Monthly Archive for January, 2007

Education Myths

Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Education Myths, writes on one of the most widely accepted education myths, school spending:

This is the most widely held myth about education in America–and the one most directly at odds with the available evidence. Few people are aware that our education spending per pupil has been growing steadily for 50 years. At the end of World War II, public schools in the United States spent a total of $1,214 per student in inflation-adjusted 2002 dollars. By the middle of the 1950s that figure had roughly doubled to $2,345. By 1972 it had almost doubled again, reaching $4,479. And since then, it has doubled a third time, climbing to $8,745 in 2002.

Since the early 1970s, when the federal government launched a standardized exam called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), it has been possible to measure student outcomes in a reliable, objective way. Over that period, inflation-adjusted spending per pupil doubled. So if more money produces better results in schools, we would expect to see significant improvements in test scores during this period. That didn’t happen. For twelfth-grade students, who represent the end product of the education system, NAEP scores in math, science, and reading have all remained flat over the past 30 years. And the high school graduation rate hasn’t budged. Increased spending did not yield more learning.

This big-picture evidence is strongly confirmed by academic research. Though you’d never know it from the tenor of most education debates, the vast majority of studies have found no sustained positive relationship between spending and classroom results. Economist Eric Hanushek of Stanford University examined every solid study on spending and outcomes–a total of 163 research papers–and concluded that extra resources are more likely to be squandered than to have a productive effect.

The full article has more to say along with many other myths like teacher pay, the myth of insurmountable problems, class size, and the certification myth, among others, see here.

Link via Coyote Blog.

Quote Of The Day

“Since the collapse of the Soviet empire, many defenders of socialism have argued that dictators, including Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot, were aberrations; they took Marx’s ideas in the wrong direction. They claim that nationalization of the means of production (call it communism, socialism, or Marxism) and democracy can be compatible. In The Road to Serfdom, Hayek showed that it cannot. Some 50 years later, Hayek’s argument holds. Every socialist regime tends toward authoritarianism of some sort. Chavez reminds us of the anti-democratic nature of socialism. As such, he is turning into a major embarrassment for many on the Left who supported him. Unfortunately, what the proponents of socialism again and again fail to realize is that it is the message, not the messenger, that is embarrassing”. —Cato @ Liberty

Milton Friedman Day

“The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that’s why it’s so essential to preserving individual freedom.” –Milton Friedman

Today, January 29th, is designated Milton Friedman Day. The Economist magazine will host a day of web-discussion and there will be a national PBS broadcast of The Power of Choice: The Life and Ideas of Milton Friedman. Keep track of the events at Miltonfriedmanday.org.

James Gwartney, a Professor of Economics at Florida State University, gives a great overview of Milton Friedman and his impact on the economic profession here. John Stossel has more here.

Going To Dallas, Texas For The Weekend

In about an hour I hop on a plane to Dallas, Texas for the weekend. I am in going in part business, in part personal, but anybody who reads this blog and lives in the Dallas area, shoot me an email via the contact form, maybe we can meet up for dinner or drinks (or clubbing it!) later tonight.

Quote Of The Day

“Mrs. Clinton’s acolytes are floating the idea of Hillary as another Margaret Thatcher to get past the question, “Can a woman be elected president?” This is based on the many, many things Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher have in common, such as the lack of a Y chromosome and … hmmm, you know, I think that’s it. Girl-power feminists who got where they are by marrying men with money or power — Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), Arianna Huffington and John Kerry — love to complain about how hard it is for a woman to be taken seriously. It has nothing to do with their being women. It has to do with their cheap paths to power. Kevin Federline isn’t taken seriously either”.–Ann Coulter

Quote Of The Day

“Much of the measured growth in income inequality has resulted from natural demographic trends. In general, there is more income inequality among older populations than among younger populations, if only because older people have had more time to experience rising or falling fortunes. Furthermore, more-educated groups show greater income inequality than less-educated groups. Uneducated people are more likely to be clustered in a tight range of relatively low incomes. But the educated will include a greater range of highly motivated breadwinners and relaxed bohemians, and a greater range of winning and losing investors. A result is a greater variety of incomes. Since the United States is growing older and also more educated, income inequality will naturally rise”. —Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University writing in the New York Times

Historically Low Minimum Wage, Historically Low Unemployment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its unemployment rate for the year and a look at the report, see here, shows that many states (15 or so) have reached or surpassed their historically lowest unemployment level on record.

