Saturday, March 03, 2007

Okay....NOW I'm Mad.

A child is not revenue. She's a child.

This gem of statist reasoning, from the Raleigh NEWS AND OBSERVER, got me thinking about school choice, and "revenue":

Some excerpts from the story by Samiha Khanna, Staff Writer for N&O, with my most insightful comments in caps:

DURHAM - ...The opening of Durham's eighth charter will expand a $6 million dent in the school system's budget.

Though charter schools are public schools, they operate independently from the local school district. They receive money from the state, and for each student from the Durham school district who enrolls in a charter, a certain per-student allowance follows him. (BUT...BUT...BUT THE SCHOOL DISTRICT ALSO DOESN'T HAVE TO PROVIDE A SEAT FOR THAT STUDENT, OR SCHOOL BUS SERVICES! AT A TIME WHEN SCHOOLS ARE OVERCROWDED, HOW CAN THIS BE A COST? UNLESS...UNLESS YOU JUST THINK THE LOSS OF CONTROL OVER CITIZEN CHOICE IS A COST, RIGHT?)

This will make difficult several projects coming up for Durham Public Schools, including the opening of a new middle school and three small high schools in the fall. (AGAIN, THEY ONLY NEED TO DO THAT IF THEY ARE OVERCROWDED. AND SENDING KIDS TO CHARTERS RELIEVES OVERCROWDING. FURTHER, CHARTERS SAVE THE STATE MONEY, BECAUSE THEY DON'T PROVIDE LUNCH, OR BUS SERVICE, AND GET MUCH LESS PER STUDENT THAN THE STATE-RUN SCHOOLS.)

"We're trying to do a lot of things that require revenue," said Hank Hurd, associate superintendent of administrative services for Durham Public Schools. "Charters are depleting some of the resources that we need to address the student population at large." (STOP DOING THOSE THINGS! THAT'S NOT "REVENUE!" THAT'S MONEY TAKEN AT GUNPOINT FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE DESPERATE TO SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO BETTER SCHOOLS!)

When it opens in the fall, Voyager will serve about 320 students in grades four through seven. Its home will be the 40,000-square-foot former Little River Elementary School in the northern Durham town of Bahama. (NO NEW BUILDING, AND NO STATE COSTS, EXCEPT THE RENTAL. LESS THAN HALF AS EXPENSIVE FOR TAXPAYERS, AND HIGHER QUALITY EDUCATION.)

The school will expand to eighth grade the following year, and eventually cap growth at 500 students, according to a plan the school's board of directors submitted to the state.

As of this week, the school received about 400 letters of interest from parents in Durham and as far away as Hillsborough and Roxboro....(GOSH, SOUNDS LIKE MAYBE THE DURHAM SCHOOLS AREN'T REALLY DOING THEIR JOB. AND THEIR PROPOSED SOLUTION IS...PREVENT PARENTS FROM HAVING ANY CHOICES? IT IS TRUE THAT WITHOUT CHOICES, THE DURHAM SCHOOLS WOULD HAVE MORE STUDENTS. WHY NOT PURSUE THAT A LITTLE FURTHER? IF WE CRIMINALIZE READING, WE CAN JUST USE THE PRISONS FOR SCHOOLS, AND THEN WE CAN REALLY MAKE SOME REVENUE! USE THE SCHOOLS MONEY TO BUILD NEW PRISONS!)

...At Voyager, the emphasis will be on hands-on projects and other interactive activities, said Christy Whiteside, a contractor who worked with the school's board to create its education plan.

Teachers also will focus on character education and public speaking. Directors are still trying to solidify a partnership with the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, Forsyth said.

Parents and students won't know until March 31 who will attend Voyager. If the school gets more applications than there are spaces available, it will choose by lottery. (I'M GUESSING THEY ARE GOING TO NEED A LOTTERY. SOUNDS LIKE A PRETTY GOOD EXPERIMENT IN EDUCATION, AND IT WILL CUT COSTS TO TAXPAYERS.)

Most of Voyager's students are likely to come from Durham, so administrators with the school system can expect to send at least an additional $800,000 to the new school in per-student allowances, plus state resources allotted based on enrollment, Hurd said. (AAARGH! WHERE DO YOU START HERE? IT IS NOT DURHAM'S MONEY TO LOSE! THAT IS TAXPAYER MONEY. CHARTER SCHOOLS JUST LET PARENTS MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES WITH THEIR OWN MONEY! HOW DARE DURHAM BUREAUCRATS TALK ABOUT "LOSING" MONEY? THEY HAVE LOST THE SENSE THAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO SERVE THE PUBLIC, THAT'S WHAT THEY HAVE LOST!)

....Durham administrators tried to drive home the point last fall, when enrollment in traditional public schools in Durham increased less than 1 percent and charter enrollment soared by almost 22 percent.


