Saturday, April 08, 2006

Education Committee Chair Highlights NCLB Report, Expresses Concern about Lack of Participation in School Choice, Supplemental Services Options

Press release from here

U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) today highlighted a report - released this morning by the U.S. Department of Education - on the progress made under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The report, which is required by Congress to track the law's Title I implementation, focuses on key provisions related to state assessments, accountability measures, trends in student achievement, teacher quality, school choice, and supplemental educational services.

Among the report's major findings is that states are not notifying those schools which did not achieve adequate yearly progress (AYP) in a timely enough manner. For example, regarding the 2004-05 academic year, only 15 states provided final AYP results to schools by September 2005. Moreover, despite the fact that NCLB requires parents to be informed of a school's AYP status prior to the beginning of the next school year, almost half of all school districts notified parents an average of five weeks after school had started.

"As we approach next year's reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, this report provides Congress, schools, and parents valuable information about the progress being made in implementing NCLB's chief reforms," said McKeon. "While the report details generally strong progress toward meeting the law's key goals, I'm particularly concerned that parents are not being informed quickly enough if their child's school is not making adequate yearly progress. In fact, this late notification seems to be impacting a parent's ability to take advantage of school choice and supplemental educational services options under the law."

The report supports McKeon's concern, finding that in the 2003-04 school year less than one percent of students eligible to attend a different public or charter school through NCLB's school choice provisions had actually taken advantage of the option. "Access to school choice and supplemental services options is vital to the ultimate success of NCLB," McKeon continued. "Parents whose children are eligible to take advantage of them should be notified in a timely manner so they can make the fully-informed decisions about their children's academic future. Other key findings of the report include:

* National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in both reading and math have improved for 4th grade students, with Hispanic and African American students seeing more dramatic gains;

* The number of Title I schools that have been identified for improvement is roughly the same as it was before NCLB, disputing claims by education reform opponents that NCLB is too punitive;

* Only 14% of schools did not achieve AYP solely because of the performance on assessments by disabled students, while just four percent missed solely because of the assessment performance of limited English proficiency (LEP) students, disputing the claims of some that the performance of LEP and disabled students on assessments is the only reason schools are not achieving AYP; and

* Based on state reported data from the 2003-04 academic year, 86% of classes were taught by highly qualified teachers.

"As we continue a national discussion - from the classrooms in our schools to the kitchen tables in our homes - about what we need to do to ensure every child has access to a high-quality education, this report has uncovered valuable facts about both our successes in NLCB implementation and the areas in which we still need to work in closing the achievement gap in our nation's schools," concluded McKeon.


Baylor University is the Baptist-affiliated school in Waco, Texas, best known perhaps for its football team. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in Texas and, with some 14,000 students, the largest Baptist university in the world. Of late, however, the school has distinguished itself mainly by its evident disdain for the academic freedom of an eminent scholar and its concomitant promotion of a radical polemicist.

Baylor recently decided to deny tenure to Francis Beckwith, a leading bio-ethicist and one of the most accomplished scholars at Baylor. Beckwith had been associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and associate professor of church-state studies. The vote to deny him tenure was little more than an act of political censorship directed against his conservative political and religious views. It has also turned into a media nightmare for Baylor's administration. Rod Dreher at the Dallas Morning News wrote this about Baylorgate: "The fact that a Baptist university cannot bring itself to award tenure to a scholar of Dr. Beckwith's stature is scandalous -- and will cause shock waves beyond Waco."

Beckwith's sin seems to be his belief in Christianity and his defense of the teaching of "intelligent design," the doctrine holding that it is possible to see evidence of an intelligent plan in the patterns of evolution and that advanced life forms could not have simply evolved via random interactions of chemicals. "Intelligent Design" has become the bogeyman of radical secularists, who want to make sure that no high school biology teacher in the country dare mention it as an alternative view of how biological processes took place.

The ACLU and similar outfits consider "intelligent design" to be the backdoor introduction of religious indoctrination into the schoolhouse. More troublingly, as they see it, it is at variance with their preferred political causes -- such as homosexual marriage, racial quotas, global warming and other left-wing doctrines -- which they adhere to with a near-theological fervor and which they have long promoted under the guise of education.

Beckwith's supporters are understandably outraged. One of Baylor's graduate students described the firing of Beckwith in The American Spectator as a case of petty revenge. But the circumstances of of Beckwith's case are unusual and controversial, and have attracted attention and comment from First Things magazine, a prominent religious journal published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life (led by Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus). Its editor Joseph Bottum wrote on March 27:

"Baylor has apparently decided to sink back into its diminished role as a not terribly distinguished regional school. President Sloan is gone, the new high-profile faculty are demoralized and sniffing around for positions at better-known schools, energetic programs like the Intelligent Design institute have been chased away, and the bright young professors are having their academic careers ruined by a school that lured them to campus with the promises of the 2012 plan and now is simply embarrassed by them."

Beckwith had been hired by Robert Sloan, Baylor's former president, whose aim it was to turn Baylor into something more than the home of a football team and to build Christian academic excellence and achieve for Baylor true research university status. Sloan's recruitment program was known as "Vision 2012." After being forced out of his office, Sloan was replaced by John Mark Lilley. Moving to fire Beckwith for the crime of political incorrectness was among Lilley's first major decisions. The thinking among the heads of Baylor, whose brains no doubt are composed of random combinations of chemicals, is that Baylor can't have any views on biology that have word associations with religion.


Stupid education policy from Australia's mainstream Left

They object to students paying their way through university! Only the taxpayer is allowed to pay for people's education, apparently. It is of course envy-driven -- envy of those who can pay

University chiefs have warned that Kim Beazley's pledge to ban full-fee university degrees costing up to $200,000 is "unsustainable" and must be dumped in the lead-up to next year's federal election. As senior ALP frontbenchers conceded yesterday it would prove far too expensive to compensate universities for the reduced revenue, vice-chancellors urged Mr Beazley to end his opposition to full-fee degrees.

During the 2004 election, contested by Mark Latham, universities said they could be left $1.2billion-a-year worse off under the ALP's plan to ban full-fee degrees and wind back the cost of HECS increases. That cost will now be substantially higher as a result of the FEE-HELP loans scheme which is supporting an explosion in demand for full-fee degrees and an increase in the cap on the number of places offered to students who miss out because of marks.