Is it a mere coincidence that at a time when the minimum wage is at a historic low that we also find many states dropping to some of their lowest levels of unemployment in history? Those who advocate for a minimum wage would say yes, those of us who know the minimum wage increases unemployment would say no the two go hand in hand.

Again, I must repeat, the fight to increase the minimum wage is not about the poor, it is about politics and it is politics at the expense of the poor and minority.

The Minority Case Against The Minimum Wage

Most of you have heard the standard arguments against the minimum wage – that it is a weak poverty reduction tool, it increases prices, increases unemployment, hurts small businesses, makes the economy less efficient, etc, etc, but what I want to write about today is the harm done by the minimum wage that is least discussed – its affect on minorities, especially poor and unskilled minorities.

Have you ever wondered why poor areas have more empty lots than rich areas? Why unemployment is much higher in poor areas than in rich areas? Why minorities, especially blacks, high school drop outs and those with the least amount of skills have a harder time finding a job than others? A lot of the reason for all of this is the minimum wage, and that is what I want to write about today.

Before I go on, we have to ask who is on the minimum wage? If you look at government stats (see here, here and here) you will see that most of the people that are on minimum wage are part time workers and a full four-fifths of all minimum wage workers are not poor. People like, stay-at-home moms who want to supplement their full-time spouse’s earnings, teenagers working after school, and other students. These are students that tend to live in good neighborhoods, are relatively well educated, and are already doing okay, being that mommy and daddy pays most of their bills. Of course there are some ‘single mothers of four’ and other truly poor people living on the minimum wage but they are an extremely small percentage, by far the bulk of people on the minimum wage are young college kids starting their working lives. In addition, most people on the minimum wage are on there for a relatively short amount of time. In other words, the minimum wage is only their first step in a long road ahead of higher wages and more opportunities. The minimum wage in this respect is the gate way, the entry point, where an employer takes on a relatively small risk to hire you and see what you can do, after all, a teenager fresh into the work force has little to no work experience to be evaluated on.

Okay, so what happens if the minimum wage starts to increase? While economists may disagree on the magnitude of the effects of the minimum wage, here are a few things that economists universally would agree, and all things that primarily affect minorities.

1. The minimum wage harms the least productive most

What politicians won’t tell you but what ALL economists know is that the people who are most likely to lose their job due to an increase in the minimum wage are the least educated, the ones with the least skills, and the ones that are likely to keep their jobs are the more educated, the ones with the most skills. For example, if you had to lay someone off, with all things being equal would you rather lay off someone with or without a high school diploma? With or without the ability to speak english? With or without a criminal record? Remember, as the minimum wage goes up the market becomes an employers market (supply increases and demand drops) so that employer now has more people to choose from.

So being that minorities are the ones that tend to be less educated either because of a poor public school system, or the lack of english speaking parents at home, it is primarily poor minorities that feel the brunt of the minimum wage – while middle class white students reap most of the rewards.

Free exchange, a blog provided by the Economist magazine, explains it this way:

It seems very likely to me that the small number of people made redundant as a result of a modest minimum wage hike are very likely to be the worst off of the poor: convicted felons, recovering drug addicts, welfare mothers, the cognitively disabled, high school dropouts, those whose backgrounds were too chaotic to impart good work habits. The well-connected, well-socialised middle class teenaged and twenty-something students, on the other hand, seem disproportionately likely to keep their jobs.

In short, the minimum wage is a subsidy to relatively affluent workers at the expense of poor, less educated workers.

2. The minimum wage harms poor areas over rich areas

In addition to harming primarily poor people, the minimum wage harms primarily poor areas. Think of it this way, lets say that you were a person looking to open up a new business and you were looking for communities to open that business in. Well, if you wanted to open up that business in a poor neighborhood you would have alot of things working against you – you would tend to have a lower educated work force, customers with less buying power, and sometimes an area with a high crime rate (higher security risks and costs etc). Well, if you were able to pay whatever you wanted, you could pay your employees lower wages to compensate for some of those disadvantages but a minimum wage takes that option away. So now, especially for those companies that are not extremely profitable, your choices are more limited. You can’t, even if you wanted to, open up in a poor neighborhood because your costs will exceed your profits. So what is that poor community left with? Nothing – with less companies opening up shop there. Have you ever wondered why poor neighborhoods have so many empty lots? Well the minimum wage is a big reason for that…and of course the neighborhoods that benefit are those neighborhoods with more educated citizens, with less crime, and with more disposable income. In short, the minimum wage harms the poor communities to the benefit of the richer communities.

