Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category
A loyal reader of this blog has stepped forward with firsthand information on President Potter’s agreement with the J.A. Wedum Foundation. Here is this person’s account:
A Modest Proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)
by Silence Dogood
Coborn’s Plaza apartments have been a well-kept secret since they opened in the fall of 2010. Even getting accurate occupancy numbers during the first two years was difficult and only given in whispers with those hearing the secrets being sworn to secrecy. Some of that secrecy ended November 13, 2012 when Len Sippel, Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration, released the list of approved funding for permanent investments that included $2,250,000 for the “Coborn’s Welcome Center.”
This eye-popping number actually covers the deficit for Coborn’s Plaza for the last two years so the loss only averages $1,125,000 per year. The amount of the loss for the first year for Coborn’s Plaza has never been shared with the Faculty Association or made public. As a result, one is left to imagine that it is even larger than the annual loss for the last two years. What has apparently been a tremendous deal for the Coborn’s Corporation and the J. A. Wedum Foundation has, without a doubt, been and will continue to be a financial boondoggle for SCSU.
The initial year (2010-2011) of the 20-year Coborn’s Plaza lease cost SCSU $3,408,360, which divided by the number of rooms (453) means that the annual rent per room (including parking) is $7,524. Because of the escalator clause in the contract, the rent for fall semester 2013 (including parking) works out to $7,828 (or $652 per month for 12 months a year). Rents for two semesters for the least expensive 4 bedroom unit is $7,274 and $7,874 for the most expensive studio apartment. So if there is a mixture of a lot more of the more expensive studio apartments and less of the 4 Bedroom Units and they are all occupied, SCSU will about break even.
Some lawyers who work in real estate law have informed me that no one would ever sign a contract guaranteeing 100% occupancy; this is simply “insane” (their word not mine). In the apartment rental business an occupancy somewhere about 91% is the level that is generally accepted as being ‘full’ since there are always rooms that need paint, carpet that needs replacing, roofs that are leaking, as well as a whole host of other reasons that prevent 100% occupancy [NOTE: SCSU's dormitory occupancy averages 95%, which is close to the national median.]. So unless SCSU charges more than the actual cost of the room, for each empty room the university is on the hook for the rent and, as a result, will always lose money.
This spring there are 317 of 453 rooms occupied for an occupancy rate of 70.0%. The administration predicts that next fall 334 rooms will be occupied, increasing the occupancy percentage to 73.7%. At this rate of growth, Coborn’s Plaza will be filled to capacity in 7 years. However, when the increase of 17 students for next year is broken down, 10 of the 17 is due to an expected expansion of the inebriate housing section. This is a unique housing opportunity for students with prior abuse problems that allow them to return to college. The question is, can the expansion of the inebriate housing continue into the future because if the occupancy increases by only seven students per year, it will take 17 years to get to 100% occupancy (just about the time the twenty-year lease ends).
At the April 30, 2013 meeting of the Budget Advisory Group, Patrick Jacobson-Schulte, Associate Vice President for Financial Management and Budget, informed the committee that even under the best scenario of 100% occupancy, Coborn’s Plaza would lose $50,000 annually (the high range was to lose over $100,000 annually). This is disturbing because the chance of Coborn’s Plaza having 100% occupancy is probably in the same range of winning the Powerball lottery (in case you didn’t know, the current odds of winning are 1 out 175,223,510).
MnSCU Board Policy 7.3.5 Revenue Fund Management states that Revenue Fund Facilities (i.e., dormitories) are required to be self-sustaining, which means that they can’t lose money. So in order for the university not to lose money on Coborn’s Plaza, the rents would have to increase significantly since the occupancy rate is only 73.7%. In order to just break even, at the current rate of occupancy, the rent needs to increase by 35.7% to $885 per month (for 12 months a year). The rent is significantly larger if you only want to stay for the two academic semesters.
The ‘good news,’ however, is that since Coborn’s Plaza is not considered a ‘Revenue Fund Facility’ the university rather than the students living in the dorms are on the hook for the extra cash needed to pay the lease. This is probably a very good thing because if the students in the dorms on campus were paying higher rents to fund the people staying in Coborn’s Plaza as well as for the empty rooms in Coborn’s Plaza, there just might be a rebellion on campus.
