Wednesday, September 20, 2017

CNN Debuts Documentary Teaching High Schoolers About Anal Sex, Transitioning

CNN ran a story Monday about a new video documentary created by the network that contains scenes of teaching high schoolers about anal sex, performing oral sex, and transitioning to a new gender.

The documentary, titled, “This Is Sex with Lisa Ling,” features a segment titled, “Sex 101.”

In the video, CNN’s Lisa Ling sits in a classroom with high schoolers, listening to a lesson where a teacher quizzes students on the proper term for a woman receiving oral sex, among other graphic questions.

Other topics taught in this classroom include how to use condoms for anal sex between same-sex couples, after which the CNN host characterizes teaching this as “inclusive.”

The teacher also states that she has students transitioning genders, and that she asks them their preferred pronouns. She also discusses how California passed a new law on sex ed that is creating these discussions in the classroom.

This comes after CNN host Brooke Baldwin was so offended by an offhand reference to “boobs” that she shut down an entire segment.


26 Boston schools at risk of being declared ‘underperforming’

More than two dozen schools in Boston with low standardized test scores are at risk of being declared “underperforming” by the state, an action that can lead to the removal of principals and teachers, according to a School Department analysis.

The 26 schools are spread across nearly every neighborhood, from East Boston to West Roxbury. Officials are expected to learn the fate of each school when the state releases the latest round of MCAS data at the end of October.

If the state orders any of the schools to overhaul their programs, they would have three years to boost student performance or they could face a state takeover. Nine of Boston’s 125 schools are already designated as underperforming, while two others are in receivership, a more dire classification.

“There is no silver bullet to this,” Superintendent Tommy Chang said Friday, noting that urban districts nationwide are struggling to turn around their lowest performing schools.

He added that the school system needs to push ahead with urgency because many of the most marginalized students are in these schools. The schools that have been singled out represent 20 percent of those in the system, educating about 12,000 students.

The analysis, which officials presented to the School Committee last week, offers greater insight into the state of the city’s school system as Mayor Martin J. Walsh runs for reelection this fall.

Walsh, while praising the system for pushing more schools into the two highest-ranking categories in the state accountability system and boosting graduation rates to historic highs, said he and the district are committed to improving schools at the bottom.

“This year’s budget includes an additional $16 million for our lower-performing schools and it’s important that we continue to provide focus and supports to the schools and students that need them most,” Walsh said in a statement.

The analysis underscores the reality that many schools need more attention and resources in order to thrive.

Chang’s team produced the analysis at the request of the School Committee, which wanted a better understanding of how many schools are at risk of being declared underperforming and what steps the system is taking to help prevent that.

Since then, the analysis has slowly circulated among the affected schools, raising questions about their future and fueling debate about whether the data accurately reflect the quality of education being delivered.

The analysis flagged 11 schools for being at the greatest risk of being declared underperforming because their MCAS scores rank very low in comparison to other schools statewide. One of those schools is Roxbury’s Mendell Elementary School, which has been increasingly popular with parents and students.

Some parents said the data do not jibe with their experience, noting the school has expanded its arts programs and introduced robotics and it educates students with disabilities alongside other classmates in traditional classrooms.

Many former Mendell students are now landing spots at the city’s prestigious exam schools.

“I’m baffled by that news,” said Flavia Graf Reardon, whose son is in the fourth grade and whose daughter moved on to Boston Latin Academy. “In my mind, the Mendell is a gem. There are fantastic things happening there. I think this school has been a haven for a lot of different families.”

Also appearing at the very bottom is Blackstone Innovation School in the South End, which highlights the extraordinary difficulty of sustaining school turnaround efforts. The Blackstone had been tagged as underperforming in 2010 but climbed its way out of that designation three years later after getting a new principal, replacing almost all of its teachers, and extending its school day.

But since then, the Blackstone has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal school-improvement grants, forcing it to cut back on academic interventions. More than 90 percent of the students have been classified by the state as “high needs” because they lack English fluency, have disabilities, or live in households receiving welfare benefits.

Bill Wolff, president of the Friends of Blackstone School, said it wouldn’t be helpful for the school to be reclassified as underperforming, noting it just got a new administrative team and has many talented and dedicated teachers.

“It would put more hardship on the school,” Wolff said.

The nine other schools flagged for having the very lowest MCAS performance are Chittick Elementary in Hyde Park; Perkins Elementary in South Boston; the McKinley Schools, a special-education program with multiple locations; Holmes Elementary and King K-8 in Dorchester; West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy in West Roxbury; and Ellis Elementary and Timilty Middle School in Roxbury.

It’s far from certain that all of the schools identified in the analysis would be designated as underperforming. The state identifies only a handful of schools each year as underperforming and would probably consider schools outside of Boston as well.

There is a limit on the total that can be declared underperforming statewide — 4 percent. The state is well below that limit.

As of last fall, 33 schools were designated underperforming statewide, or 2 percent of all schools. And since that time, at least one of them — Mattahunt Elementary in Boston — has shut down.

Chang said that he is hoping the Mendell will avert any sanctions and that he expects to see dramatic increases in its test scores, noting it recently adopted a rigorous curriculum for its upper grades.

In an effort to provide the schools at the bottom with the best supports possible, Chang brought in an outside evaluator last year to diagnose areas of weakness and strength for each school in the bottom fifth percentile.

“We need to make sure . . . that every single school in the Boston Public Schools is a school that parents want to send their children to,” Chang said.

Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said she was pleased the school system was taking a proactive approach with the schools at risk of state mandated-actions. But she faulted the state’s accountability system for the predicament of many schools, arguing it over-emphasizes standardized test scores and takes funding away from schools too quickly after showing some improvement.

“The accountability system itself is not an accurate measure of student performance and growth,” Tang said. “If you visit some of the schools, you’ll see there are amazing things happening.”

The other 15 at-risk schools identified by the School Department, which have only slightly better performance than the other 11, are Condon Elementary in South Boston; Edwards Middle School in Charlestown; Frederick Pilot Middle School and Community Academy for Science and Health in Dorchester; Hennigan Elementary and Mission Hill K-8 in Jamaica Plain; Irving Middle School and Sumner Elementary in Roslindale; Higginson-Lewis K-8 and Mason Pilot School in Roxbury; Tobin K-8 in Mission Hill; East Boston High School; Charlestown High School; and Lyon Upper School and Winship in Brighton


Australia: Students to undergo literacy and numeracy tests from YEAR ONE as part of new national assessment plan

There have always been assessments of one sort or another done in all years so I see no problem with them being nationally co-ordinated

A new national assessment will see students in the first grade undergo literacy and numeracy tests so they don't 'fall between the cracks.'

At present the NAPLAN system tests children from years three, seven and nine on their reading, writing and mathematics skills but there isn't a national standard for students younger than those year groups.

Minister for Education Simon Birmingham explained that Australia's results in primary and secondary academics had declined and was hoping a new system could prevent errors learned in the earlier years from carrying forward, the Herald Sun reports.

At the moment the idea of a nationwide check hasn't been developed but there are reports it could be integrated into the syllabus by 2019.

A panel of researchers and experts advised the Minister that a 'light check' on school students that age could help bolster results in the long term.

'By identifying exactly where students are at in their development early at school, educators can intervene to give extra support to those who need it to stop them slipping behind the pack.'

Instead of being a test conducted in anxiety-inducing school halls the year one 'check' would be far more relaxed and be administered by teachers known to the students.

An online system would then tally up the child's score and release the information to the principal and parents alike.

Mr Birmingham said he would hold discussions with state and territory leaders and education authorities over a trial and implementation roll out.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We've turned Australian universities into aimless, money-grubbing exploiters of students (?)

As an economist, Ross Gittins often has substantial things to say.  But as a Leftist he is also a compulsive moaner.  So the points he makes below are cogent but most of them are disputable.

The one area wherein I agree wholeheartedly with him is his condemnation of relaxed assessment standards for overseas fee-paying students.  This practice is, I think, still a minority one but will surely be a big negative eventually when our universities send home to Asia students whose knowledge and skills don't match what is on the pieces of paper we give them.  It devalues our degrees.

Gittins may also have half a point in saying that Lecturers are poorly paid.  In my day we were paid well above average and there does seem to be some slippage from that.  But with salaries closing in on $100,000 pa it's still a long way from  poverty.  Many junior software engineers get about that and they are undoubtedly bright sparks.

And Gittins again has half a point in saying that tenure is now harder to get.  I was appointed with tenure, a rare thing nowadays. But there has to be a balance.  Tenure protects divergent thinking but it also promotes laziness. Once you can't be fired, why work?  I suspect that the delayed granting of tenure that we now see is not a bad balance.  It ensures that for at least a large part of one's academic life we do some work.

But his other points are contentious.  Recorded Lectures are bad?  I would think they are wholly good.  They relieve students of the pressure to take notes, though they can still take notes if they want or need to.  There was only one course I did in my undergraduate days in which I took notes.  Otherwise I concentrated on listening instead. And I am sure I learnt far more that way.  My grades certainly did not suffer from it.

"Overcrowded" lecture halls?  I don't know what he is talking about.  A lecture hall is not a high school classroom.  In my academic career I often fronted up to a lecture in an auditorium with 1,000 or more students in front of me.  And I was able to allow students to interrupt with questions.  So I would think it was a poor lecturer who couldn't handle that.

He says that universities put too much pressure on academics to do research.  I would say that they do too little.  There are now whole tertiary institutions which devalue research.  And many lecturers in all institutions do little of it. But it is only by doing research that you get a real hold on knowledge in your selected field.  You cannot be at the cutting edge without doing your own research.  Otherwise you are just reading the conclusions of others.

