Beware the Education Blob!
#1
Stossel is talking about K-12 education in this article. But when big government controls all higher ed--by driving out all the non-conforming, independent, unaccredited, nontraditional, alternative, etc. programs--will the result be any different?

Competitive private education? There's a concept more powerful than Steve McQueen!

Quote:The Education Blob
John Stossel
Jul 04, 2012

Since progressives want government to run health care, let's look at what government management did to K-12 education. While most every other service in life has gotten better and cheaper, American education remains stagnant.

Spending has tripled! Why no improvement? Because K-12 education is a virtual government monopoly -- and monopolies don't improve.

In every other sector of the economy, market competition forces providers to improve constantly. It's why most things get better -- often cheaper, too (except when government interferes, as in health care).

Politicians claim that education and health care are different -- too important to leave to market competition. Patients and parents aren't real consumers because they don't have the expertise to know which hospital or school is best. That's why they must be centrally planned by government "experts."

Those experts have been in charge for years. School reformers call them the "Blob." Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform says that attempts to improve the government monopoly have run "smack into federations, alliances, departments, councils, boards, commissions, panels, herds, flocks and convoys that make up the education industrial complex, or the Blob. Taken individually, they were frustrating enough, each with its own bureaucracy, but taken as a whole they were (and are) maddening in their resistance to change. Not really a wall -- they always talk about change -- but more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink."

The Blob claims teachers are underpaid. But today American teachers average more than $50,000 a year. Teachers' hourly wages exceed what most architects, accountants and nurses make.

The Blob constantly demands more money, but tripling spending and vastly increasing the ratio of staff to student have brought no improvement. When the Blob is in control, waste and indifference live on and on.

The Blob claims that public education is "the great equalizer." Rich and poor and different races mix and learn together. It's a beautiful concept. But it is a lie. Rich parents buy homes in neighborhoods with better schools.

As a result, public -- I mean, government -- schools are now more racially segregated than private schools. One survey found that public schools were significantly more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority. Another found that at private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.

The Blob's most powerful argument is that poor people need government-run schools. How could poor people possibly afford tuition?

Well, consider some truly destitute places. James Tooley spends most of his time in the poorest parts of Africa, India and China. Those countries copied America's "free public education," and Tooley wanted to see how that's worked out. What he learned is that in India and China, where kids outperform American kids on tests, it's not because they attend the government's free schools. Government schools are horrible. So even in the worst slums, parents try to send their kids to private, for-profit schools.

How can the world's poorest people afford tuition? And why would they pay for what their governments offer for free?

Tooley says parents with meager resources still sacrifice to send their kids to private schools because the private owner does something that's virtually impossible in government schools: replace teachers who do not teach. Government teachers in India and Africa have jobs for life, just like American teachers. Many sleep on the job. Some don't even show up for work.

As a result, says Tooley, "the majority of (poor) schoolchildren are in private school." Even small villages have as many as six private schools, "and these schools outperform government schools at a fraction of the teacher cost."

As in America, government officials in those countries scoff at private schools and parents who choose them. A woman who runs government schools in Nigeria calls such parents "ignoramuses." They aren't -- and thanks to competition, their children won't be, either.

Low-income Americans are far richer than the poor people of China, India and Africa. So if competitive private education can work in Beijing, Calcutta and Nairobi, it can work in the United States.

We just need to get around the Blob.
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#2
More "blob" metaphor:

Quote:Like Charter Schools, Britain's Academies Aim High
Michael Barone
July 16, 2012

LONDON -- 1776 is a number with great resonance for Americans, but not one you expect to be featured on a British government website.

But there it is, on the home page of the United Kingdom's Department of Education: "As of 1 April 2012, there are 1776 academies open in England."

Academies, as you might expect, mean something different in Britain than in the United States. They are, approximately, what we would call charter schools. And there are 1,776 of them largely because of the energy and determination of British Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Britain, like America, has gotten pretty dismal results for years from its (in their terminology) state schools. (British public schools are expensive boarding schools; they include Eton, which produced David Cameron and 12 other prime ministers, and Fettes, its Scottish equivalent, which graduated former Prime Minister Tony Blair.)

This is a problem that has been recognized by all three British political parties. Blair's New Labor tried to instill more accountability with extensive testing, much like George W. Bush's bipartisan No Child Left Behind law.

But many tests got dumbed down, and the results have been disappointing. Education in both nations has been dominated by what Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett called "the Blob," the combined forces of university education schools and teachers unions, which have a bias against rigorous learning and testing.

The Blob wants students to have lots of self-esteem and deems it oppressive to demand that they learn to read or do multiplication tables.

As a result, British and American students think highly of themselves but do much worse in reading and math than their counterparts in countries like Singapore and South Korea.

