Category Archives: Budget

For-profit, on-line education just doesn’t work as well

Just in case you’re wondering, yes, it’s important for us to keep track of K-12 educational policy for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that advocates for bad educational policy often look there, where evidence is very difficult to collect (and therefore claims are hard to dispute!), to support some of the bad ideas we fight at the college level every day.

I know many of you are more supportive of on-line, distance education than I am. It’s hard not to be, and I respect–in the abstract and at times in practice–that it can be done well. But nobody has yet made a convincing case to me–or anybody else, really–that switching to on-line, distance education in order to control educational costs is a good idea.

What evidence we can trust is making a very strong case that on-line K-12 education is exactly the terrible idea we thought it was. Today’s (Jan 6) New York Times, in the article “Students of On-Line Schools Are Lagging,” reports that:

About 116,000 students were educated in 93 virtual schools — those where instruction is entirely or mainly provided over the Internet — run by private management companies in the 2010-11 school year, up 43 percent from the previous year, according to the report being published by the National Education Policy Center, a research center at the University of Colorado. About 27 percent of these schools achieved “adequate yearly progress,” the key federal standard set forth under the No Child Left Behind act to measure academic progress. By comparison, nearly 52 percent of all privately managed brick-and-mortar schools reached that goal, a figure comparable to all public schools nationally.

Within these numbers are two important points–

1. On-line, for profit education simply isn’t working.

2. Maybe even more important for those of us who advocate for public education in all its forms, charter schools do not work better than traditional public schools, a claim that the Corbett administration makes in spite of the evidence, as do educational reformers like Arne Duncan and the gang.

Improve working conditions for teachers. Improve learning conditions for students. Fight poverty. Schools would magically work a whole lot better. It’s not complicated.

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Filed under Access, Arne Duncan, Budget, charter schools, Communities, Education reform, on-line schools, Privatization, Public education

Statewide “Call” to Action for Public Education

Folks:

An organization called Education Voters for PA is organizing a Statewide ‘Call’ to Action phone-in campaign for Monday, Dec. 5.

From their website–

Education Voters, joined by several allies, is organizing our firstStatewide “Call” to Action for Public Education! One week from today, on Monday, December 5th.  Thousands of people will set aside 5 minutes to call their local State Representatives and Senators with a short message about education being our highest priority as taxpayers and voters. CLICK HERE to pledge to call!

  • Class sizes are increasing in many communities.
  • Kindergarten, tutoring, arts, sports …. all being cut.
  • We keep reducing education to the point where someday soon, we could be teaching only subjects that will be on standardized tests.
  • We are raising taxes at the community level, putting more pressure on property taxes instead of having a statewide funding formula that is aligned to learning standards, fiscally responsible, fair and both Constitutional and ethical.

APSCUF members and other people concerned about education should support this effort. For further details, check out their website. All they ask is that you make the call to your legislator and then notify the organization that you’ve done it. It’s five minutes if you feel chatty with whoever answers the phone at your legislator’s office.

Please share with people you know who care about public education in PA, anywhere in the state.

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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, Rally

Public unions and budget deficits

Although facts and evidence don’t much matter to the controlling factions on most Capitol Hills these days, it’s never a bad idea to marshall them anyway.

David Moberg’s “The Wrong Target” (In These Times, 10/14/2011) summarizes and highlights the results of a recent study out of the University of California at Berkeley, making clear that public unions are not at all responsible for state budget deficits; neither are public unions responsible for skyrocketing numbers of state jobs (although I don’t see why that’s a bad thing–but that’s just me).

Some highlights from the article (but you should look at the whole thing, which isn’t very long, and at the study on which it’s based):

   •    Public workers have been a steady share of the workforce from 1979 to 2011—averaging 14.2 percent of the entire workforce and ranging from 13.6 to 15.2 percent (slightly increasing typically following a recession simply because private workers disproportionately lost jobs).

•    State and local government employment for every thousand residents rose very slightly from 1990 to 2001 (from 60.8 to 64.2 workers for a thousand residents, virtually all in local government), then remained flat through 2009.

•    Comparing states with the highest and lowest rates of unionization, the researchers found that from 1990-2009 there were more public employees for every thousand residents in weak- or non-union states than in states densely unionized. Also, there was faster growth in weakly unionized states, especially from 2001 onwards when the ratio of public workers to the population declined in the most unionized states.