To think of this another way, it is important to note that the minimum wage was first passed at the national level in 1938, around the time of the second wave of the great depression. If you were to look at the voting record of that legislation, one of the things you would discover is that the northern senators voted almost unanimously in favor of the minimum wage and the southern senators voted almost unanimously against the minimum wage. The reason for that is that wages were alot lower in the south, the south being the part of the country with the most ex-slaves. So the minimum wage was basically set at a level above southern wages but below northern wages. The minimum wage was set by the northerners as a way to keep jobs in the north by preventing businesses from moving to the south to take advantage of the lower wages. Who paid for this minimum wage? Unemployment during that time was almost all poor southern workers, primarily black southern workers, who were basically priced out of the labor market (the minimum wage was also used to price women out of the labor market, see here ). In short, the more you raise the minimum wage, the more you harm poor areas at the benefit of rich areas.

Is it a coincidence that the minimum wage is primarily supported by legislators from San Francisco, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and other high cost areas, where the minimum wage is more symbolic than anything else, because wages already have to be high to cover the extremely expensive living costs? I don’t think so.

3. The minimum wage makes discrimination less costly, therefore easier to discriminate

Lets talk about racism and how the minimum wage helps racists. Lets say that I was a racist and I wanted to open up a restaurant but I hated Mexicans so much that I refused to hire any in my shop. My shop is to have whites, and whites only. Well one of the first things I will learn, as any restaurant owner will tell you, is that Mexicans are extremely productive at such a cheap price. To put it another way, it is hard to get any other group of people to work so hard for such little money. Try hiring a bunch of middle class white kids to wash dishes, clean tables, sweep the floor, cook the food, all for close to the minimum wage, it just isn’t going to happen. So okay, I am a stubborn racist and decide to do it anyway – problem is, to get the same quality of workers I have to now pay them more per hour, say $8, or $10/hour. That is the beauty of the market system, I now have to pay for my racism. Whereas the non-racists are getting the same productivity from their works as I am but at a much lower rate, I have to forego precious profits to support my racist beliefs. Furthermore, in a really competitive market this is enough to put me out of business!

Now, factor in the minimum wage and what happens? Well you have just made it easier for me to be racist. Now I may have to pay $8/hour or $10/hour but you know what, so does everyone else, in other words, you have reduced and spread out the costs I previously had to incur to follow my racist beliefs….and the Mexicans that used to work there? Sure, some of them keep their job but some would surely be replaced. Think of it this way, if you were an employer and you had to pay an employee $10/hour no matter what, would you rather have one that spoke english or one that didn’t? One with more education or less? One with a criminal record or one without? In other words, the minimum wage is to the benefit of those who have more skills and makes it less costly to discriminate. For more on this, go here, here, here, and here.

With the accumulation of the above taken into account, it is easy to understand why the harm of the minimum wage falls primarily on poor, low educated, low skilled, minorities, especially blacks.

David Neumark, professor of economics at UC Irvine and Olena Nizalovaof have a NBER study on the long-run effects of the minimum wage, it states ( here ):

Exposure to minimum wages at young ages may lead to longer-run effects. Among the possible adverse longer-run effects are decreased labor market experience and accumulation of tenure, lower current labor supply because of lower wages, and diminished training and skill acquisition. Beneficial longer-run effects could arise if minimum wages increase skill acquisition, or if short-term wage increases are long-lasting. We estimate the longer-run effects of minimum wages by using information on the minimum wage history that workers have faced since potentially entering the labor market. The evidence indicates that even as individuals reach their late 20’s, they work less and earn less the longer they were exposed to a higher minimum wage, especially as a teenager. The adverse longer-run effects of facing high minimum wages as a teenager are stronger for blacks. From a policy perspective, these longer-run effects of minimum wages are likely more significant than the contemporaneous effects of minimum wages on youths that are the focus of most research and policy debate.(emphasis added)

The more the minimum wage is lifted, the harder it is for those with less skills, less education, and more barriers to climb (english, racism, etc) to overcome, leading to more and more people being priced out of the labor force, and so it should be no suprise that the minimum wage hits hardest those who are most vulnerable to racism, living in bad areas, and low education.

