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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

Alceste 1 year, 7 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).......

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Alceste 1 year, 7 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.

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 7 months ago

"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."

Interesting points. Local board must supervise charters. KDSE and KBOR are not set up to do this. Would they run student expulsion hearings, handle labor issues and negotiations? If they were the governing boards this could happen.

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uggadyboogadyboo 1 year, 7 months ago

Serious, you want to get serious. Here is some serious. $60 million football stadium at Allen Texas High School. 5.2% of the project was engineers, supervisors, etc. the remainder, 94.8% help. Don't dumb down. And this 5.2%, let them go on to college. If theres something new in education, what is it? Elect your board and whip the kids. NEXT

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Alceste 1 year, 7 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

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 7 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?
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Gotland 1 year, 7 months ago

The key to education as practiced in every other country is to separate the unintelligent out early and put them on a separate path to the trades. Then focus the remaining resources on those with academic potential. But I suspect we will continue focusing on the lowest common denominator and building self-esteem.

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fiddleback 1 year, 7 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.

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Glenn Reed 1 year, 7 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?

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Dave Trabert 1 year, 7 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?

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Dave Trabert 1 year, 7 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.

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Alceste 1 year, 7 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.

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 7 months ago

This was actually interesting to a point. Thanks for the blog. Charters can be a good approach, but they must not discriminate and should be under the supervision of a school board. Like private schools, it is hard to prove they do better than regular public schools. "Free-range" charters like Arizona are not a good idea, IMHO.

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fiddleback 1 year, 7 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...

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 7 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?

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 7 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?

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 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.

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Glenn Reed 1 year, 7 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

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werekoala 1 year, 7 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.

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headdoctor 1 year, 7 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.

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jafs 1 year, 7 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.

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autie 1 year, 7 months ago

deec, don't bother Mr. Trabert with tough questions. He is just mouthpiece....a dog tied to a rope on the porch so to speak.

but the question is valid. Part of the problem could possibly the complete lack of credibility the group has with many people. Calling the KPI a think tank is like calling KU a football powerhouse. It is nothing more than another platform to advance the social and political agenda of two men..narrow minded and longing for the old days of the robber barons.

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deec 1 year, 7 months ago

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

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Dave Trabert 1 year, 7 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

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