Friday, August 19, 2016

Fact check: Clinton, Pence mislead on Indiana education

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said that the Republican vice presidential nominee, Gov. Mike Pence, “slashed education funding in Indiana.” But Pence claimed he made “record investments in education.” Clinton is wrong, and Pence is misleading.

The education budget under Pence would be a “record” in nominal dollars, but in inflation-adjusted dollars, it’s not. However, the numbers don’t show education funding has been “slashed” either: The budgets he has signed increased education funding, even in inflation-adjusted dollars.

‘Record’ Investments in Education?

Clinton made the claim on July 23 in introducing her vice presidential running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who, contrary to the impression Clinton left, presided over a decline in education spending, in inflation-adjusted dollars, as governor of Virginia during the Great Recession.

Clinton: "While Mike Pence slashed education funding in Indiana and gave more tax cuts to the wealthiest, Tim Kaine cut his own salary and invested in education from pre-k through college and beyond."

Pence made the opposite boast a few days earlier, on July 20, in his speech at the Republican convention.

Pence: "In my home state of Indiana we prove every day that you can build a growing economy on balanced budgets, low taxes, even while making record investments in education and roads and health care."

Larry DeBoer, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, studies government budget issues and has written about state school funding. He shared a spreadsheet with us on Indiana education funding, which shows that the figure, for K-12 and higher education combined, was $9.3 billion in fiscal year 2011, the highest figure before Pence took office. Both the 2016 and 2017 budgets, as passed, are higher than that, at $9.8 billion and $10 billion, respectively.

But an increase in nominal dollars, year after year, isn’t unusual. As DeBoer said in an email to us, “Gov. Pence has made record investments in education in the sense that his budgets spend more on education than any in Indiana history. But given inflation, population growth and income growth, that would be true for almost anyone’s budgets.”

In fact, looking at funding figures dating back to 2000, the raw dollar amount for education went up every year except for two of them — both before Pence took office.

So, using nominal dollars isn’t the best way to measure whether a governor had a “record” in funding. Using inflation-adjusted dollars, DeBoer’s figures show the peak in education funding was in 2010, and the current fiscal year, 2017, which began July 1, stands 1.3% below that.

DeBoer noted that the difference isn’t large. “In real terms, and as a share of Indiana’s economy, education spending is a bit smaller than it was in 2010 and 2011,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think that counts as ‘slashed’ though.”


Too many universities are failing their students. Only the light of true competition can save them

For hundreds of thousands of school-leavers, this is the real Super Thursday, the culmination of their very own academic Olympiad.

A-level results day is one of trepidation, delight and the highest youthful emotion; it is certainly no time for commentators to take on the role of kill-joys. The vast majority of this year’s cohort will love their student years, and few will regret taking the plunge.

They should ignore the doomsters who keep telling them that the odds are stacked against today’s 18-year-olds. The reality is that this is a wonderfully exciting, peaceful and prosperous time in which to be growing up. Members of this generation, like all others since the industrial revolution, will eventually end up far better off than their parents.

But while we should celebrate our young people’s prospects and achievements, far more needs to be done to improve the quality of our universities. Britain is only halfway on its journey towards creating a true free market in higher education. We need to move faster to empower students while turbo-charging competition between universities.

The danger signs are there for all to see: despite more realistic tuition fees, many universities are underperforming; teaching can be abominable, especially in research-driven institutions; and some courses do little to bolster young people’s employability.

Better-informed students would make different choices. New universities would help shake things up, especially if they were run differently. We need for-profit institutions in addition to the usual charitable universities; we need companies to start awarding real degrees to formalise the training that they give their staff and apprentices, especially in the sciences, and we need proper online-only institutions that are able to compete on cost as well as quality. The three-year undergraduate model is all well and good, but what about more two-year degrees?

A modern economy may require even more young people to go to university – but it is also true that some current students would be better off in vocational training if better quality options were available. A greater emphasis on lifetime education is also a must.

The facts are sobering. It remains the case that, on average, it pays to go to university but the gap is shrinking. In 1995, a degree would increase wages by 45 per cent on average relative to having no qualifications at all; by 2015 this premium had fallen to 34 per cent, according to the Bank of England.

The gap between graduates and those with A-levels or GCSEs has held up better over the past couple of decades, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies; but here too the graduate premium is now starting to decline. Among 30-34-year-olds, a university graduate now earns 1.55 times more than a school leaver, down from 1.63 times in the 2000s, and the ratio is falling.

One central problem is that for the past 20 years or so, there has been too much emphasis on volume growth and not enough on teaching quality. This was perhaps understandable: Sir John Major was right that too few people went to university in the early 1990s, and right to do something about it. But the higher education system, including the old polytechnics, was never designed for extreme levels of growth.

While the share of 25-29-year-olds with degrees shot up from 13 per cent in 1993 to 41 per cent in 2015, employers are paradoxically still suffering from severe skills shortages. They require more science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees. At the same time, some 20 per cent of employed graduates are stuck in non-professional roles three-and-a-half-years after graduating.

Shockingly, there are 23 universities from which the median male graduate earns less ten years after graduating than the median UK non-graduate, according to research by Jack Britton, Lorraine Dearden, Neil Shephard and Anna Vignoles of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The same report reveals the strikingly poor prospects of creative arts graduates, with more than half earning under £20,000 a year. So what should be done?

Graph showing the earnings of university graduates in different disciplines. Maths and computer science graduates beat business studies ones, which beat "creative arts"
Graph showing the earnings of university graduates in different disciplines CREDIT: IFS
First, sunlight is the best disinfectant. The current White Paper, which is being fronted by Jo Johnson and is generally very good news, should be beefed up, and the Government should force all universities to provide far more data about outcomes. Tax information should also be used, in suitably anonymised form, to measure this.

The Government is right to want to crack down on universities that provide bad teaching but enforcing fee cuts on underperformers, as Johnson is threatening, isn’t the right answer. We need a better, more informed marketplace. Imagine a simple app that showed what leavers’ salaries were three, five and 10 years from graduation, for each degree category and university. Students would realise that it makes sense to study physics and mathematics at a top university, rather than an English degree at a mediocre one. Institutions would no longer be able to compete with gimmicks. The Government and the universities should agree that a new app should be launched in three years’ time at the latest; surveys should be used to estimate wages if hard data is unavailable.

Second, we need more competition and a greater clash of models and approaches. The Government agrees with the Competition and Markets Authority that there are too many barriers to entry into higher education. It wants to partially liberalise the right to award degrees and for institutions to call themselves universities, which makes sense.

But here too it must go further. The planning regulations may need to be changed, special education zones set up to allow the creation of new universities close to business clusters or in new locations, and any rules discriminating against for profit-providers torn up. In five years’ time, Britain needs to be home to at least half a dozen serious alternative universities and a bigger spread of fees and course formats, or else the reforms will have failed.

It’s a bold manifesto, of course, but in these post-Brexit days all reforms, however radical, need to be on the agenda.

Britain’s youth deserve nothing less.


This is not about bigotry or homophobia. This is about fact

Should the Australian people, rather than politicians, decide if their children are subjected to compulsory gender theory

Primary school children should be educated with a rainbow world view where mothers or fathers might need to go to the doctor to change their gender.  That’s right kids, your daddy might actually be a lady who needs surgery to affirm this “reality”.

This is according to recent research on children as young as five conducted by Safe Schools advocates from Adelaide’s Flinders University.

We should not be surprised at this. After all, one of the most relentless political debates of the past six years has been about removing the gender requirement from the legal definition of marriage.

If gender matters not in marriage, how can it be a requirement for parenting? Never mind biology folks, that is irrelevant. And if gender matters not in parenting, we must not allow young minds to think it matters to them.

If we don’t join the dots between the rainbow political agenda for same-sex marriage and compulsory public funding of Safe Schools gender theory, then we should not be surprised when our kids come home confused.

This is not to make light of bullying. Bullying is serious and must not be tolerated. But we know that Safe Schools is not an anti-bullying program. It’s founder Roz Ward, a La Trobe University academic, has said same-sex marriage is about sending a message that “transphobia” and “homophobia” is unacceptable.

Surely bullying attitudes towards other students could and should be dealt with without telling the rest of the children in the class that their gender is fluid, as Safe Schools teaches. A child struggling with gender identity issues should be given all the love and professional support we, as a society, can muster.

But this doesn’t mean telling Year 1 kids that their mum really should be allowed to be a bloke. We have been told for years that changing the legal definition of marriage is a no brainer, that affects no one else except the loving couple.

The discourse has been emotional and it has been powerful. None of us want to see our fellow Australians suffering discrimination. But what many Australians do not realise is that all discrimination against gay couples was removed in 2008 when the Federal Parliament changed 84 laws to grant equality.
For marriage equality to be realised, Australia must lift its prohibition on commercial surrogacy and that will be ethically problematic, argues Lyle Shelton. (Pic: Getty)

Sure, it stopped short at changing the Marriage Act, but that is because equality was achieved without redefining marriage. The then Rudd Labor Government recognised that marriage was different and that gender complementarity was essential. Difference is not discrimination.

If gender is removed from marriage, it follows that same-gender married couples must be allowed to participate in the benefits of marriage equality. The United Nations — and common sense — recognises that marriage is a compound right to found and form a family.

Two people of the same gender are biologically incapable of producing children. That is not a statement of bigotry or homophobia, it is simply fact. For marriage equality to be realised, Australia must lift its prohibition on commercial surrogacy.

How else can a married gay couple have children? Surrogacy and anonymous sperm donation, in all its forms, is ethically problematic.

These technologies close the door on a child’s right to be raised and loved by both biological parents, wherever possible.

But unleashing a brave new world of assisted reproductive technology combined with the confusing influence of Safe Schools are not the only consequences of same-sex marriage. Already, we are seeing the rights of Australians who wish to hold on to the timeless definition of marriage being taken away.

Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous fell foul of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commission simply for disseminating this view of marriage to Catholics. Such is the intolerance of those pushing the rainbow political agenda that they took legal action.

Overseas florists, bakers, wedding chapel owners and photographers have been sued, fined and hauled before courts for exercising their sincerely held beliefs about marriage.

If anyone thinks this is just for the ‘only in America file’, think again.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said that if he was Prime Minister, business owners who exercised their freedom of conscience about marriage by declining to participate in same-sex weddings would be fined under state-based anti-discrimination law. This is chilling stuff.

All of this is reason why the Australian people should be allowed to decide this issue.

They — not politicians — should decide if their children are going to get compulsory gender theory education in schools. They should decide if children will be denied the right to be raised and loved by their biological parents. And the Australian people should decide if their fellow Australians will be fined for holding a dissident view of marriage.

A respectful plebiscite campaign, with equal public funding to both sides, is the best way to settle this long running community debate.


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