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SCHOOL CHOICE REPORT
- vouchers, school district size, centralized power, polls, unions and more -
- a section of the Grandfather Education Report -
by Michael Hodges (email)
author of The Grandfather Economic Report
GOAL: The best quality in the world, without any doubt !
Choice is NOT a 'rich-kid' gimmick
It's giving parents the sole power to choose schooling of their choice -
for their own kids
Index: 10 brief articles, with pictures -
Following 5 mini-picture reports highly recommended:
Return to Education Report - main page #1 - dramatic pictures of education quality and cost trends.
Grandfather International Education Report - comparison to foreign students.
Comments: teachers, parents, students - speak out about quality problem causes.
Bilingual Education Report - a flawed social-engineering practice holding back minority children
TO HOME PAGE of Grandfather Economic Reports, a series of reports concerning economic threats facing young families and their children, compared to prior generations - at: http://grandfather-economic-report.com/
POLLS SHOW VOUCHER SUPPORT FOR PRIVATE EDUCATION CHOICE ACCELERATING
DRAMATIC UP-SWING AMONG MINORITIES 1996-98
The percent who support vouchers for public, private or parochial schools has risen, and is highest among minorities.
The poll, taken by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black think tank in Washington, reports 57% of blacks, 65% of Hispanics, and 48% of whites support publicly funded tuition vouchers to pay for private education. The number for blacks represents an increase of 11 points since January 1996. School choice has long been popular with Catholics, but the survey did not measure their support.
(Reported by Terry Neal, Washington Post Staff Writer, page A14, September 7, 1997 - of the poll taken by the Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies, a black think tank in Washington)
The 1998 Gallop Poll shows 62% of blacks favor vouchers. (Florida Catholic Conference Education News Letter Sept/Oct. 1998)
58% of citizens in New Mexico favor vouchers, up sharply despite a strong anti-voucher advertising campaign by teacher unions.1998 Gallop Poll shows 51% all races in favor, compared to 43% the year before. (The Economist, 4/17/99, pg. 38)
GALLOP POLL June 1997
WASHINGTON - The idea of giving government-funded vouchers to students who want to attend private schools is gaining support across the USA, a new Gallup Poll shows. Phi Delta Kappa International, a fraternity of professional educators, says public opinion has gone from staunch opposition in 1993 to "a virtual deadlock for the first time." Overwhelming support by blacks accounts for the big jump, officials say.
What seems like a contradiction in opinion on public school vs. private school is merely the public's attempt to underscore its enthusiasm for "choice" in education, says John Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
The poll showed: 44% support allowing students to attend a private school at "public expense," while 52% remain opposed in 1997; four years earlier, 24% favored the idea while 74% were opposed. 48% favor and 48% oppose the idea when the words are changed to "government expense." That suggests people believe someone other than taxpayers pays the bill if it is government funded. 72% of blacks support vouchers compared with 45% of whites; last year, 42% of blacks supported the idea.
National Education Association president Bob Chase said the teachers union remains "convinced that taxpayer-funded vouchers to send a select few children to private or religious schools are not a viable alternative."
The poll also found that 77% want national standards for measuring academic performance.
Phi Delta Kappa polled 1,517 adults in June, 1997. The margin of error is 3 percentage points. By Tamara Henry, USA TODAY
to TOP of page
- GRADUATION RATES INNER-CITY
SCHOOLS - 2001 IN CLEAVLAND
CATHOLIC SCHOOL VOUCHER STUDENTS - 99.6%, PUBLIC SCHOOLS - 30%
The State of Ohio, for a number of years, has been awarding vouchers to parents of Cleveland's inner-city students, who were free to choose any certified private schools for their children. In 2001-02, 4,456 vouchers were granted to parents of students from kindergarten to 8th grade, most of them for families living below the poverty line. The majority of inner-city private schools are Catholic - - and these were chosen by most voucher-holders. A survey showed 66% of parents were satisfied with school quality. The most significant statistic, is that these Catholic school voucher students achieve a 99.6% graduation rate, compared to the public school graduation rate of just 30%.
The program is obviously hugely popular and vastly over-subscribed, despite the fact that even the poorest parents have to contribute part of the cost. Students whose family income is below three times the poverty line are granted vouchers worth 90% of private school tuition; all others receive vouchers worth 75% of tuition.
The union, the American Federation of Teachers is challenged the above program in court on the grounds that it was illegal since it provided state support for religion. In 1999 the state supreme court upheld the constitutionality of the program. It's now heading to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The union argues that 90% of the voucher money goes to religious private schools. The proponents argue that the issue has nothing to do with religion, it is to improve the education of the city's children, particularly the poorest - - and it should be up to parents which schools are chosen, and the fact catholic schools are nearly the only private schools in the inner-city area should not be the issue - - but a blessing. Source: The Economist, Feb. 23, 2002, page 35.
