” This sort of giveaway may be good politics, but it’s terrible policy. Extending the programme just one year would cost $6 billion. The measure is promoted as a way of making college more affordable, but it will mainly benefit those well out of school, many of whom are relatively well-to-do, mid-career professionals, such as your indebted correspondent. There is a movement afoot to get the government to forgive student-loan debt entirely, and when compared to this, the cost of the scheme to keep student-loan interest rates low looks quite small. Stilll, it’s bad policy for many of the same reasons it would be bad policy to forgive student loans. If we’re going to hand out this $6 billion next year, it would be better all ’round to hand it to the people who need it most. If we think it more important to spend this dough on education, then we should hand out the $6 billion in the form of scholarships to deserving prospective collegians of modest means, to help them earn their degrees without having to take out any loans at all.” – Will Wilkinson
Archive for the 'Education' Category
Tim Taylor cites a study showing:
Along with the flexibility to expand enrollments, for-profit higher education has shown considerable flexibility in teaching groups not well-served by traditional higher education. “African Americans account for 13 percent of all students in higher education, but they are 22 percent of those in the for-profit sector. Hispanics are 11.5 percent of all students but are 15 percent of those in the for-profit sector. Women are 65 percent of those in the for-profit sector. For-profit students are older: about 65 percent are 25 years and older, whereas just 31 percent of those at four-year public colleges are, and 40 percent of those at two-year colleges are.” In addition, for-profits are typically non-selective institutions, requiring only a high school diploma or a GED certificate.
A great analogy by economist Don Boudreaux:
Suppose that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education. Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. Nearly half of those tax revenues would then be spent by government officials to build and operate supermarkets. Each family would be assigned to a particular supermarket according to its home address. And each family would get its weekly allotment of groceries—”for free”—from its neighborhood public supermarket.
No family would be permitted to get groceries from a public supermarket outside of its district. Fortunately, though, thanks to a Supreme Court decision, families would be free to shop at private supermarkets that charge directly for the groceries they offer. Private-supermarket families, however, would receive no reductions in their property taxes.
Of course, the quality of public supermarkets would play a major role in families’ choices about where to live. Real-estate agents and chambers of commerce in prosperous neighborhoods would brag about the high quality of public supermarkets to which families in their cities and towns are assigned.
Being largely protected from consumer choice, almost all public supermarkets would be worse than private ones. In poor counties the quality of public supermarkets would be downright abysmal. Poor people—entitled in principle to excellent supermarkets—would in fact suffer unusually poor supermarket quality.
How could it be otherwise? Public supermarkets would have captive customers and revenues supplied not by customers but by the government. Of course they wouldn’t organize themselves efficiently to meet customers’ demands.
Responding to these failures, thoughtful souls would call for “supermarket choice” fueled by vouchers or tax credits. Those calls would be vigorously opposed by public-supermarket administrators and workers.
Opponents of supermarket choice would accuse its proponents of demonizing supermarket workers (who, after all, have no control over their customers’ poor eating habits at home). Advocates of choice would also be accused of trying to deny ordinary families the food needed for survival. Such choice, it would be alleged, would drain precious resources from public supermarkets whose poor performance testifies to their overwhelming need for more public funds.
As for the handful of radicals who call for total separation of supermarket and state—well, they would be criticized by almost everyone as antisocial devils indifferent to the starvation that would haunt the land if the provision of groceries were governed exclusively by private market forces.
This John Stossel series is a great watch and touches on most of the fundamental points driving the education debate:
Stanford political science professor Terry Moe gives a primer on teachers unions and their influence in blocking education reform.
More evidence that teachers unions are an impediment to education reform:
When it come to excellence in education, red states rule—at least according to a panel of experts assembled by Tina Brown’s Newsweek.
Using a set of indicators ranging from graduation rate to college admissions and SAT scores, the panel reviewed data from high schools all over the country to find the best public schools in the country.
The results make depressing reading for the teacher unions: The very best public high schools in the country are heavily concentrated in red states.
“The recipe sounds familiar: merit pay for teachers, rigorous testing, national academic standards. Is it a school turnaround effort in New York City, New Orleans, or Los Angeles? No, it’s happening in Shanghai. Over the past decade authoritarian China has been able to achieve what has eluded generations of educators in the U.S., who have had to contend with political feuds, a history of local control of education policy, and the inherent difficulties of reaching consensus in a democracy. Shanghai, China’s largest city, with more than 20 million people, topped all rivals in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment, a closely watched gauge of educational achievement. The U.S. ranked 31st in math among the countries and regions tested, 23rd in science, and 17th in reading.” — BusinessWeek Magazine
“I find it maddening how many upper middle class parents energetically “support public education” against the depredations of vouchers and other reforms, while moving their own children into better school districts or better programs. Especially parents in Manhattan and a few areas of Brooklyn who proudly note that their experience shows how great public education is, while failing to note that their schools work because these comparatively affluent parents with a great deal of social and political capital fight like hell to divert as many resources as possible–including the best teachers–into a handful of schools in affluent areas.” — Megan McArdle
Readers of my blog, especially those who comment frequently, know my good friend Jon. He’s a recent convert to the left and believes in it passionately. A common theme of his world view, and those on the left in general, is the tug of war between the rich and the poor. The powerful and the non-powerful. The politically connected and the those with no political power. Basically the heart of leftist’s worldview revolves around this paradigm.
