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Open Letter to the Kansas Policy Institute

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KPI Idea of helping schools

KPI Idea of helping schools by Glenn Reed

Mr. Trabert, and anyone else at the Kansas Policy Institute that’s interested,

I realized today, as I was finishing up a project(putting the last touches on the bombs) that I knew very little of what the Kansas Policy Institute really stood for. Well, other than my perception that you wanted to end the public school system. Well, “end” might be inaccurate, maybe “change beyond recognition.” More syllables, but more accurate?

Given the fact that you folks tend to make the local news from time to time, with the good Mr. Dave Trabert dropping a note here and there on the comments section of the website, I thought I’d make the effort to find out.

I loaded up your web site, looked at the blog, and skimmed over a few of the documents in your research center.

I read the document entitled “Removing Barriers to Better Public Education.” It felt like the thing to read to get a general idea of what your position on education funding was all about. It reads like the whole problem with education is that there is too much money spent on it. It’s kind of odd that the only real conclusion in a document with such a name would be less money=utopian education system.

There is an interesting point about standards being changed in weird ways at weird times, which is good to know, and something to get frustrated at. Reducing funding, by itself, isn’t going to fix that, though.

It wasn’t what I was wanting to know, anyway. I went to your site to find out what your “how to” for education was, not “how much.” Because, well, the “how to” should define the “how much.”

Most people realize that public education is expensive. Most people realize that public education is inefficient. Most people realized that public education is a politically charged topic. Most people realize that there’s rarely a 1:1 ratio between money spent and academic achievement.

Many people (I wish I could say “most”, but I’m not sure anymore) realize these things, and push for public education anyway, because they perceive the benefits to be worth the cost. There’s all kinds of reasons people give for that belief, and I’m getting crunched for time, so I’m not going into it for now.

Anyway, I kept digging around, trying to find other things, and was only able to find a couple of documents that talked about “how to” instead of “how much.”

There’s a document promoting the idea of expanding online public education, which is an idea I think should be more thoroughly explored. This isn’t really an original thought, though, and to properly implement, it’s going to cost money.

There’s a blog post extolling the virtues of charter schools. I feel it overstated charter schools a bit, but it’s been awhile since I’ve researched the subject, so I might be a bit out of date.

Other than those two bits, everything on your website was focused on how much money was/is/will be spent (and why it shouldn’t be spent).

The issue I have with all this is that while your organization obviously harbors some hostility towards public education in it’s current form, it doesn’t really make an effort to describe what it should be replaced with.

Basically, the question I’m wanting an answer to, is if the Kansas Policy Institute think tank folks could design the ideal public education system for the State of Kansas, what would it be?

Thanks,

Glenn Reed

Comments

Dave Trabert 2 years, 3 months ago

Glenn,

You are not alone in knowing very little about what Kansas Policy Institute stands for, but it isn't your fault. We have been trying for nearly two years to engage local school districts, KSDE, the State Board of Education, KASB and KNEA is open public discussions; with one exception, every offer has been refused. We held a public conference with experts from around the country and invited those groups to participate but every single one refused.

The one exception was the Pittsburg school district. Superintendent Destry Brown agreed to have a public forum and the two of us shared our views and took questions from an audience of about 250 people. As noted by the Pittsburg Morning Sun, Destry and I have different approaches but we are both trying to improve public education, not tear it down.

Here's an excerpt from the Morning Sun editorial the next day.

"But instead, both men were brave enough to meet, in a public setting, to make their voices heard. We won’t declare a winner, because just by having the debate, both organizations won. Both sides care about education and how it is funded, taught and assessed.

This debate wasn’t about celebrity and it wasn’t about perfection. But it was a simple, direct conversation about one particular issue — education. It was a “red meat” debate in a world where similar debates rarely happen. It was a throwback to the Lincoln-Douglas debates of more than 150 years ago.

Perhaps the secret lied in the fact that neither man was particularly running for elected office, although that is unlikely. This sort of naked, but respectful, discourse is rare in the modern arena, although it shouldn’t be."

http://www.morningsun.net/newsnow/x586056805/EDITORIAL-Remember-education-debate-as-politics-ramp-up

Wouldn't it be great if an open, respectful discussion took place in Lawrence? Maybe if we both ask the district to host such an event we can make it happen.

In the meanwhile, there is other information on our site that answer some of your questions.

Reinventing the Kansas K-12 System to Engage More Children in Productive Learning http://www.kansaspolicy.org/researchcenters/education/studies/d79705.aspx?type=view

Expanding Educational Opportunities in Kansas through Online Learning http://www.kansaspolicy.org/researchcenters/education/studies/d87811.aspx?type=view

Testimony to House Education Committee http://www.kansaspolicy.org/pressroom/testimony/d87665.aspx?type=view

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

You're right, it's not his fault.

It's yours - as deec points out, you can easily set forth your own ideas for improving education on your website, without anybody else's participation.

Please do.

deec 2 years, 3 months ago

So...because pubic officials won't meet with you, you can't put your plans on your own website?

