March 11, 2009
Washington State Not Qualified for some Stimulus Money?

No joke.

Lynne Varner's column today on the broader topic of education reform mentioned the potential problem:

While Washington crawls toward change, some of the money to implement it will be lost if we don't get the lead out. A sizable chunk of the $100 billion in federal stimulus money for our nation's schools is tied to reform efforts. Rules are still being crafted, but federal specifications include using the money to expand school days, measure student achievement and use performance pay to reward good teachers.

This blogger has heard two disparate sources lament just such an issue. It would seem that despite some other profound problems with the Obama Administration thus far, they seem serious about tying the massive influx of federal spending on K-12 to various accountability measures. And Washington state likely doesn't measure up in many respects.

I was going to dig a bit deeper on that, including a discussion of info found here, to provide some analysis. Yet, I see Josh Feit beat me to thinks thanks to one mutual source who shall go unnamed. Anyway, here's some from Feit:

Part of Obama's program involves dedicating stimulus package money to education reform-- $130 billion. Washington state is slated to get about $800 million if we meet certain "assurances" that Obama's reform effort has outlined...


And surprise, Washington state--if it goes with the Senate bill that passed this week-- is in danger of blowing it.

"Our state has a lot of work to do to meet these assurances," says Mary Jean Ryan, Chair of the State Board of Education. Asked if we might lose the Obama stimulus money, Ryan said: "We have to take that threat seriously."

Here's one easy to grasp specific:

The state would have met requirement No. 5, for example, if it had included the "Core 24" principle that was in the original bill. "Core 24" would redefine basic education requirements so that high school graduation requirements include course credits, 24 of them, that line up with college admittance prerequisites. Amazingly, state guidelines do not line up with those needed to apply to our local colleges and the current Senate version of the bill does not correct this. [emphasis added]

"If we don't add real reform on the table," says Lisa Macfarlane, lobbyist with the League of Education Voters, "including making sure kids are ready when they graduate high shcool [sic], that's a problem. And some federal stimulus money is going to pass us by if we don't."

That's a tragedy of the first order, as as discussed in a labor-related post earlier today (scroll down for the WEA-related discussion), the teachers' union is the primary entity that has stood in the way of real reform in education for years, including this one. Feit himself has reported on this topic recently too.

As a point of comparison, Massachusetts, that not exactly conservative bastion, passed major K-12 education reform just like Washington state in 1993. Yet, while we face problems like those noted above, Massachusetts consistently ranks at the top of the country in student achievement (examples here and here). They did that by getting serious about education reform, not by relying on platitudes or listening the exceptionally loud voice of the status quo.

Earling Soap Box Extra:

Feit's commentary includes this charmer:

Unlike the Bush years, President Obama is not talking about making funding contingent on "Abstinence Only" mandates. He's talking about requiring states to make real changes in terms of standards and accountability and training.

I note, as a former Bush Education official, that his understanding regarding abstinence funding as well as "requiring states to make real changes in terms of standards and accountability" is painfully inaccurate.

First, abstinence education has virtually zero to do with the overwhelming bulk of K-12 education funding at the federal level - witness the fact not a single state declined No Child Left Behind funding and the law was written with the aid - and strong continued support - of liberal lions in Congress like Ted Kennedy and George Miller. In my six years of working on education funding issues in a liaison role between the U.S. Department of Education and the states & local districts receiving such funds, issues or questions regarding abstinence education never came up.

Either way, No Child Left Behind-related funding soared (yes, soared) under President Bush. Example: Washington state's own No Child Left Behind funding swelled from $251 million in 2001 - the last Clinton-era year - to $392 million for 2009 - the last year of the Bush-era budgets (available in detailed tables, including by state, here).

Meanwhile, Feit's comments on "accountability" imply a laughable lack of understanding of pre-Obama K-12 education policy via No Child Left Behind. The whole point of that law was that states, in agreeing to take part (as all 50 have done), had to demonstrate significantly improved systems of standards, tests, accountability, teacher qualification, and the like. Liberals like Feit are often loath to admit it, but all these principles enunciated by Obama are an extension of the principles put in place by the supposedly evil W via No Child Left Behind.

Indeed, what Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are proposing to do is hold states more accountable to meeting the spirit of No Child Left Behind, not just the letter. There were natural accommodation in the initial phase of implementing the law, as states adjusted their tests, standards, teacher quality practices, and other components of their education systems. After several years of such implementation, it's clear some states and school districts are more serious about meaningful education reform than others. The Obama Administration is right to pursue the path of rewarding the former and not the latter.

