Who Cares What a Liar Says?

Some people will believe anything. Secretary Duncan tells a self-selected audience at the American Enterprise Institute what they want to hear. Sorry. This man killed the DC voucher program. This man simultaneously opposes (ostensibly) seat-time as a measure of system performance and reductions in instructional time. In the presence of a friendly audience this man complains that school boards and district superintendents lack the courage to challenge employee unions. Like, this speech deserves the Medal of Honor? This man served a giant dollop of bailout money to the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, and now says to the AEI audience that that was a one-time event. Will anyone risk money on a bet against the prediction that the Secretary and his boss will deliver more unaccountable (meaning that States and local agencies get to define success) money in 2012?


Go Here. Read This.

Go here.
...(A)n early study of 1400 middle-aged and elderly Swedish twins shows that the effect of upbringing on appreciation is very durable. If you make a loving and harmonious family, your children won't merely be grateful at the time. The memories you create for them will likely last a lifetime.

People often fear that the science of success will be misused. Twin and adoption research seem like handy excuses for lazy parents. But scaling back misguided investments isn't "lazy"; it's common sense. If your children's future success is largely beyond your control, riding them "for their own good" is not just wasteful, but cruel. The sentimental view that parents should simply cherish, encourage, and accept their children has science on its side. Modern parents need to calm down and reconceive family time as leisure, not work. Having fun with your children may not prepare them for the future, but there are few more rewarding ways to spend your time.


Ideologues versus Opportunists

On the James Randi forum, a participant in a discussion of the US pre-college school system referred to free-market "ideologues" and "fairy tales about the magical properties of 'the market'". Earlier in that discussion, various participants argued whether Milton Friedman's views on tuition vouchers had changed between his 1955 essay and his death in 2006.

"Ideological" is an uncomplimentary way to say "systematic" or "principled". Antonyms include "scatterbrained" and "unscrupulous".

Individual humans have individual wants and goals. Aggregation of preferences of several individuals presents problems. For example, one process which aggregates dietary preferences produces stew (mix all preferred ingredients together), which may be on no one's preferred menu. Individuals prefer shoes that fit. No process that aggregates individual preferences in shoe size will generate a shoe size that fits anything close to a majority. Neither direct democratic processes nor representative democratic processes nor authoritarian processes will come close to market processes in fitting shoes to feet, food to palates, or curricula to children.

Friedman makes his policy preferences pretty clear. He wants parent control of education. People interested in the evolution of Friedman's school policy preferences can watch that evolution unfold by reading in sequence:
The Role of Government in Education (1955),
"The Role of Government in Education" (Capitalism and Freedom, 1962),
"Public Schools; Make them Private", (1995)
a Reason interview (1995),
and his notes to Liberty and Learning: Milton Friedman's Voucher Idea at Fifty (Enlow and Ealy. Cato. 2006).
It's not a mystery what Friedman wants.

It's also not a mystery why free marketeers think markets outperform command economies. Ludwig von Mises spelled it out in Socialism, (1922), Friedrich Hayek explained it again in The Use of Knowledge in Society (American Economic Review, 1945), and again in The Road to Serfdom,
and Friedman again in 1962.
Sheldon Richman (What Education Needs) finds scientific anticipation of an Austrian view of the education industry in the writings of Joseph Priestley.

Briefly, the government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition, after Weber). A law is a written threat by a government to kidnap (arrest), assault (subdue), and forcibly infect with HIV (imprison) someone, under specified circumstances. Individual A has a "right" to do X if the government has promised not to interfere when A attempts to do X and, further, has promised to interfere with individuals B,C, etc. if they attempt to stop A when A attempts to do X. "Title" to a resource is a grant by a government to an individual of control over that resource which includes the power to transfer control (to sell the resource). Market-oriented policies combine title and contract law. As Adam Smith explained (I have not read this one), markets unite control over resources with the incentive to use resources is socially beneficial ways.

For those who approve the current policy which prevails across most US States, which reserves to schools operated by government employees an exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy, a thought experiment.
Compose answers to the following questions:...

1. From State operation of what industries does society as a whole benefit? You may suppose either a dichotomous classification:
A = unlikely candidate for State operation = {........}
B = likely candidate for State operation = {.........}
or a continuum:
(highly unlikely) -1________.________+1 (highly likely).
2. Now consider the further question: What criteria determine an industry's categorical assignment or position on the continuum?

To what industries can organized violence and the threat of organized violence make a positive contribution, beyond what it contributes to minimally-regulated industries in a market economy (an initial assignment of title and enforcement of contract law)? Are we naked because the State does not operate textile mills and clothing stores? Are we starving because the State does not operate collective farms, grocery stores, and restaurants? Why make an exception for the education industry?

A society is free in proportion to the range of behaviors not included in "compelled" and "forbidden". Separation of powers, federalism, and markets institutionalize humility on the part of government actors.

A widely-beloved fairy tale asserts the beneficent power of organized violence. Markets institutionalize non-violence. If a policy dispute turns on a matter of taste, federalism and a market economy allow for the expression of varied tastes, while the contest for control of a State-monopoly provider must inevitably create unhappy losers. If a policy dispute turns on a matter of fact, where "What works?" is an empirical question, local control of policy and competitive markets will generate more information than will a State-monopoly provider of goods and services. A State-monopoly provider is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls; a retarded experimental design.

In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell speculates that socialism originates in a hypertrophied sense of order, like those compulsive people who rearrange the socks in the dresser and the dishes in the cupboard ten times a day. Elsewhere ("Raffles and Mrs. Blandish", "Inside the Whale"), he speculates that a vicarious sadism generates a preference for authoritarian politics. Ludwig von Mises suggested something similar; that socialism expresses a primitive revenge fantasy. It looks to me that people who defend State operation of industry enjoy a self-congratulatory power fantasy: what a wonderful world it would be if I ran it. Supporting the government school system or government-operated health care is like buying a movie ticket or a lottery ticket. With the movie ticket you get to imagine yourself in Steven Segall's place, or Bruce Willis' place for a couple of hours. With a lottery ticket, you get to imagine how your life will change when you win $$$. The price of the fantasy is the price of the ticket. The difference with the State school system is it costs taxpayers more than $500 billion per year, as well as the opportunity cost to students of the time they spend in school.


Affirmative Action, Baby!

Where's the evidence that Barak Obama is an intellectual? Granted, the President extemporaneously can string appropriate cliches together with the fluency of a street-corner evangelist reciting his catechism. Was the last person to hand you a copy of some religious tract an intellectual? In this case, absence of evidence is evidence of a vacuum. Beyond some wretched poetry about aquatic baboons and two apparently ghost-written books, where's the evidence? James Taranto has noticed.

Occam's razor suggests that Obama is a mere conformist--someone who absorbed every left-wing platitude he encountered in college and never seems to have seriously questioned any of them. Kloppenberg characterizes Obama as a skeptic, not a true believer. We're not sure he has an active enough mind to be either one.

Marxism Test

Take the test.

"Your score is 90%."

Josiah Gray would score 100% and he's no Marxist. This requires basic literacy.


Physics Test

Take the quiz.

"Your Total Score is 87.5%."


I've been on a Biology kick lately: Matt Ridley, The Agile Gene and Genome, M. J. Benton, When Life Nearly Died (the Permian mass extinction). I have two in the air: Stringer and McKie, African Exodus (human evolution) and Marc Van De Mieroop, A History of the Ancient Near East (c.a. 3000-323 bc). Next up: review basic Analytic Geometry (conic sections) and Calculus. Then I'll have time to review basic mechanics and thermodynamics. Why does the equilibrium temperature of a body (such as the Earth) in orbit around the Sun depend on anything other than residual kinetic energy of formation, heat from fission in the interior, solar output, and the radius of the Earth's orbit? I have questions but no answers. How can "greenhouse gasses" make any difference? The experts say so, so I'll believe, but, as the Marquis De Sade said "It is impossible for a man to believe in something he does not understand" (from memory, so it's not exact).

C'mon; my last Physics class was 40 years ago.

Another Poitical Quiz

Take the quiz.
You are a Social Liberal (60% permissive) and an Economic Conservative (81% permissive). You are best described as a Capitalist.

"Free Marketeer" or "19th Century Liberal", more like.


Public Sector Pensions

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser endorsed two of the most fiscally irresponsible candidates on the menu: Dan Inouye for US Senate and Neil Abercrombie for Governor.
Hawaii's public-sector pension system is under-funded. It appears that California is headed for bankruptcy. Hawaii to follow. We will return to this topic with updates and comments.


Political Quiz

Take the political quiz.

