Thursday, September 30, 2010

Abolish America's Public Schools

President Barack Obama said on NBC on Monday he would like American children to spend more time in public schools. Here is a better idea: American children should spend no time in public schools.

County by county, state by state, Americans should begin functionally abolishing government-run schools and replacing them with a free market in schools. On the federal level, Congress should kill the Department of Education by choking off its funding. The department was not constitutional in the first place.

Everybody's children should get the same chance Obama's children have had to attend the private school of their parents' choice.

American children should have the opportunity not only to attend schools where they are well instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic, but also where they are unambiguously taught that our Declaration of Independence is right -- that God is the Author of our rights and that even the government must obey His laws.

We should aim for a society where children spend more time with their most important teachers, their parents, and less time with the less important teachers at their school.

Obama wants the opposite. And he does not want our children spending more time with just any teachers, but with government teachers -- who often double as liberal propagandists seeking to indoctrinate children with values contrary to those they learn at home, while failing to teach them reading, writing and arithmetic.

"I think we should have a longer school year," Obama said on NBC. "We now have our kids go to school about a month less than most other advanced countries. And that makes a difference. It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the summer."

Obama then made a class-war argument to defend his point -- in the process taking a snotty swipe at what he presumes to be the inferior reading habits of lower-income families. "It's especially severe for poorer kids who may not be seeing as many books in their house during the summers, aren't getting supplemental educational activities," Obama said. "So, the idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense."

In keeping with his Marxist analysis, Obama pointed to the education system in the People's Republic of China -- a nation governed by the Communist Party -- as a model for the United States to emulate when it comes to dealing with teachers.

"When I travel to China, for example," said Obama, "and I sit down with the mayor of Shanghai, and he talks about the fact that teaching is considered one of the most prestigious jobs and a teacher's getting paid the same as an engineer, that, I think, accounts for how well they're doing in terms of boosting their education system."

Obama's unstated assumption: Central planners, not the free market, ought to determine the value of a particular job and who gets paid what. I say: Let the market decide -- especially in education.

The greatest problem with primary and secondary education in America today is precisely that it is dominated by government-run schools that people are compelled by force of law to pay for whether they like them or not and whether they send their children there or not. The second greatest problem is that the political power controlling these government-run schools has become increasingly centralized, gradually removing decision-making from local communities, passing it up to the state and federal level.

On NBC, Obama made clear he wants to use increased federal education spending to increase federal leverage over local schools, forcing policy changes preferred by him. That would move power in exactly the wrong direction.

The historical record compiled by the Department of Education itself shows that increased government spending on education does not improve the academic performance of government schools. "From 1989-90 to 2006-07, total expenditures per student in public elementary and secondary schools rose from $8,748 to $11,839 (a 35 percent increase in 2008-09 constant dollars), with most of the increase occurring after 1997-98," says the Education Department's The Condition of Education 2010.

In 1980, 17-year-old students in public schools earned an average score of 284 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. In 2008, they still scored 284. Despite increased per pupil spending, the needle did not move.

In 1999, 17-year-old students in American public schools earned an average score of 307 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math test. In 2008, they scored 305. The needle moved in the wrong direction.

Every community in America should give all parents a voucher equal to what it now pays per-pupil for its public schools, allowing those parents to use those vouchers at any school they choose. Let the market decide if government-run schools survive.


Britain's Attorney General orders review of private school charity rules

Controversial rules forcing private schools to offer free places to poor pupils could be scrapped after doubts were raised by the Government’s top law officer. Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, has ordered a review into guidance issued by the charities regulator that effectively requires independent schools to provide more bursaries to children from deprived families.

His intervention could pave the way for a dramatic overhaul of a new “public benefit” test that almost 1,000 schools must pass to remain open and hang on to charitable tax breaks. Analysts claim the Charity Commission guidance jeopardises the future of some fee-paying schools already threatened by falling income in the economic downturn.

Earlier this year, two private prep schools become the first in England to increase the amount of money spent on bursaries to satisfy the rules. It is feared others may be forced to raise fees for existing parents to fund more free places.