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

I'd welcome an actual discussion of how to improve the educational system. To have that, it seems to me that we need to identify the goals of the system, how to identify and measure whether or not we're achieving those goals, how to do that most efficiently, and how to pay for it.

I'll start with a few ideas:

I say that the goal of public education in the US is to ensure that all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, or geographical location, get a consistent education that meets certain standards.

I say that to identify and measure that, we should use consistent national testing.

I don't know exactly how to ensure efficiency, but I would think that perhaps asking educators what works best might be a start.

And, finally, I say that it should be paid for, on a per capita basis, by federal taxes - that's the only way to fairly appropriate money for different school districts, so that rich ones aren't well funded while poor ones lack adequate funding.

verity 2 years, 3 months ago

I agree with everything you said, jafs. I will particularly point out the importance of asking educators what works best. To often, in both the public and private sector, the people actually involved and who have the experience and knowledge are not consulted. "Experts," usually outsiders, who haven't a clue are hired at great cost when they could get ideas that actually would solve problems at only the cost of the time of those involved.

Just throwing more money at something won't solve problms, but teachers should not have to buy supplies out of their own paychecks.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Hey, I thought people had stopped reading my posts :-)

verity 2 years, 3 months ago

It's a holiday.

And so far you're not on my ignore list.

headdoctor 2 years, 3 months ago

Good grief, they are a Libertarian think tank. A miniature version of the CATO bunch. There is nothing to discuss because they have no valid workable ideas other than the usual Libertarian jive.

werekoala 2 years, 3 months ago

The basic problem with the sort of free-market libertarian ideas that are espoused by Mr. Trabert is that like most libertarian thought, they completely ignore externalities, and confuse elastic and inelastic demand.

Can charter schools have better outcomes for less money? Hell yes, since they get to pick and choose who comes to school there, they can attract the best and brightest students while the vast majority are left in public schools, along with the problem students, those with learning disabilities, and the handicapped. Shoot, I could make a successful charter school.

But that only works in an environment where there are public schools. To pick up the charter schools' slack, public school districts are mandated to provide special education services to all students within a district's borders including students at private schools

(FYI Mr Trabert, that is an example of an organization externalizing costs.)

It's the same problem with the Republican mantra of vouchers. Hurray, everybody gets a $3,000 voucher to send your kid to the school of his or her choice! What could be fairer than that?

Except we forgot to mention that private school tuition is $6,000 a semester. Scraping up the other $9,000/year (per child) is beyond the scope of most families. But affluent families who were already sending their kids to private school can now save $3,000 a year/child. The net effect is that rich families gain money, school districts lose money, and the vast majority of us have no choice but to send our kids to the even-worse-off public schools.

Robbing from the poor to give to the rich does not make you a libertarian. Just a jerk.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

With private charters, you have to look at just what they're selling. Are they selling quality education? No, they're actually selling enrollment status to the state. So they're free to do whatever it takes to get enough butts in seats to collect some tax money. Sometimes that means they try really hard to educate students. Sometimes that means they invest more in recruitment than they do in teaching. Thing is, there's no true downside to failing. If the school is closed down, they can often just reorganize and start up a new charter in the same spot as the old one. And it usually takes a couple years to figure out that a school isn't bothering to teach the kids.

The free market system may work fine when it comes to getting the tastiest burger or cheapest pair of blue jeans, but it just isn't suitable for public education. Particularly when you're pretending to make a free market out of taxpayer vouchers.

Glenn Reed 2 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Trabert,

I appreciate your response.

Let me know if my summary is accurate.

The KPI’s identifies the problem as public education is getting more expensive, with the cost not being represented with new gains in achievement.

The KPI suggests the solution as being a market approach to education. Vouchers for private school tuition and charter school friendly policies.

If I’m wrong in this, please let me know.

I’m a bit skeptical about the solutions discussed. Not the basic idea, but the motivation. Most of the time when this conversation comes up, the motivating factor is someone wishing to replace science, math, and literature with their favorite book.

What is the KPI’s stance on education standards? What should we teach our children?

Part of the reason why I’m concerned about this is that, in the “reinventing the kansas k-12 school system” there’s frustration at the lack of accountability for public schools, but when accountability is discussed about the voucher system, the document urged caution.

Another question I’ve got is about the folks in your organization. I pulled up the page on the board, the scholars, and the staff, and I wasn’t able to find someone who’s training or experience was directly involving education. Do you have folks on staff with degrees in education? Experience in teaching?

Thanks

Greg Cooper 2 years, 3 months ago

How dare you ask speciific questions requiring specific answers. You are certainly being obtuse. Do you not understand double-speak, obfuscation and Brownbackian? Please do not darken this page again until Mr. Trabert has dodged and ignored your questions and you become a believer in the true American way: the way of the Kansas Policy (without any policy but protecting the wealthy) Institute.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

You also have to look at the evidence. Private schools do no better than public when compared by socioeconomic status. Charter schools as a whole are more likely to do the same or a little worse. Trabert would claim that he's got the solution for magic charters that do so much better than the others, but he has nothing but a few cherry picked data points to support this assertion.

