Recall John Dendahl’s words in the Albuquerque Journal last Friday:
Sadly, most of New Mexico’s children will continue to be among those who either drop out of school or arrive at high school graduation inadequately prepared. …
How many chapters of “reform” must we endure before we adopt the one reform with real promise to restore educational opportunity for our kids? Why isn’t there a Gov. Bill Richardson’s School Choice Agenda?
There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Richardson doesn’t know he could pitch a perfect game with choice. But teachers’ union bosses are among his owners, and they say “no” to competition. Monopolies never serve their markets well, but government schools must remain a virtual monopoly anyway
Now from our friends at NCPA comes a reminder of this by Andrew Coulson:
For many years, school choice programs have been at the center of the
education reform debate and many Americans are now convinced that the
education of disadvantaged children would suffer if the government did
not run schools and if poor parents were allowed to make choices, says
Andrew Coulson of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
However, according to studies of impoverished villages and urban
slums in India, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, school choice programs are
actually beneficial, says Coulson.
o On average, 75 percent of the students in these areas
attend tuition-charging private schools.
o More than one out of every six private school students pay
less than full tuition and one in 14 attends private
school for free.
o These private schools spend far less per pupil (their
teachers’ salaries are roughly one-third of those in the
public sector), but the schools usually enjoy lower
rates of teacher absenteeism and comparable facilities and
o Most importantly, the private schools significantly
outperform their government-school counterparts
academically — even after controlling for differences in
student characteristics between the two sectors.
These results are consistent with U.S. education research that
finds that inexpensive private schools serving the poor in the United
States produce achievement and graduation rates that at least equal,
and usually surpass, those of the highest-spending neighborhood public
schools, says Coulson.
Moreover, all those concerned with improving the state of American
education should feel compelled to expand access to independent schools
by the most effective means possible, including the use of education
tax credits; if we do so, we will begin to catch up with the generosity
already on display in the Third World, says Coulson.
Source: Andrew J. Coulson, “‘http://www.mackinac.org/article.aspx?ID=7369 Poor Choices’ Yield Better Education,”
Viewpoint on Public Policy, no. 2005-29, October 3, 2005.
Thanks to Dick Rowland’s staff at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, here is a nice behavioral analogy apropos to NM (perhaps you have seen it before):
The difference between a bureaucrat and a public servant is the degree to which an individual is empowered to take action for positive change in a system and the extent to which they exercise that power to benefit the common good.
Essentially, bureaucrats can be the source of the problem or victims of the system based on their actions or inactions. I think it is safe to say that bureaucrats ARE a large part of the problem in government. Most of you know that I like to tell a good story to illustrate my point….
Start with a cage containing five apes. In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it. Before long, an ape goes to the stairs towards the banana, but as soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the apes with cold water.
After a while, another ape makes an attempt with the same result – all the apes are sprayed with cold water. Turn off the cold water. If, later, another ape tries to climb the stairs, the other apes will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them.
Now, remove one ape from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other apes attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five apes and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.
Again, replace a third original ape with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four apes that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest ape.
After replacing the fourth and fifth original apes, all of the apes, which have been sprayed with cold water, have been replaced. Nevertheless, no ape ever again approaches the stairs.
“Because that’s the way it’s always been around here.”
We should immediately ban the use of the phrase “We’ve always done it like that” by any public employee. They should be allowed and even encouraged to apply common sense in the workplace. We should pay people who work for government based on the service they provide versus the amount of paper they push. Maybe then we will create true public servants in government rather than bureaucrats.
Does this sound familiar?
o The unionization rate has dropped to single digits in
Connecticut’s private sector, but the portion of public
employees covered by collective-bargaining agreements is
over 80 percent.
o In most job categories, public sector employees earn more
than private sector workers — sometime as much as 95
percent more — and health care benefits in the public
sector are substantially better, including the portion
of insurance plan cost that is covered by employers and
the quality and variety of coverage offered.
o Paid leave is also substantially more generous in the public
o While defined-benefit pension plans are shrinking and job
growth may be stagnant in the private sector, they
continue to remain common in government employment.
o But strong anecdotal evidence suggests that misbehavior,
cronyism, nepotism and even criminal activity may be
far more common in the public sector.
Read “The Two Connecticuts”
Yankee Institute, January 10, 2006 by D. Dowd Muska and Philip Gressel
Last Thursday afternoon I testified in opposition to Ben Lujan’s minimum wage bill before the house Labor and Human Resources Committee. The hearing was scheduled to begin at 1:30 and was gaveled to order at 1:55 (so much for economizing on labor and human resources — but after all this is government).
The economic nonsense I heard was unbelievable. No one seems to know this (or even care):
Most economists believe that the minimum wage is an unwise policy, not because they are against helping the poor but because the minimum wage is such an ineffective way to achieve this goal.
There seems, instead, to be this belief that there is a big pot of money held by the rich, and those rich ought to be giving it to the poor in the form of higher wages. One lady testified that she had no problem paying her employees $9.50 per hour, so why shouldn’t everyone be willing to pay 7.50 per hour? I wondered what her position would be if the government suddenly “forced” her to pay her employees $11.50 per hour.
An “economist” (and advocate) spoke for Rep. Lujan on behalf of the legislation. His empirical analysis of Santa Fe’s “living” wage was so full of holes I don’t know where to begin. The big problem from a real economists standpoint is that he made no attempt to isolate the effect of the “living” wage ordinance on unskilled workers. If he is an economist he should know this, otherwise it is fraud pure and simple.
Today’s New York Times editorializes (rr) about the sorry state of math and science education in grades k-12. The editorial is motivated by this report from the National Academies. The report contains a hodgepodge of incentives for training more teachers, more government spending on sexy, high tech stuff and more corporate welfare. The Times does not think the report goes far enough:
But, commendable as this impulse is, it hardly addresses the central problem of teacher preparation. Many education colleges have become diploma mills where the curriculum has little or nothing to do with the employment needs of the public schools in the state. Thanks to poor planning – or no planning – they place no particular emphasis on training teachers who actually major in subject areas like math and science. The data suggests (sic) that more than 60 percent of the public school students in some areas of math and science learn from teachers who have not majored in the subject taught or have no certification in it.
I tend to agree that we should be providing our kids with more opportunity in math and science. But more government? Give me a break! Instead of union-driven, uniform, soviet-style compensation for all teachers why not the simple, productive solution of markets in education? Let consumers and education providers interact in education markets to determine the compensation of math and science teachers. School choice would lead to smaller government and solve the problem!
You may already know that Santa Fe’s “living” wage law will put some unskilled workers out of work. That means, of couse, that their wage suddenly becomes ZERO.
But unemployed, unskilled workers will look for work where they can find it. One place they can find work is with businesses that are exempt from the “living” wage law (less than 25 employees). More potential unskilled workers looking for work at these exempt businesses will tend to drive wages in those businesses down! Read all about it (and more) in today’s fine column by Alan Reynolds.
Here is another fine essay by Arnold Kling. It raises some questions for New Mexicans: 1. Who do you think benefits from raising the minimum wage? 2. Who do you think benefits from trains to nowhere? 3. Who do you think benefits from a publicly financed spaceport? 4. Who do you think benefits from expansion of welfare?
You might be thinking about these questions as you listen to or read about the governor’s state of the state speech today.
A final question: who do you think pays for the groups’ benefits in the questions posed above?
As hints for the forthcoming legislative session are beginning to appear I am reminded of Groucho the great philosoper:
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
– Groucho Marx –