Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fixing Public Education Despite The Washington Political Class

One of the great ills of our times is the less than adequate job that our schools do in educating our children. Consider some statistics that were researched in the development of our book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government:"

•In 2006, the Program For International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted their tri-annual study of educational attainment by fifteen year old kids from fifty seven nations.
•In science literacy, the United States finished below the overall average and trailed the scores of kids from twenty two other nations.
•In mathematics literacy, the U.S. finished well below the overall average and trailed the scores of kids from thirty one other nations.
•Countries such as Estonia, Slovenia, and Macao finished higher than the U.S. in both categories.

Looking at more recent statistics on education, a December 26, 2010 issue of the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) also addressed the poor performance of our public school system. The main feature in the article was a bar chart that displayed the percentage of 15 year olds performing at the advanced level in math proficiency many countries, including the United States, and every one of our fifty states.

The output from the graph was based on the work of Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and two others. They were very careful to accurately adjust and slice the raw data from the testing that was done to exclude the impact of the following factors, factors that had been used as excuses for the poor performance of American kids in the past:

• They only looked at math test scores since math is math, it is not affected by language or culture, as much as language skills.
• They adjusted for household income and wealth using reliable proxies.
• They adjusted for whether or not the there was a college educated parent in the child's household.
• They adjusted for whether or not there was a race impact.
• They adjusted for how much each state spends per student in their states' public schools.

The bottom line conclusion after trying to look at the data from every conceivable angle? Now matter how you cut it, the United States does a horrid job of preparing public school students for proficiency in math. How bad is it:

• Only 6% of U.S. 15 year olds performed at an advanced proficiency in math.
• This places them behind 30 other nations including Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Slovakia, far poorer countries.
• The top three performing countries, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, had about four times as many of their students performing at high math proficiency.
• Only two states, Massachusetts and Minnesota, had more than 10% of their kids performing at high levels which were behind sixteen other nations.
• New York state, which spends the most on public education per student, $17,000 per year per student, had only 6.3% of their students perform at high proficiency, trailing 30 countries and 15 other U.S. states.
• A 2010 study found a very high correlation between how well teachers are trained and how well students perform. In the United States, researchers tested 3,300 middle school math teachers-to-be in almost 40 states. They found that these future math teachers performed at about the same levels of would be teachers in Oman and Thailand and far behind teachers in Taiwan and Singapore. (Note: for Thailand, only 1% of their 15 year olds perform at a high proficiency level in math; for Oman, it was not even listed in the graph discussed above).

These horrid results have been attained even though the American taxpayer has probably spent over a TRILLION dollars at the Federal government level to try and do a better job of educating our kids. We have been doing the same thing and taking the same approach for decades without anything positive to show for it, bringing to mind a famous Albert Einstein quote: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

But we should expect nothing less from a set of politicians that care only about their own greed and ego, making sure that established entities such as teachers’ unions are protected and keep donating to incumbents’ reelection campaigns.

But what if did did education a different way in this country? Could we finally get our money’s worth and hopefully get some of our money back without endangering our kids; education?  Consider a different approach that actually exists today and exists within the shadows of the Washington politicians and bureaucrats that get nothing right:

  • The following success story comes from an article written by Akash Chougule who is the senior policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity.
  • The Opportunity Scholarship Program in Washington D.C.  serves almost 5,000 students, 95% of whom are African-American.
  • The program funds private-school tuition for poor families in order that their kids can go to schools  they would otherwise not be able to afford.
  • The Federal tax dollars spent on the program  accounts for a minute 0.0005% of the federal budget.
  • Ninety one percent of the students in the program graduate high school compared with 56% for D.C. public schools.
  • Families who benefit from the Opportunity Scholarship Program have described it as “a godsend for our children,” a “life-saver,” and “our salvation.” One father is quoted in the article saying, “I truly shudder to think where my son would be today without it.
  • The program was set up by the Bush administration when it was funded with $20 million of funding while at the same time DC public school, who would lose students to private schools under this program so that the public schools would not be financially disadvantaged.
  • But giving more money to schools does not appear to be the solution since according to the article, the country has more than doubled education spending over the past 40 years with no gain in education attainment to show for the investment.

Wow, a simple solution that improves results by about 80%, a solution that parents like and want to continue, and a program that avoids some of the typical bureaucracy we find in public schools today. Would go wrong?

Well, according to the article, President Obama and many Congressional Democrats have been trying to kills this program for years and years. Which is especially disturbing from the President’s perspective since he sends his kids to one of the most exclusive, if not the most exclusive, private schools in the DC area, the Sidwell Friends School, a school that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to attend. Some serious hypocrisy if you ask me, he can afford to pay for the best education for his kids but wants to deny the opportunity to the poorer residents that live around the White House.

Why would one want to do that? That answer is simple: political election and reelection money. Go to the following link at the fabulous Open Secrets website and you will see that the National Education Association, and other teacher union related entities, donate tens of millions of dollars each year to politicians, the vast majority of which goes to Democrats like Obama:

Teachers unions are scared of successful voucher and private school initiatives like this since it threatens their current monopoly hold on education in this country. Thus, they have found friendly political allies in the Democrats serving in Congress and you can make the correlation case that campaign donations come with the strings attached that private school programs like Opportunity Scholarship Program are discouraged or killed outright, the welfare and education of the inner city youth be damned.

Two steps from “Love My Country, Loathe My Government” would help alleviate this conflict of interest and maybe lead to more inner city kids getting opportunities in spite of political considerations:

  • Step 6 would allow only private citizens to contribute to political election campaigns. No PACs, no Super PACs, no dark money, no corporations, no unions, etc. would be allowed to contribute to election campaigns. Nowhere in the Constitution’s First Amendment did the Founding Fathers guarantee that a corporation or union or PAC had freedom of speech protection.
  • Step 35 would limit all Federal politicians to one term in office, one and done. Much of the election sleaze that happens in American politics is driven by incumbents desperately hanging onto their office and granting favors to those that will help finance that hanging on.

This program proves that we can resolve problems in this country, in this case when it comes educating our kids. But as we often see, it is the political class that prevents problem resolution in this country,not that our problems are insolvable. The above two steps would go a long way to fixing not only our education issues but who knows what other problems we can resolve once the political class is removed as a road block.

If you agree with us, please visit our companion website to find out how to help get term limits installed at the Federal government level:

Because really, how much worse could it get if we replaced every current Washington politician with new ones?

Our book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government - Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom And Destroying The American Political Class" is now available at:

It is also available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please pass our message of freedom onward. Let your friends and family know about our websites and blogs, ask your library to carry the book, and respect freedom for both yourselves and others everyday.

Please visit the following sites for freedom:

Term Limits Now:

No comments: