the means of production. Outside of North Korea and a couple of other spots, no one in the world today would define socialism that way. That will never come back. The fall of the Berlin Wall did more for the progress of freedom than all of the books written by myself or Friedrich Hayek or others.

Socialism today has only come to mean government extraction of income from the haves and giving it to the have-nots. It is about the transfer of income, not ownership. That is still around.

NPQ | Might the state make a comeback, though, because of a new set of realities: demographics, the environment and the combination of inequality and democratization?

The rich-country populations are growing old. With the rise of the individual and demise of the family, the state will be called upon to ensure health care and pension security. With the scientific consensus on climate change, there will inevitably be demands for more state regulation on the environment. The spread of global free markets has also meant rising inequality. Inevitably, as democracy also spreads, the majority who are less well off will demand transfers from the wealthy to address social injustice.

Friedman | Sure, the state might come back. The only reason free markets have a ghost of a chance is that they are so much more efficient than any other form of organization. When you argue for free markets, you are arguing against the trend. When something goes wrong, the natural tendency is to say, “By God, we need to pass a law and do something.”

The argument for the free market is a complicated and sophisticated one and depends on demonstration of secondary effects. I have confidence market efficiency will win out. But there is no doubt that the problems you raise are all there. And there is no doubt there will be tremendous pressure to pull in the government as the answer.

At the end of World War II, government spending was 15–20 percent of national income. Then it went up dramatically so that by 1980 it hit 40 percent largely because of programs ranging from Medicare to environmental regulation to Social Security. From 1980 until 2005, it has remained static. We haven’t beaten the tendency or rolled it back. We’ve just stopped the growth. This is an argument that supports your thesis, I’m afraid.

On aging societies, there is no reason why a country that has a lot of old people can’t be prosperous if, during their working lives, individuals provide for their retirement. The only reason there is a crisis about Social Security in the US and pensions in Europe and Japan is that you cannot maintain a “Ponzi” scheme indefinitely. We have collected from today’s young to pay today’s old and counted on tomorrow’s young to keep doing so. That was a fine scheme as long as the number of young people was rising faster than old people. When that ratio comes to an end, such a system also has to end. It all would have been much better if individuals saved for their own old age.

Why is it that private insurance companies are not in trouble because people are getting older? Aren’t they subject to the same demographics? The difference is that they’ve accumulated a fund, not a pay-in, pay-out system.

…and of course, as is always the case with the inventor of the voucher idea, Friedman brought up vouchers:

NPQ | Even in the free market US, President Bush, at the height of his power, couldn’t convince the American public to move toward privatizing Social Security.

Friedman | There is no doubt this aging issue will test the argument over the efficiency of the market versus political demands for government to step in.

On the question of whether inequality of the market might lead the less-well-off democratic majority to push for state control, I’m not so sure. The important issue is not how much inequality there is but how much opportunity there is for individuals to get out of the bottom classes and into the top. If there is enough movement upward, people will accept the efficiency of the markets. If you have opportunity, there is a great tolerance for inequality. That has been the saving grace of the American system.

In the US, the problem now is primary and secondary education. We’ve had such an increase in inequality because a quarter of American kids don’t finish high school! In the current world, with the skills needed, those dropouts are condemned to being members of the underclass. In my view, this is a fault of the American school system, which is a government monopoly.

The full interview is worth your read, he discusses more of the euro, China, and various other topics. It can be found here.

Link Via Marginal Revolution, who has a link to an interview with Gary Becker as well.

Quote Of The Day

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

“He doesn’t seem the type to spin his wheels on hopeless causes, but one of his projects has been coaching principals at some of the worst-performing New York City schools. He jumps up to fiddle with a computer and print out a table of test scores, which he says indicate progress. But he also fumes about the Democratic Party and its lockstep with the teachers unions. “They fight vouchers. They don’t like charter schools. They don’t like taking care of these kids. They like bureaucracy. How, morally, can they do it? It shocks me.”” —Wall Street Journal interview with Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric and one of the most outstanding managers in American history

