Friday, December 31, 2010


2010 was pretty great for my family and myself !!!
Wishing you and yours a great 2011 !!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Choice, Complexity and Payment

I want to discuss this topic in further detail. (RSIS vs STEM) Here are some of the comments that were posted in support of increasing the complexity of the traditional Public School systems. (ie proliferation of Magnets) And reducing the Intradistrict transfer "privilege".

"Kids are fundamentally different in this respect. Each one is, at all times, entirely unique."

"If we want to compete with surrounding districts, and other schools, we quite simply have to open up our schools to out of district kids."

"But the object of the school system isn't to make money for it's owners, it's to provide the education we want for our children. So we have a system that serves different needs, and different things that parents want from schools."

"Sure, if that's what parents want, if that's what our society needs, if that's what gives us a competitive over our neighbors."

"People choose their house based on location, neighborhood, convenience--and they'll choose their school based on the academic equivalents--choices that feel like the right fit for their family."

Now I am stating the following comments as fact, though please feel free to argue them if you disagree:
  • It costs more to create and maintain more different curriculums and classes.
  • The marginal benefit to America decreases the further we venture from the core. (ie reading, writing, math, science, social studies, history, art, etc)

For those that want an infinite number of curriculums (ie school types) and class offerings:

  • How do you believe the necessary higher funding levels should be raised ? Remember that taking kids from another district usually does not raise the state funding level. It justs moves money from one pocket to another. (ie Hopkins to RAS, Beacon to RAS, etc) From the perspective of the citizen paying taxes, there is no additional funding provided to pay for the complexity.
  • Are you willing to cut the Health and Human Services budget to pay for this level of complexity? (ie Education and HHS make up the majority of the state budget. Assuming a fixed budget, one increasing means the other decreases.)
  • If you believe raising taxes is the answer, who specifically would you like to pay more? (considerations: who owes more than they are currently paying... how much of the bill are they already paying... does their paying more make sense... what benefits are they gaining from what they are paying...)
  • What do you think the possible consequences would be of raising the taxes on these citizens? (considerations: lose businesses or jobs in MN, more of these folks move to our state, actually lose revenue, etc)
  • What argument would you make to your fellow citizens to explain your rationale for chasing these declining marginal dollars of benefit with their money? (ie why is cutting HHS funding or raising OUR taxes a good idea in order to offer more variety? why is preventing intradistrict transfer and limiting choice to "in district" families a good idea that they should support, etc)

Note: The "Government" has no money... Other than what they collect from us citizens. So please make a good argument for investing my money wisely... (ie returns to us citizens)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Seasons Greetings

I'll be going "over many rivers and through a couple of woods" as usual. Before I do, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays. May you enjoy this special time of year as much as I do !!! Stay safe !!! John

Friday, December 17, 2010

Spanish Immersion vs STEM

Parents and Citizens of the RAS communities,

You really should make some time to read through the linked presentation and reports. The District is looking into making some pretty drastic changes that may impact you or your kids. A few of interest:

  • Changing who gets first preference, Intradistrict Transfers or Open Enrollees.
  • Considering if siblings should still automatically get into RSIS just because their big bro/sis did.
  • In general: Ear marking more "good spots" for Open Enrollees in general. (remember: they are extra money and you are money they already have...)

Of course from my far off perspective, there seems to be a huge flaw in their logic. Do they really think that RAS families will not leave the district if they are bumped from their preferred RAS school because the District puts Open Enrollees and their funding first. Now remember that Intradistrict Transfer Moms and Dads are already driving their kids to school daily. My guess is that they can just go a few more miles to the S or SW... (Which has more funding impcat? an IDT leaving or an OE joining)

Then we have the Magnet dilemma... Some days I really miss Gary and his excessive details... They have posted cost and payback numbers with minimal information regarding how many kids have to be enrolled to hit those numbers and what the likelihood of enrolling them is. (ie "If we open it, they will come") This is more of a concern with regard to the STEM school, since RSIS has to ramp up slowly from Kindergarten. And they remind us that Transportation costs will be less when they have Immersion in both Middle Schools, yet give us no idea what the marginal cost is of having Immersion in a Middle School. Or what the cost of cross district transport to 2 Magnets is ...