In addition to all of this, the minimum wage benefits large businesses and harms small businesses, it causes an increase in prices, it increases unemployment and it reduces competition, all in all, things that primarily harm the poor. But hey, it brings in votes, so who cares right?

Quote Of The Day

“Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.” –Milton Friedman

Quote Of The Day

“One’s initial surprise at finding that intelligent people tend to be socialists diminishes when one realises that, of course, intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence, and to suppose that we must owe all the advantages and opportunities that our civilisation offers to deliberate design rather than to traditional rules, and likewise to suppose that we can, by exercising our reason, eliminate any remaining undesired features by still more intelligent reflection, and still more appropriate design and ‘rational coordination’ of our undertakings. This leads one to be favorably disposed to the central economic planning and control that lie at the heart of socialism”. –F. A. Hayek, in The Fatal Conceit

Quote Of The Day

“Two major arguments are offered for introducing socialized medicine in the United States: first, that medical costs are beyond the means of most Americans; second, that socialization will somehow reduce costs. The second can be dismissed out of hand — at least until someone can find some example of an activity that is conducted more economically by government than by private enterprise. As to the first, the people of the country must pay their costs one way or another; the only question is whether they pay them directly on their own behalf, or indirectly through the mediation of government bureaucrats who will subtract a substantial slice for their own salaries and expenses.” —Milton Friedman

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

I normally don’t participate in online tags but being that I’ve known LatinoPundit before I started blogging (on forums), that my friend Oso is also encouraging this particular tag, and since it is consistent with my new years resolution to blog more about my experiences, I decided to give in this time. The topic is, list 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me. So here is my list,

1. As a teenager, in a 14 month period, I lived with 7 different people/families.

2. In college, I and a German were the only ones to get a 100% on our Physics I final. In Physics II, I and the same German were the only ones in the classroom who did so well on a test that we didn’t have to take a make up test.

3. When I graduated from college I was second in my class, the guy who beat me, a Vietnamese immigrant, was valedictorian and also got hired at the same company I work for. Over the years we have gotten closer in friendship. We have shared an apartment, worked in the same dept, shared the same office, attended the same graduate school, and for the last 2+ years, he has been my classmate in almost all of the classes I have taken at UCSD. Nobody has taught me more about study habits, the joy of learning, and the lack of educational opportunities in other countries than he.

4. Like LatinoPundit, I am a habitual speeder. I have gone to countless traffic school classes (though now I know how to cheat it) and even attended level II traffic school (12 hours instead of 8 ). I’ve received several speeding tickets in one year and have gotten one for going over 100 mph. My latest on this was in November when I took a trip to Phoenix, I got pulled over three times for speeding on the way, though luckily for me, I was able to talk my way out of the last two. This is not something I am proud of and am working on improving in the future.

5. I’ve worked for the carnival. Yep, it’s true, I am a carnie. When I was 15 years old I got kicked out of Junior High for fighting and instead of going back to school the next semester, I decided to work with my older brother who, at the time, was a truck driver hauling the rides from Butlers carnival. It was only a three month job, and I really only worked the last month of it, but it was a learning experience (I was also shocked to learn that many of the carnival workers are night time cocaine addicts, it was as if I never left Compton). In that time I got to see much of California – the northern farmland was a culture shock to someone who grew up in the city, Oregon, Washington (did you know they have Mexicans in Yakima Washington?), Idaho, and Arizona.

That is definitely more than five, but it was hard for me to give them without some context.

Further Thoughts On Bunche Elementary School

One of the things that stood out to me in the Bunche Elementary School story I reported on Monday was this:

The campus sits in what looks to be a solidly middle-class minority neighborhood in the city of Carson. But a closer look suggests the classic profile of a school with poor achievement: The student body is about half black and half Latino, most of the students speak limited English, and the entire student body qualifies for free lunches. Some students come from the surrounding neighborhood, but most are bused from Compton.