Originally, Coborn’s Plaza was intended only for upper-level undergraduate students. However, this restriction was quickly eliminated by the need to put bodies into the rooms and first-year students are housed there if they are willing to part with the necessary cash. It is even rumored that St. Cloud Technical and Community College students are being housed there but since it is not easy to get information from the administration, I had difficulty getting confirmation.
St. Cloud State is pretty well known as a kind of ‘blue collar’ university; there are more Hyundai’s and Hondas in the student parking lots than BMWs and Acura’s. So it is logical to ask who made the decision that the university needed luxury off-campus housing where each room has an individual bathroom?
It always seems that administrators are ready to appear at groundbreaking ceremonies and ribbon cutting ceremonies where they can slap each other on the back and congratulate themselves. ,However, has anyone stood up and taken responsibility for what appears to be a horrible financial decision? President Potter’s signature is on the contact.
The original contract called for a 3% per year increase in the lease payments for years 3 through 20. Personally, I wish some of my current investments would do so well. Is there any chance I can still get in on the action? The original contract was apparently ‘renegotiated’ reducing the annual increase to only 2%. Additionally, it looks like the university can get out of the contract after ten years—IF it makes a decision to do so before the end of year five of the lease.
At first glance, the revision of the contract seems like a victory for the University. However, until I can review the entire contract, I am reserving final judgment. But it must be understood that even under the new lease agreement, as it was previously mentioned, with even 100% occupancy, the annual loss will be at least $50,000 and possibly upwards of $100,000. Right now at 73.7% occupancy the university is losing over $1,100,000 per year!
At Meet and Confer on March 28, 2013 between the Administration and Faculty Association, President Potter said that “to admit a mistake would make his leadership team look weak.” He was referring to the closure of SCSU’s accredited Aviation Program and not Coborn’s Plaza. Most of us expect that our leaders continuously rethink their decisions in light of new information and, when warranted make a correction—even if it means admitting a mistake. I kind of like the idea of a leader who admits that they just might be wrong every now and then. To me, it doesn’t make them look weak; it makes them look like a true leader.
So for the ‘Modest Proposal,’ let’s sign an agreement with CentraCare and convert Coborn’s Plaza from dormitory apartments into a secure chemical treatment facility. With Lindsay Lohan as well as other Hollywood personalities available for treatment every few months, we could turn Coborn’s Plaza into a profit center and President Potter could ‘declare victory.’ Perhaps this ‘Modest Proposal’ is too reasonable to be rejected outright so my apologies to Jonathan Swift.
However, the original idea behind Coborn’s Plaza has certainly not been successful and it looks as if the administration has even admitted that it will never be financially successful. Unless, of course, you consider that with even 100% occupancy losing a minimum of $50,000-$100,000 per year is successful. All in all, with an estimated loss over $3,000,000 in the first three years of operation, Coborn’s Plaza could cost SCSU well over $20,000,000 over the twenty-year lease. Many people have lost their jobs over less.
First, what is a university doing getting into the rental property business? Next, it’s astonishing to hear of a university president signing a contract that essentially guarantees a private rental property company a profit. Third, it isn’t unreasonable to question whether these annual losses have necessitated the closing of academic programs. Losing $1,125,000 a year for 3 years doesn’t come out of SCSU’s petty cash fund.
This is only the first shoe to drop at SCSU. It’s a pretty big shoe to drop but it isn’t the only big shoe that’ll drop in the coming days.
Earlier this week, I wrote about how President Potter had gotten a bit unhinged. That time, it was his attempting to intimidate students. This afternoon, the minutes to the last Meet & Confer meeting were posted. This time, President Potter lost his temper with members of the faculty:
FA: It’s probably pointless for us to continue this but I don’t think that the enrollment decline was a monotonic decline. I don’t think that it would continue to decline to zero, that’s the implication I am saying that it was declining for five years. I think in fact they had a step function reduction in enrollment that had been stabilized.