Dave Trabert 2 years, 3 months ago

Glenn,

First, thank you for engaging in a civilized discussion. Feel free to contact me anytime at dave.trabert@kansaspolicy.org or 316.634.0218.

No, it's not that the cost of public education is getting more expense, it's that student achievement is much lower than most people understand and, to quote the attorneys representing school districts in their lawsuit, thousands of kids are being left behind each year. Kansas has tried spending more money but despite billions more going into the system, student performance on independent tests remain relatively unchanged.

We are not proposing what is being portrayed as a market approach to education, but a student-centric approach. The only vouchers we are proposing are for parents of special needs kids, empowering parents to decide what is best for their children. We also proposed tax credit scholarships for students of low income parents; again, to empower parents who believe their children are best served elsewhere but can't afford private tuition or moving to a different neighborhood.

We also propose having charter schools in Kansas that are not under control of the local school district. Kansas law only allows local school districts to authorize and operate charter schools. We would like to see Regents universities also allowed to operate public charter schools.

We are not proposing any specific curriculum changes, although we do believe that state standards are too low. The US Department of Education says Kansas has some of the lowest standards in the country...Kansas' Reading standard for Proficient is below what USDE considers to be Basic. Students should be required to take more Core classes; the ACT College Readiness report calls for 4 or more years of English AND 3 or more years each of Math, Social Studies and Natural Science. The scores of Kansas students taking less than ACT Core have been falling noticeably for several years.

Caution should be taken when expanding charters, implementing vouchers for special needs kids and tax credit scholarships for low income families. Not just anyone should be allowed to operate a charter school and there should be rigorous accountability measures in place in order for any school to participate in these programs.

Our recommendations are not based on staff findings, but on a multitude of education experts around the country, including former teachers, administrators and state superintendents. We're actually passing on THEIR recommendations.

Thanks for your genuine interest...let's keep talking.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

Vouchers for special needs kids are a way to pretend that you're caring while selling snake oil to vulnerable children and parents that need it the least. Special needs education should be integrated into the school system, not segregated into separate schools, however voluntary you pretend that segregation to be.

ALEC voucher programs trick parents into signing away their FAPE rights (free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive setting). The model bill your ALEC people introduced even says that voucher schools are not required to abide by IEPs. Niiice. I bet that turns out to be a great surprise for parents.

The private schools, which may or may not provide better education for special needs students, are often more expensive than public education tuition. The public school system is under no obligation to foot the bill for the difference, so again, you've just created a scholarship system for the rich, much like your last attempt to get ALEC model legislation through. It supposedly was for "special needs and low income" students, but in reality, it was a voucher system for rich kids attending private schools.

But hey, it worked out great in Florida, right? It didn't totally turn into a system rife with fraud and abuse... oh wait. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2011-06-23/news/mckay-scholarship-program-sparks-a-cottage-industry-of-fraud-and-chaos/1/

If you want to do something for disabled students, expand Medicare. Fund the waiting lists for services. Pass the autism insurance reform bill. You don't support any of those things, because you don't really want to help disabled kids. You just want to get a foot in the door for ALEC voucher programs.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

Maybe it's just me, but while asking for civil dialogue, posting a picture with threats of bombings is in poor taste. Another article in today's paper is a followup of that troubled man who shot up the movie theater in Colorado. Apparently, he applied to K.U. It sort of brings home the fact that violence and threats of violence are never really that far away.

Mr. Reed, If you have the ability to remove from your own blog the picture of the bombs, I would encourage you to do so.

Glenn Reed 2 years, 3 months ago

No. My dad wouldn't let me put it up on his refrigerator, so I'm putting it up here.

Seriously, though...

The fact that you somehow attached my image to that guy is a weird mix of surreal and insulting.

All the important bits in the image are labeled, I'd intended it to be interpreted in only one way, really. What did you think it was supposed to represent?

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

A threat of violence. Or maybe a desensitization of threats of violence. Or maybe the randomness of those threats of violence. Or maybe the randomness of the actual acts of violence. Or how violence and schools have become all too familiar in our lives.

The point being that in a competition of ideas, I didn't feel it was necessary. The picture wasn't in horribly poor taste, in my opinion. Just a little.

Glenn Reed 2 years, 3 months ago

I think you've missed the point of the image. Not sure how, everything's labeled in plain text. Maybe the text on the bombs could have been bigger...

What level of poor taste (bear in mind the highly subjected nature of "taste" in this context) should prompt the call to have something taken down?

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

It's supposed to be an editorial statement that is shocking, but not literal. I think we're all old enough to tell the difference, and we all know that the illustrator isn't calling for any violence toward schools. Thanks for your concern trolling.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

"I think we're all old enough to tell the difference" Of course, in an anonymous discussion such as this, we have no idea of the age or relative maturity of the readers. Have you seen some of the comments made here? Have you bothered to read your own?

Glenn Reed 2 years, 3 months ago

This isn't an anonymous discussion...

Well, not for all of us, anyway.