"You scored the following on the PoliticsMatch questions:
Personal Score 75%
Economic Score 81%

Where You Fit In

Where your Personal score meets your Economic score on the grid below is your political philosophy. Based on the above score, you are a Conservative-Leaning Libertarian."

Now, if population control and immigration had appeared among the questions the results would have differed from the above.

Why Study History?...

So you won't make an ass of yourself, like Gwen Ifil...


Lucky Guess

Civic Literacy
"You answered 32 out of 33 correctly — 96.97%."

Politicians are retarded.

Hat tip: Blond Sagacity.
(Update) My homeless house-sitter: "You answered 33 out of 33 correctly — 100.00 %".


Stepping into the Ring

Here, we tangle with a professional. This guy has credentials and, no doubt, citations up the Wazoo. I may wind up looking silly.
(Update) Something more here and here and here.
(Update) Elswhere, here (no professionals).


Dump the Incumbent

Kim Coco Iwamoto recommends a level of funding for the Hawaii DOE at the level (per pupil) of the Department of Defense schools: "The Feds and State should be mandated to follow the US Department of Defense funding formula for public education. The DOD applies Government Accountability Guidelines to compute how much it invests each year into the public education systems they operate abroad. In 2009, the DOD spent $23,496 –$25,968/ student."

This would support a two-to-one student:teacher ratio, if the DOE were so inclined. This expresses an utterly irresponsible attitude toward her fellow citizens, who pay the bill for unscrupulous pandering to the public-sector unions.

As Andrew Coulson observes, beyond a very low level, budget bears no relation to system performance.

Iwamoto cites membership on the Teacher Standards Board as "civic or community service". Unless she worked toward repeal of this destructive institution, her participation degraded system performance.


Homeschooling by the Numbers

Let's see if this code works:...
Nope. Well, the sidebar abbreviates it. Go here.


"More Gangs. Less Crime"

(W)ell-established economic theories on how and why governments evolve from situations of anarchy...suggest(s) that within a society without law and order, individuals are under constant threat of being victims of aggression and crime, and small "gangs" evolve to provide protection services to people. By forming groups, people who cannot protect themselves individually can be more secure...A clear example of our logic is the case of gangs in the prison system. This is one of the only (sic. "few") places where a 40-year old white man would be a gang member, and for good reason. In prison, inmates are frequently the victims of violence and intimidation that go unreported (or if reported, unpunished). This makes the environment similar to that in government-run schools and on inner-city streets. An inmate who joins a gang receives protection, which lowers the odds that he will be a victim of violent crime. Once again, the underlying demand for gangs stems from the presence of pre-existing violence.


Abortion and Gay Marriage

This post is not about the school system.

Someone called and said he and his friends were asking about the candidates' position on abortion and gay marriage. This question makes more sense addressed to legislators than to candidates for the Board of Education. Schools don't have much to do with either issue. A requirement that schools notify parents when schools refer students for any medical procedure makes sense.

Perhaps the fellow was not seeking policy positions but some sense of the candidate's moral compass. Here goes.

Love is wonderful, and everyone would benefit from a loving relationship with a supportive partner or two. Or five. Your housekeeping and sleeping arrangements are not my business. That said, a court-mandated or legislatively-mandated expansion of the population covered by legally-mandated spousal benefits amounts to a tax increase, and US taxpayers are already overtaxed.

Abortion? Let's think this through. Morality is a result of biological and cultural evolution. Across time, various societies have applied different definitions of "human" (meaning, deserving of the protection given to humans). In ancient Greece, deformed newborn babies were left outside the city walls at night. Some African societies regarded twins as so unlucky that one would be left in the forest overnight. In ancient Rome, children were their fathers' property until they became adults (if male) or until they married (if female, at which point they became their husband's property). Basically, abortion was legal until the end of the 83rd trimester (20 years and nine months) for male children and indefinitely for female children.

1. The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition).
2. Value is determined by supply and demand, therefore a world in which human life is precious is a world in which human life is scarce.
3. The Earth's human population cannot grow without limit.
4. The Earth's human population will stop growing when either...
a) the birth rate falls to meet the death rate or
b) the death rate rises to meet the birth rate.
5. The Earth's human population will stop growing as a result of either
a) deliberate human agency or
b) other.
6. Deliberate human agency is either
a) democratically controled or
b) other.
7. All human behavioral traits are heritable (google the entire phrase).
8. Voluntary programs for population control selectively breed non-compliant individuals.
9. Humans who will reproduce at high density have a selective advantage over humans who require lots of open space.
10. Human misery is like heat; in the absence of insulators (barriers to immigration) it will flow until evenly distributed.
11. The world's maximum possible instantaneous human population is greater than it's maximum sustainable human population. Absent a reduction in the human birth rate or a gradual increase in the human death rate, expect a sharp decline in human population numbers from the instantaneous maximum.
12. Humans displace wilderness. The world's maximum possible sustainable human poulation leaves little room for wildnerness or terrestrial wildlife. Absent a reduction in the human birth rate or an increase in the death rate, expect a reduction in biodiversity before the Earth's human population stabilizes.

Malthus was right. Between vice (forced sterilization, forced abortion) misery (starvation, pollution-induced illness, epidemic disease, genocide, war) and moral restraint (hopeless, see #8), your choices are limited. Where do you disagree? I know: "Everything's fine so far" (said the man who jumped from the 50th floor, as he passed the tenth floor).

The feminists don't like this argument. Libertarians don't like this argument. Christians don't like this argument. Only the Christians (Baldilocks, The Common Room) and the Brits at Prospect magazine and at Dave Thompson's site remain polite. The argument basically summarizes Garrett Hardin's essay "The Tragedy of the Commons" (Science, 1968).


Schools, Markets, and Federalism

As this article observes, the US State-monopoly school system stifles innovation and preserves inept practice.


In a Better World...

If election ballots looked like referendum ballots, where voters could vote "no" (-1) for a candidate, incumbency could just as easily count against a candidate. This would make no difference in a two-way contest, but in a multi-candidate primary or a three-or-more party general election, the outcome of an election that allowed voters to cast a negative ballot could well differ from the outcome in the current system.
Think on it.

Voter Information

The Office of Elections list of candidates.
Star-Advertiser voters' guide.
Project Vote Smart.
League of Women Voters candidate profiles.
Honolulu Weekly Board candidate profiles.
Olelo, Board candidate videos.
Saave Our Schools Board Candidates' Forum.
Family Forum candidate survey. A friend called to ask why this survey includes no response from Malcolm Kirkpatrick. Dunno. Perhaps it went into the round file by mistake. Here are my responses. Y,Y,U,U,Y.


Board Candidates on Olelo

The public-access channel Olelo recorded videos of all willing candidates for office in Hawaii and presents Board of Education candidate videos here. Does this format provide useful information? Olelo gave each candidate five minutes. It's asking a lot from people to expect that they sit through one hour of self-promotinal monologue.

Perhaps the Star-Advertiser's voters' guide will present a more accessible summary of candidates' strengths and weaknesses. Some candidate information here.

In a voucher-subsidized competitive market in education services, legislators would determine the level of per-pupil support, parents would evaluate schools, and voters could ignore the issue of school administration.

Alfred North Whitehead observed that civilization advances by the number of things that we can ignore.


The Fraud of Race to the Top

Remember the Clinton era Goals 2000? The US was to be first in the world in science and math. The legislation involved lots of lofty proclamations and little substance. Nothing has changed in the world of government schooling flackery except increasing growth in the bureaucracy and budget. Except for the positive assessment of Fordham, this analysis of Race to the Top gets everything right.
Update: Add this.



originally uploaded by malcolmkirkpatrick.
Between 1987 and 1997 most schools in the Hawaii DOE followed a September through June schedule. Juvenile arrests fall when school is not in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall when school is not in session. Reported house burglaries fall when school is not in session (car burglaries rise).

Schools do not prevent crime; they cause it.



Sex I.D.
Your empathy score is: 5 out of 20
Average score for men: 7.9 out of 20
Average score for women: 10.6 out of 20
On standardized measures of social skills your humble narrator ranks somewhere between clam and desert reptile.


August 23 Forum Flier

This arrived in the inbox this morning.
Candidate Forums on EDUCATION

The recent Furlough Friday crisis has reminded us all that our elected leaders matter! Come and hear what candidates for the offices most directly responsible for Hawaii’s public education system have to say in response to our most pressing questions.

Community organizations focusing on education will be holding a series of three candidate forums at the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus:

• Board of Education At-Large candidates, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mon. Aug. 23
• Lieutenant Governor candidates, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mon. Sept. 6, Labor Day
• Governor candidates, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sun. Sept 12

This is the only candidate forum for BOE offices, and is a unique opportunity to learn about and have your questions answered by a panel of 10 confirmed candidates. The public (parents, students, concerned citizens) are invited to submit questions at www.sos808.org.

