Archive for the ‘School Funding’ Category

By Richard Ohmann

So I’m listening to Marketplace Money (Sept. 8), and hear host Bob Moon lament that “the lousy economy is causing colleges to keep raising their prices or lowering their quality,” or both.  A “vicious, unsustainable cycle–until now.”  But here’s commentator Kim Clark with an “example of something done right.”

The something right is Clarkson University’s adaptation of Milton Friedman’s old idea to let some poor students in without tuition, and collect a surcharge on their later earnings instead.  Clarkson is admitting a few go-getters, free, “in return for a 10-percent share of their start-ups.”  It’s investing in two, this year; next year it will recruit “up to five more teen entrepreneurs”; and still more after that, if these “educational investments” work out.  “Imagine if all colleges’ revenues depended on their students’ success,” Clark continues.  “The invisible hand of the market would quickly crush diploma mills and party schools.  Colleges would realize they couldn’t afford to be soft on do-nothing professors or cheating students.”  What a great idea, as Kim Clark puts it, “to align the financial interests of colleges with those of their students.”

Right, I say.  Imagine how much better Harvard would have done, had it followed this business model.  By giving only two (2!) teen entrepreneurs free rides, in exchange for a 10% share of their startups, Harvard would have cruised through the crash of 2008 with no decline in endowment–a big increase, in fact.  Since neither Bill Gates nor Mark Zuckerberg actually needed an education in order to make $billions, the University could have fired all of its do-nothing professors but a few whose jobs would have been to catch and get rid of cheating students.  The place would be rolling in dough.

Of course Harvard’s present model for aligning its interests with those of its students isn’t so bad:  select a few students (qualified or not) whose families run the world; charge them hefty tuition fees (much higher than $60,000 a year, I recommend); let them party to beat all; collect their multi-million-dollar gifts and estates over many decades; and keep the class system humming along.

Let’s call this the Cabot-Rockefeller business model, and the other one, the Tea Party business model.  RT readers:  which do you prefer?  Which would be best for community colleges?  For the University of Phoenix?  And what, me worry?


Read Full Post »

By Sarah Roberts

To my out-of-state and international friends who want to know what to do: I recommend you do your own phone banking or mass emailing event. With a little review online you can find out the names/numbers of Wisconsin state GOP senators and Assembly reps who are supporting this bill. You can also find out which ones are in danger of recall.

Then, you can have your callers explain to the legislator’ staffers on phone or in email that you consider the Wisconsin state line a PICKET LINE. No more dollars into Wisconsin. No more purchasing of Wisconsin products. Publicity ALL OVER YOUR LOCAL AREA (issue a press release) of what you’re doing. This is my advice here.

I can try to get more info regarding names and numbers, or if someone has a cheat sheet, please let me know.  You can start with this list from the Daily Kos:


And use lookup info from: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/



Hopper, in particular, is vulnerable, having won by only 163 votes, in 2008. In addition, you can get information about the unbelievable provisions of SB 11, including:

– the privatization of state-owned power plants, to be sold on a no-bid basis to whomever the state decides

– the rejection of MILLIONS of federal dollars for public transit, due to contingencies around collective bargaining for employees, that will SHUT MUNICIPAL BUSES DOWN, stranding thousands upon thousands who rely on bus travel to work every day

– the decimation of state heath care funding for those who have no other heath care

These are just a few of the other items not receiving as much coverage, but worthy of immediate action and mention.

Finally, in other quarters, Walker’s appointees are rejecting millions from the federal government for state broadband service, intending to funnel state money to Walker campaign donor AT&T:


Please mention any or all of these issues in your communications with Wisconsin state legislators.  Thank you.

Would you like to donate some funds to a clearinghouse group coordinating efforts on the ground? Visit: http://www.defendwisconsin.org/

Read Full Post »

By Sarah Roberts

As I write to you from inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, the jubilant cacophony of tens of thousands of peaceful protesters both inside and surrounding the building is echoing off the walls.  People have arrived on this Saturday from all over the state of Wisconsin – firefighters from Eau Claire and Green Bay, teachers from every corner of the state, steelworkers, iron workers, municipal workers, police, teamsters, nurses, graduate students, and their friends and families.  Solidarity caravans of people have come from Illinois, Washington state, Iowa and elsewhere to support the people. All have descended upon the state capital of Madison to defend the rights of working people to organize and bargain on their own behalf – not just in Wisconsin, but across the country and across the world.  The showing it Madison is the civics lesson you had in elementary school in action.  As the chant refrain goes, “This _is_ what democracy looks like!”


Read Full Post »

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to spend $3 billion in the next few years on K-12 education.  It had assets of over $30 billion at the end of last year, and presumably a lot more where that came from–Bill Gates’ bank account.  Warren Buffet, his fellow trustee, is the second richest man in the US.  Maybe their visible hands can feed our struggling schools just the diet they need.

Or maybe not.  The July 10 cover story in Bloomberg Businessweek (“Bill Gates’ School Crusade”) notes that the Foundation spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” starting in 2000 “to revitalize schools by making them smaller, only to discover that student body size has little effect on achievement.”  (See Picturing the Uncertain World, 2009, by Howard Wainer, a Wharton School statistician.)  With confidence undiminished by this error, the Gates Foundation now commits $290 million to a well-publicized, model program in Tampa, Memphis, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles, based on the “emerging consensus” that “quality of teaching affects student performance.”  While the veteran reader is sleepily nodding his or her head at the obvious truth, the Bloomberg sentence goes on, “and that increasing achievement is as simple as removing bad teachers, identifying good ones, and rewarding them with more money.”

It doesn’t sound simple to me.  Let’s leave aside important specific questions that research is just beginning to address, such as whether this year’s leading “good” teachers, by the measure of improvement in students’ test scores, will remain on top of the “good” pile next year (the answer seems to be no, according to a Florida study reported in this article).  Leave aside all the less-than-super teachers, down to and including the “bad” ones, who might actually learn to teach better, with a little help from their colleagues.  Leave aside the matter of whether tests exist that might tell administrators which bad art teachers to fired along with the bad math teachers.  Leave aside the uncertainty that should trouble fans of No Child Left Behind, and most other ed reformers of the last decade:  what evidence is there that test-driven schooling makes for good education?  Leave aside the even more critical question, “what is schooling for?”–to which Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, and almost all of our power brokers reply in unison:  it’s for training workers and improving US competitiveness in the global economy.  That simple?

No matter.  The Gates Foundation can bet a few hundred million here and a few hundred there on educational clichés or new ideas.  Its efforts may fail again, or they may change how US schools teach kids–but either way, without doing research, without talking to teachers, without being elected by citizens to change our society.  Where do they get this right?  From making and keeping large sums of money.  From scarfing up the social surplus and using it to mold the future of the world. This is a bad idea, whether the hand feeding us belongs to the liberal Gates or to one of the more numerous right-wing billionaires.

It’s a bad idea for there to be rich people.  It’s especially bad to let them use their wealth for what they consider the general welfare.  I wish progressive teachers were teaching, whenever possible, about the harm that private wealth does, and about how to bite the rich.
–Richard Ohmann

Read Full Post »