"Glenn Reed" is not a pseudonym. "Dave Trabert" is not a pseudonym.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

I stand corrected. I assume that chootspa's accusation of trolling was not directed at either of you. My insinuation of immaturity certainly was not directed towards you.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

Yes. You are concern trolling, but apparently you don't know what that means, so the best you could do was to imply I was immature for making the suggestion that we're all grownups capable of figuring out an editorial cartoon wasn't literally meant.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

I thank you for the vocabulary lesson. Now if you learn the lesson of good manners, we'll be even. Have a nice evening.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

Ha! I bow to the obvious superiority you keep reminding us all that you possess.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

Oh noez. Censor your speech. Children might be using the Internet unsupervised, and some blog post on the LJW might be the worst thing they see, ever.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

-I really do not think charter schools are effective. They do not offer the broad basic education we are expecting.

  • Students who are having difficulty usually end up on online or computer education. These students connect much more effectively with real people.

  • Advanced students already have the discipline to take online courses. However, courses like physics, chemistry and mathematics are problematic.

Here are options I think should be considered:

  1. More secondary and post secondary vo tech programs. These programs are costly because of equipment, but necessary.
  2. Alternative schools. 2.5. Evaluate homeschooling.
  3. Consider taking severely disabled students out of regular classrooms so that teachers can focus on the class at hand.
  4. Evaluate mainstreaming and other Special Ed needs.
  5. Seek counsel from an economist like the city has done.
  6. Evaluate academic programs at the secondary level. What do we expect from each program. 6.5 Evaluate the effectiveness of computer based and online courses. Evaluate the effectiveness of tablets, too.
  7. De-emphasize costs for sports. Redirect to intramural and lifetime sports for all.
  8. What services should be in all schools? I.e., nurses.

Are there others?

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

I have no idea how to get a bullet list. The bullets just appeared.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Trabert, There is a budget review process open to the public in every school district. You do not have to wait for an invitation. With the background you represent in finance, I would be interested in your review of USD 497's budget.

The school board is planning another bond issue. This is another opportunity to review budget strategies.

Having said the above, I agree with the other posts. The call for cuts in money for public education from your organization are unsubstantiated. What education does your organization expect? How much would your expectations cost, and how does that align with USD 497's budget?

fiddleback 2 years, 3 months ago

Thanks to Glenn for starting this dialogue. It sounds like the majority of posters are decidedly far more civil than in the open records thread, so if Mr. Traubert's desire truly is to "keep talking," I hope he is willing to respond to the very salient observations of werekoala, chootspa, and hear_me...

Glenn Reed 2 years, 3 months ago

I appreciate that, Fiddleback.

I think part of the issue with open record thread was the lack of civility before the article was even up, but that whole this is neither here nor there, and it distracts from the important stuff.

I think there's merit to the idea of reevaluating our public education system.

verity 2 years, 3 months ago

There's always merit in reevaluation---as long as we start with the question and with open minds and not with the answer.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

The idea of running charters as an experiment for new ideas is pretty fascinating, but it's the wrong approach when you throw commercial interests into the mix. Rather than creating deliberate inequality, we should work on making all our public schools amazing.

Alceste 2 years, 3 months ago

As is the norm, so much silly hand-wringing from the apologists of a bankrupt system: Let's work with facts, shall we?

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/your-child-left-behind/8310/ ("Your Child Left Behind" Atlantic Monthly; December 2010) is a strong analysis of public education in the USA comparing it to the rest of the world and also on a state by state basis, I might add. Where does Kansas sit in all of these statistics? (The research provided is from Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and two colleagues).

First let's quote: "We’ve known for some time how this story ends nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan. But what happens when we break down the results? Do any individual U.S. states wind up near the top?

Incredibly, no."

As is the norm, also, Kansas sits in the back of the bus with a mere 5.2% of it's high school students performing at the advanced level in math proficiency. But our kids here in Lawrence have them a couple of "world class" football Colosseums and our kids sure know how to text and even drive a car at the same time!

Kansas lags behind such titans of world thought as the Russian Federation; Lithuania; Ireland; Poland; Hungry; Slovak Republic; Estonia; Iceland; Slovenia; and on and on and on and on.

It's hard to fix stupid.

Dave Trabert 2 years, 3 months ago

KSDE and district officials insist that Kansas kids are doing quite well, with very high levels of proficiency and over-achieving national results. But they tell a different story under oath. I've heard those same people testify in the school lawsuit that thousands of kids are being left behind in Kansas and that there are very large achievement gaps that are not closing.

Kids are doing great when officials want to defend continuing the status quo and resist changes that are being implemented by states all across the nation...but they tell the truth when trying to sue taxpayers for $2.1 billion more per year.

It takes money to operate schools but Professor Hanushek and many others have proven that more money won't fix the achievement problems. It's how the money is used, not how much.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

Can we improve Kansas schools? Yes. Can we do it with your ALEC model legislation? No.

You have no suggestions for curriculum changes. You have no evidence-based practices that would benefit the school system and improve the educational outcomes of all Kansas schoolchildren. You've said so yourself. You just want to move money out of the school system by whatever means possible, including the deceptive marketing of your privatizing schemes as being for the benefit of low income and special needs children. Talk about new lows.