Luckily my family doesn't Intradistrict Transfer, attend RSIS or have any interest in a new Magnet. However if you do or if you are tax sensitive, now would be a good time to learn more and make your thoughts known. RAS Board Contact Info

14Dec10 Work Session Notes
Sun News 281 Magnets
Sun News Magnets Interest Plymouth

Thoughts or additional Info? Have a great weekend !!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Made In America: The Myth ?

I mentioned during the Korea discussion that I would address this in detail. So here we go...

First of all, I buy products from many different Manufacturers from many different countries, so I am not trying to guilt you into buying American all the time. We bought my wife's 2004 Honda Pilot when we were looking for a small 8 passenger SUV. And I bought my Yamaha FJR 1300 motorcycle because I was looking for a "Sport Touring" motorcycle. In these cases it was pretty easy to decide between foreign and domestic, since the domestics didn't offer these particular styles of vehicle at the time.

When there is a "True Domestic" offering: I look at all of the options and rate them against my requirements. If the product manufactured by the foreign company dominates, then I buy it happily. However if they are anywhere near close and even if it costs me some extra cash, I make sure I buy from the American company. And here is why...

Where it is assembled really does not matter !!! What matters is where the Corporate Headquarters is, where the Research and Development center is, where the Supporting departments are, where are the expensive components sourced from, etc. Here is why...

Where the car was assembled mattered a great deal back when Henry Ford started, because the vast majority of the car's cost was in the components and assembly labor. And these were near the assembly plant since shipping was expensive. This percentage has steadily declined as cars and other products became more complicated, as global transport costs dropped, as the laws proliferated, as competition intensified, etc. This is because the development, SG&A and other costs rose significantly as the relative manufacturing costs declined.

A couple of the links below indicate that cars take <21 person hrs to assemble, and that Toyota spent ~$1,000,000,000 on the Prius development. (Do you think Henry spent that kind of R&D on the Model T?) And where do you think the WEALTH resides? In the Assembly hours or in Toyota's Intellectual property? And who makes more? The assembly mechanics or development/corprate personnel?

Now if you decide to buy a Honda Accord, please go ahead because it is likely a great car. Just don't go around rationalizing to me that it is "Made in America", therefore you are doing a good thing. The reality is that it is assembled in America, some of its parts are built here, and most of the money and profits go to Japan to develop more wealth in the form of Intellectual property and System improvements.

Then as Toyota, Honda, Subaru, BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai, LG, Samsung, Nokia, Hankook, Bridgestone, Michelin, etc, etc, etc get our US dollars to further their WEALTH creation. Our USA companies like GM, Ford, Chrysler, GE, Whirlpool, Maytag, Motorola, Apple, Goodyear, Firestone, etc lose those dollars and their WEALTH declines until one of the foreign companies buys them and their INTELLECTUAL Property/WEALTH...

If America gets to the point that all we know how to do better than anyone is pass laws, tax, sell coffee, start lawsuits, fix teeth, etc... How much WEALTH left will the USA have to buy those cool things that others know how to produce?

So don't just automatically BUY AMERICAN !!! But please seriously review their newer offerings and give them the benefit of a doubt when things are close. Us Engineers will appreciate it, and the quality of all of our kid's futures may depend on it... Thoughts?

Zimmerman Trends in Mfg
Motor Trend Most Efficient Plants
Answer Labor to Build a Car
CNN Money Prius $1 Billion
Bloomberg BW Auto Development Time
Bloomberg BW America's Auto Industry
Reuters Foreign Ownership Jumps
US Icons with Foreign Ownership

Friday, December 10, 2010

For the Adults ! And Kids?

Enough serious discussion for now...

Every so often I receive "please forward" emails that are worth sharing with my readers. And this one is so worth it !!! Please make sure you are sitting down when you read it, I would hate to have you fall down while laughing... Please share it with your friends that can relate, and the kids. Though the kids may not understand.

And by the way, if you are an adult who does not relate or understand, you may be too old... Just call YOUR kids and they can tell you what "Sapce Invaders" was... I in fact still have the Atari and its cartridges in my Parent's basement. Maybe I will have the kids play PONG at Xmas, then they will really appreciate their Nintendo wii !!!

The Email...
This is a HOOT !! If you are 40, or older (or close), you might think this is hilarious!

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning.... Uphill... Barefoot...BOTH ways. yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that I'm over the ripe old age of forty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!

