Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Poster Children

A number of comments have been posted referencing the cost per pupil for educating students. IPS (Indianapolis Public Schools) and Carmel have been used several times in the examples. Here is our theory on how these two districts were unfortunately thrust into the limelight as the "poster children" for school funding debates. Not to their choosing.

Many legislators, and commenters on this forum, have pointed at IPS as an example of high costs per pupil with declining enrollment and schools around Indy like Carmel, with low costs per pupil and growing enrollment.

We used Carmel in our examples because it is an easily identifiable school system in the Indy suburbs that most people think of as an upscale neighborhood with good schools. Unfortunately the word "Carmel" fit in with the whole satire piece and now the word "Carmelized" can become educationalese. One comment pointed out that this is not a good example because Carmel is near the bottom in per pupil spending so how is that proverbial donut getting "iced?"

This still brings out our main point. Carmel's funding woes are mostly due to growing enrollment over the years. Their state ranking in funding per child continues to drop because the number of students they get keeps growing. There are many growing suburban schools in this plight. However, there are many schools that have been in the lower rankings for 30 years.

Our point is that when these funding decisions are all made at the state legislative level the inequity only becomes a concern when the legislators that have the power in The General Assembly notice THEIR constituents dropping down the list.

The growing schools in the Indy donut that have problems are the districts with legislative clout. Now that Marion, Handcock, Hendricks and other counties have school districts dropping lower down the state rankings in funding, NOW it becomes an issue. NOW suddenly, the other schools that have been there for 30 years get a chance to at least enter the debate. (The crumbs that fall from the Master's table... :-)

(Note: We noticed that on the Governor's first RV tour stop he got questioned by the suburban soccer mom wanting to know what her growing enrollment school in the suburb was going to do about the lack of state aid.)

Unfortunately, trying to address the inequity problem while cutting overall educational funding doesn't provide a solution to narrowing the gap. Schools that are at the bottom of the list already but aren't growing are really going to get hammered. They will move further yet down the list so that their funding can be sent back to Marion county and elsewhere. Unfortunately for them they have never had the political clout in Indy to be heard. Out of sight - out of mind.

(Until recently there was no help, no advocates for us. But now that Mitch is on the road in RV One - help is on the way! Reminds me of Rush Limbaugh's hilarious parody skit on John Kerry's statement, "Help is on the way!" .... sung to the tune of Mighty Mouse. Everyone hold up your right hand, clinch your fingers into a loose fist, swing across your body in uppercut fashion while singing loudly in your best Mighty Mouse voice, All together now.... "Help is on the way!!" :-) Miiiigghhttty Mouusssee! Help is on the way!...."

On the other hand, Mitch may wish he hadn't started this whole travel the countryside thing. He may find the Gallup polls were right after all. Every PTO mom and soccer mom in the community may be mad when their child's class size rises and their programs are eliminated. Of course the staffers will figure this out pretty quickly and work harder at screening the audiences if it happens too often. But he says he likes the hard questions so we'll see if he has any answers.

20 Comments:

At Sunday, February 27, 2005, Blogger EdWonk said...

While abundant funding always helps to achieve academic success, it is no gurantee. Look at Washington, DC.

On the other hand, if we are to have meaningful educational reform, full funding is vital.

 
At Sunday, February 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would guess that you don't need anything as complicated as a real answer when you can get away with spouting nonsensical rejoinders such as "violently in agreement."

 
At Monday, February 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And from which politician would you expect anything different?

 
At Monday, February 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definition:

“FULLY FUND” -- an eternally moving target (always up) which cannot be reached.

 
At Monday, February 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your definition sounds like the "cost-of-living" huh? The costs for those dang products and services just keep going up.

Of course the costs to do business should keep going up for everyone but those monolithic and monopolistic public schools.

They shouldn't be FULLY FUNDED.

 
At Monday, February 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Businesses are FULLY FUNDED by customers who purchase products and services of their own free will and have a choice of suppliers.