It's all a win for you. If you make Kansas raise standards, you've got more fodder for claiming the kids aren't meeting them. If you defund schools, you've got more fodder to claim that either the outcomes are worsening or that more cuts should be made until they do.

I've provided concrete and actionable suggestions for improving student outcomes that could be implemented without having to dismantle the existing school systems, but you've repeatedly ignored them, because improving education isn't really your goal. Privatizing it is.

verity 2 years, 3 months ago

" . . . because improving education isn't really your goal. Privatizing it is."

Once again, BINGO!

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

Again, I ask you to find the costs that measure up to the expectations from your organization. Wouldn't that be an independent review? Generalizations are not helpful and could cause damage. Kinda like using a bulldozer rather than a trowel to fix.

Dave Trabert 2 years, 3 months ago

No matter how many times chootspa and others say so, our goal is not to privatize schools. Having Regents universities operate public charter schools and giving low income parents and those with special needs kids is about empowering parents, not privatizing schools.

It is quite interesting, though, that chootspa and friends are dead set against empowering parents. Anything that gives parents options but creates competition for districts is off the table. Doesn't that seem that their #1 priority is protecting the administrations and districts...at the expense of what some parents believe is best for their own kids?

deec 2 years, 3 months ago

wow. way to make up an argument out of whole cloth. Nobody has suggested that parents shouldn't have input into their children's educations.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

If I don't want to take the public transportation system, I should get a voucher toward the purchase of a car. If I go to the library but my favorite book is checked out, I should get a gift card for Amazon. And if I don't want to visit a nearby public park, I should get a voucher that lets me go to Worlds of Fun. No, it won't fully cover the cost of those things, so it will mostly be middle and higher income people that take advantage, but we'll "prioritize" low income recipients to pretend we're doing it for them. Sure, we could work on adequately funding the public services so that they're an available option for everyone, but unless I'm offered the chance to drain public funding from public services, I'm not "empowered."

Katara 2 years, 3 months ago

You and KPI are not empowering parents when you refuse to provide the information requested.

You and KPI are not empowering parents when you provide no suggestions on how you would improve education in KS.

You and KPI are not empowering parents when you refuse to provide the same information you are demanding from USD497.

When you are open and transparent as you claim you want the public school district to be then I will take you seriously. When you put forth your ideas on how to improve education and back those ideas with research that shows those ideas are successful, then I will take you seriously.

As of now, you are nothing more than a paid shill and have nothing to bring to the table that will help Kansas children.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

You're the head of a libertarian think tank funded by famous libertarians, and you're a member of ALEC that has introduced model legislation that takes funding from public schools and directly hands it to private schools -- but you really just want to strengthen the public school system instead of privatizing it. The other leg has bells on it.

You've already contradicted yourself in this very thread when you claimed that you didn't want to use market competition as your mechanism for school improvement. Gosh, why won't anyone believe you when you say something you clearly don't mean?

You can empower parents by making sure all public school systems are good options and not tricking parents into signing away their FAPE rights to attend a private school that doesn't even need to abide by that child's IEP. You can empower parents by offering them quality preschool (known to improve outcomes) and subsidized after school care. Parent and child programs can educate both at once (and are currently offered by some public schools in this state). There are all sorts of options that empower the parents and don't involve handing taxpayer money to parochial and private schools.

Yes, your current and totally new carrot is to offer the Regents control over charters. There's no reason a regents school couldn't work with the public school to make a charter now. They just need approval from the local district and the KSDE to start a charter. Heck, there's nothing stopping them from offering an unaccredited school on campus if they so chose. KU already offers four preschools, one kindergarten, and after school programs with pickups from 8 different schools. Would you really sabotage that by creating an adversarial relationship between the college and public school system? Wait, don't answer that. Yes, you would.

Glenn Reed 2 years, 3 months ago

I like the idea of empowering people, and providing options. It's an attractive thought.

At the same time, it's a point that usually sparks a bit of concern for me. Oftentimes, the people targeting for "empowerment" are the least prepared to make such decisions. I think we've all had discussions with people who demonstrate themselves to be big bags of cognitive dissonance and logical fallacy. These personality traits do not disappear when these same people deal with their children, if anything, these traits just become more obvious.

In the event that a school voucher system is adopted, and charter schools become more of an option, what kind of education there be for the parents who suddenly find themselves with these options?

fiddleback 2 years, 3 months ago

Mr Traubert, I have not heard you address the following points:

"ALEC voucher programs trick parents into signing away their FAPE rights (free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive setting). The model bill your ALEC people introduced even says that voucher schools are not required to abide by IEPs. Niiice. I bet that turns out to be a great surprise for parents."

So you're advocating an alternative school system that can disregard the individualized education programs of special needs children? Please explain/clarify.

"The private schools, which may or may not provide better education for special needs students, are often more expensive than public education tuition. The public school system is under no obligation to foot the bill for the difference, so again, you've just created a scholarship system for the rich, much like your last attempt to get ALEC model legislation through. It supposedly was for "special needs and low income" students, but in reality, it was a voucher system for rich kids attending private schools. "

You haven't countered this and similar arguments; please summarize who qualifies for these"low-income" scholarships.