While many of the students come from the city of Compton, the school itself is in the city of Carson. For those of you not familiar with the area, Carson is drastically different than Compton. Carson, like all cities in the harbor area, has gangs, crime, and violence, but nothing at the level of Compton. Compton, while covering only 10 square miles, is a gang haven. This little area has over 8,000 gang members, literally hundreds of gangs, and is home to the most violent race wars in the Los Angeles area. Carson is a much bigger city but has only a handful of gangs, somewhere around 5-10 gangs, and a relatively safe living environment.

The reason this is important is because the article mentions that many of the teachers doing wonderful work at Bunche Elementary School come from Teach for America, a program “which places virtually untrained recent graduates from top colleges in urban classrooms”. The article also implies that teachers are now asked to work passed 2:30pm, and stay to tutor students who need additional help.

I wonder how well this education model would work with schools inside the city of Compton. I cannot think of one area inside of Carson where I would be nervous to walk around after 6pm, but I can think of several areas inside Compton where it would be dangerous, and in some areas downright suicidal, to walk after 6pm, especially 8pm. When it is “recent graduates from top colleges” you are trying to attract, safety has to be a prime concern. You can reasonably ask ‘tireless, idealistic, and demanding’ ivy league graduates to put in long hours, energy, and to postpone a high paying job for the betterment of disadvantaged children, but to ask them to put their lives in danger is a very different thing. I can only imagine what a recent graduate from Stanford, one who grew up in, say, Malibu or Beverly Hills, would think upon entering Compton for the first time, especially when the sun starts to go down. Imagine their thoughts when they hear gunshots for the first time? Or when they pass a murder scene on their way home? These are all common occurrences in Compton. It just makes sense to me that the high crime rate of the city itself has to be a significant deterrent in getting quality teachers in Compton public schools.

Which brings me to my next point: how would this problem ever get addressed under our status quo public school system we have now? It would be very difficult. When schools are constructed and run based on the political process, the result will always be one that satisfies voters first (lower taxes, cheaper, faster to construct, delays etc). However, under a voucher program many things could be done to address the problem. For one, more schools could be constructed in safer cities, or at the very least, on the edges of Compton where the freeways are closer. Putting schools closer to freeways has the benefit that teachers would not have to drive through much of Compton to get to the schools, all they have to worry about is the short distance from the school to the freeway entrance. This is, I strongly suspect, the reason why the Casino in Compton is right next to the 91 freeway, and in a secluded part of the city. If you want to attract high-income gamblers, you don’t place the Casino in the middle of a high crime city, you place it as close to the freeways and away from gang violence as possible. This is essentially what Bunche Elementary School did by having the school in Carson instead of Compton.

Vouchers, while giving the education system the mobility and adaptability that the current system lacks, while breaking the school system from the political process, creates a dynamic system where schools can quickly adapt to what works. If one education model is superior to another, say by removing a strong filter that eliminates many potential good teachers, other schools can more quickly follow suit, in the end benefiting those who have been harmed the most by the status quo, the poor students stuck in these failing schools.

Milton Friedman On Government

In 1975 Milton Friedman appeared on The Open Mind, a television show that is no longer showing, and in the interview he gave the fundamental problem with using the government to solve social problems:

And that is the fallacy — this is at the bottom of it — the fallacy that it is feasible and possible to do good with other people’s money. Now, you see that fallacy — that view — has two flaws. If I want to do good with other people’s money I’d first have to take it away from them. That means that the welfare state philosophy of doing good with other people’s money, at its very bottom, is a philosophy of violence and coercion. It’s against freedom, because I have to use force to get the money. In the second place, very few people spend other people’s money as carefully as they spend their own. Let me take this down to the situation of New York City right now. About six or seven or eight years ago — I’ve forgotten when it was — John Kenneth Galbraith, in an article he wrote in The New York Times Magazine Section, said, there are no problems in New York City that would not be solved if the New York City budget were twice what it is now. Now, the New York City budget has since then something like tripled. And all the problems are worse. Why? Because the fact is, it’s a confusion to identify the City with the people. The New York City’s budget is higher, but that means that the people of New York have less to spend. It’s only been transferred from people individually to the City. Now, who spends the money more carefully — the City civil servants or people who are spending their own money? Now, of course, you may say to me, but when the City spends the money, it’ll go for the good things, and so even half of it is wasted, it’s better off. But that’s nonsense. City civil servants and others are just like the rest of us. We’re all of us interested in pursuing our own objectives. The label again on the bottle may be welfare or health or education. But you have to look at all of the places where it drops off en route to going there. There are lots of other things that can be accomplished under those titles, and the fact is that no more — no larger a fraction of the money the City spends goes to good things. Let me illustrate in a very concrete way. A major problem in New York City is housing. Why? Because of bad governmental policy. Rent control, which was continued in New York after World War II, and the only city in the country where it was continued, everywhere else it was dropped. It has caused enormous abandonment of houses, eroding the tax base, public housing, governmental subsidy to housing, so that people who occupy it have no incentive to maintain it. If you had eliminated the government from the housing market and left that money in the hands of the people themselves, the housing situation in New York today would be far better than it is.