The push to encourage Mr Beazley to dump his opposition to full-fee degrees is supported by Melbourne University Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis and Australian National University Vice-Chancellor Ian Chubb, who are regarded as having strong ALP links. Queensland University Vice-Chancellor John Hay told The Australian last night the existing policy was "unsustainable". "I don't think their present policy is realistic," he said. "In the first place, the current level of funding is seriously inadequate. Many universities now, in a sense, depend on additional funding to make their activities viable. Either they are going to massively increase the level of commonwealth funding ... or it is unsustainable."

However, deputy leader Jenny Macklin said she was not walking away from the policy pledge. "Labor opposes full-fee degrees for Australian undergraduates at public universities," she said. Ms Macklin was recently mired in controversy over an internal row over Queensland Premier Peter Beattie's push to support full-fee degrees for medicine students to tackle the skills shortage. The degrees can cost up to $200,000 for students who miss out on a HECS place on marks. The ALP subsequently moved in parliament to oppose a measure to increase the cap on the number of full-fee medicine degrees that can be offered in a course. The measures also increased the FEE-HELP loan available to students.

At the last election, former education minister Brendan Nelson warned that a string of universities would be worse off under the ALP. They included the University of Queensland, which calculated it could lose $40 million a year; La Trobe, which could lose $18million; and Monash, which could lose $216 million over four years.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


Friday, April 07, 2006


A generally sensible article excerpted below -- but one with stupid conclusions. What does it suggest if blacks and Hispanics try just as often as whites to get challenging degrees but fail a lot more? Nobody who knew the respective IQ averages would be the least bit surprised at the finding but IQ is not mentioned below, of course

Among the many concerns that policy makers, politicians and others have expressed about the current state of American science and math education has been the comparatively low rate at which black and Hispanic students - the country's fastest growing populations - enter and thrive in high-demand science and technology fields. And foremost among the presumed causes of those low rates has been the idea that those students, because of lack of academic preparation, are failing early in their college careers to get through courses that are designed to weed out less qualified students from those majors.

A study released Monday by the American Council on Education suggests that a relative lack of academic preparation in high school does indeed diminish Hispanic and African-American students' chances of completing degrees in science, math and technology fields. But the report, "Increasing the Success of Minority Students in Science and Technology," finds that the problem comes significantly later in students careers.

Black students who enrolled in college in 1995-6 were just as likely as their white peers to major in the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, while Hispanic students were more likely than both of those groups and second only to Asian-American students...

And by the spring of 1998, when those students are three years into their college careers, members of the various racial and ethnic groups who began majoring in science and technology fields are still enrolled and majoring in those fields at strikingly similar rates...

But by spring 2001, the pipeline has sprung a leak. By that six-year mark, 62.5 percent of the African-American and Hispanic students majoring in STEM fields had earned bachelor's degrees, compared to 86.7 percent of white students and 94.8 percent of Asian-American students. Most of the rest of the black and Hispanic students - 28.8 percent - were still enrolled at four-year institutions, so it's not as if they had necessarily failed. But, the study finds, they clearly had taken an "unexpected detour" in their careers that put them behind their peers.

To offer some insight as to why, the report next compares the characteristics (regardless of race) of those science and technology majors who had completed their degrees and those who had not. Those who had finished their programs of study were significantly likelier than the "non-completers" to have taken a "rigorous" high school curriculum (42 percent vs. 18 percent of the "non-completers"); to have at least one parent with a college degree (64.4 percent vs. 38 percent of non-completers); and to be from families in the highest third of the national population in average income (47 percent vs. 28.1 percent).

Those who earned their degree were also more likely to be enrolled full time (75 percent vs. 49.3 percent) and less likely to work at least 15 hours a week (27.1 percent vs. 42.6 percent of non-completers). The students who did not finish their degrees were far less likely to have received financial aid grants worth at least $5,000 in their first year of study, by a margin of 7.6 percent vs. 38.5 percent).

While inadequate academic preparation is a major factor in the failure of black and Hispanic students to earn degrees in science and technology fields, the report of the study concludes, "the biggest challenge for institutions seeking to improve student persistence in encouraging students to work less and attend full time consistently. "This is a major challenge because these are two areas that institutions can do little to control," the report adds. "[I]nstitutions should provide academic advising and financial aid options that encourage students to enroll full time and reduce their need to work more than 14 hours a week."

More here

No Child Left Behind? Ask the Gifted

Despite all the talk about America losing its edge in the global market, programs for the gifted and talented are threatened on several fronts. There are fewer classes for gifted elementary and middle school children today than there were a decade ago, said Jane Clarenbach, public relations director of the National Association for Gifted Children. In 1998, 25 states reported that 80 to 100 percent of their local school districts provided services to gifted students; last year, there were 22 states reporting that level of services. Ms. Clarenbach said the federal No Child Left Behind law was "eroding support for gifted services." Passed in 2002, the law rates schools on how students perform on reading and math tests, pressuring districts to focus resources on students struggling to attain proficiency. Schools that score too low can be taken over. "It's important to help the kids who are struggling," Ms. Clarenbach said, "but it's important to challenge the kids on the other end, too."

She said that while the extra $90 million President Bush has budgeted this year for Advanced Placement math and science programs was good news, "we need to do more K to 8 so more kids will be in a position to take the A.P. tests in high school." Each year, President Bush has eliminated the $9 million Javits Act, the only federal financing for elementary and middle school gifted programs. And each year, a bipartisan Congressional coalition has saved it, this year led by Senators Charles E. Grassley and Christopher J. Dodd. In New Jersey, Gov. John S. Corzine recently cut financing for the Governor's School of New Jersey, a 22-year-old, $1.9 million summer program that sent 600 top high school juniors to college campuses to study science, engineering and international relations.

A new study by the Center on Education Policy found that the federal law put so much emphasis on reading and math, there has been a reduction in teaching history, science and the arts. And that appears to have affected field trips. Peter O'Connell, who runs the educational program at the national park in Lowell, Mass., just completed a survey of school visits to 10 history museums in New England, including Old Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation. He found a 20 percent decline in student visits in the last few years. "Schools aren't devoting as much time to history, especially urban districts," Dr. O'Connell said.

More here

Australian Left ends class war against private schools

Labor is preparing to dump Mark Latham's controversial policy of a private schools "hit list" by guaranteeing the funding of all non-government schools.