Finally, how are your two statements below not contradictory, or which is to be believed? Do you admit to proposing "market approaches" and "competition" or don't you?

"We are not proposing what is being portrayed as a market approach to education, but a student-centric approach."

"chootspa and friends are dead set against empowering parents. Anything that gives parents options but creates competition for districts is off the table."

Thanks.

Dave Trabert 2 years, 3 months ago

It is a waste of everyone's time to continue to attempt to counter all of the made-up claims and straw man ALEC-type arguments that have been posted here but I am happy to come to Lawrence and have a civilized conversation about all aspects of education. And I would also welcome Lawrence district officials to participate in the discussion. You may want to ask why none of the anonymous critics or school district officials have agreed to do so.

I will address the market approach / competition issue here because it's a distinction that may not have been addressed previously. The concept of a 'market approach' that someone raised here is much broader than allowing for competition. To me, a market approach would only exist if there were no restrictions or limitations on where any parent could send their child with taxpayer funds. That is not what we are proposing.

But we could have some degree of competition by allowing Regents universities to authorize and operate public charter schools, allow income parents to have access to tax credit scholarships or allowing parents of special needs kids more choice. State education officials in states that have enacted these options have found that all kids benefit...not just those who take the option...because the element of enhanced competition incentivizes everyone to do better.

There are many ways each of these options can be built legislatively. Low income could be defined the same as is done to qualify for free / reduced lunch or some other independently established benchmark (e.g., x% of the federal poverty level).

Rather than disallow options to disenfranchised parents because of some theoretical circumstances, legislators should be having open discussions on how to make these options work for those who want them while pragmatically preventing abuse.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

You don't consider two or more schools competing for the same funding to be engaging in market competition because they're not every single school in the universe? Seems pretty hair-splitting to me. Exactly how does this magic of "competition" work, if not by rewarding winners and punishing losers financially? You know, the market. Are they going to give out certificates with gold stars instead?

Besides, you're talking about two ideas. On one hand you talk about allowing regents schools to make charters, and on the other, you're talking about a means-tested voucher program or "scholarship" system, probably similar to the ALEC model legislation defeated by the KS senate lasst year. That program would fund private and parochial schools and would meet your "market competition" definition.

We are already free to enroll our students in any school we choose, so long as we pay for it. That's the real market, and not some faux market you're attempting to create using public funds for private services. Before you argue that taxpayers all fund the public school system and should somehow have access to other expensive choices, we all fund the public library too, but that doesn't stop me from buying my own books, and that doesn't mean that we need to "empower" the disadvantaged by giving them coupons for bookstores. Your argument really does amount to the same sort of thing.

Also please clarify exactly how you intend to fund infrastructure. Would your regents charters occupy existing buildings, some of which need severe upkeep and some of which are currently occupied? How would they cope with waiting lists or enrollment requests that exceed capacity? Kick out more neighborhood schools? Build more buildings? Turn kids away to create popular demand for more ALEC model legislation expanding charter schools?

Exactly how would regents suddenly get the power to create vouchers? Would you take power to create and regulate vouchers from local school boards and hand it to a state entity that can then be stacked for political gains? Let's see the legislation you're writing for our tea partiers this year.

I notice that you ignored my point about ALEC model legislation and IDEA rights for special needs students, many of which are also low income. It wasn't a straw man. I suspect it's just something that you don't want to concede. Three nearly identical bills have already been introduced in other states, so I'm not making this up.

Rather than framing the argument as if public school advocates want to further marginalize low income students, which they don't, we should look at ways to improve and expand the services within our existing school system. Every child should have the option of a quality public school. That's real empowerment and real choice.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

More on that false idea of choice. Last year, when ALEC model legislation was defeated in the senate, KPI blogged with the headline, "Legislators Deny Low Income Students Freedom Available To Wealthier Peers."

This really makes no sense to me. There are a lot of choices low income families don't get. Bermuda vacations, fois gras appetizers, and fancy new computers, among other things. The rich will simply always have more choices about what they buy and where the go because they have more money. This doesn't seem to be a problem for you, since you've already repeatedly posted against "wealth redistribution" (when such redistribution is accomplished through graduated income taxes and not a cultural hegemony that favors the increased flow of wealth toward those that already posses it) .

When it comes to public education, creating a system of choices makes winners and losers. If private or parochial schools are superior (which evidence says they're not) there should be room in them for everyone. If they're not superior, it's inefficient and potentially unconstitutional to fund them with taxpayer money. Furthermore, unless you demand through legislation that participating parochial and private schools take all applicants, regardless of ability to pay or disability status, you've set up an uneven playing field and exacerbated the problems of inequality already present in our current education system. If you do dictate that schools take all comers, you've denied private and parochial schools the freedom to be selective in their admissions.

