Friday, October 30, 2015

Sponsored post: It's the monopoly stupid.

by Kelley Williams

The main problem with K-12 public school education may not be the lack of funding. It's more likely the lack of competition. Public schools are government monopolies. Monopolies are protected from competition. They don't have to innovate to improve to survive. So they don't. They just get ever more bureaucratic and insular. The public school monopoly justifies its existence by its mission: to educate our children. The measure of its effectiveness is how much money it spends, not how well it prepares our children. Spending for Mississippi's public schools has increased every year for 20 years. ACT scores have flat lined for 20 years.



Monopoly problems. The public school monopoly patient has been in intensive care forever. It has money drips in both arms. Initiative 42 would bring in Dr. Chancery Judge to put money drips in both legs. Not to worry that the judge may not be a specialists in public school education. More education specialists and experts don't seem to make a difference anyway. According to the Mississippi Department of Education teacher salaries now account for 33% of total spending. Twenty years ago it was 41%. Total spending has increased. Spending for teachers has increased. Spending for administrators has increased more. But ACT scores are still flat. It seems more bureaucrats do not produce better results. Imagine that.

It may be time to pull the plug on the monopoly. Or at least try something different. How about a healthy dose of competition? More charter schools. And vouchers to give parents a choice. That would give poor parents with children in failing schools an alternative while we throw more money and more bureaucrats at the monopoly.

Could competition help? Is there any reason to think competition might actually improve public schools too? Maybe. There is competition in public schools now in athletics. It seems to work. Football and other sports are pretty competitive. It's a zero sum game: a loser for every winner. Not surprisingly winning coaches seem to have more options. They stay until they get a better job offer. Then they move on. Losers, not so many options. They tend to stay until they get promoted to, say, assistant principal. Not many firings for poor performance in the public school monopoly. Losing coaches might actually get promoted faster than winners - to make room to bring in a winner. Hey, football is important. You do what you gotta' do to win.

Public schools compete very well with private schools in football. Frequently they dominate. Not so much in academics. It may be that public school athletes are more talented than their private school counterparts. Or that there are more of them. That may explain more college football scholarships. And it may be that private school students and home schooled students are smarter than public school students. That may account for their higher ACT scores. But what explains those public schools that are competitive in both athletics and academics? And what about those that are competitive in athletics but not academics? And what about parents with kids in those schools who are not athletes? Or whose kids are athletes - maybe good athletes and who could be good students too? But who sadly may always be dumb jocks.

A chance. I know first hand the story of a kid in a failing public school. A really big kid who is now a starter and a leader on a Division One football team. His teachers thought he was dumb. They told his mom they would promote him anyway if he would just come to class and not cause problems. His mom was distraught. She wanted him to learn. But she was working two jobs and taking care of seven children. Turns out the kid wasn't dumb. It was hard to tell, though, because he couldn't read. The coach of his sixth grade church football team took an interest in him and his family. The coach and his friends helped him learn to read and put him and his oldest sister in private schools. He struggled at first, but then did well and graduated. So did his sister. He hopes to play professional football. He says he wants to be a geologist after that. He might just do it. He has a chance.

He has a chance now because he had a chance to get out of a failing school and into a better learning environment - before it was too late for him. We keep feeding the public school monopoly ever more money trying to fix it. While we try, time runs out on lots of kids. You can't turn the clock back for them.

Petrified sacred cow. The public school monopoly is a sacred cow. It's disloyal to question it. Just fund it. "Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul." We need to remember these words under Mark Twain's Hall of Fame bust.

We need to break the chain of the petrified public school monopoly. We need to free the souls of kids trapped in C and D rated schools. At least try to free some of them. Why not try something different? Why not give those kids and their parents a chance to find something better? Something that works. Parents might spend education dollars better than the public education monopoly does.

Initiative 42 would turn school funding and other educational issues over to a chancery judge. It's a big fight over some 5% more funding for the monopoly - as though that will make a difference. However, if parents had access to 5% of the $2.3 annual public school budget to move their kids from failing schools, it might make a huge difference in their lives. It might even make public schools better.

Kelley Williams, Chair Bigger Pie Forum, October 25, 2015

 Bigger Pie Forum purchased distribution rights for its content on Jackson Jambalaya. 

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

All that sounds really good except for the fact that schools do compete.

People with school age children continue in choose to live in the best school districts they can afford.

When there were neighborhood schools, the competition was stiffer.

And, the public schools are competing with more private schools than ever in our history.

Business models do not work for every damn thing !
The real question is whether or not it is in the State's interest and the Nation's interest to have as educated a citizenry as possible?

I suggest strongly not only that it is, but that that is the reason civilized countries have some form of public education!

I would suggest to you that the progress made in this Nation , particularly after the industrial revolution , is tied to the fact that we have public education.

