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05/25/2008

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Jack

Whew! Our profs have really opened a can of worms this week!

I guess, both expect us to embark from a point where it's a forgone conclusion that wages for the working poor will not amount to a living wage and that it's a good idea for taxpayers to subsidize them by one means or another despite the obvious risks of creeping socialism and distortion of the market. (Do we think Walmart COULD run so many local enterprises out of business were they NOT enjoying a billion buck subsidy to their payroll costs?)

Then, building on such a flimsy foundation? Posner favors being philosophically strict and concerned that there might be waste or at least slippage due to the difficulty of determining who or what to reward. I agree with him; those are all very real problems with paying for performance.

Posner also touches on the fact of some schools being much worse than others. But the real meat of the subject of "some" schools being routinely and often prejudicially, short-funded seems taboo in most discussions of education, despite the costly litigation that has been going on since just after Brown V Board mandated desegregation in 1954. In the last few years with all legal dodges exhausted, NY, TX, MO and a number of other states are operating under court mandates to end their long practice of selective funding. Interesting that so many state mangers and attorney generals would fight for their "right" to discriminate in school funding for many years and with millions of dollars.

(Those who might like to peek at the progress their state is making can get a quick briefing here: click on the state by state)

http://www.schoolfunding.info/litigation/litigation.php3

So........ instead of engaging in a philosophically pure realm we're instead waddling around in a messy NY example where it's obvious many folks are not earning a living wage and where only in the last few years have NYC schools been mandated to provide equity and adequacy in their funding.

Obviously the educational challenge is much greater in areas of poverty and these days English as Second Language so it would seem rational that more, rather than less, might be spent in the areas that are failing and providing more than their fair share of prison inmates a decade later; I'm assuming that the extremely low literacy rates of prison inmates indicates a strong correlation with poor education.

My conclusion, given a choice of deploying scarce resources and being unable to do anything about stagnant wages and those of median wages or below no longer participating in our productivity gains, I'd not try to pay kids to "study longer" or to do better on the latest "standardized test" but would put the resources into more school personnel some of whom might reach out and discover the reasons kids are having trouble. Let's hope that in this richest nation if they do turn up a family in distress that there would be some means of giving temporary assistance. Something akin to community?

Still, the reward experiment does not seem a bad idea. I remember our drafting teacher in 7th grade marking our drawings with a dollar figure that was a combination of the difficulty of the drawing and the craftsmanship of the execution. The method seemed to convey, better than a letter grade, that is was possible to earn a living from something as easy (by comparison to most of our parents blue collar jobs) and enjoyable as drafting.

But using the rewards as bribes for laggards or in place of welfare for the family does not strike me as the way to go about it. Would it be a token amount? Like getting a star? or would it be enough the a grade school kid would bear a loss of income burden on top of all else if he missed too much school? I was asthmatic and missed a lot of school and slept through a lot more of it after a shot of adrenalin, the treatment of the day kept me up the rest of the night, and I'm sure my problems were minor compared to many growing up in poverty or in dysfunctional homes or where other family members have health problems.

Despite the problems we are having I remain convinced that if we put adequate resources in the schools in terms of well-trained, dedicated teachers, and enough counselors and mentors to help those who need some assistance that most kids want to learn and we'll, again, do OK.

"Vouchers and competition". I don't see this approach working at all. Again, how to measure "good?" In Anchorage the "worst performing" school is the one that has the highest rate of turnover; nearly 100% in a year. Even the current "competition" of passing NCLB "standardized tests" seems to have as much harm and wasted time as "good". In the UK they've long used benchmark tests but the results are designed to spot poor school management (and send out a SWAT team to fix the problem) than as the stressful "sudden death" it is for marginal students here. For the better students who passed their graduation exam as early as 10th grade, the effect seemed for some to inspire an "I've got it made" attitude.)

Jack

Whew! Our profs have really opened a can of worms this week!

I guess, both expect us to embark from a point where it's a forgone conclusion that wages for the working poor will not amount to a living wage and that it's a good idea for taxpayers to subsidize them by one means or another despite the obvious risks of creeping socialism and distortion of the market. (Do we think Walmart COULD run so many local enterprises out of business were they NOT enjoying a billion buck subsidy to their payroll costs?)

