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Two Notable New Education Blogs

Lisa Snell
April 20, 2008, 12:18pm

Two great new additions to the education blogosphere. First, education scholar and economist Jay P. Greene from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform and Manhattan Institute fame has an appropriately self-titled education blog. Today, he looks at the "more money myth," riffing off of a Sunday LA Times story that bemoans the lack of state funding and the need of private funders to fill the gap in California. Greene writes: But the LA Times article suggests that private giving can (and must) make a big difference. It cites the example of the Irvine Public Schools, which receives $3 million annually from a community foundation. it also quotes the head of that foundation saying, "The only way to take good districts and make them great is to do private fund-raising. But it's even more urgent now with the terrible budget cuts." Nowhere does the article mention that this $3 million represents less than 1% of the total spending by the district. Numerators always feel bigger without denominators. The third claim that inequities in private fund-raising are exacerbating inequities in student achievement pre-supposes that the private giving makes a big difference in the wealthier districts. It also pre-supposes, contrary to the bulk of rigorous research, that variation in spending is a significant factor in explaining variation in achievement. It's not. So, if private giving is a tiny portion of total spending – even in the wealthy districts – and per pupil spending does not significantly account for achievement, it's not clear why the article would fret that inequities in giving were a problem for the achievement gap. But the article does, quoting state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, "Parents in well-to-do communities can raise significant sums of money to augment their local schools' budgets, while schools in low-income neighborhoods fall further behind. This is part of the reason that we have an achievement gap in California. We have an economic and moral imperative to close this gap." The only way the money myth will fade is if reporters and newspapers are held accountable for repeating it. The second new blog, Flypaper, is a group blog by the Fordham istitute's multiple education scholars, including Chester E. Finn and Mike Petrilli. Petrilli looks at how collective bargaining ideas are flowing backwards in a reverse commute from K-12 to higher ed. But now one of public education's worst features–its hyper-unionized workforce–is finding its way into higher ed. At least that's the intent of a bill introduced yesterday by Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative George Miller (respective chairmen of their chambers' education committees) that would allow graduate students who serve as teaching or research assistants to bargain collectively. This is only likely to drive up tuition and drive down quality. Colleges and universities: we feel your pain. But maybe this is some sort of Karmic payback for all the damage you've done to our elementary and secondary schools. Meanwhile, Chester E. Finn takes Cato Institute to task for being too libertarian on education reform: You gotta give it to purebred libertarians, they never let their vision of how the world ought to work be distorted by any realities about how it actually works. Nowhwere is this clearer than in K-12 education, where the CATO crowd, indistinguishable nowadays from the "separation of school and state crowd," basically doesn't believe in any form of public education. They believe in private education, purchased in the marketplace by parents who want and can afford it for their kids from schools that are not accountable to anybody for anything except keeping those tuition payments rolling in the door. The heck with everybody else's kids. The horror of it all. Much, much more at both blogs. As the saying goes, "read the whole blog!!!!"

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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