Gove argues that this is "a huge crime." "Traditional subjects taught in a rigorous fashion," he says, "help poor children graduate to the middle class." In contrast, "inequality is generated by poor schools."

Gove is an example of upward mobility through good education. His parents, who didn't graduate from high school, scrimped and saved from his father's income as a fish merchant to send him to an all-boys, fee-paying school in Aberdeen, Scotland.

One of his teachers suggested he apply to Oxford. He got in and became president of the Oxford Union, the well-known debating society. That led to jobs in journalism and then to Conservative Party politics. He was elected to Parliament in 2005, and in his first term became shadow secretary of education.

When the 2010 general election resulted in Conservatives falling short of a majority, Cameron was prepared with a list of policies with which the party was in agreement with the Liberal Democrats.

Like some U.S. Democrats, the Lib Dems had become disillusioned with state schools' performance and the teacher unions' objections to accountability. Education became one of the issues on which the Lib Dems decided the two parties could work together, and they continue to do so despite Cameron's failure last week to produce the Conservative votes needed to pass the Lib Dems' proposal to change the House of Lords.

Gove has insisted that state school pupils read 19th century literature -- Byron, Keats, Dickens, Jane Austen -- and study a foreign language. He has pushed more instruction in history and geography, and higher standards in math and science.

His greatest innovation is the academies -- an idea he picked up in Sweden, of all places. Individual schools, local school authorities, businesses, universities, charities and religious organizations can petition to start academies. But they have to meet certain standards to be approved.

Like many American charter schools, the academies can set their own pay and devise their own curriculum and schedules; they receive the same per-pupil funding as state schools. The idea is to liberate education from domination by the Blob, and the results so far seem encouraging.

Gove's policies cannot be entirely replicated in the United States. Britain's central government has full authority over schools in England (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own systems), while in the U.S. education is largely controlled by state governments and local school boards often dominated by teachers unions.

But we might do well to keep an eye on Britain's 1,776 academies, which now number 1,957, as a subsidiary page on the website informs us. We English-speaking peoples have been lagging behind on education.

We can do better, and as Gove says, those most in need are the poor and disadvantaged.
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#3
It's indestructable! It's indescribable!
Nothing can stop it!

Stossel is back with more "Blob" metaphor.

Quote:The Blob That Ate Children
John Stossel
Mar 20, 2013

Shortly after I did my first TV special on education, "Stupid in America," hundreds of union teachers showed up outside my office to yell at me. They were angry because I said union rules were a big reason American kids don't learn.

The union is a big reason kids don't like school and learn less. Union contracts limit flexibility, limit promotion of good teachers, waste money and make it hard for principals to fire even terrible teachers.

But I was wrong to imply that the union is the biggest problem. In states with weak unions, K-12 schools stagnate, too.

Education reformers have a name for the resistance: the education "Blob." The Blob includes the teachers unions, but also janitors and principals unions, school boards, PTA bureaucrats, local politicians and so on.

They hold power because the government's monopoly on K-12 education eliminates most competition. Kids are assigned to schools, and a bureaucracy decides who goes where and who learns what. Over time, its tentacles expand and strangle attempts to reform. Since they have no fear of losing their jobs to competitors, monopoly bureaucrats can resist innovation for decades.

As one advocate of competition put it, the Blob says: "We don't do that here. We have to requisition downtown. We got to get four or five people to sign off; the deputy director of curriculum has to say this is OK, etc." Most reformers just give up.

The Blob insists the schools need more money, but that's a myth. America tripled spending per student since I was in college without improving student achievement.

In Los Angeles, they spent half a billion dollars to build the most expensive school in America. They planted palm trees, put in a swimming pool and spent thousands of new dollars per student.

The school is beautiful, but how's the education? Not so good. The school graduates just 56 percent of its students.

Three schools in Oakland that Ben Chavis started aren't as fancy, but the students do better. They get top test scores. And Chavis doesn't just take the most promising or richest students, as teachers unions often claim competitive schools do. Chavis' schools take kids from the poorest neighborhoods.

So what does the education Blob decide to do? Shut his schools down.

School board members don't like Chavis. I understand why. He's obnoxious. Arrogant. He probably broke some rules. For example, he's accused of making a profit running his schools. Horrors! A profit!

If he did profit, I say, so what? He still got top test results with lessgovernment money. Good for him!

But the Blob doesn't like success that's outside its monopoly. It doesn't matter that Chavis has now resigned from the school's board. Oakland may still close his schools. Think about that. As measured by student achievement, his schools are the best. But the Blob doesn't care. And the Blob has the power of government behind it.