On Wednesday, the Attorney General called for a hearing to be held into the commission's guidance after admitting it created “uncertainty as to the operation of charity law in the context of fee-charging schools”. It follows claims from the Independent Schools Council that the commission was acting “illegally” by misinterpreting key charities legislation. They have already petitioned the High Court for a judicial review of the guidance.

Andrew Grant, vice-chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents 250 top independent schools, said: “The insistence that public benefit can only be demonstrated through fee remission has seemed to us a clear over-interpretation of the legislation. The provision of education is, ipso facto, a public benefit to the country.”

Under Labour’s 2006 Charities Act, fee-paying schools are no longer automatically entitled to charitable status. They must prove they provide “public benefit” to hang to tax breaks worth around £120m a year to the sector.

The charities regulator issued guidance in late 2008 telling schools how they could meet the new requirement. It said they could theoretically pass the test by offering range of services, including access to swimming pools and concert halls, master-classes in A-level subjects not provided in local state schools and running one of the Government’s academies.

But the document made it clear that providing more bursaries was the most straightforward way of satisfying the rules. It suggested schools should consider "increasing general fee levels in order to offer subsidies to those unable to pay the full cost".

The ISC claim it constituted a “gross misinterpretation” of the law.

The Attorney General’s Office said the Charities Tribunal – a legal panel – would now be asked to clarify key issues surrounding the Charity Commission guidance. It has the ultimate power to rule that parts of it are unlawful and must be changed.

A notice of reference issued to the tribunal says: “There is uncertainty as to the operation of charitable law in the context of fee-charging independent schools. “That uncertainty is contrary to the interests of charity because it means that the charities concerned do not know whether or not they are operating within or without the terms of their constitutions.”

Matthew Burgess, ISC deputy chief executive, said he was “delighted” with the intervention. “The Attorney General has got a role of protector of charity law and we feel that he is making this reference because there are uncertainties as to the way the Charity Commission has behaved in terms of independent schools," he said.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: "We accept, like any public body, that the way in which we carry out our statutory responsibilities is subject to legal challenge. "In preparing all our guidance on public benefit, the commission was at all times diligent in consulting charities and others affected, and in making clear the process we had followed.

“We set out our legal reasoning clearly and carefully alongside our guidance. We stand by our approach and the legal analysis which underpins it, and we are confident that the commission has acted reasonably and followed due process."


Australian Labor party to bring back compulsory university amenities fees

This is not the same as the bad old mad old system of the past. Using the fees to finance political activity was the bugbear in the past but is banned in this iteration

THE Gillard government will introduce legislation today to restore compulsory student amenities fees at Australian universities. Minister for Tertiary Education Minister, Senator Chris Evans, appealed today to the new parliament to support the bill, saying he wanted it to be passed by Christmas to ensure it will take effect next year.

Senator Evans said it was important to restore a range of depleted services at universities, particularly in regional Australia, and cited sporting, health and counselling services as key areas.

The legislation would allow students to be charged a fee of up to $250 a year for the provision of student services with Senator Evans claiming it was supported by both universities and students.

He also took a swipe at the Howard government’s voluntary student unionism legislation which had abolished services and amenities fees for students. “Under the arrangements left by the Coalition government, close to $170 million has been ripped out of university funding. This has led to the decline, and in some instances, the complete closure, of vital student services,” he said.

The Higher Education Legislation Amendment was defeated in August last year in the Senate, but Senator Evans said the bill had now been changed to make it more attractive and allow the $250 fee to be paid over time. “The main measure… is that we’ve allowed fees to be treated as part of the HECS debt so there’s not the upfront requirement,” he explained. “This legislation makes it very clear that those fees, which will be in the order of $150 a year... can be added to the HECS debt.”

Senator Evans encouraged the Coalition to review its opposition to the bill and said the legislation would be supported by the independents in the lower house. “We agreed with them that we would reintroduce the legislation and I’m hopeful of Getting Mr Crook from Western Australia to support the legislation,” he said.


No comments: