Friday, August 03, 2012

OMG! The free market works!

An unintentionally hilarious piece recently appeared in the Pravda of contemporary progressive liberalism, The New York Times.

This lachrymose report laments the fact that major public school districts around the country are losing customers — oops! students — and the result is layoffs. Of teacher union members, no less! Quelle horreur!

Between 2005 and 2010, Broward County (FL), Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Bernardino, and Tucson have all lost students, some massively.

The article tells some tragic tales. LA let go of 8,500 teachers in the face of an enrollment drop of 56,000 students. Mesa Unified District lost 7,155 students and had to close four middle schools and lay off librarians — the ultimate evil.

The cutbacks are threatening offerings in art, foreign languages, and music.

But to what do the authors of this mournful article attribute this decline? They mention declining birthrates, unemployed parents moving elsewhere to find work, and illegal immigration crackdowns. But they also mention — tentatively and skeptically — the movement of students from regular district schools (essentially run by the teacher unions) to charter schools (run more or less autonomously, i.e., not under the unions’ thumb).

In Columbus, enrollment in charter schools rose by 9,000 students while enrollment in the public school district dropped by 6,150. One honest parent explained, “The classes were too big, the kids were unruly and didn’t pay attention to the teachers.” So she sent her dyslexic daughter to a nearby charter school, where — GASP! — “one of the teachers stayed after school every Friday to help her.”

In an institution where pleasing the customer is actually important, it’s no surprise that her daughter received the help she needed.

Nationwide, while the number of kids in regular public schools dropped by 5%, the number in charter schools rose by 60%.

Naturally, the public school system special interest groups — greedy unions, self-righteous teachers, callous administrators, and so on — are hysterical. For example, one Jeffrey Mirel, an “education historian” at the University of Michigan, bleated that public schools are in danger of becoming “the schools nobody wants.”

Wrong! Public schools have been for some timethe schools that nobody wants. Before the 1960s, teachers unions either didn't exist or — where they did — didn't exert the control they assumed in the 1970s. Teachers unions run schools for the benefit of their members only. So the problems started accelerating.But what’s happening right now is that some few lucky kids are being given the choice to get out — and they’re taking it.


The National Education Association Shows Its Politics

Political conversation in the media is full of chatter about how to cut spending and debt, but it reminds us of the comment attributed to Mark Twain: "Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." There's a lot of talk about how to cut back on entitlements, but why doesn't somebody suggest cutting the extravagant federal dollars spent on education, which is not even an entitlement?

The billions spent on education have not achieved any of their designated goals, which were to raise the test scores and to close the gap between kids from upper-income and lower-income families. The handouts, however, produced a lot of cheating by teachers and administrators trying to hide their failure to achieve designated goals.

We hear about increasing the role of the states in other areas such as Medicaid. But the most important area where the states should have primary responsibility is education.

The most powerful union of government employees is the National Education Association, which held this year's annual national convention, as usual, over the Fourth of July weekend, attracting 9,000 delegates. To no one's surprise, it resembled a re-election campaign rally for Barack Obama, with the pressure on delegates to identify themselves as EFO, Educators for Obama.

Many delegates wore Obama campaign buttons and T-shirts and sported banners with messages such as "You are our knight in shining armor." The official NEA newspaper, called RA Today and published every day during the week-long convention, featured a very political full-page endorsement of Obama headlined "Do your part and pledge to be an educator for Obama today!"

In preparation for the convention, NEA leaders had been urging their members to hold house parties to teach their friends why Obama deserves their votes. House parties were one of the successful tactics Obama used to win his election in 2008.

The NEA convention passed its usual scores of anti-parent, anti-school-choice, pro-feminist, pro-homosexual resolutions that morph into the NEA's Legislative Program. This authorizes the highly paid NEA staff to lobby Congress, state legislatures, education departments and school boards to adopt NEA policies.

