Monday, January 26, 2015

SS Disability - The Money Pit

Here is an interesting Op Ed by a Liberal.  I say Liberal since he supports fixing SS by making the wealthy pay more, while giving them no additional benefits.  What I equate to making SS and Medicare more like Welfare and Medicaid than they already are.

CNN Why is GOP going after Social Security?

It was interesting that he noted that apparently the SS Retirement Trust Fund has been robbed several times to put more money in the SS Disability Trust Fund.  And he thinks it will happen again when the SS Disability Trust Fund hits $0 in 2016.

He also acknowledges that SS Retirement benfits in 2033 will likely be 77% of what they are today if we don't do something to fix the structural problem.  It is interesting that both the citizens and politicians choose to ignore this pending problem.  Maybe they think if they close their eyes and think positve thoughts, the problem will magically get resolved.  Thoughts?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 State of the Union Address

Sorry for being a poor blogger of late, work and a home improvement project have me overwhelmed.  I am making my garage into a better year round man cave...  However I did make time to listen to The State of the Union Address last week.

It seems that Obama plans to become the new reason for the American government being "non-functional". (ie "The Veto Guy")  It will be interesting to see what he chooses to do when the Congress puts some bitter medicine in with spending bills.  Will he threaten to shutdown the government, or will he sign the bill into law?

And he is busy trying to promise a whole lot of free stuff to some citizens, that other citizens would have to pay for.  At least he is being straight forward regarding his desire to use the government aggressively to rob Peter to give to Paul.

MinnPost: State of the Union
MinnPost: Compromise


NCLB: A Civil Rights Issue

MinnPost: MN Parents to Congress: Maintain NCLB Testing

I liked this paragraph.

"For the group, black women with children in Minneapolis or St. Paul schools, educators in training or alumni themselves, testing is tantamount to a civil rights issue: the results of the tests give parents and administrators the chance to compare student progress against school districts around America, and provide a goldmine of information about the achievement gap that has consumed inner-city schools and minority students."


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Education Improvements 2015

Speaking of improving our existing status quo Public Schools instead of deserting them.  My favorite education focused politician, Terri Bonoff, is recommending some very common sense changes regarding using performance in staffing changes.  I am most certain that Education MN is not happy...

Minnpost Hot Education Issues


Parents United Legislative Updates
G2A Teacher Compensation
G2A MN Tenure
G2A Teacher Evaluation Forms
G2A MN Tenure

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ratios, Volunteers and Good Role Models Matter

Jerry provided the following link in a previous post as proof that the Minneapolis schools are a disaster and the request for more money is just an excuse.  I mean if a higher percentage of poor kids can succeed in Minnetonka, Minneapolis must be failing the poor kids and wasting our money.  Better Ed The Blame Game  Or so this terribly misleading comparison states.

At first glance the chart looks pretty clear, I mean only 24% of FRP kids are proficient in Mpls as compared to 55% in Mtka.  And worse yet, on an average per student basis we are paying much more for this much worse result.  What are those people in Mpls doing?


However when one takes a less biased and broader view, the story changes considerably. In Minneapolis there is only .5 non-FRP students/families for every FRP student/family, where as in Mtka there are 13.5 non-FRP/families for every FRP student.  Why does this matter, let us count the ways:
  • In a class of 30 students, the Mpls Teacher will be working with ~19 FRP students where as the Mtka Teacher will be working with ~2 FRP students.
  • In a class of 30 students, the Mpls Teacher will be working with ~11 non-FRP students where as the Mtka Teacher will be working with ~28 non-FRP students.
  • Also, the students in the Mpls classroom often change due to high mobility rates amongst the poor, where as the Mtka class roster is much more stable.
  • In summary, the FRP student in the Mtka school is in a stable environment, surrounded by peers who are likely more academically/ emotionally capable with a Teacher who has more time to address their extra needs.

  • In a school of 500 students, the Mpls personnel will need to work with ~324 FRP students/families who have difficulty affording food, housing, transportation, school supplies, clothing, tutors, etc, where as Mtka only has ~34.
  • In a school of 500 students, the Mpls personnel will have only ~176 non-FRP students/families who have extra time and money to volunteer, mentor, provide good role modeling, etc where as Mtka has ~466.
  • In summary the Mtka school has a lot of academically capable helpers and donations to assist those children who are facing extra challenges.

  • In Mtka the crime and poverty rates are very low, so the schools need minimal security and/or social services in the schools, where as security is a significant expense in Mpls.

Now I haven't even touched on the English Learner and Special Education differences that are huge !!!  You can see them for yourselves.  In that school of 500 in Mpls, 123 are English challenged and 90 have special needs...  As compared to 8 and 52...

As a point of comparison, when Geoffrey Canada set up the Harlem Children's Zone, he believed that at least ~60% of the parents and children in the community needed to be enrolled in the program if it was to succeed.  He felt without this critical mass, the societal influence would overwhelm the good works that the HCZ was doing.

Now I agree that the Minneapolis School District, and the Teacher's Union in particular, are partially responsible for the poor results and high costs experienced in their district. (maybe 20%)  However it is silly to blame them entirely when the demographics are so stacked against them.  The sad part of this story is that as bad as the "avg Mpls Demographics" are, if we broke it down by individual schools the numbers would be much worse since they have certain neighborhood and magnet schools with very different demographics.

So I agree whole heartedly that most FRP, special needs and English learner students can learn, the reality is that it takes a ton of extra support to ensure they do.  And this can come from their Parents, their community and/or their school.  And if the first 2 are lacking, the school leg of the stool will be very expensive.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cream Skimming Charter Schools?