Then, building on such a flimsy foundation? Posner favors being philosophically strict and concerned that there might be waste or at least slippage due to the difficulty of determining who or what to reward. I agree with him; those are all very real problems with paying for performance.

Posner also touches on the fact of some schools being much worse than others. But the real meat of the subject of "some" schools being routinely and often prejudicially, short-funded seems taboo in most discussions of education, despite the costly litigation that has been going on since just after Brown V Board mandated desegregation in 1954. In the last few years with all legal dodges exhausted, NY, TX, MO and a number of other states are operating under court mandates to end their long practice of selective funding. Interesting that so many state mangers and attorney generals would fight for their "right" to discriminate in school funding for many years and with millions of dollars.

(Those who might like to peek at the progress their state is making can get a quick briefing here: click on the state by state)

http://www.schoolfunding.info/litigation/litigation.php3

So........ instead of engaging in a philosophically pure realm we're instead waddling around in a messy NY example where it's obvious many folks are not earning a living wage and where only in the last few years have NYC schools been mandated to provide equity and adequacy in their funding.

Obviously the educational challenge is much greater in areas of poverty and these days English as Second Language so it would seem rational that more, rather than less, might be spent in the areas that are failing and providing more than their fair share of prison inmates a decade later; I'm assuming that the extremely low literacy rates of prison inmates indicates a strong correlation with poor education.

My conclusion, given a choice of deploying scarce resources and being unable to do anything about stagnant wages and those of median wages or below no longer participating in our productivity gains, I'd not try to pay kids to "study longer" or to do better on the latest "standardized test" but would put the resources into more school personnel some of whom might reach out and discover the reasons kids are having trouble. Let's hope that in this richest nation if they do turn up a family in distress that there would be some means of giving temporary assistance. Something akin to community?

Still, the reward experiment does not seem a bad idea. I remember our drafting teacher in 7th grade marking our drawings with a dollar figure that was a combination of the difficulty of the drawing and the craftsmanship of the execution. The method seemed to convey, better than a letter grade, that is was possible to earn a living from something as easy (by comparison to most of our parents blue collar jobs) and enjoyable as drafting.

But using the rewards as bribes for laggards or in place of welfare for the family does not strike me as the way to go about it. Would it be a token amount? Like getting a star? or would it be enough the a grade school kid would bear a loss of income burden on top of all else if he missed too much school? I was asthmatic and missed a lot of school and slept through a lot more of it after a shot of adrenalin, the treatment of the day kept me up the rest of the night, and I'm sure my problems were minor compared to many growing up in poverty or in dysfunctional homes or where other family members have health problems.

Despite the problems we are having I remain convinced that if we put adequate resources in the schools in terms of well-trained, dedicated teachers, and enough counselors and mentors to help those who need some assistance that most kids want to learn and we'll, again, do OK.

"Vouchers and competition". I don't see this approach working at all. Again, how to measure "good?" In Anchorage the "worst performing" school is the one that has the highest rate of turnover; nearly 100% in a year. Even the current "competition" of passing NCLB "standardized tests" seems to have as much harm and wasted time as "good". In the UK they've long used benchmark tests but the results are designed to spot poor school management (and send out a SWAT team to fix the problem) than as the stressful "sudden death" it is for marginal students here. For the better students who passed their graduation exam as early as 10th grade, the effect seemed for some to inspire an "I've got it made" attitude.)

a


Back in the 1920s and 1930s, people sent kids to work for short-term liquidity needs (generate income to cover fixed costs). Today might be somewhat different, but I'd guess there are a lot of parents out there that want or need their kids to generate cash (pay the mortgage indirectly or subsidize the lifestyle of parents).


"Public school is both free and compulsory, and schooling adds considerably to a child's lifetime income prospects, so we must ask why some parents do not compel their children to attend school regularly. One reason might be that some of them do not value their children's welfare. Another that they cannot control their children. And a third that they do not think their children benefit significantly from regular attendance. I would guess that the second and third reasons are more common than the first."