But in the end, Gittins's big beef is that the present system of running our universities amounts to a sort of "privatization", which is of course anathema to Leftists.  I think he should throw off those ideological blinkers and look at what is actually happening.  He looks at that so far only "through a glass darkly"

Of the many stuff-ups during the now-finished era of economic reform, one of the worst is the unending backdoor privatisation of Australia's universities, which began under the Hawke-Keating government and continues in the Senate as we speak.

This is not so much "neoliberalism" as a folly of the smaller-government brigade, since the ultimate goal for the past 30 years has been no more profound than to push university funding off the federal budget.

The first of the budget-relieving measures was the least objectionable: introducing the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, requiring students – who gain significant private benefits from their degrees – to bear just some of the cost of those degrees, under a deferred loan-repayment scheme carefully designed to ensure it did nothing to deter students from poor families.

Likewise, allowing unis to admit suitably qualified overseas students provided they paid full freight was unobjectionable in principle.

The Howard government's scheme allowing less qualified local students to be admitted provided they paid a premium was "problematic", as the academics say, and soon abandoned.

The problem is that continuing cuts in government grants to unis have kept a protracted squeeze on uni finances, prompting vice-chancellors to become obsessed with money-raising.

They pressure teaching staff to go easy on fee-paying overseas students who don't reach accepted standards of learning, form unhealthy relationships with business interests, and accept "soft power" grants from foreign governments and their nationals without asking awkward questions.

They pressure academics not so much to do more research as to win more research funding from the government. Interesting to compare the hours spent preparing grant applications with the hours actually doing research.

To motivate the researchers, those who bring in the big bucks are rewarded by being allowed to pay casuals to do their teaching for them. (This after the vice-chancellors have argued straight-faced what a crime it would be for students to be taught by someone who wasn't at the forefront of their sub-sub research speciality.)

The unis' second greatest crime is the appalling way they treat those of their brightest students foolish enough to aspire to an academic career. Those who aren't part-timers are kept on serial short-term contracts, leaving them open to exploitation by ambitious professors.

However much the unis save by making themselves case studies in precarious employment, it's surely not worth it. If they're not driving away the most able of their future star performers it's a tribute to the "treat 'em mean to keep 'em keen" school of management.

But the greatest crime of our funding-obsessed unis is the way they've descended to short-changing their students, so as to cross-subsidise their research. At first they did this mainly by herding students into overcrowded lecture theatres and tutorials.

An oddball minority of academics takes a pride in lecturing well.

Lately they're exploiting new technology to achieve the introverted academic's greatest dream: minimal "face time" with those annoying pimply students who keep asking questions.

PowerPoint is just about compulsory. Lectures are recorded and put on the website – or, failing that, those barely comprehensible "presentation" slides – together with other material sufficient to discourage many students – most of whom have part-time jobs – from bothering to attend lectures. Good thinking.

To be fair, an oddball minority of academics takes a pride in lecturing well. They get a lot of love back from their students, but little respect or gratitude from their peers. Vice-chancellors make a great show of awarding them tin medals, but it counts zilch towards their next promotion.

The one great exception to the 30-year quest to drive uni funding off the budget was Julia Gillard's ill-considered introduction of "demand-driven" funding of undergraduate places, part of a crazy plan to get almost all school-leavers going on to uni, when many would be better served going to TAFE.

The uni money-grubbers slashed their entrance standards, thinking of every excuse to let older people in, admitting as many students as possible so as to exploit the feds' fiscal loophole.

The result's been a marked lowering of the quality of uni degrees, and unis being quite unconscionable in their willingness to offer occupational degrees to far more people than could conceivably be employed in those occupations.

I suspect those vice-chancellors who've suggested that winding back the demand-determined system would be preferable to the proposed across-the-board cuts (and all those to follow) are right.

The consequent saving should be used to reduce the funding pressure on the unis, but only in return for measures to force them back to doing what the nation's taxpayers rightly believe is their first and immutable responsibility: providing the brighter of the rising generation with a decent education.


British schools break law on religious education, research suggests

More than a quarter of England's secondary schools do not offer religious education, despite the law saying they must, suggests research given to BBC local radio.

The National Association for RE teachers obtained unpublished official data under Freedom of Information law.

It says that missing the subject leaves pupils unprepared for modern life.

But the main union for secondary head teachers said many schools covered religious issues in other lessons.

"They might be teaching through conferences, they might be using citizenship lessons, they might be using assemblies," said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

By law, RE must be taught by all state-funded schools in England, with detailed syllabuses agreed locally.

NATRE says the FOI data, gathered by the Department for Education in 2015 but not published until now, showed that, overall, 26% of secondaries were not offering RE lessons.

Among academies, which make up the majority of secondary schools, more than a third (34%) were not offering RE to 11 to 13-year-olds and almost half (44%) were not offering it to 14 to 16-year-olds.

The Coopers Company and Coborn School in Upminster, Essex, is an academy which bucks the trend. As part of a GCSE in RE, students have been studying religious festivals and teacher Joe Kinnaird believes the subject is vital. "RE in schools provides the best and the perfect opportunity to explore those issues which students see in in the wider world," he said.

"RE and philosophy provide students the chance to explore fundamental questions such as what happens after we die, does God exist, how do we cope with the problem of evil? "These questions are both philosophical and ethical and the RE classroom is where we can explore these issues."

His pupils agree, with one, Lisa, saying: "Not being religious myself, I think it's really interesting to learn about other religions, other cultures, I feel like it can be vital in life to understand other religions."

Her classmate, Benjamin, said that not being taught about religion could result in people being "heavily influenced by what they find on social media".

Fellow pupil Luke added: "Once you're educated about a certain religion you actually know the true meanings of it.

While for Nicole, better religious education could help cut the number of racially and culturally motivated crimes.

"Religion affects politics, so you have to think of it that way. It's really important to know the diverse cultural traditions of other people because it's really relevant today," she said.
Not religious

Fiona Moss of NATRE said too many schools were "breaking the law", resulting in pupils "missing out on religious education".  "It means they are not religiously literate," she said.

"They don't have the opportunity to learn about religions and beliefs, to learn what's important to people or to have the chance to develop their own ideas, beliefs and values.

"It's going to be important for them to understand what people believe they think and what encourages them to behave in the particular ways that they do.

"We're not teaching people to be religious. We're teaching children about religions and beliefs that exist in this country.

Ms Moss said the data showed a shortage of specialist RE teachers throughout the state system.

"If you are an academy, there's a freedom about how you can teach RE and I think some schools struggle with that freedom and think they don't have to be as committed to RE. "They're under financial pressures and maybe this is an easy loss."

Different faiths

But Mr Barton called the idea that schools were deliberately breaking the law "a real oversimplification".

"It might result from the report trying to find a very traditional delivery model of RE. Or it could that they find it hard to recruit an RE teacher, for example, and most head teachers would agree they'd prefer to have provision which is better quality, taught by other people in different ways, if they can't get specialist staff."

A Department for Education spokesman said the government firmly believed in the subject's importance.

"Good quality RE can develop children's knowledge of the values and traditions of Britain and other countries, and foster understanding among different faiths and cultures.

"Religious education remains compulsory for all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools, at all key stages and we expect all schools to fulfil their statutory duties," said the spokesman.


Increasingly, foreign students are choosing Canada over US

Melanie Backal grew up in the bustling capital city of Bogota, Colombia, but for college she wanted to try something new. Her parents told her she would have a chance at a better future if she went to school abroad, and she agreed. She wanted to apply to Harvard.

Then Donald Trump got elected president. Suddenly the United States didn’t seem so appealing.

“All the things he said about Latinos, and everything that’s going on there, I decided to not take a risk,” said Backal, a first-year student at the University of Toronto.

The United States has long been the top destination for foreign students who go abroad for college, but a record number are now choosing Canada instead.

Some reasons are longstanding — fear of gun crime in the United States and cheaper tuition up north. But the 2016 election, and with it Trump’s travel ban and what many see as the demonization of foreigners and immigrants and a new wave of racism, has created a post-Trump surge at Canadian colleges.

At the University of Toronto, the number of foreign students who accepted admissions offers rose 21 percent over last year, especially from the United States, India, the Middle East, and Turkey. Other universities across the country also saw record increases in the last year.

“If you look at the trajectory, clearly Brexit, Trump, things that have been happening in the last year or two — that sense of instability — it’s contributed,” said Richard Levin, the registrar at the University of Toronto, Canada’s most elite university.

The increase is not all because of Trump. Canada has made international student recruitment a national goal to spur economic growth. It now has 353,000 international students and wants 450,000 by 2022. But the political uncertainty in the United States — as well as in the United Kingdom — has given Canada’s effort an unexpected boost.

Overall, the number of international students in Canada has grown 92 percent since 2008. They now make up 1 percent of the country’s population.

By comparison, the United States has about 1 million foreign students and a population ten times that of Canada.

The number of foreign students in the United States has been growing for years, but last year it grew at the slowest rate since 2009.

It is not necessarily the idea of Trump as president that dissuades foreign students from studying in the United States, but the tumultuous climate his election ushered in. High school students in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Iran, and beyond are reading articles about the country and it concerns them.

“I didn’t feel like it was a welcoming atmosphere anymore for an international student,” said Christian Philips, a first-year Toronto student from Egypt. “I wasn’t thinking about Trump or other politicians — I was thinking about people’s perception of me.”

Even before foreign students arrive in Canada, many find it more welcoming than the United States. The paperwork to obtain a study permit is simpler, they said, and unlike in the United States, they can stay and work in Canada for three years after graduation. They also have access to the country’s national health care system.

Once the students arrive, they tend to feel at home in diverse Toronto, a city of 2.8 million where half the population was born outside Canada.

It’s normal to see people in head coverings or hear people speak with an accent. Real estate prices in Toronto are skyrocketing, but neighborhoods of all socioeconomic levels are ethnically diverse.

Located in the geographic heart of the lakeside city, the University of Toronto campus mirrors that diversity.