In Support Of Uncertified Teachers

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

One of the benefits of running a charter school is that you are free from burdensome union regulations on what teachers to hire. For example, many charter schools hire uncertified teachers to teach their students. Terrence O. Moore, former professor of history at Ashland University and current principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools, a K-12 charter schoool that is ranked the number one public school in Colorado based on the state’s accountability report, states why his faculty is overwhelmingly uncertified:

Now a teaching license must be something pretty special to prevent Alan Greenspan from teaching high-school economics, you may assume. It’s special, all right. There’s nothing like it. The academic work required for a teaching certification amounts to a load of bogus classes in “child psychology,” emphasizing how troubled kids are and how little they can actually learn; in “pedagogy,” combining watered-down John Dewey as rendered in rudimentary textbooks and practical teaching tips that could be picked up by any sensible person after about five days on the job; and in a hodgepodge of other so-called social sciences, featuring classes such as “School and Society,” that are designed to convince prospective teachers that they are about the most important people in the whole world…

The subject or subjects the prospective teacher will teach, such as economics, are relegated to the Limbo of one’s “content area.” Content courses are the bitter pill one must swallow to get to be a teacher. How bitter can easily be seen by taking a look at the transcript of most any graduate of an ed-school. Every year I receive about a hundred job applications from fully certified teachers for open positions at my school and therefore about a hundred college transcripts, and the story is almost always the same: straight A’s in education courses; multiple C’s, D’s, F’s, and W’s (“withdrawn,” i.e. the course is too hard so let’s try it again later or with an easier professor) in one’s content area….

Perhaps more egregious than such appalling ignorance of the basic facts in subjects education majors propose to teach your children is their failure to understand that such ignorance should be a disqualification for entering the field of teaching altogether. To education majors, knowing the basic outline of World War II, including some details of the life of that “other guy” Winston Churchill, is wholly unnecessary. In the mind of the typical ed-school graduate, the substance of what one is to teach students—whether history, math, science, or grammar—is just something a teacher “looks up” moments before teaching a subject, or dresses up with some gimmick because the teacher does not imagine young people could have a natural interest in a subject he has no fondness for himself.

He goes even deeper and eventually concludes with:

Since the topic is off-limits in the accepted discourse surrounding education reform, the idea of training more “certified teachers” still meets with approval in the public mind. Over the course of two or three subsequent essays, I propose to refute the leading arguments for the requirement of teacher certification and to indicate how schools could hire truly knowledgeable, competent teachers who have never spent a day in education schools.

The full article can be found here. Also, Newsweek columnist George Will has more and Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute writing in the Washington Post has more.

Link via A Constrained Vision.

Quote Of The Day

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

“I am afraid that “happiness research” amounts to nothing but a flimsy excuse for left-wing academics to claim that they should be given control over how the rest of us live”. —Economist Arnold Kling, in an article titled, The Happiness Police

Economics Debate: Stitching a New Safety Net

Monday, February 20th, 2006

The Wall Street Journal has posted another economics debate. This time it is between Mark Thoma of EconomistsView blog and Andrew Samwick of Vox Baby blog, on the topic of Social Security, Medicare, and Health Care Reforms (No subscription needed for 30 15 days).

The debate can be found here.

My favorite parts:

We do several things wrong in the way we provide health insurance to non-retirees, and our first tasks should be to undo these mistakes. The first mistake is to make insurance voluntary when we don’t subsequently exclude those who need care from getting it at the public’s expense. We should make health insurance mandatory, but we should do so by putting the mandate on the individual, not the employer. Those who cannot provide proof of insurance on their tax returns should be charged an amount that corresponds to an insurance policy in their area. Implementing this on the tax form allows for family resources to be taken into consideration.

…and this,

But Medicare already offers us a glimpse of whether a single-payer system generates enough preventive care and superior opportunities to resolve conflicts of interest. I am less persuaded here. I do not see Medicare as it is currently implemented as a model of preventive care. Practitioners get paid for providing inputs to health, not necessarily for achieving a healthy outcome. And recent research has documented that there are wide disparities in how much Medicare pays by geographic area. My colleague Jonathan Skinner and his co-authors find that, other things equal, Medicare spends twice as much in Miami as it does in Minneapolis. I don’t think Medicare has made much progress in providing useful resolutions to the conflicts of interest Mark is considering.