And I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don't know how good you've got it!

I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter - with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there! Stamps were 10 cents!

Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us. As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to kick our ass! Nowhere was safe!

There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes! If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself!

Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up! There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our car. We'd play our favorite tape and "eject" it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless. Cause, hey, that's how we rolled, Baby! Dig?

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that's it!

There weren't any freakin' cell phones either. If you left the house, you just didn't make a damn call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your "friends". OH MY GOD !!! Think of the horror... not being in touch with someone 24/7!!! And then there's TEXTING. Yeah, right. Please! You kids have no idea how annoying you are.

And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your parents, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, the collection agent... you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids'. Your screen guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination!!! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen... Forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!! NO REMOTES!!! Oh, no, what's the world coming to?!?!

There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-finks!

And we didn't have microwaves. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove! Imagine that!

And our parents told us to stay outside and play... all day long. Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort. And if you came back inside... you were doing chores!

And car seats - oh, please! Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on. If you were lucky, you got the "safety arm" across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling "shot gun" in the first place!

See! That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled rotten! You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1970 or any time before!

Regards, The Over 40 Crowd

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Public School Monopolies and Fairness

I got distracted and didn't reply before this post closed for comment. The upside of being a blogger is that the comments never real close. We just start them up again with a slightly different spin.

Besides, maybe this will entice Hiram/Jon to share his wisdom on G2A. It has been awhile...

Speed Gibson A Question of Fairness: Part 2

First: "The incentive of knowing that they have done a good job serving our kids, and the community as a whole, the same incentive incidentally that I am sure motivates those who teach and administer private schools. Nobody is making the big bucks from operating schools, either public or private."

The challenge I have with Public School self motivation is that they seem to have good intentions and no self control. It is kind of like sending my daughter to the store with a blank check to buy Christmas presents for her friends. She will rightly strive to make as many of her "friends" happy by buying many expensive presents. And it is likely that the quality of the gifts may suffer as she tries to satisfy so many friends with so many presents. She has good intentions, however there is no incentive for her to prioritize, limit, really think, etc.

Using RAS as an example, they have ~2,000 employees, ~11,000 students and ~18,000 parents who all "know" exactly what a GOOD School District should provide. Many of these folks are strongly motivated to ensure "their" viewpoint is supported and funded. Many of these solutions are in conflict, are niche offerings, are expensive, etc. Yet it is so hard to prioritize and say NO... I mean we may lose some students, hurt someones feelings, fail to offer that unique experience, lose some votes, etc.

It is much easier to agree and empathize with everyone while insisting that the schools need more money. The Fed, State, Local Taxpayers, Charter Schools, etc can then be painted as the villains. For instance:
  • We would love to give you a bigger raise, but those cheating Charters stole our students.
  • We would love to offer that program, but the irresponsible Feds are shorting us.
  • We would love to send you to training, but the State mandates these other expensive services.
  • We would love to fix up your school, but the local citizens will not support the levy.
It would be much harder to clearly define content, expectations, limits, priorities, etc and then take personal responsibility for saying no. Being the Manager is a major bummer at times, and often folks don't like your decisions.

I believe that budget constraints and Charter competition do a wonderful job of forcing reluctant folks to prioritize. The lack of funding makes folks overcome their discomfort/inertia and forces them to focus, rank, prioritize, improve quality/productivity and cut non-core or frivolous offerings. The Charters on the other hand make folks really question if they are offering the right things and satisfying their customers. I mean the Charters get students even though their offerings are very limited by comparison.

Second: "Not the kind of behavior associated with competitors, I would note. In any event, those are valuable assets I paid for with my taxpayer dollars, and I don't think they should be just given away. The fact is these schools were closed because, among some other pretty good reasons, the number of students in the district meant that keeping them open would not be efficient. Reopening the schools would simply undo a painful and difficult but very sound financial and planning decision."

The other perspective is that these schools may have been closed because the first Public School did a poor job of satisfying the kids and parents in the community, therefore they pursued other options. And since us citizens have already paid for the building, wouldn't it be wise to offer it to another Public School (ie Charter) that promises to do better for the community. If we don't, aren't we rewarding mediocrity and promoting waste? Yeah go ahead and build those schools, and if you can't keep them full, just take whatever money you can salvage and use it for something else... Sounds fine... We got plenty...