Unions and Bureaucracy - an impediment to school quality?
by Bill Mechlenburg, January 1997
(his father was a union official, he a union employee and later an industrial engineer, rising to become president of his own private firm).
I share the frustration of so many with the almost hammer lock the educational establishment and teacher unions have on our educational system. A similar but not quite as monopolistic problem exists in our large industrial unions.
We, as a nation, need to revise our labor laws to outlaw union monopolies of industries the same as we outlaw business monopolies. I have direct experience and knowledge in this area. My father was president of the Drug and Liquor Workers Union - AF of L and early in my career I worked for a while as a union organizer. Then I entered management as an IE and later as a Division manger and Exec. VP and finally as president of my own company. I think I have an understanding and appreciation of both sides of this problem.
Many management's have taken advantage of low skilled workers do to their lack of any power. Unions were formed to provide some power to labor. Unfortunately the system that has evolved is not very good. In certain industries unions have had excessive power to the detriment of many companies and their employees. The Auto Workers and Steel Workers almost destroyed many companies and our competitive position with the rest of the world. (just as our educational competitiveness is being threatened in the world today). This also resulted in untold hardship on the part of the workers in these industries plus imposing excessive cost on the rest of the economy. Ideally we need to do the following.
1. Prohibit unions from representing more than one company. Industry wide unions should be prohibited the same as industry wide business monopolies.
2. All union officers should have to be active employees of the company their union represents. All officers should be elected annually by secret ballot and all forms of coercion prohibited by subjecting any form of coercion to severe penalties.
3. The labor laws should make it completely safe and easy for employees to form and belong to and exercise their power as a union.
4. I really do not feel it is appropriate for government employees of any kind to belong to a union. Why do government employees need to be protected from their own citizens? There is not the management incentive to increase profits at the expense of the employees as in a for profit business.
These changes would force all management to be sensitive to the needs of their employees and all unions to conduct themselves responsibly so they do not do harm to the company that provides their economic security. Under these conditions there is every incentive for both parties to work together in cooperation rather than as adversaries.
If we are to correct the serious deficiencies and make substantial long term improvements in the education of the younger generation we need to do the following:
1. The existing monopolistic alliance between the Federal Dept. of Education, the teacher unions and the education establishment must be eliminated. This unholy monopoly is designed to protect and enhance the economic fortunes and security of this bureaucratic complex rather than to improve the education of our children. The Federal Dept. Of Education was established by Jimmy Carter as a reward for the support of the teacher unions in his run for president. This monster is politically motivated and should be eliminated. The education of our children is a local and state responsibility and the Federal Government regulation of this local responsibility should be eliminated. The service provider/customer relationship is wrong. Under the present public education system the service provider is the education establishment and so is the customer. The parents are an eternality that occasionally just gets in the way.
2. We must establish a system where the customer is the parent and the schools are the service providers. This requires a system where parents have truly free choice as to where they send their children to school. Parental choice will provide the competition that is necessary to force the schools to provide high quality education or lose their students.
3. Because many parents do not have the financial ability to send their children to an alternative school if they must pay tuition we must have educational vouchers so they truly have free choice. It is equally valuable that they have the ability to send their children to the school of their choice whether public or private provided of course that the private school is cost competitive.
When you do not have customer choice and free competition you have high cost and poor quality. In the old Soviet Union, monopoly government production of cars gave their citizens the Lada. It was a car that was prohibitively expensive for the average citizen to purchase and was of terrible quality. No one outside of Russia would consider purchasing this car and most users in Russia were government employees. In the free market West we have a myriad choice of cars of outstanding quality because auto producers must compete for their customers.
The key to high quality education at reasonable cost is to establish an education system based on parental choice and free market competition for students. Why should our children be denied the benefits of a high quality education of their choice when we do not hesitate to provide free parental choice for their children's food and toys?
Bill Mechlenburg, firstname.lastname@example.org
Education Quality-to-spending Productivity Index dropped since teachers unionized in 1962
Additionally, we have seen that the education quality to cost productivity index started dropping some time after 1960. Consider this: "Since 1962, when teachers were first allowed to unionize, the public school system has been a system that benefits and answers to the producers of education, not to the consumers. 88% of America's schools are government schools, and 75% of the teachers are union members." John Fund, Editorial Board Wall Street Journal, May 1998 Imprimis volume 27, #5. And, as the president of the American Federation of Teachers recently said: "I will begin to care about the quality of children's education in this country when they start paying union dues." Al Shanker, union president.