Admin: I don’t believe that the assertion that the assumption was that it would decline to zero makes any sense and it certainly not what I would have made. I think that’s a straw horse that’s clearly provocative and it’s a stupid position to take and I won’t take that position. It was declining at a time when lots of other programs were growing; you cannot claim that the recession and 911 were the sole causes for that decline. Other programs grew. International programs grew. They could say people were scared to fly and that’s why they didn’t enroll in the program; I don’t believe that’s true. A decision was made, it was made through an inclusive, deliberate processes and I am going to stand on those. Not because I am the President and I made the decision, I will not overturn a process that was legitimate, well considered and I think in the end in the best interest of the University.
It’s pretty insulting for a university president to say that the faculty’s arguments are “stupid.” The faculty in that room each have PhDs. It’s one thing to say that you disagree with their argument. That’s how a statesman would’ve handled the situation. Instead, President Potter chose to insult members of his faculty. Rather than showing calm leadership, President Potter resorted to hurling insults.
That isn’t a portrait in statesmanship or leadership. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only time President Potter lost his temper at the March Meet & Confer meeting:
We cut the budget $20 million; we had to do that, if it were not that program that we closed it would be another several programs that we closed. The position has not changed and Mr. Johnson raised the question to the governor Monday night in a public forum; the governor said it’s a MnSCU decision I will not intervene. Professor Johnson takes the question regularly to the legislature, he has gone from people to General Larry Shellito to David Olson the chair of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, he’s been told no by every office to which he as gone. David Olson from the MN Chamber said he would not take action on just the most recent request. The case is put forward again and again. I want to be very careful and respectful of your good faith because I believe you are doing what you are required to do representing issues brought to you by the faculty. But I am deeply disturbed that students are employed in this ongoing campaign and given misinformation and put up before the public to represent a position they don’t understand. The program was referred to by Dr. Johnson as a viable program last Monday night. A program with declining enrollments that is losing $600,000 a year is not viable.
Focus on this statement:
I am deeply disturbed that students are employed in this ongoing campaign and given misinformation and put up before the public to represent a position they don’t understand.
The inference is clear. President Potter thinks Professor Johnson is willfully feeding his students misinformation, then telling them to use public forums to advance Professor Johnson’s agenda. What’s President Potter’s proof that substantiates his accusation?
Having attended quite a few public forums myself, I’ve met many of these students. They’re self-informed. They think for themselves. With them, the closing of the program is personal. They aren’t mind-numbed robots doing what they’ve been told to do by Professor Johnson.
They’re also the people that President Potter has repeatedly denigrated.
UPDATE: I just got an email from a faithful reader of this blog. This person participated in the meeting. According to this person, the minutes are a paraphrase. According to this person, President Potter said that Professor Johnson “colluded with” his students and given misinformation.
Saying that a professor had colluded with people is a provocative term for a university president to use, especially when that president doesn’t have proof backing up that allegation.
When President Potter met with SCSU Aviation students, he said “I just have this to say about the aviation program being closed, the decision has been made, the chancellor signed off on that decision…” He’s absolutely right. The decision was made. Chancellor Steve Rosenstone signed off on the decision. It’s also true that the things he said are totally irrelevant.
In his installation speech, Chancellor Rosenstone made this statement:
For more than 150 years, our colleges and universities have prepared Minnesota’s workforce. We have supplied skilled workers and professionals to lead new and growing companies, and we have educated the Minnesotans who knit together the fabric of our communities, from teachers and social workers to police officers and nurses.
If it’s determined that it’s important for MnSCU to continue supplying “skilled workers and professionals to lead new and growing companies”, then it’s time to put action to those words. The famous economist John Maynard Keynes was once questioned why he had changed his mind. Here’s Keynes’ reply:
“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
When President Potter announced the closing of SCSU’s Aviation program, it’s possible he didn’t know about the looming pilot shortage. It’s possible that he ignored the information. It’s possible that President Potter doesn’t think supplying “skilled workers” to “growing companies” is an important priority.
There are some indisputable things that must be considered:
- There’s a pilot shortage that’s waiting for a solution.
- That shortage threatens grounding planes, giving business travellers fewer options when they have to travel.
- St. Cloud State has the opportunity to help be part of the solution to that problem.
- There’s a shortage of airplane maintenance workers.
- St. Cloud Technical and Community College has the opportunity to be part of the solution to that problem.
- The City of St. Cloud wants to bring a regional air carrier to the St. Cloud Regional Airport.
- Having St. Cloud State be the major supplier of pilots to the pilot pipeline might be the final piece of the puzzle to bringing regional air service to St. Cloud.
Considering these things, why wouldn’t St. Cloud State keep the program open? A visionary leader would jump at the opportunity to be a solution provider, especially if it’s a solution that would positively and powerfully impact the city he lives in.
Earlier in this post, I referenced John Maynard Keynes’ quote. I did that to highlight the fact that it’s ok to change directions if it’s for the right reasons. I’d argue that it isn’t just ok to change your mind for the right principles. I’d argue that it’s imperative.
If President Potter wants to be part of these solutions, he must change his mind. If he rejects that opportunity, then he’ll be credited with making a bad decision on an important issue.
After announcing that SCSU was shutting the Aviation program, 5 students met with President Potter to find out why he made that decision. Tonight, Logan Vold, one of the students in the meeting, sent me the email he sent to the student faculty. Here’s the text of that email:
Hi Redacted Name,
My name is Logan Vold and I’m a senior aviation student at SCSU. I wanted to mention to you that I was one of 5 students/graduates who met with President Potter personally regarding the aviation program closure.
5 students, including myself, took a meeting with President Potter back in August (second week of school). I wanted to let you know how that meeting went.
I never felt so embarrassed knowing we have a university president who acts like this. As soon as we sat down in the conference room (his office) we were told that and I quote, “I just have this to say about the aviation program being closed, the decision has been made, the chancellor signed off on that decision, and Dr. Johnson has been reluctant to accept that decision and I have held back from filing insubordination charges, because I find his actions to be insubordinate…”
My question to you, Samantha, is what faculty member, especially a president of a university, will mention faculty members names to students in this context? I find this to be a violation of university code of conduct/ethics, especially privacy issues.
Furthermore, later, as the meeting progressed, President Potter yelled at myself, as well as another student. He raised his voice at me and mentioned, “do not take that tone with me…” while he leaned over the table with both hands on the table. At this point, I literally shut down as the other 4 individuals resumed the meeting. He also yelled at another student with the same tone and words.
I don’t know what can be done, but my point is that I find it grossly violating university code of conduct policies of what was between us and President Potter. The reason I’m emailing you so late is because we came together to collect a list of what was said at the meeting that we all can stand by and life got busy.
After witnessing President Potter’s actions at this meeting and seeing what the media is portraying about the closing of the aviation program, I find it all political and I encourage you to read the following articles that I’m including the links to.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me.
Simply put, President Potter’s actions were totally undignified and unhinged, especially in the context of him talking with students about their professor.
Another thing that’s highly questionable is President Potter’s talking personnel issues in public. When he terminated Mahmoud Saffari, people questioned him about why Saffari was terminated:
According to an earlier statement from one of the protesters, Saffari was led by security off the campus, relieved of his keys, and was not allowed access to his office or staff. In response, a speaker stated that the president will not release any information because of confidentiality agreements.
President Potter cited the need for confidentiality on personnel matters when it suited him but didn’t think confidentiality on personnel matters was important when lashing out at a professor who questioned President Potter’s decisions.
This email is proof that President Potter didn’t think twice about undercutting a professor in front of the professor’s students.
At the Fall Convocation in 2012, President Potter urged those gathered for a new era of civility:
With much work behind us and an increased capacity to deal with the many challenges that we face we now focus on the priorities for the coming year. They include three defined by Chancellor Rosenstone:
•Offering our students an extraordinary education
•Being the partner of choice for Minnesota’s employers
•Maintaining access, affordability and opportunity for all students
To these three priorities we add a fourth that is perhaps peculiar to St. Cloud State University…the development of a culture that is characterized by the ability to deal with difficult issues with respect in an atmosphere of civility.