In a rejection of the politics of envy which sought to strip funding from 67 private schools, Labor has abandoned its philosophical objections to funding wealthy schools by promising they will not to be disadvantaged under the ALP. The infamous schools "hit list", the Tasmanian forest policy and the Medicare Gold policy, later deemed a "turkey" by the then president of the ALP, Barry Jones, are considered to be the most damaging policies Labor took to the last election.

After running an old-fashioned class war at the poll, Labor's new policy will guarantee no school will face a reduction in funding. Kim Beazley has decided to act on the policy and wipe out the image of a Latham-led Labor Party picking off the richest schools, such as The King's School in Sydney with its rifle ranges and swimming pools, and threatening hundreds of other schools, including poorer Catholic schools, with losing funding over time.

The new school-funding policy has not yet been discussed in detail within the ALP's strategy group nor presented to the Labor front bench. But senior Labor sources confirmed to The Australian last night that the hit list was going, and said the Opposition Leader and his deputy and education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, were working on a new way forward for schools.

Mr Beazley and Ms Macklin are working on a "bedrock" Labor policy that is directed towards shifting government funds to schools where they are most needed, government or non-government. "The emphasis in the new policy is need," a senior Labor source said last night. Ms Macklin refused to comment on the review and said the policy, like all 2004 election policies, was under review. But Ms Macklin's shift in direction from the policy she crafted for the last election under the leadership of Mr Latham will be welcomed joyously by most federal Labor MPs.

While aspects of the policy appealed to some Labor supporters at the last election, fears among poorer non-government schools of a flow-on effect as indexation cut funding from more and more private schools were widespread. There are also political concerns within the front bench and on the ALP back bench that the politics of envy did not work for Labor and made the party under Mr Latham appear threatening and mean-spirited on education.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


Thursday, April 06, 2006

UC Administrators trying to get rid of financial controls

The very first thing I learned about the desire of the business and law schools at the University of California to wriggle out from under the dead hands of UC headquarters and the state Legislature is this: None dare call it "privatization." The term "confuses more than illuminates," Christopher Edley, the dean of Berkeley's law school, Boalt Hall, wrote in an op-ed in these pages last year.

The issue, unsurprisingly, is money. Public university administrators all over the country are getting fed up with declining support from their state and local governments, which measured as dollars per enrolled student hit a 25-year-low in 2005, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. "I don't think any public institution can fund to fullest extent what it takes to be one of greatest business schools in the world," Judy Olian, dean of UCLA's Anderson School of Management, told me this week.

Along with Boalt, Berkeley's Haas School of Business and UCLA's School of Law, Anderson has been waging a very delicate campaign to win more autonomy from the UC Regents in setting its tuition and faculty pay scales. The issue is delicate because the schools' relationship with the UC system is intimately bound with their public mission, which includes educating the most qualified Californians regardless of their financial resources. There's also some concern that, as the law and business schools go, so will the UC system. Eventually that leads to the question: What does it mean to have a state university?

The impulse toward self-sufficiency is a rational response to an off-campus phenomenon - the decline in the state's budgetary support of UC has been picking up steam. Things have reached the point where administrators and faculty have lost all confidence in the state government as a reliable funding partner.

The record suggests that traditional levels of state support of 60%-80% are relics of the distant past, given competing demands on budget dollars and the Legislature's refusal to raise taxes to meet them. At Anderson and Haas, the state's share of the budget is now only 20%. At UCLA law school it has fallen to 38% from 59% in just the last two years.

The law and business schools at UCLA and Berkeley feel the crunch because they compete with wealthy private institutions for the most-qualified students and most-heavily recruited professors. The system's other law and business schools also are strapped, but don't compete in the same market; the system's medical schools have access to other outside resources, including clinical fees and research grants and contracts.

There aren't many ways to take up the slack. One option is to solicit more private donations, a course that all the institutions have embraced - Boalt this year launched a $125-million fund-raising campaign, for example - and raising tuition and fees. Increasing tuition and fees for Anderson's 660 full-time MBA students by say, $7,000 a year, would bring the rate for out-of-state students about even with the average market rate of $40,000. And it would leave a sizable discount for California residents, while yielding $4.6 million for the school - a healthy chunk of its $60-million budget.

But the UC Regents have always been uneasy with the idea that the professional schools should charge market rates and spend the additional income on faculty salaries and student fellowships. The board acknowledged the principle in 1994 when it established a so-called professional degree fee differential as a mechanism for the schools of law, business, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine to reach parity with their private competitors - with the understanding that California residents would still get a discount.

Still, the regents retained the authority to set the differential every year, and they've never exploited it to the max. Although tuition at all four schools has roughly doubled in the last few years, it still greatly lags the market and the regents haven't set a timeline for catching up.

Things are almost as bad on the spending side: Olian says Anderson must get formal approval from UC headquarters to pay any professor more than $189,000, and other deans complain that bureaucratic obstacles to various forms of noncash compensation abound.

One important question is whether increased autonomy for the law and business schools presages an entirely new relationship between UC and the state government. Supporters of this notion point to the University of Michigan, which responded to draconian state budget cuts in the 1970s and 1980s by remaking itself as a private university in all but name. The university retained a commitment to educating qualified state residents through a substantial in-state discount. But it embarked on a program of aggressive private fund-raising and recruitment of out-of-state students willing to pay full fare. The state now contributes less than 10% of the university's budget.

"That's the broad outline of where UC has to go," argues Daniel J.B. Mitchell, a professor of management at Anderson. He argues that granting autonomy to the law and business schools is only a starting point. "It's more politically acceptable to ask why the California taxpayer should be subsidizing MBA education. But at the end of the day, the system [in Sacramento] is dysfunctional and we should get the university as much disengaged from that as we can."

And what of the system's public mission? The four schools all say that even with more freedom to increase tuition they'll devote large portions of their resources to financial aid and to serving the community. "We are committed to training the leaders of the state in the government and nonprofit sectors," says UCLA Law Dean Michael Schill; the school understands that students leaving law school with crushing tuition debt can't afford to launch careers in public service.

But the administrators argue that they can better serve their public missions if they're free to raise money where they can and deploy it themselves. If they get their way, they'll be embarking on a great experiment. Will the rest of UC follow?