[I would like to recommend an excellent reference regarding the education union: The True National Education Association - a research report of NEA stance on issues, by Michael Patterson]
NEA's `new unionism' masks old political tricks
Tuesday, Dec. 16, 1997 by Michelle Malkin Seattle Times columnist
The breach between well-compensated union brass and rank-and-file teachers is as wide
as the gap between the leadership's rhetoric and reality.
It's not a pretty sight. An excellent article from the Seattle Times archives at http://www.seattletimes.com/extra/browse/html97/malk_121697.html
Concentrated & Centralized Power, Bureaucracy, and Regulations
by Michael Hodges - February 1997
53% of the money for public education is CONTROLLED by federal & state bureaucracies - immune from parental influence at the local school district level. And, it has not always been this way. This provides a 'siphon' opportunity from classroom efficiency and quality, PLUS tremendous centralized power to mandate regulations on local school districts. Further, such power provides a focused, centralized 'playground' for unions, social do-gooders and bureaucratic central planners to leverage their narrow interests, without answering to world-class quality, local school boards, parents and local taxpayers - - plus self-serving resistance to change.
Following are a couple of interesting historic charts showing trends many have never seen, showing 'who controls the revenue'.
THE CONTROLLING SOURCE OF ALL SCHOOL REVENUE IS IN CONTROL OF QUALITY
The further revenue control is from local school districts, and the larger each district, the less the meaningful discipline parents and local taxpayers can bring to bare on school performance.
SO, WHO DOES CONTROL THE REVENUE, AND WHO SHOULD ?
ANSWER: in the 'old' days when school quality was high, 83% of the control rested within local school districts. No longer! Local control is down to 47% of the total.
|The left chart shows that local school boards used to control 83%
of education revenues.
That control has dropped to 47% of the total - - a fall of 36 points by 1979-80.
The slight up-tick by 1992 was only one point, leaving the total still down 35 points at 46%.
Meaning, over time local school boards have less and less control, as they must lobby other organizations for more and more of their funds, plus approval for this and that.
And, funds from other sources arrive only after those other sources have done two things:
1. Extract a share for their own overhead and use.
It is interesting to note that the downward trend of the above chart for local control of education revenue, follows the same downward trend for the education quality/cost productivity results.
Which organizations took control away from the locals? Read on > >
|The left chart here shows the other sources of revenue control.
The black line is a repeat of the top chart, showing the reduced share controlled by local school boards.
The red line shows the percentage control by state governments - rising from 16% to 46% of the total - a level three times higher than before.
The blue line represents federal control - rising from 0.3% to 7% - a level 22 times higher than before.
Clearly, state and federal bureaucrats have extracted from local governments more and more control of education by controlling revenue sources - from 16% of the total to 53% of the total.
And, State bureaucrats represent the largest impact - - increasing their share to control 46% of the total.
Many would agree the more control given to bureaucrats outside the school district the further effective control of the operation is from parents.
Centralization is a failed concept, guaranteed to reduce quality on the end charged with producing quality output.
"The evidence suggests that students in states with greater LOCAL control do better. Students in the 5 states with the highest percentage of state contribution (Hawaii, Washington, Kentucky, Alabama, Delaware) have lower average SAT scores than students in the 5 states with the highest percentage of local contribution (New Hampshire, S. Dakota, Vermont, Michigan, Virginia). Local accountability works." The National Review, Sept. 14, 1998, pg. 30.
|These charts suggest the need to significantly reduce state & federal government control of education revenues, to better empower local decision-making at a level where it is best subject to parental influence. After-all, parents are the customers, and many are the ones paying the cost from their taxes. They MUST be given control, at least to the 80% plus area of by-gone eras when school quality was championed and the system respected.|
As stated by Nobel Laureate Economist Milton Friedman (in his book, 'Bright Promises, Dismal Performance'), commenting about the education union in spear-heading opposition to tax limitations and cuts: "Why did they do so? Look at the record. Spending on schooling has been rising all over the country. At the same time, the performance of students has been declining. Both are the common result of a shift of control from local communities to the states and from the states to the federal government. The farther the source of funds from the local community, the easier it is for a concentrated interest to exert political pressure, and the harder it is for the taxpayer to exercise effective control over how his money is spent."
|CONCENTRATION OF POWER BY LARGER SCHOOL DISTRICTS (and larger schools) REDUCE LOCAL
PARENTAL INFLUENCE 93%
- and increase school crime, violence, discipline and absenteeism/tardiness problems in U.S. Public Schools, compared to smaller schools.