“My English isn’t the best,” said Backal, the Colombian student, standing in a group of Canadian first-years at a hamburger truck on a recent Friday. “People don’t laugh at me; they help me, they correct me in a friendly way.”

Philips, from Egypt, said he hasn’t felt the subtle hostility in Canada that he has experienced in the United States or the United Kingdom, the kind he says is hard to describe but present nonetheless.

Students from abroad now make up about 20 percent of the University of Toronto’s 71,000 undergraduates. The school wants to keep that percentage steady but diversify the countries they come from. Right now, two-thirds are from China.

Cost is another reason students choose Canada over the United States. International student tuition is much higher than the bargain rates Canadians pay, but it’s often still cheaper than in the United States or the same price for a more prestigious program. Canada also allows some students with Canadian family members to pay local rates.

An engineering undergraduate program, for instance, costs about $11,707 (in US dollars) per year at the University of Toronto for Canadian students. A nursing degree is around $7,033. Political science is about $5,240. Those same degrees cost about $41,574, $38,446, and $36,842, respectively, for foreign students.

The costs do not include housing. A dorm plus a meal plan in Toronto costs $8,000 to $15,000. By comparison, a year of tuition plus room and board at Boston University costs about $67,000. BU is also ranked 11 spots below Toronto on the US News world rankings.

Admissions criteria can also make Canadian universities a more appealing option than US schools. Students are not required to submit essays or references or do interviews. The school admits them based only on high school grades and test scores. Most international students from outside the United States do not have to take the SAT.

Many international students also have parents with Canadian citizenship or an aunt or uncle in the country, making the international transition easier.

That was the case for Maryam Hosseini and Dorsa Fardaei, two first-year Toronto students from Shiraz, Iran. They know the stellar reputation of US colleges, but they have negative perceptions of the country.

“I feel like it’s really unsafe,” Hosseini said, sitting on the steps outside the campus’s main lecture hall with her friend, on a break before their linear algebra class. “This is pretty exaggerated, but I feel like if I go in the [US] streets, I feel like someone is going to take out a gun and shoot someone.”

Hosseini completed her last two years of high school in Canada, and in 11th grade she competed in an international math competition in Pennsylvania. She planned to compete again in 12th grade, but by then Trump had been elected and she heard on Canadian radio about hostility toward Muslims in the United States. She stayed home instead.

As Hosseini told that story, Fardaei piped up. She has her own US anecdote. Once she was in a New York City airport with her family and some friends. The friends told them to stop speaking Persian so no one would suspect them of being terrorists.

“That was really bad,” she said. In Toronto, meanwhile, she said her friends ask her to teach them Persian words.

The university has specific strategies to help students adjust. During the first week of school this month, the Centre for International Experience led campus tours for international students, to show them where to sign up for health insurance, where to get study help, and where to find a place of worship or a cheap restaurant. The center’s lobby was lined with students who came to sort out glitches that inevitably arise with visas, health insurance, or class registrations.

The day before fall classes started, students paraded through the city streets decked in school colors, then swarmed the campus’s central green for an activities fair with an ice cream truck, bouncy room, and dunk tank.

Students from afar were crowded in with those from Canada, all the subject of enthusiastic recruitment for the Mahjong Society, the Immunology Students’ Association, the Korean Outreach Volunteering Association, and other clubs.

The scene resembled something from a state school in Florida or Michigan, but at the same time blissfully removed from the tense atmosphere felt on some US campuses.

While the Canadian government has seized on recruitment of foreign students — and encouraged them to work in Canada after graduation — as a way to strengthen its economy, US universities have felt compelled to issue public statements assuring such students that they still have a place on their campuses.

“We respect people from all nations, cultures, background, and experience and welcome them to join our community,” the president of Bunker Hill Community College wrote in a letter signed by the leaders of all the state’s community colleges last month.

Higher education experts in the United States have noticed students avoiding the country, and they are worried.

“This has been one of our concerns,” said Esther Brimmer, CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, an organization of educators and recruiters who work to bring international students to the United States.

Brimmer sees a direct connection between Trump’s rise and the loss of foreign students. When students go elsewhere, she said, the country loses not just financially but also culturally and intellectually.

“We cannot be complacent,” she said. “We have to push back against measures from the executive branch that would make the US less welcoming.”


Monday, September 18, 2017

A new paradigm of public education

If we were creating school systems from scratch, would we teach the same way we did 50 years ago, before the advent of personal computers? Would we send children to school for only eight-and-a-half months a year? Would we let schools survive if, year after year, a third of their students dropped out? Would we give teachers lifetime jobs after their third year?

Few of us would answer yes to such questions. And thankfully, public schools are changing, particularly in cities, where the needs are greatest. In Boston, for instance, 86 percent of students are minorities, 45 percent speak English as a second language, 20 percent have disabilities, and 70 percent are “economically disadvantaged.”

Cookie-cutter public schools can’t meet the needs of all these children, so we are innovating. Boston has 27 independent public charter schools, which use their freedom from most district and state rules to create new models that work for inner-city children.

Boston Public Schools has six in-district charters, six “innovation schools,” 20 “pilot schools,” 10 “turnaround schools,” and three selective “exam schools,” in addition to 77 traditional schools. The nontraditional schools have increased autonomy over their curriculums, budgets, schedules, and staffing. In general, the more autonomy schools receive, the better they perform.

In Lawrence, the state took over the failing district. Superintendent Jeff Riley, a former BPS principal, brought charter operators in to run three of 33 schools, gave all the schools increased autonomy, raised teacher pay, and replaced half of the principals and about 10 percent of the teachers in his first two years.

In Springfield, state and local leaders created an “Empowerment Zone” to turn around six failing middle schools. Its seven-member board, which includes the mayor, superintendent, and school committee chair, negotiated a new contract with the teachers union, with longer hours, more pay, and the right to elect leadership teams that help principals run each school.

The board turned the worst-performing school over to a charter operator, split two others into smaller schools, and brought in charter veterans to restart two schools. New operators and restart principals can hire entirely new staffs, if they choose to do so. This year the Empowerment Zone added a failing high school, giving it 10 schools.

Born of desperation in our inner cities, a new paradigm of public education is emerging, to fit the realities of the 21st century. It’s just common sense: Schools work better when their leaders have the autonomy to run their schools; when they are held accountable for performance, with consequences for success and failure; when parents can choose among diverse public school models; and when those in charge of steering the district don’t also row (operate schools).

Let’s take these one by one. Autonomy means that school leaders make the key decisions: whom to hire and fire, how to reward staff, and most important, how to structure the learning process. There are dozens of options, from personalized learning with educational software to project-based learning, from intensive tutoring to peer learning.

Principals in traditional public schools get to make almost none of these decisions. Somehow, we expect them to produce higher performance with few of the tools available to managers in other industries.

Accountability means that schools are required to produce positive results for students, from academic growth to parental satisfaction to healthy graduation rates. If schools fail, they are replaced by stronger operators; if they succeed, they may expand or replicate.

Parental choice means that parents can choose between different kinds of schools, since their children come from different backgrounds, have different learning styles, and thrive in different environments. This works best if parents get sufficient information about school models and quality and can choose through a simple process, rather than applying to multiple schools, one by one.

Finally, separation of steering and rowing means that school boards and superintendents don’t employ everyone who works at their schools; instead, they contract with independent, nonprofit organizations to operate schools. In the traditional model, they are politically captive of their employees: If they upset too many adults who vote in school board elections, they may lose their jobs. In a contract model, even if they close a school, they upset only those who work at one school; for other schools, they’ve created an opportunity to expand. That makes it much easier to do what’s best for the kids.

This last principle mainly exists with independent charter schools in Massachusetts, which helps explain why they perform so much better than other public schools. (Even the unions’ favorite research institution, at Stanford University, says charter students in Boston learn twice as much as demographically similar students in BPS.) Two legislators, however, have introduced a bill to let other districts adopt Springfield-style zones, which could contract with independent operators.

The teachers union in Springfield supported the Empowerment Zone, but the statewide union opposes this new legislation. Let us hope, for the children’s sake, that common sense prevails.


Ivy League Profs to Students: 'Think for Yourself'

An open letter from 15 professors encourages students to refrain from "the vice of conformism."

Several Ivy League professors from the universities of Harvard, Princeton and Yale sent out a letter of advice to all incoming college students this week. Their message: “Think for yourself.” In the letter they challenge students to avoid “the vice of conformism” and to avoid the trap of “what John Stuart Mill called ‘the tyranny of public opinion.’”

Over the years, the once-high ideal of America’s institutions of higher learning being bastions of tolerance for the expression of freedom in thought and speech has eroded into them being little more than “safe space” echo chambers of leftist ideology and propaganda. In the past couple of years in particular Americans have witnessed various university and college campuses produce some of the most intolerant policies, voices and behaviors. The list includes the banning of various religious and social groups based on their supposed “bigoted” (non-leftist) ideology, the dis-invitation of various conservative speakers and the creation of “safe spaces” designed to prohibit and limit the freedom of speech in public places on campus. And finally, the growth of leftist social justice warriors who have advocated and engaged in violence in places like UC Berkeley and Middlebury, and most recently the takeover of Evergreen State College by a mob of these leftist SJW students.

The sad thing is that only 15 professors signed the letter. This letter should have garnered near universal support from Ivy League faculty. When concerns over offending another individual’s feelings prohibit someone, specifically one whose career is based on educating and challenging others to learn about and engage new ideas or concepts, from honestly expressing their knowledge and thoughtful opinions without fear of reprisal, we have a problem. The concept that equates unpopular speech to literal violence against individuals with opposing views is a fallacy that has unfortunately gone unchallenged by many on the Left.

Leftists’ argument for engaging in physical violence against others (like “punching a Nazi”) because they find their views repugnant or bigoted is the antithesis of tolerance and objective reasoning. Just yesterday a visiting assistant professor at the University of Tampa was fired for tweeting that he believed residents of Texas suffering from Hurricane Harvey were getting what they deserved because they voted for Donald Trump. His tweet read, “I don’t believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn’t care about them.” It is this type of what might be best described as anti-logic that elevates emotion over and against rational thought. It seeks to limit the freedom of speech because it simply cannot objectively justify the irrational over the rational. It cannot logically support the anti-scientific over the scientific and still refer to it as “science.”

Popular opinion does not create or establish truth; it simply sets cultural precedent that should never be immune from challenge. Thankfully, at least 15 professors are brave enough to point out this reality to incoming college students. We hope many more embrace this truth.


Texas prof resigns from law firm after tweeting he'd be 'ok' with DeVos sexual assault

Leftist hate never stops

A Texas professor and lawyer reportedly has resigned from his firm after tweeting that he’d be “ok” with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos being sexually assaulted.

Robert Ranco had posted a tweet late last week saying, “I’m not wishing for it… but I’d be ok if #BetsyDevos was sexually assaulted.”

The tweet was one of several criticizing DeVos for moving to overhaul how Title IX rules are applied to campus sex assault cases. DeVos claims those rules have led to improper investigations, though Ranco alleged she was making the world more dangerous for girls.

Texas professor and lawyer Robert Ranco resigned from his firm after he sent a controversial tweet. Ranco’s account and the tweet itself have since been taken down.

As reported by Campus Reform, Ranco is an adjunct professor of paralegal studies at Austin Community College and part of the Carlson Law Firm.

But according to Fox 7 in Austin, the firm’s founder Craig Carlson has announced Ranco’s resignation – after a Twitter backlash.

“I wasn’t going to make a rash decision about a member of this family just to appease people on social media. That said, I considered the health of everyone in our organization, promised my partners and my employees that we would act according to the values of our firm, and sat down to speak with Mr. Ranco,” he said in a statement, according to Fox 7.

Carlson said they concluded that “even expressing apathy towards sexual assault is [an] affront to all victims and a line that simply cannot be uncrossed.”

He said Ranco “is taking full responsibility and choosing to resign.”

In a statement to KVUE, Ranco called the tweet a “mistake.” He apologized and said he takes “full responsibility.”


Sunday, September 17, 2017

'Anti-Fascist' Fascists Fail to Stop Jewish Speech at Berkeley

Ben Shapiro spoke to students, while beefed up security around campus kept the peace.

As we noted earlier this week, the University of California-Berkeley was ramping up security in anticipation of “antifa” (read: fascist) violence at a speech by conservative writer Ben Shapiro. In a statement last week, the school declared, “No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or for what they believe.” Of course, the university was not referring to conservative speakers but to snowflake students. The statement prefaced that declaration with this: “We are deeply concerned about the impact some speakers may have on individuals’ sense of safety and belonging.” In fact, “support services are being offered and encouraged.” That means counseling for students “offended” by the mere presence of a differing viewpoint. Or maybe the school wants to help fascists who hate Jews like Shapiro.

Well, thanks to riot police on hand, six buildings shut down, a perimeter of blockades, checks of all ticketholders and an estimated $600,000 spent on security, Shapiro was actually allowed to speak without much incident Thursday night. How astounding that such is the cost of free speech at a public university in America.

In other Berkeley news, the university was just awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Park Service to compile historical information intended to “honor the legacy” of the Black Panther Party. Yes, that would be the racist and Marxist revolutionary group that the FBI describes as having “advocated the use of violence and guerilla tactics to overthrow the U.S. government.” According to the funding announcement, the “cooperative research project … is anchored in historical methods, visual culture, and the preservation of sites and voices.” Who’s in charge at the Park Service? Michael Reynolds, one of Barack Obama’s many holdovers.

With this kind of garbage passing for “higher education” at these bastions of leftist indoctrination and intolerance, is it any wonder that enrollments and budgets are falling short?


Civics Ignorance Is Enormous Threat to Constitution

Far too few Americans can name our branches of government, much less our enumerated rights

During a year in which national politics has dominated the 24-hour news cycle, one might think Americans are more in touch with the Constitution than ever before. But the reality is just the opposite. As we approach the 230th anniversary of the ratification of our Constitution on Sept. 17, we should consider mourning the document’s demise as much as celebrating its relevance after so many years.

Brace yourselves: The numbers aren’t pretty.

According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, “Only 26 percent of respondents can name the three branches of government, the same result as last year. People who identified themselves as conservatives were significantly more likely to name all three branches correctly than liberals and moderates. The 26 percent total was down significantly from APPC’s first survey on this question, in 2011, when 38 percent could name all three. In the current survey, 33 percent could not name any of the three branches, the same as in 2011.”

You might say it’s not a big problem if citizens aren’t able to identify the three branches of government as long as they’re aware of their basic rights. After all, we’ve witnessed plenty of protests across the country in recent years made up of disgruntled and badly parented youth demanding their rights, so they must know what’s in the Constitution, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the rights enshrined in the Constitution, the numbers are even worse. As the APPC poll reveals, “Nearly half of those surveyed (48 percent) say that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. But, unprompted, 37 percent could not name any First Amendment rights. And far fewer people could name the other First Amendment rights: 15 percent of respondents say freedom of religion; 14 percent say freedom of the press; 10 percent say the right of assembly; and only 3 percent say the right to petition the government.” Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Nearly 40% of all Americans surveyed couldn’t name a single right in the First Amendment.

We don’t need a citizenry made up of constitutional experts, but how can we expect voters to make informed decisions if they know next to nothing about our system of government or their rights under the Constitution? How can we as Americans ever hope to protect our cherished rights if we don’t even know what they are?

Rather than keeping an eye on those in power and making sure that they’re protecting our Constitution, we’re blind to what’s happening in the halls of whatever that branch is that makes laws. One of the consequences of our hyper-political mindset is that those who do know what’s in our Constitution often take advantage of the masses by proposing ideas that are clearly in violation of that same document.

We’d like to think that our middle schools, high schools, and even colleges and universities are providing students with at least a basic understanding of our government and Constitution. Educating young citizens is perhaps the most critical part of ensuring that future generations will be ready to protect and defend our nation’s ideals and principles.

The problem is that many schools either don’t teach civics, or teach it the wrong way, or teach it in a politicized manner. Compounding this, universities today are more interested in turning students into political activists than knowledgeable citizens who value the ideals upon which our country was founded. As a result, Americans have a lot to say about “rights” that their teachers and professors have conjured up, but they know nothing about the rights in the Constitution.

But let’s not put all of this on our education system. During turbulent times in our nation’s past, we took solace in knowing that those in power were there to defend our sacred documents. Not today. In 2012, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.”

And in 2014, Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly that “on issue after issue, we cannot rely on a rulebook written for a different century,” a clear allusion to the Constitution that leftists believe is outdated and places too many restrictions on government power.

It seems that year after year we predict the demise of the Constitution, but as its anniversary approaches, perhaps we should look for a glimmer of hope. There are new initiatives springing up around the country that encourage the teaching of civics and require students to pass a civics examination.

Over the years, we in our humble shop have distributed more than one million pocket Constitutions toward the end of educating our fellow citizens.

And just this year, President Donald Trump appointed a constitutionalist to the Supreme Court in Neil Gorsuch, and there may be more to follow in the coming years. But a more constructionist Supreme Court is just a start; we have to prepare a new generation to stand up for the Constitution not only in government but also throughout society.

While the recent downward trend in knowledge about our Constitution is troubling, we cannot surrender our solemn obligation to support and defend a document whose ideas have blessed us for 230 years. As our Founders overcame great obstacles in ratifying the Constitution, we too must remain steadfast in educating our citizenry. Only then can we support and defend the framework of our republican system of government and our precious natural rights.


Surprisingly, some feminist lawyers side with Trump and DeVos on campus assault policy

When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week announced plans to revise the nation’s guidelines on campus sexual assault, the predictable din of outrage drowned out the applause from some unlikely corners of college campuses: Many liberals actually approve.

Groups of Harvard Law scholars, feminist lawyers, and other university professors had long argued that the Obama-era policy for policing student sexual charges was unfair, creating a Kafkaesque system that presumed guilt rather than innocence. Now, those academics find themselves atypically aligned with the Trump administration on an issue as contentious as sexual violence.

“Betsy DeVos and I don’t have many overlapping normative and political views,” said Janet Halley, a Harvard Law School professor and expert on sexual harassment who supports the change. “But I’m a human being, and I’m entitled to say what I think.”

The liberal-leaning American Association of University Professors has expressed concerns about the Trump administration, but agrees the assault policy needs revision.

“Funny what strange bedfellows politics makes sometimes,” said association senior program officer Anita Levy.

At the center of the debate is the guidance former president Barack Obama’s administration gave to college officials in 2011 under Title IX, the education law prohibiting sex discrimination at schools. Pointing to the continued prevalence of sexual assault on campuses, the rule pushed colleges to take the issue more seriously or lose federal funding.

Covering faculty and students, the new guidelines demanded that schools address every accusation and adopt a weaker standard of evidence than some had already been using. Rather than proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt, as in a criminal trial, or offering “clear and convincing evidence” that an offense was committed, it called for claims to be adjudicated based on a “preponderance of evidence” — guilt was “more likely than not.”

That made the bar lower to prove a sexual assault than any other kind of infraction that warrants discipline on campus, Levy said.

When DeVos raised such issues last week, legions of feminists, distrustful of a president who had bragged about his sexual conquests, bristled at the sound of it. But critics in academia and law had been voicing those same complaints for years. In 2014, 28 Harvard Law professors published an open letter in The Boston Globe criticizing Harvard’s then-new policy as “overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.”