Yale hates the ROTC, loves the Taliban -- someone should be embarrassed

A bad day at Yale University, one of the jewels of the Ivy League. Rahmatullah Hashemi is still ensconced at Yale University, and his words of marvel at how great America really is continue to ring true. I could be in Guantanamo Bay, he said, but instead I'm at Yale.

Hashemi has been afforded special status admission to Yale precisely because he was at one time the spokesman for the Taliban. And Thursday is the day that fact becomes an unavoidably profound embarrassment for Yale University, which has so far avoided much more than a slightly reddened face.

Hashemi's Taliban abused women, violated international law, hosted Usama bin Laden, joined with him in his enmity for America, imposed a reign of 10th century Islamic terror on Afghanistan. But Hashemi gets a choice spot at Yale because he's a rock star of the "let's poke George Bush in the eye" wing of academia.

Thursday the big embarrassment for Yale is that it's decision day: who gets into Yale and who gets left out. Over 19,000 young men and women will be rejected. But the Taliban man is in solid. John Fund has been writing about the Hashemi case in The Wall Street Journal and I recommend you look over John's columns.

Hashemi still has an application pending to join Yale's sophomore class in the fall. So far he's just a special student. Bear in mind, as John Fund reported, some of the 19,000 young people just rejected were turned down for as little as an inebriated prom evening or a shoplifting case in grade school. And yet a guy from the organization which is still killing our soldiers has doors thrown open for him. Yale should declare the experiment in cross-cultural pollination over and let Mr. Taliban go home. He's had a bit of time at Yale, and Yale shouldn't make it worse by letting him continue toward an actual degree.


US civil rights group: Campus anti-Semitism a serious problem

Anti-Semitism on campuses is a "serious problem" that merits a campaign to inform Jewish students of their rights, the US Commission on Civil Rights said. The commission came to its decision Monday after considering testimony last year from the American Jewish Congress, the Zionist Organization of America, the Institute for Jewish and Community Research and other groups. The commission cited anti-Israeli propaganda appearing on campuses that exploits ancient stereotypes. It recommended that the Education Department run a campaign to inform Jewish students of their right to be free of harassment and that it should collect data on anti-Semitic and other hate crimes at universities. The commission also concluded that there is "substantial evidence" that some university departments of Middle East studies "may repress legitimate debate concerning Israel



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

School Revolution May Be on Horizon

Talk is cheap in the Florida House, where would-be orators struggle to be heard over the constant buzz of chatter from their colleagues. But the din noticeably quiets when Rep. Marco Rubio speaks. Rather than reciting trite talking points polished dull from years of use, the West Miami Republican's fiery sermons are seen by many as the future of the Republican Party in Florida, his words ringing with an unmistakable tone of revolution. His speech earlier this month calling for a complete "transformation" of Florida's public schools has special significance. Rubio will have the power to put ideas into action as he prepares for a two-year term as Florida House speaker, one of the most powerful positions in the state with virtual veto power over legislation and spending.

Defending Gov. Jeb Bush's proposal to require high school students to declare majors and minors in preparation for the work force, Rubio said the state's best schools fail to meet the standards of most schools in other developed countries. "In Florida, we aspire for our third-graders to read," Rubio said. "In China, they speak three languages." Rubio said sixth-graders in America are getting "stars and happy faces" for their work while students in other countries work on advanced math and science. "Public education will not improve by reformation, it will only improve by transformation," Rubio said, "when you say our system no longer works."

The details of such transformation are still vague as he and others gather data and ideas, Rubio said last week in an interview. But the clear goal is to make school matter to students adrift in courses they find meaningless. "We're all born with natural talents for something. Trying to match up those natural talents with their dreams, that's the general theme," said Rubio. "Kids go to school and they do school work, but no one tells them why it matters." He talks of adults in the mid-to late 20s going to vocational schools for career training, wondering why they couldn't have been steered toward that path when they were teenagers. He also laments a culture in which "scientists are looked at as geeks and nerds. The cool guys are the basketball players, the drug dealers and the pimps. We need to turn that around."

A solution, Rubio said, may be making high school relevant again, with more diverse offerings for careers ranging from paralegals to poets. This "tracking" of students into career paths is common in other parts of the world, said Dr. Joseph Beckham, the Allan Tucker Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Florida State University. He applauds the concept of more specialized offerings for high school students, but said tracking can force students into paths before they're ready for such a decision. "For a 12- or a 13-year-old, they may have no idea what they want to do and some tracking programs would have pejorative effects that would limit their options at a later point," Beckham said. "Some tracking programs work against the idea of giving people every reasonable opportunity to determine their talents."

Rubio has also questioned the cookie-cutter aspects of education accepted as givens in Florida. "The idea that we have to have a system that is uniform everywhere all schools look alike, the same desk, the same light, all the same over and over," Rubio said. "Maybe 12 years is too short or too long. Maybe it should be year-round. Maybe it should be longer days. I don't know, all I'm trying to do is start that debate." Beckham said studies are pretty firm in showing the lack of continuous education, interrupted by the summer break, hinders student learning.

Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Board Association, said longer school years have long been a goal of the state's districts. He said parents may buy into the idea of 220-day school years compared with the 180 now required, but the Legislature has balked at the anticipated cost of nearly $80 million for each day added to the school year. "I think we could sell it very easily to the parents of Florida," he said. "It's just always been the situation that the state has been unwilling to bite the bullet."

Rubio has succeeded, thus far, in garnering support from Democrats willing to revolutionize the state's schools. Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said Rubio's speech to lawmakers is "one I could have given" as a Democrat said to lead his party in the House. But he wondered about Rubio's ability to sell such a revolution to Republican lawmakers who have strictly and uniformly tied performance on the FCAT test to everything from teacher bonuses to the availability of vouchers. "I think at some point the rubber has to hit the road and we'll have to see what those ideas area and how they compare with this party's record," said Gelber, citing the state's dismal rankings in teacher pay and high school graduation. "It's one thing to talk about wanting to do things and it's another to actually do them."

Rubio acknowledges the difficulty of long-term visions in a legislative process that rewards immediate gain. "If you transform education, you're not going to see the results for 10 to 12 years," Rubio said. "We are not in a system that rewards 10-year outlooks, we're in a system that rewards how the papers tomorrow write about things. We're willing to allow history to be the judge of our work."