The moderator will be Neal Milner, former ombuds for UH Manoa, professor of Political Science, and political commentator. The Architecture Building is on University Ave, across from the Atherton YMCA (corner of Metcalf). Street parking is free after 6pm, and a pay lot is availableadjacent to the building. Parking is free on Sundays and Holidays.

All fora are free and open to the public. The events will be broadcast on ‘Olelo. Please check www.sos808.org for updates.

Hosted by Save Our Schools Hawaii, the committee organizing a Hawai’i chapter of Parents for Public Schools, and the American Studies Graduate Students Association of UH.

Marguerite Higa

Corey Rosenlee

April Bautista

Save Our Schools Hawaii

S.O.S. Hawaii stands with Hawaii's public and charter school children and teachers. We are united behind one promise: we will do all we can to make sure Hawaii's keiki and teachers are valued, prioritized, and that education is sustainably funded. We believe that investing in education today supports all of Hawai'i for tomorrow.
April Kamilah B. Bautista


Think On This

Just go to Sunshine's blog (sidebar) and browse "Iraqi Blogs I like". Notice something? Comfortable Americans, think on this. For some people, daily life is heroic when compared to the average American life.


Two Proofs by Contradiction

After the fall of the Soviet State the British poet and historian of that State, Robert Conquest, wrote that the West had, as yet, incompletely learned two important lessons: the limits to the amount of good that organized violence (the State) can accomplish, and the stultifying effects of bureaucracy, public and private. The force of law is a blunt instrument. The enormous diversity of individual students' interests and abilities and the enormous diversity of their future career paths make the education industry an unlikely candidate for government control. Yet in the US, State Constitutions, State statutes, and policies in many school districts restrict parents' options for the use of the taxpayers' education subsidy to schools operated by State (government, generally) employees. The term "the public school system" designates those provisions in State Constitutions, those State statutes, and those district policies. Arguments in defense of these restrictions policies fail, as two proofs by contradiction indicate.

The State (government, generally) cannot support education without a definition of "education". Curriculum standards define education. If the "public school system" is not an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded construction and supply contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination, why cannot any student take, at any time and at any age, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers' education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition or toward a wage subsidy at any qualified private-sector employer? If it is fraud for a mechanic to charge for the repair of a functional motor and if it is fraud for a physician to charge for the treatment of a healthy patient, then it is fraud for a teacher, school, school district,or State to charge for the instruction of a student who does not need help.

According to the Common Core mission statement:
The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
If "education", as defined by curriculum standards, is really so important, why do these people oppose restrictions on immigration? Do they imagine that immigrant Central Americans enter the US fully informed of the US History standards and the English Language Arts standards?

Either immigration is a threat or education, as the NEA, the AFT, and the Common Core define it, is not necessary. Or both.


Education Under Obama

Joanne linked this...
"It could have been worse." How?

I can see November from my house.


Hawaii Reporter Questionnaire

By now, readers can predict my answers to most questions which reporters pose in candidate surveys. The only real point of interest is the questions themselves.

A Hawaii Reporter reporter sent the below.

1.Curriculum and Student Achievement: ...Do you favor the implementation of a sequential, quality, K-12 curriculum that would tie to the state’s standards and that would allow graduates to be college-ready?

No. Children are not standard. The "standard" with the best chance of improving system performance is the parent standard: "Do I want my child in that school?" I support open enrollment across school complex areas, credit by exam for all courses required for graduation, and access to an exit exam (the GED will do) which students may take at any age, at any time.

2. Teacher and Principal Compensation: The American Federation of Teachers finds that Hawaii’s teacher starting compensation package equals $52,150, with an average of $72,682, with principals’ average compensation package at $147,000. Should teacher and principal salaries be based on seniority or performance and outcomes? Should principal performance contracts, as required under Act 51, passed in 2004, be required?

Undecided. I do not see how anyone would assess the performance of an Art teacher, for example. "What works?" is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer. In the realm of public policy, this means numerous local policy regimes or a competitive market in goods and services. A State-monopoly provider is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls: a retarded experimental design.

3. Per pupil expenditures: Hawai‘i was 13th highest among the 50 states in per-student expenditures in 2006-07: $11,060 versus a national average of $9,666. Last year, when all spending is included, Hawaii had a per-student annual spending of about $16,000. Should the Weighted Student Formula funding be increased from .49 on each dollar to ensure that more of the budget gets to schools and classrooms? Why are why not?

The location of an expense is an ambiguous concept. State-level negotiations between the Board, the Department of Budget and Finance and the HSTA produce the teacher contract. Is a teacher's paycheck a school-level expense? If the Board demands that Moanalua Intermediate hire some politician's nitwit cousin on a $50,000 do-nothing consulting contract, is this a school level expense? If the Accounting Branch puts a downtown furniture purchase on Nanakuli's budget, is this a school-level expense?

4. Staffing Formulas: Act 51 implemented a weighted student formula and requires principals spend 70 percent of the DOE operating budget, excluding debt service and capital expenditures. However, the BOE still negotiates labor agreements that include employee ratio formulas, preventing principals from making autonomous hiring decisions. Do you favor eliminating employee ratio formulas in union contracts to allow principals to make hiring decisions? Why or why not?

I favor creation of independent complex-level districts and negotiation of contracts at the complex level. Abolish the Teacher Standards Board. Principals should have the power to build their team.

5. Reliable and Transparent Data: The State Auditor found that the DOE is unable to allocate costs properly and the DOE admits their information system needs replaced in order to provide the public, Legislature and department managers with data that will allow them to make timely decisions. What improvements would you make to get the following information to the public: (1) how much money is expended each year within the entire education system, (2) how much of that money is spent in the classroom, (3) how many people work for the DOE and what positions do they hold, and (4) how many of those employees are classroom teachers who report to a principal?

When a Republican became Governor, the Legislature (D) passed Act 51, which removed DOE finances from outside supervision. Repeal Act 51. Abolish the Board of Education. Remove from the Department of Education all authority over school operations. Transfer to County councils the authority to create school districts at the County level or below. Fund school districts on a per-pupil basis from the General Fund, with funds passing through a (very small) State-level Department of Education.

Real classroom teachers can be counted through student schedules. I have done this for one school. The computer which prints report cards could do this for the entire DOE.

6. Fiscal Autonomy : Should the Legislature would be required to provide lump-sum budgets to the DOE/BOE and the Governor could restrict spending, if at all, only on a lump-sum basis, to allow the DOE fiscal autonomy similar to the University of Hawai‘i?


Likewise, should the BOE limit the use of categorical funding and instead provide lump-sum funding to schools or communities that may then choose to purchase centralized DOE or private services?


7. Procurement: In 2009, the State Auditor issued a report on the DOE’s procurement practices involving $840 million in facilities money and revealed potentially fraudulent or unethical behavior and a lack of controls and indifference towards procurement compliance. Do you favor implementing internal controls in this department, with corrective or disciplinary procedures for procurement violations?


Would you begin by investigating why many schools do not have soap, paper towels and adequate toilet paper? Why or why not?

There are bigger issues. We know from the Federal investigation into the Hawaii Department of Transportation Airports Division how insiders rigged the competitive bid process. Ten years ago, the DOE spent over $200,000 per room to build classroom buildings. This looks excessive for a row of 30'x40'x10' concrete boxes eight units long and three tiers high.

8. Decentralization or Community-Centered Schools: Given that communities in all other states have local control over their schools, do you favor a community-centered school system with control over 90 percent of their community k-12 school budget? Would you favor the BOE limiting itself to developing academic standards and holding accountable community-level school governance?

Abundant evidence supports local control of school. A State-level serves no purpose. Students, parents, real classroom teachers, and taxpayers would benefit if the State-level Department of Education had responsibility for funding and financial oversight only.

9. Charter School Cap: Should the cap on the number of charter schools be lifted with student funding that is equal to other public schools, including money for facilities?

Yes. Further, any 501(c)3 organization should have authority to establish a charter school, and the law should provide for representation elections at individual charter schools.

10. Pension Reform: Last year, $417 million of the DOE’s budget was consumed by pension or employee burden costs. Would you implement any pension reforms that would lessen these costs? If so, what would they be?

The answer is on the dollar bill: "This note is legal tender for all debts public and private". Pay teachers in cash and let them allot their pay to food, rent, health care, and retirement plans as they see fit.


Inquiring Minds

Since they ask (the Star-Advertiser survey):...

Occupation and employer: Math tutor. Self-employed.
Job history past 10 years: Math tutor, self-employed.
Ever run for public office? When? Outcome?:
1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008. 0/6.
Other civic experience or community service: US Navy. Community workday volunteer.
Anything else you'd like voters to know about you?: DOE teacher (high school Math), 1982-1995. Blog: The Harriet Tubman Agenda.