Jim

Money and educational quality? Comon! Parochial schools do a better job with much less per student as do home schoolers. It is more a matter of parental motivation and family resources and culture. Motivated poor kids will do OK. Rich non-motivated kids won't. And no one is going to educate a class full of miscreants. We need to convince the poor groups that not just that education is in their economic and cultural interest but that a life of the intellect has intrinsic value in any society. I don't see how the NY experiment can hurt too much particularly privately funded. My only suggestion would be that the kids be required to work for their benefactors an afternoon or two per week to learn some practcal skills and to express some degree of appreciation, or would the liberals consider that too harsh.

James

When I was in college so many years ago (1975-1979), there was an emerging trend in the schools of education at many universities and colleges. I attended Indiana University and was an English Literature major rather than an Education major. As it turned out, however, I had many friends who were excited and dedicated students in the Education Department. The trend was toward "alternative education." This rather unimaginative tag referred to attempts to create and implement innovative teaching techniques that would stimulate youngsters and--so the dream went--make them enthusiastic about going to school. The trend never caught on in mainstream public schools (or at least not in Texas or Indiana--the two states in which I have lived and can speak from personal experience). Instead, what little alternative education we have available is confined to small private schools established specifically for that purpose. To a lesser extent, such programs can be found in some private schools and parochial schools. In northern Indiana, we have a few (VERY few) private schools established by educators who were disillusioned with the direction of public schools. They were disillusioned with such things as poor attendance, poor performance, declining attention spans, a ridiculous overdependence on standardized testing, and many other factors. So, off they went to start their own schools, often buying rural property to build a schoolhouse or purchasing a farm to use as a campus. These innovators are attempting exactly what I think Jack was discussing in his post. That is, in order to get children to come to school and do well, make the school and the learning process interesting to them for God's sake. Why is this simple concept so difficult to understand and implement? Why are we discussing ways to use money, whether it is private or public, to pay students and/or their parents to ensure their attendance at schools they don't want to attend in the first place or which, many times, are failing to provide them with nonmonetary incentives to learn? Financial incentive programs like the New York experiement could possibly rescue a handful of youngsters per school district by encouraging some to stay in school and concentrate on their performance instead of giving up for whatever reason (lack of interest, lack of parental encouragement, family dysfunction, or whatever). But these programs are far too shortsighted to address the core issue. Spending money on talented, progressive, innovative teachers and the resources they need to implement creative programs would do so much more. Some may argue that my idealistic liberal leaning is beginning to show (glare??). But so what? I agree with Jack. We should be addressing education issues on a much grander conceptual scale. The incentive programs about which Becker and Posner write this week may very well be effective bandages in some areas. But what we need is debate and discussion about how best to suture the wound once and for all.

Saint Darwin Assissi's cat

Happy Memorial Day Professors Becker and Posner...I like the idea of this program more in Mexico than in the United States simply because it seems the Mexican poor have more farm labor jobs than NYC inner city fast food workers or Las Vegas NV casino workers.

Paying anyone to have sparkle, get up and go, inner drive, and integrity is, well, interesting. Judge Posner has commented that he does not enjoy going to parties simply b/c he does not find anything of interest to occupy his mind ... no one is saying or doing anything worthwhile for his time...if we paid him to go to parties would he go and find some way to justify his use of time doing something he finds pointless b/c he is being paid?

What if, after the stock market crash of 1929, one of the Rockefellers came about and said "hark, do not jump, I will give you all $100 to go about rebuilding your nests."

While working on the Hillary Clinton Campaign I had the privilege of meeting a Dr. Alice Kandell, philanthropist, among many other talents, mentioned in President Clinton's book "Giving" (Chapter 6)... I shared with her my frustration with the Clark County School District ... the free breakfast and lunch program often resulted in the meals simply being tossed. She replied that maybe it takes 5,000 lunches and breakfasts being thrown away to reach the one student who does not toss what is given but honors and respects the meal(s). Zen and Buddhist like but there is some merit. Maybe this thought is a cousin to the thought is intelligence an artifact of evolution? (Heard from Professor Dennis Daley, University of Oklahoma).