For now, Republicans say Rubio is the right man for creating a broader vision that will lead to specific ideas. "A major shift in the education model is going to take a Marco Rubio to cast that vision," said. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, chairman of the House Education Council. "He is going to assemble the platform for the Republican Party for the next 10 years." Rubio is less grandiose in assessing his mission, comparing it to his father's absolute reluctance to sell a 1971 Chevrolet Impala. Despite clear evidence that the car's usefulness had passed, his father kept changing tires and repainting the vehicle to extend its life. "In Florida, we're still committed to an Impala model," Rubio said. "And the model itself is broken."


Taking on the teachers unions

IT IS RARE -- and risky -- for a governor and national political aspirant to put the interests of children above those of a constituency that has as much electoral clout as the teachers unions. Yet Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has done just that with the education reform package he proposed last September and is touting nationwide.

The governor's bill seeks to upend the status quo in teacher pay and evaluation that has been written into collective bargaining agreements across the Commonwealth. Specifically, it would offer annual bonuses for teachers with a math or science degree who pass the teacher test in their subject, forgo tenure, and receive a satisfactory year-end evaluation. It would also make teachers in all subjects eligible for a bonus upon receiving an exemplary evaluation and empower superintendents to reward teachers who work in low-performing schools. Crucially, the bill would remove teacher evaluation from the collective bargaining process and establish statewide criteria for assessing each teacher's ''contribution to student learning."

While several states and districts nationwide are experimenting with differential pay for teachers, Romney's proposals are noteworthy for their breadth and the size of the proposed bonuses. All told, an effective math or science teacher could receive up to $15,000 a year in three bonuses. Catherine Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, predictably criticized Romney's proposals as ''inequitable, divisive, and ineffective." The MTA denounced the proposal as ''uniquely designed to destroy collegiality in a school," ignoring the fact that performance pay is routine in such other professions as medicine, law, and engineering, not to mention in the Commonwealth's first-rate universities, including those that are unionized by the MTA.

The governor can expect a similarly abrupt reception nationwide -- a fact he should consider as he eyes a presidential run. Teachers unions control enormous political resources, including a network of readily mobilized voters. Moreover, the public likes to think that the interests of teachers and kids are always aligned, a line tirelessly advanced by the unions. The National Education Association's political action committee even bills itself as the ''Fund for Children and Public Education."

However, what the unions want may not always be good for students. Teacher pay is exhibit one. While unions have fought to boost salaries, they have resisted efforts to ensure that this money recruits, rewards, and retains the most essential or effective teachers. Current pay scales reward teachers only for experience and graduate credits, neither of which is a meaningful predictor of quality. The result is that districts reward long-serving veterans while failing to recognize those teachers who improve student achievement, possess high-demand skills, or take on more challenging assignments.

Proposals to revamp collective bargaining by tackling teacher pay are only a start. Teacher collective bargaining agreements extend far beyond bread and butter matters, frequently privileging the interests of employees over those of students. Across the nation, contracts include clauses that prohibit principals from factoring student achievement into teacher evaluation, that allow senior teachers to claim the most desirable school and classroom assignments, and that engage in a dazzling array of minutiae, such as when teachers are allowed to wear an NEA membership pin. As a result, schools are organized and managed more like mid-20th century factories than professional 21st century centers of learning. None of this serves students, valuable teachers, or communities.

Improving teacher collective bargaining is not only a question of knowing what to do, but of persuading school boards and the public to tackle the issue. State policymakers must change the environment in which negotiations take place by maintaining pressure on local officials to raise student achievement. Local newspapers must shine light on contract provisions that serve adults rather than children. School boards and superintendents need to push for fundamental changes in contract language and fully exploit ambiguous language where it exists. Civic leaders and citizens must support management measures that may entail, at least initially, disgruntled unions and increased labor unrest.

Since 1993, education reform in Massachusetts has been a bipartisan triumph, accomplishing both a dramatic leveling of the financial playing field between wealthy and poor school districts and the creation of a nationally recognized accountability system. Building on that start is no short journey, but overhauling teacher collective bargaining is the crucial next step. It would be something if Romney did not have to take it on alone.


Two new public schools for gifted teens in Queensland, Australia

Inequality recognized! Leftists will be grinding their teeth about such "elitism"

Two new "super state schools" for gifted Year 10, 11 and 12 students will open next year. Education Minister Rod Welford and Premier Peter Beattie yesterday announced the Academy of Creative Industries would be developed in partnership with the Queensland University of Technology and located in the Kelvin Grove Urban Village. The Academy of Maths, Science and Technology will be built at Toowong.

Mr Welford said both schools would be "melting pots of genius and creativity with superb interaction between highly motivated teachers and students ideally suited to accelerated learning". "Watch out Grammar. These academies will be unashamedly elitist and yes, I expect they would achieve 95 per cent or so of students with OPs 1-15," Mr Welford said. This would challenge the supremacy - in terms of academic achievement - of the top-ranking Brisbane Girls Grammar school.

But Girls Grammar principal Amanda Bell welcomed the news. "I think any improvement to education that lifts the quality of learning through innovative programs and offers parents a wider choice is good," she said.

Although state schools, the new academies will charge each student about $1000 a year to cover curriculum materials. Up to 10 per cent of places will go to overseas, full fee-paying students. The academies will open with 300 Year 10 and Year 11 students next year, to be selected through a screening system that considers academic ability, leadership potential and high-level skills in either maths/science or creative industries. With Year 12 added the following year, there will be 450 students in each school. "An OP statistic is too simplistic a measure for parents to use to chose a school for their child," he said.

Executive director of Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Brisbane, David Hutton, said the data was "useful", but urged parents not to reduce schools to limited performance measures. "These issues are only part of a big picture when assessing the total contribution of a school community to the overall development of students," he said.

Headmaster of Somerset College, Dr Barry Arnison, said parents "had a right to know" the information, but academic performance was only one aspect of a school community. Kenmore State High School principal Wade Haynes said he was happy for "people to see the data as it is". "It's a transparent process," he said. "The academic data and the range of data presented is very important, but it's only one factor. It's a complex thing to choose a school for your child."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


Tuesday, April 04, 2006


From Jeff Jacoby -- addressing his young son:

There was an awful story in the paper a few days ago: "A 16-year-old Brighton High School student," it began, "has been charged with slashing a 14-year-old girl's face with a razor blade in a Dorchester park, leaving a gash that required more than 100 stitches to close." The story was on the front page of the metro section, along with a large photograph of the 14-year-old. Her face is now disfigured by an angry red scar stretching from her forehead to her lip. She said that she and some of her friends had been challenged to a fight by another group of girls, and had been told that if they didn't show up, the other girls would find them and beat them on the street.