Q: 1) What qualifies you to be a member of the Board of Education?
1. I'm a citizen of Hawaii, over 18 and a non-felon. That is all that the law requires.
2. No one is qualified to take education decisions away from parents. This job should not exist. My qualification is that I understand this.

Q: 2) What do schools need to do to better prepare students for careers and college in the 21st century?
Schools need to operate in a competitive environment in which schools offer a variety of courses and methods of instruction. The one-size-fits-all State-monopoly school system guarantees, for most students, a poor match between the individual student's interests and abilities, on the one hand, and the school's curriculum and method of instruction, on the other.

Q: 3) Do you agree the Department of Education should undergo an independent audit of its financials and operations?
Yes. It does not take 12 years at $12,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Outside the US, other countries get better results for less than 1/2 what Hawaii's taxpayers spend, per pupil. In 1996, the Singapore TIMSS 8th grade Math 5th (fifth) percentile score was higher than the US 50th (fiftieth) percentile score.

Q: 4) How would you propose the department go about turning around low-performing schools?
1.Abolish the Teacher Standards Board. Allow principals to determine teacher credential requirements.
2. Offer credit by exam for all courses.
3. Mandate that schools must hire parents, on personal service contracts, to provide for their children's education, if the parents apply for the contract. Make payment contingent on performance on commercially available standardized tests.

Q: 5) Many are calling for more accountability at the school level for student achievement. How would you go about making that accountability a reality?
Internal accountability mechanisms inevitably fail. The most effective accountability system that humans have yet devised is a policy which gives to unhappy customers the power to take their business elsewhere. Subsidize parent control of education. Homeschooling, vouchers, tuition tax credits, charter schools.

Q: 6) What solutions should the board be considering as it attempts to improve student achievement during tough fiscal times?
Credit by exam for all courses required for graduation. Offer the GED at any age and subsidize early college admission or private-sector employment at 1/2 the DOE per pupil budget. Subsidize homeschooling at 1/2 the DOE per pupil budget. Abolish the Teacher Standards Board.

Q: 7) Some have argued that the Department of Education spends too much money at the central level and not enough at the school level. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Yes and no. If the Legislature, the Board, or the HSTA contract mandates a school-level expense, is this money spent "at the school level"? If the Board mandates that a school hire some politician's cousin on a $50,000 do-nothing consulting contract, is this a "school-level" expense? If the Accounting branch puts downtown furniture on Nanakuli's budget, is this a school-level expense?

Q: 8) How many children do you have, and do they attend public or private school?
I have no children. I would homeschool if I did. In Hawaii, juvenile arrests fall when school is not in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall when school is not in session.

Olelo Presentation

The public-access cable station Olelo invites candidates for office to tape a brief campaign pitch. Here's mine.
I'm Malcolm Kirkpatrick, and I want your vote, for Board of Education.

The Hawaii Department of Education operates the ninth largest school district in the US. Standardized test scores put Hawaii in the national cellar. Of course, standardized tests are not the only measure of school performance. In Hawaii, juvenile arrests fall when school is NOT in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall when school is NOT in session. Schools do not prevent crime; they cause it.

Taxpayers supply the Hawaii DOE with over 2 billion dollars every year, over ten thousand dollars per pupil. More than 20,000 people work for the Hawaii DOE. How is it that so many people, with such vast resources, accomplish so little? I think I know.

Numerous lines of evidence support the following generalizations:

First: As institutions take from individual parents the power to determine for their own children the choice of curriculum and the pace and method of instruction, overall system peformance falls.

Second: Political control of school harms most the children of the least politically adept parents.

Mohandas Gandhi opposed compulsory attendance at school. Albert Einstein opposed compulsory attendance at school.

Thomas Edison was homeschooled and started work at 13. Hyram Maxim left school and apprenticed at 14. David Farragut joined the US Navy at 9, went to sea at 11, and commanded his first ship at 15.

It does not take 12 years at $10,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. Government provision of History and Civics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as government operation of newspapers would be and is, in totalitarian countries like North Korea and Cuba.

What we in the US call "the public school system" originated in religious intolerance and anti-Catholic bigotry. In Hawaii, Congregational missionaries established schools to convert the pagans, and the plantation aristocracy used school taxes to drive native Hawaiians out of the subsistence economy and into the cash economy.

The Hawaii "public" school system has become an employment program for dues-paying members of the HSTA, the HGEA, and the UPW, a source of padded construction and supply contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination. If this is not so, why cannot any student take, at any age, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers' $10,000 per year education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition or toward a wage subsidy at any private-sector employer?

In 1993, when Ben Cayetano was Lieutenant Governor, he said "We cannot afford to waste another generation of school kids". Since then, we have wasted another generation of school kids.

Will the current crop of politicians fix this wastful system? No, there's too much money in it. To fix this system voters must elect, to the Legislature and the Board of Education, majorities who favor vouchers, tuition tax credits, or other forms of parent control. They must also elect Governors who favor parent control until a majority of the appointed Hawaii Supreme Court justices favor parent control. In the most optimistic scenario, this is more than 12 years away.

If you have children, you cannot afford to wait. For your children's sake, please homeschool. As Gandhi observed, parents are the natural teachers of children. Nothing in Hawaii law requires that homeschooling instruction occur between 8 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. It is legal to extend daycare to age 18 and homeschool in the evening.

My name is Malcolm Kirkpatrick. I support school vouchers, charter schools, tuition tax credits, homeschooling, and other forms of parent control. Please give me your support. Thank you for you attention.


The Cost of Teacher Certification

Risen from the Hawaii Reporter archives (3/12/2004). The links appear as in the original. Some have expired.

Focused on the discussion of structural reform to the Department of Education, the public has heard little of a program within the DOE that threatens to degrade overall system performance more than any legislation passed since the advent of public sector unionization. At the insistence of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Legislature over the last 10 years has built into the Hawaii Revised Statutes and into the DOE a program, the Teacher Standards Board (TSB), which will certainly raise costs and almost certainly reduce overall system performance.

Costs will rise. As the TSB Web site says:
In the recently negotiated teacher's contract, any teacher going through the certification process will be reimbursed up to $2,500 for expenses related to the process. Teachers completing the process and receiving national certification will receive $5,000 per year for the duration of the contract (2 years). Legislation is now underway to extend the differential from the current two years to the lifetime of the national certification (10 years).

This promises no performance gains:
The Education Consumers Consultants Network compared the academic improvement of Tennessee students taught by nationally-certified teachers with the improvement of all other students in the state. The data revealed that 'on the whole, the students taught by NBPTS-certified teachers gained no more than their local peers.'

This shouldn't be a surprise. NBPTS certification is really just ordinary certification on steroids -- a puffed-up assessment of teachers' mastery of conventional certification standards. Considering the large body of research finding almost no correlation between certification and teacher effectiveness, it makes sense to expect no correlation between "super-certification" and student performance. What one should expect is proportionately inflated rhetoric about the value of the certification, which is exactly what one finds.
--Education Consumers Network http://www.education-consumers.com/briefs/may2002.shtm

"No study, however, has ever shown that National Board certified teachers are any better than other teachers at raising student achievement" (Michael Podgursky, "Defrocking the National Board", commenting on the study "The Certification System of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: A Construct and Validity Study", by Lloyd Bond, Richard Jaeger, Tracy Smith, John Hattie. http://www.educationnext.org/20012/79.html)

Robert Grey Holland details the links between the National Education Association (NEA) -- the HSTA is an NEA subsidiary -- and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in his Policy Review article "How to Build a Better Teacher"

Holland writes:
The nbpts purports to identify excellence through this process, but economists Dale Ballou of the University of Massachusetts and Michael Podgursky of the University of Missouri -- who called 'professionalization' into question after careful analysis -- point out that there has been no evidence to show that students of nbpts-certified teachers learn any more than students of other teachers.
Holland continues: principals of NBPTS teachers...
found it difficult to link any improvements in student achievement to the teachers' national certification.
The latest installment in the steady increase of the power of the TSB is a provision in the majority's "reform" bill (HB 2002) which would require that taxpayers subsidize, through the TSB, applications for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. Taxpayers will not benefit. The math standards of the National Board, for example, mirror those of Colleges of Education and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which disdain memorization, drill, and practice in the application of algorithms, in favor of "discovery."
In the January, 1998, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Allyn Jackson reports her interview with Gail Burrill, President of the NCTM.:

"One small part of that report is very telling ...”