“As teachers responsible for educating our students about due process of law, we find the new sexual harassment policy inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach,” wrote the professors, who included Charles Ogletree, an Obama friend and mentor, and emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz.

Also among them were four feminist professors who wrote a letter to the Department of Education last month beseeching DeVos’s department for a revision of the rule. Definitions of sexual wrongdoing are now far too broad, they wrote.

“They go way beyond accepted legal definitions of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment,” they wrote. “The definitions often include mere speech about sexual matters. They therefore allow students who find class discussion of sexuality offensive to accuse instructors of sexual harassment.”

The authors — Halley, Elizabeth Bartholet, Nancy Gertner, and Jeannie Suk Gersen — have all researched, taught, and written about sexual assault and feminist legal reform for years. Halley, who has represented both accusers and the accused in campus cases, said her colleagues maintain universities should have robust programs against sexual assault.

“We’re feminists. We get that,” Halley said in an interview. “But we don’t think it’s beneficial to address it in a way that includes overbroad definitions, structurally biased decision-makers, and due process violations.”

The professors argue in their letter that the way the policy has played out on campus led to adjudication that was “so unfair as to be truly shocking.” Some students don’t get to see the complaints against them, the factual basis of the charges, the evidence gathered, or the identities of witnesses, they wrote. Some schools don’t even provide hearings or let a lawyer speak up for the accused.

Still, many women reacted with alarm to see the Trump administration stepping up to defend accused rapists. Rape survivors said they feared their claims would be ignored or doubted once again. On Twitter, where the outrage machine churned, activist Amy Siskind blasted someone for repeating the “hackneyed due process talking point.”

“It’s very hard to get anybody to hear a nuanced position on this issue,” said Halley. “There’s passionate advocates on either side who will pretty much say anything.”

The optics could hardly look worse for Trump, whose treatment of women during his campaign spawned worldwide women’s protests the day after his inauguration. Many women could see the announcement only in the context of Trump’s preelection boasts about his penchant for kissing women and grabbing their genitals.

Dana Bolger, cofounder of Know Your IX, an advocacy group for survivors of sexual assault, called the policy change “a heartless move, but one that is not unexpected coming from an administration by a man who has bragged openly about sexually assaulting women.”

Activists have been eyeing DeVos with suspicion since revelations that she and her husband had contributed $10,000 to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that advocates for free speech on campuses and that has fought the Obama policy. When DeVos recently held discussions about changing the policy, she included representatives of men’s rights groups.

“They don’t believe survivors. They don’t think they are as credible as the accused,” Neena Chaudhry, director of education for the National Women’s Law Center, charged last week.

Women’s rights groups also recoiled upon hearing that Candice Jackson, the acting head of the Office of Civil Rights, dismissed the bulk of sexual assault accusations as drunken sexual encounters that women had later reconsidered and found problematic.

(Jackson is the person who appeared at a presidential debate with the women who had accused former president Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.)

Lee Burdette Williams, who left her post as dean of students at Wheaton College after her work was consumed by policing sexual assault, said the complicated issue can be oversimplified by the sharp political and cultural divisions of the moment.

“There’s not a lot of sense that if we collaborate and we bring all these people together and really work on this, good things will happen. There’s just these sides,” she said. “But I’ve interacted with the people [defending accused students] and they’re not awful people. They’re really good people. They’re moms who are just trying to figure this out. But we can’t even have these conversations anymore.”

Some professors who agree with the change in policy still remain skeptical about the way it will play out in the Trump administration. They say they intend to watch closely and weigh in with their own recommendations and they note, with frustration, that the Obama administration never sought public input on the rule it handed down. “The possibility of good policy coming out of this administration is very low,” Halley said. “The surprise is that such bad policy came out of the prior administration on this issue. It’s very confusing.”


Friday, September 15, 2017

Why US colleges are the world's best but way too expensive

Each year, the Times of London produces a rankings guide to the world's best universities. This year's guide has just been released, and the U.K. universities of Oxford and Cambridge top the rankings. American universities remain on top, but are losing ground to Asia and Europe.

Those results speak to the rankings guide's credibility: It is pretty good, but not perfect.

As the Wall Street Journal explains, the guide fails to consider China's use of universities as "journal churning" factories. Producing as many research papers as possible, Chinese universities know they can boost their research value score in comparison to other institutions. The research papers don't need to be useful; they just need to tick a box "one more article." The Times report also overweighs academics (and thus liberals) when assessing colleges. It would be more accurate were the Times to use high-societal achievers such as Pulitzer Prize winners, CEOs, or economists to judge how good universities actually are.

And were these considerations included, the U.S. would retain an unchallenged position as the world's top center for value-assessed research and education. That's because whether it be medical developments, private sector innovation, or impact-based philosophy and history, no other nation comes close to America's knowledge factory. That includes Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Money tells a big part of the tale here. After all, high-end research is rarely cheap.

But considering Oxford University's 2015-2016 research budget was $700 million, were it a U.S. university, it would be only 23rd on the nation's research budget list. Even worse, Cambridge University's $491 million a year would put it in 38th place!

Still, there is one thing that Oxford and Cambridge do better than top U.S. universities: cost-control in other areas. Consider undergraduate tuition.

First off, a quick caveat: U.K. students have their annual tuition capped by the government at $12,041 a year, so it's not fair to contrast those fees with private sector U.S. colleges. That said, if we consider overseas students at Oxford or Cambridge (who do not receive U.K. government subsidies), the rates become comparative. This year, an overseas student at Oxford or Cambridge will pay a maximum tuition of $31,109 or $38,054 (excluding medicine) respectively. While those rates might seem high, they are nothing compared to the U.S.

Trawl through the websites of U.S. Ivy League schools, and you'll find annual tuition fees at Brown come in at $52,213, Dartmouth at $51,468, Yale at $51,400, Princeton at $47,140, and Harvard at $44,990.

Why so much higher?

In part, it's due to the higher salaries of professors. But it's also a consequence of vastly expensive expenditures U.S. colleges make beyond teaching. American colleges spend big in areas such as student accommodations, lecture halls, social facilities, and administration. To be sure, these facilities are far superior to those in Britain, but they carry a heavy cost in the form of tuition outlays. The consequence is that too little of each student's fees is actually spent on education. More problematic, this pricing system means that those from low to middle income backgrounds require government subsidies in order to study. And sadly, thanks to our acceptance that this price inflation is the norm, Americans are accepting its perpetuity.

As I've argued, we need a different approach. We should work to reduce tuition costs by bold federal grant reform and in staffing structure changes. Most of all, we must remind ourselves that the key to a good education is not luxury, but good teaching.

Until reform comes, however, I thoroughly recommend American students look abroad for their undergraduate study. For one, consider my alma mater, King's College London's War Studies department. Studying for a B.A. in War Studies will only cost you $22,231 a year, and in return, you'll learn the ways of spycraft, diplomacy, and statecraft. You'll get to learn from Alessio Patalano and Andrew Lambert!


Racial Lies and Racism:  Pesky Asians
Earlier this month, The New York Times ran an article titled “U.S. Rights Unit Shifts to Study Antiwhite Bias” on its front page. The article says that President Donald Trump’s Justice Department’s civil rights division is going to investigate and sue universities whose affirmative action admissions policies discriminate against white applicants. This is an out-and-out lie. The truth is that the U.S. departments of Justice and Education plan to investigate racial bias in admissions at Harvard and other elite institutions where Asian-Americans are held to far higher standards than other applicants. This type of practice was used during the first half of the 20th century to limit the number of Jews at Harvard and other Ivy League schools.

Drs. Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford documented discrimination against Asians in their 2009 award-winning book, “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life.” Their research demonstrated that, when controlling for other variables, Asian students faced considerable odds against their admission. To be admitted to elite colleges, Asians needed SAT scores 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than blacks. An Asian applicant with an SAT score of 1500 (out of a possible 1600 on the old SAT) had the same chance of being admitted as a white student with a 1360 score, a Latino with a 1230 and a black student with a 1050 score. Another way of looking at it is that among applicants who had the highest SAT scores (within the 1400-1600 range), 77 percent of blacks were admitted, 48 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of whites and only 30 percent of Asians.

The case of Austin Jia is typical of what happens to Asian students. In 2015, Jia graduated from high school and had a nearly perfect score of 2340 out of 2400 possible points on the new SAT. His GPA was 4.42, and he had taken 11 Advanced Placement courses in high school. He had been on his school’s debate team, been the tennis team’s captain and played the violin in the all-state orchestra. His applications for admission were rejected at Harvard, Princeton and Columbia universities, as well as at the University of Pennsylvania. Jia said that his rejection was particularly disturbing when certain classmates who had lower scores but were not Asian-American like him were admitted to those Ivy League schools.

California universities present an interesting case. At one time, they also discriminated against Asians in admissions, but now it’s a different story. As of 2008, Asians made up 40 percent of the students enrolled at UCLA and 43 percent at the University of California, Berkeley. Last school year, 42 percent of students at Caltech were Asian. You might ask what accounts for the high numbers. It turns out that in 1996, Proposition 209 (also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative) was approved by California voters. The measure amended the state constitution to prohibit state governmental institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in the areas of public employment, public contracting and public education.

The experience of California, where racially discriminatory admissions policy has been reduced, suggests that if Ivy League universities were prohibited from using race as a factor in admissions, the Asian-American admissions rate would rise while the percentages of white, black and Hispanic students would fall. Diversity-crazed college administrators would throw a hissy fit. By the way, diversity-crazed administrators are willing accomplices in the nearly total lack of racial diversity on their basketball teams. It’s not unusual to watch games in which there’s not a single white, Hispanic or Asian player.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says, “The idea of discriminating against Asians in order to make room for other minorities doesn’t seem right as a matter of principle.” Dershowitz is absolutely right, but he goes astray when he argues that investigating discrimination against whites raises a different set of questions. He says, “Generically, whites have not been the subject of historic discrimination.” Dershowitz’s vision fails to see people as humans, because what human is deserving of racial discrimination?