Apparently, dealing “with difficult issues with respect in an atmosphere of civility” is important to President Potter on a selective basis. It’s obvious it isn’t consistently a priority with President Potter. Put differently, President Potter believes in a policy of civility from thee but not from me.
University presidents’ behavior should be held to the highest standards. President Potter’s behavior in this matter doesn’t come close to meeting that standard. What’s most demoralizing is that this isn’t the only time when President Potter’s behavior has been this unhinged.
It anything comes through in this statement, it’s the DFL’s stated intention to spend the taxpayers’ money recklessly. Here’s an example:
Aiming for a course correction after a decade of disinvestment, the House and Senate are likely to take up historic education bills next week at the State Capitol. Some the features of those bills include:
- Investing in what works – early learning: New investments to fund early education and all-day kindergarten, helping Minnesota students get on the right track early.
- Strategic funding for K-12 schools: Increasing per pupil funding for Minnesota schools throughout the state.
- Reducing college tuition and debt: Making the first investment in higher education in a decade to ease the burden of skyrocketing tuition and student debt.
The consensus I found is that: 1) socioeconomic conditions are the single largest determinant of success in school and life, 2) benefits of intervention accrue primarily to children in dire socioeconomic circumstances, and 3) benefits to the general population are minimal, fading by third grade, presumably because they are getting what they need in their home environments.
Dr. Kern later noted:
I reviewed Dr. Rolnick’s calculations and indeed, the benefits for 123 pre-school children studied in Ypsilanti Michigan, were giant—50% reduced incarceration rates. However, in their policy discussions, Rolnick and Grunewald downplay the nominal 50% incarceration rate in this community. Yes, the return on investment supporting now famous claims of 17-dollar ROI…are based almost entirely on money saved by reducing incarceration rates from 50% to 25%.
In spite of the highly unusual nature of the circumstances surrounding these children’s lives, proponents of these programs regularly extrapolate a 17 to 1 ROI to every dollar spent on virtually any early childhood program. It is extremely cynical or delusional that Rolnick and Grunewald fail to emphasize the critical caveats to these estimates based on just 123 subjects from one pre-school in desperate need of help.
In other words, all-day Pre-K is just spin to spend tons of money on the Education Minnesota wish list. It doesn’t help kids. It helps the unions while raiding taxpayers’ wallets.
It’s insulting to hear Thissen talk about “reducing college tuition and debt” without hearing Thissen talk about reducing the cost of higher ed. Furthermore, why isn’t Thissen talking about how MnSCU is helping SCSU administrators cover up the deleting of hundreds of grades from students’ transcripts?
“The other piece of it is that it’s difficult to do some things like helping with student success, some things like doing accurate assessment if people disappear from our records and we don’t have that information in our records anymore or if we learn for example that, and this is kind of an odd example I suppose, you don’t know that a student has taken a course three times because there is no record of it and the student is in there for the fourth time and you’re trying to figure out a way to help that student be successful and yet you’re blindsided by this lack of information.
Having a student’s transcript omit the fact that he/she has taken and failed a class 3 times isn’t a minor clerical mistake. It’s the Potter administration’s deletion of transcript information. Might some of these deleted grades be in classes that the student got federal or state grants?
Is that the type of disgusting behavior taxpayers should be subsidizing? I think not.
Why aren’t Speaker Thissen, Sen. Bakk, Sen. Bonoff and Rep. Pelowski talking about the U of M spending money on an event aimed at helping undergraduate women achieve more and better orgasms? Here’s what the event description includes:
The university’s official online description of the event entitled, ‘The Female Orgasm,’ describes it as open to both male and female students. ‘Orgasm aficionados and beginners of all genders are welcome to come learn about everything from multiple orgasms to that mysterious G-spot,’ reads the description posted on the school’s official events calendar. ‘Whether you want to learn how to have your first orgasm, how to have better ones, or how to help you girlfriend, Kate and Marshall cover it all…’ it adds. ‘Are you coming?’ it asks.
