Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman

Milton Friiedman, 1912-07-31-2006-11-16. The Grassroot Institute held a luncheon in Dr. Friedman's memory on Friday, 2011-07-29. Hawaii Pacific University Economics professor Ken Schooland and former Governor Linda Lingle spoke. Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Derrick Depledge, formerly of the Honolulu Advertiser, attended. Depledge once called a "conspiracy theory" Harriet's assertion that DOE officials will lie about the DOE budget if cornered. He did not respond to documentary evidence and the question why he implied that people who hold this view are crazy. At the Grassroot luncheon Harriet suggest to Mr. Depledge that reporters ask to see the DOE Personal Service Contract logs. He said he'd pass the suggestion along to the Education writer, Vicki Viotti.

Wanna bet? Either reporters prefer to avoid conflict with a powerful bureaucracy that grants to friendly reporters easy access to story material or they fear to confront their own beliefs about the healing power of organized violence (the State). Or both.

Save the Cartel!

Via Instapundit, this sequence: Michelle Fields of Reason TV interviews Matt Damon, Deborah Meier (who?), Jonathan Kozol, and some teachers.
Updated (* material added).
*(Fields): "So, you're the founder of the small schools movement, which promoted creativity and choice. Why won't vouchers and charter schools do that?"
*(Meier): "Uh, because the other were part of uh, uh community, democratic operation. This is precisely what differentiates me from libertarians. I've the same ideals but I also know more about the corruption of money."
From personal experience, right? If this response addresses the question "Why don't vouchers promote creativity and choice?", would it not then follow that a voucher-funded school which receives less than the per pupil budget of the cartel's schools be less corrupt and so more likely to promote creativity and choice than the cartel's schools?

*(Fields): "How much more would you like to see going to students?"
*(Teacher 1): "How much money do you think a child is worth? It's unconditional. Children aren't 'worth' money."
*(Fields): "It cost ten thousand dollars, more than ten thousand dollars per student right now."
*(Teacher 1): "I'd pay a million dollars to raise my children. There is no money that can be set, price, on a child's life and learning. This shouldn't be about money; this should be about educating our children in how to survive in today's world."
*(Field): "But if you want the government to spend more, how much more, per student, do you think should go to education?"
*(Teacher 1): "Billions."
*(Fields): "A billion dollars per student?"
*(Teacher 1): "Sure. Why not?"
Because it's mathematically impossible. One billion dollars per student times forty-nine million students is more than three times the US GDP.
**Duh! (49x10^6)x(10^9)=49x10^15, more than three thousand times the 15 trillion US GDP.

(Teacher 2): "Education is a basic social right. Everyone has a right to a public education."
(Fields): "What about food. Isn't food just as important as education?"
(Teacher 2): "Yes. We have...we have various kinds of social safety nets to make sure people can eat. That probably doesn't make some people in this town happy, that we have things like Food Stamps."
Food Stamps are vouchers.

(Fields): "We have choice and competition in preschools and universities, so why not K through 12 education?"
(Teacher 3): "Private schools and universities, if you're talking about private universities, then that is a, that's a money-making operation, right?..."
The NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools received a tax-generated revenue stream of more than $ 500 billion in 2007-2008, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
(Teacher 3): "...That is in bed with the capitalist system. If you're talking about public schools; I don't want that to be privatized."

(Fields): "You've written a lot about poverty in the South Bronx. Why aren't vouchers and charter schools an answer to that?"
(Kozol): "Vouchers and charter schools are the worst possible answer. First of all, because they will never serve more than two or three percent, maybe five percent, at most, of the population."
(Fields): "So then we need more charter schools."
(Kozol): "That's insane. The fact is, first of all, charter schools are, on average, are no more successful than public schools?"
Kozol does not address the rebuttal to his point about the fraction of the population served by vouchers. In some countries, it's well over 50% of the population.

Vouchers work.
Gerard Lassibile and Lucia Navarro Gomez
"Organization and Efficiency of Educational Systems: some empirical findings"
Comparative Education, Vol. 36 #1, 2000, Feb.
Furthermore, the regression results indicate that countries where private education is more widespread perform significantly better than countries where it is more limited. The result showing the private sector to be more efficient is similar to those found in other contexts with individual data (see, for example, Psucharopoulos, 1987; Jiminez, et. al, 1991). This finding should convince countries to reconsider policies that reduce the role of the private sector in the field of education.
Inevitably, for each sub-adult and at any level of tax support of sub-adult education, some adult or group of adults decides how to spend the subsidy that applies to that sub-adult, and what curriculum that sub-adult will pursue. The argument between voucher, charter, and tax credit advocates, on the one hand, and defenders of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers' pre-college education subsidy, on the other, turns on the issue of which adults decide: parents or government agents.