American public schools have traditionally been governed by local boards. It stands to reason that the smaller the school district in relation to the size of the population the greater the potential influence of individual parents on education of their children. Originally, most school districts encompassed one or two schools, representing the children from a small local population. But, over time, districts have merged and bloated into progressively larger, more bureaucratic entities - increasingly removed from individual students and parents.
The left chart shows for 1942 the nation had about 109,000 school districts for population of 135 million (or, 8.1 districts per 10,000 population. Since then, the number of districts has shrunk by 86% (to 15,000 districts) as the population doubled to 265 million (resulting in 0.6 districts per 10,000 population). Teacher's unions, finding they could more easily get their way in big districts, have encouraged this trend. States use financial pressure, prohibitions against local creation of districts, county-wide rather than district-wide votes on mergers, and other restraints.
| The left chart shows the growth of such
centralization. In 1942 an average school district represented the children from a
population of 1,237. Currently the average district represents the children from a
population of 17,697 - an increase of 14 times. It can be said that an individual
parent has significantly less ability to influence a district today than before - - 93%
less. Districts have become increasingly a professional monopoly, making it far more
difficult for parents or individual board members to influence.
By contrast, nearly all
major European countries have decentralized their school authorities, and the new European
Union's Maastricht Treaty explicitly calls for new ways to involve parents in
controlling local education. In some places in Switzerland, the local school's teachers
are elected to their position for short terms in a local town meeting. In Germany parental
control was so powerful that they successfully fought efforts to lower academic standards.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. and Canada, local citizens with real authority are almost unheard
Question: Do larger schools negatively impact an individual student's feeling of being able to make a difference, not only in school but after graduation? Certainly more individual self-esteem can be gained in a smaller setting than a larger one. In smaller schools there is more chance for a boy to become a member of the varsity baseball team and thereby gain the character training of what it takes to succeed and development of pride in 'making a difference' and in responsibility for 'the team', or for a girl to become class president - - than in a large school. It has often been said that 'it's better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond.' Perhaps such large school trends also play into lower voter turnout of young voting-age adults today compared to the past, as reported in the Voter Turn-out Report, because they feel less able to make a difference and/or a feeling of less responsibility of oneself toward the larger community - - so they don't vote.
VIOLENCE AND DISCIPLINE MUCH, MUCH WORSE IN LARGER SCHOOLS
The larger the school the greater the rate of crime, violence, discipline problems, absenteeism and tardiness. Large schools have 4 times rate of serious discipline problems than small schools: '38% of principals in large schools reported serious discipline problems compared with10% in small schools. - - - serious problem in schools with enrollments of more than 1,000 students'. Source: March 1998, Violence and Discipline Problems in U.S. Public Schools, National Center for Education Statistics, publication NCES 98-030, U.S. Dept. of Education)
As schools and districts became so much larger - - the number of non-teaching employees per
100 students increased - and the quality of education output has fallen compared to prior
generations as evidenced by the
productivity chart, the International
Education Report , the International
Test Evaluation, and higher percentages of students need remediation education in college
for that not learned in high school despite falling college standards.
BOTTOM-LINE: Why was this trend in school and school district size allowed? Considering the above evidence what can be done to reverse the trend - - especially when it comes to new or expanded school construction? Without a doubt this issue is a major factor contributing to negative education quality and discipline trends, and lack of parental involvement as graphically displayed in the Education Report of this series.
DEMISE OF THE PTA: In prior generations, when local school
districts were small, the local PTA was a strong common-interest coalition between parents
and teachers for education quality & discipline. In 1998 the National Congress of PTA
will celebrate its centennial, but today fewer than a quarter of
public schools have active PTA chapters. Why this drop? Because the growth of school
size reduces individual parental influence. And, because the National chapter of the PTA
became subservient to the two largest education unions (NEA and AFT), as the PTA
completely supported union agendas - - locking out parents. 'When school boards sacrifice
parent interest for teacher interest, as often happens, the PTA does not object. As more
an more parents dropped out, those who remained tended to be pro-union or unaware of the
PTA's pro-union position - such as anti-school choice (despite the polls), opposition to
privatization, focus on non-educational issues to convince parents how great schools are,
etc. In 1996 26,000 members of the Indiana Congress of PTA did not renew their
memberships. Many parents, recognizing they have lost their voice to 'unionized
national PTA and monster school districts, are instead creating and joining
independent parent-teacher organizations (PTOs), which the national PTA criticizes.' Source: Same as above, except on page 12, by Charlene Haar, president Education
Policy Institute - 1997.