That's part of the reason Washington needs to get its act together, regardless of Feit's lack of understanding on pre-existing federal education law. If he has further complaints or misconceptions about No Child Left Behind, perhaps he could take them up with Ted Kennedy.

Posted by Eric Earling at March 11, 2009 10:04 PM | Email This
1. Eric -

It's funny how you make fun of the 'dead tree press', like the Seattle Times and Seattle P-I.

But nearly every post you make is a comment on an article from.... the dead tree press.

Maybe someone can do a tally of the last 100 postings. How many are truly original content and how many are comments on newspapers articles?

Posted by: Richard Borkowski on March 12, 2009 05:59 AM
2. This is just another example in the burgeoning evidence that the USA is well on its way to being a socialist state.

Just a couple of days ago, some banks who were receiving bailout money were told they had to do certain things and one of which was the feds (read Obama) could micromanage their operation like wages, hours, etc. And to top it off, when they signed there was the "other duties as required" clause or the clause that said if we want we can add more hoops to make you jump through. Some banks are salivating on how to give the money back but there is no mechanism.

Seems like the banks signed their souls away, died and went to hell and now are trying to negotiate their way back. Oh, maybe I am talking about socialism.

The school crap sounds about the same.

Posted by: swatter on March 12, 2009 07:34 AM
3. Josh: If you were in education than you would know the following:

Abstinence-only education has been shown numerous times to not work.

"There are three primary funding streams to the states for abstinence-only programs. These include:

Title V, Section () 510 of the Social Security Act (welfare reform)
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE), under Title XI, 1110 of the Social Security Act, formerly known as Special Projects of Regional and National Significance (SPRANS); and
Adolescent Family Life Act, under Title XX of the Public Health Service Act."

Also, while no child left behind funding has "soared" the unfunded mandate costs have always "soared" much higher. The states are required to do much more than the funds they werre ever given. So saying the funds soared under Bush is like saying I made you do 500 millions dollars woth of work and funds soared from 251 to 392 million to do that.

Big deal - it was and still is unfunded mandates. Unfunded mandates HURT an education system that is already short on dollars (like Washington) and that already has class sizes near the bottom of all states. And we know that class size (particularly in elementary schools) is directly correlated with student achievement.

Posted by: correctnotright on March 12, 2009 07:37 AM
4. Never right.
And we know that class size (particularly in elementary schools) is directly correlated with student achievement.

I wonder how all of us baby boomers during the 50's & 60's made it thru when our school rooms were packed?

PS. don't forget you hero Teddy "can't swim" Kennedy has much to do with NCLB.

Posted by: Medic/Vet on March 12, 2009 09:00 AM
5. I remember 40 in a classroom. I know if I were in school today and there were a contest, I'd whup up on these students of today.

Posted by: swatter on March 12, 2009 09:04 AM
6. @3 -

NCLB asks states to be accountable for getting kids to the standards the state's themselves set for those kids. Example: a 3rd grader should be reading and doing math at a 3rd grade level. That's what they're supposed to be doing anyway, thus belying the "unfunded mandate" myth.

Speaking of which, if NCLB was such a raw deal, you would think at least one state would have opted out of it. None have. Each has chosen of its own volition to participate in the law.

Lastly, repeated studies have shown that lowering class sizes is one of the least efficient ways, in terms of cost, to improve student achievement (even if one can find qualified teachers to hire, especially for high need positions). Yes, atrocious class sizes can be a problem. But in an era of limited resources, shouldn't the education system be focused on how to get the most bang for their available buck?

Posted by: Eric Earling on March 12, 2009 09:36 AM
7. Eric.
I did a some reading on the class size and learning in India.
Well the adverage size is 43 per class.
Yet they show little problems when it comes to teaching kids.

Makes you wonder.

Posted by: Medic/Vet on March 12, 2009 09:55 AM
8. Eric,

Studies have shown that lowering class sizes is very effective, but only if the class sizes in reading and math are below 12 students. Thus lowering them from 30 to 25 or even 30 to 18 doesn't do much, while lowering them from 25 to 12 or even 20 to 10 does do a tremendous amount, especially in small schools where there aren't enough students to effectively group the kids by where they are academically.