The ALEC model legislation as written would not have fully funded tuition at all private or parochial schools, so while "priority" for scholarships was allegedly directed toward low income students, the reality is that, once again, the wealthier students would be the ones taking advantage of the program. The legislators didn't deny low income students a choice. They acknowledged that those students weren't being offered a real choice in the first place.

If you really think it's not fair that some students have more freedom than others to attend schools based on the income of their parents, that is a problem that could be eased through poverty reduction measures or low income housing located in rich neighborhoods. It's also something that could be helped by directing more funding, more staff, and more effort toward improving the schools in the poorest districts to really empower those students.

fiddleback 2 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Traubert, I only had these specific questions for now and have no interest in an in-person meeting. You object to "straw man ALEC-type arguments" but didn't clarify your relationship (if any) to that group, or moreover how KPI proposals would/could be distinct from ALEC models. You did briefly attempt to clarify the scholarship eligibility issue and the nuances of "market approach" vs. "competition," which I appreciate. I would, however, be interested in hearing your observations about such scholarship systems in practice, esp. regarding their supposed boon to the affluent vs. offering sufficient aid to low-income families. And again, I would like to know how KPI's proposals would presumably avoid such dysfunction. I'd expect that answers to these questions can be summed up in a few paragraphs perhaps with some links or other pasted information, and I would prefer you not drive from Wichita just to relate them. Thanks.

Dave Trabert 2 years, 3 months ago

I've spoken to state superintendents and other education officials in states that have given parents more control over their educational options and none have seen any of the 'boon to affluent' effects alluded to. It's certainly possible to write a law that could create such a scenario but that is not what we are proposing, nor is it what has taken place around the country. Tax credit scholarships only go to those below a specific income level. Special Ed vouchers only go to parents of special needs students. No money ever goes to the parent...it only goes to the school designated by the parent. Income restrictions are typically not placed on special needs programs, but I don't see how it is a 'boon' for people of higher means to have special ed money being sent to a different school.

The amount of the tax credit programs is not sufficient to cover the full cost of tuition at a private school, but that is because the amount provided is deliberately set lower in order to get more legislators to support the bill; the higher the scholarship, the more lobbying pressure that comes from education lobbyists to kill the bill. The amount could be set equal to the total amount the state would spend on the average low income student, and that would fully cover tuition at many schools.

Avoiding dysfunction is simple. Eligibility is tied to information already on record with the state or local school district. To qualify for a low income tax credit scholarship, the granting organization would be required to verify income with Kansas Dept. of Revenue...every year. To qualify for a special needs voucher, the local district would have to certify that the student is receiving special education.

Feel free to call anytime with questions. the office number is 316-634-0218.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

The model legislation proposed last year did not specify that scholarships only go to a certain income level, just that low income students were given first priority. Please present this year's model legislation so we can all review it, since you seem to know otherwise. I'm sure you'll quickly respond, since you're such a fan of openness and transparency.

You're still ignoring the IDEA and IEP issues with your proposed legislation. Three bills in which ALEC dupes parents into signing away their legal protections for free and appropriate education. Three bills. Crickets chirping on your end.

Avoiding dysfunction is not simple. You seem to just be suggesting ways to verify the eligibility of the student. You're ignoring the fact that the school is more likely to be the dysfunction in this scenario. BTW, I'm not sure how the school district could certify that the student is receiving special education after the first year of attending a private or parochial school on the taxpayer dime (and possibly at a higher taxpayer dime than what the school district actually pays once efficiency of staffing is considered) since that student would be no longer receiving services from the school district, right? Or are you proposing that the student get a free ride to an elite private school and school district special ed services? That's a great way to break the bank and cause resentment for all the special ed students at the same time. Win-win!

Furthermore, unless you mandate that private and parochial schools take all voucher students, they'll discriminate. It's exactly what happened in Milwaukee, where the voucher system is a network of private schools. They often exclude disabled students purely on the basis of their disabilities.

http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/3187/3072 Abstract: Neoliberalism is a theory of political economy which holds that the well-being of individuals is best served by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedom in a framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade. The role of government is limited to keeping people safe and preserving the rules of the market and leaving to the markets services, including education, that it is assumed will be more efficiently delivered by the private sector. Educational policies in the US and in other countries around the world have been strongly influenced by market-based reforms including accountability, high-stakes testing, data-driven decision-making, charter schools, deregulation, and competition among schools. This paper summarizes current theory and research on the effects of market-based schooling practices on students with disabilities. The available evidence indicates that students with disabilities are not well served by market-based reforms and, further, free-market reforms may be fundamentally incompatible with the needs of students with disabilities.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

BTW, since he ignored this part of your question to engage in an appeal to biased authority, hasty generalization, and appeal to emotion -

His relationship to ALEC is member, per his official KPI biography. The KPI blog has historically supported ALEC model legislation when it was introduced.

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

Not true. Finland does not separate their kids out according to ability, and they've got one of the highest achievement scores out of all countries. One of the striking things about the Finnish system is that no matter which school you attend, you're attending one of the best schools in the world.

China does separate the kids according to test performance, btw. At a really early age, too.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Trabert, You do have information of interest. You may not know how to convey it. I'm guessing that you are looking at graduates from a business perspective.