The Family Income Report shows today's inflation-adjusted median family income is less than 25 years ago despite more mothers sucked into the workforce leaving less time for training their children, than in prior generations; rates of savings are at historic lows and consumer debt ratios are at historic highs. Previously, real family incomes and savings rose steadily, to the benefit of our nation and family values. We have learned from the Government Spending Report that federal & state government spending has grown several times faster than the general economy while reducing the effective share of the economy remaining to the private sector. The State & Local Government Report shows their government employee head-count expanded by 10 million more than justified by growth of the general population. Such has brought more, centralized power to bureaucracies and special interests (e.g. education union officials) than ever before. The Tax Report shows the average American now works 5.4 months per year to earn enough just to pay all taxes, 4 times more than before. The main page of the Education Report shows the decline of public education productivity & quality while per student spending soared more than 3 times faster than inflation - - and that non-teaching employees per 100 students have expanded 3.2 times, with zero measurable improvement in quality. Experts call our education quality the worse in 35 years. We have seen from the International Education Report that other nations are doing a much better quality job educating their students, that a high percentage of science and math PhDs from our own colleges are foreign students, and that an important international organization has called 'U.S. primary & secondary school quality mediocre, at best' - - although we outspend all nations per student. We have seen from this education report series the dilution of standards of achievement measurement and examinations, which has been reflected at the college level as shown in the College Report.
A 1997 poll of Florida taxpayers showed a huge majority considered public schools mediocre or a failure, 67% citing poor academic standards, 55% calling for smaller school districts and 75% for abolishment of teacher tenures.
And, we have seen from the Trade Report that our nation is the world's largest debtor, with mounting trade deficits. Meanwhile, billions of new competitors are entering the global marketplace from areas with which we have never had to compete. And, learned people stress that at least two-thirds of our citizens are not equipped for the global economy.
Our children's future (and our nation) is at risk: from grade 1 through college. And, the problem has ZERO to do with money (proof abounds there is too much spent today). Its the failed delivery system and centralized control, with less control by parents and the good teachers, than ever before.
Bottom line: expansion and centralization has increased costs and regulatory burdens, and diluted the prime objective of public schools: a quality education for the majority better than anywhere in the world, with the objective to produce graduates better qualified to meet today's challenges than their grandparents were prepared to meet those of their days - at the best per student cost to parents and society. Mandating un-natural social engineering burdens on school boards and teachers further diluted quality achievement of the majority, just as quality & efficiency is diluted in the private sector when too many un-like objectives are mixed at the same location or within the same organization. (The proven private sector solution is to eliminate centralized staffs, and relocate power of decision to the lowest unit possible - the only central staff remaining is to monitor and report area-wide results). The prior influence of parents (and local school boards) concerning the quality of their children's education has been diminished, and quality factors have plummeted, compared to prior generations. No wonder many say today's parents are less involved than before. A distinguished Nobel Laureate called it 'less quality than 35 years ago.' When a nation's president must call on volunteers to teach children to read, without calling for a complete restructuring of the current delivery system, we know real solutions are not in-process. Mostly we hear excuses, while standards of achievement are reduced and special interests fight 'on every corner' to maintain the status quo.
Central planning & control has been a failure concerning democracy, efficiency and quality, wherever tried.
Education's record fits - PERFECTLY!
As mentioned in the article above about unions, national union officials should not have influence over any activity of local school boards - - and if any group of local school employees wants to unionize, then all of its officials must also be full-time, teaching employees of the local school district. Centralized control from afar must be eliminated. Anyone wanting to influence policies of any kind in our public schools should be required to make their case, individually to local school boards, with parents invited and encouraged to attend and speak-out - - with the decision of each board final concerning quality and resource allocation of its own schools.
A new centralized control mechanism will start in 1998 - - via a national sales tax on telephones to channel more public funds into federal control, supposedly to be used to place more computers and internet connections in public schools - - at a time few teachers know how to use computers and should instead of being so diluted should be concentrating on basic education quality. Instead of the federal government increasing its centralized control over public school resources, and thereby pushing local boards to jump through even more hoops, computers and internet should be left to local school board decisions, including convincing local parents and taxpayers of the justification for quality.
ACTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION - DE-CENTRALIZATION & STANDARDS
The system has become too large, too centrally controlled by bureaucratic planners located too far from local districts, influenced by national unions, with too many non-teaching employees, and outside meaningful influence of parents and local taxpayers. We must decentralize the system, and return control to local districts and maximum parental and local taxpayer influence.
Michael Hodges, author of The Grandfather
E-Mail to Michael Hodges
Read articles on education choice - page 2
or go to the start page of the full Education Report.
or to HOME PAGE of the Grandfather Economic Reports, index of the picture-series of reports concerning economic threats facing young families and their children, compared to prior generations - - in addition to education.
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