Linkdump for June 25th through July 16th

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between June 25th and July 16th.

Sometime between June 25th and July 16th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

I’m Concerned About I-1351’s Effects on Higher Education

Filed under ‘yes, even I can have unpopular opinions’: I’m _very_ concerned about where the money to fund I-1351’s directives is going to come from. We live in a state where voters refuse to put money into the system, and it’s really not even clear that smaller class sizes will make that much of a difference.

Filed under “yes, even I can have unpopular opinions”: I’m very concerned about where the money to fund I-1351’s directives is going to come from. We live in a state where voters refuse to put money into the system (we couldn’t even pass a minuscule sales tax on candy bars and soda to fund various services), but demand that the system provide services that cost money. This is going to cost billions in hiring teachers, constructing classrooms, and lots of other associated costs, and we have no idea where that money is going to come from (but we’re by-golly determined not to pay for it ourselves!).

And according to this article (by fivethirtyeight, which started as a political statistical analysis site and has branched out into applying statistical analyses to all sorts of other things), it’s really not even clear that smaller class sizes will make that much of a difference compared to other possible expenditures such as hiring/training better teachers, giving raises, or putting money into new/better texts, supplies, and technology.

Class-size reductions make sense intuitively — in smaller classes, kids get more attention, distractions are reduced and working conditions are improved. Many economists and education policy experts say, though, that this isn’t a case where the common-sense fix is guaranteed to be the best fix. Many of the studies on class size are inconclusive, and even those who support cutting class size in theory are dubious about whether I-1351 is the best or most cost-effective way to improve public education in Washington.

[…] Attempts to implement large-scale class-reduction policies have yielded less encouraging results. In 2002, Florida voters approved a ballot initiative like I-1351 that amended the state constitution to include caps on class sizes in all grades. An analysis of data from Florida conducted by Matt Chingos, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Education Policy found no differences between students who were new to a small classroom and those who had already been in one.

[…] “Reducing class size is one of the most expensive things you can do in education,” Chingos said. “Even if it does have a substantial positive effect, it still might not be the best use of limited resources.” He said that in some cases, raising teacher salaries could be a more effective use of funds. “Really the lesson is that you want to build in flexibility,” he said. “Different school districts have different needs. It’s very far from one-size-fits-all.”

Eric Hanushek, an economist at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said that I-1351 could have the unintended effect of reducing teacher quality. “This isn’t about hiring high-quality teachers, it’s about hiring more teachers, and that means we’re going to see a lot more inexperienced teachers in the classroom,” he said.

Some education advocates in Washington state are concerned that the class-size mandate will siphon funds from other policies. […] Practically speaking, the state government has only so much money to spend. I-1351’s biggest flaw might be its failure to acknowledge this reality.

At this point, I (and many other people I talk to in higher education) are very worried that without a funding source, the state is going to end up pulling even more money out of the already hard-hit higher education system, damaging it further in the name of improving the K-12 education system.

Everyone agrees that better education — across the board — is important. But, jeez. It’s not magic. There needs to be a way to pay for it.

Hey Look… Squirrel!

That’s pretty much the level of discourse we’ve been having over education funding in Washington state, the kind that’s designed to keep our eyes off the ball by assuming that voters have an attention span shorter than that of the average dog.

From Yeah, Sure, We’re Underinvesting in Education, but Hey Look… Squirrel! | Slog:

Look… squirrel!

That’s pretty much the level of discourse we’ve been having over education funding in Washington state, the kind that’s designed to keep our eyes off the ball by assuming that voters have an attention span shorter than that of the average dog. Another $1.4 billion slashed from K-12 education, about $1,400 per student? Squirrel! 3,700 fewer teachers funded in WA’s public schools? Squirrel! A more than 50 percent reduction in higher education spending over the past two budgets? Squirrel!

Why Doesn’t Washington State Care About Higher Education?

When will people wake up and realize that education is important, public services are important, and we _have to pay for them_? The money to run these things doesn’t just magically appear.

From Why Not Just Privatize Higher Education? | Slog:

Some of the biggest losers in yesterday’s state House budget proposal are our state’s public colleges and universities… or I guess, more accurately, their current and future students.

The House would slash another $482 million from higher education spending, $100 million more than the governor’s already brutal proposal, amounting to a more than 50 percent cut over two biennia. Even after tuition hikes of between 11.5 and 13 percent, our two-year and four-year institutions would still have to cut as much as 5.4 percent from their budgets. Students will be paying more and getting less.

As a percentage of our state economy, higher education spending had already dropped 63.7 percent from a high of $15.53 per $1,000 of personal income in 1974 to $5.48 per $1,000 in 2010. And falling. Dollars speak louder than words, and clearly, as a state, we obviously no longer believe that providing affordable access to a quality college education is all that important anymore.

Although, to be fair, as sad and scary as this is (especially as someone who’s partner is employed by a state university — and, for that matter, I am too, at least for this quarter), thanks to the stupid voters (and the even stupider eligible voters who decline to do so) who refuse to pay an extra penny or two on candy bars and soda because of the big scary three-letter-word “TAX” (and that’s just one example of the stupid, greedy, short-sighted results of recent state votes), the state just doesn’t have as much money as it should. The way things have been going, I’m still not convinced that education would be getting funded as it should even if the state was flush with cash…but I do realize that the current budget crunch isn’t helping matters any.

When will people wake up and realize that education is important, public services are important, and we have to pay for them? The money to run these things doesn’t just magically appear. I don’t particularly care if you whine about paying taxes, really — sure, we all would like to have a little more money in our pockets than we do. But when your distaste becomes outright refusal (through ill-conceived ballot initiatives) to pay into the services that support and benefit everyone in this state, in both the short- and long-term, then I have no use for you — especially when you then turn around and bitch and moan that this country isn’t as great as it could be, should be, or used to be. Your greed is a large part of the reason for that.

I’m a Case Study

I’m a case study in a textbook — and, contrary to what might be believed, it’s _not_ a psychological textbook. Rather, it’s the latest repercussion from my fifteen minutes of fame way back when.

I’m a case study in a textbook — and, contrary to what might be believed, it’s _not_ a psychological textbook. Rather, it’s the latest repercussion from my [fifteen minutes of fame][1] way back when.

[1]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/category/15minutes/ “eclecticism: 15minutes category archives”

Case Study

From Canadian textbook [Business Technology Today][2], whose authors were kind enough to send me a copy after getting permission to quote me in their text. Thanks!

[2]: http://k12.nelson.com/productpage.aspx?isbn=0176335455 “Nelson Education Ltd. K-12 Catalogue Search”