•    Ultimately, the data seem to show no correlation between union density and public sector employment. (Jacobs suggests some rural, lightly populated and big states that also have few public unions may have a higher ratio to serve a dispersed population.)

•    Public worker total compensation has not been growing as a share of state expenditures. Indeed, worker wages and benefit declined as a share of state spending from 1992 to 2002, then remained stable (according to a study from the Center for American Progress).

•    As many studies have demonstrated, state and local government workers earn less in wages and benefits than similar private sector workers. Moreover, in recent years private sector labor costs have risen faster than costs in the public sector—a remarkable record considering the widespread wage stagnation and cuts in both pay and benefits in the private sector.

 

So the next time somebody tells you that public sector unions are bad for the economy, here’s a solid block of evidence to the contrary. We can only hope that evidence starts to matter sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Advocacy, AFSCME, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Collective Bargaining, Communities, PASSHE, Privatization, Public education, Public employee unions, public employees, research, Shock Doctrine, taxes, Teacher unions, Unions

PASSHE schools, including WCU, do well in US News yearly rankings

If you missed this post yesterday on the state APSCUF blog, check it out. SEVEN PASSHE schools are ranked among the top regional universities, FIVE in the top 100.

And yet, ironically, you’re not hearing a word about this from the Office of the Chancellor or from any local management that I know of. Why? Because maybe it might call too much attention to the quality of the faculty and students? I dunno…  Maybe because it demonstrates that the Chicken Little crisis rhetoric coming from management is, er, um, maybe a little hyperbolic? Kevin Mahoney and the KU-Xchange crew have laid out the notion of Shock Doctrine and its application in the our system in enough detail that I don’t need to rehash it all here.

If you’re not subscribed to the state APSCUF blog so you get notification of new posts, you should do that by clicking here. And if you’re on Facebook and haven’t yet liked the official APSCUF group, you should do that by clicking here.

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Filed under APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Office of the Chancellor, PASSHE, Shock Doctrine

As we fight for public education, let’s not forget the “public” part

It’s not just about keeping costs down and providing access. It’s about our contract to live in civilized society.

I didn’t write this letter, and there’s a point or two I’d never say personally, but for the very most part it’s a brilliant statement to students of what we’ve done to their generation and what they need to do in response.

A letter to my students

Michael O’Hare, professor of public policy | 8/24/10 | 273 comments | Leave a comment

Michael O'HareWelcome to Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world. Meet your classmates, the best group of partners you can find anywhere. The percentages for grades on exams, papers, etc. in my courses always add up to 110% because that’s what I’ve learned to expect from you, over twenty years in the best job in the world.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits. And you aren’t the only ones; victims of this ripoff include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn’t get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine. This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what’s been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest.

Swindle – what happened? Well, before you were born, Californians now dead or in nursing homes made a remarkable deal with the future. (Not from California? Keep reading, lots of this applies to you, with variations.) They agreed to invest money they could have spent on bigger houses, vacations, clothes, and cars into the world’s greatest educational system, and into building and operating water systems, roads, parks, and other public facilities, an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. They didn’t get everything right: too much highway and not enough public transportation. But they did a pretty good job.

Young people who enjoyed these ‘loans’ grew up smarter, healthier, and richer than they otherwise would have, and understood that they were supposed to “pay it forward” to future generations, for example by keeping the educational system staffed with lots of dedicated, well-trained teachers, in good buildings and in small classes, with college counselors and up-to-date books. California schools had physical education, art for everyone, music and theater, buildings that looked as though people cared about them, modern languages and ancient languages, advanced science courses with labs where the equipment worked, and more. They were the envy of the world, and they paid off better than Microsoft stock. Same with our parks, coastal zone protection, and social services.

This deal held until about thirty years ago, when for a variety of reasons, California voters realized that while they had done very well from the existing contract, they could do even better by walking away from their obligations and spending what they had inherited on themselves. “My kids are finished with school; why should I pay taxes for someone else’s? Posterity never did anything for me!” An army of fake ‘leaders’ sprang up to pull the moral and fiscal wool over their eyes, and again and again, your parents and their parents lashed out at government (as though there were something else that could replace it) with tax limits, term limits, safe districts, throw-away-the-key imprisonment no matter the cost, smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, and a rule never to use the words taxes and services in the same paragraph.

Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters. It’s outrageous, inexcusable, that you can’t get into the courses you need, but much worse that Oakland police have stopped taking 911 calls for burglaries and runaway children. If you read what your elected officials say about the state today, you’ll see things like “California can’t afford” this or that basic government function, and that “we need to make hard choices” to shut down one or another public service, or starve it even more (like your university). Can’t afford? The budget deficit that’s paralyzing Sacramento is about $500 per person; add another $500 to get back to a public sector we don’t have to be ashamed of, and our average income is almost forty times that. Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.

I’m writing this to you because you are the victims of this enormous cheat (though your children will be even worse off if you don’t take charge of this ship and steer it). Your education was trashed as California fell to the bottom of US states in school spending, and the art classes, AP courses, physical education, working toilets, and teaching generally went by the board. Every year I come upon more and more of you who have obviously never had the chance to learn to write plain, clear, English. Every year, fewer and fewer of you read newspapers, speak a foreign language, understand the basics of how government and business actually work, or have the energy to push back intellectually against me or against each other. Or know enough about history, literature, and science to do it effectively! You spent your school years with teachers paid less and less, trained worse and worse, loaded up with more and more mindless administrative duties, and given less and less real support from administrators and staff.

Many of your parents took a hike as well, somehow getting the idea that the schools had taken over their duties to keep you learning, or so beat-up working two jobs each and commuting two hours a day to put food on the table that they couldn’t be there for you. A quarter of your classmates didn’t finish high school, discouraged and defeated; but they didn’t leave the planet, even if you don’t run into them in the gated community you will be tempted to hide out in. They have to eat just like you, and they aren’t equipped to do their share of the work, so you will have to support them.

You need to have a very tough talk with your parents, who are still voting; you can’t save your children by yourselves. Equally important, you need to start talking to each other. It’s not fair, and you have every reason (except a good one) to keep what you can for yourselves with another couple of decades of mean-spirited tax-cutting and public sector decline. You’re my heroes just for surviving what we put you through and making it into my classroom, but I’m asking for more: you can be better than my generation. Take back your state for your kids and start the contract again. There are lots of places you can start, for example, building a transportation system that won’t enslave you for two decades as their chauffeur, instead of raising fares and cutting routes in a deadly helix of mediocrity. Lots. Get to work. See you in class!

UPDATE: Like your political science in musical form? Here’s the way people thought about this stuff back in the day, and maybe should again. Bet there’s a good rap along these lines waiting to be born…

Cross-posted from the blog The Reality Based Community.

 

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Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Deficit, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, Shock Doctrine, Student activism

More on the debate about reframing the value of higher ed

Thanks to Mark Rimple (again!) for sending this piece to me for the blog.

From Friday’s Inside Higher Ed: Linda Grasso, an English Prof in the CUNY system, writes eloquently, or perhaps just prettily, about the need to reframe our arguments about the value of higher education, particularly the liberal arts. Her most elaborated evidence for her claim about the value of liberal arts education is an anecdote about a conversation she had on the subway who seemed to have been deeply effected by reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried in a college English course.

Commenters on Grasso’s essay make several points about the limited value of the anecdote, on both epistemological and rhetorical grounds; I won’t duplicate them here, except to say that you should look at them. They’re very revealing, not only of the complex task we face as we fight to reclaim what public higher education is about in this country, but also of the internal dynamic that makes the fight that much more complicated. Not everybody that works at a public university supports the vision(s) that liberal arts faculty have.

If we can’t even agree among ourselves about what we’re doing here, it’s no wonder we struggle to convince external constituencies to pay for us to do it.

Let’s remember who our friends are.

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Filed under Access, Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Corporate University, Inside Higher Ed, liberal arts, PASSHE, Shock Doctrine

Central Michigan University Faculty Back to Work… For Now [Reposting from State APSCUF]

Central Michigan University Logo

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association held a day-long work stoppage on Monday, the first day of fall classes. Students joined with faculty on the picket lines to encourage administration representatives to return to the negotiations table.

A judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt the stoppage, and professors at CMU were back teaching classes on Tuesday.

Both sides have traded accusations about the other side’s intentions. The administration has claimed the strike was illegal, while the faculty union believes the university is refusing to bargain.

The union president kept her focus on the students in a statement:

“We’ve filed unfair labor practice charges against the university citing their refusal to bargain in good faith. This is why the faculty is not where they really want to be – with their students.”