There is also a way to reduce the class sizes to 12 and less for math and reading at minimal cost. That's right, for only about 5% more in cost schools can reduce the class sizes in math and reading by 50% or more. They only have to be willing to increase class sizes in subjects such as PE, Art, Music, Social Studies.

This is most important in grades K-6 where most schools have not deviated from the historical norm of having one teacher teach one class all their subjects throughout the year. Elementary teachers have to be willing to give up their students like normal JR/SR high classes, so that during math and reading their class sizes can be 12 and below but they have to also be willing to have 30+ kids during arts and PE.

Posted by: Doug on March 12, 2009 09:58 AM
9. Doug -

Yes, I've seen those same studies. As you note, there are trade-offs to get class sizes down that far in core subjects that are rarely pursued in the real world. Absent those trade-offs, the cost is obviously prohibitive to achieve class sizes near 12.

Posted by: Eric Earling on March 12, 2009 10:02 AM
10. Eric, I thought that NCLB set the requirement that states have standards and that they prove they are meeting them in order to receive federal funds. Did NCLB set the standards for education or did it leave it up to the states to set the standard and show achievement based on those standards?

Shouldn't states have high standards and teach to those standards? Shouldn't they show proof positive that they are indeed achieving those standards?

If not, why is the state in the education business?

Just what is the goal of public education if not to educate?

Posted by: SouthernRoots on March 12, 2009 10:35 AM
11. @10 -

Yes, NCLB does require states to have standards (as well as regular testing, annual reporting of scores, etc.). Absent those standards, states would lose eligibility for Title I funding, which is by far and away the largest pot of money in federal support for K-12 education.

Now, while all 50 states are in compliance with the letter of that element of the law, that doesn't mean every state has actually set truly meaningful standards or is taking seriously the task of improving student achievement - particularly in stereotypically challenging demographics.

During the later Bush years, after states were given an opportunity to phase-in implementation of the law after it was signed in 2002, there was serious consideration given to ways to incentivize states and school districts that are taking the above concepts seriously. We did some things at an administrative level to highlight and reward success and innovation. Also, there were a number of serious discussions when NCLB came up for a reauthorization debate in 2007 to expand such ideas.

Reauthorization didn't come to pass (though the law stays in effect as long as Congress keeps funding it). Yet, one can see in what the Obama Administration is proposing that they're moving to emphasize even further the notion that states who are serious about high standards should be rewarded and held up for emulation. I would expect potential debates in Congress about reauthorization of NCLB later in Obama's term will no doubt hit on the same themes.

A huge part of NCLB is simply getting more information about schools in the public realm. Not only test scores, but information about the quality of standards and other metrics in the education system. That tends to prompt further debate at the state & local level, which usually empowers policy leaders and educators who are actually serious about education reform. Slowly but surely, that's happening.

Posted by: Eric Earling on March 12, 2009 10:55 AM
12. In 5th grade at Our Lady of Czestochowa we had 56 in our class.

Sist Loyola aptly taught all of us... and we ALL learned.

Posted by: Ragnar Danneskjold on March 12, 2009 12:20 PM
13. There is no Federal right or duty to provide for education; it is reserved to the States. There shouldn't be an NLCB Act, or any Federal funding.

And as far as class size goes, my nieces are in a Catholic school in Salem, OR and their classes (2nd grade and 5th grade) have 25 and 31 students, respectively. No problems at all for them.

Class size is not the problem; WHAT is being taught and HOW it is being taught and WHO is being forced to be 'taught' is the problem. Back down to the fundamental principles, teach in time-tested-and-proven means (drop the whole "reasoning" thing for primary - rote memorization is what's needed), and if a child doesn't want to learn and their parents won't help out, then out they go - school is NOT a baby sitting service.

Remember why your grandparents pushed so hard for your parents to get an education - they understood an education was a privilege, not a right. That education was a way up and YOU had to do the climbing.

As Dr. Dennis Elwell, VP of O'Dea High School used to say "hey, I don't care if you don't want to learn - someone has to flip the burgers at McDonald's".

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on March 12, 2009 04:52 PM
14. Oh, and for those bleeding heart "it's for the CHILDREN!" types out there, you DO realize that your favorite Volvo bumper sticker (I look forward to the day that schools get all the funding they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber) is a total lie?

In 2006, total funding of just PUBLIC schools was $526 billion. That does NOT include the tens of billions spent on private and home schooling.

In 2006, the DOD's budget was $426 billion.