I would suggest to you that the growth of our middle class which was enviable happened because of public education.

Without public education , we would be another third world country!

Anonymous said...

There will always be mediocre students who are rescued by brilliant teachers, and there will always be geniuses thwarted by a system that is too dumb to realize what is before them, but in the masses, education is like nutrition: once you get enough to realize your genetic potential, anything further is superfluous. Want better test scores? Import better people. Cf. separation of Madison and Ridgeland high achools.

Anonymous said...

One of the major problems with public schools is in many, especially in rural districts, the school system is the major employer. My school board member has no ties to the schools and openly says she pushes for her relatives and friends to get positions. My grandson's school counselor acknowledges they are having to hire too many teachers with degrees, but who are not adequately trained and don't have a clue about teaching. An example: My grandson's 8th grade history teacher (a Mississippi Valley graduate) was discussing WWII and mentioned that D-Day occurred in Okinawa. He raised his hand and said: Mr. XXX, I think it was actually in Normandy France." The reaponse: "You are wrong." When he took a test he put Normandy as the location and the answer was cited as incorrect. We took it to the schol principal who shook her head and said he was a "political hire" and she couldn't do anything about it. God help us.

Anonymous said...

Change the flag. That'll fix everything.

There is a lot of brilliance in this post. This line is absolutely spot on.

The measure of [the public school monopoly's] effectiveness is how much money it spends, not how well it prepares our children

Nowhere is this more evident than in the salaries of superintendents, many of whom make in excess of $100k/year, as they lord over failing schools and blame the parents.

Passing an initiative to give a judge the authority to dictate that these yokels MUST get more money is foolhardy. In the real world if you don't perform, you are let go. The schools want a GUARANTEE that they'll get rewarded for failure.

I cringe when I think of a judge demanding that the state spend $XXX on schools, and doing it in verse.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kelley Williams!

Anonymous said...

Fat people are stopping Mississippi from being the #1 healthy state in America. We must incarcerate the fat people to get them to stop eating. We can't control their diet unless we have them under lockdown. Mississippi can't get off the bottom of the unhealthy list until we do something about these extremist fat people who refuse to eat less and walk more in the Fondren and the Belhaven.

Miss Beadle's Blackboard said...

Another prime example of systems failing their mission: Last year the Kosciusko school district found themselves in need of a superintendent. Kosciusko has a fairly good history of good performance and good outcomes, and their school board was not populated by a bunch of ninnies with no clue.

What did they do? They hired as interim Superintendent the recently retired Superintendent from The Canton Municipal Separate School District, an abysmally performing district for many years, and while under his leadership.

Why did they do it? The retired yet failed superintendent was on the list provided by the State Department of Education as an available consultant and retired educator.

Not only would this not have happened in a private school setting, it would not have happened in any private industry setting in this country.

I don't know if Luckett is still at Kosciusko and, since I don't live there, I reckon I don't care. But, neither apparently do the Board Members and parents of that district since they allowed it to happen.

PS: That district wants more money.

Anonymous said...

Here's a news flash.
I went to one of the then top rated high schools in the nation in the early 60's and I had teachers who got facts wrong and were lousy teachers.

All of the not so swift teachers had taught in the mid to late 50s as well.

It was a joke among us kids that we had to put the " wrong" answer down for some questions.

And, God knows, the worst were the "teachers" who coached but didn't teach PE!

MS's best and brightest have left the public school system . Even if they are poor, if they are bright or athletic , they get scholarships to private schools.

And, the biggest truth is that once bright women had career choices other than teaching, nursing, social work and " administrative assistant" and could get into med school and law school and business schools on merit, teaching was a good paying job for a woman. My best teachers were women who were smarter than 98% of the male population!

You want smart teachers? F'ing pay them! Make the JOB competitive!

Anonymous said...

Why do people assume private schools are "better" than public? Clinton, Germantown, Madison: hands down as good as any private school and likely better than all of them but perhaps St Andrews. The waste in public schools and colleges for that matter is bloated administration. Applying a business model to education fails. Less paperwork, more teaching!

Anonymous said...

I would guess the first reply was a teacher. They routinely overvalue their contribution to the world. Educators make about the same salary for great work as sorry work. The competitive nature mentioned actually dictates house prices. Great districts have higher values on real estate.

Anonymous said...

I suggest the forced funding of public education's time has come and gone. It was a solution to move people from poverty and ignorance before the introduction of MASSIVE "safety net" programs that started in 1965 (really 1932 but that is an argument for another day). No matter how much funding you apply to your perpetual problem school districts the result will be the same because they have no job to move into when they graduate, and the environment they live in completely discourages any other outcome than failure. I know this sounds over the top cynical but 40 years of decline in public education across the USA speaks for itself. Ask yourself a basic question - if we educate the children in failing schools (less than a 50% passing rate for reading) will they have any better outcome than if they receive no education? Both groups will be on public assistance regardless. The problem is not so much a failed public education system as it a failed society. And we have DemLibs telling us we need to allow more poverty ridden children across our Southern Border. Insanity.