On Friday morning, the two sides will argue their cases to a judge, who will then rule on whether to make the temporary restraining order permanent.

With both sides far apart on financial issues, a state-appointed fact finder will hear from the union and administration and make a recommendation on an agreement. The hearing dates are set for September, but it could take months for a final opinion.

We understand the predicament of our 600 colleagues at CMU. Ultimately, everyone that pursues academia as a career wants to spend his or her time in a classroom – not on a picket line. We know that the CMU faculty want what’s best for their 19,000 students, and we thank them for standing up for their rights and the rights of their students to a high-quality education with professors who are paid fairly.

For those who’d like to express their support for the CMU faculty, Progress Michigan has posted a petition calling on CMU administrators to return to the negotiating table.

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Filed under Academic Freedom, Advocacy, APSCUF, Benefits/Benefit Cuts, Budget, Budget Cuts, Central Michigan University, Collective Bargaining, Contract Negotiations, Public education, Public employee unions, Uncategorized

An education funding issue that’s easy to forget: school libraries

[If you don’t follow the Labor Section of the Daily Kos blog, I highly recommend it.]

This weekend on Daily Kos Labor, Mark Anderson writes about a recent visit to a K-5 library in Madison, WI. The pictures tell the story: decrepit old books, books about space exploration that predate major advances, and so on. It’s not just the absence of up-to-date science books that’s troubling, either.

While I’m not thrilled with the way Anderson frames the mission of education (“training workers for the global economy”), the point he’s making is important. Reframed the way I’d want it put, how can we expect students to learn anything on their own (the reason we teach them to read and do research!) if all they have access to in their schools is utterly irrelevant to the world we actually live in?

And this in conjunction with a cut in state funding of approximately 10% to WI public libraries, courtesy of our good friend Governor Scott Walker.

Ohhhhhhh………

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Filed under Budget, Budget Cuts, Communities, K-12 Education, Public education, public libraries, school libraries

Sociologist Michael Burawoy on a future for public higher ed

Thanks to friend and colleague Christine Monnier, a sociology prof at the College of Dupage, for bringing this piece to my attention by posting it on Google+.

Michael Burawoy is past president of the American Sociological Association and current president of the International Sociological Association. He’s a Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley.

This essay, titled Redefining the Public University: Developing an Analytical Framework posted in a series called Transformations of the Public Sphere by the Institute for Public Knowledge, quickly describes the current state of American public higher education. If you’re familiar with current thinking on the issue, you’ll recognize most of the claims he makes about commodification and corporatization, but it’s worth reading carefully. The meat (or tofu, or beans and cheese, for us vegetarians) of the essay in my opinion is his ‘alternative framework’ for understanding what public universities do, that is, a matrix of ‘Professional,’ ‘Policy,’ ‘Critical,’ and ‘Public’ knowledges we both help to create and are responsive to. You can read the explanations, but this table maps out the key terms and relations:

It’s an interesting read, and one that has some generative potential for us as we work to defend our system from the kind of evisceration it faces at the hands of organizations like the US Education Delivery Institute and similar voices of neoliberalism.

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Filed under Advocacy, Budget, Budget Cuts, Budget Deficit, Corporate University, deliverology, Higher Ed history, Intellectual Property, PASSHE, Performance Funding, Private higher education, Public education, research, Retention, Retrenchment, Shock Doctrine, US Education Delivery Institute

A friendly reminder about PASSHE tuition

I’m reposting this morning’s new post on the state APSCUF blog for a few reasons:

1. So that you’ll click on the link to it and subscribe to the state APSCUF blog yourself.

2. So it’ll go out to Facebook readers who wouldn’t otherwise see it.

3. So I (Seth) can assert the privilege of being the person who does most of the writing for this blog and editorialize a little about the issue in a way that is NOT NECESSARILY the official APSCUF stance.

The short version of the message is that even accounting for the coming increase, PASSHE’s tuition is below the national average for public universities, and significantly below the PA state-related universities.

I (personally) believe strongly that if you’re paying tuition (for yourself or for anybody else), it’s appropriate to be upset at the increase. Just keep in mind where the target of your animus ought to be. Our schools aren’t getting less expensive to run (and they can’t get less expensive than they are right now if we’re going to protect the quality of what we do), and you’re not paying less to go to them.

I’ll leave the rest of the math up to you.

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Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, PASSHE, Penn State University, Tuition increase, University of Pittsburgh, West Chester University