How NYU Can Learn from China

When I studied in London last year as part of my university’s exchange program, I experienced first-hand the inefficiencies of monopolies propped up by central authorities. The “central authority” I speak of is not, perhaps, what you are thinking of: the UK government, or worse, the ‘notorious’ European Union. Rather, I use the term to describe my own university, which in many ways operates like a state. I was inspired to write this blog post after reading China’s Great Migration, by Bradley M. Gardner, because of the parallels I saw between the Chinese government’s control over its economy and my university’s control over housing.

I go to New York University, which is known in New York for being egregiously expensive. At NYU’s London campus, the story is the same. In particular, housing costs turn a high tuition bill into a monumental cost of attendance. But it doesn’t have to be this way. NYU is much smaller than a state, but its housing woes reflect the problems caused by governments that limit economic competition and enforce state-run monopolies; it can learn from these experiences.

When I was choosing where to live in London, I was given the option of choosing between three different dorms: two operated by NYU and one operated by a private company called Urbanest, which also rents to students from other universities. In the two NYU dorms, you are most likely to be placed in a double room in a suite. You’ll have a roommate and share a bathroom with three or more other people. That costs about $8,500 per semester.

In Urbanest, you are guaranteed your own room, most likely in a suite with four to eight other rooms. You’ll have your own bathroom in your room, and share a kitchen with the suite. That’s listed on NYU’s housing website at around $10,000 per semester.

I stayed in Urbanest my first semester and an NYU dorm in my second, and I can say that the quality of Urbanest is undeniably better. The beds are comfortable. The kitchens are large and have ceiling-height windows. And Urbanest rents bikes to students for very cheap. None of this is true of the NYU dorms. It makes sense, though—Urbanest is more expensive, so the quality should be better. The problem is, Urbanest is actually not more expensive—for non-NYU students, that is.

As the Bedford Square News reported last year, NYU students who rent a room in Urbanest through the university pay $3,000 more per semester than non-NYU students, who can book directly through Urbanest for around $7,000 per semester. This means that, in reality, the private company is able to provide a superior product while charging much less than NYU.

And there are other, better—and cheaper—options outside of NYU housing. I stayed in three different Airbnbs in London over winter break (NYU kicks students out of the dorms over holiday) all costing from $28 to $44 a night. Taking the highest rate, $44, that’s just over $5000 for the seventeen-week semester—much cheaper than anything NYU provides. Unfortunately, though, living full time in an Airbnb—as well as booking directly through Urbanest—is not actually an option because NYU requires students studying abroad to live in university housing. Students must book through NYU and pay whatever rate the university decides to charge.

While the motivation behind such a policy may be to ensure the university has enough revenue to cover the costs of its dorms so it can guarantee students housing, the market already does a fine job providing housing at higher quality and lower cost.

NYU’s high housing costs are rooted in the same lack of choice that makes state-mandated monopolies inefficient, and NYU would be well-suited to look at the experiences of economies that have been dominated by these monopolies.

One of the best examples of such an economy is China. In his new book, China’s Great Migration, Bradley M. Gardner outlines how the migration of over 260 million Chinese people from rural China to urban centers helped transform the Chinese economy into the second largest in the world. The migration was so large and rapid that it forced the government to greatly loosen its control over the economy.

In 1979, the Chinese government legalized self-employment (private employment) to absorb the millions of unemployed people who could no longer find work in state-owned enterprises. Since then, the number of private firms has grown substantially and, as Gardner notes, these companies have consistently outperformed the SOEs. That’s because the private sector is forced to adapt to the market—to lower costs and improve quality as the market demands cheaper and better products.

State-owned enterprises, on the other hand, lack such adaptability and do not face actual market costs and prices. Just like NYU’s housing, Chinese SOEs that are still viable stay above water only because they enjoy monopolies. In both cases, monopolies created by central planning are inefficient, and the private sector can do a better job.

Mr. Gardner notes that SOEs are the biggest threat to China’s continued development and that China would only benefit from selling off these companies. Similarly, as NYU faces increasing pressure over its cost of attendance, it would do well to end its monopoly on housing and the corresponding price inflations at its campuses abroad, letting the market dictate where students live.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where the Battle for America Must Really Be Won

“The day after the election I was texting my mom to pick me up from school and she almost had to!! Every teacher was crying in class, one even told the whole class ‘Trump winning is worse than 9/11 and the Columbine shooting.’” —a student describing the scene at Edina High School in Minneapolis last November

America is a divided nation. And nothing fosters that division more than the legions of public school students who have been fed a steady diet of progressive ideology for more than four decades — one that asserts America is a fundamentally flawed nation in need of wholesale change. Aided and abetted by Democrats, teachers and their unions have made it clear that students either conform to the progressive worldview or they will be bullied, harassed and intimidated until they do.

Moreover, progressives are twisting the law, especially with regard to their efforts to force-feed transgenderism to children beginning in kindergarten. “Whether parents will have a right to opt their children out of ‘gender identity’ lessons depends on the governing provisions of state law,” explains columnist Margot Cleveland. “Every state regulates public education, and in most states, parents may opt their children out of ‘sex-education’ classes. Whether a discussion of ‘gender identity’ and ‘transgenderism’ would qualify as ‘sex education’ depends on the specific statute.”

Bottom line? “My initial research indicates that the various statutory definitions of ‘sex education’ contained in opt-out provisions focus on sexual reproduction and thus would not cover classroom discussions of gender identity,” she adds. “Further, some states, such as California, expressly provide that ‘gender identity’ is not subject to the statutory opt-out provisions available to parents for comprehensive sex education.

Thus, when a kindergarten teacher Rocklin Academy Gateway staged a gender transition ceremony for one of her students, furious parents who had neither been notified in advance, nor given the opportunity to opt out, were told by the principal that the school’s non-discrimination policy "protects all students, including on the basis of gender, gender identity, and gender expression.”

Parents at a Washington, DC, charter school received the same treatment. When expressing similar concerns they were not given the opportunity to opt out of such classes, the principal was equally obdurate. “I will not exempt any child from classroom discussions or instruction relating to the topics of gender identity, and ‘marital norms,’” he wrote in a letter.

The sentiments of a parental majority are apparently irrelevant as well. A couple who insisted their child was gender fluid at the age of two — because he began emulating Beyonc√©’s dance moves — successfully sued St. Paul, Minnesota’s Nova Classical Academy for not including transgender material in kindergarten classes. As a result the school promised to establish a policy that doesn’t allow parents to opt out “based on religious or conscience objections.” In addition, the school stated it would “not call parents’ or guardians’ attention to the policy” — meaning they are trying to hide mandatory compliance with the progressive agenda from unsuspecting parents.

Chalkbeat Indiana is taking it one step further, providing LGBT activists with a list of schools that are “anti-LGBT” (read: espouse traditional and/or Christian values) in case “rainbow protesters wanted to show up at a few, or know where to enroll their gender-dysphoric kindergarteners and then sue,” warns columnist Joy Pullman.

Transgenderism is the tip of the progressive iceberg. “Not many things shock me, but I confess that I have been shocked by what I have learned about the Edina public school system,” writes John Hinderacker. “Indoctrination in left-wing politics begins in elementary school, where children are taught the pernicious doctrine of ‘white privilege.’”

In Texas, Katy High School was forced to delete a picture from its social media site depicting National Guard members taking a rest in an empty school hallway following their effort to help people devastated by Hurricane Harvey. At Georgia’s River Ridge High School, teacher Lyn Orletsky made students remove “Make America Great Again” T-shirts. Why? “Just like you cannot wear a swastika to school, you cannot wear ‘make America great again’ like that,” Orletsky asserted.

President Trump has been used as a springboard for much of this nonsense, beginning shortly after the election when the National Education Association urged schools to participate in a “National Day of Action” against the new president. But such ideological insidiousness began being implemented before that, casing a wider ideological net in the process. In 2015 at Nathan Hale High School in West Allis, Wisconsin, a teacher asked students to rate a list of political statements ranging from communist to fascist. With regard to the statement, “We should not help the poor, it’s a waste of money,” any answer that did not identify it as a “Conservative/Republican” position was marked wrong.

Such overt proselytization has also occurred with regard to religion, global warming, history and economics. Students who resist are bullied, suspended or forced to undergo psychological evaluations.

Yet it is far worse than that. As the Daily Caller reveals, “dozens of public school teachers” belong to the antifa-aligned organization By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). They include Detroit teacher Nicole Conaway, who led students on a 2016 protest resulting in a confrontation with police and her arrest. Militant Berkeley middle school teacher Yvette Felarca, currently faces charges for inciting a riot outside the state capital last year. The district where she works has accused her of and her BAMN of “actively trying to brainwash and manipulate these young people to serve your own selfish interests in not being held accountable to the same rules that apply to everyone else,” yet they have been unable or unwilling to fire her. And in 2016, 17 BAMN members ran for elected positions with the Detroit Federation of Teachers and five ran for positions with the NEA in 2017.

What can be done to counter this ongoing progressive onslaught? It’s time to use the same court-endorsed strategy that keeps organized religion out of the nation’s public school classrooms: make the case that progressive ideology is itself faith-based and its de facto endorsement violates the First Amendment’s prohibition thereof. Nothing demonstrates that reality better than its adherents determination to force the unproven science of transgenderism on children, leaving many of them confused and frightened. “The leftists harping on this topic are essentially demanding a religious litmus test … as a precondition for educating children,” Pullman states.

Not essentially. Exactly, and a class-action suit would be the beginning of an effort to hold schools accountable, not just with regard to transgenderism, but every other bit of progressive propaganda being presented as indisputable fact.