Thinking about this same school, although each of us received a salary and had spent a lot of time earning a degree and a state license in order to afix the title teacher to our ego, we didn't all honor our school or our person in similar ways or our teaching practice. The custodian did not honor the property by keeping it spotless --- instead he was prodded and looked after to get his job done. We could conceivably give this job to someone else and they would see themselves as part of the mission of public education or as scientist Andrew Schweitzer said, "only those who seek and find a way to serve will be truly happy" ...maybe even seeing themself as part of the mission of the world.

Students who come from environments where the use of alcohol, drugs, overeating, disrespect for "God" and disrepect for "country", lack of knowledge of how to spend leisure time or study time or how to make a dollar stretch, are more disadvantaged than a person who say grows up with Judge and Mrs. Posner. I seriously doubt if Judge Posner ever said to Eric, "sure son, sit down and smoke a joint with me, we'll have a few martinis with cigarettes, maybe we'll read some "Playboys" together or catch a version of VOX (see Judge Posner's comments about Ken Star falling out of chair if he ever saw a copy in "Investigation Impeachment and Trial of President Clinton)and we'll definitely write all over your schoolbooks. You can watch as much television as you like while you stuff yourself with twinkees. As for your high school graudation, no I could not possibly attend, I have to play poker with the boys. Just go read this book --- I have no time, knowledge or interest in helping you to understand or interpret what you are reading." And then Mrs. Posner appears and slaps Eric for, what, spilling something when he is four or five.

I like the idea of vouchers because alot of public schools are skating by on air out of FEAR. I also like the idea of EVERYONE doing an hour of community service every day. Every time I get bummed out or start to feel sorry for myself I go outside and pick up trash. I don't have to wait for a Sierra Club event to drive hundreds of miles to make the Earth happier. I can do it right here in my own challenged little neighborhood.

I used paragraphs, Jack, for you...noting your lengthy, interesting comment.

Tucker

You manage to identify one fundamental issue: the issue of how to test for students likely to be helped by the program. It is important to note that NYC is using an income test for the program, which is obviously a very imperfect analog for identifying kids who would be helped by the program. Education policy experts have a consensus on the best identifier for poor students- the education level of their parents, especially their mothers. This would be a more politically problematic test, but there are better tests. The test I would like for the program would be a neighborhood test so that the program can target areas where alternate illegal activities are the alternative (i.e. maximize the many positive spillovers from the program). It also avoids the current prospective problem of some kids from similar socio-economic backgrounds sitting next to each other with one receiving compensation and the other not.

You also misidentify the cause of poor schools. The real cause of poor schools is really the same as for why kids don't attend, families who are politically uninvolved and/or disenfranchised. Families that care enough to get involved get better results from their education system than those that don't, and this requires a larger personal sacrifice for parents than forcing their kids to go to school. In this case a monetary attachment to increasing involvement has clear benefits for the schools, rather than costs.

As far as the competition goes, NYC actually has more competition in the education sector than any other place that I know of with a wealth of charter schools that are available for those families that want to put that effort in (I understand that it does require a lot of effort), in addition to the obvious private schools.

In addition it sounds like you are saying that this program would be less effective than vouchers in getting the 30% of NYC students absent for more than a month into schools. And you seem to be suggesting that that 30% of students have mental or psychological disabilities or extreme family problems, which quite frankly sounds racist.

If you seriously want to improve schools don't start by alienating them by threatening their very existence. Vouchers is the equivalent of a lockout in labor negotiations. You can go there at some point, but don't start there. At least negotiate in good faith first, perhaps by seriously engaging in questions of measuring performance and exchanging higher wages for actual hiring and firing ability.

Gulzar

These cash transfer programs can be more effective in promoting education in socio-economic contexts like in many Indian states, without stoking off incentive distortions. In many parts of the country, especially among specific communities, girl children drop out from schools very early. Further, during the harvest season, the parents have an incentive to take their children out of school so as to work in the fields. It is also true that many of these practices and trends cover the major portion of children in such areas that it may not be worth the transaction costs to target and exclude the small minority who attend school.