Third: "Near enough for me. To the extent these issues keep me up nights as they occasionally have, I don't worry at all about private schools. They are niche performers who serve small markets which public schools do not now and never will serve. What does worry me is losing kids to neighboring districts which, under the current method of school financing, would be an unmitigated disaster for my local school district. Speed's long ago posting that started off this thread, alluded to Spanish Immersion. Do we have Spanish immersion in order to increase the quantum of fairness in the district? Or because it's cheap? Or because it allows us to compete more effectively in keeping kids in the school district, and quite possibly at some point attracting kids from other school districts?" ""The debate seems to resolve around the fact that each local public school district is a "regional monopoly" on free education." "That isn't true really. With open enrollment, public school districts do not have regional monopolies on public education. Kids can and do enroll in schools not located within their school districts. For schools, it's a very competitive process."

I will repeat that "Open Enrollment" really isn't sincere competition in my opinion, and Lord knows it is not fair. The reality is that it is an escape clause. By this I mean that:
  • Only people that can afford to transport their kids can use it. For better or worse, the remainder remain trapped. (ie usually those that need the best school/teacher)
  • Both Districts are managed in part by Education Minnesota. (limits creativity, variation, staff pruning and improvement)
Now drop a good Charter in your local community that is managed and staffed differently, and accessible to all. Then we have true competition. GM, Ford and Chrysler thought they had competition, yet things really did not improve until Datsun, Toyota and Honda showed up to truly threaten them. That's when they seriously started improving their product, processes, quality, etc. The traditional Public Schools need this kind of motivation or the USA academic capabilities will continue to slide relative to the other developed countries. And that will be really BAD for all of us !!!


Just curious since he speaks in past tense... Where is this nearly monopolistic company now? "Everyone has their own viewpoint, and schizoid personality that I am, I often have several. One of them is from the experience of working for many years for a company, that was one of the most successful monopolies in American business history. It was a company that built enormous wealth for it's shareholders, provided well paid and secure jobs for it's employers, while serving it's customers with outstanding and innovative products that set the standard for the market place." Still thriving, or did it get dismantled after becoming inflexible, arrogant and top heavy? As many of these companies become.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Korean Challenges and USA Wealth

As I listen to all the news regarding North Korea, South Korea and the USA, I sit here and wonder if any of Americans that got us into that War so many years ago had any idea how long we would be engaged there. (~60 yrs and counting...) Then I wonder which country is costing us more?

I mean we keep ~29,000 USA military personnel in South Korea. While South Korean companies continue to develop and build products that are imported into the USA. (fewer American jobs?) Some include these common names: Samsung, Hyundai, Kia, LG, Hankook, Daewoo, etc. So though I am against trade barriers, I find this use of soldiers and dollars puzzling at best and disturbing at worst. (ie pay to protect our competitors?)

Then we have North Korea... We continue to provide them with food so that their disturbed leadership can afford to continue developing weapons and paying an army. Wouldn't there be a greater chance of the citizens throwing out their leaders if they were hungry and angry?

In summary, it looks like USA tax dollars are being spent to keep a country secure, so that it's businesses can continue to compete against American businesses and take American jobs. I realize it is not that simple, yet it may be worth some discussion. Especially after LG and Samsung started going after the American home appliance market. (say good bye to Whirlpool, Maytag, etc?) Thoughts?

USA Assistance to North Korea
USA Forces in South Korea
North Korea meets with USA (food shortages)
Multinational Korean Corporations

Here are some writings regarding manufacturing and trade barriers. Remember that America's wealth only grows when something is created here that someone else in the world values and is willing to pay for. Most of the transactions in the USA do not increase the wealth of our country. Inventions, Unique Knowledge, Production and Agriculture are the key wealth builders. Unfortunately the first 3 seem to be rapidly declining as the world catches up. This can not bode well for our standard of living in the long term.

Now if you work in a service industry and think this does not apply to you. Who do you think will be able to pay for your service as the wealth shrinks? It is like being in a balloon that is losing helium very slowly, everyone starts to drop... So remember to buy American when they offer a comparable product. Even if it costs a bit more. (your income and your children's future may depend on it)

Star Tribune Protectionist Instincts on Rise
Frederick M Zimmerman Writings