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After reading that story, I had to just go sit on the floor in the corner, hugging my knees, rocking back and forth, and making little whimpering sounds.

Remember, charter enrollment is capped by capacity. That 22 % growth is not the number of people who WANT to send their kids to charters. That is the actual number of seats filled by parents who are going crazy with worry about how their kids are treated in the schools runs by teachers' unions and indifferent, revenue-maximzing bureaucrats.

If more charter schools were available, thousands of parents would transfer their kids. Some would be good schools, some not so good. But what would happen to the bad ones? They would lose enrollment, and close? What happens to Durham PUBLIC schools that are bad? We all spend more money on them. They never close, because there is no competition and no standard of quality to meet.

Anything that improves choice, improves education. Charters, and vouchers, are a good start. Let's get started!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good point, but would you expect less from a bureaucrat who will get to hire more staff if more schools are built, and hence a larger budget? So why give up a monopoly when you have so much to gain?

On another level, isn't the author's article really appealing to parents who aren't likely to exit anyway?

The point of the article to me has the following logic:

Parents who care about their child's education will exit if given the opportunity (monetary or choice). Parents who care about their child's education are more likely to learn, do well on standardized test, and go to college. Therefore, parents who are not as interested in their child's education will not exit the system, and these children are less likely to achieve.

So let's not address the issue of quality of education to this set of parents, since they won't exit anyway. Instead, appeal to their wallet - it will take something from them personally, never mind their kids.

Mungowitz said...

Now, THAT is a fair point.

I should have been more careful. It is NOT true that there are zero costs from exit.

BUT: Why didn't the writer for the N&O make YOUR point? I would have been more pleased with the article....

Still, you are quite right.

Mungowitz said...

On second thought....

The anon-comm is only correct if the schools are NOT overcrowded.

But Durham and Wake county are both saying that they need new bond issues. The reason?

THE AMOUNT OF $$ THEY GET FOR EACH STUDENT IS LESS THAN THE NEW STUDENT COSTS.

But....

That MUST mean that the charters are a help.

Unless school officials just intend to spend the "revenue" on silly pet projects, and ignore the needs of the students.

Which is of course precisely what they intend to do.

So....while the commenter is not wrong, if you add the additional premise (which happens to be empirically true) that each student costs more than s/he brings in in revenue, then the argument again goes through without a hitch.

The Unknown Professor said...

"Unless school officials just intend to spend the "revenue" on silly pet projects, and ignore the needs of the students."

Sounds like a classic principal-agent problem. With the difficulty in firing "school fools" and the almost complete lack of performance-based compensation (hey - I'm a finance guy, so I believe in this stuff), voting with their feet is one of the few mechanisms parents have to control the problem.

And the agent NEVER likes things that keep them from doing what they want (hey - who does?).

Dirty Davey said...

Before we start blaming the teachers' unions, why don't we try a little experiment... One assumes that if the unions are hurting education, then the schools in states where the unions are more powerful should have more problems, and the schools in states where unions are limited should be better schools.

That's why the schools in the South are so much better than anywhere else in the country. Because North Carolina public employee unions cannot legally engage in collective bargaining or strikes, their power is limited and keeps the NC public schools in the top five, nationally.

Waitaminit...

Lewis said...

I've had the same experience many times Prof. Munger. 3 of my own are in charter schools and the 4th starts in the fall. We, and they, have been much happier and feel like we really get a chance to influence the schools for the better. My wife even gets to be the board president for a couple of years.
But, the misinformation continues, especially since the voucher bill passed here in Utah. Our state school board rep is trying to get a repeal on the ballot for next year. They just can't stand the loss of control over us.

Anonymous said...

I think that my initial comment was intended to address two issues:

1) Reporters are likely to portray the issue as "Good vs. Evil". In this case public education is always the virtuous institution fighting against exclusive, and wealthy private schools. Why? Because having options undermines the premise the public schools are nothing but good. This may sound simplified, but having spent sometime in politics I've seen this formula repeated ad nauseum.

2) Good vs. Evil stories are "just", but not necessarily what the public wants to read. So there is always a...what's the word...oh yes, subtext (sorry, I erased it from my memory when I left graduate school). So to get people upset they throw in how it is "fleecing" the public. It sells more papers, and will win awards for the authors. The result is not a debate on whether the "good" institution can afford to grow at 1% or 5%, but why some evil force is competing with it at all.

So charters can in no way be helpful. The are "evil" as they call into question the efficacy of public schools, and they are harmful because they stop the good institution from doing even more good, whether they can afford to or not.

Or maybe I'm just becoming cynical after all.

anon-comm

Thugnasty said...

The statists think that the child is just a conduit for revenue.

And in this corner, there are those of us with our heads screwed on straight.