Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Thomas Sowell: is the political left really concerned about helping minorities?

Economist Thomas Sowell

Economist Thomas Sowell

Do people who talk about race the most actually favor policies to help minorities? Thomas Sowell writes about it in Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left’s avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now — and the place would be New York City, where far left Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched an attack on charter schools, cutting their funding, among other things.

These schools have given thousands of low-income minority children their only shot at a decent education, which often means their only shot at a decent life. Last year 82% of the students at a charter school called Success Academy passed citywide mathematics exams, compared to 30% of the students in the city as a whole.

Why would anybody who has any concern at all about minority young people — or even common decency — want to destroy what progress has already been made?

One big reason, of course, is the teachers’ union, one of de Blasio’s biggest supporters.

But it may be more than that. For many of the true believers on the left, their ideology overrides any concern about the actual fate of flesh-and-blood human beings.

Something similar happened on the West Coast last year. The American Indian Model Schools in Oakland have been ranked among the top schools in the nation, based on their students’ test scores.

This is, again, a special achievement for minority students who need all the help they can get.

But, last spring, the California State Board of Education announced plans to shut this school down!

Why? The excuse given was that there had been suspicious financial dealings by the former — repeat, former — head of the institution. If this was the real reason, then all they had to do was indict the former head and let a court decide if he was guilty or innocent.

There was no reason to make anyone else suffer, much less the students. But the education establishment’s decision was to refuse to let the school open last fall. Fortunately a court stopped this hasty shutdown.

These are not just isolated local incidents. The Obama administration has cut spending for charter schools in the District of Columbia and its Justice Department has intervened to try to stop the state of Louisiana from expanding its charter schools.

Why such hostility to schools that have succeeded in educating minority students, where so many others have failed?

Some of the opposition to charter schools has been sheer crass politics. The teachers’ unions see charter schools as a threat to their members’ jobs, and politicians respond to the money and the votes that teachers’ unions can provide.

The net result is that public schools are often run as if their main function is to provide jobs to teachers. Whether the children get a decent education is secondary, at best.

In various parts of the country, educators who have succeeded in raising the educational level of minority children to the national average — or above — have faced hostility, harassment or have even been driven out of their schools.

Not all charter schools are successful, of course, but the ones that are completely undermine the excuses for failure in the public school system as a whole. That is why teachers’ unions hate them, as a threat not only to their members’ jobs but a threat to the whole range of frauds and fetishes in the educational system.

The autonomy of charter schools is also a threat to the powers that be, who want to impose their own vision on the schools, regardless of what the parents want.

This story reminds me of another story of people on the left blocking poor minority children from better schools, in order to protect the jobs of underperforming unionized teachers.

The Heritage Foundation explains how the Department of Justice, in a Democrat administration, hurts the poorest minority students.

Excerpt:

On August 22, 2013, the United States Department of Justice filed a motion in federal court to stop Louisiana from issuing school vouchers to low-income children in numerous school districts. DOJ is basing the suit on decades-old desegregation orders that treat Louisiana as if it were the same state it was nearly 40 years ago—something that the United States Supreme Court recently rejected in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. Ironically, DOJ’s action will prevent low-income and minority students from accessing the successful Louisiana school choice program, which empowers children, underserved in their assigned public schools, to attend schools of choice that match their learning needs. Vague, open-ended, and stale court orders should not be used to prevent educational innovation and opportunity.

Vouchers are a way of helping poor, minority students to get a quality education by letting them choose to attend better schools – any school the parents choose. But school choice is a thorn in the side of the public school unions who support the political left, because it allows poor, minority child to escape underperforming schools. Poor, minority students don’t help Democrats to get elected, but public school teachers do. And that’s why the administration sides with them against the children. On the other side of the aisle, it’s the conservatives who push for more school choice, and better education for poor and minority students.

But education policy is only one area where minorities are harmed by leftist policies.  Minimum wage is another obvious choice.

Let’s take a look at the data and see how minorities are affected by leftist policies.

Excerpt:

Battles are brewing in New York, California, Minnesota and the nation’s capital over hiking minimum wages, with Democrats having the votes to ram through hikes in all four cases.

These politicians are claiming the moral high ground, saying it will help the poorest in our communities. Don’t be fooled.

Hiking the minimum wage hurts — not helps — the lowest-paid workers, especially young black men. A 10% hike in the minimum wage causes a 2.5% drop in employment among young white men without a high school diploma and a staggering 6.5% drop among young black men without that degree.

Young black males get clobbered three times as hard because they tend to work in the fast-food and restaurant industries, where any increase in labor costs produces layoffs.