The full transcript can be found here. For a video of the interview, along with many other must watch videos on this topic, go here.

Quote Of The Day

“The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.” –Milton Friedman

A Successful Elementary School

The Los Angeles Times has an article on how Bunche Elementary School in the Compton Unified School District is doing what many thought impossible:

Bunche students have responded with remarkable gains, defying the conventional wisdom that poor and minority students are virtually destined to land on the downside of the achievement gap. And Bunche did this without the help of the state’s two major intervention programs for low-performing schools….

At this school, the primary mover has been first-time Principal Mikara Solomon Davis, who arrived in mid-2000. Some would say she’s done the near impossible.

Bunche has blown past the target score of 800 on the state’s Academic Performance Index. Its 868 compares favorably to the scores at schools in Beverly Hills and San Marino. A school would score 875 if every student scored “proficient” on standardized tests.

Visually, the school sparkles as well, with clean, recently modernized classrooms, well-tended grass and rose bushes.

The campus sits in what looks to be a solidly middle-class minority neighborhood in the city of Carson. But a closer look suggests the classic profile of a school with poor achievement: The student body is about half black and half Latino, most of the students speak limited English, and the entire student body qualifies for free lunches. Some students come from the surrounding neighborhood, but most are bused from Compton.

In 1999, the first year of the state’s current testing and improvement regimen, the school ranked in the lowest 10% of schools statewide.

So starting in 1999, the school was where all Compton schools tend to be, at the lowest 10% of schools statewide. So what changed? The article continues:

With qualified, experienced principals in short supply, the school system hired a smart, hardworking prospect.

Solomon Davis, in her late 20s, had just earned a master’s degree in education at Columbia University, which followed three years of teaching in Compton. There she impressed her own principal as one of the most gifted teachers she’d ever supervised.

Tireless, idealistic, demanding and at the time single, Solomon Davis critiqued daily the individual lessons of her teachers, including the veteran ones to whom she made clear: “It’s not an 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. job. And you’re going to be asked to do a lot of work.”

Only two of 21 teachers remain from before her arrival. About eight departed, she said, because they disliked the new regimen. Another half dozen or so made a strong transition but have since retired. Solomon Davis’ hires tended to match her own profile: young, energetic and relatively inexperienced. There’s been substantial turnover in these ranks as well.

Several, including Solomon Davis, were affiliated with Teach for America, which places virtually untrained recent graduates from top colleges in urban classrooms.

So what does the Bunche example say about the widely accepted notion that it’s experience that matters most in teaching effectively?

Solomon Davis has kept the academic rise going by hiring carefully and by developing, in essence, her own monitoring and training system. Her ongoing accountability measures are the state standards for each grade level, which specify what students are supposed to know. Top grades for students, she said, have to equal mastery of these standards…

There’s a sense that the staff knows it’s playing catch-up. Solomon Davis recounted a recent discussion with the principal of Vista Grande Elementary in Rancho Palos Verdes — where parents assume and demand academic excellence.

“There ‘the machine’ pushes her,” said Solomon Davis. “Here, you have to push it.”

And that means pushing parents, who adjusted to a principal who in her first year issued more than 100 suspensions in a school of 467 students.

“There was such an issue with discipline that you couldn’t teach. Disrespect for teachers and adults was the norm,” said Solomon Davis. When parents confront her over a suspension, “I begin by saying, ‘Our goal is college for your child. We’re not here to punish,’ ” Solomon Davis said.

Charter schools and some remarkable schools like Bunche Elementary School continue to prove what voucher proponents have said all along: even in a bad neighborhood, with low income minority students, a school can do remarkable things. The full article can be found here.