Friday, October 19, 2012

An imprecise science or two

I can't say that I agree with all of the author's conclusion, but I did find one quite compelling. In the book Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools, Steve Brill argues that many of the things we believe will fix schools really don't always help as he looks at the education reform measures of the last few years. One of his ideas is that the amount of resources the school has does not correlate with the results.

I thought of this as I looked over my property tax bill today.

I know most of you don't look at yours, or maybe you rent, so you pay it indirectly and never see the bill. So, I will let you in on a little bit of mine.
Of the nearly $2,200 we have to pay this year, about $920.00 goes to the City School District. That is pushing close to one half of all the property taxes.
For comparison purposes, another 1/4 of the County property taxes go to the county and the rest is divided between the City, Pima College, the Library, School Equal (whatever that is) and other areas like that.
Oh, and $7.14 goes to the Fire District.

Currently in our state, we are being asked to vote for another one percent of all our sales taxes to go to "education" (Proposition 204), which seems to have become a code word for "you had better vote for this or you must hate children and want our society to descend into absolute chaos".

Last year, it also meant that you wanted to burn down the schools because the firemen would all be fired if you didn't vote to spend more of your money on one tax or the other. I see that the firemen were able to get $7.00 out of that deal.

While it would be nice if schools everywhere could have all the money in the world, I really don't think throwing more of our money at them whenever they want is really going to make them better.

Am I wrong?

In the meantime, for those of you that are a little shaky on your macroeconomics, or if you went to a public university and were overexposed to Keynesian economics without learning the countering viewpoint, you can check out the video below. It is a music video that compares Keynes and Hayek's economic views, the economists that have the most influence on how we deal with our economy today. You get the basics in just a few fun filled minutes. You are welcome.

Fight of the Century: Keynes and Hayek Round Two


Eileen Short said...

The money has made a big difference at our school. Teachers now have a couple hundred dollars to buy school supplies, whereas before all of that was coming out of pocket (there's till plenty coming out of pocket). We've been able to hire back two specialist positions, PE and Technology (also due to the override that passed). Oh, and I didn't have a drop in pay this year...I even got a 1.2% raise or something.
I think more money isn't a promise that everything will be fixed. But it has been of huge help.
I should also note that I work for the #1 ranked district in AZ who receives less $$ per student than most districts in our state. So your argument that more money doesn't necessarily mean better results holds true. TUSD needs to be broken down into smaller districts..just too large.
But I will be voting yes for 204, mostly because it keeps the state from decreasing funding below 11-12 levels but also because I've seen the benefit of these funds.

DC Le Peau said...

Are you wrong? Yes and No.

It's a combination of how much money and where/how it is spent. I'm sure the book (which I am now interested in reading) is looking at a national level while the state of Arizona is ranked 48th in spending per student.

When you look at a state like New Jersey it is crazy amount of money they get and the ridiculous ways they spend it. The same may be true for Arizona but there is more of a need here.

The bulk of research on education points to teachers being the defining factor in students academic success yet we spend our money on everything but. Finland ranks among the top two or three countries in all academic categories because of the way they have elevated teachers. They are required to have the education of professors and they are in turn paid and given the respect of professors.

In short Eileen is right, the money in Arizona will make a positive difference. Academy of Tucson is also proud to be one of the top ranked systems in AZ while taking no federal funding, however, we could be even better with a little more cash.

To topic no. 2, I love your posts like this because they require me to think.

I think we could fuse Keynes and Hayek's economic views to meet some of our more contemporary economic issues.

I think liberals today pull on the Keynesian idea that free markets have proven to drive the economy into a ditch, then government intervention becomes necessary. Of course this is only a fraction of Keynes views.

I agree with Hayek on inflated government induced interest rates, but unregulated giant corporations and banks impose the same or more damage.

Check out both parts of this interview and tell me what you think:

Thanks! Despite not being totally on board with the was amazing! Ironic that they say there is no way you can learn everything you need to know about economics in one college class...then they go on to present the great debate of economic theories in a 10 minute music video.

