Archive for June, 2012

Title I Needs a National Standard

June 28, 2012 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes features an article by a parent decrying the fact that her child’s school, PS 9, has 59.1 percent of its students on free and reduced lunches,  just under the NYC Title I threshold of 60 percent. As a result, PS 9 is losing $360,000 in federal funds and, consequently, losing teachers.

Here’s what the parent doesn’t know (and the article doesn’t point out):

  • The 60% threshold is a NYC standard, NOT a Federal standard
  • There are districts that have NO schools with 60% free and reduced lunch counts that get Title I money
  • Until a few years ago, there were affluent districts with pockets of poor children who received Title I funds— funds that “followed the child”
  • Even WITH the Title I funds to supplement their school, PS 9’s per pupil spending will be well below that of the affluent suburbs that surround NYC.

The Title I funding raises several questions:

  • Should the Federal government be responsible for equalizing education spending or should the State?
  • IF the Federal government is going to play a role in equalizing education spending, shouldn’t it channel money exclusively to only those districts with high poverty levels?
  • IF the Federal government DOES limit Title I funds to the poorest districts, shouldn’t there be a federal standard for a “low income school”?

These questions don’t have easy answers… and because of that we continue to use Title I to “sort of” equalize education spending, to provide Title I funds to districts with poverty levels that are arguably NOT as daunting as those in the urban areas, and to provide Title I funds without strings attached that might change practices in terms of assigning low-income students to schools with middle-class demographics.

Sadly, this practice isn’t going to change any time soon, in large measure because it isn’t even talked about. If Federal dollars are going to be scarce and if those dollars are being appropriated in a fashion that is intended to leverage change (i.e. Race To The Top), why not allocate Federal dollars to those districts who make an effort to assign low-income students to schools with middle-class demographics. The most perverse result of NYC’s allocation formula is that it effectively rewards the segregation of low income students.

Supply Side Starvation

June 27, 2012 Comments off

A blog post in today’s NYTimes reports on a study released by the non-Partisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability indicating that states with high income taxes had higher growth rates over the past decade than states with no income tax…. proving that “trickle down” economics doesn’t work. Ralph Martire, the Executive Director of the Center was quoted in the linked article in Bloomberg as saying:

“Those who don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny anymore, and actually look at facts and data, recognize that since supply-side economics has been implemented in America, the complete opposite of what supply siders had promised has occurred,”

So… starving the beast seems to also starve economic growth… at least economic growth as measured by median household income and per capita economic output. It IS possible, though, that those with the highest incomes fared better in those no-income-tax states… after all, the MEDIAN can drop but the top income can rise and the result might be no change in the MEAN income… I’m sure this study will be quoted in the coming months….

Categories: Uncategorized

Technology Vs. Democracy at UVA – Part II

June 27, 2012 Comments off

After a tumultuous couple of weeks, the governing board of the University of Virginia reinstated the President they summarily dismissed. The NYTimes article described the inherent conflict between those who want to run the school like a business and the forces for the status quo at the college:

The dispute exposed fears about the murky future of higher education at a time of deep cuts in state support and an intensifying debate about whether colleges should be run more like businesses. At the same time, expectations are high for a rapid transformation — through costly technology — to online instruction.

In particular, some members of the Board of Visitors, most of whom are business executives, appear to have been shaken by the way prestigious institutions like M.I.T., Stanford and Harvard have dived into the online realm, and wondered if the University of Virginia was being left behind.

Ms. Sullivan said she perceived the many threats to the university, but favored addressing them in a collaborative, incremental way, not the more aggressive, top-down approach favored by the head of the board, or rector, Helen E. Dragas, and the former vice rector, Mark Kington, who were the driving forces behind the president’s ouster.

I was just reading an excerpt from The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge describing the need for organizations to set visions that intentionally create discomfort, noting that when organizations cede to those whose emotional tensions run high they invariably lower their expectations. This desired “creative tension”, though, is arguably different from the creative destruction being wrought by technology… and those in the private sector, used to making decisions that devastate communities behind closed doors got caught up short when they tried to make radical change at a rapid pace in a public institution.

Unfortunately, public universities, like public schools, are being forced to play under a new set of rules. Just-in-time-on-demand video instruction makes customized instruction available quickly and cheaply and the combination of higher costs for college and lower employment rates and lower wages for graduates makes a lower price tag much more attractive. The forces for status quo won the battle… but they may want to think hard about their strategy for the war that lies ahead.