We spend hundreds of billions more on education than we do defense. There's PLENTY of money to provide top-notch schools and education. The problem is the administrations, the Governments, and most of the teachers, not to mention the entire concept of tenure...

MONEY is not the problem; it's how that money is spent and used.

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on March 12, 2009 05:03 PM
15. Dan,

I don't know, I like your numbers but it's really pretty easy to say:

All in all, I would expect more to be spent educating our young each year than it would cost to defend them.

Also, I imagine we should be spending less on healthcare each year than those two categories.

As well as we should be spending far less on housing each year than we do educating them or defending us, same with transportation.

I'm not sure what the numbers are for those things but your comparison really doesn't shock me. I'm actually a strong military conservative and it concerns me more that there isn't a bigger difference. I guess if you included private school costs maybe it would be more what it should be.

Posted by: Doug on March 12, 2009 10:16 PM
16. Doug,

All in all, I would expect more to be spent educating our young each year than it would cost to defend them.

We do. See the links above. We spend $526+ billion educating K-12 students. We spend $426 billion defending ALL residents (K-12 makes up about 18% of our population, meaning the per-student cost of defense is around $255 - yes, twenty bucks a month).

We spend more in absolute dollars AND per-capita on K-12 education than we do for defense.

Also, I imagine we should be spending less on healthcare each year than those two categories.

According to the DHHS National Health Expenditure Data we spend $2,650 per child, far below what we spend per child on education (I think that is very high for K-12, as it is for all children and thus includes infant care).

As well as we should be spending far less on housing each year than we do educating them or defending us, same with transportation.

I'm positive we do. The US expenditure per student is over $9,100 per year. I don't think the housing cost of a K-12 child is over $750 per month on average! And unless every K-12 kid is rollin on dubs in their own Escalade, I don't think transportation costs are anywhere near $750 per month.

The bottom line is we waste a TREMENDOUS amount of money on "education", especially when you compare it to those other evils the Marxist Left loves to trot out - defense and healthcare.

Every year, we spend $9,100+ on education for K-12. For defense, we spend $255; for healthcare we spend $2,650. Combined, defense and healthcare are just 32% of what we spend on education - education is more than THREE TIMES the cost of healthcare and defense.

Education is more than 35 TIMES as high as defense dollars spent. Healthcare is more than TEN TIMES as high as defense dollars spent.

Yet the idiot Marxist Leftists want more money for education, because we're not spending enough. We spend $12,000 per year per K-12 child educating, defending, and providing healthcare.

I hope these numbers put things into perspective! The only Constitutionally mandated role of these three - defense - gets just 2% of the dollars spent. Yet you wait - it'll be the first thing the Slaver Party partisans will howl about!

I hope these numbers shake some people up, and I hope they drive you to anger over the outright waste of trillions of dollars, and the waste of lives and minds that the Public Education System consumes.

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on March 13, 2009 12:54 AM
17. Expand school days? Merit pay? Yeah...I'm SURE The WEA is ALL FOR THAT!

Posted by: scott on March 13, 2009 09:56 AM
The only thing propping up Washington State is that its so far away from the majority of the population (the taxpayers) that they have no idea what type of bilking goes on around the Puget Sound.

Giving politicians here another $100 Billion would be as good as making paper airplanes with it. No, wait. If we made paper airplanes they might get into the hands of some deserving types. Giving it to Olympia will insure the biggest most awful crooks take all of it for themselves.

Posted by: John Bailo on March 13, 2009 06:34 PM
19. @4 Medic/Vet

Thanks for proving my point about crowded classrooms, Medi/Vet. Clearly, your lack of a real education is what makes you so ignorant of something called "research".

Do I need to cite the studies or can you use something called the "google" to look them up. I realize that actual research studies done in this country on education are probably to difficult for you to understand (given the large class size you had) but I can summarize for you.

The strongest correlation for future academic success is small class sizes in elementary school.

"Finding: Small classes significantly improve academic achievement for all groups of students in all locations. The Lasting Benefits Study (LBS) is an example of the RPC's longitudinal research on class size. LBS findings on the effects of small classes in kindergarten through third grade and on the subsequent academic achievement (test scores) of students in the fourth grade have been published broadly during the last six years.

The Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences class size research was referenced by Dr. Donald Orlich in the Phi Delta Kappan (April 1991) as "one of the most significant studies in education during the past 25 years." NEA Today (October 1995) highlighted this study in an article, "Small classes, big results". The American School Boards Journal (May 1992) featured an article on the LBS; recent class size findings were presented in Research in the Schools (1994); a review of STAR and LBS was completed by Harvard University Professor Frederick Mosteller in Futures of Children (1995); and the Arizona General Assembly Report (1996) featured the Center's Tennessee research.