[...]Only 5% of American workers earn the federal minimum, according to the latest government data, compared with 13% in 1979. Minimum wage workers are largely first-time workers. They are learning what all of us learn on our first job: to be prompt, dress appropriately, do what the boss asks and be reliable.

First-time workers face the biggest risk of being priced out of the job market by a minimum wage hike. They aren’t worth much to an employer when they start working. They don’t have the skills.

When the government increases the minimum wage, it’s more expensive to hire first-timers. According to David Neumark and J.M. Salas, University of California economists, and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve Board, “minimum wages tend to reduce employment among teenagers.”

[...]All teens are harmed, but black male teenagers are hit hardest by minimum wage hikes, according to a 2011 study by labor economists David Macpherson and William Evans. Unemployment among young black males is currently 29%, double the rate for young white males.

Macpherson and Evans found the reason is that one out of three young black men without a high school diploma works in the restaurant/fast-food industry, where profit margins are thin. Any labor-cost hikes compel these businesses to cut their workforce.

The truth of the matter is that the real minimum wage is zero. In order to help minority young people find jobs, we should strengthen the institution of marriage, encourage people to get married and stay married, lower taxes on businesses, lower regulations on businesses, and so on. But strangely, the people who talk the most about helping the poor and poor minorities in particular are all opposed to that. The Democrats won’t even build the Keystone XL pipeline or expedite other energy development initiatives to create good paying jobs. So don’t believe that people who talk the most about poverty actually have the right answers about how to solve it. After all, the Obama administration talked a lot about health care, but clearly the people who lost their doctors, lost their health care, or are paying more for less health care, do not now believe that Obamacare was the answer to the health care problem.

If you’re looking for a good recent study on the minimum wage and minority youth, take a look at this study from the Employment Policies Institute. More studies here in a previous post on this blog.

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International tests show US children lagging despite record spending on education

Jay Richards tweeted this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Since 1998, the Program for International Student Assessment, or Pisa, has ranked 15-year-old kids around the world on common reading, math and science tests. The U.S. brings up the middle—again—among 65 education systems that make up fourth-fifths of the global economy. The triennial Pisa report also shows—again—that East Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea produce the best outcomes.

U.S. performance hasn’t budged in a decade. For 2012, U.S. students placed 26th in mathematics, a bit below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average, and 17th in reading and 21st in science, close to the average. The U.S. slipped in all categories compared to international competitors, plunging from 11th in reading as recently as 2009.

American teenagers seem especially weak in core academic subjects with high cognitive demands, such as translating concepts into solutions for real-world problems. A quarter never become proficient in math. In Shanghai and Korea, the comparable figure is 10% or fewer. Some 7% of U.S. students reached the top two scientific performance levels, compared with 17% in Finland and an amazing 27% in Shanghai. Is it tiger moms or tiger schools, or maybe both?

The U.S. is way out front in one measure: per-student spending. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more. Despite laying out $115,000 per head, the U.S. did no better than the Slovak Republic, which spends $53,000.

Perhaps most depressingly, the data show no statistically significant U.S. achievement improvement over time. None. In an era when it pays to be thankful for small mercies, at least we’re not getting worse, but America’s relative standing is falling as other countries improve.

[...]Massachusetts has been running public schools since 1635 and today is home to some of the best performers in the nation. The state entered Pisa as if it was its own country—but students of the same age in Shanghai performed as if they had two more years of math instruction than those in the Bay State.

[...]Pisa also adds another count to the bill of indictment for the Democrats who block reform to serve their teachers union patrons. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the report “a picture of educational stagnation,” but liberals are major impediments to more accountability, merit-based compensation and school-choice competition. The Justice Department has even gone so far as to sue Louisiana to block its modest voucher program, which is a moral crime against the students consigned to failing schools.

There are a few areas of economics that I think that Christians really ought to understand, and education is one of them. We definitely need to be concerned about policies that make it harder for poor, minority students to get ahead. We keep throwing money at the unionized public school system, and we get no results. We need to think about making education more like online shopping. What makes online shopping great is choice and competition. If schools were allowed to compete with one another, then the customer would be assured of getting more quality for less money. The public school system is a monopoly, and it serves the teachers and the education bureaucrats – not the children.

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Governor Bobby Jindal’s fight to give poor, minority children quality education

Here’s an update on the Democrat war on vouchers in Louisiana, posted by governor Bobby Jindal in the left-leaning Washington Post. In it, he explains how is trying to reform education in his home state of Louisiana, and how the federal government is trying to stop him for doing that.

Excerpt:

We all know the harsh cycle of poverty that exists in the United States and that a disproportionate share of those in poverty are minorities. Studies of health-care outcomes, incarceration levels and economic opportunity all show that education is key to improving quality of life.