Quote Of The Day

Monday, February 20th, 2006

“The attempt to define a “living wage” in a manner divorced from one’s productivity suggests that many Americans have (perhaps unconsciously) absorbed a Marxian ethic: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Okay, I disagree, but I can believe people believe that. But this is still just a variant of “Wal-Mart can afford it.” It cannot explain the particular need-based obligation people think Wal-Mart owes people simply because it has hired them”.–Glen Whitman, Professor of Economics at Cal-State Northridge

Quote Of The Day

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

“The number of representation elections in American workplaces has declined sharply. And the share of these elections won by unions is down to about half, from more than 70 percent in the 1950’s. And even as employment in nonunion businesses has grown, union jobs have disappeared. Companies either moved them overseas or, overwhelmed by competition, eliminated the work entirely”. —Eduardo Porter, writing in the New York Times

Black Families In Minneapolis Have Had Enough With Public School Failure

Friday, February 17th, 2006

Black families in Minneapolis have had enough with public school failure and are now doing something about it:

Problems abound: Last year, only 28 percent of black Minneapolis eighth-graders passed the state’s basic skills math test, and 47 percent passed the reading test. In 2004, the black high school graduation rate in the district was 50 percent. The racial achievement gap remains distressingly wide.

A dysfunctional school board is charged with turning this unacceptable situation around. Change is coming at a glacial pace. That’s one reason some vocal African-American leaders have been calling the board on the carpet.

Folks who dismiss all their complaints as noisy rabble-rousing had better listen up. Otherwise, there may soon be little left of the district to salvage.

Louis King, who served on the Minneapolis school board from 1996 to 2000, is one of those critics. “Today, I can’t recommend in good conscience that an African-American family send their children to the Minneapolis public schools,” says King. “The facts are irrefutable: These schools are not preparing our children to compete in the world.”

Remember “white flight” from big-city schools in the 1970s? Well, today it’s black families who are fleeing fastest. In Minneapolis, those families can now opt out of troubled district schools, thanks to an explosion of school choice options, including charter schools and open enrollment in suburban schools.

Ironically, the district’s white enrollment, as a portion of all students, has increased slightly in the past two years after decades of falling. It’s black families from high-poverty neighborhoods — North Minneapolis, Phillips, Whittier — who are leading the exodus.

Louis King puts it this way: “The best way to get attention is not to protest, but to shop somewhere else.”

I agree 100% with you Louis King, but try telling that to those who would like to take that choice away. Those who say you should be ‘patient with the public school system’, or ‘not to give up on our schools’, or ‘lets throw another billion dollars at the problem’, after all, it usually isn’t their kids being trapped in failing schools, so patience comes easy to them.

Where are these students going you ask?

The bulk of departing students are choosing charter schools, which are opening in Minneapolis at a rapid pace. In a 2003 Minneapolis district survey, black parents were noticeably less satisfied with district schools than other parents. But charter-school parents were very satisfied with their schools.

King has a message for the Minneapolis school board: “You’ll have to make big changes to get us back.” He says the district needs board members with extensive business experience, who view families as customers and understand that competition has changed the rules of the game.

Such a board, King says, will be in a position to give Minneapolis’ new superintendent a mandate to shake up an entrenched system, and stand behind him or her when the going gets rough. Many critics would say this means working to change work rules and other obstacles that hamper academic progress, including policies that often lead to the least experienced teachers being placed in the most challenging school environments.

“I’m a strong believer in public education,” King said. “But this district’s leaders have to make big changes or go out of business. If they don’t, we’ll see them in a museum, like the dinosaurs.”

God Bless charter schools, where would we be without them? Stuck in failing public schools, that’s where. The full article can be found here.

Link via A Constrained Vision blog who has more.

Quote Of The Day

Friday, February 17th, 2006

“$100 million for a competitive grant program that will enable States, school districts, or non-profits to offer low-income students in chronically low-performing schools expanded educational opportunities. Students will be eligible for funding that may be used to cover some of the cost of attending the private school of their choice or receiving intensive supplemental services”. —What President Bush set aside in his budget proposals for next year, something that is almost guaranteed to get removed by Democrats, probably right before they fight for another billion dollars to be spent on public education