In such circumstances, it is important that the incentives be structured appropriately to meet the objectives. There are many different ways in which the cash transfers can be structured. The amount of cash transferred can increase with every class, and can culminate as a scholarship to attend professional courses. The cash transfer can be graded into a few categories, so as to incentivize children to perform well. Therefore while the best performers get the maximum cash transefr, the worst get the least. It may also be worth increasing the cash incentives for the worst performers in each class, so as to incentivize them to perform better in the next higher class. Further, in many backward areas of certain states, the enrollment rates are so low that merely keeping children at school is itself a challenge.

The transaction costs associated with such programs can be minimized by involving the women Self Help Groups (SHGs). Apart from the child attending school and performing well, such cash transfer can also be made conditional to the mother being a member of an active SHG. The cash transfer can then be made to the bank account of the SHG. This transfer can be made quarterly, based on the attendance and test results of the child. In order to avoid incentive distortions like grade inflation, there should be relative grading of the performance of children.

Such policies will have to be formulated by carefully analyzing the statistics available and tailoring programs to suit the specific local requirements. For example, the cash transfer can kick in at those classes where girl children normally drop out or for those months when children drop out for harvest. But given the different social context, unlike the New York program, all the cash transfers should be made to the parents.

Brian Davis

I'm a product of Texas public schools and higher ed. I'm extremely lucky to have attended comparatively strong ones (UT Law during Page Keeton's deanship). The country schools my Dad (WW II Vet, never completed college) attended in the '20's-'30's were even better. Nobody had to pay us to show up for class. I'm here to tell you that the VOUCHER, or some kind of results-driven privatization, is long overdue, at least in my State. The public schools industry-labor cartel would be bankrupt if it were an airline. Yeah, as a society we effectively pay certain kids to get through school - the star athletes, musicians, budding starlets, occasionally a future Becker or Posner or Easterbrook. But very occasionally. Look at the rest of the kids at public school - hanging out with their friends, their cell phones, their i-Pods, their video games, or much worse. Yeah, right, "Grand Theft Auto IV" is just what the doctor ordered for tomorrow's America. And the taxpayer foots the bill. If we want smart citizens besides the aesthetically and entertainingly-gifted ones, or even if we want some skilled tradespeople to be here when our "stuff" breaks - in truth we need both, the private schools are superior. That's why my kids went to private high schools. And the miracle is that private schools are accustomed to cost-effective management. With vouchers we'd see more bang for the taxpayer's buck and better outcomes for success in the adult workplace. Take an average kid, push him/her hard, take away the mischief time. You'll produce a leader, whether as a thinker or a doer. Private schools get it done. The public schools have failed.

Mark

Here in the UK, the state IS paying students to go to school.


The UK school leaving age is 16, but it is common for students to study an additional 2 years voluntarily. Usual, that is for middle-class children, who need the extra years to qualify for university.


Unemployment among 16-18s has risen dramatically, as apprentiships have dissapeared and low paid jobs are being done by adults and immigrants. Since 16-18 year olds in school don't count as unemployed, the government has decided to increase the number staying on at school, which will reduce the headline unemployment figures.


The method chosen is to pay £30 ($60) per week to students from low income families, with bonuses paid for good attendance. This scheme is called Education Maintenence Allowance (EMA). My sons have been at school post-16, but we are not a low income family, so they get nothing. While I am not low-income, I am not high-income and cannot afford to give them £30 each per week. They are studying because they know their future earning potential depends on it.

The scheme has been successful in that a lot more students stay on at school, leading to overcrowding. Unfortunately the EMA students tend not to make much use of the opportunity and do not achieve academiclly, tending to disrupt the learning of non-EMA students. They are paid for attendance only, so attend is all they do; at the minimumu levels needed to trigger payment. From what I can tell, the majority of the money made is spent on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. The students, being under 18, are maintained by their families, who still receive benefits or tax credits to cover normal living expenses.


The EMA scheme has had the following out comes:

1) Schools are now bursting at the seams

2) with students who are not there to learn

3) who are disrupting the education of those who value it for its own sake

4) The money provided to feckless children is spent badly

5) some money goes to students who are genuinely interested in education who may not have studied without this money - but how many, compared to the numbers just taking a hand-out?