DC Le Peau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DC Le Peau said...

PS - How much are your three kids educations worth? I would say $900 bucks is a pretty good deal for a decent education. Of course in the US you are not required to utilize that education if you have better options, but a good deal none-the-less.

Also, do you like what I did with the "in short, Eileen"? I thought it was... never mind.

Jaime said...

Thanks for your participation!

We have opted out of public education at a primary and secondary level, so the $900 is not a direct benefit to us. However, the state (In this case, I literally mean the State of AZ, not the state in a general sense) has shouldered the burden of providing that education to all takers and I generally do agree that this is an important and right thing to do.

However, I am not convinced that merely boosting the funds spent on education will be any sort of fix for systemic problems. Indeed, an influx of money in any organization tends to temporarily shift the focus off of problems, which still remain in spite of the increase in funds. And as long as the problems are left alone, they continue to grow. The extra money may may the symptoms subside, but does not address the disease.

On top of that, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's recent report, spending per student has increased 39% over the last decade, which is well ahead of both the population growth rate (24%) and the inflation rate (27%). This is not inherently bad, but at the same time, classroom spending (What is called the Classroom dollar percentage, the amount actually spent on instruction) has decreased by 6.7%.

I am not convinced that Prop 204 will 1. Address systemic issues, 2. Provide a substantial amount of direct classroom instruction as opposed to inflating the bureaucracy (a big part of what I see as the systemic problem)

Furthermore, more taxes on everyone at this time are not what I think will help our economy. I believe a robust economy actually does put more money into Govt. coffers as well as our personal accounts.

As I am sure you have deduced, I generally disagree with Keynesian philosophy. However, I have to get behind this quote of his:

"...Nor should the argument seem strange that taxation may be so high as to defeat its object, and that, given sufficient time to gather the fruits, a reduction of taxation will run a better chance than an increase of balancing the budget. For to take the opposite view today is to resemble a manufacturer who, running at a loss, decides to raise his price, and when his declining sales increase the loss, wrapping himself in the rectitude of plain arithmetic, decides that prudence requires him to raise the price still more—and who, when at last his account is balanced with nought on both sides, is still found righteously declaring that it would have been the act of a gambler to reduce the price when you were already making a loss."

Mountain Mike said...

Are we supposed to read all those comments too? I can barely get through the blog without trying to figure out what everyone else is saying.

El Cid said...

The first comment says that FPF is right, but she will vote for 204 anyway, cause it probably helps out.

The second guy says that fpf is sort of right, but you need to spend more on education, so vote yes on 204. Ok, he didn't mention the proposition. In fact, from what they say, they seem to mostly agree, but from different perspectives.

FPF countered in a way that I think agreed with the DC guy that the money was not well spent and didn't seem to have an effect on how good the school outcomes were. And that he still wanted lower taxes.

Now my comment explaining the others is as long as the others.

Jaime said...

Thanks for the clarification El Cid. Maybe Mountain Mike should just read the comments for himself.

Jaime said...

And vote NO on Proposition 204, if you are a local....:>)

DC Le Peau said...

Prop 204 isn't an effort to boost the economy and you are correct, it does not fix the systematic problems with our education system. However, well educated kids will boost the economy in the long run, and the teachers reading your blog believe despite its shortcomings Prop 204 will be beneficial for students.

Personally I am a fan of Josephian economics, where Joseph told Pharaoh that bad times will come, so save when there are good times to have money to spend during the bad. Sadly, the U.S. (government and individuals) spends like there is no tomorrow when times are good then have nothing in the bank when times go down the drain. When we get into this situation Mr. Ramsey would say, "increase income, decrease spending" we do that best is still left up to debate.

Thanks again FPF for being a reasonable, well spoken conservative, the fruits of the spirit are strong with this one...peace, patience and self-control are a couple that come to mind.

Looking forward to hanging soon.

And vote YES on 204, if you care about all the beautiful children ;)