"Notices: Starting in 1968, the government funded a huge study called Project Follow-Through. It cost a billion dollars and ran almost thirty years. The purpose was to examine how different teaching methods or philosophies affected student performance. What they found was that the traditional, 'direct instruction' method was the most effective. Are you familiar with this study?

Burrill: "I have never heard of it."

Hawaii’s single, statewide school district, State-wide collective bargaining law, and the unionization of administrators up to the highest level of the DOE have created an environment where there is little difference between "management" and "labor." The taxpayers' representatives give to DOE administrators control over a $1.7 billion+/year revenue stream. Hawaii's agency-fee policy gives to the local subsidiaries of the NEA and AFSCME a guaranteed dues revenue stream of, in the case of the HSTA, over $4 million/year. An administrators' ascent of the DOE career ladder requires the assent of established interests, that is, of Russell Okata and Joan Husted. Whistle-blowers, in-house critics, and workers who would exercise their right not to support union policies threaten the control which union officers and senior DOE officials exercise over the dues-generated revenue stream and the larger DOE budget. Public sector unions and senior DOE administrators clearly benefit from Hawaii's single, Statewide school district, agency shop policy, and Statewide collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining, like a trial, is necessarily an adversarial process. Advocates make a case for the side that represents them. In a criminal trial, the prosecution represents the State and the defendant's attorney represents the accused. It is not the job of the prosecutor or the defense attorney to deliver justice. Justice is the responsibility of the process as a whole. Anyone who maintains that the adversarial process is flawed must offer an alternative. TSB legislation damages this process. Neither real classroom teachers, students, or taxpayers benefit.

Recall the history of the Teacher Standards Board. In the first year that a bill for the creation of a TSB appeared, the bill described a temporary board, which had authority to compile licensing criteria for new-hire teachers. The board was to hand these criteria to the DOE Personnel office and expire. The Board of Education (and I) testified against the creation of this TSB, limited though it was. The HSTA supported creation of the TSB. The bill failed. In the next legislative session, the Board of Education supported the TSB, the bill passed, and Governor Cayetano signed it into law. This law required first the creation of a Teacher Standards Board Planning Commission. I attended meetiings of this commission. Before even the creation of the Teacher Standards Board, the Planning Commission discussed how to extend the authority of the TSB to teachers already in service, and how to get the membership of the HSTA to accept an assessment for the privilege of being less secure in their jobs than they were before the creation of the TSB. This Board, which has since grown in size and not in wisdom, then consisted of four members from the HSTA, three from the HGEA, one from the College of Education, and one from the Board of Education. Public sector unions controlled seven of nine seats on the Board. Counting the College of Education (the UHPA is an NEA subsidiary), eight of nine.

In later sessions, members of the Teacher Standards Board and the HSTA testified in favor of legislation which repealed the sunset provision, in favor of legislation which granted to the Board authority to decertify teachers already in service, and in favor of the assessment of a fee, from teachers' salaries, for the operation of the TSB, which earlier legislation had described as a temporary, non-cost program. The Legislature ultimately approved these bills, although the TSB had not performed its primary work, the specification of teacher credential requirements. The TSB named former HSTA President Sharon Mahoe to an $80,000/year position as Executive Director.

The licensing requirements composed by the Board are too loose to merit the name "standards." The Board requires that new-hire teachers have degrees from accredited Colleges of Education. No statistical, empirical research supports such a requirement. The Board requires that teachers keep abreast of current instructional techniques. Five years ago, that would have meant that reading teachers use Whole Language methods or risk dismissal. The U.H. College of Education still advocates the NCTM's Whole Math methodology and disdains memorization. The Board requires that teachers in service align instruction to Hawaii's content and performance standards. The problem here is that the content and performance standards to which this teacher standard then referred were those contained in the Final Report of the Hawaii State Commission on Performance Standards (the "Blue Book"), since abandoned as hopelessly complicated and vague. My point here is that the members of the TSB would not know a standard if you dropped one on their toes. One "standard" for Math teachers requires that they present a systematic sequence of instruction, another that teachers accommodate variations in students' interests and abilities, and a third that teachers remain alert to opportunities to introduce current events into instruction. These are all good ideas, but they are contradictory and cannot all be "standards." The TSB requires that teachers keep abreast of developments in their field. This is impossible for most math and physics teachers. It is unnecessary for almost all teachers. A teacher who knows what K. F. Gauss knew 150 years ago could teach high-school Math and Physics. Fifty year-old dissertations on colonial archaeology or Melville scholarship are as informative as current research in these areas.

"In a major report on how schools could meet the challenge in the No Child Left Behind Act to have a 'highly qualified' teacher in every classroom by the end of the 2005-2006 school year, the Secretary of Education cited in an approving way Abel's debunking of the ed-school-is-essential research (Secretary's Annual Report, 2002). Indeed, the report also commended the work of economists Dan Goldhaber and Dominic Brewer, who found that contrary to conventional wisdom, mathematics and science students who have teachers with emergency credentials do no worse than students whose teachers have standard teaching credentials, all else being equal." [Robert Grey Holland, How to Build a Better Teacher, p. 51]. This is a book of the same title as his Policy Review article.

The TSB has advanced counterproductive ("Utilizes the school's current technologies to facilitate learning in the content area(s)"), unnecessary (e.g., College of Education degrees), contradictory ("Plans and implements logical, sequenced instruction and continually adjusts plans based on learner needs" and "Connects knowledge of content area(s) to students’ prior experiences, personal interests and real-life situations.") or vague ("Fosters an appreciation of human and cultural differences") standards. The TSB has demonstrated indifference to improving the teacher workforce. Why, then, did the HSTA so strenuously promote the TSB?

Unions, even "public sector" unions, are -- private -- 501-c(5) corporations. Their assets are the property of their members and their legal obligations are to members and agency-fee payers. Sometimes unions, like other organizations, get captured by insiders, who bend the institution to their interests. Hawaii's public sector unions survive on their dues-generated revenue stream. They enhance their power by promoting or retarding people's ascent of the DOE career ladder. Control of a $1.7 billion+/year revenue stream is a valuable asset in itself. Contractors will hire your nitwit nephew. Your incompetent son-in-law will get a $50,000 do-nothing consulting contract. This is what is at stake in the HSTA/HGEA/UPW cartel's ability to terminate the employment of dissident employees.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that:

1. Workers in an agency-fee shop situation may be
compelled to pay no more than the cost of collective bargaining and contract enforcement (Communication Workers of America versus Beck. 487 US 735 (1988)).
2. The procedure whereby the employer deducts from the employee's pay the equivalent of dues, and the union sometime later gives to the employee an application for a rebate, is illegal, since it compels the employee to make an interest-free loan to the union (Chicago Teachers Union versus Hudson. 475 US 292 (1986)).
3. The burden of proof is on the union to justify the assessment, and not on the employee who disputes an assessment (Abood versus Detroit Board of Education. 431 US 209 (1977)).
4. Workers who dispute the union's assessment do not have to go through the Labor Relations Board, but may take their case to Federal Court (Air Line Pilots Association versus Miller. 523 US 866 (1998)).
The DOE and public sector unions operate in violation of the above decisions.

Additionally, courts have held:

1. That employees with a religious objection to union membership may substitute for dues a donation to charity in the amount of dues.
2. That "religion" does not require belief in a Supreme Being. A civic religion, such as Confucianism, qualifies.
Before the creation of the TSB, the HSTA and HGEA leadership had an interest in retaliating against whistleblowers and employees who insisted on their right not to contribute to the HSTA's political activity. Before the creation of the TSB, however, the DOE administration had no power legally to terminate an employee for such activity, and the employee had grounds to sue the DOE for wrongful termination and the HSTA for failure to represent, should the HSTA cooperate with the DOE administration. With the TSB, the DOE administration can argue that it is bound by contract not to employ unlicensed teachers. The HSTA can insist that it is legally bound to represent only employees. The employee who has been decertified by this "independent" (NOT!) board now bears an impossible burden of proof, to show (without access to confidential personnel records of other dismissed teachers) that the HSTA and HGEA use the TSB power to eliminate dissidents. Let the employee take the Board's decision to a state court. As in traffic court, where the judge will accept the word of a police officer over a civilian (s/he has to believe somebody), judges will take the union-approved "expert's" word for it. The "standards" advanced by the TSB are a rubber yardstick. How can a teacher prove that s/he is, for example, sufficiently systematic if the Board has never defined "sufficiently systematic"? The judge will simply accept the Board's determination that this teacher is insufficiently systematic. The troublemaker is dismissed. Please READ the Math standards (student at http://doe.k12.hi.us/standards/hcps.htm and teacher at www.htsb.org), and try to imagine an assessment mechanism which might use them. If the Math standards are so vague as to be useless, what can one say about History or Art? The Legislature would recognize a conflict of interest if trial lawyers requested that a committee of lawyers determine which clients on retainer deserved representation. A lawyer who has accepted a retainer has a legal obligation to represent the client who paid the retainer. If lawyers argued that guilty clients do not deserve representation, the answer would be that guilt is established by trial, by the adversarial process, in which the lawyer plays has an obligatory role. Just so, the HSTA and HGEA are in a conflict of interest when they appoint the members of the Teacher Standards Board. The conflict is worse in the case of the TSB, as agency fees are mandated by law. The TSB would have been a bad idea had it promoted the best of standards. It is a terrible idea with the bogus standards they have created. Insiders will benefit. Students, teachers, and taxpayers will suffer. If you operate an expensive piece of machinery, and if that machinery does not perform well, it is lunacy to destroy the gages and indicator lights which provide information. The DOE is an expensive bureaucratic machine. By giving to the HSTA/HGEA/UPW cartel, which currently receives $1.7 billion+/year to operate Hawaii's K-12 government school system, the power to dismiss dissidents and whistleblowrs, the Legislature has guarantees rising costs and falling performance.