Every political fight, every economic decision and every current event is filtered through this prism. Since I consider Jon a smart, honest and sincere person, I have been trying to understand how he could be so enthralled by such a political philosophy. I try to read, watch and listen to everything he asks me to. And a big part of that is Chomsky and his writings. So I go over to Chomsky’s site and this is the latest article of his, on the Winsconsin union political fight:
As working people won basic rights in the 1930s, business leaders warned of “the hazard facing industrialists in the rising political power of the masses,” and called for urgent measures to beat back the threat, according to scholar Alex Carey in “Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.” They understood as well as Mubarak did that unions are a leading force in advancing rights and democracy. In the U.S., unions are the primary counterforce to corporate tyranny.
By now, U.S. private-sector unions have been severely weakened. Public-sector unions have recently come under sharp attack from right-wing opponents who cynically exploit the economic crisis caused primarily by the finance industry and its associates in government.
Popular anger must be diverted from the agents of the financial crisis, who are profiting from it; for example, Goldman Sachs, “on track to pay out $17.5 billion in compensation for last year,” the business press reports, with CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12.6 million bonus while his base salary more than triples to $2 million.
Instead, propaganda must blame teachers and other public-sector workers with their fat salaries and exorbitant pensions — all a fabrication, on a model that is all too familiar. To Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, to other Republicans and many Democrats, the slogan is that austerity must be shared — with some notable exceptions.
The propaganda has been fairly effective. Walker can count on at least a large minority to support his brazen effort to destroy the unions. Invoking the deficit as an excuse is pure farce.
In different ways, the fate of democracy is at stake in Madison, Wis., no less than it is in Tahrir Square.
Lost on Chomsky, and which bears no mention in this article or other writings, is an investigation into whether or not the claims of opponents of teachers unions are actually true. This is typical Chomsky. He doesn’t care about declared motives. There has to be other reasons, and those reasons have to fit into a powerful vs nonpower paradigm. Anything else is not even worth investigating.
Ignored by Chomsky then is the long trail of writings and arguments that opponents of teachers unions have been making. Opponents of teachers unions make the claim (among others) that the teachers union stifles reform and entrenches a low quality public education system. One that ultimately harms the poor most, especially minorities.
The proof of this is so one sided that even traditional supporters of unions have a hard time making a compelling case in their defense and instead resort to distortions and misleading claims (see here for an example). But where is Chomsky on this issue? Nowhere. He is so blinded by his worldview, that anything contrary to union power is ipso facto a power grab against the ‘poor and powerless’ in favor of the ‘rich and powerful’.
I bet you can read all of Chomsky’s material, all of his writings, videos and historical accounts and you will not find anything on say, the unions role in entrenching racism (pdf), or vast corruption throughout history, or more currently, the teachers unions negative affect on public education – his is a simple storyline, unions and ‘workers’ are good, rich people are evil.
This is typical of Chomsky and leftist in general. Their simplistic paradigm is so ingrained in them that they often cannot see the forest for the trees, and miss the fact that it is the students and poor minorities in particular, who are the powerless in need of defending, and it is the teachers unions and their political allies that are the powerful.
News reports are a buzz about the ‘last minute deal that averts shutdown’, but the more important news, atleast to me, is that thanks to the very hard work and arm twisting of Republicans, Democrats were forced to agree to reauthorize the DC voucher program:
Re-establishes a school voucher system for the District of Columbia, a longtime cause of House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio). The program provides low-income children with vouchers to attend a school of their parents’ choice.
Kudos to the GOP for making this a top priority. More here.
A moving short video of the affect the “Parent Revolution” is having in Compton, California. I’m curious: to those who dislike charter schools and vouchers, what do YOU have to say to parents stuck in these failing public schools? Please support the Parent Revolution here.
“The question for states and cities is not whether “collective bargaining” is a basic undeniable right, but how much union power in the public sector is too much. Progressives talk as though it can never be enough–or, at any rate, that no union privilege, once extended, should ever be withdrawn. Conservative supporters of Walker talk as though public-sector unions have no legitimate role at all. To me, the evidence says that the balance needs redressing. Public-sector workers in the US are better paid (if you take benefits into account) and enjoy greater security of employment than their private-sector counterparts. Quit rates from public-sector jobs are about one-third of quit rates in the private sector. Equally important, to my mind at least, is that the unions’ quasi-management role in education (especially) has expanded to the point where it is difficult to run schools well, and practically impossible to pursue systemic school reform. So I think the power of public-sector unions needs trimming in states like Wisconsin.” — Clive Crook, blogging at the Financial Times blog
The parallels are obvious: In both fields (1) we have systematically suppressed normal market forces; (2) the entity that pays the bill is usually separate from the beneficiaries of the spending; (3) providers of the services see the payers, not the beneficiaries, as their real customers and often shape their practice to satisfy the payers’ demands — even if the beneficiaries are made worse off; (4) even though the providers and the payers are in a constant tug-of-war over what is to be paid for and how much, the beneficiaries are almost never part of these discussions; and (5) there is rampant inefficiency on a scale not found in other markets.