Not a good advert for paying kids to attend school. Better to find a way to make them value education itself.

Jack

Jim "Money and educational quality? Comon! Parochial schools do a better job with much less per student as do home schoolers. "

........... Come ON!!! Parochial schools have the luxury of cherry picking their students and leaving special ed, ESL problems and worse to the public schools. "Home schooling?" I know some families whose kids are gifted and home schooling allows them to advance very rapidly and others that seem to me to be due to the overly protective or religious beliefs of the parents, but! I've not seen any documented results for home schooling in general.

BTW There is a positive correlation between the states that spend more per student achieving higher results, though causality might be harder to establish as they also tend to be further north.

Brian: I'm glad you did OK with being educated in Texas, where I know good schools do exist in the "nice" areas, but given that the top half of those HS grads remaining after a 40% drop out rate (9th - 12th) score 45th worst in the nation on SAT scores, I'd say your experience is not typical. I'm hoping that the court ordered equity and adequacy of funding for ALL of Texas' kids will bring up the averages before the Carolinas or GA or MS whiz on by.

Texans, in positions of power, fought hard and funded many a legal challenge, over many years to maintain their "right" to prejudiciously short the funding of schools in "those" areas, blame the kids for not doing well, and then deny them a few affirmative action points at the doors of colleges. That game has finally been ended by the courts.

In proposing a voucher, were you thinking of a fully funded voucher that would pay the actual costs of private school or as seems typical with most plans an underfunded vouchette which would require an additional premium to match the tuition of the good private schools and simply be another round of segregating the blacks, new immigrants and the kids of others of low income who'd not be able to come up with the premium, again?

Also, though I'm not generally a fan of federal intervention into local education, given that our average results are so poor as to be a national security concern, I wonder if the Feds should expand their "Title" programs, or directly intervene more in the states or regions where schools are lagging and results are not moving up?

Jim

Jack:

One thing for sure. Pervasive lack of or poor education will not sustain a free society. It seems to me that those of us who have been lucky enough to have gotten a decent education best do whatever it takes to provide the opportunity to others, especially those with fewer resources.

Richard Mason

It seems peculiar to me that Judge Posner is fond of vouchers (cash incentives for schools related to attendance and/or performance) but not fond of cash incentives for students related to attendance and/or performance.

For purposes of this observation, I don't have to take a stand on whether I think cash incentives are a good idea or not. But almost every argument Judge Posner raises against payments to students could easily be made into a similar argument against vouchers. (I think the sole exception is the argument that payments to students would undermine parents by making children too financially independent.)

One could imagine a sort of market forming in academic performance, e.g., if schools are paid for each student who attends and/or performs, then schools might bribe students to attend or perform with a certain amount of cash. Conversely if students are paid to perform well on tests, it is in their interest to hire tutors who can improve their test performance. Thus, it actually might not matter to whom the government check is written: to the school, to the parents, or to the child.

Steve

One aspect which was not addressed would be the bitterness from those whom aren’t eligible for the program.

My Puerto Rican wife received scholarships for college (due to her race) which I was not eligible to receive. Her family earned significantly more money than mine, but I was essentially punished (by not receiving the benefit of the scholarship) because my race was too successful.

My wife and I work very hard to have our standard of living, and part of our standard of living is a house. We chose a house which costs significantly less than we could have bought, so that we would not be over extending ourselves financially. Now, there is talk about helping out those home owners who bought more than they could afford. So, we are essentially being punished (by not receiving the benefit of the housing assistance) because we were too successful managing our budget and our money.

When I have children in school, I am assuming they will not benefit from this new program. Therefore, my children will have to earn their money from mom and dad, and probably receive less than their peers. My children will be essentially punished (by not receiving money for attending school) because they were too successful as students.

I understand the larger impact of all of these programs, but that does not quell my frustration. If we are going to punish hardworking people, so that we can have societal parity, then we have to be prepared for the bitterness which will ensue.

jon

I view the problem as a double-edged sword with deeper implications. The future quantitative results of the New York City experiment will be interesting (literacy rates, graduation rates, etc). Certainly, students/families will benefit from the "conditional cash transfers." However, there will be individuals that misuse the funds. I believe the question to ask is whether or not the program will be successful enough to provide a back-bone for a future policy?