In New York City, the union teachers protesting outside my office said: "Our rules are good and necessary, and if cities would let us train teachers and run schools, we'd do a great job. ... We have the expertise, intelligence, the experience to do what works for children."

They said if charter schools must exist, the union should run one, and they "would create a school where all parents would want to send their children." So New York City gave the United Federation of Teachers a charter school of its own. The union boss called it an "oasis."

But what happened? Today, the teachers union school is one of New York's worst. It got a "D" on its city report card. Only a third of its students read at grade level. And the school still lost a million dollars.

Yet it's the union's model school! I assume they tried their best, staffed it with some of their best teachers. The union knew we were watching. But with union rules, and the Blob's bureaucracy, they failed miserably.

I really want to ask them why they hate competition, but they won't come on my Fox television show.

And (as Ed Sullivan would have said) "for all you youngsters out there" who aren't old enough to remember the original Blob, the trailer:

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#4
(03-21-2013, 02:16 AM)Martin Eisenstadt Wrote: And (as Ed Sullivan would have said) "for all you youngsters out there" who aren't old enough to remember the original Blob, the trailer:

Steve McQueen mackin' it with Helen Crump! Does Andy know?

Now you need to explain who Ed Sullivan was, and Helen Crump and Andy Griffith too.
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#5
Blob Trailer Wrote:Two teenagers see it first...

Steve McQueen was 28 when this was released; "Helen Crump" (actress Aneta Corsaut, billed then as Aneta Corseaut) was 24.

When Steve was a "teenager" he was, among other things, a guest of the state of California, then joined the Marines when he was 17.
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#6
Don't feed The Blob!!

Quote:The Education Blob's Revenge
John Stossel
Apr 24, 2013

I wrote recently how teachers unions, parent-teacher associations and school bureaucrats form an education "Blob" that makes it hard to improve schools. They also take revenge on those who work around the Blob.

Here's one more sad example:

Ben Chavis, founder and principal of the American Indian Public Charter Schools, got permission to compete with the Blob in Oakland, Calif. Chavis vowed, "We'll outperform the other schools in five years." He did. Kids at the three schools he runs now have some of the highest test scores in California.

His schools excel even though the government spends less on them.

But Chavis paid his wife to do accounting work, rented property to his schools and didn't follow all of the Blob's rules. So last month, the Oakland School Board said it might close the schools.

Parents and students begged the Blob -- pardon me, the school board -- not to. One sobbing mother pleaded with the board: "As soon as (my son) goes to this school, he's a top student. ... And now you guys want to take that away from me." Many students implored, "Please don't close down our school!"

The school board voted to close the schools anyway.

The students will now probably have to go to Oakland's government-run schools, which are not as good. We asked to talk to members of the Oakland School Board, but they refused.

Chavis, though, explained how working with his wife and renting space to the schools -- regarded by the board as too incestuous -- saved government money.

"Yes. Some of the money did go to me," he told me. "Someone had to step up and get space. We had 34 kids when I started. Today, we have 1,200."

And those kids got a better education for less tax money. Who cares if Chavis kept some?

The Blob cares. The school board will get about $10 million back if they are no longer obliged to send pupils to Chavis' schools.

They'll be hard-pressed to beat Chavis' academic results, though. U.S. News & World Report says his schools are No. 1 in Oakland. The Washington Post this month said American Indian is No. 1 on the list of most challenging high schools in America. Over the past three years, 100 percent of Chavis' high school seniors were accepted to four-year colleges.

By contrast, in New York City, where I live, a third of high school students don't even graduate in four years.

Chavis says that if the board thinks he stole money, they should arrest him instead of shutting down his schools.

"If I did steal anything ... punish me. Don't punish the students."

And while options for kids in Oakland shrink, the Blob grows.

Over the past six decades, as the number of students in public schools doubled, the Friedman Foundation reports that the number of non-teaching staff got eight times as large. Non-teaching staff means assistant principles, associate principals, secretaries, social workers, etc. Twenty-one states now have more school administrators than teachers.

Despite all that new staff, test scores stayed flat.

At least there are a few signs of hope. Remember the union protests at the Wisconsin state capitol two years ago? The union there eventually lost its fight to stop Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from limiting collective bargaining. Now they can bargain over pay but little else. Contracts negotiations that used to take years are sometimes resolved in 15 minutes.

Union membership is no longer automatic but has to be renewed annually by individual members, voluntarily. The result: Teachers unions lost about a third of their members.

I expected that but had no idea that some of the savings in Wisconsin would come from ending the union's monopoly on health insurance. The union had demanded that its members buy insurance from a company the union created. Allowing other insurers to compete lowered insurance costs so much that Wisconsin has saved tens of millions of dollars.

Good for Scott Walker. Less money for the Blob means more money, and freedom, for the rest of us.
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