To continue the comparison of Public Schools: Status Quo vs Charters, Laurie provided this interesting link.  Forbes Unappreciated Success of Charter Schools
"The charter sectors’ ability to do better for poor students and black students is important given that they disproportionately serve them. I remember when I was an undergrad in the early 2000s, the debates on charter schools were far more theoretical than they are now. Back then I frequently heard the concern that charter schools were just going to engage in “cream skimming”, be a way for middle class white families to escape urban school systems, and thus serve as one more form of segregation in this country. This concern has not come true, and currently 53% of charter students are in poverty compared 48% for public schools. Charters also serve more minority students than public schools: charters are 29% black, while public schools are 16%. So not only do they serve more poor students and black students, but for this group they relatively consistently outperform public schools."
With this in mind, are all minority and free & reduced lunch students created equal?

Or are there 2 classifications within these groups?
  1. Poor families who are dedicated to improving their situation and responsibly raising their children to be academically and overall successful.
  2. Poor families who make little effort to improve their situation and think the state should be responsible for teaching & raising their children.
Now you are aware that I believe there are clearly multiple types of poor families, just as there are multiple types of other families. Some are hard working and seeking to be successful, whatever that means. Others are lazy, criminal, dependent, etc.

If I am correct, which children do you think get signed up to attend Magnets, Charters and Private schools? And which children show up at the doors of the Status Quo school?

Image 1 Image 2 Image 3 Image 4 Image 5 Image 6

Now I am not trying to belittle the efforts of the Charters, Magnet or Private schools. I am over joyed that some children are seeing better success in these. Just as I am happy that some kids see more success when their Parents move the family to a "better school district" or open enroll their children into it. This is great for the kids with caring responsible Parents.

I think it is important to remember though that as these kids/families leave the Status Quo community school, that Status Quo's school's challenges just increase in complexity. So be pragmatic and careful when comparing results. Thoughts?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kids are Kids, Are They Not

This thought deserves it's own discussion.
"A school or district that spends twice the average and gets only half the results (test scores, graduation rate) is a poor value. That's Minneapolis, and in any truly competitive situation this "company" would be out of business in a trice, replaced by something far, far better, at lower cost. " Jerry

"Though it may be common sense to you, it seems to be incredibly illogical to me. It is like saying the manufacturing costs should be the same no matter where the plant is located or what the quality/availabity of the raw materials are...

The reality is that most kids enter the Orono school district with well developed social, physical, and academic skills. They come with ready and excited to learn, with Parents who are dedicated to and capable of supporting them.

In Minneapolis things are a bit different. " G2A

"OK, I am admittedly paraphrasing, but two posts later you say it again: "In Minneapolis things are a bit different." How so? Kids are kids, are they not?" Jerry

"Really... You are kidding, right?" G2A

"NO, I'm not kidding. I start from a position that all kids should have an equal opportunity for a good education, and have a reasonably equal ability to learn. In fact, it's required by the Minnesota Constitution. Do you expect me to believe that our urban schools are NOT egregious examples of failure? Offer any explanations you want, but they are not excuses. " Jerry
Lets make the following assumptions:
  • ALL children enter the K-12 system at ~5 years old and exit at about 18 years old, be it Public, Private, other.
  • The goal is to ensure that ALL children that do not have mental special needs meet or exceed a pre-determined level of academic capability. 
My question is what factors impact the cost of attaining this worth while goal?  We made a good stab at it before, however I am interested in revisiting it.  Thoughts?

Monday, January 5, 2015

True Cost of Teach for America

A belated Christmas gift from Laurie:

The True Cost of Teach For America's Impact on Urban Schools

I spent some of my xmas break reading abut how to improve education and I am always interested in what others think. Laurie


Laurie, And I have not forgotten that MinnPost article you mentioned...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Deal with the Devil

Hiram's comments on the previous post are so disturbing that they deserve further discussion.
"I assume the MOA got tax breaks and roads, but probably no actual cash. And I am assuming that money has been paid back hundreds of times over in additional sales and property taxes..." G2A

And that's a problem since it arguably makes the mall a public facility where first amendment rights apply." Hiram

"So every dentist office, gas station, Church, planned parenthood office, gay/lesbian counseling center, political office space, etc is "public" space and everyone should be able to enter and protest at will?" G2A

"Are you arguing that these tax subsidized spaces open to all are not public spaces? Doesn't taking public dollars entail certain obligations?" Hiram

"Conservatives are not wrong when they they express concerns to the effect that when you take government money, government rules come with it. The Mall of America was willing, eager even, to take money from the government. That has consequences." Hiram
To me it seems that when the government chooses to reduce tax rates or improve the roads near a prospective business to encourage private investment, Hiram believes that the company then becomes answerable to the government.  That in someway they become a public entity...

I think Jerry's comment is much more correct.
"Courts have already ruled that those receiving tax breaks do not incur public obligations, and those receiving direct tax subsidies do so only to the degree the contract spells out such shared ownership or obligation. For example, the $500Billion given to Solyndra did not confer any taxpayer ownership of the potential profits, no special access to the facilities, and no claim even on the assets of the bankrupt corporation." Jerry
If a company is obligated to the "government/collective" because they were allowed to keep more of their personal property as part of the deal, what do people on public assistance, Medicaid, welfare, etc owe the government?  Maybe their first born child?  Or life long indenture?

Or all of us who get to deduct our mortgage interest and take a child tax credit.  Is Hiram saying that we all are "public entities" that government should be allowed to control and use as it wishes?  Thoughts?