Nye, B.A., Hedges, L.V., Konstantopoulos, S. (2000, Spring). The effects of small classes on academic achievement: the results of the Tennessee class size experiment. American Educational Research Journal, 37(1), 123-151.

Nye, B.A., Hedges, L.V., & Konstantopoulos, S. (2001). The long-term effects of small classes in early grades: Lasting benefits in mathematics achievement at grade 9. Journal Experimental Education, 69(3), 245-257.

Nye, B.A., & Hedges, L.V., Konstantopoulos, S. (2001). Are the effects of small classes cumulative? Evidence from the Tennessee class size experiment. Journal of educational Research, 94(6), 336-345.

Nye, B.A., Hedges, L.V., & Konstantopoulos, S. (1999, Summer). The long-term effects of small classes: A five-year follow-up of the Tennessee class size experiment. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 127-142"

Posted by: correctnotright on March 13, 2009 08:28 PM
20. AlwaysWrong,

Studies are great, but what about real world results? I'm sure you'll want to ignore that. Why? Because there is no correlation between money, teacher salary, and test scores.

The issue isn't class size (what was the size of the average classroom on the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s?). It's not underfunded schools (they're very well funded). It's a lack of accountability by the education camp, and parents and much of society unwilling to tell their children to shape up.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to guest lecture at the Minhang Zhongxue, for their physics classes (with 45-50 students per classroom - imagine that!) Then probably have a late afternoon snack with half a dozen students who all speak very good English, much better than my huai Han Yu.

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on March 13, 2009 09:08 PM
21. The research shows that placing an effective teacher in every classroom is more important than any other factor, including class size, in raising student learning. The Tennessee STAR research frequently cited in support of small class sizes, and cited by correctnotright above,was methodologically flawed.

Washington is not with the Obama program to improve the quality of teaching through a performance-based pay system. See my blog on current education reform bill winding its way through the state legislature:

Posted by: Liv Finne on March 14, 2009 08:27 AM
23. Thanks Liv! In my humble opinion (just a working stiff who also helps out and guest lectures at various middle and high schools, as well as a few colleges in three different countries) the problem with public education in the use is:

1. Federal Government - what works in Nebraska does NOT work in New York City. However, anything the FedGov does ends up forcing a nation-wide solution/approach. It breaks the whole concept of 50 parallel solutions.

2. The NEA and the individual state Teacher's Unions. They have no interest in education quality; their only interest is to maximize revenue to themselves and their members. When a union no longer cares about the quality of the "company", it should be destroyed.

3. Tenure. NO ONE should be guaranteed a job. Period. The biggest reason why teachers slide backwards and lower their standards is because of tenure.

You're 100% correct - class size, or funding per student are not the problem at all. Heck, Utah has 15% higher SAT scores than Washington DC and spends half as much per student!

Unfortunately, so many of those screaming "IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN!" are actively working for policies that HURT the children...

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on March 14, 2009 04:36 PM
24. In regards to the states, one constitutional law professor is asking
Is the stimulus bill unconstitutional?
Professor [Ronald] Rotunda asks: If state law does not give the state legislature the right to bypass the governor, how can Congress just change that law? Where does Congress get the power to change a state constitution? Professor Rotunda observes: "It might appear quaint to note that the U.S. Constitution does not create a central government of unlimited powers. Congress only has those powers that the Constitution gives it either expressly or by implication. That's a lot of power, to be sure, but it's not unlimited."

... Professor Rotunda finds it unlikely that subsection (b) will survive constitutional challenge. He asks whether the unconstitutional provision can be severed from the rest of the bill, or whether the whole bill must fall. This question he leaves open.
...UPDATE: I wrote Professor Rotunda this morning to ask if the stimulus bill included a standard severability provision that would save it even if one of its provisions were found unconstitutional. He responds: "I couldn't find one. The bill is longer than my arm, but I looked and searched and couldn't find it."

Gotta love those democraps led by a toddler who claimed to be ...wait for it... a "constitutional lawyer" ...forcing UNconstitutional bills down our throats. It's like a bad parody of government gone horribly wrong.


Posted by: Ragnar Danneskjold on March 15, 2009 10:55 AM
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