I made a point of showing you that story so we could talk about it. I asked you to imagine what it must be like to attend the schools these girls go to, or to have to worry about the things that must constantly be on their minds. The story quoted the 14-year-old as saying she "believes girls in the city these days must assemble a cadre of friends at a young age to back them up or risk getting more seriously injured or even killed. And she fears being labeled a snitch for identifying the girl who slashed her face."

Such violence and intimidation are far removed from anything you've ever experienced, Caleb. But you are no longer too young to know that many other children are not so fortunate -- including some in your own backyard. When we talked about that news story, I told you that safety is one of the reasons Mama and I send you to the Hebrew Academy -- a religious day school -- instead of public school. You've never seen a fistfight, never mind a gang brawl with razor blades. When you first read the story, you weren't even sure what a razor blade *was.*

But it isn't metal detectors or security guards that makes your school safe. It isn't a zero-tolerance policy on weapons, or penalties for fighting. It's an emphasis on values and character that began on the first day of school, and that your teachers and parents treat as no less important than academics. As a 3-year-old, you would come home from nursery singing songs based on the Bible stories you were learning -- Abraham's hospitality, Rebecca's kindness to strangers. Now as a 9-year-old, you come home with monthly "midos sheets" meant to reinforce good character -- midos (or midot) is Hebrew for character traits -- by having one of your parents initial the page each time you demonstrate the particular virtue being emphasized that month: cheerfulness, gratitude, kindness to others.

Does emphasizing character in this way ensure that you'll never be involved in violent or criminal deeds? Will it guarantee that you never treat another person with cruelty or malice? Can your teachers or your parents know for a fact that *you'll* never slash anyone's face with a razor? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. How you turn out will depend, ultimately, on how you choose to live. The most your parents and teachers can do is equip you to make the right choice.

So we work at it, always keeping an eye out for ways to reinforce the better angels of your nature. When you brought home your report card in December, I wasn't thrilled with the grades you had gotten in behavior, self-control, and respect for teachers and peers. Which is why I offered you an incentive: If on your next report card all your behavior marks went up, you would be rewarded with one of the I Spy books you like so much. Three weeks ago your second report card came home, and what do you know? Your conduct and character had improved across the board. Way to go!

Of course Mama and I care about your progress in English and science and religious studies, too. Sure, we want you to grow up to be good at math. But it's even more important that you grow up to be a mensch.

It's a message I try to reinforce whenever I can. After every meal, I tell you constantly, make sure to thank the person who prepared it -- and that includes the "kitchen ladies" at school. When you play with your brother, you're not allowed to torment him -- kindness and courtesy aren't only for outsiders. "Make us proud of you," I say each morning when I drop you off at school -- a daily reminder that while your parents' love is automatic, their admiration is something you must earn.

At 9, you're off to a great start, Caleb -- bright, energetic, inquisitive, articulate. Who knows what great things await you? Just remember: Whatever else you grow up to be, make sure to be a mensch.


But the teachers don't want the public to know

Education Minister Rod Welford has released details of last year's OP scores in Queensland schools, giving parents a snapshot of school performances for the first time in 12 years. The list of percentages of eligible students who received OP scores of 1 to 15 in every Queensland secondary school contains some surprises, including:

* Small rural state schools outshone city state schools.

* Private schools dominated the top 50 places.

* Non-government all-girls and co-educational schools scored highly while Catholic schools generally performed well.

Brisbane Girls Grammar School topped the list with 96 per cent of last year's 215 Year 12 students scoring OP1 to 15, followed by Boys Grammar with 93 per cent. Somerville House (92 per cent) was matched by Barcaldine State School's 12 eligible students scoring between 1 and 15. The Southport School, the most expensive school in the state with fees of between $12,276 and $12,924 a year, recorded 72 per cent. That was matched by Mackay North, Dalby and Mansfield state high schools. This means that more than one in four TSS eligible graduates left with OPs of 16 to 25. TSS principal Greg Wain did not return The Courier-Mail's call.

Nudgee College, with fees of about $7200 a year plus a "voluntary" $1000 building fund donation, had 70 per cent in the OP1 to 15 range, on a par with Clermont and Wellington Point state high schools. Principal Daryl Hanly said Nudgee had enjoyed an excellent result with 98 per cent of QTAC applicants receiving offers and 185 students receiving a VET (vocational and educational training qualification) and others completing school-based apprenticeships. "It's a challenge and we continue to work at it," he said.

Mr Welford said the "admirable transparency" of the figures showed "the wonderful diversity of educational opportunities in Queensland". He promised annual publication of the results, which had been "a really valuable exercise." "The data shows that the performance of schools is unrelated to whether they are public or private and what fees are charged," he said. "These school profiles should reassure parents in regional and rural areas that country and smaller schools are delivering great opportunities to students." He said the strong outcomes of country schools would help attract and retain good teachers, who appreciated enthusiastic students.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said the statistics were "pretty meaningless" as they only measured a student's ability to enter universities. "We are opposed to the public release of this information," he said. "If any parent chooses a school based on that data it is bordering on irresponsible." Mr Ryan said the scores belonged to students not schools and only reflected one aspect of what students achieved.

OPs or Overall Positions, provide a statewide rank order of students (on a 1 to 25 scale, with 1 the highest) based on achievement in Queensland Studies Authority subjects and the Core Skills Test. They are used by universities for selecting students for courses. Somerset College Mudgeeraba and St Rita's College Clayfield performed well with 90 per cent. In general, state schools outside the Brisbane metropolitan area performed strongly. In Brisbane, the leading state schools were Brisbane and Kenmore state high schools where 80 per cent of students had OPs of 1 to 15. Indooroopilly and The Gap state high schools achieved 78 per cent.