From your comments, it is clear you've never had to personally try to pass on higher costs to your customers.

If companies pass "cost-of-living" increases on to customers with impunity they are quickly driven out of business by providers who will deliver the same value at a lower cost -- in a free economy they call that competition. The other providers find efficiencies, use better systems or adopt advanced technologies to cut costs -- because they have to be competitive.

Unless one can afford private school or afford moving, there is no option in "purchasing" (with taxes) a child's education. Without an alternative, costs can be passed on with relative impunity -- until the taxpayers finally choke.

While Indiana taxpayers are gagging, I think they'll keep paying up -- they have no choice.

BTW - from which monopolies are you forced to buy your car, TV, house, clothes, postal service, food, computer, phone service, airline tickets, etc? There are not too many monopolies left in America.

 
At Monday, February 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Governor Blade has already shown a willingness to carve some more out of the wallets of wealthy Hoosier taxpayers!

No one making more than $100,000 per year is going to march on the Statehouse. Soak the rich until they're dry!

 
At Wednesday, March 02, 2005, Blogger Indiana Public School Superintendent said...

Some good points made above, but the analogies may not all apply evenly.

Many of the above examples you use are from industries or their subsidiaries that receive government subsidized tax dollars. So they are not "FULLY FUNDED by paying customers who purchase good and services..."

In many cases they are partially funded by paying customers and subsidized by tax payers. It's ok in those industries but not in education? Doesn't matter whether it's agriculture, dairy industry, automotive industry, airline industry, railways, drug industry....etc. etc. try finding an industry where no one is on the government payroll.

I am not saying this is all good, I'm just saying businesses often line up at the trough and then pretend they pay their own freight through paying customers.

We are getting ready to run a story about an urban school district "being run with more business strategies" than most schools. They may be having some success. Guess what the first thing they did was? Ask for more money.

 
At Wednesday, March 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I should start with a question more fundamental than "how much should we spend per student"?

In your view, what percent of an individual's income should all levels of governement take in order to pay for government services -- 30%, 50%, more? (remember - the number can not exceed 100%)

I'd like to understand how big the pie is before debating whether schools should receive a bigger slice.

 
At Thursday, March 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't what amount of tax is right for a government to take from citizens, but today in the US the total amount taken is roughly 50 cents on every dollar earned.

It is not just income tax; there are a myriad of other taxes:

Building Permit Tax
Capital Gains Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Taxes (paid by consumers)
Court Fines (indirect taxes)
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel permit tax
Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
Liquor Tax
Local Income Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Real Estate Tax
Real Property Tax
Septic Permit Tax
Service Charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Road Toll Booth Taxes
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone federal excise tax
Telephone federal universal service fee tax
Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes
Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax
Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax
Telephone state and local tax
Telephone usage charge tax
Toll Bridge Taxes
Toll Tunnel Taxes
Trailer registration tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

 
At Friday, March 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that the one of the previous posters assumes a premise that only monopolistic enterprises raise their prices. That's one great thing about this blog, I learn something every time I visit. I didn't realize that oil companies were all monopolies, but they must be because gas prices keep going up. I didn't realize that health insurance companies were monopolies but they must be because I pay more for coverage every year. I didn't realize that pharmaceutical companies were monopolies, but they must be because the price of meds keeps increasing. Wow, we really do live in a monopolistic economy.
Additionally, it seems that the oil companies, the pharmaceutical companies, etc are not "fully funded" because their target is eternally moving up and apparently is never reached.

 
At Friday, March 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting how many barriers to school "choice" come back to parental choices. If parents make poor decisions that lead to low paying jobs, or choose not to do whatever they can to make enough money to provide for a private education, or choose to live in an area where the public school is poorly run, then perhaps their educational choices are limited. Excercising their choice may not be as simple as going across the street to a competitor. But neither is education a commodity.

If a good education is important to any parent, there are many opportunities to provide that for their children. Moving to a different location or even a different state is not an insurmountable barrier. Many of the most transient people in the United States are not people of means.