We were warned. In 1991, the Brookings Institution published a study by John Chubb and Terry Moe of school effectiveness, What Price Democracy; Politics, Markets, and America's Schools (since renamed simply Politics, Markets, and America's Schools). At the end of this study, the authors list a number of ineffective policies that they expect reformers to inflict on teachers and taxpayers. On teacher standards boards they write:

"The proposal for state licensing boards is a bad idea. In the name of professionalization, it essentially retains the top-heavy bureaucratic arrangements already in place -- arrangements that cannot do a good job of measuring and promoting good teaching, and whose numerous, time-consuming formal hurdles discourage entry into the field and vitiate what ought to be a dynamic, exciting market for teachers. The only real difference is that teachers, rather than public officials and agencies, would be able to exercise this authority. But this does not solve anything. Regulation would be just as bureaucratic and just as counterproductive as before. Worse, as political scientists have complained for decades, these self-regulating boards -- whether for doctors and lawyers or for cosmetologists, plumbers, and dog-groomers -- tend to use public authority in their own self-interest to restrict entry and enhance their incomes. And worse still, it would not really be "teachers" who would control these boards, but almost certainly organized teachers -- and far-and-away the largest, most geographically dispersed organization of teachers is the National Education Association."

On the NBPTS, Chubb and Moe write: "First, no certification scheme, especially not a national one, can possibly provide much vital information n the quality of an individual's teaching: assessments will inevitably rely too heavily on standard formal measures and too little on school-level discretionary judgment. Second, voluntary national credentialing would doubtless become cloaked in public authority anyway, as states, districts, and collective bargaining agreements make board certification a requirement for increased pay and educational responsibilities. It would be voluntary only in the sense that it would not constitute a legal barrier to entry. It would, on the other hand, become a legal barrier to career advancement. Third, credentialing by a national board would, in the end, create yet another bureaucracy that teachers and schools would have to contend with in doing their jobs. Making it private or voluntary or teacher controlled does not change its essentially bureaucratic approach to the problem of teacher quality and professionalism. And fourth, this board would be strongly influenced and perhaps dominated by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, adding to their already stifling hold on educational personnel." (Chubb and Moe, p. 204-205).

Take care. Homeschool if you can.


A Personal Note

Mary Frances Berry: "Tainting the tea party movement with the charge of racism is proving to be an effective strategy for Democrats. There is no evidence that tea party adherents are any more racist than other Republicans, and indeed many other Americans. But getting them to spend their time purging their ranks and having candidates distance themselves should help Democrats win in November. Having one’s opponent rebut charges of racism is far better than discussing joblessness."

I have experienced baseless accusations of homophobia (a redefinition of "marriage" that binds employers to an expansion of health care benefits amounts to a tax increase on shareholders, single employees, and the self-employed. Taxpayers carry too large a burden already) and racism (a moderator at the atheist/agnostic website Internet Infidels objected to "what do you mean 'we', paleface", and "Engrish, prease" in response to garbled text).

Until the campaign ends, this is my response to an accusation that I am a racist or a homophobe: "As I demonstrate on my website, The Harriet Tubman Agenda, the person making this accusation is a thief and a child molester." I can make this accusation with as much evidence as he has for his accusation (i.e., zero). I calculate that this citation will immunize me against legal liability. We shall see. At least, it does not leave the original accusation hanging in the air.

Updated with an expansion of the second paragraph.


A Standard Con (2010 edition)

Jay Greene and Joanne Jacobs discuss standards. Both pay due homage to Cato's Neal McCluskey. The comment below appears at Greene's place and Joanne's place, somewhat modified.

Support for curriculum standards proceeds from magical thinking. The fundamental flaw in the argument for standards is that neither children nor their future career paths are standard. The education industry is no more likely a candidate for national standards than is the restaurant industry or the shoe industry. Imposed standards are utterly inappropriate for an industry that would generate a more harmonious result if utterly free of external control, beyond individual parent’s desires and provider’s capabilities, for very young children, and students’ desires and instructors’ capabilities, for older children and young adults.

This view has empirical support. Years ago I took the grades which the Fordham Institute and the Education Trust gave to States for their standards, converted these grades into numbers on a 0-4 point scale, and applied the EXCEL correlation function to States’ NAEP 8th grade Math score. The result was negative–the higher the standard the lower the score.

What do people expect curriculum or performance standards to accomplish? What do these words mean?

A measure is an order relation on a set. Ordering students by height is a measure.
A test is a procedure or a device which establishes as measure. Standing back to back and shifting the taller to the right is a test.
A standard is a unit of measurement. A kilogram weight, a meter stick, and a mark on the wall are standards.
Standards impart no magic.

The State cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education", but then these standards bind students, parents, real classroom teachers, and taxpayers to the State's definition of "education". Standards distract attention from the critical argument: What does society gain from a State presence in the education industry, anyway? Aside from drug abuse, vandalism, and violence, that is.


Donna Ikeda, Clueless

Katherine Poythress covers education for Civil Beat, an attempt at a viable (i.e., paying) new media news and comment enterprise. Poythress called various Board of Education candidates to hear their opinions on the proposal to shift from the current elected Board of Education to an appointed Board. She found Donna Ikeda's views worthy of publication.

Katherine Poythress writes...
"In all those years, no matter what we did, no matter what we'd try — and it's funny because they talk about education reform and reinventing education today, and we've tried that many, many times — nothing has gotten better," Ikeda told Civil Beat.

From Ikeda's perspective, the board has become mired in petty politics. And without an effective board, even the most well-intentioned reforms for Hawaii's schools will go nowhere.
As the closing comment indicates, Donna Ikeda expects "well-intentioned" top-down control to enhance overall system performance. Many people in Hawaii apparently agree. This widespread compulsion to control others, which the Statewide school district enables, is the reason "nothing has gotten better".

In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell speculated that socialist leanings originate in a hypertrophied sense of order, like compulsive handwashing or people who sort the socks and underwear drawer ten times a day. Elsewhere (e.g., "Raffles and Mrs Blandish", "Inside the Whale"), Orwell suggested that a preference for authoritarian politics originates in vicarious sadism. In Socialism, Ludwig Von Mises suggested that the socialist orientation originates in a primitive revenge fantasy. The Russian mathematician Igor Shafarevitch advanced a similar argument in The Socialist Phenomenon.

System performance measures summarize student performance measures. Student performance depends on policy variables, things which policymakers can manipulate like budgets and teacher credentials, and non-policy variables, which policymakers cannot manipulate, like heredity, prenatal nutrition, parent SES, and a supportive home environment. The key policy variable which determines student performance is student motivation. Policies which enhance student motivation will enhance system performance.

Schools give to many students no reason to do what schools require. Training an artistically or mechanically inclined child for an academic career using a transcript as the incentive is like teaching a cat to swim using carrots as the reward. It does not take 12 years at $10,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Compulsory unpaid labor is slavery, black or white, male or female, young or old.

Gandhi opposed compulsory attendance at school. He argued that parents are the natural teachers of children. Children, especially young children, will work their hearts out for the love of their parents. Older children will work for social reasons, for the love of their preferred subject, for freedom, or for rewards of which politicians and Professors of Education have no clue.

Size matters. The structure of the Hawaii education industry, encoded in the Hawaii Revised Statutes, is a policy variable. So long as remote authorities impose their designs on schools, the system will abide in the national cellar.

Update: misspelling of "Poythress" corrected.