The tables also show a small group of remote schools, with only a few students, had all eligible students receive an OP15 or better. The "100 per cent club" included Charters Towers School of Distance Education, Cloncurry, Cunnamulla, Glenden, and Winton state schools, Collinsville State High and the School of Total Education, Warwick. It was the first year since 1995 that information to compare school outcomes has been released.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


Monday, April 03, 2006

Technically Foolish: Why technology has made our public schools less efficient

Michigan education officials are championing a new regulation that would require every high school student's education to include a substantial "online experience" of some kind, with the assumption being that most would complete an online class. To fulfill this vague new mandate, district technology officials in Detroit and elsewhere argue that extensive, unspecified expenditures will be necessary. This proposal is drawing national attention as visionary, though it is more remarkable for the manner in which it neatly illustrates the problems with how we think about technology and schooling.

Absent in Michigan, and often elsewhere, is serious thought about how technology might help cut costs or modernize educational delivery. The Michigan department of education's chief academic officer explains the idea's genesis in the same vague manner that a sophomore might describe a class project: "We thought of this as a skill that people would need to have to continue to be lifelong learners." The Michigan proposal finds a way to turn the sensible adoption of new technology into a boondoggle that promises to expand bureaucracy, increase costs, and turn a blind eye to pursuing new efficiencies. Even as public schools have made ever-larger investments in new technologies, they have steadily added to the ranks of teachers and staff. Spending on technology in public schools increased from essentially zero in 1970 to over $100 per student in 2004, according to Education Week.

In the past five years alone, the nation has spent more than $20 billion linking schools and classrooms to the Internet through the federal E-rate program. Between 1997 and 2004, the federal government appropriated more than $4 billion to help states purchase educational technology. Meanwhile, these huge new investments in technology were coupled with a massive increase in the teacher workforce that drove the student-teacher ratio from 22 students per teacher in 1970 to 16 per teacher in 2001. There is no reputable analysis suggesting that the billions invested in technology have enhanced the productivity or performance of America's schools.

This state of affairs contrasts sharply with how technology is used by enterprises that face meaningful competition from alternative manufacturers and service providers. For these businesses, technology is not an end--it is a tool for self-improvement. New technologies are adopted when they enable workers to tackle new problems or do the same things cheaper and more efficiently.

Even the oft-maligned Postal Service understands this. It found ways to trim its workforce by more than 40,000 in the past four years--when sufficiently squeezed by competitors such as UPS and Federal Express. The USPS substituted technology as it identified routine tasks where automation was cheaper and more efficient than human labor.

Why do inviolable laws about the productive benefits of technology seem to stop at the schoolhouse door? Organizations like the Postal Service make effective use of technology because they must keep up with the competition. Knowing their competitors are constantly seeking ways to boost productivity, hold down costs, and develop new products, for-profit enterprises are always on the lookout for similar advantages. It's not that any executive likes painful measures such as downsizing; they take these steps because survival requires it.

Insulated from such pressures, school boards and superintendents have little incentive to view technology as a tool for trimming jobs or rethinking educational delivery--especially given union hostility and public skepticism. Meanwhile, existing collective-bargaining agreements between school districts and employees have made using technology to displace workers or reinvent processes extraordinarily difficult.

If anything, there is a bias in education against ideas deemed too "businesslike." Indeed, the very words "efficiency" and "cost-effectiveness" can set the teeth of parents and educators on edge. Proposals to use technology to downsize the workforce, alter instructional delivery, or improve managerial efficiency are inevitably attacked by education authorities like the wildly influential Henry Giroux, a professor at Canada's McMaster University, as part of an effort to, "Transform public education . . . [in order] to expand the profits of investors, educate students as consumers, and train young people for the low-paying jobs of the new global marketplace."

Ultimately, if leaders lack the incentives to pursue new efficiencies, they won't. So long as technology serves as an easy applause line and an excuse to demand ever more school spending, rather than an opportunity to reengineer educational delivery, America's schools will remain ill-equipped for the rigors of the 21st century. Michigan's bad idea is evidence of that.



"You've got to be kidding." That was the reaction of CBS sportscaster Billy Packer when George Mason University was invited to play in this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament. Mason has since defeated Michigan State, the University of North Carolina, Wichita State and the top-seeded University of Connecticut to advance to the Final Four this weekend. The Patriots basketball team is finding out what the rest of the university has long known. George Mason is the Rodney Dangerfield of universities--it just can't get any respect. The school has attracted Nobel economists, developed a top-notch law school and, through the writings of its scholars, affected public policy in major ways. But it is continually dismissed as a no-name state school--a mere convenience for commuters from northern Virginia.

Allow me to take offense. When I enrolled at Mason in 1993, a condescending friend described the school to me as a "glorified community college with pretensions of being an elite university." At that point, young and naive, I worried he might be right. By the time I graduated I knew better. With some 28,000 students, GMU resembles many large state schools in that it provides an affordable education to a broad range of people. For state residents, tuition is about $3,000 a semester; for those out of state, $8,500. (These amounts roughly correspond to a few weeks of classroom time at nearby Georgetown.) The education it offers is intellectually rigorous--I can attest to the rigor, having suffered through plenty of annoyingly demanding tests, paper-writing assignments and required courses. But George Mason has no intentions of being an "elite" institution, and a good thing too.

Mason began as an extension of the University of Virginia in 1957 and became independent 15 years later. Such relative youth is a clear advantage. The school came into its own after the 1960s generation passed through the halls of higher education. Student protest, and the effort to appease it, never became part of its culture. George W. Johnson, GMU's president from 1978 to 1996, exploited this advantage. He grounded the school in technology, computer science and economics, leaving to elite institutions the competition for hot (read: postmodern) humanities scholars. He also exploited the school's proximity to Washington, using it as a selling point to bring professors to the area and also pulling into the professorial ranks various policy analysts, intellectuals and former government officials.

The recruited professors included James Buchanan, who joined the university in 1983 and soon after won a Nobel Prize in economics for his groundbreaking research, with Gordon Tullock, on what drives government bureaucracies to make seemingly irrational decisions. The economists showed that government, no less than private enterprise, responds to economic incentives (e.g., bigger budgets) more than high-minded legislative goals. This idea--known as "Public Choice Theory"--became part of the intellectual framework of the Reagan Revolution.

Mr. Johnson also brought to George Mason the Institute for Humane Studies, a constellation of scholars devoted to teaching undergrads (both at GMU and elsewhere) classical economics. Soon after Mr. Johnson stepped down, the economist Vernon Smith and six colleagues migrated to Mason from the University of Arizona. Mr. Smith won a Nobel Prize for developing standards to "lab test" economic theories with small groups, often using real money.