Anonymous said...

New Orleans swallowed to the charter school propaganda. Nothing has improved.

Anonymous said...

You want smart teachers? F'ing pay them! Make the JOB competitive!

Private school teachers make FAR less than their public school counterparts. We've been paying them for years and Mississippi schools are farther down the crapper than ever.

We can double or triple the pay of the teachers and nothing will change, especially with the unions and their rabid opposition to teacher evaluation and testing. More money isn't the solution. A MASSIVE reduction in bureaucratic empty suits and skirts that populate school administration would be far more effective, but the second you do it you must be prepared for lawsuits and claims of racism.

Failure is here to stay.

Miss Beadle's Blackboard said...

The public school model assures failure. Keep mounting square rims on that ride and hope some day it will roll straight. It won't.

Anonymous said...

5:39 pm You haven't asked yourself why teachers would take less pay to work in a private school.

One answer is that their children get a tuition break!

Another is that many teachers want to teach to the best and brightest.

And, lastly, they feel safer as they feel that the politicization of the public school system put them at professional and personal risk! They are far more likely to be able to have authority in the classroom. And, by this I mean that one side will attack them for what they teach and the other will not allow them to discipline.

Anonymous said...

7:21 am Public school model has worked well here in the past and works well currently in other countries.

We can't make it work here currently because , unlike in other countries, too many people like you think that because they went to a school, they understand how to educate children and so have politically tampered with the system for decades!

Adults like you who don't respect educators have taught their children not to respect their teachers or principals as well!

And, too many parents don't want their children to learn more than they know for fear they won't respect you anymore. You want them to stay in ignorance if it means they won't embrace every idiotic notion to which you cling!

Anonymous said...

The salary of a starting teacher is pretty much the salary of a policeman in Jackson...roughly $30000 a year.

A teacher has to have a college degree. So, the return on investment in education is not very high.

Unlike business, unless a teacher wants to be in administration, his or her future salary has a ceiling that's not significantly higher than their starting salary.

That we have any teachers who are really smart and know their subject matter is a miracle. Because Lord knows, a teacher could make more money in the private sector.

Indeed, one of the best science teachers I ever had, left teaching for pharmaceutical sales when they started hiring women and became a VP. My best English teacher got a law degree when law schools started taking more women. She's a senior partner in a major firm. My math teacher got her MBA and is a GE executive.

You want competition and good teachers? I agree salaries have to be competitive as well.

In terms of expected salary, you will find salaries no less or more competitive out of college in many professions. Businesses have to be competitive to get the best students as well.

And, if none of you have worked for or know of an organization or business where there are less than stellar employees, some of whom are " girlfriends" or relatives or schmooze well or take credit for the work of others, you must be living in a cave.

But, beyond that, it is terrible that many of you assume that if a child doesn't do well in school, you blame the teachers and the system instead of asking yourself if the child tried to learn, can learn or has a situation at home that is an obstacle to learning.

And, it is likely that if your little Jane or Johnny isn't doing well in school, you are blaming the teacher instead of asking yourself if your darling is trying hard enough or may not be as smart as you want to believe.

Here's a typical teaching series. Assign the chapter to be read. Go over the chapter the next day and give homework on the chapter to be turned in, give a hand out of the key material in the chapter that will be tested. Give the test. Most children should be able , on their own and with parents helping be able to pass.

And, the one who complained about the teacher teaching " wrong" information should do what my mother did. She asked to see the teacher privately after school. She brought with her the accurate information and the example of the misinformation. And, she very kindly and diplomatically suggested an error that she knew the teacher would want to correct had taken place. My mother made clear to me that teachers were human and made mistakes and that so would I in life. She made sure I still respected my teacher. She also made clear that in life, you will have situation where those in authority are less than competent and I must learn how to find appropriate ways to deal with that fact of life! The teacher was grateful. The teacher corrected the misinformation for the whole class.

This is the way mature people do things. They try to solve a problem rather than bitch and blow up things out of proportion. Mature people face and correct their own mistakes and don't use the mistakes of others to feel superior.

Try being part of the solution instead of part of the problem!

And, that starts with understanding what the causes of the problem are. That means knowing the facts. And, you can't do that by blurbs and opinion pieces on the Internet!




Anonymous said...

The sacred cow is football. The school building, the team and the stadium give communities their sense of pride. Academics takes a back seat to sports so its no wonder that when more resources are applied to the schools...little trickles down to the classroom instruction.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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