Millions of single parents in this country work two jobs to make ends meet, hoping that their children won’t have the same struggles. Hope is their only option because they live in neighborhoods with chronically failing public schools and lack the means to move to better school districts or to send their children to private schools.

Obama and Holder think this should continue to be the reality. In Louisiana, we think the opposite is true. We believe every child deserves the opportunity to get a great education.

That’s why we started a school choice program in 2008 in New Orleans and expanded it statewide in 2012. Low-income families with children in schools graded C, D or F by the state are eligible to apply for a scholarship and send their children to schools of their choice.

The program works. From 2011 to 2013, students who had been trapped in failing schools and now attend scholarship schools showed improvement on literacy and math tests. The share of students performing at grade level rose 7 percent, state data show, even though in 2013, 60 percent of students taking the test had been in their new schools for only eight months. More than 90 percent of parents of students participating in the program reported satisfaction with their children’s schools.

This opportunity is perhaps these children’s best chance to escape the cycle of poverty. No one in their right mind could argue that the Justice Department’s efforts to block the scholarship program will help these kids. This can only be an attempt to curry favor with the government unions that provide financial largess and political power.

President Obama should do the right thing and order the Justice Department to drop the lawsuit. Not because I am asking, but because the parents and children in the scholarship program deserve an opportunity. For generations, the government has forced these families to hope for the best from failing schools. Shame on all of us for standing by and watching generations of children stay in failing schools that may have led them to lives of poverty.

We in Louisiana are rejecting the status quo because we believe every child should have the opportunity to succeed. A scholarship program is not a silver bullet for student success. Maybe a student will perform well in a traditional public school, or a charter school, or a virtual school, but the point is that parents should be able to decide, not bureaucrats in Baton Rouge or Washington.

If the president and the attorney general believe their path is right, I invite them to come to Louisiana and look these parents and children in the eyes and explain why they believe every child shouldn’t have a fair shake.

If the administration does not drop this lawsuit, we will fight every step of the way until the children prevail. Giving every child — no matter race or income — the opportunity to get a great education is a moral imperative.

You might remember that the Obama administration previously went after the D.C. voucher program, which was also for helping poor, minority students.  Why are the Democrats doing this? The answer is simple. Come election time, the Democrats rely heavily on the fundraising and activism of the teacher unions. The teacher unions have more money if they have more children trapped in their failing public schools. Therefore, Obama has every incentive to make sure that no child is allowed to leave a failing school. He needs the help of the teacher unions at election time more than he needs to help children who cannot even vote. That’s what is really going on here. Bobby Jindal would love to have the support of teacher unions, but given the choice between helping the unions and helping the children, he’s choosing the children.

The main point here is that the politicians who talk the most about spending more money on education may not be thinking about what is best for children at all. They might be thinking about paying their union supporters more, so that they will do more at election time. An alternative to just giving more money to the unions would be Jindal’s plan of giving money directly to parents and letting parents choose. Parents might not be as politically connected as teacher unions, but if your goal is to help children get an education, then maybe unions and elections don’t matter as much.

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New study: private religious schools outperform public schools and public charter schools

Reported by The Public Discourse.

Excerpt:

I recently conducted a meta-analysis of more than ninety studies on education, and the results suggest that perhaps it is time for America’s leadership and the general public to take a second look at religious private schools. At the risk of immodesty, let me be frank. The study is hugely important because it is the first published meta-analysis to compare the three primary types of American schools: religious private schools, traditional public schools, and charter schools.

A meta-analysis statistically combines all the relevant existing studies on a given subject in order to determine the aggregated results of the research. This meta-analysis yielded results that surprised many by indicating that students from public charter schools did no better than their peers in traditional public schools. In contrast, youth from religious private schools performed better academically than their counterparts in both public charter schools and traditional public schools, even when the results were adjusted to account for socioeconomic status, selectivity, race, and various other factors.

[...]Examining results from all ninety studies, I found that the average academic outcome for religious school students was .28 of a standard deviation unit higher than for traditional public school (TPS) students, while the average for charter school students was only .01 of a standard deviation unit higher. If one converts these numbers to percentiles, the average academic outcome was 11 percentage points higher than that of TPS pupils, while charter school attendees scored about the same as their TPS counterparts.

Translated into more tangible numbers, students who attend private religious schools attain educational levels that average about twelve months ahead of those attending regular public schools. Even when the meta-analysis employed sophisticated controls, which included measures for socioeconomic status, selectivity, gender, and race, youth who attended faith-based schools achieved at levels seven months ahead of both TPS and public charter school students.