I don’t know how this event is paid for. If it’s being paid for with the taxpayers’ money or through student fees, then it’s wrong. If people want to pay for something like this with their money, that’s their business. If they want to pay for it with the taxpayers’ money, that isn’t acceptable.
Speaker Thissen talks about historic investments in education. What he didn’t talk about is the tons of money that’s recklessly misspent. It’s noteworthy that Speaker Thissen won’t talk about the SCSU transcript scandal, either. Apparently, it’s ok with Thissen if administrators are changing student transcripts without the professors’ signing off on the changes.
Tags: Paul Thissen, Education, Higher Education, University of Minnesota, MnSCU, Student Transcripts, Earl Potter, SCSU, Corruption, Early Childhood Education, Spending Increases, Gene Pelowski, Tom Bakk, Terry Bonoff, DFL
I know I’m late to this story but it’s time to talk about the watershed moment that happened this week on Bill Maher’s show. Here’s a partial transcript of Maher’s exchange with Brian Levy, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino:
BILL MAHER, HOST: So you’re obviously the perfect person to have here today. You study this all the time, the mind of crazy people who do horrible things. I’m always interested to know how people like the people we caught today up in Boston can have two minds going at the same time.
I mean, if you read what the older brother wrote on his, on the internet, he said his world view [is] Islam; personal priorities: career and money. And we see this a lot. I mean, the 9/11 hijackers went to strip clubs the night before they got on the plane.
BRIAN LEVIN: But could I just interject? Look, it’s not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths, Jewish, Christian who say they’re out for God and end up doing not so nice things.
MAHER: You know what? Yeah, yeah. You know what? That’s liberal bullshit right there. I mean, yes, all faiths –
LEVIN: Are there no Christian hypocrites?
MAHER: No, there are. They’re just –
LEVIN: You make a career on that.
MAHER: They’re not as dangerous. I mean, there’s only one faith, for example, that kills you or wants to kill you if you draw a bad cartoon of the prophet. There’s only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith. An ex-Muslim is a very dangerous thing. Talk to Salman Rushdie after the show about Christian versus Islam. So, you know, I’m just saying, let’s keep it real. (Real Time, April 19, 2013)
I’ve read the Bible through from cover-to-cover 7 times in my life. (That doesn’t make me an expert but I certainly know what isn’t in it.)
Nowhere in the Bible does it say “You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, Muslim, there is a Jew (hiding himself behind me); kill him.”
Further, I haven’t read any recent articles of Christians killing movie producers for making a movie that denigrates Christ. It took me a matter of seconds to find an articles about how a filmmaker was assassinated by Muslim terrorists for creating a provocative film about Allah.
When Levin tried talking about Christians throughout history, Maher said that we aren’t living throughout history. “We’re living in 2013.”
This doesn’t mean I think Maher is changing into a conservative. I expect him to continue to criticize conservatives and curse Christians. My point is simply that, this time, Maher stood for the truth.
While they campaigned last year, DFL legislators and candidates talked endlessly about their highest priority being creating jobs. This session, they’ve talked endlessly about creating jobs…while debating whether to pass legislation that made same sex marriage legal in Minnesota. Now there’s talk that giving gay couples the right to marry would add tens of millions of dollars to Minnesota’s economy:
Legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota would add $42 million to the state’s economy and $3 million in tax revenue in the first three years, according to an analysis from UCLA law school.
The Williams Institute at UCLA conducts research on “sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy,” according to its website. Last month, the institute estimated same-sex marriage in Illinois would generate more than $100 million in additional spending and $8.5 million in tax revenue in that state.
In Minnesota, analysts figured, about 5,000 gay couples would choose to marry in the three years following legalization of same-sex marriage. A bill to make gay marriage legal is expected to be come to a vote later this session in both the state House and Senate.
Roughly $28 million would be spent on those weddings, the analysts figured, plus about $14 million in tourism-related spending by out-of-town guests. That activity would yield roughly $3 million in tax revenue for state and local governments, the report said.