Recently, the U.S. educational system has been on a downward slide. Public institutions receive little to no funding for facilities and instructors that provide the workshops of the past. What about the "blue-collar" jobs? These skill sets are needed, yet many students never have the opportunity to attend workshop classes. As a result, a gifted carpenter may find himself a miserable banker. There has been a push for formal classroom education and a disinterest in the studies. It seems that U.S. culture has de-emphasized the importance of these hands-on positions, and students find themselves misplaced in academia. This push for "formal" education has led to a devaluation of both blue-collar jobs and university education (ie. unaccredited online degree programs). Without educational reform, public funding for a cash incentive program seems wasteful.

Also, we must consider the motivational factors that push one to become educated. Intrinsic factors are ever present. Can a young person from poverty push themself to exceed? Certainly. Though uncommon, there are cases where individuals rise from poverty to produce exceptional results. However, we can not forget the extrinsic forces (lack of supervision, broken homes, cultural expectations, etc.) that deeply impact a person during maturation.

Alas, do we punish the underprivileged child for lack of motivational factors and/or a failing educational system? Of course not, but in a time of recession, does this reward program contain any validity on a national economic scale? It seems rash to press for any type of publicly funded cash program. Without solid studies, it is difficult to give a viable economic analysis. Only time will tell.

Brian Davis

Since the subject of standardized tests has come up, let's reflect on the fact that, in high schools especially, inordinate instructional time is consumed (I'll say wasted) "teaching to the test." We've let these tests become infallible measures of both student academic skills and teacher career advancement. Call it Education, Inc. The tests have their place as measuring tools. But education is about learning how to think, learning how to apply principles to reason through problems that unfold into abstraction that defies "right" and "wrong" answers. It's as true of math and science as of the softer or more subjective-tolerant disciplines. It's about preparing one's self to become his/her own educator throughout a lifetime. Frankly, I don't have a problem with the idea of the old-time teacher who picks on a few kids at random, right off the bat, to humiliate in their ignorance. Even the ones who have miserable home and family lives will eventually come to appreciate the effort being directed toward them.

Jack had asked a question about the cost of a voucher or privatized system. I have not personally seen any data more informative than anecdotal quick-look information about scattered communities that have tried it. There's a serious risk of error in trying to make apples to apples comparisons. Let's suppose, instead, we start with publicly-financed physical plant and infrastructure (e.g., transportation) already in place. In my State, I'm told, we currently spend on the order of $6,500 to $7,000 per year, statewide mean, to educate a child in public school. Preferred teacher-student ratio runs in the low 20's to 30's range, depending on grade level. You'd want to optimize the younger, grade-school level population because they're cheaper to educate than high school kids. But we do that anyway via the public system. Fund a quality private school with the same stream of per-pupil dollars already being spent, I believe the money would be attractive enough to open a campus where the public school was situated.

BK

One aspect which was not addressed would be the bitterness from those whom aren’t eligible for the program.

so a heckler's veto?

Jack

Brian....... A quick back of the envelope look at $7,000 times 20 students for $140,000 looks like it SHOULD cover the cost of a class room, even though it's not enough to fund a single practitioner law office. But, often left out are the costs of buses, a principal, librarian, perhaps a school nurse, custodian, and someone to deal with NCLB and other federally mandated paper work.

While a rural school might be build on cheap land for a couple hundred bucks a square foot, costs in a developed area could easily double that figure.

Let's guess that 1,000 ft per classroom would cover the shared spaces for cafeteria and a gym, so $300,000? Perhaps $30k per year in carry costs plus maintenance of buildings, grounds, buses and a bit for science, computer lab, reference and library books, and sports equipment and consumables? Quite a bit more for HS. It kinda adds up eh?

The real concern about vouchers IS that of resegregation (already a troubling trend today). Small matter for the truly middle class to take the $6,000 vouchette and add $5,000 to enter a fairly tony private school, while those with zip remain in whatever the $6k will buy. Bonding to better fund "those" schools would be a tough sell.

Anonymous

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