Why School? (2010 Update)

(A modified version of a communication to a reporter for Civil Beat)

When John Waihee occupied Washington Place his Lieutenant Governor, Ben Cayetano, coordinated meetings of a group called the Commission on School Governance. At that time (c. 1993) Lt. Gov. Cayetano said: "We cannot afford to waste another generation of school kids." A school generation is 12 years. Since 1993 we have wasted a generation of school kids.

Anyone interested in school system performance will benefit from reading the Brookings Institution study by John Chubb and Terry Moe, Politics, Markets, and America's Schools (1991, originally entitled "What Price Democracy? Politics, Markets, and America's Schools") and the Brookings/Urban Institute/Committee For Economic Development study Vouchers and the Provision of Public Services (2000, C. Eugene Steuerle, et al. eds.). The latter discusses a variety of industries from national, international, and abstract perspectives at various of levels of abstraction. Some of the essays require the economic and mathematical expertise of a specialist in tax policy while some essays are quite accessible. The brush-clearing introductory remarks on "public goods" in E.G. West's "Education Vouchers in Principle and Practice; A Survey" (The World Bank Research Observer, 1997-Feb., online) provide useful background. West's "Education Vouchers in Principle and Practice (full report)" (online) combines theoretical analysis and empirical research. Joel Fried's discussion of "the agency problem" in "Pots and Kettles: Governance Practices of the Ontario Securities Commission" (online) suggests important considerations which apply across the board to discussions of the relative merits of State-monopoly providers and competitive markets in goods and services.

When Chubb and Moe designed their study of school effectiveness they ranked schools by student gains between 10th and 12th grade on standardized tests of Reading, Math, and Science (they did not use Social Studies because Social Studies scores did not correlate with anything, which is pretty funny if you know any statistics). They then looked for systematic differences between the top 25% of schools and the bottom 25% of schools. The largest difference was, as expected, parent SES. That is, student gains correlated strongly and positively with parent income. The second most influential variable was a composite variable which Chubb and Moe called "the degree of institutional autonomy". That is, the more people above the level of Principal telling the Principal how to do her job, the worse a school performed.

Consider this question: "From State (government, generally) operation of what industries does society as a whole benefit?", imagine either a dichotomous classification Likely/Unlikely or a continuum, highly unlikely (______.______) highly likely, and try to generalize some principle which generates the assignment or position of an industry in this scheme.

Eduardo Zambrano
Formal Models of Authority: Introduction and Political Economy
Rationality and Society, May 1999
Aside from the important issue of how it is that a ruler may economize on communication, contracting and coercion costs, this leads to an interpretation of the state that cannot be contractarian in nature: citizens would not empower a ruler to solve collective action problems in any of the models discussed, for the ruler would always be redundant and costly. The results support a view of the state that is eminently predatory, (the ? MK.) case in which whether the collective actions problems are solved by the state or not depends on upon whether this is consistent with the objectives and opportunities of those with the (natural) monopoly of violence in society. This conclusion is also reached in a model of a predatory state by Moselle and Polak (1997). How the theory of economic policy changes in light of this interpretation is an important question left for further work.
After the fall of the Soviet State the British poet and historian of that State, Robert Conquest, wrote that the West had insufficiently learned two important lessons: the limits to the amount of good that can be accomplished by organized force (the State) and the stultifying effects of bureaucracy, public or private.

"Deadweight costs of taxation" (see an online economics dictionary) considerations imply that State operation of most industry imposes greater costs than benefits. As Zambrano indicates above, "communication, contracting and coercion costs" determine the cost/benefit result from a welfare-economic point of view. When inputs and outputs are simple, when systematic expertise matters more than specific local knowledge, and when capitalization costs are high (e.g., structural steel, plate glass), a sufficiently large State may operate an industry at close to the cost/benefit level of an industry in the private sector. Since inputs to the education industry (each individual student's interests and aptitudes) vary enormously and outputs (the potential career paths graduates will follow in a diverse modern society) vary enormously, since capital costs are low, and since specific local knowledge matters more than (bogus) systematic expertise, the education industry is a highly unlikely candidate for State (government, generally) operation.

Separation of powers, federalism (local control), and the legal system of private property and contract law institutionalize humility on the part of State actors. No one has privileged access to divine inspiration. If a policy dispute turns on a difference in taste, numerous local policy regimes or a competitive market in goods and services allows for the satisfaction of varied tastes, while a State-monopoly system must inevitably create unhappy losers. If a policy dispute involves a matter of fact, where "What works?" is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer, numerous local policy regimes or a competitive market in goods and services will generate more information than will a State-monopoly enterprise. A State-monopoly enterprise is like an experiment wit one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design. The system of markets (title and contract law) calibrates the reward for improved answers to resource allocation questions to the urgency of the question and the magnitude of the resources involved.

Empirical research finds what the above theoretical analysis predicts. Abundant empirical, statistical evidence supports the following generalizations:
1. As institutions take from individual parents the power to determine for their own children the course of instruction and the pace and method of instruction, overall system performance falls.
2. Political control harms most the children of the least politically adept parents.

Why, then, is the government in the education business? This "why?" question has three interpretations:
1. The welfare-economic "why?".
2. The historical "why?"
3. The political science "why?".

In brief:

1. No good welfare-economic case exists for State operation of schools.
2. The policy which prevails across the US and which compels attendance at school, mandates tax support of school, and restricts parents' options for the use of the taxpayers' pre-college education subsidy to schools operated by State (government, generally) employees originated in religious intolerance (specifically, anti-Catholic bigotry) and the ambition of public-sector entrepreneurs like Horace Mann and Richard Armstrong.
3. The current system survives on dedicated lobbying by current recipients of the US taxpayers' $500 billion+ per year pre-college education subsidy.

The $500 billion+ figure seriously understates the cost to society of the policy which restricts the taxpayers' education subsidy to schools operated by dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. Additional costs include the lost improvements in educational methods and technology which a competitive market would generate and the opportunity cost to students of the time that they spend in school. The opportunity costs of student time in school include lost lifetime earnings, lower lifetime productivity, reduced longevity, and the cost of prison for the poor kids whose lives we trash.

It does not take 12 years at $10,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. State (government, generally) provision of History, Civics, and Economics instruction threatens democracy, just as State operation of newspapers and broadcast news media would threaten democracy (and currently help sustain totalitarian regimes in Cuba and North Korea).

If it is fraud for a mechanic to charge for the repair of a functional engine and if it is fraud for a physician to charge for the treatment of a healthy patient, then it is fraud for a school to charge for the instruction of a student who does not need our help. If "public education" is not an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded construction, supply, and personal service contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination, why cannot any student take, at any time, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers' $10,000 per pupil-year subsidy toward post-secondary tuition at any VA-approved post-secondary institution in the State or toward a wage subsidy at any qualified (say, has filed W-2 forms on at least three adult employees for at least the previous four years) private-sector employer?


Candidate Questionnaire

Here's the candidate questionnaire from the Hawaii State Teachers' Association.
2010 Election
HSTA Government Relations Committee
Hawaii State Board of Education

Candidate's Name: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Office Sought: Board of Education At Large
Occupational background: Diver (UH), US Navy Engineman, Secondary Math teacher, tutor
Educational background: B.A. (Math). U.H. 1973. P.D. (Secondary Math Education), U.H. 1982
Political background: Candidate for B.O.E. 1998, 2000,2002, 2004, 2006, 2008
Community service: Tantalus Community Association Board member (former). TCA workday coordinator (former). Workday volunteer.

What schools do your children attend or have your children attended? Public or private? If your children attend(ed) non-public schools, please indicate your reason(s): I have no children. I would homeschool if I did.

1. What are your top three priorities in public education as a member of the Board of Education:
a. I support decision-making based on empirical support of policy.
Please explain: The DOE has access to abundant research. The DOE collects volumes of raw data. These can guide decision-making.
b. I support credit-by-exam for all courses required for graduation.
Please explain: Credit-by-exam will enhance student motivation, reduce costs, and enhance overall system performance.
c. Repeal the Teacher Standards Board.
Please explain: No statistical, empirical research supports policies which restrict access to the teaching profession to people with College of Education coursework, as the Hawaii TSB requires. The TSB has advanced contradictory, complicated, and vague "standards" which raise costs and do nothing to raise system performance. The TSB places the HSTA and HGEA is a serious conflict of interest as representatives both of teachers and taxpayers.

2. If you are elected to the BOE, what would you do to promote a culture within DOE that is more supportive of teachers regarding such things as payroll lag, reclassification, etc.? I would support expansion of education options (multiple independent school districts, charter schools, tuition tax credits, school vouchers, homeschooling, etc.). If we disagree about a matter of taste, a range of education options allows the satisfaction of varied preferences, while the struggle for control of a Statewide monopoly school system must create unhappy losers. If we disagree about a matter of fact, where "What works?" is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer, numerous suppliers of education services will provide more information than will a Statewide monopoly enterprise.