One significant new resolution adopted this year reads: "The Association also believes that members have the right to have payroll deduction of both Association membership dues and voluntary political contributions." That should make it clear that the way to cut the NEA's political power is for state legislatures to pass paycheck protection laws that prohibit the racket of state governments deducting political contributions out of the paychecks of teachers and turning the money over to the NEA bosses to elect Democrats.

We can get a look at NEA's political clout by reading a memorandum distributed to the delegates by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. It reveals the amount of money available in the NEA Ballot Measures/Legislative Crises Fund in the current year, beginning with $1,563,775 and projecting $26,939,129 by the end of the year.

Already this year, the NEA powers-that-be have approved $270,000 to four state affiliates to use in ballot measure campaigns, $7,163,492 in assistance to 17 state affiliates for legislative battles, and $2,500,000 for lobby-campaign efforts related to the congressional reauthorization of federal education appropriations.

Another memo Van Roekel distributed to delegates gave detailed information about the NEA Media Campaign Fund for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. These two funds are supported by a special dues assessment on every NEA member.

The NEA state affiliates that received NEA money from this Media Fund during the current year include: NEA Alaska $75,000; Delaware State Education Association $43,500; Florida Education Association $135,000; Idaho Education Association, $115,000; Illinois Education Association $400,000; Michigan Education Association $308,000; Education Minnesota $125,000; South Carolina Education Association $70,0000; Utah Education Association $105,000; Vermont NEA $108,500; and West Virginia Education Association $35,000.

The NEA's official Legislative Program includes many items that implement radical liberal ideology but have nothing to do with educating students. This column isn't long enough to list the 31 pages of fine print detailing the NEA's legislative demands, so I'll just mention a few to give you the flavor.

To nobody's surprise, the NEA supports "national health care that will mandate universal coverage." The NEA supports a long list of United Nations treaties, all of which would limit U.S. sovereignty and meddle in our domestic laws and customs.

The NEA supports adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would mandate "equality of rights ... on account of sex." To reinforce that goal, the NEA supports passage of a federal statute to assure "sexual orientation" rights.

The NEA supports "confirmation of Supreme Court Justices and federal judges who support civil rights." According to the NEA, "civil rights" includes both "reproductive freedom" and "prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression."


Eurozone crisis 'driving students to British universities'

Rising numbers of students from crisis-hit European countries are flocking to British universities to flee economic chaos at home, according to research.

Demand for courses abroad has soared by more than 150 per cent among students from Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, figures suggest.

Britain is the most popular destination for young people educated in southern European countries which have been hardest hit by the sovereign-debt crisis dogging the eurozone.

The rise will drive concerns that British students may face added competition in the race for degree courses at top universities this summer.

Undergraduates from other European Union countries are eligible for the same Government-backed loans as British students and count towards strict limits on the numbers of places available at each institution.

The disclosure is revealed in a report by Study Portals, an EU-funded website set up to help young people apply to university courses elsewhere in the continent.

According to figures, the number of enquiries made through the website from Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese students has soared by 80,000 in 2012 compared with a year earlier.

Demand to study outside their own country is up by more than 180 per cent among Italian students, 162 per cent from Greeks, 157 per cent from Spaniards and 140 per cent from Portuguese students.

The study said the figures reflected the link “between students’ economic perspectives at home and their ambition to study – and ultimately work – in better performing economies”.

It emerged that the four countries have higher youth unemployment rates than almost anywhere else in Europe, with the proportion of jobless young people ranging from more than a third in Portugal to 52 per cent in Greece.

According to researchers, Britain is the most popular destination among these students.

British universities accounted for 26 per cent of total enquiries from the four countries, it was revealed. This compared with a fifth of applications being made to Dutch universities and less than one-in-10 enquiries made to German and Swedish institutions.

The increase recorded in the study comes despite evidence that the total number of applications made to Britain from across the EU has dropped this year.

Last month, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said that total demand was down by 13 per cent – 6,132 – this year compared with 2011, although the data failed to provide a country-by-country breakdown. This suggests that southern European countries may be bucking the trend.

It coincides with the introduction of higher tuition fees in September, with students paying up to £9,000 a year – almost three times maximum in 2011.


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