The full post can be found here.
That is what our education system has come to:
Kelley Williams-Bolar is serving 10 days in jail for using her father’s address to enroll her two children in a high-performing school in a suburban district instead of her neighborhood school in Akron, Ohio. She refused the district’s demand to pay $30,000 in back tuition, claiming she lives part-time with her father.
One of the biggest blind spots of policymakers and pundits is the inability to take target market into account. For example, you can’t just compare the wages of employees at Hilton Hotels vs Motel 6′s and conclude that Hilton Hotels are superior because the employees are paid more. You have to take the companies vastly different target market into account. Motel 6′s target a much poorer and cost sensitive segment of the economy, and so it’s understandable that they pay their employees less. In addition, Motel 6′s also hire from a lower socioeconomic level than does Hilton Hotels, so again you’d expect their pay to be lower (in exchange for lower productivity, ie education, ability to speak English, etc). What seemed like a bad wrap for the poor without taking target market into account, turns out to be an overall net gain when it’s included (who doubts that from the poor’s perspective, Motel 6′s are better than Hilton hotels?).
The same blind spot is apparent in the Wal-Mart vs union run grocery stores debate. Wal-Mart caters to a lower socioeconomic class, by hiring and providing cheaper products to those at the lower end of the income distribution. So it makes sense that their employees are paid less than their union run grocery stores counterparts, who cater to a higher socioeconomic class. Seen in that aspect, Wal-Mart is no different than the Motel 6. And since it’s our ghettos and poor areas that are plagued by unemployment, empty lots and general lack of opportunities, the Wal-Mart model is a superior model for the ghettos and poor areas.
The same blind spot resurfaces when talking about for-profit colleges. When comparing for-profit colleges to non-profits, critics will primarily focus on graduation rates and default rates, taking nothing else into account. But what happens when you take target market into account?
For-profit colleges tend to cater primarily to the marginalized segments of society: working mothers, high school drop outs, older people trying to change careers, and people who are in a rush to graduate. In other words, the riskier segment of society. The very same people that the non-profit education system often ignores.
Seen from this perspective, it’s expected that for-profit schools will be worse than non-profits when it comes to student debt. It’s expected because they cater to riskier students, so they are going to have a larger variance of outcome – whether that is graduation rates, or student loan repayment. But catering to a riskier segment of the population is not something that should be punished, it should be encouraged. Lets remember, for-profits are actually doing what we berate businesses to do – serve those at the bottom, often forgotten by others. They are a lot better at helping students who may have messed up through high school and want to change their lives around.
And this is without even mentioning all of the other benefits that come from for-profit colleges vs traditional colleges. For example, a significantly shorter time to graduation (averaging 3 years, when non-profits are getting closer to 6 years – a huge gain in opportunity cost), more income oriented majors (even the worst of the for-profit colleges will never have such time wasted majors like Chicano Studies, for example) and a clear path towards graduation. All benefits that primarily help the marginalized segments of society.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I graduated from a for-profit institution. I got my BS in 3 years. Before that I was a high school drop out (in 10th grade) with about a 2.0 GPA. I had only a GED and no community college credits. I was also the child of a poor single mother, living in Compton, Ca. The group of friends I currently run with all have similar stories – all of us grew up poor, are minorities and graduated from the same for-profit college. None of us received any grants (my mom refused to fill out the FAFSA – she always hated anybody knowing how much she made and was convinced I would find out). More importantly, in the for-profit college I went to there were others – not a majority, but certainly a strong minority – in the same situation I grew up in. It’s the privileged kids that were the exception at the for-profit college, not the the poor minorities.
All of us, also, are currently successful engineers. We all make around 6 figures a year or more. All of us with just the bachelors degree from the for-profit college (I have some undergraduate and graduate work at UCSD, but never completed a full degree there). Without a doubt, graduating from that for-profit college was the single best thing I could have done for my life. Without it, my life would have been very different.
Update: Matt Rognlie makes a similar point here.
“He ends up taking some odd directions with it, but I think the main thrust of Rick Hess’ article on making school choice actually work is mostly brilliant. His core point is that for the provision of extra options to drive major improvements in quality, you need a much more complete market system than the one we generally have—one where consumers have information about quality, and where providers lose something of value when consumers choose against them. A system where money doesn’t fully follow students into the charter school system, for example, is a system where losing a certain number of students can be beneficial to the incumbent school operators. And by the same token, if the idea is that schools faced with competition are going to start doing something differently and thereby improve they need to actually be given the flexibility to change.” — Matthew Yglesias