The following are position statements on some critical issues. For each issue, indicate whether you support or oppose HSTA's position. Please attach additional pages if you want to elaborate or explain your response. Be sure any additional pages clearly indicate the position or question to which you are referring.

3. HSTA opposes any continuing erosion of teachers' health and retirement benefits.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: I support policies which empower individual teachers to allot their pay as they see fit. Governments at all levels have made more promises than they can keep. It's time to stop making false promises.

4. HSTA supports paying teachers (e.g., new teachers, teachers returning from leave, etc.) in a timely manner and believes that the Board can assist in rectifying the current practice of delayed payments.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support_X_ Oppose___

Please explain._____

5. The Collective Bargaining Law, Chapter 89, gives public employees the right to participate in deciding their wages, hours, and conditions of work. HSTA supports the preservation and strengthening of the intent and purpose of Chapter 89. HSTA opposes any action that diminishes the rights or protections granted public employees through collective bargaining or state legislation.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support_X_ Oppose_X_

Please explain: It's a matter of interpretation. One size (or contract) does not fit all. Federalism (local control), separation of powers, and markets institutionalize the principle of humility. No one has privileged access to divine inspiration. Students, parents, real classroom teachers, and taxpayers would be better served by an education industry that featured greater local control (independent school districts at the County level or lower, expanded charter options, school vouchers).

6. HSTA supports legislation and funding of programs and activities that reward continuing education for teachers and provide cost-free opportunities for teachers to pursue professional development.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support_X_ Oppose_X_

Please explain: I would support a legislative mandate that the College of Education allow teachers in service to audit courses at the U.H. College of Education tuition-free, if sufficient paying students enroll to justify the class. I oppose hiring of outside consultants to conduct in-service workshops. I oppose paying for travel and accommodations to out-of-State presentations.

7. HSTA supports legislation for compulsory or mandatory kindergarten in Hawaii.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support___ Oppose_X_

Please explain: Abundant statistical, empirical research finds adverse effects and few benefits in early compulsory attendance. States which compel attendance at age 7 or 8 have higher 4th and 8th grade NAEP Reading and Math scores than States which compel attendance at age 5 or 6. Later is better. The rate of dyslexia in a population is inversely related to the age at which societies institutionalize reading instruction. Later is better. Studies of daycare find increased anti-social behavior associated with early institutionalization. Early compulsory attendance is strongly counter-indicated. Later is better.

8. HSTA supports legislative efforts to preserve public education and opposes the diversion of public funds or tax credits to non-public schools.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support___ Oppose_X_

Please explain: It is a mistake to equate "education" and "school". It is a mistake to equate "government-operated schools" with "public education". Students, parents, real classroom teachers and taxpayers would benefit from an expansion of parents' options for the use of the taxpayers' pre-college education subsidy.

9. HSTA opposes any legislation to provide public funds for tax subsidies (tax credits, tax deductions) or vouchers for private education, religious or home school expenses, or inclusion of vouchers within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support___ Oppose_X_

Please explain: See answers to questions #5 through #8.

10. HSTA opposes any expansion of non-conversion charter schools. Before the legislature expands the number of non-conversion charter schools, the Department of Education must have a good handle on the current charter schools.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support___ Oppose_X_

Please explain: The Department of Education should have NO handle on charter schools. The most effective accountability mechanism that humans have yet devised is the ability of unhappy customers (e.g., parents) to take their business elsewhere.

11. HSTA supports a single, statewide school district.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support___ Oppose_X_

Please explain: States with numerous small school districts generate higher NAEP test scores at lower cost than States which maintain a few large school districts. Teachers would benefit from an expansion of contract options which multiple, independent school districts would offer.

12. HSTA supports legislation and funding to eliminate repair and maintenance backlog and keep repair and maintenance current to fix our public schools.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support_X_ Oppose___

Please explain: I would also support an investigation of the competitive bidding process. We know from the Federal investigation of the DOT Airport Division how insiders rigged the competitive bid process.

13. HSTA supports legislation and funding to reduce construction backlog.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: I would have to study this. Unit (per classroom) costs looked high to me when I last looked (ten years ago), at over $200,000 per room.

14. HSTA supports legislation and funding to provide a working phone in every classroom and to provide sufficient electrical and telecommunications infrastructure to accommodate school activities.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: Performance gains would be insufficient to justify the cost to retrofit schools. Perhaps wifi would work.

15. HSTA supports legislation and funding to increase the safety and security of all schools.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: Schools chosen by parents in a competitive market would be safer than the State-monopoly system which the HSTA protects. The one-size-fits-all approach of the Hawaii DOE guarantees, for many students, a mismatch between the student's interests and abilities, on the one hand, and the school's curriculum and methods of instruction, on the other.

16. HSTA supports preserving basic student support services such as librarians, counselors, tech coordinators, etc.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?
Support___ Oppose_X_

Please explain: I support a review of effectiveness. The Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist James Buchannan attributed his success, in part, to his education in a one-room school house.

17. HSTA supports the utilization of alternative energy sources in the schools.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: I support measures which reduce costs without lowering system performance.

18. HSTA suports legislation to amend the State Constitution to repeal the Expenditure Controls, Article VII, Section 5, which controls the state's expenditure by creating an expenditure ceiling and prohibits the state from spending the monies needed to invest in public education.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: It does not take 12 years at $10,000 (or $17,000)* to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. State (government, generally) provision of History and Civics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers and broadcast news media would be (are, in totalitarian countries like North Korea and Cuba).
Update: See this comment...
The path of big government and the welfare state is the path to broken promises and inter-generational warfare. The workers in California and vendors in Illinois are paying the price for the unsustainable public sector union contracts which preceded them, sometimes by decades.

Yet those of us who call for fiscal sanity and reform are derided by people like Sheldon Whitehouse and other Democrats as having no compassion.

Just the opposite is true.

It's called tough love. Those who feed the big government addiction are the cruel ones.

19. HSTA supports legislation to amend the State Constitution to repeal the Disposition of Excess Revenues, Article VII, Section 6, which prohibits the state from having any savings since tax refunds or tax credits must be given to the taxpayers of the state, thus, prohibiting the state from spending the monies needed to invest in public education.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: See above. As Eric Hanushek observes, beyond a very low level resources do not matter much to school system performance. Compared to taxpayers in other US States and in other countries, Hawaii taxpayers already pay too much to operate the Hawaii DOE.

20. HSTA supports efforts to fully fund charter schools.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: I support most policies which expand parents' options for the education of their own children.

21. HSTA supports legislation to allocate all funds to schools according to a weighted student formula with the following conditions:
a. HSTA recognizes that there are essential elements that need to be in place in a child's education to ensure student success. Schools must have adequate funding for sufficient computers, software, equipment, and textbooks for every child. All laboratories, shops, and learning spaces must be properly equipped and maintained. Students, faculty, and support staff must have the training necessary to be proficient in current technology.
b. Teachers must be active decision-makers in how the money is spent.
c. Teachers' salaries must come from a central salary account based on the average teacher's salary.
d. Collective bargaining must be preserved.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain:
a. The use of any weighted student formula makes the DOE budget less transparent.
b. Principals should control schools, and parents should pick schools. Teachers would benefit from freedom to move between schools which offered a range of work environments.
c. "What works?" is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer. Would a pay schedule based, in part, on student performance raise system performance? Would a pay schedule which offered enhanced salaries for teachers in shortage areas make schools more appealing to students and parents? An institutional environment which featured multiple experiments in school operations would generate better answers to these questions than would a statewide monopoly school system.
d. If collective bargaining is a "right", why does the State and the HSTA force it on teachers? Does the right to keep and bear arms require I carry a firearm?

22. HSTA supports creating a funding source specifically for education.
Do you support or oppose HSTA's position?

Please explain: This proposal would enhance the security of system insiders at the expense of taxpayers and all other State programs. It would make adjustments to the budget difficult in lean times.

___________________________ 2010-07-02 (2-July-2010)

Mailing address: ________________________ Work phone_______________
________________________ Home phone_______________
Business email ________________________ Fax number_______________
Personal email ________________________ cell phone_______________

* (Update) NCES gives three figures for the total DOE budget: "total revenues", "current expenditures", and "total expenditures". NCES gives two figures for enrollment: "September Enrollment" and "average daily attendance". This generates six possible figures for the DOE per pupil budget, which range from just shy of $10,000 to over $17,000. The Hawaii DOE compiles budget figures after the end of the fiscal year. The US Department of Education and Department of Commerce collect statistics from all local education agencies (LEA) which receive Federal funds, and publish various summaries. The figures therefore reflect a situation two or three years past.