In addition, Congress should hold nationally televised hearings on the current state of public school education. No doubt millions of Americans would be fascinated to discover why an anti-Republican, anti-Trump, anti-tradition, pro-global warming, pro-transgender, pro-socialist, pro-sanctuary and pro-revisionist history agenda has become the default position in hundreds of schools around the nation.

“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted,” stated Vladimir Lenin.

In a nation enduring increasingly regular and leftist-orchestrated assaults on free speech, historical monuments, biological reality, capitalism — and American exceptionalism itself — a sustained and organized counter-attack is an idea whose time has come.


Why children should now aspire to be plumbers, builders and electricians... not lawyers

Among my generation of middle-class, university-educated male friends, there are countless who can explain the geopolitical significance of Turkey’s recent election, but barely one who could hang a painting straight.

As for changing a fuse, bleeding a radiator or fixing a tap, forget it. You need to get a real man in for that.

Hardly surprising, then, that new figures reveal that electricians, plumbers and plasterers are among the highest-paid workers in the country, with some earning more than £150,000 a year.

All over Britain, skilled tradesmen are now bringing home up to six times the average wage. A junior doctor earns £23,000 a year, working night shifts and long hours. A newly qualified sparky, by contrast, can easily make £1,500 a week.

There was a time, of course, when every home had its own live-in handyman. He was known as ‘the husband’. The quality of the work wasn’t always perfect, and he did require a certain amount of nagging and strong tea; but it at least meant that a blocked sink or a broken Hoover wasn’t the end of the world.

But most modern husbands, mine included, are far more likely to be found building a LEGO Death Star spaceship at the weekend with the children than repointing the garden wall.

Hence the rising salaries in the manual labour market — and the boom in websites such as Task-Rabbit, where helpless wives can find handymen for all sorts of niggling jobs, from fixing a wobbly shelf to sorting out a patch of damp.

Let us not forget the success of the boss of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, testament to the benefits of knowing one end of a stopcock from another. Born in Camden, he grew up in a council flat and left school at 15 to become a plumber’s apprentice. He’s now worth £70 million.

One fellow I employed recently to help with an especially fiendish flat pack came all the way from Canada. He had moved to the UK to work in the banking sector, but had lost his job a few years after the 2008 crash. Since then he had been making a perfectly good living as a general odd jobber — self-employed and master of his own destiny.

He much preferred his new life, he said. And there was no shortage of work to be had.

There may be something a little surreal about this army of surrogate husbands filling in for other men’s DIY inadequacies. But what is real is what it tells us about the future of the job market — and the entire post-war theory of education.

Since the Eighties, governments have embraced unquestioningly the notion of expanding university provision. In 2002, Tony Blair promised to get half of all young people into university and numbers have risen steadily ever since.

No one then would have thought to contest his vision of democratising higher education. But perhaps it’s not so straightforward after all.

The problem with flooding a marketplace is that you inevitably devalue the product.

Thus, the more undergraduates who enter the job market, the less their achievements count. And when you think what it costs for a young person to obtain a degree — three to four years of study, potentially £50,000 worth of debt and little guarantee of a well-paid job at the end of it — you do wonder whether it’s worth it.

Perhaps instead of aspiring for our boys to be doctors, lawyers and accountants, we should be encouraging them to be plumbers, builders and electricians.

Could it be that, after years at the top, the age of the middle-class intellectual professional is drawing to a close, driven to extinction not only by the Darwinian march of technology — but his own stubborn refusal to finally get around to changing that damned plug?


Yearning for More Robust Choice Than Charters Can Provide

Charters have become increasingly establishment.  Voucher-funded private schooling is increasingly sought

Charter schools are not going to disappear overnight from the menu of education-reform options. However, the precipitous decline in popular support for these semi-autonomous public schools, as shown by a 2017 EdNext Poll, is stunning and certainly a cause for serious reflection by the movement’s boosters and sympathizers.

A drop of 12 percentage points from 2016 to 2017—from 51 percent support down to 39 percent—is particularly noteworthy given that it comes in a survey overseen by highly respected, fair-minded scholars at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the Harvard Kennedy School. The dip in charter support was the largest change the pollsters found in opinion on a broad range of education issues. Support for charters declined in similar proportions among Republicans and Democrats.

It’s also significant that the latest EdNext Poll showed private choice, which offers families a far more robust array of options than charters, gaining in public esteem. Opposition to universal vouchers—publicly-funded scholarships available to all—shrank from 44 percent to 37 percent, while opposition to tax-credit-funded scholarships dipped to just 24 percent (from 29 percent in 2016). The scholarship tax credits were the most popular form of school choice, with nearly seven of every 10 respondents supporting that option.

In the 2016 poll, universal vouchers –an idea originally championed by free-market economist Milton Friedman – were more popular among Democrats than Republicans— and by an 8-percentage-point margin. Who knew? Perhaps a partial explanation lies in the high level of support for all-out choice among African-Americans, who vote heavily Democratic despite that party’s catering to the anti-parental-choice teachers’ unions.

This partisan divide shifted in the 2017 poll, with universal-voucher support increasing among Republicans by 13 percentage points (to 54 percent) but declining by nine points among Democrats (to 40 percent). Gung-ho verbal championing of choice by President Donald Trump could help explain that.

What should we make of this data? Well, for starters, more choice is preferable to less choice, and choice extending into the private sector beats being limited to choice within the governmental system.

The strong suit of charter schools is that, in the 26 years since the first one came into being in Minnesota, they have offered at least a modicum of choice to families stuck in their neighborhood government school, often in inner cities and without a lifeline to independent schools.

Statistically, charters have had a decent run. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percentage of charter schools within the public school orb increased from four percent to seven percent from school years 2004–05 to 2014–15, with the total number of charter schools growing from 3,400 to 6,750. During that period, charter school enrollment increased by 1.8 million pupils while enrollment in conventional public schools dropped by 0.4 million.

Yet the EdNext poll confirmed what many other surveys have found: At least a quarter of adult Americans still don’t understand what a charter school is. That may be partly a result of advocates’ failure to communicate the charter mission, but, increasingly, the problem is a blurring of differences between conventional and chartered public schools.

At the outset, the idea was that these would be innovative schools driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. Organizations or groups of parents and teachers with a shared vision could apply for a contract (or charter) with the local school district or a statewide chartering authority. In exchange for delivering a curriculum and specified results, the founders would receive an exemption from certain innovation-crushing rules, such as teachers having to be certified. Upon periodic review, the chartering authority could revoke the charter for failure to perform to agreed-upon standards.

However, charters gradually have lost their grassroots aura. NCES data show charters with fewer than 300 students are declining in numbers while those with at least 500 are growing. It used to be a badge of honor that grassroots charters operated on about one-third of the cost of traditional public schools, on average, compared to conventional public schools, but now, major charter organizations lobby for equalized funding.

More ominously, proponents of centralized education have co-opted the charter movement to push their own agendas, and, incredibly, have invited increased oversight and regulation of charters by public officials, who often are hostile to their very existence. Noting that, Tillie Elvrum, president of – a nationwide parents’ alliance, charged in a statement that the charter movement’s leaders “have walked away from the fundamental principle of trusting and empowering parents with their children’s education decisions.”

It is an open question whether, if these trends continue, charter schools will remain even a decent fallback option for families that cannot select a private or parochial school for their children.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Leftists rediscovering their segregationist roots

Irwin Holmes was in his living room, a laptop computer in front of him, a pile of reading materials stacked next to him, and his wife seated nearby when he heard the news. North Carolina State University might create segregated student housing for African American women.

When he learned his alma mater already had exclusive student housing for Native Americans and African American males he was incredulous, and at no loss for words.

“I want to make some contacts over at that school. I’m going to go over there and let them know what I think about it,” Holmes said. “I think it’s absolutely atrocious and stupid. I’ll tell you how it affected me. I’m going to make some reasonable contributions to the school. Maybe. I’m not sure I’m going to make them now.”

Holmes, a retired electrical engineer who still lives in his hometown of Durham, was the first African American to earn an undergraduate degree from NC State, in 1960.

“I was clearly a pioneer” in tearing down racial barriers to integrated education in the Jim Crow South, Holmes said. “Somebody’s going to have to convince me why that’s not stepping backwards” to create separate housing for minorities.

Nashia Whittenburg, director of multicultural student affairs at NC State, stirred a national debate and a torrent of news articles shortly after she assumed her position on July 10. She was quoted in a university news release saying she wanted to create an exclusive living and learning village for African American women.

“Are we creating a sense of inclusion for our underrepresented students, and the opportunity for non-underrepresented students to understand that?” Whittenburg asked in justifying the segregated housing, which she likened to an after-class support system to deal with all-day microaggressions. She views female blacks-only housing as a student retention tool.

University housing director Susan Grant said Whittenburg’s plan “is not currently under consideration,” and could take more than a year to be developed if approved.

There are 16 living and learning villages on campus “to provide a high impact living and learning experience to complement and augment the academic and co-curricular experience,” Grant said.

She denied that any of the village housing is segregated, but did not answer whether people of other races lived in the Black Male Initiative or Native Space housing.

“Our focus is on cultural exploration, not exclusive of any race,” Grant said.​

It is unclear how many colleges and universities have such student housing arrangements.

James Baumann, director of communications and marketing at the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International, said that will be the subject of a research initiative in the near future.

He said that his organization has been following housing programs for African American males at, among other schools, the University of Connecticut, the University of Iowa, and Cal State Los Angeles. Reed College in Portland, Oregon, Cornell College in Iowa, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University also have ethnic and racially themed housing.

Themed housing “can address a number of different subjects that are sometimes connected to work in the classroom, and other times operate independently of the students’ coursework,” Baumann said. It can “bring together students that share an interest, area of study, or an identity. They can act as a support network that helps students build community and assist one another.”