Mason's law school isn't even three decades old, but it has already climbed into the first tier of the U.S. News & World Report rankings and is a leader in the field of intellectual property. It is also home to the National Center for Technology and Law, which studies how existing laws--e.g., patents and copyrights--will need to adapt to the information economy. Even the law school's legal-aid program has a novel slant. As John Miller has noted in National Review, George Mason's law students, rather than suing police departments or petitioning for access to government programs, volunteer their time to help, among others, members of the military and their families.

Even the school's name cuts against the grain of conventional pieties. George Mason is the Founding Father most Americans have never heard of. He was a key architect of the Constitution (he had written the influential Virginia Bill of Rights more than a decade before) but doomed himself to obscurity by becoming one of the three delegates to the Constitutional Convention who refused to sign the final document. It bothered him that it lacked a bill of rights. Whether or not George Mason University wins on the basketball court this weekend, it is still a great school. And no, Mr. Packer, I'm not kidding.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here


Sunday, April 02, 2006

House Backs Bill to Expand College Access, Enhance American Competitiveness

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the College Access & Opportunity Act (H.R. 609), legislation to expand college access by strengthening the Pell Grant program, providing parents and students with more information about spikes in college costs, and bolstering math and science education to enhance American competitiveness. The legislation - which would complete reauthorization of the Higher Education Act - was authored by Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), along with former committee chair and current House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). "The new realities of an increasingly competitive global economy have made a college education more necessary than ever before," said McKeon (R-CA). "Unfortunately, even with historic levels of federal funding for higher education, the dream of getting a college education continues to elude many low- and middle-income Americans. This bill takes a huge step toward making that dream a reality."

The College Access & Opportunity Act improves the Pell Grant program - funded at an all-time high, with a 101% increase in funding since Republicans gained the majority in Congress in 1994 - by allowing students to receive Pell aid year-round and repealing the federal rule that needlessly limits the amount of Pell Grant aid a student attending a very low-cost school may receive. "This legislation strengthens the Pell Grant program and increases access to college for millions of worthy young students," said Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL), chairman of the 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittee and chairman of the Congressional Pell Grant Caucus. "On the heels of record funding for Pell Grants, the improvements we're making to the program will make a difference for even more students seeking to attend college."

The legislation also takes steps to improve math, science, and critical foreign language education, including an amendment - offered by Education & the Workforce Committee member Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-WA) - to incorporate components of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative into the framework of current law. "Congress recognizes the need to enhance American competitiveness, and that effort must start within our education system," said McMorris. "This bill follows up on the President's State of the Union proposal to enhance America's leadership in science and technology. By placing well-qualified teachers in the classroom and creating incentives for pursuing degrees in math, science, and foreign languages, we will create a 21st Century workforce that is prepared to be competitive in the global marketplace."

Also included in the College Access & Opportunity Act are innovative measures to increase transparency in higher education programs and provide parents and students with more information about college costs and colleges themselves. For example, the bill creates a College Affordability Index would take existing information and present it to students and families in a new format that can be useful as they make decisions about attending college. This index provides an "apples to apples" comparison of tuition growth - similar to the Consumer Price Index. "Expanding college access remains a fundamental goal for this nation and this Congress," concluded McKeon. "Part of this effort is adding more sunlight into the discussion about higher education - and the rising costs of a college education in particular. This bill adds that necessary sunlight, and it will make a difference for countless students."



Comment by Senator Harris McDowell (D) Delaware

No Democrat would be stupid enough to kill competition for student loans for two reasons. 1) It is a dumb idea. 2) Republicans would kill us for it. And rightly so. Yet, that is what happened to the U.S. Congress just a few months ago; and Republicans controlling the House are right in the middle of it.

As a Democrat, I admit it: Sometimes I wonder about Republicans. But let's give Republicans some grudging credit for all they have done to convince people that they are the guardians of the free market system. When people are watching and the cameras are rolling, they talk a good game about protecting consumers with competition and free markets. But a few days before Christmas, at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, with nary a reporter in sight, Republicans in Congress took the most anti-competitive law in America, and made it worse.

They outlawed competition for the 40 million people with hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans who can no longer shop for a better deal or even change lenders if they so choose. Lots of people heard that Congress raised rates on student loans. But much worse, and what got much less attention, was that Congress also changed the way people pay them back. Starting July 1, students and parents will no longer be able to lock in low rates for longer terms. Big lenders convinced Congress that competition for their student loan portfolio would be bad.

Just as they convinced Congress to remove a provision that would have outlawed the most anti-competitive law in America: the Single Holder Rule. Under this law, students and parents whose loans are owned by only one lender cannot change lenders if they find a better deal for rates or terms of service. And they are only allowed to refinance one time. That is it. No more.

As a result of this unprecedented protection from the marketplace, America's largest student loan lender is also one of America's most profitable companies. Not because they are better, smarter or faster, but just because they have better friends on Capitol Hill to protect them from competition.

Imagine if a Congressman tried that kind of law with your home loan, car loan, boat loan or any kind of loan. He would be laughed out of office. Yet, Republicans meet in the dead of the night to outlaw competition for student loans, and they are the ones who are laughing because few even noticed.

Some did. Columnist Dick Morris called the anti-refinancing move an "obnoxious...student loan rip-off." The New York Times called it "robbing Joe College to pay Sallie Mae." The Chronicle of Higher Education said legislation was meant to make refinancing less appealing to borrowers, and "force the consolidation companies out of the market." It is working with a vengeance.

Today, because of crushing debt from credit cards and student loans, the average age of a person filing for bankruptcy is less than 30 years old. By outlawing refinancing, this new legislation is removing a student's most valuable tool to manage that debt.

We don't have to wait until July to know the results; more graduates with even less ability to repay their loans, more defaults, higher cost to the federal government, and a whole bunch of Republicans in Congress hoping students and parents never find out how a few big companies have turned a federal student loan program into a cash cow at their expense.

The previous chair of the committee overseeing student loans, John Boehner, did such a good job that his colleagues kicked him upstairs to become House Majority Leader. The committee has a new chair, and a new chance to set this crazy law right. One of the first questions they will have to answer is why can't we refinance student loans wherever and how often we like, just like other loans? Let's hope that they answer that question during school hours and not at 3 a.m. Because if Republicans aren't good for free markets and competition, what good are they?


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My home page is here