*Telling, isn't it, that the people whom our elected representatives employ to provide education services make such weak arguments in support of their exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy.


Democrats versus Government School Teachers

Years ago, one of Honolulu's daily papers reported a fatal auto accident in which a driver apparently misread the ground, turned off his headlights, and, in the dark of night, rolled over the cliff on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island. A witness reported seeing the brake lights blink after the car was airborne. I think of this when I contemplate the finances of the City and County of Honolulu, the State of Hawaii, the United States of America, and governments worldwide. Vaclav Smil calls the inevitable slow-motion default the "Great Unraveling".

Via Public Finance, this news.

Off the cuff, and just eyeballing chart VI of this report, it looks like there's a strong negative correlation between unfunded public sector pension and benefit liablilities, on the one hand, and NAEP 8th grade Math scores, on the other. I'll take that as a measure of the relation between public-sector integrity and school system performance. Compare North Dakota (tops in the US on NAEP by some measures, low unfunded benefit exposure) and Hawaii (NAEP scores in the national cellar, high unfunded pension and benefit exposure).

Politicians at all levels have made more promises than they can keep. In democratic polities, they make these promises to influential interest groups such as unionized public sector employees and other contractors to the State, and to other well-organized, politically active constituencies. In bureaucratic one-party States, bureaucrats ascend the hierarchy through strategic alliances with superior patrons and loyal subordinates. Financial opacity allows politicians to make impossible promises without fear of immediate contradiction. Within organizations, opacity in either finances or goals contributes to inefficiency (and fraud), as Canice Prendergast suggests in his A Theory of "Yes-Men", (AER). Mounting inefficiencies reduce future resources, including those which would otherwise fund pension and benefit promises. When you (formally, "one", for the nit-pickers of the English Department) have made more promises than you can keep, you will have to break some of them. As Vaclav Smil observed, this will take decades to unfold.

Sorry to sound so grim. Hawaii politicians have not yet acknowledged the financial situation. We're accelerating toward the cliff edge and they refuse to accept even that brakes have a useful function. Individually, many probably accept that the State cannot long continue on the current path. Collectively, they close their eyes.

Homeschool. Start a garden. Learn First Aid. Buy ammunition.


More Questions than Answers

Dr. Goe spoke for an hour, using Power Point or some such product. The audience occupied most of the seats in conference room 309. In the course of her presentation, Dr. Goe raised an issue that, while obvious upon a little reflection, receives little attention in popular discussions of teacher evaluation: the lack of standardized measures of performance in courses other than English and Math (once English instruction moves beyond vocabulary and grammar into Literature, common standardized tests no longer assess usual classroom goals here, either).
At the start of the Q&A, Senator Nishihara asked Dr. Goe about the Atlanta School District cheating scandal. Dr. Goe said that cheating on standardized tests is fairly easy to detect and prevent. A larger point behind Senator Nishihara's question remained unadressed: all of Dr. Goe's assessment options assume good faith by system insiders, which assumption the Atlanta District falsifies. Peer review and assessment by a teacher's Principal open wide the door to abuse of whistleblowers. For this and for a reason that Dr. Goe raised at the start, the rudimentary state of evaluation mechanisms, an official, State-wide committment to a single mechanism creates a large risk.
I had parked in metered parking in the Capital basement, so I left. On the way out, I asked the committee clerk about the audience. The clerk suggested that the HSTA sent them.
Milton Friedman once observed that the best protection a good worker has is a competitive market for his talent.
As ever: "What works?" is an empirical question that only a federal system (numerous local policy regimes) or a competitive market in goods and services can answer. A State-monopoly system is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design.


Hearing Notice, 2011-07-21

What will the witness say at this hearing?
Dr. Laura Goe
has served as a visiting scholar to the NEA and advisor on their teacher evaluation work, advises the AFT as a member of their expert panel on teacher evaluation, and serves as a consultant to the AFTs Innovation Grant sites in New York and Rhode Island as they design innovative, comprehensive teacher evaluation systems.
This blog addressed the matter here.