  1. Do you see the skills business needs in our graduates? If not, what skills are lacking?
  2. What programs are you interested in? VoTech? College Prep? Special Education? Extra curricular?
  3. What facets of the educational program do you think are overfunded?

Alceste 2 years, 3 months ago

Okay, Boys and Girls, let's get back to the facts now that you've all had your hands on the dirk being driven into Trabert:

As is the norm, so much silly hand-wringing from the apologists of a bankrupt system; a corrupt system; a system with no goal; a ship adrift....and a ship full of fools if you will (ain't that right Topeka Public Schools 1/2 "school psychologist": YOU sold out....and for nickles and dimes....Alceste had so much more glitter to show......; And you pick a grade C "administrator" who left his "command" compromised?????, violating your code of ethics? Not so incredible when one closely examines gold diggers..... but Alceste digresses) : Let's work with facts, shall we?

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/your-child-left-behind/8310/ ("Your Child Left Behind" Atlantic Monthly; December 2010) is a strong analysis of public education in the USA comparing it to the rest of the world and also on a state by state basis, I might add. Where does Kansas sit in all of these statistics? (The research provided is from Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and two colleagues).

First let's quote: "We’ve known for some time how this story ends nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan. But what happens when we break down the results? Do any individual U.S. states wind up near the top?

Incredibly, no."

As is the norm, also, Kansas sits in the back of the bus with a mere 5.2% of it's high school students performing at the advanced level in math proficiency. But our kids here in Lawrence have them a couple of "world class" football Colosseums and our kids sure know how to text and even drive a car at the same time!

Kansas lags behind such titans of world thought as the Russian Federation; Lithuania; Ireland; Poland; Hungry; Slovak Republic; Estonia; Iceland; Slovenia; and on and on and on and on.

It's hard to fix stupid.

It's more than hard.....it's nigh onto impossible in this state.....let alone this one silly back sided county. Nothing "they" can post can refute hare core data. Let them do it if they dare. 5.2%? hahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahhhahahahahahahahaha

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

Note that he's citing the opinion of the political appointees he spoke to, not data. Not studies. Studies seem to indicate marketplace competition isn't the incentive he claims it to be, no matter how trendy the suggestion, and no matter how he tries to re-label it with Luntz-style words like "empowering parents."

Example: Although complicated and difficult to identify, choice does not appear to impact achievement positively, either for those students experiencing choice or for those students left in existing public schools.

Competition, by necessity, makes winners and losers. When it comes to education, not everyone is going to be successful, but you want everyone to have the chance to succeed. You want to close the gaps. By setting up winners and losers, you actually make the problem of unequal education worse. If there are only a few great schools, there will be waiting lists. And if there are private sector charters approved by political appointees on some KSDE board detached from the local school district, there's potential for cronyism and fraud. Either way, the parents will be making many of their choices for social reasons instead of academic. So even the premise of academic competition is failed.

Finland doesn't have great schools because of competition. Finland has great schools because they invested in everybody. They invested in the teachers and the students and the schools, and they insisted that a good education would be an option for everyone.
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html

Alceste 2 years, 3 months ago

chootspa opines:

"Finland doesn't have great schools because of competition. Finland has great schools because they invested in everybody. They invested in the teachers and the students and the schools, and they insisted that a good education would be an option for everyone."

1000% correct. And the facts speak for themselves with respect to the data Alceste earlier posted from The Atlantic ( http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/11/your-child-left-behind/66069/ ) as Findland is ranked #4 in the world.

However, the question one is compelled to ask is why hasn't Kansas made the same statement dinky ole Finland has made? Why no real public committment to even a basic K-12 education? The populace gets what it deserves in most if not all instances. It's the dumbness/stupidty/bigotry of the typical Kansan that has placed the state of Kansas and education in the mess it is in. Not just K-12, either. Why does a dinky (2nd time using that word) little hillbilly backwater state like Kansas require so many "Regents' Institutions" with all the money being thrown around the board room and not in and at the classroom? To pay a sterling academic like Gray-Little over half a million dollars a year so she can travel to Columbia and consult with drug lord Presidents and search for FARC?

Nope, Kansans elected the ilk that KPI is all about. Those elected have chosen to use the money to feather their own nests. PERIOD. ALL OF 'em, too. Republican. Democrat. Makes no never mind in Kansas. Watch, we'll do it again, too. Wait and see.

Alceste 2 years, 3 months ago

PS:

chootspa, ever look into emigrating to Finland....or for that matter any of Scandanavia or the Benelux lands??????? Alceste has given Alceste's keen desire to maximize them ducats.

Bottom line? NONE OF THEM WANT YOU (and inability to speak local is down on the bottom reasons because Alceste don't speak Nordick or Benelux).......

chootspa 2 years, 3 months ago

Actually Finland has some of the easiest immigration laws in the EU. Finnish would probably be a bit harder than the other languages I've learned, but I'm a polyglot, so I'd cope. I'm not sure I'd enjoy the weather, though.

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