Saying that this ‘study’ is suspect is understatement. The UCLA law school is famous for their radicalism. That’s why people don’t take their studies seriously.
This UCLA ‘study’ is more of a lifeline to legislators in need of political cover than it is a serious, peer-reviewed report that passes the laugh test.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be surprising if the DFL attempted to use the UCLA study to justify their pursuing their radical, special interest-driven agenda. They need their special interests engaged to win elections. If they have to say foolish things to keep their special interest contributors contributing, then that’s what they’ll do.
A vote on this ‘DFL jobs bill’ is expected before the end of this session. It’s great to see that the DFL is keeping its promise to put creating jobs at the top of its agenda.
When the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the school voucher program signed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels was constitutional, it marked another victory in the school choice movement. The implications of their ruling is sure to be felt for generations:
A limited choice program is not the same thing as a healthy, responsive educational market. “A rule-laden, risk-averse sector,” argues Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, “dominated by entrenched bureaucracies, industrial-style collective-bargaining agreements and hoary colleges of education will not casually remake itself just because students have the right to switch schools.”
But even restricted choice programs have shown promising results, not revolutionary, but promising. Last year, a group of nine educational researchers summarized the evidence: “Among voucher programs, random-assignment studies generally find modest improvements in reading or math scores, or both. Achievement gains are typically small in each year, but cumulative over time. Graduation rates have been studied less often, but the available evidence indicates a substantial positive impact. … Other research questions regarding voucher program participants have included student safety, parent satisfaction, racial integration, services for students with disabilities, and outcomes related to civic participation and values. Results from these studies are consistently positive.”
Unions are fighting a losing fight. It isn’t a matter of whether they’ll lose this fight over accountability and competition. It’s just a matter of when they’ll lose the final battle in this fight. The results aren’t stunning if viewed from a single snapshot in history. However, they’re quite dramatic if viewed through a series of snapshots over a period of 5 years.
The beauty of the voucher movement going into the future is that it doesn’t require the elimination of public education. For instance, suburban, exurban and rural schools often perform well. Where the performance is solid, there’s no need to scrap what’s working.
This paragraph explains why this fight will eventually be won by parents and studentss, not the unions, politicians and bureaucrats:
Yet it is probably not the moral arguments that will prevail. The opponents of educational choice are attempting to defend the monopoly of the neighborhood school in a nation where most monopolies and oligopolies (see the phone company, the post office or newspapers) have come under pressure. Parents, including suburban parents, increasingly expect educational options such as charters, home schooling, magnet programs and career academies. Customized, online learning will accelerate the trend.
It’s a matter of when, not if. Competition will improve product quality while driving down costs. That’s what happens whenever competition is the rule, not the exception. Politically speaking, there’s great incentive for Republicans to jump onto this movement. It’s a way for them to prove to minority communities that they want to help these communities achieve American prosperity.
Once the gates to prosperity open to these communities, the paradigm shifts. That’s when a lasting victory will have happened.
Tags: School Choice, Mitch Daniels, Indiana Supreme Court, SCOTUS, Bobby Jindal, Competition, Accountability, Magnet Schools, Charter Schools, Free Markets, Milton Friedman, Conservatism, Unions, Bureaucrats, Democrats
If there was ever doubt that universities were homes for extremist radicalism, this article should eliminate those doubts:
Bill Ayers has been named a “visiting scholar” at the Minnesota State University Moorhead, the school announced late last month.
The Weather Underground co-founder will be the 2013 College of Education and Human Services Visiting Scholar. He gave a talk at the university last month titled “Teaching from the Heart: Education for Enlightenment and Freedom.”
Ayers is an admitted terrorist:
In the late Sixties, Ayers became a leader of the Weather Underground (WU), a splinter faction of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Characterizing WU as “an American Red Army,” Ayers summed up the organization’s ideology as follows: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, Kill your parents.”