There are many towns and cities across the country where people can get decent jobs, healthcare, affordable housing and an education at a public school that provides an opportunity for every child to reach their potential. Does that require some effort? Maybe. But what is there of value that does not require some effort? I simply don't buy the proposition parents have no choice.

Additionally, how many parents who have the means and the opportunity to send their children to private school look at the difference between the education their children will receive both places and simply determine that there is not enough difference (or no difference at all) to justify the additional expense? In other words, just because parents send their children to public schools doesn't in and of itself mean that they don't have a choice. Many do have a choice and choose public schools over private ones.

One fact that seems to elude some posters on this site is that not all public schools are the same. Neither are all private schools. Painting them with a broad brush and either vilifying them or glorifying them may provide a basis to take potshots, but trading potshots is not a very effective substitute for meaningful discussion.

 
At Thursday, March 10, 2005, Anonymous Economics Instructor said...

Lesson 51 -- why do oil prices go up?

Well, there are several reasons:

1- it is a limited resource -- limited by actual supply and by producing countries that control the limited supply.

2- the industry is dominated by a few large corporations -- this is called an oligopoly. Oligopolies, like monopolies, are not in the best interest of the consumer. While they can't raise prices with impunity, they often signal pricing and move it up in coordination.

Until gas reaches a price high enough to make other forms of energy competitive, thereby reducing the oligopolies power, prices will rise as fast as the political environment will allow.

Next installment -- Lesson 52 - why do drug prices go up?

 
At Thursday, March 10, 2005, Anonymous Economics Instructor said...

Lesson 52 - why do drug prices go up?

Well, there are several reasons that the price of meds go up --

1- Patents -- when someone invents a new product (drug or device)they are allowed to protect their invention for a 20 year period with something called a Patent.

2- a patent holder is the only one who can produce that product. If the product treats a serious disease that afflicts millions, like heart disease, the patent holder will be able to charge a lot of money for it.

3- Now to get that drug to market the patent holder will have to spend roughly $600,000,000 over 10 years and there is no guarantee the FDA will approve it, so it is risky

Will the price of the drug always be high and will the patent holder always raise the price?

No, there are several competitive factors that keep prices in check -

1- competitive therapies -- other inventors may come up with alternative therapies and are willing to price lower to capture market share

2- patient lifestyle changes -- if patients actually pay for high priced medications themselves, it may cause people to adopt dietary, exercise or other changes to mitigate the need for the drug,

3- Generics - patent protection only lasts for 20 years from the time the patent is granted. In the market, this means the drug will go off patent typically within 6-8 years, at which point Generic drugs will be produced at a fraction of the cost.

So why do drug prices seem to always be going up, up, up?

Well, the price increases are not on the SAME drug EVERY year for decades. What happens is new drugs are constantly being invented and people want to buy them for better health, to live longer, to stay sexually active, etc.

Today people spend more on meds than they did 20 years ago because there are more meds available -- more diseases are successfully treated and people live longer, healthier lives.

How can we stop spending so much on medical care?

Well, if companies would stop inventing new drugs and new medical devices and if people would be satisfied will enduring illnesses or dying younger, overall drug costs would decline.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH INDIANA EDUCATION?

The monopoly that is public education raises prices EVERY year on the SAME service with declining RESULTS. This is why education cost increases are not like drug cost increases -- in education the public pays more and gets less, with no real competition, year after year.

 
At Thursday, March 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One fact that seems to elude some posters on this site is that not all public schools are the same."

ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. That's why vouchers and freedom of choice are so important.

It may surpise the poster who advocates moving to a better school district, that the 20% of the Indiana families who live in poverty can't "move to a different location or even a different state" it is in fact "an insurmountable barrier". Only a well-paid Republican teacher could make such a STATEMENT.

If a poor family would like to move to one of the "many towns and cities where people can get decent jobs, healthcare, affordable housing and an education at a public school that provides an opportunity for every child to reach their potential" where in Indiana would you suggest?

 
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