But critics have raised questions about the legality of segregated housing for racial minorities, and whether it is a return to a darker time in the nation’s history when government policy and institutional rules separated the races.

Civil rights lawyer Irving Joyner, a law professor at the historically black North Carolina Central University in Durham, said separate housing could run afoul of the Constitution.

“If this is just done for the sake of doing it, then I think you have a clear violation of Brown v. Board of Education,” Joyner said of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared “separate but equal” education was unconstitutional.

Joyner said he is aware of efforts on university campuses and in high schools around the country “to declare that such an arrangement violates Brown v. Board, that it is a perpetuation of segregation, and because of that it should not occur.”

But he can imagine a defense for separate housing. If there is a hostility level on campus that makes African American females uncomfortable, or if they feel culturally alienated, or culturally attacked, that falls under the same umbrella as a physical attack in his mind, Joyner said.

A university has “a compelling interest” to provide separate housing as an emergency measure to protect students under those circumstances, he said. “I think that the court would allow it.”

Joyner was one of only two African American students in his dormitory during his undergraduate studies at Oswego State University in New York. He said he understands why older African Americans who endured similar experiences might feel like a return to separate housing betrays their important efforts to desegregate colleges.

But Irwin Holmes said he is less concerned about the legacy of his contributions in opening doors to minority students at NC State than he is about what might be lost through separate housing.

“One of the big advantages of integration in America has been that people who wouldn’t normally run into each other as they go through life are forced to run into each other. And what happens when you do that is you discover that there’s not much difference between us,” Holmes said.

Integrated schools and close living arrangements foster interracial friendships that might not otherwise occur, and that is “the main reason America’s changing today,” Holmes said. “When you mix, magical things happen that nobody can anticipate.…”

Holmes chose NC State for its engineering program. NC Central, from which his father and mother graduated, and where his father was an All-American football player, and later teacher and coach, did not have an engineering curriculum. And going to North Carolina A&T was out of the question because that was NC Central’s arch rival, and his parents wouldn’t have allowed that, he said with a chuckle.

Despite two racially charged encounters with professors, a sour experience or two from his white teammates on the tennis team, and a sucker punch from a white opponent during an intramural basketball game, Holmes said his experience at NC State was overwhelmingly positive.

Most professors were determined he would graduate, and helped him any way they could. Most of his fellow students were friendly. And he was named co-captain of the tennis team his senior year.

Holmes, like Joyner, said there might be more racial tension on campus today than during integration.

White teachers might not encourage African American students to excel because they don’t believe they are as capable as white students, he said. African Americans might feel that whites still don’t accept them into their groups. So they no longer try to assimilate where they don’t feel wanted, and tend to band together.

But he doesn’t believe that justifies splintering the races further through separate housing.

Neal McCluskey, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Reform, said he is unaware whether any research has been done on the effects of segregated college housing.

But he said there is research at the high school level that shows self-segregation is common. He cited former Spelman College president Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? as one of the books that found that even if students are physically together in school, their friendships tend to be overwhelmingly homogenous.

“Meaningful, intergroup bridging does not seem to readily occur even where groups are physically mixed,” McCluskey said. “And this seems to be largely a function of homophily—people liking people like themselves—rather than animosity toward other groups.”

But proponents of race-themed housing, such as NC State’s Nashia Whittenburg, don’t appear to be working to bridge racial divides or reduce students’ tendency to self-segregate.

They seem to be more interested in creating psychological “safe spaces” for minority students than in breaking down social barriers. In the name of “inclusion,” they may end up perpetuating the exclusionary campus culture that Irwin Holmes and others fought against decades ago.


Illinois Passes Its First, Country’s 18th, Tax-Credit Scholarship Program

By Vicki Alger 

This week the Illinois legislature passed legislation creating the country’s 18th tax-credit scholarship program, and the bill is on its way to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who’s said he’ll sign it. UPDATE: Gov. Rauner signed the bill.

Officially called the Invest in Kids Act, Illinois’ flagship tax-credit scholarship program was passed as part of a compromise school funding bill. (See SB 1947)

Unlike voucher scholarships, which are funded by government appropriations, tax-credit scholarships are privately financed through donations to non-profit scholarship organizations.

The Invest in Kids Act makes students from low- and moderate-income families eligible for scholarships, which are scaled based on family income. When awarding scholarships, non-profits must give priority to low-income students, students in districts with poorly performing public schools, called “focus districts,” and siblings of scholarship recipients.

Scholarship amounts cannot exceed the lesser of necessary private school costs and fees, or the statewide average public school operational expense per student, which averages just under $13,000. Scholarship limits are higher for special needs, English learner, and gifted/talented students.

Students from families whose income is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, currently $45,510 for a family of four, receive full scholarship awards. Partial scholarships worth 75 percent of the maximum amount can be awarded to students whose family incomes fall between 185 percent and less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, currently $61,500 for a family of four. Students from families with incomes of 250 percent up to the program income limit of 300 percent of the federal poverty level, currently $73,800 for a family of four, are eligible for scholarships worth 50 percent of the maximum award.

Individuals and businesses can claim a credit off their state taxes worth 75 percent of their donations to scholarship non-profits, and the aggregate value of tax credits that can be claimed in a given year is capped at $75 million. That works out to a maximum of $100 million annually in donations for need-based scholarships.

Even though the Invest in Kids scholarship program represents just a fraction of Illinois state education funding, which amounts to $8.2 billion, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey called it a “time bomb” that could “sabotage school funding.” (See here also.) Hardly.

States that have enacted tax-credit scholarship programs have saved as much as $3.4 billion combined—approximately $3,000 per scholarship student. An official government analysis of the country’s largest scholarship program in Florida also found that the state saved $1.49 in education funding for every dollar claimed in donation tax credits.

What’s more, under the 500+ page bill the Chicago Public School system gets an additional $450 million, and the City of Chicago gets to increase property taxes by $130 million.

Most importantly the Invest in Kids scholarship program “will bring hope to many students who have been trapped in schools that do not meet their education needs,” according to the Heartland Institute’s Lennie Jarratt.

Thus Illinois will soon officially be the largest blue state with a private school parental choice program, which should give hope to Californians that nonpublic educational choice could be a reality someday soon.

“Illinois, a state mired in debt and tortured by one of, if not the worst teachers unions in the nation, has finally done something to help children stuck in failing schools,” says the Heartland Institute’s Teresa Mull. Her colleague Tim Benson concurs, adding, “At the dawn of 2017, I never would have expected that one of the states to pass a new education choice program would be Illinois, the poster child for governance – both stupid and criminal. Yet here I am, pleasantly surprised to be wrong.”


UK: Liberal school that's just too liberal: Top £10,000-a-year Steiner school is ordered to close amid child safety fears after series of damning inspections

When my son was a toddler, we visited the local Steiner School with a view to seeing if it might be right for him. But it was way too wacky for us

A top £10,000 a year school has been ordered to close following a damning report from Ofsted that flagged up serious fears of child safety.

The Rudolf Steiner School, in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, will close down after failing to make improvements since the education watchdog's last visit in December, when it stopped any new pupils from coming aboard.

But now the school has been ordered to close down for good, with inspectors saying data protection had been breached, pupils were able to wander off-site during lunch breaks and that there were no 'professional boundaries' between students and teachers, with some meeting up outside school.

The school is currently appealing the decision and will continue to operate as normal until a decision on this has been made.

A statement on the school's website reads: 'On 26th July the School received notice from the Department for Education of the Secretary of State's decision to de-register the School from the Register of Independent Schools, subject to appeal.

'This notice was a result of the findings of Ofsted's May 2017 Inspection.

'After almost seventy years of providing a unique and inspiring education to countless children, the School is facing closure.

'The School is appealing the deregistration and the community is now coming together in a positive and dedicated campaign to save our school.'

After it failed the report in December, Ofsted officials visited the school in May to see if it had managed to turn its fortunes around.

However, lead inspector Philippa Darley and her team found that, in many respects, teachers were far behind the necessary standards, with some even casually meeting children outside class.

The report said: 'Professional boundaries between staff, parents and pupils are not maintained... Parents arrange for pupils to see their teachers, and former teachers, off the school site.  This culture is unchanged, despite known serious safeguarding failings.

The report also slammed the school for lying to parents about the severity of some of the issues, and for failing to keep data secure.

'Leaders have underplayed and misrepresented the school's safeguarding failings to parents,' it said. 'On more than one occasion, they have publicly stated that the failure is simply one of 'record keeping'.

'They have also stated that 'no transgressions or wrongdoings were found to have taken place' and have implied that former parents who expressed concerns have misrepresented the position. These messages are not supported by the inspection evidence.

'Leaders have failed to ensure that information relating to child protection is retained in line with the rules on retention of data promulgated by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

'They have failed to take proper steps to save the email accounts of former staff, including those of one former leader for safeguarding.

'Records of pupils going off-site at lunchtime continue to be poorly kept. It is not always clear if pupils have returned to school.

'These standards remain unmet. Crucially, leaders do not base their decisions, at all times, on what is in the best interests of the child. This is the core principle of good safeguarding practice and a statutory requirement for all schools.'

A new principal has been appointed in a bid to save the school from closure, and an entirely new Council of Trustees has also been put in place.

In a public statement on the school's website, co-signed by the new principal and the chair of trustees the school said:

'The new leadership of the School is putting into effect a strategy to address all of the issues identified by Ofsted and others, working closely with parents, staff and all stakeholders

'While the School feels it provides a positive experience for children, there have been real and serious failings going back several years.

'The School and leadership wishes to fully and publicly apologise to those children, and their families, to whom the School failed to provide the safe and supportive learning environment it should.

'The new leadership is determined that the School continues to learn and apply all the important lessons arising from past complaints to ensure that such failings never happen again.

'While a lot has been done, there remains a lot to do. The new leadership team is fully confident that the required progress can be achieved.'