One of the most intriguing results of the study is that the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps are roughly 25 percent narrower in religious private schools than in public schools. This finding is particularly interesting when one considers that over the years the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to bridge the gaps, with only limited success. Higher expectations for students, and school leaders’ insistence that pupils take demanding courses, could help to explain these circumstances in faith-based schools.

The meta-analysis focused primarily on scholastic performance, but it also examined student behavior. The results indicated that youth from faith-based schools maintained even a larger edge in behavior than they did in school academics. That is, pupils from religious private schools exhibited fewer behavioral problems, even when socioeconomic status, selectivity, race, and gender were also controlled for. This translates into fewer gangs, lower levels of drug abuse, and greater racial harmony than one typically finds in public schools.

Many people, even this researcher, expected public charter school students to perform somewhere in between the levels achieved by students attending faith-based schools and those attending traditional public schools, given that they were trying to mimic certain aspects of private religious schools.

To the extent that neither traditional public schools nor charter schools are succeeding on a broad scale, it appears that the best hope for American education is religious private schools. Not only are they considerably more economically efficient, but their students also achieve better academic and behavioral results.

I think that it is noteworthy that Democrats opposes allowing parents – especially poor parents – to have a choice of what school their children will attend. The Obama administration even de-funded a voucher program that served poor-minority students. Teacher unions are one of the strongest pro-Democrat special interests. If the Democrat Party has to choose between poor, minority students and their powerful allies in the teach unions, the choice is not a hard one. They choose the teacher unions.

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Good news: school choice victory in Indiana, pro-life victory in North Dakota

The Heritage Foundation reports.

Excerpt:

It’s hard to overstate what an outstanding victory for school choice Indiana’s Supreme Court issued yesterday.

Indiana’s highest court ruled unanimously in Meredith v. Pence that the Choice Scholarship Program (CSP), which provides vouchers to low-income and middle-income families in the Hoosier State, is constitutional. The suit, brought by the teachers unions, sought to end the country’s largest and most inclusive school voucher program.

Thankfully for the families currently participating in the CSP—and for the 600,000 children who are now eligible to receive scholarships to attend a private school that meets their unique learning needs—the court sided 5–0 with educational freedom. As the Institute for Justice’s Bert Gall notes that

the unions’ legal claims focused on two types of constitutional provisions that are common in most other state constitutions: 1) provisions requiring that states provide a “general and uniform” system of public education; and 2) provisions forbidding state support of religion.

With regard to requiring a uniform system of public education, Gall goes on to write that the court “showed that the duty to provide a ‘general and uniform’ system of public schools is not violated when a state provides educational options above and beyond the system.”

As for the provision prohibiting state support of religion, the court noted that

any benefit to program-eligible schools, religious or non-religious, derives from the private, independent choice of the parents of program-eligible students, not the decree of the state, and is thus ancillary and incidental to the benefit conferred on these families.

The Indiana ruling not only ends the challenge to the voucher program in the state, it is also an important victory for school choice and, as Gall put it, “solidifie[s] the growing body of case law supporting school choice and expose[s] the flaws in the teachers’ unions’ favorite legal claims.”

That’s good news for fiscal conservatives, but there was also good news for social conservatives last week – in North Dakota.

Excerpt:

If abortion proponents condemned 2011 as “the year of abortion restrictions… mark[ing] a sea change for abortion rights,” and 2012 as “an unmitigated disaster for abortion rights,” I can’t imagine what they will say about 2013.

In 2011 there were a record 92 pro-life laws enacted in the states, followed by the second highest number, 43, in in 2012. This year has already seen at least 14 pro-life bills become law, according toMailee Smith, Staff Counsel for Americans United for Life, so we are on track for another banner year.

But in 2013 we are not only seeing a high volume of typical pro-life legislative fare, we are seeing passage of pro-life legislation on steroids, the likes of which has never been observed in 40 years of legalized abortions throughout the U.S.

Yesterday, North Dakota adopted the “heartbeat” ban, which outlaws abortion once a baby’s heart tones can be detected, as early as six weeks. At the same time ND Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the first ever ban against eugenic abortions for fetal abnormalities or gender.

Bumped from the top spot, held only three weeks, was Arkansas, which on March 6 passed what was then an unprecedented ban on abortions after 12 weeks.

Just a week prior, Arkansas became the 10th* state to pass a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.

Then there’s the Personhood Amendment. On March 22 North Dakota became the first state to legislatively authorize a ballot initiative that would establish the right to life from the moment of conception.

All the more reason for sensible Americans to continue their mass emigration from leftist blue states to conservative red states.

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