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.

Who Decides Which Private School Should Get Public Tax Money?

A recent post under Comments raised an excellent point.

Who should decide which private organizations should get public tax dollars?

Read this entire article carefully and you will see an extreme example of a private K-12 school on American soil with an anti-American curriculum and an anti-American agenda. The author is a respected writer in conservative circles.

Why do we bring this extreme example up? Blurring the lines between public and private organizations has complications. There is no evidence that this situation involved public tax dollars. But, blundering into this naively, blinded by the idea that the market-oriented business approach is the best strategy for everything is pretty short sighted in my opinion. Assuming that every private school getting a tax voucher is going to look like the good private schools we see now seems a little myopic. Who will oversee this when a renegade private school uses public tax dollars in such extreme examples? We can't even screen passengers appropriately at the airport without being afraid of the ACLU! Who is going to make sure that public tax dollars aren't used to our own downfall by these type of private schools? You think there are a lot of private schools now? Wait till "the public money follows the child" right into the private pockets of every group with their own agenda.

I for one, advocate for public school choice. I think educators should welcome this with open arms. It is true that when consumers make their own choices they will take more ownership in it and support it to a higher degree. I won't argue that point. Let them choose their public schools. But the whole private/public thing bothers me.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Americans Not Ready to Give Up on Public Schools

This was copied from the Gallup Poll. It was kind of interesting. Seems to indicate that Americans prefer continuing the effort to improve public schools instead of giving up on them.

Starting in 2000, the poll began to ask the public how it expected improvement in schooling to come about. The choices offered were reforming the existing system or finding an alternative system. The public has consistently opted for improving the existing system.


Scroll down to Table 5 I think it is.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Chapter 4: The Flubsome Institute Chronicles

New Readers: Please read Chapters 1-3 before reading Chapter 4. Satire continues.....

Our super bloggers continue their difficult and tedious task of deciphering page four of the Flubsome documents. These documents describe the top secret plan for bringing about the demise of public education.

Page Four: The Plan for the Demise of Public Education...continued.

Strategy Number ____.

Run Schools Like Businesses:

Here at the Flubsome institute we have an admitted bias. It sounds like this "Private business...good, Public education...bad. " It doesn't matter what the facts are, we all know that businesses are better than schools so we will apply our business strategies to the public school enterprise. Here is the Flubsome methodology.

1. We first have to choose which business model is best to force upon the public. Our choices are many.
a. Enron?
b. WorldCom?
c. Conseco?
d. Tyco?
e. Ipalco?
f. What the heck..why not Martha Stewart even. A little insider trading never hurt anyone.

2. In order to run schools like businesses we will need to determine what level of bankruptcy and what type of bankruptcy model to force them into. We all know that a significant number of businesses go bankrupt fairly quickly. And, as businesses we have many choices as to how to fail. There are numerous types of banckrupcy filings available to us. But, and this is a BIG but, we don't want the public to know that we don't know WHY we fail in business.

Note this quote about the research on failing businesses: (Click here for actual article.)

While continuing research has been ongoing for almost thirty years, it is interesting to note that no unified well-specified theory of how and why corporations fail has yet been developed.

So, us Flubsome folks don't want the public to sense the irony here. We don't know why WE fail in business, but we sure know how to fix the public schools. Yessirree. Just run them like a business.

3. Send all failing students to third world countries. This is what we do to American jobs in order to save money. That's it! We will send all failing students to India and our bottom line performance can increase dramatically just like it does to American businesses.

Coming soon...the inside story on Conseco (not Jose although there may be some interesting correlations there) and how to get superintendents excited about the idea of running schools like a business.

(Click here for a hint on what failed bankrupt CEO's leave with.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Chapter 3: The Flubsome Institute Chronicles

This is chapter 3 of the Flubsome Institute Chronicles. For new readers, this is called satire. We poke fun at certain political figures. But of course, we do so with the utmost of respect and certainly no ill intent, despite the obvious intentions of others to destroy public education.

Quick Review: Our super bloggers have discovered a secret document taken from the musty archives of the Flubsome Institute by a mole we can only describe as, "The Leprechaun." (Don't laugh now...Deep Throat was taken.) The Flubsome Institute closely resembles the Hudson Institute, a political stinktank where former administration officials were very, very gainfully employed. Our super bloggers have been using their top secret decoder rings taken from their Lucky Charms cereal boxes and have been deciphering the secret documents. Chapters 1 and 2 (reviewed in previous postings) outline the Flubsome's secret strategies that mysteriously resemble the legislative session unfolding before our very sorry eyes.

Page 3

Strategies for the Demise of Education (continued)

Baffle the public with misinformation, misdirection and anonymous quotes.

Especially from members of the governor's office. (Please note that we did not use the word "lie." We know what happens if you say lie - you have to apologize and tell the man you're sorry.) Make sure these quotes are off the record so the governor and his assistants' names are never attached to them.

After carefully deciphering the strange hieroglyphics outlining these secret plans for bringing down public education, our super bloggers stumbled across this quote from the Indy Star.

Not everyone feels sorry for schools.
Critics say administrators should have used the cushy 8 percent budget increases of the 1980s to sock away money for leaner times, instead of expecting similar handouts year after year.
Schools also have accumulated too many expenses that have nothing to do with children, state officials suggest. A state report last fall showed education spending in Indiana has ballooned by 69 percent in a decade, but much of the money was shifted away from educating children.

Note the use of the words "critics", and "state officials." Don't tell us the reporters don't know who said this. "State Officials" don't want their names used because then these statements will be exposed as "l....s." We didn't say the word!!

Eight percent (8%) increases? I don't know how many got 8% raises in the 80's but our districts never saw it. But if so that is clearly an issue of inequity in funding. An issue the contributors to this blog have complained about for some time.

Note the use of the word"handouts." That's right, the school formula provides "handouts" to those welfare grubbing public school people. Wouldn't you like to know which administration official has let his feelings be known with such clarity? Of course their names aren't going to be attached to it.

Note the use of the word "sock" money away. No school was even legally permitted to "sock" money away during the 80's even if they could have. When schools were permitted to create "Rainy Day Funds" to "sock"money away, few schools were able to do so due to dramatically increasing property and casualty insurances, health insurances and utilities increases.

But hey, us Flubsome Institute types are talking off the record here to reporters. The public won't know how school finance works. So who will know the difference? Only the superintendents and no one wants to listen to them anyway. They are expected to whine when budgets are cut. No one will know the difference.

Note the use of "ballooned 69 percent" but the money was "shifted away from educating children." No money was ever shifted anywhere. Shifting money is only legal for the legislature. When they raid all the funds there are until they can't stay solvent, they will shift their responsibility to the local districts because they are far more dependable than state officials. (FICA 1993, TRF 1995) The local tax payers never default on their obligations, and they never shift money from fund to fund. But hey, us Flubsome folks can say they do and who will know the difference.

Our decoders are running low again.

Stay tuned. If more documents are discovered in the musty archives you will hear it here first.

(Insert really scary music here..........fade to black)