There’s nothing profound or useful for a university to appoint a former domestic terrorist as a visiting scholar. Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising. Universities shouldn’t promote domestic terrorists. It’s one thing to bring in people with contrarian perspectives. It’s quite another for them to bring in people with a history of violence:
All told, Ayers and the Weather Underground were responsible for 30 bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S. “I don’t regret setting bombs,” said Ayers in 2001, “I feel we didn’t do enough.” Contemplating whether or not he might again use bombs against the U.S. sometime in the future, he wrote: “I can’t imagine entirely dismissing the possibility.”
Violent psychopaths shouldn’t be brought onto campuses. They should be ridiculed from the podiums. Instead, Moorhead University named him a visiting scholar.
The minutes for the November 1 Meet and Confer meeting point to the growing tension between the Potter administration and the SCSU Faculty Association. Here’s the testiest confrontation from the meeting:
Admin: The record of taking the class is dropped from the transcript. It is not a letter grade but an action.
FA: One thing not here is retrospective decisions being made over several years. We understand the requests come in from people who want records changed from over a decade ago.
Admin: The time of the request is the time the decision would be made. You can decipher what semester it impacted by the refund. I’m told that doesn’t happen but only in the current year. This is organized by the fiscal year of request.
FA: Refunds that were processed in year 2012, that would be for courses taken in 2012 because refunds are not issued. But this is not information from a drop.
Admin: The incident is recorded when the student makes the request.
FA: You haven’t answered my question. This is only about refunds.
Admin: That is correct.
FA: Refunds are only issued in the year they are taken. For fiscal 12 409 would have been courses in 2012. It doesn’t tell us about drops or withdrawals.
Admin: That’s correct.
FA: This chart doesn’t tell us anything.
Admin: I don’t think SCSU is unique to this data problem of finding an easy way to record and sustain the decision. When the decision is made a communication would be made to the student. In short of rummaging in every student file the information is difficult to obtain. Going forward we will have a better way.
FA: We asked for this two years ago. This is a problem of integrity. There are legitimate reasons for dropping courses, but what about five years ago? Someone fails a class and why would they come back five years later to change the grade?
Admin: I’m not disagreeing. Let me work with Phil.
FA: Mitch gave us that report that showed that data.
Admin: The magnitude of the analysis was smaller than what is going on today. It was easier for Mitch to go and manage than it is today. There were 409 refunds issued in 12 months and that doesn’t count all the transcript changes and it doesn’t include all the times the transcript was asked to be change. We need a system. We cannot today get summary data.
The quote that hits hardest is when the FA says “This is a problem of integrity. There are legitimate reasons for dropping courses but what about five years ago? Someone fails a class and why would they come back five years later to change the grade?”
Challenging the administration’s integrity isn’t a tiny issue. It’s troubling that the SCSU administration didn’t dispute the fact that students from “five years ago” got their failing grades deleted. What’s worst is that the administration is struggling to find a solution to this problem:
FA: I think we should be thinking proactively with data cubes…?
Admin: No. I’ve been working for two days and Image Now is fatally flawed.
FA: I don’t disbelieve you. But we can set up spreadsheets, this shouldn’t be rocket science. I understand the move but we need to start putting this into some form that can be tracked and pulled. These numbers are astonishing. Can you speak about the reasons why people are given refunds?
If the University’s software isn’t effectively tracking this information, why didn’t they set up a system utilizing spreadsheets or other types of software? Might it be that the administration isn’t interested in tracking this information? It certainly can’t be ruled out based on the Faculty Association’s assertion that it’s “a problem of integrity.”
This exchange won’t flatter the administration, either:
FA: Giving the way we are watching numbers, the idea that we don’t have command of this data is scary.
FA: We asked for a representative sample so we could look at some of these. I sent that to both of you. I hear that people are counseling faculty for people who can do this with low grade point averages so that they can go and do this.
Admin: You would have to give me specific examples.
TRANSLATION: FA to the administration: It’s frightening that you don’t have a system for tracking transcripts. Administration: You’re right. FA to the administration: We asked you for information about this. Administration: We’ll get you the information. Trust us.
Given this administration’s mishandling of the students’ transcripts, the FA shouldn’t trust this administration’s tracking of the students’ transcripts.